Don’t Go: Forget Me Not (excerpt)

Maxie got up to clean the kitchen. For a while, she said nothing, and Isaac remained on the couch, looking at the television but not really watching it. Finally, he stood up and went to her.

“Should I go?” he asked.

She turned to him. “What? No. I mean…” She dropped her eyes. “If you want to go.”

“I don’t.”

“Then don’t.”

He nodded. “Let me help you clean.”

“No, no. I’m fine, I’ll do it.” She gently pushed him back toward a chair. “Just sit, alright? I’m almost done.”

He sat down at the kitchen table and watched her as she moved about, collecting the dishes, wiping down the counters, putting away their meal. Cleansing the kitchen of all traces of him. He saw himself all over her face, though. Traces of him stained her skin, lingered in her eyes, on her mouth. How did Van miss it? he wondered. “Will you teach me how to fight?” she asked, not turning away from the sink as she loaded the dishes into the dishwasher.

Isaac chuckled. “Who would you ever fight, Maxie? Who would ever want to fight you?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess I’d just like to know I could kill someone with my bare hands if I wanted to.”

“You know,” he said, lowering his voice, “I can do a lot of other things with my hands. Nonviolent things.”

She stopped. Even from where he sat, behind her, he could see her face redden. Then she continued to rinse the dishes. “Will you teach me?” he asked.

“The nonviolent things? I would love to teach you.”

She shook her head. “You know what I mean.”

“Yes. I know what you mean.”

When the last of the dishes were in the washer, she came to the table with a pie. “Midnight snack?” she asked, setting it down before him.

“You mean three AM snack?”

A sigh escaped her. Was it so late already? That meant he had to be going soon. She got two small plates, two forks and cut them each a slice. By the time she got through with hers, he was already halfway through his second. “You like it?” she asked. “It’s a new recipe I’m trying.”

“Mm,” he said, swallowing a mouthful. “It’s delicious. And I never eat sweets. Never.”

She smiled, more than pleased. “Van hates when I make sweets. She doesn’t want to eat it, but when it’s here, she can’t help it. So sometimes I make low-fat ones, even though they’re never the same. I just don’t see the point in low-fat snacks.”

He nodded. “I agree. It’s a double negative. Even though Van could stand to put on a few pounds. She’s perfect now. But if she loses anymore weight…” He let his voice trail off and shook his head.

“Alex thinks I should lose weight.”

Isaac’s eyes shot up to her. “He said that?”

“Not in so many words, but he hints, you know?” She shrugged. “I mean, I can’t blame him. He used to the tall, skinny, model type girls he shoots with—”

“Do me a favor, Max, and don’t make excuses for him.”

Maxie shut her mouth but her eyes widened. “I’m not,” she murmured.

“Good,” he said. “Don’t.”

She frowned. “What the matter?”

“Nothing,” he said nonchalantly. Too nonchalantly. “I just don’t understand how someone like him manages to keep someone like you.”

“You don’t know me, Isaac.”

“I know you well enough. You try to please everyone. You smile even when you’re sad. She close your mouth when you have something to say. You make excuses for the people who treat you like shit, maybe because you think you deserve it. Is that it? You think you deserve to be treated like a maid? Or trophy? Or a piece of meat?”

“Well, what about you?” she snapped, finally looking up at him. “Aren’t you the one who parades in here with groceries so I can cook you dinner? Aren’t you the one who’s come every night and told me exactly what you want to eat and watched television while I made it for you? Have you complained as I’ve served you, or refilled your glass when it was empty, or took your plate away when you were done eating?”

Isaac glared at her from across the table, his eyes dark, his jaw taut. And then he stood— grabbed his plate— and left the table. “Wait, no, Isaac,” she said, raising her hands to stop him. She stood up quickly, knocking over her chair. He placed his plate in the sink and turned to her.

“You’re right. I’ll go.”

“No. That’s not what I want. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it.”

“Yes, you did,” he said.

She shook her head. “No, I didn’t. I’m sorry, you just upset me—”

“It’s me you stand up to? I’m the one you lash out at?” She bowed her head in shame. Or maybe it wasn’t shame. Maybe it was because he took a step closer to her, and she couldn’t stand to look into his beautiful eyes for a second longer. He was gorgeous when he was angry.

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