THREE

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Ever since it happened - since his powers happened - and changed their world forever, Max has been cautious. His steps are heavy and his head is hanging low as he walks down the school corridor. Teenagers are laughing and talking loudly around him. His steps do not falter as a ball crosses his path just inches in front of him. He doesn't react to the odd stares he is attracting.

His whole life, he has made an effort to stay inconspicuous; remain behind the tree. But there is no such thing as complete invisibility in high school. Even though Max Evans has never been involved in sport activities, part of putting together the school paper or arranging social events, his presence is nonetheless noticed by a random selection of people.

It is because Max Evans had never been hard on the eyes. His passive attitude towards ordinary high school activities does not disinterest those who would call his shyness mysterious nor does it qualm the occasional burst of jealousy from boyfriends whose girlfriends can't help but take a closer look at the well-trained muscled body which is hinted beneath the unremarkable grey sweater.

But Max Evans doesn't notice. Max Evans, son of an alien and sole ruler of another planet, has other things on his mind. The commotion usually created by adolescents the day following an eventful weekend is barely allowed entrance to his conscious. There is only one thing, one person, able to penetrate the shield around him. The unearthly connection, opened to heal her lethal injury, springs to life as he gets closer to her locker. His eyes leave the floor and travel upwards towards a sight he should stop himself from seeing.

Her toe nails are colored light blue and the flip flops are denim, matching her jeans. His eyes travel past her red top and land on her hand as she brings it up to brush away a strand of hair from her face.

As if she can feel his presence – and maybe she can – she looks up from her book and looks straight at him. Her smile is immediate, but shy. The smile from an innocent time when her problems were not on an intergalactic level.

"Hey Max," she says quietly, the tone of voice she used to reserve for him.

He swallows. Will he ever get used to having the memories of the feel of her lips knowing that she doesn't?

"Hey."

"How's Michael?" she asks.

He frowns. "Michael?"

She looks uncomfortable, biting her bottom lip. "Uhm...yeah. Maybe it's not my place to-"

It hits him what she's referring to and he hastens to smooth things over. "No, no, that's okay."

She smiles insecurely and looks down, her hair raining down around her face. His fingers itch to touch the brown strands. "He was different yesterday."

He is not aware of the pounding of his heart as he says, "He had a rough Saturday."

She nods, "Right."

She looks up and his breath catches as her eyes seem to look straight into him. When had she stopped looking at him like that?

"Actually, there's something..." Her voice trails off and he looks at her expectantly. She laughs lightly and waves the words into nothingness with her hand. "No, it's stupid. Forget it."

She turns to pick out the book she needs for first period out of her locker, but her hands are shaking.

"Liz, are you okay?"

She nods, still not looking at him. "Uh huh. It's just the quiz fourth period."

He wants to believe her, but it is as if all her acting abilities have been erased as well and he can see right through her.

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