* * * *
The Movies - cont'd
Max was getting ready to go to the Crashdown to see Liz after dinner that evening when there was a familiar knock at the door. He knew it was his sister without even checking. He also knew that she would come in whether he answered or not. True to form, his door opened a moment later and Isabel walked in. When he looked at her, he saw an uncommonly sympathetic expression on her face.
"You have another date tonight?" he asked sourly.
Isabel didn’t reply to his question. Instead she sat down on the edge of his bed.
"Michael told me what you tried to do today at school," she told him, getting right to the point, "It was very brave."
"I totally blew it," he told her matter-of-factly, sitting down next to her and putting his elbows on his knees.
Isabel looked at him for a moment before she spoke again.
"I know I told you before not to get involved with her," she said.
He looked up at her as she hesitated. Isabel looked away.
"Look," she said, "even though I know I act a little witchy sometimes, I’m still your sister and I care about you. I care about how you feel. And I know how this whole Liz thing is making you feel. It’s making you miserable. And you being miserable is making me miserable too. Not to mention I think mom and dad are getting a little suspicious."
Max sat up straight and kept his eyes on her, waiting. Isabel hesitated again.
"What I’m trying to say, Max," she said, "is maybe I was wrong. Maybe Michael and I were both wrong. I’m not saying it’s not a bad idea, not to mention dangerous. I’m just saying, that if it’s causing you this much pain, maybe it’s worth it."
Max looked at her in shock. It took him a moment to recover.
"So, you’re saying…?"
"I’m saying," she said, "I don’t think you should torture yourself anymore. But I’m also saying be careful."
Isabel got up and walked to the door. Max stood before she left.
"Isabel," he said.
She turned to look at him. When he didn’t say anything, she just smiled at him.
"Have fun, Max," she told him.
He watched as she left, then began to grow a smile that reached his eyes. Without a single doubt, he knew what he had to do.
* * * *
Liz was standing behind the cash register at her parents’ restaurant, still wearing her uniform and filling out the record book when Max walked in. She looked up at him immediately and threw him a smile. He returned it, rather nervously.
"Hi, Max," she greeted him brightly.
"Hi," he replied shyly.
She reached underneath the counter and brought out a thin pile of photocopied materials. She passed it over the counter to give to him, and Max took it slowly.
"Uh, thanks," he said.
"Anytime," she assured him, "I just hope you can read my writing."
He smiled and nodded, looking down at the papers. She looked up at him curiously. She pushed the record book aside and leaned her elbows on the counter, looking up at him.
"Max," she said, "You’ve been in kind of a weird mood all day. Is there something wrong?"
He looked down at her, meeting her eyes, and shook his head.
"No, nothing’s wrong," he told her, "Not anymore."
"Oh," she said, nodding, "Well, that’s good."
He nodded back. The two of them stood there in awkward silence for a moment, until Max cleared his throat nervously.
"Um, Liz," he said, "I, uh, I kinda wanted to ask you something."
She looked up at him, her expression open.
"Ask away," she said.
He hesitated, taking in a deep breath and letting it out slowly. Liz watched him as he stalled, finding it both curious and amusing. She grinned a little. Max finally made eye contact with her again.
"I was just wondering," he told her, "If you wanted to go to a movie with me."
Liz stared up at him, not knowing how to respond. She wasn’t even sure what he had just asked.
"You mean, like, with Isabel and Michael and Maria?" she asked.
He shook his head.
"So…it’s just two friends going to see a movie?"
Again he shook his head, appearing a little more nervous. Liz looked up at him, still waiting for him to clarify his question. After a few moments, he finally spoke up.
"I mean as, as a date," he told her in a tentative voice.
Her eyes shot up.
"A date?" she asked in disbelief.
He nodded, watching her. Her expression grew puzzled.
"But what about that whole you’re-an-alien-and-I’m-a-human thing?" she asked, "What about being too different? What about everything that you said, not to mention Isabel and Michael…"
"I know what I said," he told her, his voice still low, "But maybe I was wrong."
She stared at him for a moment, her mouth slightly agape and her face expressionless. He returned her gaze, waiting for her to respond. When all she did was lower her eyes to stare thoughtfully at the counter, Max spoke up.
"So," he said, speaking slowly and uncertainly, "Do you…want to?"
She looked up at him slowly, her face clearing into a soft smile.
"Of course I do," she told him, as if there had been no other answer.
He smiled broadly in relief. She mirrored his expression, feeling a little euphoric from the new turn of events. Both were more than a little pleased, and it showed on their faces. Max dug his hands into his pockets as he spoke.
"So when are you free?" he asked.
"Tomorrow night is good for me," she told him.
He nodded, smiling wider.
"That’s good for me, too," he said.
She smiled shyly and looked down at the counter. He backed away a step.
"I better go before it gets too late," he told her.
She looked up at him and nodded. He grabbed the notes from the counter and backed away toward the door.
"I’ll see you tomorrow," he told her.
"Tomorrow," she agreed.
He smiled again at her and kept his eyes on her as long as he could before he left the restaurant. Liz watched him until he was no longer in sight. As soon as he was gone, Liz melted into the counter, feeling more than a little giddy. And after the initial wave of excitement wore off, Liz bolted upstairs to phone Maria.
* * * *
Maria couldn’t stand it. It was bad enough that her friend had a much more active love life than she did. Maria didn’t really mind it that much. But ever since Max had asked Liz out on a date the night before, her best friend could think of nothing else. They had spent two hours on the phone last night talking about nothing but Max, going through every detail of his existence and how he had asked her on the date. It was like Liz was obsessed or something. And then, all through school, Maria watched as Liz stared off into space, no doubt dreaming of a certain dark-haired alien. In the one class the three of them had together, Maria had to endure the gazes Liz and Max sent each other across the room. It was almost embarrassing.
On the other hand, Maria was glad to see that at least something was happening. It was obvious Max had made up his mind, and even more obvious which path he had taken. Maria just hoped the two of them didn’t get all lovey-dovey. She could bear Liz and Max as a couple, but she couldn’t bear Liz and Max being all over each other anytime they were together. That could get a little awkward.
Maria got little in word-wise to Liz, knowing her best friend was too busy daydreaming about her imminent date to listen very attentively. She was worried Liz might sacrifice some of the time spent with her to make time for Max, and she wasn’t too thrilled about that prospect. She just wished her own romantic life weren’t so inactive.
She saw Michael on her way to her last class that day, and decided to just "bump" into him. He looked down when he saw her, acknowledging her with a nod of his head.
She kept pace with him, since he was making no attempt to slow down or stop.
"So, um, did you hear about Liz and Max?" she asked.
"Are you still on them?" he asked.
"No, no," she said quickly, "It’s something new that’s developed. Didn’t Max tell you?"
"I ditched geometry, so I haven’t seen him yet," he told her, "What happened?"
"Well, Max asked Liz out on a date," she told him bluntly.
He looked at her sharply.
"I said," she repeated, pronouncing her words carefully, "Max…asked…Liz…out…"
"OK, OK, I get it," Michael interrupted. He looked at her accusingly. "What did you tell him?"
Maria put a hand up in surrender.
"Hey, don’t blame me," she told him, "I just told Max to make up his mind, that’s all."
Michael looked away, his expression unpleased.
"I’m taking it you don’t approve," Maria guessed.
"You know, sometimes you’re pretty quick," he told her shortly.
He then increased his speed and gained distance on her. Maria stopped and watched him go, shaking her head. Michael was definitely in need of some manners.
* * * *
He waited outside of her class so he could catch her when she came out at the end of last period. Isabel almost walked right by him, being too busy studying her nails to notice him standing there. Michael called out her name and hied over to her. She waited for him, standing impatiently.
"What is it, Michael?" she asked.
"Did you know about Max asking Liz out?" he asked.
"He told me last night," she said, her voice unconcerned, "What about it?"
"What do you mean what about it?" Michael asked in surprise, "He’s making a big mistake. He’s getting himself too involved. It’s dangerous."
"Says who?" Isabel asked.
Michael stared at her, dumbfounded.
"Wait a minute," he said, shaking his head, "I thought you were against their getting together."
"I was," she admitted, "But I changed my mind."
"Changed your mind?"
She looked at him, her expression bored.
"Max deserves to be happy," Isabel told him matter-of-factly, "Even if it is only for a little while."
They stood there staring at each other for a moment before Isabel turned and left. Michael stared at the spot she had been standing in a moment longer, then finally threw his hands up in frustration and walked off.
* * * *
Max checked his clock for the hundredth time that night. It read 5:48, only two minutes later than the last time he had checked. He was supposed to pick Liz up at 6PM in order for them to catch dinner and make the show at 7:30. It only took three minutes to drive to Liz’s place, meaning he had over eight minutes until he had to leave. Eight very long, excruciating minutes. The past eleven hours hadn’t been any easier. As soon as Max had arisen that morning, he had thought of nothing but his date with Liz that night.
Nervously, Max continued pacing the room, an action he had been performing since he had finished getting ready over twenty minutes ago. After every two lengths of the room, Max’s eyes darted to the clock, only to find it had barely changed. Time seemed to be passing very slowly that day.
Just as he was passing his door again, it opened and Isabel popped her head in.
"I can hear you pacing from my room," she told him.
Max stopped in his tracks.
"Sorry," he said.
She took a step into the room and looked him up and down critically.
"You look nervous," she told him.
"I’ve never done this before," he reminded her.
Isabel walked over and reached up to straighten Max’s collar. When she was finished she stood back and placed her hands on her hips.
"Not too bad," she said, "OK for your first time."
Max sighed, readjusting his jacket nervously. Isabel gave him a reassuring grin.
"You’ll be fine, Max," she told him.
He nodded and managed a small smile. Isabel turned and left the room. Max rubbed his hands together impatiently, glancing over at the clock once again. 5:53. With a shrug of his shoulders, Max grabbed his keys and exited his bedroom, deciding it would be OK if he was a couple minutes early. It was better than being late.
* * * *
He pulled up to the curb outside of the Crashdown Café. Since it was a weeknight, the restaurant was not too busy. Mostly it was just regulars who came. Max climbed out of his jeep, ignored the front entrance to the restaurant, and instead headed for the separate front entry to the Parker’s home, which was located above the establishment. He went through the outer doorway and walked up the steps. He hesitated for a momentbefore he rang the doorbell. Then all he could do was wait.
He looked up expectantly when the door opened, only to find Liz’s mother standing on the other side.
"Hi," she greeted him with a friendly smile, "You must be Max."
"Uh, yeah," he replied, hands deep inside his pockets.
Mrs. Parker opened the door wider for him to enter.
"Come on in," she told him, "I don’t think Liz is ready yet."
Max followed Liz’s mother into their cozy dwelling. He hesitated in the living room next to the couch. Liz’s mother turned to address him.
"I’ll go let her know you’re here," she told him.
"Thanks," he said.
He waited idly, standing still and letting his gaze roam around the room. He had been in Liz’s house before a few times, had even been in her bedroom once. But it was still intriguing to him each time he came. Back before he and Liz were even friends, he had only dreamed of someday being in her home.
A noise made Max turn his head to see Maria walking from the direction of Liz’s bedroom. She walked right over to him.
"Liz will be right out," she assured him.
"OK," he said, nodding.
Maria nodded back, gave him a look, then walked past him and left. Max sighed and continued his wait. He didn’t wait long, however. Only a few short moments later, another noise made him look up expectantly. He saw Liz walk into view, appearing as an angel in his eyes. She looked up at him demurely, clasping her hands in front of. She stopped as soon as she reached him, and the two of them just stood there for a moment in silence.
"You, uh, look great," Max finally spoke up.
"I wear these clothes all the time," she reminded him.
He gave her a small smile.
"I wasn’t talking about your clothes," he told her.
She looked up at him, then smiled shyly.
"Maybe we should go," he suggested.
"Good idea," she agreed.
Max followed her out of her house and down to the street. He kept his eyes on her the whole time, amazed that this night was actually happening. And he was looking forward to what was to come.
* * * *
Across the street, Michael watched as Liz and Max got into the jeep and drove away, shaking his head the whole time. He stuck a hot rod in his mouth and chewed aggravatedly, his expression becoming thoughtful. After a moment’s hesitation, he stepped out of his hiding place and started walking in the direction of the DeLuca residence.
* * * *
Maria went to the door a little reluctantly that evening when the doorbell rang. She had been in the middle of watching a movie on TV that she really liked, and was annoyed at having been interrupted. She stomped to the door and opened it jerkily, not expecting to see Michael standing on the other side.
"Michael," she said automatically, then asked, "What are you doing here?"
Michael squared his shoulders before he spoke.
"I just wanted to apologize for earlier," he told her bluntly.
She stared at him in shock.
"Apologize?" she asked, "You?"
He gave her a wry smile.
"About being rude to you earlier," he told her, "I shouldn’t have acted that way."
"Uh, OK," she said warily.
Michael nodded, then shrugged.
"So what are you doing?" he asked.
"I’m watching a movie," she told him.
"Sounds like fun," he said, trying to brighten his voice, "May I join you?"
"OK," she replied, still surprised he had even come at all.
She stepped back and let him come in, going over his words in her head and trying to make sense of it all. It just wasn’t like Michael Guerin to apologize for anything, especially for the way he acted. Shaking her head in befuddlement, Maria closed the door and led the way to her den, wondering what had come over the tall, mysterious alien.
* * * *
Max and Liz walked into the movie theatre side-by-side. Dinner had gone well. They’d dined at a small Italian restaurant nearby, a very casual dinner. Liz had insisted upon eating anywhere except the Crashdown. Their conversation had been unexciting, no more special than usual. They’d spoken of school, work, and the usual topics. Both had shied away from any intimate conversation. In fact, they had acted and joked around just like friends.
They got into the short line to the concession stand, and eventually bought a large bag of popcorn and sodas. Max let Liz lead the way into the theatre to pick out seats near the rear. He sat on her left, holding the popcorn so she could reach it. The theatre was rather sparse, with only a few other attendees since the movie they were seeing had been out for a week already. Max was glad, since it gave them a little more privacy. Roswell was a very small town when it came to gossip, especially when it had to do with someone as popular as Liz hanging out with someone as unpopular as Max.
"Are you sure you don’t mind watching this movie?" Liz asked him for the third time.
Max shot her a grin. The movie they were seeing was what he would term as a "chick-flick".
"It’s a little too late to change my mind now," he told her, "Besides, I’ll watch anything, as long as it’s with you."
She smiled up at him, both pleased and a little shy. He returned her smile warmly, and kept watching her as she looked down at her drink. Max remarked at his own boldness in the statement, but was glad he’d said it. He didn’t want the night to continue with them still acting as just friends. He finally took his eyes off her and settled down in his seat. Moments later the lights dimmed and the curtain lifted. The theatre grew silent as previews for upcoming attractions lit up the screen. Liz and Max both started attacking the popcorn. About five minutes into the show, both of them reached into the bag at the same time, and their hands met. Liz immediately pulled back apologetically. Max pulled his own hand out and offered her the popcorn. She gave him a warm smile, then took a handful.
They sat in silence from then on, eating and sipping. Max occasionally stole sideways glances at her, catching glimpses of her face whenever the screen lit up. Her eyes seemed to be raptly fixed to the film. He studied them closely, ignoring the movie entirely. Eventually the popcorn bag ran dry, and Max set it aside. When he looked back up, he noticed Liz had her arm resting on the hand-rest between them. Her hand rested on the edge. He stared down at it, a compelling feeling coursing through him. All at once he felt the need to touch her, to take her hand in his. But he hesitated, unsure as to whether she would feel comfortable. He wasn’t altogether sure he would be able to actually make a move without chickening out.
In his first attempt, Max moved his own hand from his lap about two inches before he stopped nervously. After a few more minutes, he lifted his elbow and rested it on the rear of the armrest, right behind Liz’s. Step one was completed. Max hesitated another 7 full minutes before he even attempted to move his hand a millimeter. His actions were jerky from his tenseness. He inched his hand up closer to hers, glancing over at her subtly every now and then to make sure she hadn’t noticed. Finally he was half an inch away from making contact, and he stopped. He had to work himself up to go all the way. After taking a deep breath, he made his move – just as Liz moved her hand to sweep a lock of hair behind her ears. Startled, Max moved his hand away, hoping she hadn’t caught his lame attempt to hold hands. But she never said anything or looked at him. A moment later she replaced her arm on the bar.
Max swallowed and breathed deeply. His heart was now pounding in his chest. He knew he had to do something, or else this night could end in disappointment. He couldn’t believe he was so scared to do one simple thing. Then again, he reminded himself that it wasn’t simple, not when it was with Liz, the girl he’d had a crush on since third grade. But he had waited 10 years for this moment, and he wasn’t going to let his insecurities interfere. With renewed inspiration, Max once again inched his hand closer to hers, a little faster this time. And before he could let himself hesitate or back out, Max twitched his hand so it made contact with hers, and clumsily tried to grasp it. He felt great relief when Liz began helping him intertwine his fingers with her own. When their hands were finally together, he added pressure, which she returned.
Max turned his head to look down at her, and she looked up at his, their eyes warm and happy. A warmth spread from Max’s fingers, up his arm, and through his whole body, a warmth he’d never felt before. Instantly, as he looked into her eyes, he wanted to kiss her, regardless of who saw. But before he could muster up the courage, Liz closed her eyes and rested her head on his shoulder, snuggling in closer to him. Max didn’t mind at all. He smiled to himself as he looked down at her, and continued to do so when he rested his cheek on her hair and closed his own eyes. And for the next 65 minutes he paid no attention to the movie, and concentrated all his thoughts and feelings on Liz.
When the movie ended, Liz and Max sat up, breaking all contact except with their hands, which they still held tightly. They stood up, gave each other a shy glance, then made their way out of the theatre hand-in-hand.
* * * *
It was nine-thirty when Max and Liz pulled up to the empty and darkened Crashdown Café, which had closed half an hour earlier. Max parked on the curb, then hopped out and followed her up the steps to her front door. There they stopped and turned toward one another. Liz took Max’s hand easily in hers.
"I had a really good time," she told him, sincerity in her voice.
"Me too," he told her, equally earnest.
She smiled shyly and looked down. Max swallowed again, his nervousness returning. He took a step toward her, so they were almost touching. He bent his head to look down at her. When she looked up, their faces were so close they could feel each other’s breath. Their eyes met, just before their faces started drawing closer together. And as their lips came closer, Max got a funny feeling in the pit of his stomach – he was almost sick from excitement of actually kissing Liz. It was something he had only been able to imagine since he’d fallen for her years ago. Something he’d thought more of since he’d saved her life and they had grown closer. And now it was about to happen. Max was thrilled.
He saw Liz close her eyes, and he did the same. They were so close now their noses were touching. Only another millimeter or two and his lips would be on hers.
Then suddenly the front door opened, making the two teenagers jump back in surprise. They looked up to see Liz’s father walk out, a full garbage bag in his hands.
"Hey, honey," he greeted them, "Max. Sorry if I interrupted. I forgot to bring this out, and I don’t want it sitting around all week."
With a smile, Mr. Parker walked between them to the curb. Liz and Max watched him pass, then looked at each other awkwardly. Liz’s expression was a little apologetic. Max tried to hide his disappointment. Once he’d set the garbage on the curb, Liz’s dad walked back up to them.
"Bye, Max," he told his daughter’s date, then turned to Liz and said, "See you inside, honey."
"Sure, dad," Liz told him, planting a fake smile on her face.
Once he was inside and the door was shut, Liz looked up at Max.
"I guess I better go in now," she told him.
Max nodded reluctantly, looking down at the ground. Liz hesitated for a moment, then quickly leaned forward and gave him a short kiss on the cheek. He looked up at her, and she smiled at him. He smiled back, and watched as she disappeared inside her door. And after standing on the front steps for another moment, touching his cheek where she had kissed him, Max walked back to his jeep and climbed inside.
* * * *
May 23rd, 2000:
Two days ago I would have never imagined this night would be the greatest night of my life. Just when you think your dreams might not come true, when that one thing you’ve thought about over and over in your head had no chance of becoming a reality, and you wonder to yourself if you’d just be better off not wishing, not hoping things could be what you want them to be, something happens. Something that makes those dreams seem possible, those thoughts come alive, and that hope spring up more vibrant than ever.
I don’t know what it was, or how it came to be, but I do know that whatever force made this night happen, I couldn’t be happier. My only complaint is that there’s one thing that would have made this night even better…
* * * *
Liz, huddled in her big wool blanket, was sitting on her roof about to continue writing when a faint noise nearby caught her attention. She looked up quickly, wary of an intruder. She kept her eyes on the fire escape directly in front of her, noticing the top of the ladder shaking a little. Her body tensed, and she was poised to leap up and run for her bedroom window when a figure popped up from over the edge of her building. Liz relaxed when she recognized Max.
Max looked at her and smiled sheepishly as he climbed onto her roof. She grinned back at him, both surprised and pleased to see him. Once he was up, he hesitated a moment before making his way toward her slowly. Liz watched him approach.
"I wasn’t expecting you," she told him.
He appeared a little self-conscious as he spoke.
"I, uh, had to come back, to finish our date," he told her in a quiet voice.
She gave him a questioning look.
"It’s not over?" she asked.
Without looking at her, Max took the last few steps awkwardly and sat down on the edge of the lounge chair. Liz readjusted herself to make room. She looked at him while he hesitated, clasped her arms around her knees and waiting. Finally he turned and looked at her.
"I’d like to kiss you," he told her directly.
Liz was a little taken aback by his forwardness, but she was not offended. She looked down, then smiled up at him shyly.
"Then what are you waiting for?" she asked.
Max leaned forward a little, adjusting his position, and lifted a hand to caress her cheek. Liz leaned into his hand, moving forward a little herself. She closed her eyes as Max’s face drew closer to her own, and waited breathlessly for his lips to touch hers.
* * * *
Thirty-seven minutes later, Liz reclined in her lounge chair and dug out her journal to make one last entry before going to bed.
Scratch that last line. There is nothing that could have made this night any better. Things are…perfect.
* * * *
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