*New Pt 17a-c* A Walk To Remember M/L AU *1-16*

The best couples in t.v. land are all here in original fiction about Max, Liz, Michael, Maria and the rest of the Roswell gang!
Dark Ilk
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*New Pt 17a-c* A Walk To Remember M/L AU *1-16*

Post by Dark Ilk » 07/07/02 10:14

Considering t\my slowness in posting, I shan't delay this further. Hope u'all enjoy this and would appreciate fb pls. =0)

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Part 10

“Okay”

The single word was all she said before allowing herself to be pulled out of the dinner hall. I guess what surprised me the most about her reaction was exactly that… the lack of one. With my ‘reputation', you'd think she'd be suspicious over my motives. Her apparent trust that I had no ill intentions only reinforced my decision.

When we'd exited from the hall, I had had a moment of doubt: the location I was bringing her to. It had always been my sanctuary… whenever I'd felt that the problems I faced were too big for me to handle … my issues with my father… when I just wanted some time away even from Michael… just a place where I could just… be me.

It hadn't been any well-thought out plan. I just figured it would be nice to go someplace quiet and… talk. The few hours we'd been together so far had been at a frantic pace… and even though it hadn't been my idea to be her escort to the dinner originally, I have to admit that it is nice being around her.

On our walk over to dinner, there'd been instances where we hadn't even needed to talk. We'd just walk side-by side in companionable silence, occasionally looking up to catch one looking at the other, then smiling before looking away to continue on. There'd be interjections of conversations here and there, but the stretches of silence were never uncomfortable. Around her, I found that there was no need for me to behave in a certain manner. No need to be a jock… no need to be the Congressman's son…

Which was why I guess I felt confident enough to bring her here. Despite a niggling voice of self-doubt, she really didn't strike me as one who would laugh off what I was about to do.

Considering we hadn't actually had dinner, we grabbed a quick sandwich each at one of the few mom-and-pop shops still open for business before heading out. I also took the opportunity to buy a small torchlight, as I didn't want to chance us getting lost in the darkness that was coming upon us.

The evening sky had just begun to darken to deeper hues of dark lavender with middling shades of gray when we'd arrived. The jagged walls of the quarry to our front and right were a good height above our heads, but what made her catch her breath when she first took in our surroundings had been the body of water standing between us and the solid wall. It was enclosed by the quarry wall about two-thirds way around the circular lake, with a short stretch of shoreline and semi-dense foliage taking up the rest of the circumference. Although the waters were still, there were several hidden crevices in the quarry wall, creating undercurrents that caused constant ripples on the water. The water level wasn't too deep, and the liquid was normally a blue-green color, the flatstones on the waterbed visible through the depths.

Because the winding path to our destination had been pretty heavily wooded on both sides and I had not given the slightest hint of where I was bringing her, she had no clue as to the sight awaiting her.

When she had first sighted the pond, she'd frozen in her tracks, a fascinated “oh” barely making past her lips before she slowly resumed her steps, approaching the vision before her. Her awed reaction to the view was exactly as mine had been the first time I had accidentally happened upon this trail. It was during one of the times when I'd had a particularly bad quarrel with Dad that I'd left the house in a huff, walking aimlessly with no destination in mind. Wandering quite a way off into the woods near our residence, I'd somehow found this little isolated pocket of land that no one else seemed to know about… until now that is.

I could not help but beam a little at the wonder I saw on her face. It gave me an unfamiliar sense of pride to know that I was the one who had put it there.

Due to the time of day, the slightly sloping stretch of gravel leading to the water that we were standing on gave us an utterly breathtaking view of the gradually sinking sun just over the ‘V' shape formed by the sloping quarry wall and canopy of trees, the light bouncing off the surface of the rippling water to create the effect of sparkling diamonds on the water surface. The water closer to the quarry wall had taken on a deeper green color due to the time of day, but the view was no less awe-inspiring.

Keeping her in view out of the corner of my eye as we both watch the spectacular vision before us, my heart feels truly lightened for the first time this evening. Taking a deep breath that releases the tension from my body, we make eye contact at the same time and smile… and I feel like everything's exactly as it should be.

~*~*~*~*~*~

“You have to be kidding! Really?” A look of semi-disbelief is reflected in her eyes as she takes in my words. Even without the torchlight, the darkness of the evening sky is illuminated by the moonlight, reflecting off the water surface and letting me see the emotions that she clearly wears on her sleeve. “That's just… so sad…”

“I know…” I sigh a little, picking up a random pebble by my side where Liz and I are seated along the edge of the lake, and toss it into the darkened waters with a slight flick of my hand.

“… and so… funny!” as she breaks into light peals of laughter.

“Hey! Not so too!” I protest with feigned hurt in my tone. Looking away to pick up more small pebbles to launch a mini-arsenal at her, she shifts slightly from her position to duck the flying missiles. Maybe it hadn't been such a good idea to tell her about how my ‘bad boy' reputation had been attained. You know, the one with the soapy windows and boiled peanuts?

“Hey! You're not playing fair,” she denounces, brushing off the gravel that have caught on her skirt and top.

“All's fair in love and war Liz.”

“We're definitely not in love, so it's war then!” She laughs as she stands and starts gathering ‘ammunition'.

Momentarily fazed by her unassuming comments, I quickly brush the thought aside to join in her gleeful diversion. Moving from my sitting position to ‘mobilize infantry', our laughter echo off the walls of the quarry even as the moon shines down on the water, creating a reflection that enhances the surreal atmosphere we find ourselves in.

I hear “Take that peanut boy!” just before a small shower of dust and pebbles rain down on me, her laughter ringing out clearly in the night.

“Don't make me wish I'd never told you Liz.”

“Or what?”

Raising an eyebrow, I pause to wonder if there's somehow been a personality switch. A girl who's got – what I'd dare to venture as – a little mischievous spark has now replaced the normally reticent Liz Parker.

And she takes the opportunity to launch another avalanche of sand and gravel.

“Hey!” I protest, before I too get embroiled in our little war.

“Ouch!” I suddenly wince as something catches in my eye, my movements freezing at the same time as I try to clear my head, the pain shooting clear through to my brain. Feeling my eye begin to tear, the sting begins to clear even as Liz hurries over, concern etched on her face.

“Max! Oh dear! Come on. Sit down and let me have a look at that,” she calmly tries to settle me down on the ground. Her voice, however, belies her nervousness. “I'm so sorry. I-I hadn't meant to hurt you-”

“Hey, it was an accident. Don't blame yourself, okay?” I try to reassure her even as I feel the pain recede. Rubbing my eye slightly, I try to attribute the slight shivers running down my spine due to the chilly night air, rather than to the fact that Liz is holding my face in both her hands even as she checks for any further signs of injury to my face.

“Are you sure?” She asks, tilting my face up and closer to her for inspection as she smoothens the hair away from my face to check for possible injuries not visible to her eye.

“I'm fine dear,” the endearment slips out even before I can halt the words.

It's as though she realizes for the first time that she's touching me, because the instant the words are out of my mouth, her movements still. Suddenly withdrawing her hands as if burnt by a flame, I see a similar glow… only that it's in her cheeks as she blushes upon hearing my words.

It's the first time tonight that the silence between us is actually awkward. I can also feel a flush working its way up my neck and cheeks as I realize the implications of how I have just addressed her. It's not that I… Sigh, I just don't know what to think…

Now seated with a hair's breath of space between us, I can feel the apprehension coursing through the air between us. My breath hitches as I try to inhale deeply… and only succeed in drawing more dust into my lungs that results in a slight coughing fit.

Her embarrassment from earlier forgotten, she turns a concerned look over at me even as she settles herself on her knees in front of me. With the moonlight behind her, the semi-darkness shadows the emotions on her face, but I can feel the concern coming off her in waves.

“You okay?” This time, she is wary in making physical contact, but I can make out the nuances of worry in her voice nonetheless.

Letting my coughing fit pass before I answer her, I look up to see the sorrow stamped on her face.

“Hey…” I cajole her lightly, trying to coax a smile out of her. It is so unbecoming to see faces filled with sorrow. I've never like to see someone sad, but somehow, on her… it seems completely wrong.

“Hey…” I lower my head slightly to make eye contact when I see that she's still genuinely distressed over my condition, “… don't you take this as an excuse to go soft on me now. It's still war remember?”

Seeing the tentative smile return to her face, I cannot help but smile back in return.

Settling back down to her position beside me, she says a little uncertainly, “How about a little time-out? Not to bruise your male ego by suggesting that you need to rest, but let's just… talk. Think you can handle that?” The hint of mischief is back in her voice.

“I can take anything you can throw at me Parker,” I parry.

“Okay. Why did you pull out of the play?” She looks me directly in the eye while asking.

Ooh. I think I just opened a can of worms.

“Well…” I hesitate, uncertain of how to answer her. Come to think of it, I'm beginning to wonder why myself.

“My shoulder, remember?” Even that came out sounding lame to my own ears.

“Right,” she says softly, faint traces of disappointment weaved into her tone that I'm not willing to come clean with her.

After a slight stillness, “I… I'm just really… not sure about how well I would fit into the role. And from the sounds of it, Miss Garber's making a really big deal out of it this year. And with my ‘reputation',” she rolls her eyes slightly at this, a slight smile pulling at her lips despite herself, “… I don't want to be a bigger disappointment than I already am,” I concede, and this isn't really lying considering it is ONE of the reasons… just… maybe not the MAIN reason.

A look of astonishment flashes over her face as she hears what I said. I hold my tongue as she continues to watch me silently. Unable to continue holding her gaze, I look out towards the water while she ponders my profile.

“You really think that?” I can hear the surprise in her voice.

“Doesn't your father?”

“What does my father have anything to do with this?” A slightly defensive tone creeps into her voice.

Still facing the shoreline, I continue softly. “Liz, I'm not trying to imply anything about your Dad,” My tone lightens a little as I turn to face her, “More likely that he'd castrate me if he knew that I'd taken you away from the dinner with absolutely no idea of where I was bringing you.”

“He wouldn't-”

“Liz, you forget. It's me… and of course Michael too, that your father remembers most from our past ‘encounters',” I throw a knowing grin in her direction, daring her to prove me otherwise.

“Well…” she stalls, “He was surprised about the dinner arrangements when Congressman Evans mentioned it to him…”

At the beaming grin that plasters itself on my face upon my all too accurate guess, she smacks me lightly on the arm before continuing.

“As I was saying,” she says in a tone akin to chiding a naughty child, “it was… unexpected.”

“Okay, my turn. Why did you agree to the arrangement then? I would have thought that after the play fiasco, the last thing you would have wanted to do was to be within a hundred-mile radius of me.”

It's her turn to stare out into the darkness of the quarry lake. “Why would you say that?”

God, the girl is infuriating! She answers my questions with more questions.

“I HAVE heard the rumors going around Liz. Let's put it this in a nice way: they weren't very ‘flattering'. I wouldn't have been surprised that you'd rather refuse to go to the dinner altogether.”

Softly, she states, “I wouldn't want to disappoint my Dad, not when I… not when it's such an honor for him. I wanted him to be able to share the moment with his loved ones. Mom's no longer around. I just wanted to make sure I'm there for him as much as… as he's been there for me all my life,” she says, a streak of stubborn determination underlining her last statement.

“It really means that much to you to be at that dinner?” I ask, a little perturbed by the fact that I practically just dragged her away from the very place she had wanted to be tonight.

I think she caught the note of unease in my voice, as she turns to me with a slight smile.

“Now I guess it's MY turn to assuage your guilt. Don't worry about me missing the dinner. Dad won't really mind. It's just something I wanted to do for him. But considering that Maria and Michael were the way they were, I wouldn't want Dad's impression of you to get any worse if he'd seen what happened. Would you?” she teases.

Releasing a nervous laugh, “No… you're right. I definitely wouldn't want that.”

A silence descends upon us again. Comforting this time. Reassuring in its presence. Heartening with its quiet encouragement.

“So we're good?” This is me. And I'm not just referring to now. The undertones of my asking forgiveness for Michael's drunkenness… for Sean's stupid stunt tonight… for my wimping out in front of said lughead… for my pulling out of the play… for my stupid, asinine comments she'd overheard in the gym… for every wrong thing I could have possible done to her in the short span of a few weeks, whether consciously or otherwise.

For a moment, I see a flash of uncertainty in her eyes before she returns her gaze to the now still waters.

A beat passes before I hear a conviction-filled voice say the words that give me a sense of serenity. “We're good,” this she says, as she turns to face me again, a genuine smile lighting up her face.

I honestly don't know if she'd really forgiven me for all the things I'd hinted at, but I know this much. Liz Parker dares to speak her mind… and dares to go out on a limb to believe in the goodness of another, forgiving those who have strayed, to give them a second chance.

As a slight breeze blows in from the lake, I watch tendrils of hair escape from her ponytail to light brush across her face. Unconsciously, my hand reaches up to brush it away. Lingering a little on her cheek, I absently note that her skin's so soft. I open my mouth to say something to lighten the moment, but one look into her eyes… and nothing comes to mind… nothing but-

“Come on Max,” she turns away from me abruptly, standing as she does so. With her back facing me, she makes a display of brushing of the sand and gravel from her clothes, but I know that I've got her a little disconcerted.

Heck! I've got me disconcerted! What was that about?

She doesn't give me much time to ponder further as she starts walking back the way we came.

“Liz…” I call out, but my voice falters as I see her steps come to a standstill, back towards me still.

I hesitate for only a fraction of a second. “H-Hang on. I don't want this… you to trip or anything. It's dark back there.” Moving closer to her, I switch on the flashlight and continue in a lighter tone to break the earlier tension, “Wait up for me. Wouldn't want to get your Dad riled at me if I brought you back home in any way other than intact and in one piece.”

“No. We wouldn't want that happening would we, Mr. Evans?” she smiles as she turns back to face me, waiting for me to make my way over.


“… we wouldn't want that happening would we, Mr. Evans?” Confusion furrows my brows by the sudden change in the tenor of her voice. From her melodious, soft voice often tinged with a hint of laughter, the voice had changed. Changed to one where I couldn't quite place at that particular instance.

Shaking myself out of my stupor, a slightly annoyed-looking form comes into my view… one particular Miss Garber.

Oh oh. Not good.

Quickly sitting up straight from my lackadaisical position on the chair, my hand snaps to the tabletop from where I'd been supporting my chin on the palm of one hand. Looking up to meet her unfriendly glare, I note that the eyes of every person in drama class are now trained on me. Okay, seems like I've been staring into space for the past few… however long it's been.

Flushing with embarrassment at getting yet another rebuke from her, I smile hesitantly upwards at Miss Garber.

“Sorry. I didn't mean to… not pay attention,” Trying to find any excuse to not get into more hot soup, I spout without thinking, “I-I uh, had been thinking about some of the props… about maybe modifying some of them for this year's…”

“Why, Max,” the note of surprise clearly ringing out in her voice as she suddenly seems at a loss for words. Then with a smile lighting up her face, she says in a suddenly kinder voice, “I'm glad you're finally taking an interest in something other than… Well, I'm glad you're finally taking an interest.”

Giving me a small smile, she turns towards the rest of the class, diverting her attention away from me. She starts walking towards the other end of the room, addressing the rest of the students.

As my eyes follow her circular path around the class, they clash with a pair of chocolate pools two chairs away that are filled with silent laughter.

She doesn't say a word, nor show any change in her expression… at least not to the eye of anyone unfamiliar with her.

But I know better… I know how expressive her countenance can be, what with all that's transpired between us.

Seeing the light tightening at the corner of her lips, I see the quiet mirth that mocks me in a friendly manner at having yet again nearly cemented my ‘bad boy' reputation. As I watch, captivated by the light in her shining eyes, I just barely catch the words she meekly mouths, even as she seeks to contain her grin.

‘Nice save, peanut boy'.

Rolling my eyes slightly, I try to keep from bursting into laughter as well. I mean, I cannot deny the humor in the situation. Miss Garber's always had a none-too-impressive perception of me, and this could have hammered the final nail into my coffin. Giving her a tight smile with a slight quirk to my lips, I mockingly admonish her for taking pleasure in my *misery*.

Pretending not to notice my expression, she looks away and proceeds to ignore my attempts to catch her eye.

Watching the unspoken interaction between us, I can no longer reject the notion that there's something more there between us.

Taking a deep breath, I know what I'm gonna do next… and I'm gonna need Michael's help for this.

~*~*~*~*~*~
TBC
~*~*~*~*~*~

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destinyros2005
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*New Pt 17a-c* A Walk To Remember M/L AU *1-16*

Post by destinyros2005 » 07/07/02 14:41

Oh! I just love this part! Peanut boy! Adorable! Please post more soon!

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*New Pt 17a-c* A Walk To Remember M/L AU *1-16*

Post by bunniefuu » 07/15/02 21:33

Wow. I'm in a trance still. So sorry I was so far behind. Time seems to slip away to quickly. Well, first don't even ask what I'm doing reading your fic at 3:30 in the morning. But it was sort of peaceful with the quietness around here, and interesting with the snow falling while I read it.

Oh I also saw the movie just a few days ago. Of course it's completely different from this but enjoy both. The movie was just incrediably sad.

And the soccer... I don't watch it, but I do remember Claire aka Esoterica telling me all about it. Exciting!

Okay back to story at hand... I just loved it. I really enjoyed the walk home or shall I say the stop at the hideaway. Full of details, it seemed so real. Thanks for the great parts!

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*New Pt 17a-c* A Walk To Remember M/L AU *1-16*

Post by sccraner » 07/26/02 10:47

This is a great fic! I really liked this part. Has any more been written since Chapter 10? This is a very exciting story, and I'm interested in reading more of it. I didn't know if more has been written, but posted in a different thread. Keep up the great writing.

Dark Ilk
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*New Pt 17a-c* A Walk To Remember M/L AU *1-16*

Post by Dark Ilk » 08/03/02 14:24

okies... so sorry for falling so far behind with updating. It's been an incredibly long time in getting a life. For all the fb, thanks everyone... without further ado, Part 11.

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Part 11

“Max!”

I hear Liz's voice from within the class as I exit the drama room, and cannot help the smile that is beginning to grow on my face. Deciding to turn the tables on her for my earlier ‘rebuffs', I press my lips tightly together to keep from laughing out loud, and my head bowed towards the ground as I step out of class… and right into Kyle and Alex.

My heart plummeting to the ground as I meet their eyes, I feel the grin freeze upon my face.

“Max. Ma man!” comes Alex's typical greeting as he slaps me lightly on the back.

“Dude, have you seen Michael today?” comes Kyle's voice as he passes a casual glance into the room from which I just came, hoping to see if Michael was in there.

Hurriedly grabbing them by the shoulders to turn them away from the room, I start pulling them towards the front of the school. “Haven't seen him. Tell you what, why don't you go look for him in the Quad. I'll check out his home. I've no more classes for the day.” Okay, so that last one's a little fib, but better that than them finding out about Liz and me… no, about our friendship. No, correct that… oh whatever it is that is happening between us right now.

Nervously, I throw a backward glance over my shoulder to see if anyone… okay, whether LIZ has seen my hurried exit. Seeing no sign of her in the doorway of the class, I am about to turn away when I see her frame come into view. I see her looking around the hallway, scanning the crowd for me, and I can't help but slouch a little lower even as I pull Alex and Kyle further away from her.

Just as we are reaching the doors to the school entrance, I suddenly feel a prickle run down my spine. You know the feeling: someone watching you, waiting to see your reaction, sizing up your next move.

Still gripping Alex's and Kyle's elbows, I try to resist the temptation to turn around, but the decision is taken out of my hands as Kyle glances back. Seeing the person behind us, he pauses, then turns, addressing the person standing just behind me.

“Hi there little lady,” he says, trying to hide a smirk.

Closing my eyes momentarily in a bid to delay the inevitable, I breathe in deeply before turning around.

No prize for guessing whom it is standing before me.

Alex looks a little surprised at her presence altogether, but chooses to hold his tongue firmly in his cheek… which is more than I can say for Kyle.

“Little Lizzie Parker. What? Can't get enough of Max Evans from your dinner *date*? Missing him already?” he asks dryly, looking her up and down with a slight jeer as we all take in her normal school attire of brown skirt and long sleeved top.

I cannot make myself look her directly in the eye even though all I have to do is raise my head. Nothing comes to mind that I can say without giving away how I'm feeling right now. Actually… that's not true. I actually feel like I wish that the ground beneath me would just open up and swallow me whole.

And all this time, she hasn't addressed me in person.

“It's… nothing. I just wanted to… ask Max… something about… the play,” she stammers somewhat to Kyle, unsure of how to act in light of my sudden turnaround in demeanor. A nervous shuffle of feet as Alex and Kyle watch Liz. As Liz watches me. As I find my shoes utterly fascinating.

Realizing that I don't intend on contributing to the conversation, she says abruptly, “It'll wait,” before turning and walking away, her back ramrod straight.

When I finally look up, it's just in time to see her turn the corner. If I hadn't spent last night watching the myriad of expressions that often crossed her face, I would have thought that everything was alright. But I should know better. And I do… and I cannot mistake the flash of sadness in her eyes just before she disappeared around the bend.

Damn it! Things were not supposed to turn out like this!

“Come on dude,” Kyle swings an arm around my shoulders, “let's all check out the Quad. Michael's probably ditched class to go make out with Maria or something.”

“No,” you guys go check out the Quad. He may have taken the day off considering what he went through yesterday,” I somehow manage to maintain a level of calm in my voice… one that I do not feel.

All I know is that I need to get to Michael. Now.

Before I completely chicken out on my original mission altogether. Especially now that Liz thinks…

Argh! I don't even want to wonder what she must be thinking.

Get. To. Michael.

I intone the litany in my head as I brush past Kyle and Alex, leaving the guys standing at the school entrance, both probably thinking that I've lost my marbles.

“What's up with Evans?” I faintly hear Kyle ask just before I disappear from their view altogether.

I'd like an answer to that too.

~*~*~*~*~*~
TBC
~*~*~*~*~*~

Dark Ilk
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*New Pt 17a-c* A Walk To Remember M/L AU *1-16*

Post by Dark Ilk » 08/03/02 14:28

And because you've been so patient with me... here's part 12 as well! A nice long part with some pretty hilarious (I hope!) interactions!

And of course! fb please.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Part 12

A low moan is the only response I get as I rap lightly on the door twice.

“Go. Away.” A mournful voice sounds from within, muffled by the cover of a pillow.

Controlling an impish grin, I turn the doorknob to peer into the darkness that envelopes the room within.

“I said: Go. Away.”

The tone is a little stronger now, but no less irritated as the figure sprawled on the massive bed squirms in an attempt to avoid the light filtering in from the partially open door. The Venetian blinds have been pulled down to keep the evening sunlight, and the air is filled with a semi-stale smell of alcohol and dankness.

“Wakey wakey, Mikey G,” I say. Scrunching my nose a little at the smell, I rap a little harder on the door even as I open it a little more fully… and duck in time to miss a pillow thrown in the general direction of my head.

“Damn it Maxwell! Not so loud! You wanna come in, then close the damn door!”

Chuckling silently to myself, I finally let up on the ribbing, picking up the pillow as I enter and closing the door, sequestering myself on one of the comfy chairs opposite his bed. Getting comfortable, I prop my feet up on the corner end of his bed against the bedpost.

“Dude, if you can't do the time, don't do the crime,” I say as I switch on one of the smaller table lamps to give the room a little light.

“Shut. Up.”

“Glad to see you know how it's like when the tables are turned huh?”

Another moment of fidgeting comes from the form lying on the bed before he finally realizes that I don't intend on leaving him alone in peace anytime soon. Emitting a slight growl, he drags himself into a sitting position, haphazardly reaching for the pair of sunglasses by the side of his bed as he faces me.

“So remind me again… to what honor do I owe that I've got to suffer this form of abuse?” Michael practically hisses as he rubs wearily at his eyes before putting on the shades.

Settling myself in a more comfortable position, I try to push the thoughts of recent events to the back of my mind, and consider how to tell him what I need his help on… without giving too much away.

Groaning slightly at the prolonged silence, he admonishes me with a look, lowering his shades slightly to glower at me before flopping back onto the bedcovers. “And dude, no need to slam the door so hard next time, alright?”

Raising bemused eyes to regard Michael's condition, I conclude that he must be seriously hung over to still be in such a lousy mood even after missing an ENTIRE day of school to recover.

It just really means a lot to me… you know… one of the things on my ‘to-do' list: giving him a reason to be proud of me without…

The thought rises unbidden into my mind, the ghost of a conversation filtering into my consciousness... one that has led me to where I currently am.

Shifting slightly to drive away the unsanctioned thought, I turn to Michael who has since sat up on the bed, slouching over the bedrail as he continues to watch me over the rim of his sunglasses. Starting a little, I realize a little belatedly that I'd been staring into space for a moment… and I'd overestimated the extent of his hangover.

Removing his shades to regard me a little suspiciously, he addresses me.

“So Maxwell… tell me. What really happened?”

Swallowing over the lump that has suddenly developed in my throat, I wonder briefly how much of our conversation he recalled from last night. Looking into his somewhat dazed and bloodshot – but nonetheless alert – eyes, I try to delay the inevitable, “Well…”

“Don't leave out ANY details… I want to hear it. ALL of it,” he emphasizes pointedly.

Oh God. This is it.

“I really hadn't meant for anything to happen, and-”

“Of course not!” He replies a little indignantly. I shrink a little at his outburst, even as he carries on his rant, “How could you! It's not like you were the one who spiked the drinks. Tell me WHO did it,” he asks, his fingers now touching at the tips to form a steeple on which he is resting his chin.

What?!

A huge wave of relief washes over me as I realize that he is talking about the events leading to his current condition, and that they have nothing to do with… well, suffice to say that it has nothing to do with me directly.

“It was Sean,” I answer a little hesitantly, somewhat fearful of a similar reaction to the knowledge that his girlfriend's cousin was the jerk who had caused his present predicament.

“That jerk! I just knew it!” Michael practically shouts as he jumps to his feet in a petulant fit of rage, only to wobble unsteadily as the effects of the alcohol have clearly not worn off completely. Gripping the bedpost to steady himself, I watch as he settles down on the bed again, resigning himself to the fact that he's in no state to be confronting anyone right now.

“I don't know the full details, just that you were already washed out by the time I got there. I was going to get you to the gents when I caught Sean red-handed pouring more alcohol into the punch bowl,” I fib a little, in a bid to concede to his request for details.

Resting his chin on his hands atop the horizontal bar of the bedpost, he queries, “Did he see you?”

Crossing my fingers out of sight, I answer with a weak “No”.

“That's good. I wouldn't want you to aggravate that ‘niggling shoulder pang' any more now would we?” he grins a little at me, seemingly deciding to let the matter slide since he'd not encountered any problems with his old man because of it.

I return the grin… and a light bulb goes off in my head.

He's given me the perfect lead-in.

“Yeah, listen Michael. Speaking about that shoulder injury of mine… well, it's really not that bad now… and… and I was wondering about the suggestion you were making.”

“Which one specifically Max? I've had too many brilliant, ingenious visions turned down by you,” Michael asks in mock hurt, his voice rising a little in intrigue as I hear the humor in his words. “This must be a real brain-blower,” he adds with a slight laugh, “especially since I don't recall which one that is.”

Standing to move towards his dresser, I mumble half-heartedly, “About being the lead in the play,” as I fiddle around with the trinkets on the surface.

My back's facing Michael, so I can't see his expression, but judging from the silence that has suddenly enveloped the room, I can almost imagine that his jaw has hit the bed coverings.

“What made you change your mind Max?” Michael's voice is carefully devoid of expression; as if he is afraid he'll say the wrong thing and tick me off.

“I-It's nothing Michael. I've just been… thinking… about what you said, and you made sense, especially since with regards to Dennis and all,” I throw him a knowing grin of jest as I turn to rest my back against the dresser.

“Really?” Michael throws me a sarcastic grin. “And what, might I ask, has inspired your sudden… thinking?”

“Come on Michael. Do we really have to do this again? The last thing I want is for us to get into another argument, and for you to be cheesed off at me and on your ass again.” Seeing the offended look that registers on his face, I throw up my hands up in mock defense.

“What makes you think YOU won't be the one on YOUR butt this time?” Michael asks bitingly.

“Michael…” my voice takes on a slightly exasperated tone.

“Okay, okay. Backing off THAT topic,” he concedes.

“Look, I just figured… that it's time I step up to the plate. You know, no more ‘running like a bat out of hell'?”

“It's just so you, you know that. You take charge of the situations you can control; but those that you can't, you walk away. Who am I kidding? You fairly run away like a bat out of hell… like what you're doing now.”

The scene in the gym replays in both our minds and we sit silently for a moment, pondering the thoughts flashing through both our minds.

“Well,” Michael finally breaks the silence, “So you want my help to get back into the play?”

Simultaneously releasing a sigh that the request is finally out in the open, all I can utter is “Yeah.”

At Michael's look for more details, I stutter, “… Though I-I have no idea how Miss Garber's even going to consider that option after all that's happened,” I say with a slight slump to my shoulders.

Swinging himself off the bed, he seems to have gotten over his wooziness as he moves to sling an arm around my shoulders, pulling me towards the bed as he grins at me like a Cheshire cat.

Why do I get a bad feeling about this?

As we bounce onto the soft mattress, Michael continues to grin at me, saying, “THAT is something you needn't concern yourself with Maxwell. But trust me, buddy,” as I get rewarded for turning his sour mood with a poke to my ribs, “You're back in the game.”

‘I hope so too Michael. I really hope so.'

Staring up at the ceiling, the words flash through my mind as it continues to roll with thoughts about the play, but even more so, with a particular brunette that has managed to turn my life upside-down in the few days – hours really – that I've interacted with her.

~*~*~*~*~*~

“Where have YOU been?”

I have barely made it past the threshold of the house, having come from Michael's place, and already Izzy is in my face. From the expression on her face, I figured someone must have messed up big-time on one of the charity events she's organizing. Whoever it is that is trying to be the death of her, I just know that it can't be me.

“Are you trying to be the death of me?!” She practically condemns me in a hushed tone.

Woah. Freaky.

“What? What did I do?” My voice is full of puzzlement.

“What did you do, Max? More like what didn't you do? Or maybe a mixture of both?” she points out, still in a hushed whisper.

“Wha-?” I am totally stumped by the accusation.

“Maxwell, honey. Is that you?” Mum's voice filters in from the living area. I hear her footsteps approaching rapidly and grab Izzy's arm, heading for my room upstairs in a bid to avoid her until I have an idea of what exactly is going on.

“Uh, I've got to rush some homework that I need Izzy's help on Mum. Call us for dinner when it's time okay?” I raise my voice slightly in her general direction even as I drag a struggling spitfire hellcat up the stairs.

“But Maxwell-” Mum's voice increases in volume with her impending arrival, and I tow Isabel along even more hurriedly.

“Max, wait!” Isabel tries to free her arm from my iron grip, “You've got to-”

“Izzy, whatever it is, just wait till we get upstairs. I don't want Mum getting mad at me for whatever it is that has YOU mad at me,” I say without breaking my stride.

“Okay, don't say that I didn't try to warn you,” she sighs, allowing herself to be hauled along.

Upon reaching my room, I slam the door shut and dump my book bag on my bed, following a similar path as I sprawl across the covers, muffling a yawn as I wonder when this day will finally end. It's already evening and you would have thought that my ‘day of excitement' would be drawing to a close.

This is apparently not to be as I hear Isabel tap her foot irritably as she waits for me to pay attention to whatever she has to announce.

Raising just my head off the bed to stare at her, I sigh and roll my eyes before resting it back on my pillow.

“Okay, hit me with it. What did I do?” At least I get the comfort of having my bed under me.

Chewing at the corner of her lip before she answers, Izzy then asks coyly, “Where's the Jag?”

As my entire body shoots off the bed, the permeating silence that follows her question feels as though air has suddenly been sucked out of my room with a vacuum.

Oh. My. God.

I cannot believe I totally forgot about the car… the car that I meant to drive Liz to the dinner in last night… the car that we left at her house when we decided to walk to dinner…

The car that I conveniently forgot about when I subsequently – in my state of dazed amazement and wonder – walked home… which means that the Jag is still parked outside the Parker home!

Oh. My. God.

Wait a minute. Why should that cause Iz to practically rip my head off?

“Okay. So I left it in front of the Parker home after last night's dinner. What's the big deal? I can just go pick it up later. Not like anyone's gonna miss it out of the MANY vehicles we have,” I force nonchalance into my voice even as I turn my back on Isabel to avoid her reading the look on my face. Trust me, when it comes to my sister, I am an open book. And this is definitely NOT the time I want to be her reading material.

Grimacing somewhat to myself, I cannot help but think that this is just great… not. The Jag is at Liz's… which means I've got to go over to pick it up. Which means I've got to speak to her… Hmm, maybe it's not as bad as it seems. Maybe I can take the chance to explain about this afternoon… as soon as I can figure the right words to say.

Iz interrupts my internal train of thoughts as she says, “Max, Liz came looking for me to let me know about the Jag… in an attempt to get me to pass you a message,” she states firmly, settling herself down on my bed. “A message that makes me wonder why she didn't tell you herself considering you both had drama class today.”

Choking back the knot in my throat, I shrug my shoulders in a show of feigned ignorance.

“Max.”

“Yeah?” I say, my back still facing her.

“Turn around.”

“Why?”

“Because.”

“Because what?”

“Because I want to ask you something. And I want to look you in the eyes when I get your answer.”

Heaving a deep sigh, I try to maintain my best poker face as I turn to face a glowering older sister.

“What do you wanna ask?”

“She seemed really upset when we were talking. What did you… say or… do to her?” Even as she studies my face intently, there is no mistaking the concern I hear in Iz's voice, more so than the anger.

“I didn't say anything. I swear.” And that IS the truth. Scratching my ear a little as I too settle on the bed facing her, I ask tentatively while keeping my expression carefully impartial, “Why? Did she say that I said or did something?”

A look of puzzlement had crossed her features at my answer and she is staring off into space, my presence seemingly forgotten. Then heaving a little sigh herself, she explains.

“It's not so much what she said, but what she didn't. Look, I know you don't know Liz that well,” I just manage to bite my lips together from forming a retort to that as she continues, “… but I do. And it's what she doesn't say that has me concerned. She's got these really… intense eyes that express…” Isabel trails off as she seeks to find the words to express herself clearly.

“… really deep emotions,” the words slip out of my mouth effortlessly in a quiet whisper.

I try to recover, but raising my eyes to meet Izzy's, I know that she heard what I'd said.

A slight frown marring her normally smooth forehead, she nods in acquiescence even as she watches me with a strange expression. “Yeah.”

“I mean… that's what they always say right? About still waters running deep and all that?” I cough lightly, using my hand to partially cover my face in an attempt to hide what I am guessing is a blush that is quickly spreading all over my face.

Leaning her head a little to watch me sideways, it's now her turn to maintain a poker face as she silently gazes at me.

“You're sure she was okay in class? Nothing out of the ordinary?” Iz refuses to let up on the questions.

“Look, Iz. I'm not exactly interested in watching Liz Parker's every move in class… or out of it, okay? I've got better things to do than that,” I protest.

‘Just interested in day-dreaming about your date with her,' the two-horned angel whispers in my head.

‘Shut up… And it wasn't a date.'

‘Admit it and I will.'

‘No such luck.'

‘You're just chicken.'

‘Am not.'

‘Are too.'


Closing my eyes and leaning forward to rest my head in my hands, I try to silence the warring arguments rocketing about in my skull.

“Max?” This is Iz as she touches a hand lightly to my shoulder, “You okay? You don't look too good.”

That's Isabel Evans for you. One minute, the ever-domineering lioness, fierce to protect the underdogs; the next, the caring sister who knows just when to let up… well, not always, but she knows when she's about to reach the limit with me.

“Seeing how you've somehow managed to upset Liz without knowing how you've done so… I'm guessing that this isn't exactly a good time to tell you something,” the uncertainty in her statement clearly evident.

Smoothening a hand over my weary face, I raise tired eyes to Isabel's face.

“Come on. Spill. Let's get it over with.” Stifling a sarcastic little laugh, I continue, “After all, it can't get any more dramatic now can it?”

Sighing, I realize that I just have to figure out how to face Liz. Explain to her that what happened after class today… that wasn't the way it should have been. Not after… not after what happened last night. At least I'll have the night to sleep and ponder over this.

Iz takes a deep breath and utters a sentence that has me bolting from my bed for the second time this evening.

“She's WHAT?!” I start to wear a path into the floor as the ramifications of this new development dawns on me, all thoughts of keeping a poker face forgotten. “You have GOT to be kidding me right, Izzy?” Stopping in front of her still seated form on the bed, I reach out my hands in a staccato clench-unclench-clench motion in a desperate bid to regain some kind of control before I really lose it.

“Just so that I didn't mistake what you said… repeat what you… just said.”

She puffs out her cheeks with a soft sigh, and then “I said: Liz is here. Now. And she's staying for dinner.”

“Oh. My. God!” I release a muffled groan and slump onto the bed.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen. This is me, in full freak-out mode. This is NOT good. Ha! Who am I kidding? This is about as bad as it can get.

I can't face her. Not yet. I'm not prepared. Not fair.

‘Like whining's gonna help you with your situation.' The voice in my brain resounds again.

‘Shut. Up.'

‘Like you told Michael; not so funny when the tables are turned.'

‘Can it.'

‘Fine. Be snooty.'


“I thought Liz spoke to you in school. What's she doing here?” This is me, speaking aloud.

“I didn't say that. I said that she came looking for me. And she found me… at home. You'd just assumed that she found me in school.”

“And enlighten me please. How did her coming to the house to pass a message turn into her staying for dinner?” I ask Isabel as my distress clearly shows.

Mistaking the cause of my dour mood, she rushes to defend Liz. “Look Max. It's not that bad. Really. She's not bad company to have around-”

“It's got nothing to do with th-” I shut my trap to prevent myself from revealing anymore than has already been said. “Ju-just tell me how this came to be.”

“Well, she came to the house looking for you, and when she couldn't find you, she asked for me. She'd wanted to leave immediately after telling me to pass you the message, but I sensed that she was upset.”

Frowning a little at the guilt-ridden look that flashes briefly on my face, she continues, “… so I invited her into the house. We were talking in the living room, and one thing led to another… and then Mum happened.”

“Oh no.” I groan as I can only picture what must have happened then. “Let me guess: she invited Liz for dinner,” I fill in helpfully.

“That's a convenient and concise way of putting it. But in a nutshell, yes.” I see Isabel trying to prevent a grin from forming on her face at the thought of Mum's renowned method of emotional blackmail at getting people to bend to her will.

“And I just abandoned them to each other when I dragged you up here.” Distressed as I am, I also can't help the wry grin that makes its way to my lips. However, the smile lingers but a moment as my focus comes back to the matter at hand.

The breeze blowing through my room window stirs the hanging wind chimes, creating a soft resonating tinkle, a sound that is in sharp contrast to the turmoil roiling in my gut. Staring blankly at the fine silver rods that continue their soulful peal, I seek to find a way… any way that I can handle the situation without making it any worse than it already is.

Running a harried hand through my hair giving it an even more tousled look, I turn towards my dresser and pound lightly on the surface as I weigh my options on what I can do next.

Iz remains seated and silent as she watches me.

“Max, is there something between you and Liz that I should know about?” she ventures tentatively. That's my sis for you whenever I run into issues I can't seem to deal with; she'll know that something's happening, but won't butt in unless I'm ready to take the initiative to open up to her.

Squeezing my eyes tightly shut to force my concentration, I rub wearily at my temples before I turn to face her, leaning against the dresser for support.

“Iz… I… don't really know what's going on right now between Liz and myself… or IF there is even anything there to talk about. J-Just gimme some time to figure it out. Okay?” I softly admit to her what I have just recently come to terms with myself.

Inhaling deeply, she releases a chuckle that has me raising my eyes to meet her gaily-lit ones.

“Look, I'm not laughing at you… or Liz. You know I wouldn't. But look at it from my point of view. One day you can't imagine the thought of being around Liz, and the next, you're acting all loopy at the mere mention of her name. You have to admit, it IS pretty funny.”

Conceding to her point, I release a soft chuckle myself. Bracing myself for the upcoming affair, I push myself away from the cupboard and extend a hand to Iz.

“Well, then. I guess it's time for David and Goliath to meet,” I say.

Raising an enquiring eyebrow, she asks, “And just who is the David here Max? You… Or Liz?”

Smiling half-heartedly, I wonder the same question to myself too. While I may feel like David trying to conquer the obstacles I find ahead of me, something tells me it's more likely that Liz is David, seeking to bring Goliath to his knees.

Quirking my lips further in a tight smile, I answer her with mixed emotions reflected in my eyes.

Opening the door to my room, Iz heads out first, leaving me to fight the last impulse to just bolt from the house altogether.

But I don't.

And I kind of wish I did as I make my way down the stairs.

Dad just got home – which is surprisingly early for once – and Mum and Liz have gathered at the doorway to welcome him.

Iz has happily made her way to join them, but I can only watch dumbfounded as after Mum and Iz give Dad a hug, he gives Liz a chaste peck on the cheek while expressing his delight that she'll be joining us for the evening meal.

As my jaw slackens at the sight that greets me, I CANNOT believe that my DAD is the first male Evans to score with Liz. Man, is that twisted or what.

I must have been staring at them for some time, because the next thing I know, I release a loud yelp when Iz makes her way beside me on the split landing on the stairs, poking me in the side to shake me from my reverie.

Flushing furiously as everyone's eyes have now riveted to fix on me, I make it the rest of the way down, nearly tripping on the last step when Liz looks directly into my eyes to bestow a timid smile in my direction.

“H- *cough* Hi Liz.” Was that my throat sounding all croaky?

“Hi Max,” she says, her shyness receding and her smile getting a little larger as she realizes that I'm in as befuddled a state of mind as I'd placed her earlier today. “Sorry I missed you after class today.”

“Yeah, sorry about that. I had to go chec-… meet Michael to discuss something for one of our projects,” I offer lamely.

“No harm, no foul Max,” she says.

“okay then,” Mum announces chirpily, “Dinner-time now.”

As she and Dad lead Liz away into the dining room, Iz sidles up beside me, a mischievous wink in her eye.

“Sorry about that Max. You looked like you wanted to punch the living daylights out of Dad. Wouldn't want that now, would we?” she says, a teasing lilt in her voice.

“No… no we wouldn't,” I murmur as I watch her petite form disappear with my parents.

As I come to a firm conclusion.

I've finally figured out who's David.

And the Goliath that I am is awestruck at the thought of doing battle with her. Cos I'm not sure I can win this confrontation.

~*~*~*~*~*~
TBC
~*~*~*~*~*~

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destinyros2005
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*New Pt 17a-c* A Walk To Remember M/L AU *1-16*

Post by destinyros2005 » 08/04/02 04:22

I'm so excited...two new parts!
I loved them! I can't wait for more!

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*New Pt 17a-c* A Walk To Remember M/L AU *1-16*

Post by bunniefuu » 08/08/02 08:42

Oh wow. Those were great parts Dark!
Loved the surprise appearence of Liz and the scenes with Michael not quite well yet.
More Please !

Oh and sccraner~ Welcome to FD! I saw that was your first post. Sorry it's taken so long to welcome you here. And to answer your question, Dark has only been posting her story on this thread. So this is all there is so far.
Welcome again!


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*New Pt 17a-c* A Walk To Remember M/L AU *1-16*

Post by Dark Ilk » 08/08/02 18:59

Hey all, time for the next part... there are still parts to be posted... just awaiting your feedback! Love that you guys love the tale as much as I love writing it.

Do enjoy! and fb as usual.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Part 13

To say that dinner was a stilted affair was an understatement.

With Iz and Liz both seated diagonally across the elongated dining table from me, and Dad and Mum at either ends of the table, I cannot help but feel surrounded by an almost impenetrable circle of detachment.

I could not, and still cannot, bring myself to make direct eye contact with Liz… at least not when she notices. Iz has already caught me sneaking glances at Liz on a few instances, at which point she would narrow her eyes murderously at me.

A swift kick to my foot. A grimace under my breath. I can only grit my teeth before shooting her a withering glare.

While my parents had been maintaining a steady stream of conversation with Liz and Iz, I could only poke restlessly at my meal, taking occasional bites whenever I catch Mum frowning at me slightly. I can feel her silent admonishments for not making our guest feel more welcome by contributing to the chatter, offering only monosyllabic mumbles or grunts when necessary.

Dad has seemingly forgotten my presence at the table altogether, intent as he is on regaling Liz about tales of his work. To be honest, I'm surprised that she seems truly fascinated by what he has to say. Muted laughter, focused concentration in her gaze, her expression conveys a genuine interest in his accounts, punctuating them with her own questions every once in a while. Personally, I find myself bored to tears whenever Dad starts talking about politics and all that ‘heavy' stuff.

Thankfully it's down to dessert and my parents have had no great desire to start into any “Do-you-know-Max-used-to” fiascos that would have made me even more uncomfortable.

Not that there's much she already doesn't know.

“Max, could you pass me the syrup please?” Mum asks, pointedly glancing at Liz quickly, then back at me, like a conspiratorial spy trying to prod me into action by eye signals.

If this were any other situation, I'd find it funny… hilarious even. It's like both the female Evans at the table are trying to goad me with regards to Liz. But it's NOT any other situation, so… this just really bites.

I know I need to talk to her. It's just…

“Here,” I hand her the bowl with a feigned air of indifference, acting as if I didn't know what she was trying to hint at. Even then, I sneak a quick glance at the figure diagonally to my right across the table, tucking into her dessert with relish as she continues to be entranced by the entreaties of the other male Evans.

As I watch her animated laughter at something Dad says, I have to squelch a sudden desire to shout out.

No. Not in anger and jealousy. More like pain. In my foot. That Isabel has stomped on.

Turning my head sharply to the source of my infliction, I see the warning look in her eyes. Grimacing at the soreness in my toes, I stare listlessly back down at my still-unfinished main course of rosemary chicken. Did I mention that this sucks big time?

“You're a wonderful cook, Mrs. Evans-” Liz finally turns away from Dad to address Mum. Her initial hesitation when I first addressed her in the house has vanished altogether, replaced by a polite and courteous girl, quietly confident and comfortable in front of people other than her own peers.

“Liz, what did I say about addressing me as ‘Mrs. Evans'? It's Diane, remember? Seems like I can never get Max and Isabel's friends to call me so, but you of all people should know better,” she chides in a light-hearted teasing manner.

Her lips tilting up in a small smile, “It's just… been so long,” she says.

Oh yes. My parents do know Liz well. Very well, in fact. The Evans and Parkers used to be pretty close.

Up to the sixth grade, Isabel, Liz and I practically grew up together. We'd have sleepovers at least twice a week, alternating between the Parkers and our home. We'd always create such a ruckus, bouncing around like the little bundles of energy that we were, and by the time it was actually time to sleep, Iz would always be the first to nod off. Liz and I would stay up a little longer. We'd have our heads hidden under the blankets, using mini-torch lights to illuminate the darkness, talking about whatever. And before we finally went to bed, she'd always say to me, “Sleep tight,” to which my reply was always “Don't letting the bedbugs bite”.

We were practically the three Musketeers back then.

But things change.

Once Dad's political ambitions kicked in, Minister Parker deemed that my father held a *conflicting interest*, continually trying to corrupt the townsfolk by “industrialization” and “profits”, instead of their guiding them spirituality.

So yes, the fact that I'm the ‘peanut boy' and heir to the legacy of the man seeking to corrupt the entire Beaufort community has also more or less cemented my status in the eyes of Minister Parker.

It really was a surprise then, then that the Minister went along with the idea of my escorting Liz to the dinner. I guess Dad and him must have mellowed out over the years for them to have had a decent telephone conversation to settle the matter. In those early ears, both usually steered clear of each other's paths out of a respective desire not to step on each other's toes.

But they weren't the only rifts between the two families.

Early on, despite the gulf in the two families, Liz and Isabel were still close, bonded together by their female companionship and their subsequent common work in charity. I, on the other hand, grew apart from Liz… from the Parkers altogether, when we seemed to veer towards different paths… and I found a newfound best male bud in Michael. He was like the brother I never had, and after years of being the only guy with the two girls, I guess it was more relief than anything else that I had another group of friends that I could hang out with.

Not that I could compare the two; there were definitely different dynamics when hanging out with Michael, Alex, Kyle and the rest of the group… Well, you know the rest of how things have been then, and they haven't changed much over the years.

Until now that is.

“Well,” Iz jumps in to chime cheerily, “Years, shmears. Who cares? Now that you've come by again, that's hopefully something we can change to a more regular basis.”

Shooting daggers at her, I intend on giving Iz a dose of her own medicine as my left foot connects with a knee.

Only it's not the intended knee.

Seeing Liz jump slightly off her chair, I realize too late that my mark was a little off.

“Something wrong Liz?” Dad asks, misinterpreting her sudden jitteriness.

“No. Nothing's wrong. J-Just that a sudden pull in my nerve.” Laughing off the incident, she continues as she rubs tenderly at her knee, “Maybe that's what happens when I enjoy too much good food and sit too long in one place.”

“Now that's a compliment if ever I've heard of one,” Mum gushes happily.

“Maybe you just need to walk it out,” I say in a semi-hushed tone.

All heads turn to face me. It's the most number of words I've uttered since we all sat down to dinner.

My eyes sweeping the table briefly, I see that Mum's face is awash with relief that I've finally decided to resemble a speaking human being. Dad's face finally registers my presence. Isabel's eyes are lit with laughter since she realized what I actually intended for had backfired.

And Liz. Her eyes finally make direct contact with mine for the first time since drama class this morning. She doesn't flinch when my warily dispassionate amber gaze meets her chocolate pools that swirl with hidden emotion.

“I guess that won't be a problem since I'll enjoy the evening walk home later,” her reply is terse. Not rude, and with only the barest hint of irritation lacing her words.

Yes, yes, yes, I over-analyze everything she does.

“What? There's no way I'm allowing that.” Dad expresses his unease in letting her walk home by herself. Let me drive you back... Or maybe Max can.” He turns his eyes towards me, as do the rest of the table.

“That's right,” Mum interrupts before I can say anything, as she turns to Liz, “Since Max forgot to drive the Jag back, why don't he walk back with you? Then he can drive the Jag back?” she volunteers on my behalf, even as my jaw begins to droop.

Okay, so I guess that's one tidbit Mum managed to weasel out of her or Iz. One that I do not exactly appreciate being highlighted to my father this very instant.

In an attempt to pre-empt any recriminations Dad might inflict, I quickly agree, “Okay. Sure. No problem.”

“Max.” This is Dad.

Not good. I'm almost leery of meeting his look. Only the expression on his face is not one I'd expected. It's one of… amusement.

“Yeah?”

“YOU are offering to WALK Liz home?” the laughter in his voice is barely concealed.

Frowning slightly at this unexpected reaction, I say a little defensively, “What's wrong with that? Good to get in a little nature walk after dinner.”

As his eyebrows raise even higher, I feel my face beginning a slow burn as his roar of laughter resounds around the room. Out of the blue as it is, everyone jumps a little at its suddenness.

“My boy, since when have you ever considered a walk as a chance to appreciate nature? I thought your idea of ‘nature' was to roll down the window or to lower the top of the car when you're driving,” Dad chuckles as he tries to catch his breath between the words.

The slow burn on my features has been fanned into a roaring flame as I take in Liz's expression. The slight widening of her eyes indicating her coming to the realization that there may just be more to our earlier walks, okay one walk… especially since I'm not one accustomed to taking them.

“Well- I… need to get the car back anyway. And this way, I can just worry about one car instead of two. See, I kill two birds with one stone: escort Liz safely home, and bring the Jag back.”

Hehe. See me getting into the groove…

“Alright then. Then perhaps you can explain to me on how the Jag was left at the Parker house when you get back,” Dad replies smoothly as he dabs at his lips with his napkin.

… And shrivel back into the six-year-old with his hand caught in the cookie jar.

As I note that Liz has remained silent during my exchange with Dad, Mum takes it upon herself to push me towards my to-be destination for tonight.

Moving to stand, she addresses us. “Now then kids. It's getting late. Iz, why don't you help me with the dishes? Max, you'd better start on escorting Liz back home. It's a school night, so I want you back in time for proper rest. Philip, why don't you get out of your work clothes and into the bathrobe already laid out upstairs? I'll have your bath running for you in a few minutes,” as she moves to stand beside him, giving him a loving peck on the cheek.

Groaning inwardly at the open affection on display, I spin away to avoid any further scenes. Thank goodness Dad usually works late that I'm not subjected to this too often. Quickening my pace as I wander out of the dining room, I hear the sound of soft footfalls falling in step behind me.

Taking a deep breath, I turn around to see Liz's eyes looking candidly into mine.

Fighting the compulsion to look down at the ground, I force my jaw together momentarily. Then making a conscious effort to relax, I smile sheepishly at her.

In an all too familiar gesture of the night of the dinner, I bow slightly, extending a hand, palm outwards and point the way out the door.

“Shall we?”

Wordlessly, she starts out the door, leaving me to follow in her wake.

Okay, she's mad. And I've got to explain myself.

Not tomorrow. Not later. Now.

And I just know I haven't the words to justify myself.

Hanging my head for the barest of moments, I close my eyes to contemplate how I'm going to make it through this walk.

Because if this goes the way I think it does, I think I might just lose the one really good thing I've just begun to realize I've had.

~*~*~*~*~*~
TBC
~*~*~*~*~*~

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destinyros2005
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*New Pt 17a-c* A Walk To Remember M/L AU *1-16*

Post by destinyros2005 » 08/09/02 15:37

Man...Max is in deep trouble! I can't wait to see how he gets out of this one!
Please post more, Dark Ilk!

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*New Pt 17a-c* A Walk To Remember M/L AU *1-16*

Post by sccraner » 08/22/02 22:49

Very well written. I'm glad you finally had time to write the more parts. Post more soon. This is a great story. Max is in trouble again. I'm not surprised. I wonder what he'll do to get out of it this time. He needs to stop and think before acting, and especially before speaking. Of course, I have that problem sometimes too. That's why usually talk as little as possible. I've found out I get into less trouble that way. I'm still having trouble learning to use ezboard (or it just doesn't work reliably), but after a few tries I think I can get my reply to send this time. Keep up the great writing.

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*New Pt 17a-c* A Walk To Remember M/L AU *1-16*

Post by Dark Ilk » 08/24/02 19:38

sorry... reposting again in next post

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*New Pt 17a-c* A Walk To Remember M/L AU *1-16*

Post by Dark Ilk » 08/24/02 19:39

Hey everyone... glad to see you're enjoying the trip thus far... just bringing u a little more up to ate with the next. Hope you all enjoy and fb pls.

Here's a wonderful banner one of the posters on another board created for me for this fic. Breathtakig absolutely, and an sweetheart of her to do this for me!

Image
Banner credits to talena

PS: heads-up in advance. Just in case you are wondering about the comment at the end of this part, you might need to recall something that happened in Part 13.

Okies... on with the show...

~*~*~*~*~*~

Part 14

Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot, left f-

“So you don't like walking?” She says this like a rhetorical question.

My hands shoved into the pockets of my jacket, head bowed to watch my feet in motion, her voice interrupts the stupor that I've been induced in the past ten minutes since we left my house. Lifting my head to see her form still moving ahead, my feet momentarily stop in their tracks.

Realizing I've fallen behind, she too stops and turns to face me.

“What makes you say that?” I ask, a slight crease in my forehead.

“Isn't it true?” Her tone is without prejudice, betraying no notion whatsoever of how she feels.

“Why would you assume it is?”

“Why won't you answer my question?”

“Why won't you stop answering my questions with more questions?” Brows furrowed, my voice has become increasingly agitated, gradually growing in pitch and volume as well.

“I was just trying to understand you better, that's all,” comes her sincere reply.

Like you don't already know the first eleven years of my life story.

Grinding my teeth together, I struggle to figure if she's for real, or just deliberately trying to bait me. Sucking in a deep breath between my clenched teeth, my mind is muddled with thoughts of what to say… And I regret the words as soon as they are out of my mouth.

“What does it matter to you?” I retort snappishly even as an uncertain sneer makes itself apparent on my face.

A beat. “It doesn't,” she shrugs, turning to continue walking on.

Resisting the urge to crawl into myself and cringe at my biting tone, I watch a moment as she continues walking away. When she doesn't stop, I hurry to catch up. After a few moments, we pace alongside each other, steps in sync although we both say nothing.

The silence sings through the surrounding space. Calming in its peace. Yet awkward in its stillness.

Casting a sidelong glance at her, I notice that she's rubbing her arms lightly to keep warm from the chilly night air. Whilst shrugging off my jacket, I rest my hand on her arm gently to stop her from moving further forward.

You'd have thought I'd touched a lit match to her skin, judging from the way she leapt away from me.

Meeting my bemused look, she looks a little embarrassed at her reaction. “Sorry, I was… thinking.”

“About? A faster way to get rid of me?” At the dismissive roll of her eyes, I extend an olive branch. Not literally, of course.

I extend the jacket towards her. “Look, you're cold; I figured you could use this.”

“No, no. No need,” she brushes my offer aside, deftly sidestepping me as I reach towards her with the coat.

Catching her by the crook of her arm, I insist, “Come on Liz. Don't pull a Izzy on me.”

Looking at me in surprise, she can only utter “What?”

“You forgot? When our parents took us camping when we were seven? Ice princess Isabel insisted that it was alright to eat the mushrooms we found? And we ended up grounded for weeks after that?” I remind her with a wistful smile, recalling the fury our parents had broken into when they'd found us, our mouths chomping happily away on the *treasures* we'd uncovered. Luckily, they weren't poisonous, just that it caused an allergic reaction in Liz and myself. Strangely enough, Isabel had been unaffected. What resulted was Liz and I spending a couple of days in the hospital under observation, while Isabel was grounded for two months. When we were finally allowed to return home, WE were grounded for two weeks each as well for following Izzy's lead.

Ever since then, the expression became a running inside joke whenever any of the three of us were obstinate enough that (usually) ended up with said party – or parties – in trouble.

Only… neither of us has used that expression in so long.

“So now I'm a princess?” she says a little perturbed, although I can also hear the hidden laughter in her voice at the memory.

Sighing, my face displays a slight show of defeat. “Look, I just don't want you ending up catching a cold alright?” As I shift my weight from one foot to the other, “I don't always do the right thing… but I try,” attempting to convey the dual meaning in my words.

She stares at me a moment before dropping her gaze to where my hand is still firmly latched onto her arm. As I follow the path her eyes have traveled, I self-consciously relax my grip before removing my hand, but not before I feel a slight tremor run across her skin as my hand trails off.

Even with her glasses on, there is no hiding the flicker of uncertainty in her eyes. Which is why her reply is pleasantly surprising.

“Okay.” The word is murmured.

Reaching both arms around her with my jacket in one hand, I physically move closer as I wrap the coat around her shoulders. Instantly, her scent engulfs me. Her shampoo smells like vanilla and strawberries, drugging me with a soothing warmth despite the chill the in the air. Taking a deeper breath to draw her essence into my senses, it vaguely occurs to me that she's never changed her shampoo all these years; it's still smells the same as when I'd wake from our sleepovers, having rolled over onto her pillow during the course of the night.

Can the same be said for the girl herself standing in front of me? I cannot help but be somewhat convinced that somewhere within the dowdy exterior, there's still that little girl that used to be my confidante late into the wee hours of dawn. My partner-in-crime. My best friend.

But that was back then.

And there have been too many events in between that remain unknown to each other. Like the quarry lake… and of course, the infamous ‘peanut boy' incident, but to quote a few examples.

Still holding onto my jacket as she shrugs one arm, and then the other into the sleeves, I cannot help but smile wryly to see the small figure she cuts, dwarfed in my jacket.

Seeing her still shivering slightly, I run my hands up and down the sleeves to incite some warmth for her. “Better?” I ask.

“Yeah,” she replies, even as she pulls back the slightest bit, away from my reach.

I release her completely from my grasp with some reluctance, and as we continue our path towards her house, I notice her arms tightly clenched around one another, as if she's pulling herself tighter into a ball. As if she's building a wall around herself. A bubble. Like I did at dinner.

“Liz, I was wondering-”

“Max, I was wondering-”

Two pairs of twinkling eyes meet as we echo each other. Laughing lightly, I nod my head in acquiescence to let her begin the conversation.

“How's Michael? I don't figure that he could have been in any mood to discuss *projects*. And figuring your Dad would have been displeased to know what happened, I'm sorry I couldn't express my concern earlier. Hope he's feeling better though,” she states simply. Like nothing changed from our time spent together yesterday. Like I hadn't brushed her off this morning in front of Alex and Kyle.

Maybe there's a catch there somewhere.

“He is. Slight hangover, but he'll survive.”

“So you cut classes just to go check on him?”

See. I told you so.

“Erm…”

“Alex mentioned it when I found him while looking for you… or rather when I was looking for Isabel, when I couldn't find you,” she smiles a little mischievously, daring me to prove her otherwise. She's pretty much indicated that she knew I must have had something urgent that I needed to speak to Michael about to have warranted my playing hooky.

“I just… needed his help on a project. Not exactly our project like I said earlier. More like my personal project.” See, I don't need to lie. Just some omitted facts she doesn't need to know about, that's all.

“I see.” And she continues walking. She's always known not to push me further when I'm not ready to open up. Like in the hallway this morning. Like now. Like it's always been, even way back when…

Our steps continue on for a little while, the breeze creating the only sound as leaves in the trees lining the path rustle gently, the uppermost branches swaying in a hypnotic back and forth motion.

As the thoughts continue to roll about in my mind on how to apologize for my earlier behavior, her voice penetrating the night atmosphere suddenly catches my attention.

“You didn't continue.”

“Sorry?” My surprised tone causes her to incline her head in my direction even as she maintains her pace.

“You were saying… when I interrupted?” She tries to jog my memory.

“Oh. Oh that. I just wanted to say…” I bite my lower lip hesitantly.

“Yes?”

“… I was surprised that you seemed really intrigued by what Dad was saying at dinner. About his campaigns. His anecdotes all that. You know…”

Yes, so I chickened out. It's another ten minutes or so to her place. I figure I have the time to find a way to work it into the conversation somehow.

“And why would that be so?” She asks, her voice emoting her astonishment that I would think otherwise.

Puckering my lips a little, I frown a little as I try to explain to her why without belittling Dad's job, “It just seems so… boring.” Okay, so I can't come up with a better description.

Whirling to place herself in my path, she places her hand lightly on my arm as we face each other. “Why would you say that? What your Dad does… is awesome.”

I answer, a little amused by the passion that has suddenly been infused into her voice and lighted up her eyes, “I hardly think your Dad agrees with that.”

She doesn't try to deny the fact that the Minister and Dad run in different circles. “Granted. It's different, but from what he's told me… the point is: he's trying to make a difference.”

Stepping closer to me in an attempt to give more emphasis to her point of view, she continues. “Every man chooses his own path, and therefore, every man chooses to express his concern for those he cares for,” as she accentuates the next words individually, “In the way he so chooses.” Her voice begins to drop off a little, “even if not everyone may view it the same way he does. And it takes A LOT of courage. To make a difference. Especially when it's against the odds.”

Involuntarily, I stiffen as her words sink in, my mind clinging onto snatches of her monologue: “making a difference… choose… not everyone feels the same way… courage…” Swallowing painfully past the raspiness I feel in my throat, I cannot help but feel as though she indirectly accusing me.

“Well, not everyone CAN make a difference you know,” my voice comes out sounding irked, even as I protest on behalf of a non-existent, guilty third party.

A sigh from her. “This is NOT about you Max.”

“I didn't say it was,” I huff out defensively.

“I wasn't implying that it was, but if you choose to think so-” her voice remains calm, although I sense a weariness creeping into her tone that she is unable to hide.

“It isn't huh?”

“No. It isn't.” Each syllable is tinged with terseness even though her timbre remains even.

“Okay, then tell me. How can one ‘make a difference' when there are others ready to extinguish with their pessimism?” I challenge her.

It is not only a matter of my wanting to know how her mind works, but also possibly to give me an insight to how Dad… how Isabel… how SHE can all ‘make a difference'. All while I still find myself in a constant state of limbo.

Dad's words from before haunted me when he spoke them. As they do now. As they did even before then.

“Isabel's trying to make a difference. And you. What do you do? REALLY, Max. I want to know. What DO you do? WHY do you do what you do?”

Looking into my eyes, she sees the pained expression. “It's not always easy Max, but if you set your mind to it-”

“And look where that's gotten YOU,” I hit back at her for being able to so easily read my vulnerability. “The way you walk around school. Do you even notice the way people talk and snicker behind your back?”

“Remember when you admitted to being a goody-two-shoes?” Raising my hands above my head on either side, my volume escalating, I snidely state, “You have no idea how well you've hit the nail on the head. Cos you're the ultimate ‘Lil Miss Perfect', the ‘darling' Minister's daughter that can do no wrong. And where does THAT get you? You've hardly got any friends.”

“I may not have that many friends Max. But the ones that matter, I know they're there for me… even if they may not realize it sometimes. And such friends that you speak of… if they only cause you to feel torn inside, rather than help you to nurture your true self, why would you want to BE friends with them?” She puts forth quietly but firmly, no hint of animosity at the hurtful words I've flung at her.

“And if they're the only ones the person's got?” I continue. “Their acceptance can be a strong driving force in one's life,” I add, adamant not to bring the words ‘peer pressure' and ‘me' into the discussion.

She regards me quizzically for a moment.

“And that's why you couldn't talk to me today after class,” she says impassively. And I can only stare back at her, my conflicting emotions all but evident on my face.

Guilt that she knows. Anger that I'm so transparent to her despite all this time. Horror that she will not understand my actions. Frustration that she is adamant on psycho-analyzing me. Overwhelming fear that she will just walk away from it all… from me… altogether.

My silence all but confirms the fact for her and I swallow tightly as we regard each other in a stand-off.

How did things get so out of hand? Less than twenty-four hours ago, a comparable encounter brought forth altogether different emotions. Starkly contrasting manifestations of said emotions.

So here we are. Same setting; totally different atmosphere. The electric charge running through the air feels as though it's ready to overflow, hurting all and sundry in its path.

And all I need to… want to do is say three words that could rectify the situation.

I. Am. Sorry.

So simple, yet so difficult to get past my lips. All I have to do is open up; confess what is in my heart, and all will be well.

That's all. And I-

“Right…” she says tightly, her mouth tightening into a grimace at my lack of protest to her accurate guess on this morning's incident. Abruptly, she turns away from me. Even as she trying to hide a sniffle, I can see the dejection in the slump of her shoulders that are engulfed in my too-big jacket.

Her following words are barely audible. “I guess… I thought you're different Max. I'd thought-” A sigh sounds before she resumes her steps forward. “Never mind what I thought,” she mumbles to herself.

Jogging to reach her, I continue our sojourn walking backwards, viewing the bowed profile of her bent head. Right now, I'm interested to seek better understanding of the girl I thought I was familiar with… even as the years drifted on, widening the chasm between us.

“No, Liz. What?” I press on, determined that she not leave me hanging like all the other recent times. It's no coy cat-and-mouse game we're playing here.

I just want to understand.

Struggling to control tears that well up and threaten to slip forth, she brushes her fingers under her eyes while pressing her lips tightly together, even as they tremble from the force of her exertion.

“Talk to me Liz. Please. I know I have… erred today. Just… talk to me… like we used to,” my voice is almost pleading even as her eyes snap up to mine at the last part.

“Like we used to, Max?” She releases a disbelieving laugh. She hasn't stopped walking, but has instead increased her pace. I face forward again and race a little in order not to lose her in the growing darkness.

When her words come out, they do so haltingly. “It's just… been a really long time since… Well, I thought you'd forgotten our friendship… when you started hanging with the jocks.”

I know her words are true, but they sting nonetheless… cos I know that it's true. I did kind of forget her, about the great awareness we had of one another, all three of us. Finding Michael and the rest of the guys was what I needed. What I still need.

I think.

She continues, her steps slowing down, attention drifting from me as she tries to translate her thoughts into words. “I just thought… with all that we talked about last night… I thought-” she trails off.

I don't need her to finish the sentence to know how she'd been feeling. In those early years, our sentiments often ran a close parallel. In light of recent events, it's obvious that we… I mean, she thought that things were gonna take a turn to return to how they were when we were still eleven.

“Liz-”

“No, Max.” The resolution has returned to her voice, the sadness now masked by a steadiness reflected in her poise as she looks at me from the side, all the while keeping up her stride.

“It's how you behave. Around school. Around Michael and the jocks. Around your family.” She sees me shirk a little away from her, but refuses to yield although her tone stays even. “We may not be close like we used to be these last six years Max, but somewhere along the way, the care-free spirited boy who spoke of dreams and dared to stand up to the countless school bullies… that boy that I knew… he disappeared.”

She ventures further when I offer no retort. “He was replaced by an angsty, popularity-hungry, hormonally-driven persona who figured that the world owed him because he got misunderstood as the son of an important person.”

As I am about to interject a token of protest, she cuts me off by placing herself in my path. “But…” she says, grasping one of my hands in both of hers, “It's not you Max.”

I can only stare at her in perplexity as she pouts slightly, seeking for just the right words. “You're you, but… you're not.” Seeing the deepening frown of confusion on my face, she pauses a moment, then decides to say it the way she sees it.

“You're acting Max. And I don't mean anything to do with the play. You act. Around everyone. And the roles that you play? The rebellious son, the popular cool kid, the tough-guy… they're anything but the real you. Why are you so afraid to let people know the real you? Why the need for the façade?”

At my sustained silence, she ventures into territory that has me narrowing my eyes in muted anger. “Because while I may not have that many friends, I'm comfortable the way I am. You may not like to hear this from me, but I don't think you can say the same despite being surrounded by the masses.”

I am disturbed. By her. Not at her, but by her. Back when we were the “Three Musketeers” and confidantes in all sense of the word, she was never one to hold back her thoughts just because she thought they might offend. Not that I did too.

But somewhere along the line, she managed to stick by her convictions while I'd wavered. Her words spoke the truth, and belatedly, I realize why it was I felt so at ease when I was with her last night on the way to the dinner.

“Around her, I found that there was no need for me to behave in a certain manner. No need to be a jock… no need to be the Congressman's son…”

Around her, I could just be me.

As we turn the corner to her home, the Jag comes into view. It would be almost amusing to see how the past twenty-four hours have turned out just from a simple act of forgetting to bring home the car. I think I've been put through the roller-coaster of all emotional roller-coasters today.

And the biggest thing weighing on my mind?

That while Liz has clearly expressed her displeasure at how I've treated her, she's more concerned about me right now.

Not HER. But ME.

Walking her up the stairs to her door, we haven't spoken since she basically dissected my personality for all to see. And she did so despite our six-year drift.

And while I may have pushed aside a lot about our friendship, there are still many memories hidden in the rusty corners of my mind, gathering cobwebs. Corners that need some serious housekeeping.

I know what she says is true, and truth be told, she has helped clear the muddle in my head to a certain extent. About who I am, and my purpose… and how I can ‘make a difference'.

I know that I won't be able to make a wholesale change, but hopefully if Michael's plan – whatever it is – works, I'll be able to take a baby step in the right direction in making things right between me and the rest of the world… and hopefully, even between Liz and myself.

So here we stand again, on the porch of her home. My hands are tucked into my jeans' pockets to compensate for the cold since I'd lent her my jacket. My jacket that is still wrapped around her. That which she still hugs snugly to herself.

She seems to be battling internally before finally opening up. “Max, if I've said-”

“Shh,” I shush her with an airy touch of my index finger to her lips, “I get it. Like you said, I may not like it, but… I get it,” I say silently as my hand longs to linger.

Biting on her lips, she takes a step backwards to the door saying, “Thanks for walking me home Max. Drive safely.”

I watch her step into the house and turn to face me again.

“'Night Liz.”

“'Night Max,” comes her mellow reply before she closes the door.

I turn to walk down the porch steps towards the Jag, but pause momentarily to turn my head towards the closed door.

“Don't let the bedbugs bite,” I softly address the empty night air before me.

~*~*~*~*~*~
TBC
~*~*~*~*~*~

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destinyros2005
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*New Pt 17a-c* A Walk To Remember M/L AU *1-16*

Post by destinyros2005 » 09/03/02 14:01

That was wonderful, Dark. It's nice to see Max remembering and thinking so much about the friendship that he and Liz use to share.
And...Love the banner!

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*New Pt 17a-c* A Walk To Remember M/L AU *1-16*

Post by bunniefuu » 12/13/02 18:48

Dark~

I d loved this last part! And the discussion between the two of them. And the ending part - he whispered to her after she went in.

Oh and that banner was awesome! I can't believe somebody made that for you! It's downright beautiful- which is fitting for one hell of a story!



And my apologies for being several months behind with this fb.

Oh and Happy Holidays to you!

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*New Pt 17a-c* A Walk To Remember M/L AU *1-16*

Post by Dark Ilk » 12/14/02 09:52

Hey... glad to see that you like the part... don't feel bad... I've also been sluggish in getting out the parts...

as a little advanced Christmas present...

here's Part 15.

As usual... hope u guys like the progression... and I might have a surprise in store soon...

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Part 15

So I'm sitting here in drama class trying to focus my attention on something… anything to keep my eyes from straying over to the seat two chairs away to my left.

To the figure scrawling something on the paper on her tabletop. Her attention rapt in what she is doing. Her pencil working varying patterns; sometimes short, sharp strokes, then in long wavy lines. Her eyebrows knit in a picture of concentration.

Her hair is back in the traditional bun, glasses seated firmly on the bridge of her nose as she frowns slightly at an error she seems to have made. Poking at her spectacles as it slides down her face a little, she works fervently to correct her mistake. I watch as she licks and chews lightly on the corner of her lower right lip, head tilted at an angle to get a better perspective on what she's working on.

Watching her, I cannot help but recall my thoughts on the drive after walking her home. The same thoughts that have continued since to plague me with no obvious resolution in sight. I don't think I can deny my feelings where she is concerned. But that's not the main issue as she has so blatantly pointed out.

She may have forgiven me for the incident with Alex and Kyle… but that doesn't mean that I'm home free. There's still Alex, Kyle, Michael. I mean, how do I face them if Liz and I were to go together… I mean if that's even something she's willing to consider in light of our past history. An-and… there'll be all the rumors. Like… like those about the town dinner and play aren't enough, and I'm considering pushing the envelope with this-this-this…

Breathe, Max.

Inhaling deeply, then exhaling a long drawn-out breath, I close my eyes in an attempt to quiet the warring thoughts in my head. Rubbing wearily at my temples, I slowly pry open my eyes to frown a little crossly at no one in particular, casting my eyes downwards to my tabletop instead.

It suddenly occurs to me that I'm not the only restless one; in fact, the entire class is getting restless.

Where is Miss Garber?

This is highly unusual for Miss Garber who's a stickler for punctuality. But then again, you already knew that from my first altercation with her in class right?

As if reading my thoughts, she enters the class in a flurry, a nervous bundle of energy that seems ready to bounce off the walls. Settling her materials on the table and turning to the blackboard, she doesn't notice that the class' attention has been captured with her none too subtle arrival.

Clapping her hands together sharply twice, she turns to face the class. “Class, may I have your attention please?”

Realizing a little belatedly that everyone's already staring at her, she stifles a wince and takes two steps forward.

“I'm got some bad news about the play. It seems that Dennis is unable to carry in with the role of Tom Thornton. As you already know, no other male understudies are available, and I doubt that Minister Parker would appreciate an alternative interpretation of his script by putting a female in a male role… especially when it's the lead role. So unless we can come up with an alternative solution, I am afraid… that we may have to reconsider this year's Christmas production.”

I give a silent whoop of joy: Go Michael! I knew he was the man who could convince Dennis to let me step back into the role.

A wave of “oh no”'s and “What?”'s sweep across the room at her words and I notice that Liz visibly pales at her words, her head snapping up from her task when she hears Miss Garber speaking.

Seeing her mouth drop agape and her eyes fill with what I am sure I have mistaken for horror, I cannot help but wonder about her reaction.

But I have a more important task at hand.

While the class continues to titter with the monumental possibility that the play may not be produced for the first time since it was written, I raise my hand tentatively in a bid to get Miss Garber's attention.

“Yes, Max?” she asks while a sense of déjà vu overcomes me with the ironic thought that this was exactly the same words and tone she'd used just before I'd withdrawn from the play.

“I, uh, I think we may still be able to carry on. I mean, I hadn't wanted to say anything to put Dennis in a difficult position-”

“Max. Your point?” Miss Garber's voice is laced with annoyance and lethargy. The woman is evidently about to reach her boiling point at having to cope with the current crisis.

“Wellll… my arm has actually recovered to the point I don't think it would be too much of a problem for me to-”

“Take on the role of Tom?!” Miss Garber's condition suddenly takes a 360-degree turnaround as her mind makes the connection.

Suddenly, her face is filled with relief, and I see her eyes mist over with unshed tears as she watches me with a look I have never seen her show me before. A look of… pride. And it fills me with sudden satisfaction that for once, I'm doing right by others.

“Are you sure Max?” she asks, her voice still filled with concern that I may be exaggerating the health of my shoulder to accommodate Dennis' absence. At the underlying anxiety I hear in her voice, I cannot help but feel a twinge of guilt for causing this whole mess in the first place. It only further strengthens my resolve to do the right thing.

And this has nothing to do with the fact that out of the corner of my eye, I see that Liz's previously worried expression has been replaced by one of temporary reprieve. In fact, I don't even think I'm overstating it when I say that her face seems to be lit with quiet satisfaction that I am to replace Dennis in the lead role.

“It's not a problem, Miss Garber. Just glad that I can help… and make a difference somehow,” I add as an afterthought, my eyes searching out those of a certain brunette who has looked back down to her previous distraction.

From my standing perspective, I suddenly find my brows furrow slightly as I realise that she hasn't been writing on the paper so much as she had been… sketching?

Huh? Since when-

“Max, I think I can speak for the class when I say that this move on your part will indeed make a difference. Unexpected… but welcome nonetheless,” Miss Garber's words interrupt my train of thought as a collective sigh of relief washes over the class.

Turning my attention back to the matronly figure in the front of the class, I cannot help but change a light shade of crimson as the class flash beaming grins at me, gratitude that their efforts in preparation would not go to waste evident in their demeanors.

“But what happened to Dennis, Miss Garber?” an inquiring voice rings out from the back of the class where Shirley Bass is seated as she queries out of curiosity.

Evidently, this common thought seems to run secondary in the back of everyone's mind. Now that the immediate crisis has been resolved, there are questions aplenty on how the situation has come to be so.

Truth be told, I was curious too. When Michael had said not to ask questions, I hadn't really thought much about it. Now that my goal had been somewhat achieved, I had to admit that my curiosity was peaked too.

“That was partially the reason why I was late for class. You see, Dennis met with a slight accident,” Miss Garber provides helpfully.

That one split moment was all it took.

One second, I was the soaring eagle, climbing the ever rising flight of euphoria. The satisfied tabby cat that had eaten the plumpest canary in the shop. The quick and resourceful dog that had buried the juiciest bone it'd found in the one place no one knew to look.

And the next, I'd plummeted to the ground at lightning speed as a gradually tightening knot began to form in the pit of my stomach.

And yes. I do not miss the irony that I could become the literal pariah dog right now.

Oh no. This cannot be happening.

Silently hoping that no one is paying any attention to me, I quickly slink back down into my seat, my head bowed as my thoughts start whirling anew at what may have happened.

As the buzz in class is re-ignited with this piece of unfortunate news, I hear muttered queries and comments all around.

“Did it happen in school?”
“Oh no. Not again.”
“The klutz is really something. He really needs to be protected from himself I tell you.”
“Was it suicide?”
“Did someone cause his accident, or was he just his usual clumsy self again?”
“Do his parents know about it?”
“Who else was around when it happened? Was anyone else even around?”

And my mind is swimming with the guilt-ridden knowledge that somehow, some way, I have caused his accident.

“Unfortunately, Dennis seemed to have sprained his back and banged his head slightly in the boys' room when… he slipped on the wet floor. *Apparently*, he says that he hadn't been… paying attention and… one thing led to another,” Miss Garber states, the tone of her voice indicating that she'd sensed something amiss with Dennis' explanation, but was unable to offer any other rationale to counter otherwise.

I stifle an internal moan at the evidence piling up in front of me. Evidence that points to the increasingly probable likelihood that Michael and heavens knows who else must have been involved. There is little doubt in my mind.

Thank God at least that they hadn't left him for dead altogether.

“And how did he manage to get help?” This is from Suzie Lorne seated directly in front of me, causing me to flinch a little nervously at the proximity of the question raised. One that I, too, was curious to have answered.

“Well, a female student thought she'd heard some unusually loud ruckus coming from the boys' room and went to the office to get help. When they got there with the discipline master, they found Dennis alone, passed out on the floor,” Miss Garber continues. I wince imperceptibly as the girls give a gasp of mortification at the notion that someone could have done something like that to Dennis.

Even the catty remarks from earlier were taken back by the guilty parties. I mean, for all the klutz that Dennis was, he really was a harmless guy who just happened to be really… awkward. No one ever wished such injury upon him.

Until now, that is.

Miss Garber spends the rest of the period filling in everyone about Dennis' condition since clearly, no one was in the mood for classes when one of their own had been so carelessly treated.

And so I listened listlessly to how he had been revived with some water splashed to his face. To how he howled in pain when they tried to help him off the floor. To how he'd nearly passed out again from dizziness after they'd revived him. To how they'd arranged for him to be sent to the hospital. To how his mum had been near hysterics when she'd learnt of her son's incident.

And voices of other recent memories rise to haunt my sanity as well. Recurring thoughts; words of truth that I'm not sure I can face up to. Because they've led me to this very moment.

Despite the best of my intentions, everything has gone so wrong.

“Every man chooses his own path… And it takes A LOT of courage. To make a difference. Especially when it's against the odds.”

Liz's words taunt me even as I realize that the 'path' I have chosen has led to Dennis' detriment. What type of person does that make me? That I hadn't even considered to ask Michael what his plan was? Had I really been so naïve to think that he would just ‘talk' to him?

“You're acting Max… Around everyone… The rebellious son, the popular cool kid, the tough-guy… they're anything but the real you. Why are you so afraid to let people know the real you? Why the need for the façade?”

And this brings up my next dilemma, doesn't it? Do I act and pretend that I had no prior knowledge of how this situation came about? Or own up and face the consequences of my actions… and in the process probably ruin the entire production? There's no way I can be excused for my part in this.

The throb behind my temples becomes almost unbearable as I seek to tune out the voices – internal as well as external – when I come to the abrupt realization that the class has been dismissed already, leaving just a few stragglers remaining.

My head snapping up to find that Miss Garber was no longer around, I realise that my path has more or less been set. It would be outright strange and futile for me to retract my earlier offer now.

Moving to stand, I lift my eyes to see Liz standing in front of me.

Great. Now what?

"Are you really sure you're okay Max?" she asks tentatively, seeing the pensive look on my face.

Giving her a weak smile, I nod a little morosely as she follows after me out of class. "Is there anything I can do for you?" my voice comes out a little more curt than I'd expected.

"I was just wondering if you were really okay… you know, with your shoulder just 'recovered' and all," she offers by way of explanation, her steps keeping in time with mine. Her tone is confident, a drastic change from her serene demeanor of earlier on.

"Well, I wouldn't have thought that it would have caused you much discomfort if I wasn't now, would it? Afterall, what goes around, comes around," I try to interject some humor to compensate for my prior boorish tone.

I catch a frown cross her features as she looks at me with an air of gravity.

"It's not about 'an eye for an eye' Max. Sometimes in life, you have to learn to turn the other cheek. It's… it's too short to-"

"Hey, I'm just kidding." I interrupt her with a little smile, not liking the look of genuine distress that has sprouted in her eyes. "I'm just making small talk here Liz. Not like I really think that you would wish me ill."

A little roll of her eyes. "I didn't- Oh." And she smiles down at her shoes as she realizes that I'm trying to keep the moment light.

I smile a tight grin. "Yeah."

We look at each other with a little uncertainty as we stand face to face in the middle of the hallway. I realise that I need to do something… say something that will keep me in her close proximity.

"So I have my next class in History-" I say.

"Yeah, I have Home Ec," she breathes and starts to take a step away from me.

Wrong start dude.

"Wait Liz," I move forward to put a hand on her retreating arm even as she turns quickly at the sound of my voice… A movement that brings us practically into full body contact with each other.

The source of the sudden gasp of surprise could have been one or both of us, but it doesn't matter as we both simultaneously move like two North poles, practically catapulting back from each other as I see her face color hotly.

I am certain I am a mirror to her countenance.

Biting my lip to keep from emitting any other sounds, I murmur, "Sorry about that."

Clearing her throat, she utters in a somewhat shaky voice, "You wanted to ask me something?", pointedly skirting around our 'close encounter'.

"Uh…" as my mind riffles through for any plausible excuse. "I, uh, I wanted to ask for your help… for the play."

As her eyes brighten at the mention of the play, she takes a step towards me, her previous embarrassment forgotten.

"What about it Max?"

At my momentary loss of speech, she adds, "A-And just so you'll know… even though I'm sorry that Dennis is injured, I… I'm glad that- I think that you'll make a great Tom."

"Yeah, I know," I say, nodding my head.

Seeing her eyebrow arch at my comment, my mind quickly retraces what I just replied to.

"You're pretty confident about your acting abilities," she tries to keep from smiling.

"I-I didn't mean that. I mean, I did. Wait," I say, holding up a hand as I try to make myself more coherent.

"I meant that 'I know'… about feeling sorry that Dennis is injured. Not that-"

"Hey, I'm just kidding." She mimics my earlier comments, even down to my facial expression. And I can't help but stare at her dumbfoundedly for a second.

"Really though Max," she interrupts my silent reverie, "I do have to get to class, so-"

"Yeah. Um, I was just wondering do you think we could run lines together?" Seeing a questioning look form on her face, I push on in a single breath. "Considering that I wasn't even supposed to be acting at all, I'm a little uncertain and all. I mean, I'd understand if you said 'no', but I figured it wouldn't be any harm if I'd just ask anyw-"

"Yes, Max." She interrupts before I continue to ramble.

A deep breath. "Yes?" I repeat.

"Yes."

"Oh. Okay."

"But…"

"But?" I ask a little uncertainly, wondering what conditions she is about to impose.

"You have to promise me something," she states gravely, her face a mask of seriousness.

"What is it?" I ask curiously, seeing the earnestness in her expression.

“You have to promise me that you won't fall in love with me,” as her expression remains the same, betraying no signs of whether she's joking or not.

Two rapid blinks are all I can manage at her words.

Is she serious?! Like I'd actually… Okay, so she caught me off guard. Come on, I mean, I know I can like the girl. But to fall in love with her?

Okay. You know what? Don't answer that.

"Uh, O. K.?" I answer her a little tentatively, eyebrows raised slightly with uncertainty about the response that I'd elicit from her.

"Right," as a blinding smile breaks across her face, "Then I don't see any problems with our working together to make it the best production yet," she says.

Starting to move away again, she throws a last comment in my direction. "See you around soon then… Peanut Boy."

Rolling my eyes in mock hurt, I cannot help the smile from making itself known on my face too as she releases a small laugh and makes her way down the hallway.

Watching her happily walk away, I feel the smile slip from my face and my gut beginning to roll with conflicting emotions over this latest proceeding. The fresh luscious lightness of moments ago has now been tempered with the sour acidic drip of the consequences of my poorly thought out actions. Even worse, I never expected the truckload of guilt I find myself swimming in knowing that my carelessness has resulted in what is increasingly becoming a farce.

I don't regret that I've decided to take responsibility, to step up to Liz's challenge. She seems truly glad that I'm going to take on a more active role in the play. Still…

I've taken a right step with Liz, but can I live with finding out that it was done so at Dennis' expense?

As Liz turns the corner of the hallway and continues out of my sight, I feel a sudden premonition, a flash of illogical worry as if signaling some as yet unforeseen future.

Dear God.

What will she think if she ever finds out?

~*~*~*~*~*~*~
TBC
~*~*~*~*~*~*~

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destinyros2005
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*New Pt 17a-c* A Walk To Remember M/L AU *1-16*

Post by destinyros2005 » 12/15/02 12:49

:clap :clap :clap Ilk, your still here! :clap
It was so wonderful to read another chapter. I've been missing this. :) Great chapter, BTW! Love that she called him, "Peanut Boy" again...can't let him forget that she knows! :lol And I just loved that scene in the movie when she tells him he can't fall in love with her...this brought that back. Thank you for a great one!

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*New Pt 17a-c* A Walk To Remember M/L AU *1-16*

Post by sccraner » 12/27/02 17:36

Yea., a new part. This was great. Looking forward to more. When do you think another part will be ready? I got the movie for Christams, but haven't had time to watch it yet. Keep up your great writing.

Scott

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*New Pt 17a-c* A Walk To Remember M/L AU *1-16*

Post by bunniefuu » 01/14/03 13:52

Dark-

Great part! Loved it! And of course anticipating the "study session" coming up!

Hope to see some more soon!

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*New Pt 17a-c* A Walk To Remember M/L AU *1-16*

Post by Dark Ilk » 04/05/03 17:56

Okay, I know I'm a horrible person for the delay in putting up the next part... Since the year started, I've officially become a teacher and I've not had much semblence of a social life. Between planning for English and Math lessons, I've totally been torn asunder by the amount of admin I've got to do...

Anyway, I still intend to continue with this fic, just that the breaks in between will be pretty long. So my sincere apologies for that in advance.

That said, the next part without further ado.

Thanks to anyone who is still interested in this love-child of mine that I can't quite get out of my system.

fb pls and thanks again.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Part 16

Two weeks later - Parker residence

The shuffle of feet echo around the house even as pieces of furniture are used for obstacles between the two feuding figures chasing each other.

"Give it back," her voice is low, filled with the merest hint of threat as we find ourselves back in the living room.

"No." My voice is filled with self-assured calm, my smile threatening to split my face as I hide my hands behind my back, out of her reach.

"Come on, don't be a brat." She takes a few steps forward even as I retreat just out of the room, towards the staircase leading to the second story of the house.

"Hey, as if 'Peanut Boy' isn't bad enough. Now I'm a brat?" I ask in mock disbelief, an eyebrow raised in curiosity.

She takes a step forward. "Hey, if the shoe fits…" she intones in a nonchalant manner.

I move to stand on the first step of the staircase, facing her with my right hand on the balustrade. Haughtily, the words barely conceal the mirth beneath, "That tone isn't gonna make me give it up Liz."

Her voice suddenly takes on the nuance of a long-forgotten little girl about to whine, "Come on, Max."

Seeing that I'm not budging from my stand, she decides to modify her tactic. Still maintaining the little pout that has plastered itself on her face, she tries for the guilt trip. "Come on, I'm trying to help you here. And this is the thanks I get?" as she huffily crosses her arms, glaring semi-balefully up at me.

"Now, now, Liz. And all along, I thought you were helping me out your kind, altruistic nature. To think you can say that I'm being ungrateful?" I say as I hold my free hand to my chest, pretending to stagger from a knife wound she's inflicted. Shaking my head even as a ghost of a smile flitters across my lips, "Such cutting words you utter…"

Both of us hold our ground as her mysterious chocolate pools meet my playful amber scrutiny. Her eyes narrow. My grin grows wider by a mile.

An impasse, ladies and gentlemen. She glares. I stare. She comes one step closer. I take two up the stairs.

The silence that permeates the house is interrupted only by the tick-tock of the grandfather clock in the living room, and time seems temporarily frozen, neither of us making a movement

Tick tock. Tick tock. Tick tock.

And then like arrows forthwith released from twin bows, we spring into action simultaneously. Me, racing up the stairs two at a time; she, a slow second as she tries to cut me off from my destination.

And where might that be you ask?

Alright, so that may not be your first question.

More likely: What. Is. Going. On?

Okay. I need to backtrack a little.

See, Liz agreed to help me with my lines two weeks ago. So here we are, practising our lines. Only… rather not, in this case.

Thank God old Hegbert isn't here today. You should have seen the look the first time I came over to run lines with Liz. He looked like a prison warden, ready to sit in on our rehearsal sessions as well until she subtly dragged him to his study, convincing him otherwise. Of course, this continued for the next few days until he seemed a little more convinced that his ‘baby' was safe alone with me… Of course, he also made sure that he could see us. He left the study room door open to hear any sounds coming from the living room where we were conducting our sessions.

You'd think that if the guy felt it safe enough to let me escort his daughter to dinner, that he'd feel even safer with me in the house… especially since he was there personally to oversee our - okay, my - behavior.

Anyway, he was busy at the church the whole day today, and had left with much reluctance and only after Liz's cajoling words that she would “keep a watchful eye on things at home".

Words I'm not so sure she can currently attest to right now.

Okay, I still feel bad about Dennis and all that. But ever since I started coming over to rehearse with Liz, I can't bring myself to feel bad about the fact that I get to spend more time with her… cos there's a lot that I've been seeing to her this past week or so.

Things that I guess… I should have known haven't changed from when we were eleven, but yet strangely surprising to see that they are indeed so.

She's less awkward when she's in her own home. Less… quiet. Less… serious, and downright playful even. And as days passed, she's increasingly opened up. The first session had been most frustrating as we'd treaded on eggshells around each other. The fact that her father was constantly in the background hadn't helped matters.

Thankfully, the ice was finally broken when I'd flubbed some of my lines with pretty hilarious results. Her attempts to correct me had led to our usual verbal sparring… and let's say… some *witty repartee* jibbed in for good measure. And it didn't take long before our 'moment of madness' had us rolling around in laughter when the ludicrous nature of the situation dawned upon us.

The scene that greeted Minister Parker even had him taken aback when he came to find out the cause of the slight ruckus we were causing. Thankfully, between our chuckles and chortles, we managed to reassure him that no, the Devil hadn't paid a visit.

From then forth, our daily practice sessions became something I looked forward to after school, though errant pockets of silence and pondering still shadowed her mostly upbeat moods. I sometimes wonder if I should ask her what's wrong. To let her know that she can talk to me if she wants to. Maybe-

“Like we used to, Max? … It's just… been a really long time since… Well, I thought you'd forgotten our friendship… when you started hanging with the jocks.”

And her stinging words ring bitingly to smother any such thoughts. So I just leave it be. Sometimes, we'd take a break from running lines, just to chat idly in the backyard. Mostly, we'd stay within the Parker compound.

Liz claimed she wanted to keep her father company while he prepared his sermons, but I get the feeling that she knows I'm not yet prepared to be seen in public with her. Not that I'm ashamed of her, just…

I guess we're both giving each other time to adjust to each other: her, to confide in me; and me, to build up the confidence to be more open to the idea of being in her company.

But what I don't have to learn to adjust to, however, is teasing her.

It's all too easy for me to get a rise out of her. And for the moment, Liz is in no way ‘keeping a watchful eye over the household'.

Not when I'm holding the trump card in my hands.

Literally.

Still keeping a tight hold on my valued possession, I've already raced up to the landing on the second floor while I see that Liz is keeping a slower - but nonetheless steady - pace to try to catch up with me.

‘Try' being the operative word here.

Holding back a grin and waiting gamely for her to reach the same level, she regards me suspiciously with narrowed eyelids… and somewhat nervously as she sees that I've moved to the door to the left of the landing… the door leading to her room.

And how do I know this? Well, I did mention that I used to come over with Iz to have sleepovers when we were all little tykes right?

Granted that seems like forever and so long ago, but things like that, you don't forget.

And from the apprehensive look in Liz's eyes, it seems she realizes I haven't forgotten either.

"Max…" The warning tone is all too apparent. But one I choose to ignore for the moment.

"Yes Liz?"

"Where do you think you're going?"

"Why, where do you think I'm going?" I ask, my eyes widening a little teasingly in mock innocence.

"Don't you dare-"

"Don't I dare do what?" I say even as I back away from her slowly, advancing closer to the door.

"Max…" she drawls on my name even as she shoots me a threatening glare, attempting to steer me from my intended target.

The angelic peal of that single word from her lips… And my mind starts to drift.

But only for a moment.

It takes a split second, but I'm back in control.

And I grin broadly at her… and bolt.

A yelp and a flurry of activity ensues as she tries to cut me off again, only to be rewarded with the door slamming shut on her as I make a mad dash into the room. I hear her hammer on the wooden door as I chuckle, leaning my back against it.

“Play nice now, Liz,” I shout through the wooden barrier.

“Max! Come on! This isn't funny any more! Give it back! And open the door! I don't want you in my room!” She practically wails as I refuse to budge from my position behind the now locked door.

“Come on Liz. Don't be a spoilsport! Not like I've never been in here before,” I state matter-of-factly, trying to stifle my laughs at the images I have in my mind of Liz standing outside, fuming at the current position she finds herself in.

“Just… come on out, so that we can continue with practice. And I need my script to-”

“For what?” I ask amusedly through the door. “You know all your lines by heart. Then again, you know practically EVERYONE's lines anyway.”

I swear to you, the girl DOES know all the lines of the play.

“Max, just… don't be… mean,” she says exasperatedly, her voice sounding muffled through the barricade between us.

“Not until you take back what you said when we were practising just now.”

“What? What did I say?” The trace of innocence in her voice is almost believable if I didn't know better.

“You know, about me being a hopeless case with words and prose. And about how if I concentrated on the play as well as I concentrated on the school's female population-”

“Come on Max. You know I can't do that.”

“And pray tell why that's so.”

“You know I can't lie.”

Narrowing my eyes and my jaw dropping at her muffled laughter filtering through, I throw her a dampener, “And you know I can't be a good boy and open up after that remark.”

I hear her release a frustrated growl before the pounding recommences a second later.

“Call ‘Uncle', Liz. You know that's all you have to do,” I say, the grin firmly re-planted on my face.

I almost believe I heard her snort at that.

Now that's a first.

“Yeah, I'm sure THAT's all,” the sarcasm drips acidly from her voice.

The door continues to rattle as her hammering continues and I take a step away from it.

Still shaking slightly from the laughter that rumbles through me, I move down the short passageway separating the door from the main bedroom, surveying the room that I've not laid eyes upon for the longest of times. Not since I was around ten when we had one of our last sleepovers.

I'd been the one who constantly had to put up with getting bullied, what with being the only guy with two gals; one always managed to terrorize me until she got her way, and the other always had a blinding smile that was a sure fire way of getting me to bend to her every wish.

Who's who?

Hmmm. Nope. No way I'm telling you the answer to that one. You go figure that out yourself.

Including the passageway, her room's shaped like an ‘L', with the foot of her bed facing towards the door, and at which I am currently standing. To my right on the far most corner of the room where the two walls meet, the windows on either side meet at an adjacent angle under a cushioned window perch similarly L-shaped like her room. As the windows stretch to almost half the length of the room, they brighten up the space with the glow of the evening sun, passing through the day curtains to cast a golden sheen in the interior of her blue and lilac patterned walls.

Between her bed and the window on the same side is a short stretch of wall where her dressing table is with an oval-cut mirror above it. Seeing how she's so different from Izzy and most girls I know, it's actually shocking yet oddly normal to see that compared to other girls, the tabletop is adorned with… typical female stuff. Maybe less than the norm but there's the odd powder, accessories and knick knacks – significantly fewer and less flashy, I do have to admit – and numerous pictures that I believe must be the rites of passage for every teenage girl.

Still standing at the foot of her bed, I turn my attention from her neatly cluttered dressing table… and cannot help the curl of my mouth in an upward direction as I see the teddy bears conquering the slope of her pillows.

Just like all those years ago… just like back then…

Drawing my eyes away from the amusing sight of her stuffed toys that clamor for space on the bedspread, I cannot help but breath in deeply, allowing my eyes to flicker shut as a familiar feel washes over me.

I can feel it. It's how it felt then… and still does now. And there's only one word I can think to describe it.

Serene.

Peaceful.

Comforting.

Okay, so that's more than one word, but you get the idea.

Leaving the ‘looted' script on the soft comforter on top of her bed, I step closer to her dresser. And in case you were wondering: yes; that is the culprit of Liz and my latest fracas.

Hey. It's not my fault she kept dozing off for moments while we were running lines. I'd suggested we stop practice for the day, but she'd insisted she was fine to continue.

You should have seen her expression when she saw me holding onto her script. From the stricken look on her face, you'd think I'd stolen her diary or something.

Anyway, she'd haughtily demanded that I return her the pages, and couldn't you just guess that I'd rise to the occasion to rile her further…

So here we are. I know she's trying to smoke me out like a predator seeking its prey. But guess what? I know about the chinks in her defence too. Like the-

Hello. What's this?

Reaching to pick out one of the many photos adorning the edges of the mirror, it occurs to me a little belatedly that although there are many photos in view, they are mostly of Liz and Old Hegbert, or of Liz with people who I guess to be the ones she's worked with in her charity work. But not all… and certainly not the one I'm holding on to.

But there is a common trait in all these photos. Something ethereal that is not readily noticeable by those of us who see her around school everyday. I mean, Liz is always courteous and civil to those around her. She's never rude, and always polite and respectful to her peers and elders.

But the thing is that… she's always so in control and calm.

And in each and every photo here, she shows another side that I have only recently come to see.

A more carefree, more relaxed and cheerful Liz that has happiness mirrored in the numerous snapshots captured in the moments of her life that is rarely seen by her fellow peers. Many of them in her charity work, and with her father.

But only this one matters to me right now.

The one in my hands.

The one with her and Izzy.

And me.

And I can't help the awe that overcomes me at the sight of three then-little, innocent cherubs staring up at me… a sight that transports me instantly to the memory of so long ago.

**

Flashback

The daylight begins to fade between the canopy of the thick forest, to be replaced by the faint light of stars just beginning to dot the lavender and blue hued sky. A doe lazily nudging the leaves of a young sapling nearby lends to the peaceful atmosphere of the evening landscape, even as a squirrel scurries along the bark of the tree beside it, looking for a hiding place to conceal the precious bounty in its possession.

The sudden perk of the doe's ears as its attention is distracted from its chore is accompanied by the abrupt disappearance of the squirrel… just before the almost thunderous pounding of twin feet crashing through the underwoods shatters the serenity of the woods.

“Rwun! Quick! She's wight behind us!”

“I'm twying! But I'm tired! I wanna stop!” I can almost hear the tears in her hushed voice.

Tears that are threatening to break forth from continuously running and hiding for the last half hour.

Tears that she still tries to fight back as she keeps a tight grip on my hand with both of hers.

Tears she brushes at sporadically as she trudges along just behind me. All while she keeps up with my pace to put as much distance between our pursuer and us.

Quickly turning my head to catch her eye as I continue forward, I try to comfort her. “Just a lee-ttle more okay? I won't let the big bad meanie get you. I pwomise.”

It's just then that her foot catches on the underbrush in the woods and she stumbles slightly. I barely catch her arm in time and prevent her from falling completely as she loses her balance. Momentarily letting up on my pace but still not stopping to give her the much-needed rest I know she greatly desires, I help her regain her balance, and after a quick once-over that nothing's broken, I throw her a little smile and attempt to raise her spirits.

The sight that greets my eyes makes me want to laugh, but I know that she'll get angry. A face sweaty and dirt-smudged from running through the woods has replaced her eight-year-old fresh-faced appearance from the morning. Bits and sprigs of fern are caught in her hair, one of them sticking out at a decidedly awkward angle, making her look like a wood-sprite out for a day of fun. But her look is anything but, judging by the drying tear tracks running down her face, cutting zigzag lines through the dirt.

I gently rub a smidgen of dirt off her left cheek before giving her a little smile to give her the confidence I know she needs to carry on. “Come'n Lizzie,” I say, giving her hand a little tug to get on our way.

I am met with resistance. “Max, I don't wanna go further. It's vewy dark. What if Daddy can't find us?” The worry is clearly reflected in her eyes. We'd followed Minister Parker on a short photo-taking expedition. But we had gotten bored tagging along and wandered off to explore the wooded grounds.

“You twust me?” I ask her.

“Yes.” Her response is immediate and unwavering.

“You know I nevwer let anythin' hurt you, wright?” I ask, confident of her response.

A beat of silence, then I am rewarded with the brilliance of her smile as her hesitance vanishes in a flash and her grip on my hand tightens.

And so it was that two determined little tots were so intent on finding their way back to the campsite before night fell completely that they never saw what was coming until it was too late.

“Max, no!” Her wailing cry comes too late.

I feel my breath knocked out of me as a figure barrels into me from my left. I would have made contact with the soft ground of the forest, but for the obtruding tree roots on the forest floor.

The impact of the larger body sends me into a tumble, only coming to a complete rest with me winded, and a slight gash along my right jean-clad leg.

“Found ya!” comes the gleeful declaration as my older, nine-year old sister bounds up and down happily in front of me. As Liz hurries over to my side, a woozy sensation overtakes me and I vaguely make out someone moaning. Liz cradles my head in her lap, practically screaming for Izzy to run back to the camp to get my parents. As the moans grow in volume, it only haunts me a little to realize that I am the one emitting the awful noises.

Izzy has quietened considerably, her initial happiness at having found us quickly dissipating when she sees the hurt I am in. In my disorientation, her ashened face appears before me briefly and I seem to recall some snatched words of apology and consolation before she scampers off back to camp to find my parents.

Ah… how nice it feels to be rocked to sleep.

It occurs to me for a split second that maybe this had all been a bad idea.

Maybe I should never have convinced Liz to help me shake Iz off our tail after we'd left the Minister.

Maybe I should never have convinced my parents that it was a good idea for Liz and her dad to join us in the woods on our annual family camping trip in the first place.

Maybe I'd been meant to die young.

Maybe-

“Max,” I make out the voice of an angel calling my name, her fingers feathering through my hair, brushing my bangs out of my eyes. Opening my eyes, I see a shadowy figure hovering over me, her hair framing her face in a saintly appearance, the late evening sky lending an even more surreal quality to her. If this was the way I was supposed to go-

I feel my eyes flutter shut.

“Max!” Her voice takes on a louder timbre, causing my eyes to jolt apart at the fear I hear in her voice.

“Maxie. You awake!” Liz hugs me to her tightly as she begins to laugh, the tinkle of her joyfulness, tinged with tears, seeps into my awareness. Slowly, I feel the wooziness begin to recede and am able to painfully pull myself into a seating position beside her.

As Liz tries to rearrange my limbs in a more comfortable position, I hear the voices of Mum and Dad just coming through the break in the bushes up ahead.

The sight of Mum bearing a tear-stricken Isabel in her arms is enough to send a fresh wave of tears bursting forth.

“Izzy… she… Mummy, Izzy pushed me!” I wail aloud as Dad settles in front of Liz and me to check my wounded leg. Liz remains steadily by my side, a beacon of calm among the fracas as I continue to fuss and Izzy protesting haltingly through her tears that she hadn't meant to hurt me.

“Maxwell, now settle down and let me see to your wound,” Dad commands, using a tone I dare not defy.

Sniffling slightly, I cling tightly to Liz's hand as she soothingly kisses my cheek in an attempt to calm a haltingly crying eight-year-old boy. Approaching nervously to occupy the space beside her, Iz meekly tries to apologize for causing me to fall, but she is cut off by the abrupt separation of the shrubs beside her.

I only remember a flash of brilliance going off as I hear her sudden shriek turn into hiccupping laughter.

My vision clearing by this time, I look up to see a crimson blush quickly replacing the bemusedly confused expression on Minister Parker's face. Too late, he realizes how his sudden appearance through the bushes had shocked my sister badly.

“Erm… everybody alright?” he asks, embarrassment coloring his words.

End flashback


**

I cannot believe I'd forgot about the existence of the photo. Old Hegbert had managed to depict one of the most important moments in our young lives back then, and here it is: a moment frozen in time forever.

Brushing my thumb lightly over the surface of the yellowed picture, I smile wistfully at the face of the raven-haired little boy with tears pooled in his eyes. By his side, a chocolate haired little girl gives him a gentle peck on his cheek even as a golden-haired nine-year-old girl laughs tearily into the camera.

With a twinge of sadness, I cannot help but feel that the little raven-haired boy is someone I still resemble, but no longer understand. Staring at the photo a few moments longer, I wonder why Liz has the photo on her dresser mirror. Even stranger: why hadn't she mentioned this to Isabel or me? We hadn't been estranged then and she had no reason to hide any of this from us.

My mind drifting back to the memories revisited at the sight of that long forgotten photo, I smile contemplatively as I return the weathered picture to its original location and turn to take a closer look around her room.

I wonder…… Woah!

My breath hitches. My throat constricts. And my jaw drops as a most amazing sight meets my eyes.

~*~*~*~*~*~
TBC
~*~*~*~*~*~

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