Part Thirteen

"I can't believe you didn't say something sooner!" I exclaim to Maria as we exit Starbucks with our coffees and stroll along Main Street. "I mean, this could be your big break, Maria."

"Liz, babe, come on," she looks at me incredulously. "When Max told me he was going to propose to you, I knew that my little audition simply paled in comparison. My news could definitely wait."

"Little? Maria, this is an audition in New York City; for an actual record label – that's not little! And anyway, what made you so sure I'd say yes last night?"

"Oh, please! This is you and Max we're talking about. You two were destined to be together," she rolls her eyes.

I stop walking and am about to protest, to remind her that not everything has been great between us lately, and that we very nearly broke up for good, but the second I open my mouth, she stops too and puts up her hand to prevent me from doing so.

"Look, I know you've had a rough time this year –" I frown at her in confusion. How does she know about my depression? I was careful not to mention it when we spoke on the phone – I didn't want her worrying about me. "Max told me," she explains. "And before you get mad at him, he was just looking out for you. He loves you."

"I know he does," I say, a faint smile tugging at my lips. I look down at the coffee in my hand. "And I love him, too."

"See what I mean? You're his Lizzie, of course you were gonna say yes!"

I laugh at her sudden outburst and we continue walking.

"You do know that Max and I are coming to New York with you and Michael, don't you?" I inform her. "There's no way I'm missing this great opportunity for you."

"Oh, it's gonna be so great!" she exclaims suddenly. "All of us together…in New York. You, me, Maxie-boy…"

"And don't forget Michael," I remind her.

"Yeah, and him," she mutters, making a face. I remember my concern from the night before.

"Maria, is something going on with you two? Michael seemed even more pissed off than usual last night."

"Ugh," she dismisses with her hand. "It's nothing really."

"Maria, you can talk to me, you know," I encourage.

She exhales, "Okay, it's, um, it's this whole you guys getting married thing…"

"Yeah…?" What about us getting married?

"It's kinda stupid, really. When I told Michael about my conversation with Max and that he was going to pop the question, he just got kind of quiet and grunted something about congratulations. Things have suddenly got really awkward between us; we're barely talking right now and I don't even know why," she shrugs miserably.

"Oh, Maria, I'm sorry," I put my arm around her shoulder in comfort. "Look, you know what I think it is? I bet Michael's just scared."

"But, what of? It's not like we're getting hitched or anything," she says.

"I think there are two possibilities here," I tell her seriously. "Either the whole idea of marriage is freaking him out and he's scared that because Max proposed to me, you're going to expect a proposal now too; or he actually does want to ask you to marry him but is too scared to actually broach the subject with you, for fear that you'll just laugh in his face."

"Oh, man, of course!" she cries. "How did I miss that? He's probably completely freaking out right now, although since he's a guy, I'm sure it's the first possibility. Oh, poor Michael!"

"So, I'm guessing he has nothing to worry about then?" I query.

"God, no! I mean, of course I want to get married someday, but not right now, and definitely not just because you guys are doing it," she says incredulously. "Man, do we need to sit down and talk later!"

The amazed expression on her face is so comical that I can't help but laugh. Within seconds, she's joined me and we struggle to continue our journey down the street without falling over. It feels just like old times: shopping with one of my best friends, laughing together and having fun, as if we're still high school kids back in Roswell. It's brilliant.


"So, what's the plan for next week, then guys?" asks Becca as we all sit down for dinner in the living room. The kitchen table is too small for all eight of us (Tim and Kelly are here too), so we're making do on the couch and the floor.

"Well," begins Maria. "My audition is on Tuesday at 2pm, so we're gonna drive down Monday morning, do a bit of sightseeing, spend a couple of nights in the city and then head back to New Mexico from there."

Becca nods, turning to Max and I on the couch, "What about you guys?"

"We'll go down to New York with Maria and Michael," says Max. "But we're flying home, so I guess we'll get a bus or a train back here instead of driving cross-country."

"Yeah, we're leaving Friday, so that gives us a couple more days to pack and get organised," I add. "Oh, by the way, Maria, where are we staying in New York?"

"Oh, we managed to find a fairly cheap place on Broadway and uh, 94th Street, I think – it's a Quality Inn, I think. Anyway, I called them last night to change the reservation to two rooms," she supplies.

I feel Max nudge me in the back, "Hey, the Quality Inn…wasn't that we're we stayed that summer?"

"Was it?" I rack my brain trying to remember – we stayed in so many different hotels on our road trip.

"You know, it was where you…" starts Max, leaning forward to whisper in my ear.

My eyes widen at his words and I feel my face burning bright red as I remember where we stayed and what we did in that hotel room. It was at that Quality Inn on 94th Street where I gave Max oral sex for the first time. How could I forget that?

"Where you what, Liz?" questions Maria innocently, although I swear I can see a mischievous glint in her eyes.

"Oh, um, nothing," I squeak. "It was just…uh, I…got us lost on the subway and it took us forty-five minutes to find the hotel," I improvise quickly. I can feel Max chuckling behind me and I turn to glare at him disapprovingly. He just smirks in return.

"Oh, right, okay," concedes Maria, seemingly accepting my explanation, but still looking at me suspiciously for a moment before turning her attention back to the original conversation. "So, yeah, we're staying just off Broadway. The audition is down in the village, but it shouldn't take too long to get to on the subway."

"Cool," says Becca, taking a swig of beer from the bottle in her hand.

See, we stupidly left the boys to do the food shopping this afternoon, so now all we have to drink is beer. You would think that by now Max and Michael, at least, might remember that neither Maria nor I particularly like beer, but no, according to them you can never go wrong with a Chinese takeaway and a six-pack of Budweiser. At least they managed to get Bud-Lite for us instead of the calorie-filled stuff, but that didn't let them off a lecture on why, when there are females present at dinner, it's always best to pick up a bottle of wine as well.

Oh well, if Max is going to be my husband soon, he's just going to have to learn these things. Although, I think I can let him off just this once considering that we have only been back together for a few weeks and it hasn't even been twenty-four hours since he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him with what has to have been the most romantic proposal I can think of.

So, instead of complaining, I'm just going to sit back, relax against him and look forward to visiting New York City once again on Monday.


Monday May 16th 2005

Well, here we are, back in New York again. Not that I haven't visited the city at all during the last three years, because I have – since it's only a few hours journey from Boston – but I've only ever been here once with Max, so this trip makes it all the more special. We all drove down in Maria's car this morning, but what should have been only a four-hour trip turned into more than six hours – I tried to explain to Maria and Michael that trying to drive into the city was perhaps not the best idea, but they still insisted on doing so and I didn't have the energy to keep arguing with them.

Once we finally found somewhere to park, we checked into the hotel (which is definitely the same one that Max and I stayed in three summers ago – and amazingly, they managed to put us in the same room as before – after much begging from us, of course) and then set off for some sightseeing. Since neither Maria nor Michael has been here before, Max and I had the upper hand in knowing where to go and what to see. So far, we've been up the Empire State Building and then, at Maria's insistence, we spent almost two hours shopping at Macy's.

Right now, we're back in our hotel rooms. Maria wanted to get some rest before her audition tomorrow and so we decided to call it a night. We're planning on going to see a show or something tomorrow night, in either celebration or commiseration, depending on how the audition goes.

But anyway, I guess I didn't really explain my last entry in here…about my dreams being closer than I thought…well, here's the thing: Max proposed to me on Friday night! I am now an engaged woman and I am so happy. So much has happened this year and if you'd asked me four months ago if I thought I would ever be getting married to my best friend, I probably would have told you no and burst into tears. But Max has helped me so much and I really feel like a stronger person because of him.

I really could go on for hours about how excited I'm feeling, but right now, Max is lying next to me, his hands drifting dangerously close to where I need him most and I don't think I can concentrate for much longer…

I stop writing just as Max's fingers brush my inner thigh through my jeans, making my stomach contract involuntarily. Throwing caution to the wind, I let the journal slip from my hands and to the floor as I slide down next to him. He sends me a mischievous grin as his arm comes around my waist and he pulls me in for a quick, but emotion-filled kiss.

We lie facing each other on the bed, my body stretched out along the length of his, our legs entwined. I feel his erection pressing against me, but unlike Friday night, I'm not apprehensive or unsure about being intimate with him again. Maybe it's being back in New York, in the very same hotel room that we shared as a new couple – I'm not sure, but what I do know is that I want him. Right here, right now.

"I love you, Max," I whisper softly, gently stroking his cheek with my fingers. "I want to be with you again."

He smiles, "Lizzie, you know I'd love nothing more than to make love to you, right here, right now," (My sentiments exactly). " But, are you sure you're ready for this, because we really don't have to?"

I smile at his concern for me, but he really has no need to be worried. "Yes, I'm sure," I murmur back. I sit up to reach over the side of the bed and pull something out of my bag. I hold up my hand to him, "I even brought condoms with me."

The smile becomes a full-fledged grin as he takes the box from me and places it on the bedside table, "That's good to know."

We continue to stare at each other for a few more minutes, neither one of us making the first move. Despite what I just told him about being ready to do this, I'm actually feeling a little nervous now.

"Hey, it's alright," he says softly, apparently noticing my nervousness. "We can go slow if you like."

I smile at him gratefully.

"And if it's any consolation, I'm nervous too," he adds.

"You are?"

"Well, yeah; I mean it has been almost four months since I did this, what if I've forgotten how?"

I laugh, effectively easing the tension, "Max, we've managed to wait almost this long before – you know, when we were living two thousand miles apart? – I seriously doubt you've forgotten anything."

"Okay," he concedes. "So I haven't forgotten, but you have to admit there is at least a little pressure on us here – this is our first time together as an engaged couple. It's special."

"Yeah, it is," I agree softly, but still, neither of us moves.

Eventually, Max decides to take things into his own hands. He sits up and pulls his shirt over his head, baring his perfect chest to my gaze. It's been so long since I've seen him like this that desire takes over and suddenly we can't keep our hands to ourselves. We tug and pull at each others clothing until there's nothing left to discard, and we fall to the bed in a frenzy of passion.

Max settles his body over mine, his hips resting between my parted legs; his elbows placed either side of my head, supporting his weight above me.

"Are you ready?" he murmurs.

"Yeah," I nod absently, the feel of him at my entrance driving me crazy.

"Okay."

He reaches for the box of condoms and pulls one out. I take it from him, open the packet and reach down between us to roll it onto him. He sucks in a breath when I touch him, reminding us both that it's been too long.

Slowly, carefully, he begins to enter me. I have to suppress a gasp at the twinge of pain I feel as he fills me up, but within seconds it disappears, my body adjusting to his size once again.

"Max," I murmur softly, my eyes drifting closed as he begins to stroke inside of me, his movements awakening long-dormant feelings in my body.

"Is this okay?" he questions gently.

"Uh huh," I breathe, not opening my eyes. "It's perfect."

My lips tingle as his mouth comes down on mine, kissing me sensually. His strokes become a little quicker and when the need to breathe becomes inevitable, he tears his lips from mine and nuzzles my neck instead, before moving down to my breasts. I shift beneath him; wrapping my legs around his hips as together we approach ecstasy for the first time in months.

Just when I think the wonderful feeling of making love to my fiancé cannot escalate any further, I feel Max's fingers teasing my clit and white-hot pleasure shoots through my entire body, making me cry out at the intensity of it. Somewhere in my mind, it registers that Max reaches his own climax just seconds after I do, but I am powerless to do anything but ride out the waves of my own release.

When I eventually open my eyes again, my chest heaving with exhaustion, I find Max collapsed on top of me, attempting to catch his breath.

"Wow," I exhale. "I think that just may have been the best sex I've ever had."

I feel him chuckle against my breast, "Yeah, you can say that again." He lifts his head to look into my eyes, "I love you so much."

"And I love you, too," I assure him.

"Come here," he rolls to the side and beckons for me to join him. I do so eagerly.

I sigh contentedly in his arms, "I can't believe we're here in the same hotel room as last time, and we're together. It's really weird."

"I know. I mean the last time we were here, did you ever imagine, that we'd be back again three years later and engaged?"

"Not in a million years," I confess with a chuckle.

"Speaking of which," he says. "I know we've agreed to wait until after graduation before we get married; but I was thinking, what do you think about having it next July, on or as near to the 13th as possible?"

"That sounds good, but why the 13th?" I ask in confusion, as I rack my brain for a reason why July 13th is so important.

He looks down at me incredulously. Oops, have I just put my foot in it?

"Liz, how can you not remember? You wrote all about it in journal! July 13th 2002 was the day we shared our first real kiss."

Uh oh.

"Oh God, I can't believe I forgot. I'm sorry," I apologise hastily.

"Hey, it's okay," he chuckles. "Besides, I'm the one who's supposed to forget dates and things, so I think I can let you off just this once."

Whew!

"So, what do you think?" he asks then.

I smile up at him and lean in for a kiss, "I think it's a great idea."

"Great, so that's sorted. July next year it is," he murmurs as I lay my head against his chest. "Okay, now I really have to go to sleep. You know, you really tire me out, Liz Parker."

I grin against his skin as I close my eyes.

I'm so glad Max has been here for me this year. I'm finally happy and comfortable with myself again and you know what?

I actually love my life again.


Sunday May 29th 2005

Wow, so much has happened in the last two weeks!

Apparently Maria's audition in New York went really well because she's been offered a two-year contract with the record company! Although both Michael and her mom have warned her that getting into the business might not be all it's cracked up to be, she's decided to take the risk and accept the offer, which means that, as of the beginning of September, she'll be living in New York!

Secondly, Max and I received our exam results in the mail this week. I actually passed the year – and with pretty good grades too, which really lifted my spirits in regards to returning to Cambridge in the fall. Quite unexpectedly – well, in his opinion, at least, Max did really well – his lowest grade was a B- minus. I always knew he would get good grades – he's a good student who works hard – but I think he was a little daunted by the fact that he was at Harvard, and wasn't even expecting to pass have his classes. Anyway, to celebrate, our parents got together and took us all out for a special dinner, which actually became the perfect time to share the news of our engagement with everyone!

I was a little worried beforehand, about what my parents would say – I was sure they would be convinced that we were rushing into things and would be against the idea – but their reactions were surprisingly unexpected. My mom burst into tears and the first thing my dad did was shake Max's hand and then pull him into a hug. Diane Evans' reaction was similar to my mom's and then she and Mr. Evans pulled me into a hug too. There were congratulations given and quite a few tears, but in the end, I think everyone was happy for us. Okay, so Max did admit to me afterwards that his parents already knew he was going to propose and that he even asked for my dad's blessing before he did so, but I still feel so happy that they are all so pleased and hopeful for us.

Anyway, now all we have to do is start planning the wedding.

Oh my God, just think – in less than fourteen months, I'm going to be Mrs. Max Evans!

The End

The third (and currently the last) story in the series will follow shortly. It's entitled Always and Forever.