Missing "Sexual Healing" SceneMax and Liz looked at the door of the Crashdown café, the dread of the confrontation to come laced with a new confidence in their own relationship. They exchanged one last, long look, finding strength and determination in the love they found there. Max straightened his shoulders and squeezed Liz's hand. She smiled up at him and they walked through the door.
There they were. Four anxious, angry, confused faces struck temporarily speechless at the return of the two prodigals. Emotions flitted across each face for several awkward seconds. Unanswered questions and unspoken accusations weighed heavy in the air.
"Mom, Dad, Mr. and Mrs. Parker," began Max. "This is all my fault. . . ."
"No," interrupted Liz firmly. "This is our fault."
"Where have you two been?" asked Mrs. Parker from between clenched teeth. "We have been worried sick!"
"I know, Mom. We are so sorry. We fell asleep."
Eight skeptical eyes stared at them. The ultimate cliché. The default excuse. They had expected better.
"It's true," Max hurried to explain. "Really. We went for a drive last night and stopped to look at the stars. They were incredible last night, away from the city lights and everything. We really did fall asleep. We never would have worried you like that."
"It was the sun that woke us and we hurried back as fast as we could. We really are sorry."
For the next few seconds, the parents struggled with their own personal reactions. Mr. Evans looked at his son with conflicting emotions. On the one hand, he was disappointed at Max's irresponsibility. He was sure the Parker's hated Max for doing what they probably suspected to their little girl. On the other hand, he felt sure Max wouldn't do such a thing. Max was a careful boy, an inexperienced boy when it came to girls. In fact, Mr. Evans was almost relieved that Max had found a girlfriend. He had never understood why his handsome 16-year-old son had never dated. He couldn't decide how to react, but he was having trouble being as angry as he knew he should be. Max's mother was studying Liz. Who was this girl who had drawn her reserved and guarded son out of his shell? What had brought him to this point where he was standing before them with someone he had insisted was only a friend, holding tightly to her hand, trying to take the heat for the trouble they were in? There was something electric between them; something strong, almost tangible was exchanged between them when they glanced at each other. Suddenly Diane Evans felt a pang of jealousy. She would swear that Liz Parker knew her son better than she herself did.
Liz had been the apple of her father's eye since the moment she was born. He adored her, spoiled her, and trusted her completely. In some ways, there was a maturity about her that belied her years, especially in the last few months. He was inclined to believe his daughter, who was looking at him now, pleading with her eyes for understanding. He had seen Max in the Crashdown often enough. It had been clear he was interested in Liz, but Mr. Parker hadn't realized they were actively dating. He seemed a good choice, though. Intelligent, well-mannered . . . good-looking, too, he smiled to himself. Liz could pick 'em. But still, "fell asleep"? He looked at Liz again. Yes, he believed her. His wife was not so sure. She remembered vividly the recent incident at school where she had been called in as a result of Max and Liz's make-out session in the Eraser Room. Somehow this relationship had gone from 0 to 60 in the space of a couple of weeks, and she was afraid it hadn't stopped there. Her baby girl was growing up too fast, and she desperately wanted her to slow down. She had never been worried with Kyle. Liz had always kept that relationship at arm's length, totally under control. But now her daughter was out of control, and she barely knew this boy standing before her, sharing this unwelcome limelight.
As the seconds ticked by, Max watched the faces, unable to read the expressions that studied him. He instinctively released Liz's hand and put his arm around her, pulling her to his side protectively. He felt Liz turn to look at him, and when he looked down, he was rewarded with a smile-a smile that said, "Don't worry. We're in this together, and no matter what happens, we have each other." He relaxed just a little, basking in the joy Liz's love brought him. For a second, he lost himself in her smile and forgot where they were.
"I think you both need a little time apart," said Mrs. Parker.
The spell was broken. Max and Liz turned to her with horrified looks.
"I'm not saying I don't believe you. What I am saying is that this is simply unacceptable. What you did was irresponsible and selfish and caused terrible anxiety for all of us. Not to mention that if word gets out about this at school, well . . . . I suggest you not see each other for a couple of weeks. How do you feel about that?" she asked, turning to Mr. and Mrs. Evans. They nodded silently.
"Mom," Liz started to object, but Max squeezed her hand. She stopped. Max was telling her this was inevitable and fighting it would just make it worse. She knew he was right.
"Mom, we apologize again. We know this upset you terribly. Believe me, nothing happened out there. We really just slept."
"I think you should go up to your room now, Liz. We'll talk more about this later."
"We'd better get going, too," said Mr. Evans. "Max, I expect you to drive straight home."
Max nodded, but as Liz began to move away, he pulled her back. His arms went around her and he placed a soft kiss on her forehead. Liz couldn't believe it. That one simple, defiant gesture said more to her than anything Max had ever said or done before. He was publicly acknowledging their relationship, and quietly telling both sets of parents that this short punishment would not change what they had. Privately, he was telling Liz that he was there for her, that what they had shared was here to stay.
Liz beamed at Max, trying to let him know she was okay. He smiled down at her.
"Lizzie," interrupted her father. "Come on."
Liz reluctantly let go of Max and turned toward the back of the café. She could hardly keep from smiling.
LATER THAT NIGHT
April 14, 2000. The last 24 hours have been the most wonderful of my life. I helped Max find a clue about his origins, and in the process, I fell more deeply in love than I ever thought possible. I don't completely understand what's happening to me. I don't think Max understands it either. But the great thing is . . . we plan to find out together.
When we were out in the desert last night, I never felt so alive. Feeling Max's arms around me, tasting his kisses, sharing that blanket of stars. I know what heaven is now. I'm glad I could help Max find the orb, but a part of me almost wishes we hadn't activated it so soon. What would have happened? Would we have made love? I can't even imagine what that would have been like. It would have been amazing enough if Max were human, but who knows what might have happened with a . . . Czech? I guess it's best that it didn't, but I know one thing. I've never had a more beautiful or romantic night than last night, and when it does happen, it won't be with anyone but Max Evans.
A few blocks away . . .
Max was lying on his bed, hands under his head. His father had grilled him about last night, but finally seemed satisfied that they had told the truth. Then his mom had asked about Liz. She had wanted to know more about her, and Max hadn't known where to begin. He told her the superficial things-she was smart, waited tables, was fun to be with. But he had kept on without really planning to, not wanting to stop talking about his Liz to an interested audience. He wasn't even sure what all he had said because it was as if he'd only been thinking about her, just as he always did. Then he saw his mother's face-an almost stunned look. What had he said?
"You have strong feelings for this girl, don't you, Max?"
Max had been embarrassed, but surprisingly calm about what he must have said out loud. It wouldn't be so bad . . . his mother knowing Liz was important to him. It might even make things easier. He didn't quite understand what he was seeing on her face, though. A slightly wistful look.
But now he was in his room where he could think about her all he wanted. And he wanted to . . . a LOT. She had done so much for him, had been willing to sacrifice so much. And she had been so wonderful today, standing with him in front of their parents, sending him signals of support and strength. And love.
They had almost crossed the line last night. He was glad they hadn't. They were playing with fire. Still, she had been willing to give herself to him, for the sake of the search, for the sake of truth, and he hoped, for their own sakes. But that wasn't good enough. When it did happen for them, it wouldn't be mixed up with looking for clues. It would be about them, only them. She would be his whole focus, his whole world . . . when it happened. She had been in his heart for ten years. She was in his soul now.
Max smiled into the darkness.