It was those jocks from the football team, wasnt it? Michael says. I have never seen him more angry.
Kyle and his friends? He says.
Kyle wasnt there, i say.
I’ve seen them giving you these looks. It was them, wasnt it?
It doesnt matter who it was, i say.
I’m gonna kill ’em.
So what are we gonna do?
Nothing, i say, feeling castrated.
What do you mean we’re gonna do nothing?
Michael, listen. This is bad. Kyle does something to us so we do something to him. This kind of thing gets all over school, all over town. Rumors fly. The thing about me healing Liz starts coming up again. I never thought the gossip about that would die, but it’s already started to. People got bored with it and started to gossip about something else. We get exposed if we do anything at all.
I say we go and shut those guys up right now.
Michael, we have to stick together now more than ever. We have to go back into our shells. You cant do anything to hurt those guys. And i have to stay completely away from Liz. That part will kill me but i dont have a choice.
I am at my new job at the UFO center stuffing plastic intestines back into the little plastic alien that is getting autopsied.
Izzie surprises me. Whatcha doin? She says.
Some kid pulled these out, i say.
Great job you found, Max. Real dignified.
I grin at her and say, Here’s looking down at you, too.
No less than seventeen people at school asked me about your face.
I step out of the shadows so Izzie can actually see it.
What happened? Izzie says. She really does seem shocked.
Michael and i were just fucking around on the basketball court.
Michael told me that same story about the basketball court. What really happened, Max?
Some guys roughed me up last night.
They’re friends of Kyle. I guess Kyle’s upset about me and Liz.
You were going to hand me that cover story like i couldnt handle the truth?
I guess i knew how upset you’d be and i dont…i cant stand it when you’re mad at me, Izzie. We all have to stay deep in the closet right now. Be really careful.
Max, this whole thing with the sheriff’s son…
I know. I’m staying away from Liz.
Izzie takes my head into her hands and looks at my face. Pretty raw, she says. Why dont you just heal all this?
Because it has to heal normally. Everything has to be normal.
I cant sleep. I’m just lying in bed waiting for something to happen and it does. The phone rings and after the recorded message Liz’s voice comes on. I want to pick up but i force myself not to.
Liz says, Hi, Max. It’s Liz. I’m at the hospital. Something happened to my grandmother. She had a stroke right in front of me and they dont know if it’s serious or not but i think it’s really bad. I can see it the doctors’ eyes no matter what they say. I’m really scared. Look, IDK why i’m calling…i guess i just wanted to hear your voice. Um…now i feel completely stupid. Look, dont…dont come here or anything because everybody’s here. I’ll see you at school tomorrow. Sorry for the weird call. Bye.
I sit up in bed and ponder this for a few moments. Then i get dressed and leave.
When i walk into the waiting room i see Liz and Kyle and Liz’s mom and dad.
Hey, Liz says to me.
Hey, i say to her.
My grandmother had a stroke, Liz says.
Kyle is giving me fierce, dagger looks. I decide to ignore them.
I say, RU alright, Liz?
Yeah, thanks Everybody, this is Max.
Hi there, says Liz’s mom. Her dad, who is among the legion of people in this town that hate me, nods curtly.
Hello, i say.
So what RU doing here? Kyle demands.
My cousin got into an accident, i say.
I’m sorry, Liz says.
I dont think it’s serious, i say.
Kyle’s evil looks are starting to annoy me. I give him an even nastier look before i move my eyes away.
I better find out how he’s doing, i say.
I feel better when i get out of the hospital and into the parking area. Too much feeling of events getting out of control. Feeling that everyday things familiar and safe are about to turn around and bite me.
I get into the jeep and start the engine and turn on the lights. When i do i see Kyle standing right in front of the jeep so i guess he wants to talk. He walks around to my side and gets so close he is practically leaning into the open window.
So how’s your cousin? He says.
Fine, i say.
Your cousin wasnt really in an accident, was he?
He made a miraculous recovery.
Max, i know that something happened between you and Liz the day of the shooting, that you helped her out or whatever. She was shaken up and you calmed her down and i appreciate that. What i dont appreciate is that ever since then you’ve been all over her. I see it, Max. My friends see it. The entire school sees it. Now, i like Liz. A lot. And i dont want you around her.
Yeah, aint that a bitch, i say, grinning at him. Holmes, did you see how Liz looked at me? She never looks at you like that. So if you want me to stay away from Liz, keep Liz away from me. If you can. She’s supposed to be your gf, not mine. Can you do that? If you cant then you have very little control over her. Or perhaps i have more.
I gun the engine and say, Watch your toes, Holmes. You dont want to spend the rest of the football season in a cast.