Maria can't remember a time when she doesn't love to sing. She is always making up songs as a child. There is a song for washing dishes and a song for walking to school, and of course songs for when she angry at Mommy. By the time she's seven, she has her first fan, a wide eyed girl from school called Liz Parker.
"How come you sing everything?" Liz asks.
"Teach me the words," Liz instructs.
When she is eight, her mom sells her car and buys Maira a guitar.
"You've got talent, chika," Amy says. "So use it!"
"What about the car?" Maria asks, knowing that surely grown ups need cars.
Amy waves her hand dismissively.
"I'll just get a Jetta. Those things have fuel efficiency, baby! In the mean time, let's see your shiny new instrument."
Maria spends the entire summer teaching herself how to play the thing.
When she is thirteen, Maria goes to songwriter's camp. She's never met so many people like her, who walk around humming to the music in their heads. There she meets Billy – first kiss Billy – and they vow to never stop loving music, to always be true to themselves and to their dreams. And above all, to never stop writing.
When Maria is fifteen, she breaks that promise. It is the year the aliens descend into her quiet, small-town life, the year she meets Michael. It isn't so much that she consciously stops singing, there are just so many more important things now, like saving the world, and whether Michael is going to pay attention to her today. She messes around a bit with Alex's band and scribbles a few lyrics, but nothing serious.
When she is sixteen, Alex dies, and Maria loses her voice. Through tears she manages to choke out "Amazing Grace" at her best friend's funeral, but she doesn't sing after that for a long time. She sits for hours just holding Alex's guitar, stroking the pale wood and thinking about the friend whose dreams of being in a real band would never be realized. She feels as if she were drowning, as if the very air were pressing down on her, pinning her into place. She tries to talk to Liz about it, but Liz is so obsessed with discovering Alex's murderer, if there even is one, that she won't listen. Maria tries to turn her grief for Alex into music, but no words come.
She thinks maybe it is Michael, but breaking up with him doesn't make the words flow. Not like they used to. She feels like she can breathe enough to sing, but not to write. When she auditions for what should be her big break, she uses an old song. She hasn't written anything new in over a year.
When Maria is eighteen, she ditches her own graduation to avoid the FBI, and takes off in an ancient VW camper van with no destination other than as far away from Roswell as they can get. It is all so surreal, like something happening to some other person. They aren't dead like in Liz's premonition, but they are on the run. Maria thinks about it for a long time before loading Alex's guitar into Amy's Jetta.
"It will be like Alex is coming to graduation too," she tells Amy.
Amy wraps her arm around her daughter's shoulder.
"He'd like that," she says.
It means that she has the guitar with her when all hell breaks loose and they decide to run for it. In the panicked moments before they leave, when everyone is saying goodbye, Maria manages to shove the guitar under the seat. No matter what, Alex is with them all the way.
Now, she sits cross-legged on the bench seat at the back of the van. Kyle is driving, the radio a gentle buzz only he can hear the words to. Isabel dozes in the front seat, her head pillowed on her arm, the late afternoon sun catching the diamond in her wedding ring, a painful reminder of what they've all left behind. Max and Michael play yet another game of chess across the camper's table. Maria smirks – Michael is going to lose again. He doesn't have the patience for strategy. Beside Max, Liz is once again writing in a journal, a habit she's picked back up. Maybe it's time for old habits.
Maria strums a few chords on Alex's guitar, humming to herself at the sound they make together. Words come to her suddenly, and she scribbles them down on an old gas receipt. It feels strange. Words haven't come to her in such a long time. Maybe it wasn't Michael that was stifling her after all. Maybe it was Roswell, and their secret hanging over her, that made words flee. Now that they're away from all that, it feels as though air is returning to her oxygen-starved lungs.
She tries out her new tune, singing the words to herself softly.
Liz looks up and smiles.
"I haven't heard you do that in a long time."
"I think I've finally found my voice again," she says.