Her keys clanged onto the hallway table as she entered the house.
"Mom? Are you home?" she called out, half hoping that Amy was still in Albuquerque and half hoping she was home so she could get this over and done with. She knew she had to have another conversation with her mother about New York and the record deal; to make her understand that this was her big break, and that she needed to try it out to see where it may lead.
She stood there for a moment, waiting for a response. Silence.
Sighing loudly, Maria slouched down the hallway and into the kitchen to grab a glass of water. She gulped it down so quickly she gasped for air afterwards, then sat down slowly at the kitchen table to mull over the last few hours of her life.
A butchered demo of her own hand-written love song.
A once in a lifetime record deal.
Going to New York.
She'd wanted out of the alien chaos that had taken over her life. Out of her relationship with Michael to focus on something for herself, to figure out who she was and what she wanted from her life. She didn't want to compromise herself and who she was anymore. She wanted to discover who she was as a person, as Maria Deluca, and not just as some 18 yr old girl completely head over heels in love with an alien hybrid boy.
Was that such a bad thing? She didn't think so. She thought it was healthy. Growth. Heartbreaking, but necessary. But she'd never considered she'd have to figure it out entirely alone. She hadn't realised that not compromising who she was would come at such a cost. Without her best friend, now on her way to Vermont. Without her boyfri - Michael - now wanting nothing to do with her.
God, she missed Alex.
He would know exactly what to say, he would deal her the advice she desperately needed to sort this out. He would understand that she no longer wanted to compromise who she was for anything else.
And despite her best intentions for no longer compromising what she wanted, here she was, doing just that - with her music. One of the most important things that made her tick.
You should find a way to compromise, without losing what is most important to you…
Liz's words from earlier that night hung in the air, and stung a little bit. Music - her music - was definitely important to her life. But it wasn't the only thing. Liz was important too. Maria had made it clear to Liz that no matter what, no matter what type of alien catastrophe was taking place, she needed and wanted Liz to continue to confide in her. Liz was one of the most important things in her life, and she'd be there for her no matter what. Their lives would always be linked.
It's like you said, we're not linked anymore.
She knew she'd hurt him. The words had tumbled out of her mouth earlier on at the Crashdown, before she'd really thought about what she was saying, because she was in a rush to get to her meeting with Dominique. But she hadn't understood the severity of those words until he'd said them back to her that evening, when she'd turned up at his door, vulnerable and seeking his advice.
He was important too. She didn't know how to tell him exactly just how important he was to her, without simultaneously falling back into his arms. He would always, always be one of the most important people in her life and yet here she was trying so hard to sever those ties, to show indifference to the importance he held. And for what? In order to not compromise the importance of following her own dreams. In order to gain a new perspective. To grow. To find the music again.
He wanted her to stay, he'd implied as much. But she knew he wouldn't say the actual words out loud - because he didn't want to stop her from doing something she had told him was so important to her. That's the kind of guy Michael was. He was compromising his own happiness, to put her first. To let her do her thing. She loved him so much for it.
I'm not going to be the guy you blame for ruining your life.
God, here were all these people, compromising their lives and happiness for what was most important to them. And here she was simultaneously trying not to compromise her dreams and what she wanted whilst simultaneously fucking up the most important things in her life. Did that even make sense? She was so confused.
She inhaled sharply, holding the air in her lungs for a few seconds while rubbing her hands down her face, then slowly exhaled while picking at a spot on the table. Did she need a pros and cons list? No, that was stupid. She wasn't going to trivialise the most important things in her life into a 'yay' and 'nay' category. It was way more complicated than that. And besides, everything fell onto the yay side, apart from one thing; her artistic license to present her music the way she wanted to.
Everything else was a 'yay'; making music, her friendship with Liz, the prospect of New York. Michael.
So how was this complicated? Everything was a pro, and the only con was the thing that she could probably control. She could talk to Dominique about how to reach a compromise that didn't make her feel like some bubblegum pop princess, while still meeting their brief.
Compromise. She could do it.
She would keep in touch with Liz regularly to ensure she was okay. To get the latest updates on what was going on, and whether she was safe and well. She would vow to call her mom every day so she didn't have an aneurysm that she was out underage drinking at nightclubs and impregnating herself to groupies.
And with Michael, she would…she would what? How could she make things right with him? He was the last piece of the puzzle, and the most important. She owed it to him to make it right before she left. Whether or not he would hear her out was a different story, but she had to try.
She stood up sharply, moving quickly to the hallway to grab the keys. She practically ran to the door and threw it open -
He was standing there. Hands shoved in his pockets, silently staring straight into her wide eyes.
"Michael! I - what are you doing here?" she queried, unsure she could muster anymore words to leave her lips while he was looking at her so intensely.
"I thought that would be pretty obvious. Where were you going?"
"I was…I was coming to see you…" she trailed off, scrambling to find the words she wanted to say. She'd been caught off guard, because she was planning to figure out exactly how to piece her words together while she was in the Jetta driving over to his place.
"Did you find Liz earlier?" he asked, squinting and looking away over her shoulder.
"Yeah, I did. We had a good chat. Uhh…you wanna come in?"
"You think that's a good idea? Wouldn't want you to get the wrong impression," he muttered sarcastically.
"So what, you just came over here to silently stand on my door-stoop? Just come inside already, so we can talk," she pressed, pulling the door open wider and standing aside so he could walk through.
He stood still for a minute longer. Their eyes met again and he blinked, looked down at his feet, then back out towards his bike parked on the street, before grunting and taking a step inside. Her heart skipped a beat when she thought he might turn on his heel and walk away, not giving her the chance to talk it through.
Suddenly, her eyes caught one of his hands that he'd now pulled out of his jean pockets.
"Michael, what did you do to your hand?" she asked as she grabbed his arm at the wrist.
He wrenched it away from her quickly. "Nothing, don't worry about it," he said, as he walked purposefully down the hallway to the lounge. She heard his strong frame slump down into her sofa, and she followed him into the room.
"Did you at least let Max look at it?"
"He hasn't been home, he's off being a heartbroken mess…" he said, looking up quickly at her before darting his eyes away. She knew what his eyes had implored; like me. A heartbroken mess, like me.
"I can take a look at it for you. I mean, I'm no Samantha Jeannie so it'll be the good old fashioned human way, but I got some stuff that will -"
"Maria, I appreciate it and all, but just drop it. I didn't come here for you to fix my hand."
"How did you do it?"
"Maria, I -"
"I put it through my window, okay? Does that make you feel better? To know that I lost control and I punched my window? Because there it is. All out in the open for you."
Maria looked at him silently, willing the tears that were threatening to spring into her eyes to fall back down deep inside. Quickly, she left the room for the bathroom. She placed her hands on the sink, looking up into the mirror at herself. God, what a sight. She splashed some water on her face, and then opened the mirror cabinet, pulling out the first aid kit.
Closing her eyes for a second, she sniffed air into her nose slowly to compose herself, and walked back towards the lounge.
He was already on his feet in the lounge doorway, and she assumed he was about to make his escape down the hall to the front door.
"Sit back down," she ordered.
"No I think it's better if I leave, I shouldn't have come here and you -"
"Sit back down," she ground out, looking him straight in the eye.
He stared at her for a moment, in a silent stand off. Then his eyes dropped momentarily to her lips, and he backed off, shuffling into the lounge once more and taking residence on her sofa.
"I'm not going to be the girl you blame for ruining your hand," she said lightly, as she opened the kit and brought out some alcohol wipes, gauze and a bandage.
"This isn't your fault, it was mine," he retorted as he allowed her to gingerly pick up his hand and start to unravel the bandages.
She sighed loudly. "I didn't make you do it, but I played my part in driving you to. Michael, I'm sorry I have been so confused lately. I haven't been clear with you about my intentions, maybe because I wasn't clear myself, but -"
"You really don't need to say this, Maria. I get it. You want out of the alien shit. It's completely understandable. It's constantly in the background, and it's unfair. You need to put yourself first, and all I was coming here to say was that you have my blessing. To go out and live your life. Be happy. Don't worry about us. Or me…" he trailed off, wincing slightly as she gently ran the alcohol wipes over his cuts to clean them.
She paused for a moment. "You're right that the alien shit takes up a large chunk of our lives and I want something more than that. But I don't think you understand…I don't consider you and the alien stuff mutually exclusive."
He snorted loudly and looked at her incredulously. "Maria, I'm an alien."
"Thank you captain obvious," she smirked, as she re-bound his hand in the fresh gauze and bandage. "I think I'm pretty clear on that detail. But you're not just an alien. You're Michael. You're an incredibly loyal, incredibly frustrating, sometimes paranoid, sometimes poetic, overly protective, fearless, talented, handsome, human alien. You're so important to me."
"Maria," he started, but trailed off. Lost for words and wondering where this was headed, he looked down at his freshly bandaged hand.
"Just let me get this all out. I told you I wanted to break up, because I love you so much - more than you'll ever know. That hasn't changed. I need to find a part of myself again, a part that I had buried away a long time ago but pushed even further down when Alex…" she looked down at her hands. She couldn't say that word yet. It was still too much. Her eyes filled with tears and she let them spill forth as she looked back up at him.
"Michael, earlier today when I was talking with Liz, she told me that I should find a way to compromise with the record label, without losing what is important to me - because if I don't do this, if I don't try, I'm always going to wonder 'what if' and I'll be miserable because of it. That's why I've got to go and try this out," she explained.
"I'm not going to stop you, Maria," he said quietly, looking down to study a piece of lint on the floor.
"I know. And I love you even more for that. But that advice she gave me? It stretches further than just the record deal stuff. It made me realise, that I can compromise on a lot of things in my life, not just the music, but I still need to hang onto what is most important to me. Because if I don't, I'll…" she faltered, willing him to look back up at her. "I'll be miserable."
He looked up at her sharply then, narrowing his gaze and looking at her intently. Imploring her to finish her explanation.
"You're important to me, Michael. You always will be. I don't want to compromise on that," she stated, looking directly at him.
"But we're no longer linked," he retorted back. That hurt her, and she knew he was repeating it again now because it had cut him deep earlier.
"I shouldn't have said that. I said it without even realising the true impact of those words because I was in such a rush, and I wanted you to understand that you didn't have to look out for me, to protect me in that way, but…But I shouldn't have said it. I'm sorry," she said, pleading with him to forgive her.
His gaze softened a little, as if to let her know he was considering it. "So what do you want Maria, are you asking me to wait for you?"
"No, I…I don't think that's fair of me to ask you."
He stared at her a moment longer, his mouth opening and shutting like he didn't know what to say, knowing in his heart that he would definitely tell her he'd wait for her if it came to that, but then he remembered something important and instead chose to run with that.
"That day, when we were on our way to Marathon and we had to stop at that porno version of Aladdin motel, we shared a moment. Do you remember?"
She scoffed. Did she remember. Of course she remembered. It was the first moment in her life that she had considered Michael Guerin more than a scary, menacing outsider from the wrong side of the tracks.
"There's gotta be something better out there than Roswell, New Mexico. Yeah," she smiled. "I remember Spaceboy, of course."
He smiled his half smile, happy that she had remembered it too and nodded his head. "Yeah, that. I'm not going to stand in your way and stop you, Maria. This is it. Something better than Roswell, New Mexico. This is important. You gotta do it, you've got to try."
"Michael…" She didn't know how to tell him how awful she felt that he had stayed here for her - in a place he'd been trying to get away from his whole life, and now here she was doing the same thing, but actually following through. Without him.
"I know, I'm important too. I know."
She stood up and started pacing. "No, I need you to know that you're the most important thing in the world to me. So, I'll be back. I will always come back, and not just to cut some stupid ribbon," she scoffed and rolled her eyes, dismissing the throwaway comment Dominique had made earlier in front of him.
"Important people hold important pieces of my heart in this town," she resumed her ramble. "If it becomes a long term move, we'll figure something out. And I'll keep in touch. I promise," she continued pacing with her declaration, not noticing that he had stood up and was moving closer to her.
She looked up when he caressed her cheek, cupping it in his rough hand and slowly running his thumb over her cheekbone.
"Maria, just promise me one thing…" he said, studying her intently. She looked up at him, waiting for him to continue. "Promise me that you'll look after yourself. And if you're not happy, you'll come home. That you'll stay out of danger. And…and if you need me, you'll call. Promise."
She nodded and smiled, reminded of a day in the past when he had made her make a very similar promise. "Absolutely promise," she whispered.
He smiled his half smile again, and nodded one more time. Bending down slowly, he gently pressed his lips on hers and held them there for a second before pulling away. She kept her eyes closed until she heard him speak.
"Good," he said, before frowning and clearing his throat. "So…knock 'em dead."
He made his way to the hallway and started heading towards the front door. She followed him out, and stood on the doorstep, leaning against the frame as she watched him disappear towards his bike.
"I'll come back to you. I love you," she whispered quietly, out of his earshot. He turned his head and gave her one last smirk, like he'd heard every word.