Red. Blue. Yellow.
Blood. Water. Sun.
“Michael?” Liz woke suddenly, disoriented.
“I’m here. We’re in your room,” he replied soothingly. He knew instinctively that she wouldn’t know where they were. “You fell asleep while I was painting and I didn’t have the heart to wake you.”
“It’s okay,” Liz smiled as she heard the slight creak of the rocking chair, “Is that my rocking chair I hear?”
“Yeah, I’ll admit it,” Michael said barely containing his laughter at Liz’s look of utter triumph, “you were right. It is the perfect piece of furniture. I might use it in a painting.”
“Michael,” Liz began uncertainly, “how did the…what I mean is did I do…did I help?”
Michael moved from the rocking chair to the foot of the bed, cradling Liz’s face with his hands, “You were beautiful, painting you helped soothe my soul Liz,” he said with feeling and kissed her forehead.
“You really think I’m beautiful?” she asked wistfully.
Michael’s reply was to run his fingers through the soft silk of her hair and gently move his lips less than an inch away from hers. He closed his eyes, heightening the intensity of sensations. He could feel her breathing deepen, her mouth slightly part in anticipation. Fervently he whispered, “Yes,” before bridging the distance and kissing her full on the mouth.
Their tongues tasted and explored, their hands touched and caressed, as Michael pressed Liz back against her mattress, allowing his weight to gently settle on her.
They stayed this way a long time. Just kissing. Only their lips touching. Liz’s bed sheets and Michael’s clothing formed the thin barrier they could feel tangibly between them.
Finally they parted.
“You are exquisite Liz, never doubt that,” Michael said as he stood and left the room. Leaving Liz to lift her fingers to her lips and wonder.
Purple. Orange. Green.
Grapes. Rust. Earth.
“What’s for breakfast?”
“What do you want to do today?” They asked each other simultaneously.
“Waffles,” was Michael’s reply, while Liz stood in the doorway of the kitchen biting her bottom lip as she considered her answer.
“I thought we could go to the lake, maybe have a picnic.”
“Sounds good,” Michael said as he lifted a waffle from the iron and placed it on Liz’s plate.
“But before that I thought you might take me to the hospital.”
“Are you feeling okay? Is something wrong?” Michael asked concerned as he put her plate on the table, exactly two inches from the edge and one inch away from her cutlery on either side.
She moved to sit down before answering, “No, not with me. I want to visit Max.”
Michael dropped the bowl of batter to the floor, spattering the counter and floor, the loud clanging filling his silence. The noisy reverberation giving way to a tense quiet, overbearing in its very lack of sound. Michael said nothing in response. He picked up the bowl, salvaging the remainder of the mixture, and meticulously began wiping the messy counter and floor.
“Michael?” Liz asked when the silence became too much, when the ringing in her ears from the fallen metallic bowl stopped. She hadn’t thought her request would upset him, at least not badly enough for him to shut down so effectively on her.
She’d always been able to pick up on what Michael was feeling emotionally, ever since the first moment in her hospital room. That had been one of the reasons she’d chosen to go along with his crazy, moving-in-together scheme. She’d never realized how much of a presence in her life Michael had become, until the moment he decided to disappear on her. Because that was what he was effectively doing. And she’d never been so terrified in her life. Yet she knew she couldn’t back down on this. There was a lot she needed to say to Max. There was a lot that hung between them that needed resolution before she could move on. She needed to be sure Max understood what he had done, what he had taken away, and she needed to know that he would be okay. Because she knew that she would be as long as she had Michael in her life, and no matter what she wanted that for Max too.
“Fine,” he said quietly, giving away none of the messy roiling emotions that billowed just beneath the surface of his calm.
“Please, don’t be angry,” Liz implored as Michael sat to eat at the counter.
“Who said I was angry?”
“I know you are. But I don’t understand why.”
“Dammit Liz, because after all he’s done to you, you still—“ Michael cut himself off as he tried to summon some modicum of control to his response, “Look, I’ll take you. Don’t worry about it.”
“Michael, I don’t want to go if it means I lose you. I’ve lost everybody, I can’t—you’re the one person I have left.”
“I’m not going anywhere. I’m not kicking you out. Trust me, I’m not going to break my promise,” he said evenly.
“You are shutting me out Michael. That’s as good as leaving me outside on the streets in the dark, so to speak. I’m blind, not stupid—“
“I never implied you were.”
“Ok, fine. I’m not talking about you physically cutting me off. This is about you putting up a wall between us. I’m telling you I can’t bear it,” Liz’s face crumpled as she suddenly burst into tears.
“Why?” he whispered raggedly, the sound seemingly torn from his throat. He hated to see Liz cry. Even worse he hated being the cause of it.
Liz tried to control her voice as she explained through her sobs, “You have become my world, Michael. When we’ve gone outside together, everything that you describe is filtered through who you are, the unique way you have of seeing things, the way you feel about things. From the beginning we’ve connected on a purely emotional, visceral level, and that has tied us together, inextricably.”
Michael hesitated, looking into her face streaked with tears that glimmered in the sunlight filtering in through the windows. He wanted to go to her, clasp her tightly in his arms, but he was afraid. He was afraid that she wouldn’t need him. That she’d leave him one day and go back to Max. He wanted to possess her heart the way Max did.
“Michael please,” she whispered brokenly.
“Why do you want to visit him?”
“I need an end Michael. I need something more than his simply disappearing from my life. I loved him for a long time. I thought I was going to marry him. I just need to forgive him,” she paused her heart aching, “so I can forget him.”
Michael moved to the table and grasped Liz’s small hand in his own as he pulled her up towards him. Holding her closely he whispered in her ear, “You’ll never lose me.”
Liz held Michael’s hand tightly as he led her to Max’s hospital room. They’d called before leaving the apartment and learned that he was out of the coma, and was expected to have a full recovery.
Michael sat Liz in one of the seat just outside Max’s room, “I’m going in for a few seconds myself. There are a few things I need to say to him. The door to the room is five steps to your right. Just shout if you need me.”
Liz nodded as she sat down and waited for Michael to have his talk with Max
Red. Orange. Yellow. Green. Blue. Indigo. Violet.
“Michael, what are you doing here?” Max glanced up startled when Michael burst into his room. He'd been contemplating all the ways he'd fucked up. And he figured Michael was someone else on a long list of people who were owed apologies.
“This the thanks I get for saving your worthless ass?”
“You brought me here? I don’t remember,” Max said.
“Well, you were out of it when I found you. But I thought the black eye and cut lip might give you a clue.”
“You hit me?”
“I didn’t know you were in a coma Maxwell,” Michael stated ironically.
“What did I do?” asked Max.
“I’m guessing you don’t remember the charming conversation you had with Liz when you found her at my place.”
Max blanched, he’d already known his actions to Liz had been despicable, he didn’t want to think about how much more he could have possibly hurt her. “What did I say?” he asked.
“You called her a whore. Just because she was living with me,” Michael stated simply, “Which brings me to two things. One, you abandoned her after being one of the main reasons she was ever in that accident. So you lost jealousy privileges right there. Two, I love her. Not that she knows it. But there will be a day that I will win her heart. And as my best friend you better be happy for us. And you better treat her with respect,” Michael’s words were succinct. He wasn’t about to pull any punches. He wanted Max to know exactly where he stood with regards to Liz.
“God, I’m sorry—“
“Don’t apologize to me,” Michael glanced meaningfully at Max, “She’s outside, she wants to see you.”
“Oh. Ok. Michael, I’m sorry it came to this.”
“Yeah, me too. I want you to get through this,” Michael shrugged awkwardly at the shell of a man Max had become. The truth was he barely recognized the boy who had helped him spray paint the biology teacher’s chair before class in the tenth grade, they both had changed so much since then.
“I will. I’m going to a clinic once they let me out.” Max shrugged, "Even I can see it's gone too far. I need real help. I'm sorry for everything Michael. I know I've been an ass, but you're still my brother."
“That’s good. I’m glad,” Michael let himself unbend enough to smile at the man who was his best friend. There was a lot more healing that needed to be done, but some progress had been made.
Bent. Deflected. Split.
Light becoming the colors we see.
Liz let Michael help her to the seat by Max’s bed. She wasn’t ready to let him see her independence, and she wanted him to see that Michael had become a necessary part of her life.
“I’ll be right outside,” Michael whispered in her ear as he left the room.
She and Max sat in silence.
“Michael told me what I said. I’m sorry,” Max stated abruptly.
“I should have realized you were wasted then,” was her response.
“It wasn’t your fault, this wasn’t your fault.”
“I’m not blaming myself. I just wish I had said something sooner. Maybe then you wouldn’t be here, and maybe I wouldn’t be blind.”
“It was my fault wasn’t it?”
“Pretty much,” Liz sighed, “But I don't really blame you for that, Max. I can't live that way and the truth is I could have made different choices too. What hurt me most was actually your refusal to come visit me. I was so alone. I felt damaged and unworthy, and it wasn't until Michael came along that I started living again.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t want to accept that I had been the cause. I hate that you can’t see because of me,” Max said, “Is he treating you right?”
“Yes. He is exactly what I need.”
“I’m glad he found you then,” Max looked at the woman sitting by his bedside for the first time since the accident. She was as beautiful as always, her cuts and bruises had healed. The only evidence of the trauma she had suffered at his hands were her eyes. They no longer sparkled with her keen intelligence and unique sense of mischief, but bore down on him vacant, empty. It was as if the soul of the woman he had been in love with had been transported from her body. It was as if he couldn’t see her.
“Me too,” Liz said.
“Do you miss us?”
“No, not really. I don’t regret us. But I don’t want to go back there.”
“You’re happy then?”
“Yes. Surprisingly so. Michael makes my life full.”
“That’s Michael for you,” Max said, “This is goodbye then?”
“For now, yes. You are still an important part of Michael's life, and I'll never stand in the way of your friendship.”
“For what it’s worth Liz, I am sorry. And I do love you, I always will.”
“I love you too. Goodbye Max,” Liz said softly as she made her way towards the door. She didn’t turn back as she left the room having found the end she needed. Max watched from his bedside realizing that it wouldn’t have mattered, anyway.
Breaking white light to a continuum of color.