It’s well past full dark when she knocks timidly on my window. I take her hand and help her in.
Hey, she says.
Hey, i say.
There is an uncomfortable silence.
She says, Max, did something change? I havent seen that shy little smile of yours for weeks. You’ve been such a son of a bitch.
Sit down, i say. I need to talk to you.
When she sits i take a deep breath and say, I want to ask you to forgive me. Beg you if necessary.
For being such a son of a bitch.
Max, UR already forgiven. I told you that night i went to the reservation alone. I knew you werent right in the head. I’ll never throw it up to you. So if you are over whatever it is, dont beat yourself up. I’m too glad just to have you back. UR back, right?
Well. Why, if i may ask.
Did u hear about Tommy?
Of course. Everybody knows. He’s in a nuthouse raving about aliens with green snake eyes and that one of them beat him up out on the old highway. Somebody did beat him up though. He’s hurt bad.
He’s sure crazy now. He was such a meatball i wouldnt have thought he’d be the type, you know? Lizard eyed aliens. Good Lord.
Let me show you something, i say. Better if i dim the lights a little…
When i sit back down i flash my eyes green and contract my pupils like a lizard.
The truth is out there, Scully, i say.
Dont call me that, Max. How long have you been able to…
Only since that night with River Dog when i held that pendant and it glowed. And yes, Elizabeth. It was i who beat his ass. I wanted him in the ground, not in the hospital, but i held back from that. I’m not a killer. Now tell me i’m a sadistic butcher and you hate me.
Hate you? It’s about time somebody stood up to those fuckheads. You might have kept them from killing somebody by putting a scare into them. They almost put you in the ground. I dont blame you for doing that. Especially if this is what changed you. Was it?
I thought so. It was right after they nearly killed you that you turned into a stranger. But why?
I’m tired of living in a cage and having to be so cautious. It’s poisoning me. I cant do anything about that but sometimes gets to be too much. I should never have gone back into the closet after that. Michael was right. I should have done what i did last night, only a lot sooner. Sometimes pragmatic caution is transcended by morals. Suddenly there is a right side and a wrong side and the wrong screams to be righted. It has been. That’s why i’m myself again. But because of the delay i wound up taking it out on you because i knew i could. And i am so sorry, i say, shaking my head.
I love you, Max.
I know it. I love you too.
Why did it take so long to say it?
Why did you come here tonight, Liz?
IDK. Did i need a reason?
No. Not any more. Never again. Dance with me, dushka.
U heard me.
Ha! I say. U cant dance.
Her face reddens.
Imagine that, i say. Never been to a prom? Or a dance?
That’s funny. Little miss perfect. I wouldve had you pegged for a prom queen.
Well, i’m not, she snaps.
It’s okay. I’ll show you. A slow one. Just an old fart dance. It’s called a box step. U just follow my lead.
Do i have to?
Oh, alright, she says. Dont be offended. I’m just self conscious. And i didnt expect it.
It’s alright. I’ll put on some music.
I put on Linda Ronstadt’s version of I Love You For Sentimental Reasons.
It’s an old torch song i’ve always loved, i say shyly. Here. Your left arm goes on my shoulder and you hold my hand out here with your right. We’re just going around in a big box or circle.
After a few seconds she is following me without any trouble. I just love that song, Max, she says.
I know. Her voice is so sweet. She sounds like a woman instead of a 16 year old girl singing thru her nose.
Do i talk thru my nose?
Never, i say. Isnt this nice?
Yeah, she says and smiles.
We dont have to be so formal, i say. Just put your arms around my neck and i’ll put mine around your waist and we’ll move closer together like this. Now it’s even nicer.
Yeah, she says, closing her eyes and sighing.
We are close enough now that i can smell her skin and her hair the way i did that day in a long ago September when we spied on Topolsky thru the ventilation grill. But it’s stronger now and i am full of hormones.
I’m not letting this chance go. Not another one. I kiss her lips, tentatively at first and then she kisses back harder with her tongue. That’s a golden moment of recognition that this one is for me and i dont want anyone else, ever. A recognition from far back in geological time that is independent of my opinion of her character or if i even like her.
She puts her head on my shoulder and i put mine on hers in this perfection of the moment. She looks at me and says, Max! You’re crying. What is it?
Nothing, i say. Just a tear. I think maybe i’m happy and dont know how to handle it.
Well maybe you’ll have to now. Max, i mean i never expected this…
Neither did i, my love. Honest.
It’s a long song and we are only just half way thru it when she says, I dont want this to end. Ever.
No, dummy. This night.
It doesnt have to. It shouldnt.
RU saying what i think you’re saying?
Yes, i say. If i dont lose my nerve. Goddamnit, i dont have any protection. No condoms or anything.
Max, it’s okay. I’m on the pill.
She hesitates before she says, Since the day after i was shot.
Say no more.
I turn down the lights and lock the door and we undress slowly and with painful self consciousness, facing away from each other. I take her by the hand and we get into bed and just hold each other for a moment.
When we start we’re both shy and tentative and clumsy but when we start helping each other we figure it out together and everything works fine. Just fine.
The room is dark and the house quiet. I open my eyes. Liz is next to me and her arm is around my middle.
U were dreaming, my love, she whispers. Go back to sleep.
I want to wake up next to her in the morning but of course she is long gone by then. She mustve left by the window. I’m alone as the tepid winter sun devours the last pieces of the night and i lie on my back with a smile i cant stop.
When i check the time i see that i’ve slept later than usual. Liz will be getting ready for school. When i dial the number she answers immediately.
Hey, i say.
Hey, you, she says.
U know what i’m calling about, i say.
I do? She says coyly.
About what happened last night. About what we did.
We didnt do anything last night, she says and i wonder if she is alone to talk.
That’s right, i say. Nothing. Want to do it again?
Just try and stop me, she says. See you at school.