“He’s dead, okay! He’s dead! They’re all dead!”
Liz felt all of the fight suddenly leave her. “He’s dead,” she whispered. She’d never said it out loud and she had promised herself that she never would. If she didn’t say it, then maybe it wouldn’t actually be true.
She felt strange and darkness started to engulf her.
“I know,” Zan said.
His voice, his words broke through haze that was starting to fill her head and brought her back, anchoring her, starting the fight in her again.
Instantly her eyes snapped to his. “You know?” she asked incredulously as anger filled her. “You know? Then why did you keep asking me about it, keep pushing me and pushing me to say it?”
He held her gaze. “I think you needed to say it, needed to hear yourself say it.”
Her anger was back full force and she rushed at him wanting to take it all out on him.
He caught her wrists and held them against his chest.
“You bastard,” she screamed as she struggled against him, pounding against his chest. “Playing amateur psychologist. You don’t know what I need. How could you? How could you do this to me? How could you make me say it? You don’t know what you’ve done.”
“You have to face it, Liz,” he said softly. “This has been killing you. You’ll never be able to move on unless you do. You’ll never be able to let him go and start to live again. You have to admit to yourself that he’s gone or you can’t start healing and the pain will never go away.”
She still didn’t want to think about it and instead stared at his chest as she focused on a detail.
“How did you know?” she whispered, talking more to herself than him. “You couldn’t have guessed. There’s no way.”
It only took her a moment to realize what happened. “Of course, you felt it, you could feel him . . .” she trailed off.
She’d been trying to hide it from him and he’d known all along. He must think she was a fool for not realizing it sooner. And then he’d pushed and pushed, making her so angry so she would explode and tell him.
Zan nodded. “I know it happened but not how.”
He cupped her chin, making her look at him. “But you know everything, don’t you?”
Liz didn’t want to look at him, but she couldn’t seem to look away. Tears filled her eyes.
“Tell me about him,” Zan whispered. “Tell me what happened to Max and the rest of my family.”
It was strange, but hearing him say Max’s name for the first time softened her to his request like nothing else could. And maybe he was right, maybe he did have a right to know what happened to them.
She’d been clutching the memory so tightly because it was all she had left but she hadn’t even considered that maybe someone else might consider it just as precious.
But she still didn’t know if she could say any of it out loud.
She stared at a spot in the design on his shirt as she considered what to do. She swore that no one would ever know. That she’d take the secret with her the rest of her life.
But maybe Zan was right, even though she’d never admit it to him.
Maybe it would relieve part of the burden on her shoulders if someone shared it. Maybe it would lessen her pain. Maybe it was time.
Her throat felt impossibly dry and tight and she swallowed hard to clear it. Several times she tried before any words actually came out. When she was finally able to speak, her voice was just above a whisper.
“I knew when Max left Earth because I could feel our connection getting weaker and weaker until there was nothing left. I hadn’t realized how much a part of me it had become until it was gone. The pain was terrible. I couldn’t even get out of bed the next day.”
“Then the night after they left, I woke up in so much pain it was like nothing I’d ever felt. For a minute I thought I was dying, and then somehow I was connected to Max again. I could see everything he did. I knew what he was feeling and I got a rush of images of what had happened to him since he left.”
“It was a trap,” she said softly. “Tess was never pregnant. They never even really slept together. It was all a mindwarp to get them to use the Granolith to go home. She took great pleasure in telling them how she had manipulated them all, especially Max.”
“Tess had made a deal with Nicholas when they were in New York at the summit. Then she used my friend Alex to help her translate the Granolith instructions. I think she killed him too, but I don’t have any proof.”
Tears spilled down her cheeks, but she continued.
“When they arrived, Khivar was waiting for them. He put Michael and Max in cages and paraded them through the city. Then he took them to some big arena and chained Max and Michael in the center.”
“Tess thought she’d be some kind of hero, and at first Khivar treated her like one, but then he just laughed at her and threw her into the arena too. Khivar had used her and then betrayed her. She was so mad and screamed and raged at Khivar, and with a motion of his hand he had her killed.”
“It was too quick,” she whispered. “Quicker than she deserved.”
She cleared her throat and continued in a little stronger voice. “Khivar sat on a dais like an emperor, watching the whole thing with a smile. He kept Isabel at his side and announced their marriage. She didn’t want anything to do with him, but she didn’t have a choice.”
Her voice dropped to a whisper. “He made Isabel watch as he tortured Max and Michael. She struggled against him and cried and begged, but he didn’t care. He wanted Max to be broken and humiliated and he wanted the whole planet to see.”
A choking sob broke from her throat.
“It was Max being tortured that caused our connection to come back. I could feel and see everything he did and we both knew how it was going to end. He didn’t want me there. He didn’t want me to see what was going to happen. He begged me to leave him, but I wouldn’t.”
Another sob escaped her. “I wouldn’t let him die alone.”
It took her a minute to continue.
“When Khivar got tired of torturing Michael he ordered him to be killed. Isabel attacked Khivar but he just laughed and used his powers to stop her.”
“And then Michael died.”
More tears spilled down Liz’s cheeks.
“Then Khivar could concentrate all his attention on having Max tortured. He wanted him to bow down, to call Khivar the king, but Max refused every time they asked him.” She smiled sadly. “Max was defiant and regal. He became the king he really is.”
She wiped at her face. “Finally Khivar became so enraged that Max wasn’t breaking down and he ordered Max to be killed. Isabel lost it. She roared like some wild animal and grabbed a gun from one of the guards and shot at Khivar.”
“He used his powers to knock aside the blasts and laughed again. He said she would amuse him more than he’d thought, and he might even enjoy being married to her.”
“Khivar’s guards closed in on Isabel, but she looked at Max and he could see what she was going to do. He knew she would never live like that. Tears filled his eyes and he just nodded. And she killed herself.”
More tears spilled down her cheeks.
Her voice dropped to a whisper. “After that we both knew what would happen, and knew we only had minutes left. Max blocked out everything around him and we only concentrated on each other.”
She stopped talking as the memories took over.
If you must wait,
Wait for them here in my arms as I shake
If you must weep,
Do it right here in my bed as I sleep
Max had tried to apologize to her, but she wouldn’t let him. She didn’t want anything else to come between them then.
“Liz, I’m so sorry,” he’d said through the connection. “It’s all my fault. I-“
“Ssshhh,” she’d hushed him. “It doesn’t matter.”
“But because of my stupidity,” he continued, “I’ve wasted everything we could have had.”
If you must mourn, my love
Mourn with the moon and the stars up above
If you must mourn,
Don't do it alone
Even though Max was attempting to block it out, Liz could feel the pain that he was experiencing. She wanted so badly to hold him, to comfort him, but all she could do was be there for him.
“Max, I am grateful for every minute we’ve had together. I love you so much. I wouldn’t trade our time for anything.”
If you must leave,
Leave as though fire burns under your feet
If you must speak,
Speak every word as though it were unique
“I love you Liz, and I am grateful for the time we had too, but I regret that I wasted so much, and we won’t have the life together that we both wanted.”
She could feel his pain increasing and wondered how much more he could take.
“Max,” she gasped. “Max!”
If you must fight,
Fight with yourself and your thoughts in the night
If you must work,
Work to leave some part of you on this earth
If you must live, darling one, just live
She could feel him smiling.
“I am so lucky to have known you, Liz, so lucky to love you, and that you love me back means everything to me. At least I know that you are safe and you still have your whole life in front of you. You’ll meet a great guy, and fall in love and have children just like you were always meant to.”
“No Max,” she denied instantly. “I couldn’t. I could never love anyone the way I love you.”
She could feel him smiling wider and the pain had stopped.
“Thank you Liz,” he said. “Thank you for every kiss, every smile. You made my life worth living.”
If you must die, sweetheart
Die knowing your life was my life's best part
And if you must die,
Remember your life
She felt the connection between them dissolving and she knew it was because he was slipping away.
“Max!” she screamed at him, but he didn’t answer.
He was already gone.
And then she was back in her room in Roswell just like nothing had ever happened except that the world around her seemed muted in every way. Her vision was blurry and sounds around her were strange like she was hearing them from under water. She was in complete shock. She couldn’t believe that he was really gone.
No tears came, she just sat in the dark not really seeing or feeling anything.
Her mind didn’t seem to be working, or maybe it was working too much, but she didn’t even realize she’d sat there all night until morning started to come.
And it triggered something inside her.
As the first rays of sunlight spilled in through her bedroom window, she knew she couldn’t go back to her life. How could she
face her friends and family? No one could possibly understand.
Was she supposed to pretend nothing had happened?
How could she sit in school, or wait tables in the Crashdown after what she knew? How could she do homework, go to college, get a job, have a life?
So she’d quickly packed a few things and written letters to her family and friends telling them that she was leaving. She’d kept the truth from Maria and Kyle, a last kindness to them. They would continue to think that Max, Isabel, Michael and Tess were living their lives on their home planet. At least she could spare them the pain of knowing what really happened.
And she’d been on the first bus out of town.
Suddenly Liz realized she was still standing with Zan, and it snapped her out of her memories.
“It’s all my fault,” she whispered, still staring at the spot on his shirt. “I kept pushing him away. I pushed him right into her arms.”
“You couldn’t have known,” Zan said.
Liz shook her head. “I should have known. Somehow, I should have known. I should have been able to protect him. I . . .” she trailed off.
“It’s not your fault. There’s nothing you could have done,” Zan said. “Bad things happen to good people all the time.”
She snorted, glancing up at him. “Next I suppose you are going to tell me that it was God’s plan.”
Zan nodded. “Not the religious type?”
She shrugged. “I used to be,” she breathed, “but if there was a God, he would never let those terrible things happen. He’d never separate two people who loved each other so much. He’d never…” she trailed off as her throat became tight.
Closing her eyes briefly, she continued. “If there was a God, he’d kill me too instead of leaving me here alone to suffer.”
“You’re not alone,” Zan said, touching her cheek.
Liz jerked away, her eyes focusing on him. “Being near you is worse than being alone. You look so much like him, but you’re not him. Looking at you just reminds me of everything I’ve lost.”
He was silent and a muscle twitched in his jaw.
She knew she’d hurt him. She thought it should make her happy because maybe he would leave, but she just felt awful. She was never the type of person who enjoyed hurting others, and again she wondered what she had become.
She couldn’t look at him and turned away. Zan had forced her to face the truth. Maybe that’s why she’d been cruel to him. But it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered.
Max was gone and never coming back.
She’d been denying that truth for months. She’d done everything she could to avoid it.
She shook her head and the pain inside became almost overwhelming. She wanted to fight to make it go away again but all the fight had left her. She’d been running from the truth so long but now it had finally caught up to her and it was too real.
“Max is dead,” she breathed. Pain slammed into her like never before and she burst into tears.
The phrase echoed in her head faster and faster so she couldn’t hear anything else. The soul-deep anguish filled her and she cried even harder, sobs of utter despair racking her whole body. Suddenly her knees went limp as darkness started to closer around her. It felt like she was falling and falling and she wondered if she would ever stop.
But she didn’t fall. Vaguely she was aware that a pair of strong arms wrapped around her and held her close.