Max tried to turn away but AJ scooted through the door and stopped her in her tracks. She had planned on avoiding him and this conversation; why did she open that door?
“I want an answer.” he demanded angrily. “I think you owe me that much.”
For the first time since she’d met him, he appeared furious and she knew it was directed towards her. Afraid that he might do something, she backed up as far as she could and put the kitchen table in between them. AJ noticed what she was doing and sighed; dropping the bag on the table, he took a seat at the table and waited for her to do the same.
“I’m not going to hurt you Max, I would never do that.”
Deep down, Max knew that but his anger was still unexpected and uncomfortable for her.
She waited for a few moments before she took a seat in the other chair. It took another minute to meet his gaze and the look on his face broke her heart.
“You’re leaving aren’t you?” he asked again and all she could do was nod. “Were you planning on leaving the whole time?”
Max nodded again.
“Why did you agree to stay then?”
“I don’t know AJ. Maybe it was in the heat of the moment.”
“I don’t buy that. If you were thinking of leaving, you shouldn’t have made me a promise that you weren’t going to keep.”
“I know and I’m sorry.”
He looked away from her and focused on running his finger across the pattern on her tablecloth. There was so much he wanted to say but he didn’t know how to get it out. He thought he’d been clear the night before when he told her how much he cared and how invested he was in this. Apparently, she’d just been stringing him along and the realization hit him like a truck. He finally stood up and headed towards the door.
“Don’t Max. Obviously this whole thing was a mistake. Forget what I said and what I made you promise. It was stupid of me to think you were serious.”
“There’s nothing else to say. Good luck with whatever you’re planning.”
He crossed the room and was out the door before she could mutter anything else. Nick and everyone else were right; he didn’t know what he was thinking when he thought this whole mess was going to work. At least she was leaving before he could make any more mistakes.
AJ hesitantly arrived at the diner a few days later; his mother had asked him to join her for brunch and he didn’t want to disappoint her. He hadn’t shared what happened with anyone, including Brian, because he didn’t want to admit that everyone was right and he’d made yet another poor decision. Nick would jump all over it and him and that’s something he didn’t want to deal with.
He debated whether to go in or not since his mother’s car wasn’t in the lot. He finally decided to brave the potential issues and walked in apprehensively. The dining area was pretty much deserted except for Marjorie talking to an older gentleman at the counter. AJ nodded at her when she waved and he slid into the nearest booth to wait for Denise.
“Hi honey.” the older woman greeted him as she came by to drop off menus. “I haven’t seen you in a while.”
“I’ve been busy.”
Marjorie noticed that his eyes kept roaming back and forth between the kitchen entrance and the front door. She knew what he was looking for and she hated to hurt him.
“She isn’t here sugar.” she said as she answered his silent question. “And she’s not going to show up. She called Bob three days ago and quit.”
She shook her head. “He went over to the apartment to try and talk to her but when he got there, it was completely empty. Everything was gone and the whole place was scrubbed down.”
“Like she never existed.” he added quietly.
“I’m sorry hon. I know she was important to you.”
He nodded and a tear slipped down his face; he knew at that moment that she was gone and there was no chance she was coming back. It didn’t matter how he felt or what he did, nothing was going to change and he needed to accept it. AJ slid out of the booth quickly and tried to hold back the tears that were threatening to fall.
“Can you tell my mother I wasn’t feeling good?”
Marjorie nodded. “Sure sweetheart. Anything I can do for you?”
AJ shook his head no and he made a beeline for his car. The tears fell the minute he closed the door; he had been so in love with Max and now she was gone. Everything was falling apart and there was absolutely nothing he could do about it.
He spent the drive home alternating between feeling lost to feeling angry. All the time he’d put into making something work between them had been a waste of time and, as usual, he was the one who got hurt. Parking the car in the drive way, he leapt out and stomped up to the house; the anger boiling just below the surface. He grabbed the first thing he could when he entered and slammed the vase against the wall. Slamming his fist against his head, he slid down the wall in the entryway and dropped his head into his hands. He sat there for a bit before he heard a car pull into the drive.
His mother had surely got the message that he wasn’t feeling good but she’d probably come to check on him anyway. He hoisted himself up and tried to pull himself together; the doorbell rang and he tried not to fling open the door.
“Ma, I know…”