“Because I haven’t always been that nice to you; you shouldn’t have to do something for me.”
“So what? We’ve moved past all that and we’re in a good place.”
“You think so?”
“I know it. I mean you’re actually speaking to me now.”
Max laughed and AJ was happy to see her smiling again.
“Trust me, you and I both deserve this.”
The couple ordered dinner when the waitress returned. AJ asked for the steak and Max decided to try the chicken and pear salad. They talked about the diner and all the places AJ wanted to take her to see while she was here. He knew that at any point she could leave and was hoping that, if he could distract her, she would agree to stay longer.
After finishing, AJ stood up and reached out his hand. Max looked back and forth between him and the dance floor then shook her head no.
“No isn’t an option.” he told her.
He reached down again and Max stood up. Noticing that her sweater was slipping off one of her shoulders, he reached out to slide it off. He was surprised when she pulled back and wrapped it around her tighter.
“Sorry, I just thought you might be cooler without it.”
“It’s ok.” Max responded as she reluctantly followed him to the dance floor. “I get cold easily.”
“I’m really sorry, I don’t want to make you uncomfortable.”
AJ gently slipped one arm around her waist and took her left hand in his right one. She looked a little anxious but slowly started to relax. He waited for a few minutes and then cautiously pulled her closer; he was surprised when she let him. They danced like that for a few songs and he had to consciously fight back the urge to kiss her. As the latest song came to an end, he felt someone tap him on the shoulder. He turned around and came face to face with a tall blonde woman who he assumed was a fan. Saying a silent prayer, he hoped to God that she didn’t put him in a bad spot.
“Can I have your autograph?” she asked bluntly, not really interested in the fact that he was busy with someone.
“Autograph?” Max whispered. “Why does she want that?”
“Are you kidding?” the blonde responded as she looked at her friend and rolled her eyes. “Who wouldn’t want his autograph?”
Max still looked confused and the woman laughed at her, shaking her head.
“Figures, he always dates women who don’t appreciate him.” she hissed to her friend and then turned back to Max. “I hate to break it to you but you’re dancing with AJ McLean, one of the Backstreet Boys.”
Her jaw dropped and AJ knew there was no longer a way to avoid the inevitable. She wriggled out of his arms and made a dash towards the table. He hastily signed the woman’s paper and took off after her; he caught sight of her heading for the front door and raced to catch up with her. Hoping to stop her, he put his hand on her shoulder but she shrugged it off and started to walk faster.
Knowing it was pointless to try that again, he made a quick pass and blocked her path. She was forced to stop and when she looked up at him, AJ felt his heart break. There were rivers of black tears coming down her face that she kept trying to wipe away.
“I’m sorry Max…”
“Please take me home.” she said and quietly cut him off.
“Just give me a minute to explain…”
“I don’t want an explanation, I want you to take me home.”
“There are no buts. Take me home now or I’ll call a cab.”
AJ knew at this point that there was nothing he could say to make her see it his way so he brought the car around for her. There was no way he was going to stand there and let her find her own way home. They rode in silence as she continued to wipe the tears off her face. He handed her a tissue, which she accepted, and went back to focusing on the road. As soon as he pulled into the apartment lot, she jumped out and flew into the building. Hitting his head against the steering wheel, he sat there and tried to figure out how the perfect night could go so wrong.
Denise was surprised when her son showed up on her doorstep early the next morning. He looked like he hadn’t slept in days and she was concerned.
“What’s wrong honey?”
He didn’t reply but headed straight for her couch and flopped down in it. She sat down next to him and put her hand on his knee.
“You need to tell me what’s going on.”
“I screwed up Ma.”
“I took Max out last night and something happened.”
I knew it, Denise thought to herself. Her son was putting all this effort into this girl and she was just going to break his heart.
“Maybe Nick was right.”
AJ’s head snapped up. “What the hell was he right about?”
“Max being someone…”
“Max is someone who is important to me! I wanted her to open up to me and instead of doing the same, I didn’t tell her who I was. I didn’t tell her the truth.”
Denise paused for a minute. “Do you really think she didn’t know?”
AJ looked at her with a horrified expression. He thought that the one person he could rely on to help him was his mother and apparently he was dead wrong. Jumping up from the couch, he stormed down the hallway and slammed the door as he left. Why did he think anyone would listen to him?