You'll Never Walk Alone
White clouds of breath appeared before him as his steps finally stopped. He just stood in the dark streets, staring down at his feet. He was freezing and his legs were soaking by the muddy brown snow that had been fair and white just a few hours ago...at least so it seemed. But Leo didn't notice the freezing cold or the gloomy darkness around him or even the fact he'd run through half of the city without one break and his heart was beating faster than ever before. He tried to catch a breath. He couldn't think. He couldn't walk. He didn't know where to go. He didn't grasp what had happened... And even now he didn't feel the icy chills the wind spread over his face... He could see tears falling down, sinking into the snow. But he only assumed it were his own. He didn't feel them falling and more importantly he didn't know why he was still crying. There was nothing left...
Lifting himself up again, the streets and people around him seemed nothing but blurry and smudged. He swallowed down that lump in his throat and went on. His steps were slow and his body was heavy. With no destination in mind he just wandered through the black city with its neon-lights. People were passing him, some of them even jostled him, but he didn't mind. What was the point in freaking out about physical contact anyway? This meant nothing... All those people meant nothing.
"Get out of the way!"
"Excuse me?...Do you mind?"
He didn't bother to answer. All he did was trying to dodge them, which turned out to be rather difficult. Leo had his problems moving on. He never realized how many people were in the streets at all times of the day. But then, he never really had had a reason to be out here alone after sunset.
Another person ran into him and he lost his grip. He rudely landed in the snow, just laying there for a few minutes; his eyes closed. He hardly recognized it. A fall like that should cause at least a little pain somehow... But Leo wasn't able to feel anything. Not the fall, not the cold ground, not even the snow his face landed in.
How could he have sunk that low? He'd had everything he ever dreamed of... And now, it was gone. It was as though history repeated itself again. He lost. As usual. How was he supposed to set this right? How could he return to normal, if there ever had been something like that?
Slowly he opened his eyes again.
"I've lost him...," he thought and his eyes began to fill with tears again. An overpowering pain shot through his entire body all of a sudden. Something coming from deeper within than he'd ever experienced before... And even now he couldn't stop thinking about him...
"I don't want this anymore," he thought desperately. This man would never change. Things like that were sure to happen again all over. He just knew. It didn't matter that he had been so very different lately. It was inside of him. Always... And it always would be...
"How stupid of me to fall for it...," Leo thought. "...and for him..."
It was almost like being shaken awake, when someone touched him.
"Oh my God, dear...Are you alright?" he heard an unfamiliar warm voice. A woman...? Leo turned slightly, but still everything appeared only blurred.
"Let me help you up," she said, lifting him up. "Gosh, you're freezing. You shouldn't be out here."
Just a few minutes later, Leo found himself sitting leaned on a window in a Diner not far from where he had been found by that woman.
"What the hell were you doing out there?" she asked, handing him a cup of steaming tea. Leo took a short look at it, then at her. Her blonde wavy Hair was tied to a ponytail. She now wore a white apron over a yellow dress and was still smiling at him with her bright blue eyes.
"You work here?" Leo asked silently, taking the cup out of her hands. "Thank you."
She nodded, while sitting down in front of him.
"It's one of three jobs actually," she answered, still smiling. "Yeah, I know... It's not the big life, but it's, well...mine. And what about you?... What were you doing out there? It's freezing cold..."
Leo just turned his head away again, not answering at all.
"I could be wrong...," he heard her say. "...but lying around in the snow in the middle of the city might not be the best idea ever."
He had to grin. Sure, one of many stupid ideas...
"What makes you think I'm not a homeless and this was just a trick to get someone near me and rob that person?" he asked in return.
"You don't exactly look like one," she answered. Judging the bewildered look on Leo's face, she added: "I have them here very often and no... No, you're certainly not one of them. And... well, I think I could have robbed you much easier out there...in your condition."
Leo rested his head in his hand and had to laugh. She certainly was right. Not, that he had cared much out there but he had to admit, it was much nicer sitting in the warmth of that Diner than strolling the streets alone. He looked outside again. People were still passing the window and he started to wonder where they were heading at this time. Surely, they've had a place to go...
"Oh, I know that look."
He turned to look at her again.
"What look?" he asked.
"Yours," it seemed nothing could wipe away that smile on her face, even though there was a hint of compassion in her eyes as well. "Only someone who's got his heart broken looks like that."
Leo was surprised. How did she do that?
"Well, then...," she said. "Who was she?"
Leo, while still a bit taken aback, stroke through his hair to loosen some of the wet strands which kept sticking to his skin uncomfortably. "She!... Oh sure...," he said more to himself, jeering.
"Did she kick you out?" she asked again.
Leo looked at her once more. Talking to a complete stranger was something he'd never dared to consider before, but there wasn't much he could lose now.
"No... I left."
He could feel her staring right through him.
"Oh, a marital fight... now that's bad," she replied.
Leo looked at her baffled, not moving a muscle for a moment. The he burst into a laugh. He just couldn't help it.
"What's so funny?" she asked surprised at his reaction.
"We weren't married... even so...," he answered.
"Not?" she asked. "Well, maybe that's your problem then." She laughed as well, tousling though his hair.
Leo shook his head. "I guess people just never change... And that's the problem... They remain dishonest and captured in their own bad selves."
"Oh my...," she looked away, thinking for a moment. "You've been hurt... I understand."
She nodded. "Oh yes... Look, the thing you gotta figure out now," she leaned forward to be closer to him. "...is why did you fall in love with her, if she was such a bad person..."
She winked at him once more and stood up. "Lemme know, if you need anything. You can stay as long as my shift lasts, which is the whole night," she smiled at him again and then moved into what seemed to be the kitchen-entrance, letting the old brown door swing bidirectionally.
Leo remained where he was and looked after her for a while. Then he stared down at his cup again, just watching the tea-leaves color the hot water brown.
That question echoed through his head... Why did you fall for him in the first place? He couldn't find the answer to that. Hell, he hadn't even noticed himself until recently. There must have been a reason...Or a day... Or anything. Why do people fall in love without having a choice? Or do they? He couldn't tell. But he felt that great sadness arising inside of him again. That emptiness... And the pain, thinking about never being together with him again.
'I hate you'...
The last words he said to him... Leo closed his eyes thinking about them. He didn't want to hate him, but he did... No... That was a lie and deep within he knew it. He loved him... He couldn't change it as well. It was as though wishing not to breathe anymore... He hated to hate him, yet in the glimpse of that thought he knew he hated to love him either...
Leo turned his head again and looked outside into the dark streets.
"What am I supposed to do?" he thought.
Roger knocked on the door of that office once more. Nothing. He looked at Carmen who stood next to him, shrugging. This just couldn't be. It was way past midnight. They simply must be here. He was so certain Max followed Leo into the office when they had run out of the theater. At least that was what he suspected.
He knocked again. Still no response.
"Should we just go in?" Carmen asked.
Roger looked at him, then nodded. All he wanted to do is to apologize for having been so harsh on Leo, but now this seemed weird.
He opened the door carefully and the both of them took a step inside. The office was dark and it didn't seem as though anyone was there.
"What are we doing here?" Carmen's voice sounded doubting. "We shouldn't be in here...They're not here."
Roger stopped, looking around. This was odd. He had never seen Leo getting that angry before and he knew for sure Max had been the only person to calm him down, but where could they have gone? Leo was scared of the dark. He knew.
"I was so sure to find them here," he said. Carmen wanted to answer something, but only opened his mouth without any sound coming out. Then he shrugged.
"Maybe...," he started, touching Roger's shoulder with one hand. "...Maybe, we should wait and see how they are tomorrow... I mean they will have worked this out by then, I'm sure."
Roger thought for a moment, then nodded.
"Maybe, you're right," he agreed. He linked arms with his partner and turned to leave again, when Carmen stopped him. Roger turned to look at him questioning, but Carmen kept staring into another direction until he suddenly jumped into the room once more.
"Oh my God," his voice sounded worried.
Roger turned to switch on the lights. He saw Carmen move towards the french window which stood entirely open. The slender man looked at him shortly and entered the balcony. Roger didn't waste another thought of what he might have seen there and followed him in wide steps.
It took some time to get used to the darkness outside and see properly. Luckily the lights from inside illuminated the black surrounding a little. He blinked once or twice before he was able to see the shape of Carmen in front of him. A cold wintery breeze crawled up his body, forcing him to pull his coat a little tighter.
He reached for Carmen, who stopped just a few inches in front of him.
"Darling?" he asked quietly. "What are we doing out here?"
Carmen suddenly jumped forward without paying attention to him.
"Jesus...Max!" Roger jumped after Carmen as soon as he saw where he went.
Max sat on a chair in a corner of the balcony, not looking up. He didn't move and had his face buried in his hands.
"Hey, what are you doing out here? It's freezing...," Carmen tried his best to sound soothing, yet Roger immediately noticed the anxiety in his voice. He couldn't even blame him. Seeing Max there was kind of worrying him as well; especially since none of them could tell how long he'd been out there in the cold.
Max didn't reply. He didn't even seem to notice them. He just sat there, his head leaned against his hands, his eyes closed.
"My God, Max...," Roger knelt down next to him and Carmen. "What...Max! Can you hear me?"
"Should I call someone?" Carmen asked and sounded as though he was panicking now, with his voice rising to a new level of high-pitched.
"No need to scream... I can hear you alright!"
Roger and Carmen whirled around. Max still didn't move, but he did answer.
"Are you alright?" Roger asked, grabbing his shoulders trying to force him to look at him.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Max lifted his head, yet just stared into space. He looked tired and worn out.
"How long have you been out here?" Carmen asked.
Max shrugged. "I don't know...an hour...maybe two...Doesn't matter..."
Roger and Carmen looked at each other enquiringly.
"What are you talking about? You... What happened?" Carmen asked.
"You've gotta come in... It's way too cold to sit out here," Roger interrupted. He put his hand on Max's back trying to make him move, but pulled it away just seconds later as Max whirled around pushing his arm away and got up as though something had bitten him.
"What do you want?" he asked harshly, looking from one to the other.
Roger stepped back but didn't turn his gaze down. Something was different... It was there...In Max's eyes and oh-so-clear in the way he stemmed himself against them; struggling not to let them into that hell of his own thoughts he did build around himself all the same.
Roger took a deep breath, not turning away. He swallowed his first surprise and started to speak again, trying to sound unimpressed.
Max's expression changed. He almost looked like a child for not even a second and the image of someone completely lost in the dark came upon Roger that instance.
Max turned his head away, staring to the ground.
Roger was pretty sure he'd never heard this man talk so quietly before.
"What do you mean...gone?" Carmen was the first to find his voice again.
"Just what I said," Max answered and stormed past them into the office. "He left and he's most likely not coming back."
Roger and Carmen followed him inside, observing him running up and down without really knowing what to do exactly.
"He...he left?" Carmen looked up to Roger, nearly whispering the question.
"Yeah, whatever...," Max must have heard it. He stopped and supported himself on the desk-chair nearby, lowering his head and closing his eyes.
"What?" Carmen didn't believe what he just heard. He finally managed to step away from his partner, daringly approaching Max. "Are you crazy?... Max! Leo's gone...and you? You don't care?"
Max only shook his head. "Why would I care?"
"I said why would I care?" He looked up to them again and Carmen was sure he'd never seen him this confused before. It seemed his mood was changing just about every minute and he seemed desperate. He'd never seen him like that... at least not as far as he could remember. Hell, he even stayed completely cool coming out of that hospital after that accident, but now... This was kind of scary. But before he was able to answer only one word, Max continued.
"I cannot put my whole effort into some kid who tries to have it his will all the time... There are more important things to focus on. And if he wants to leave...Fine! I won't stop him. At least there's no one in my way anymore... No silly childish habits I'll have to pay attention to and most certainly no one who'll blame me for anything anymore...," his voice grew louder with every word and he gestured a lot. Something neither Carmen nor Roger had seen him doing in a long time. He did his very best getting his face out of sight, either not wanting them to see it or not daring to look at them.
Roger now dared to step closer to Carmen.
"Max? ...What happened?...," he stepped closer until he would have been able to reach him in a heartbeat, yet he didn't touch him. "Max, you've been in the cold for quite a while... Are you sure, you are alright?"
"OF COURSE I'M NOT," Max shouted and lifted his head to look at him, startling Roger who almost jumped backwards. In surprise he noticed tears in Max's eyes.
"What do you expect?," Max continued and didn't take away his desperate gaze. "He's left... He...just went...After all we've been through. He won't come back like he did on that fountain...Or in that courtroom...Or even after what I've done the last time and ended up not recognizing him...He won't be there anymore. He's given me too many chances anyway..."
Roger was speechless. He heard the deep gasp of Carmen next to him and watched Max, who just now seemed to really understand what had happened himself.
"You...," Roger was the first to find his voice again. "You..remember?"
Max had lowered his head again, still leaning over the chair and sobbing quietly. He nodded almost indistinguishably.
Again Max nodded. "Everything!" he answered more calmly now. "But what good is it? It doesn't matter... Not in the slightest."
He lifted himself up and started to move through the office again.
"I cannot waste any more time. If this repeats over and over again, what am I supposed to do? I just can't roam the streets every other week and run into another car or whatever, just because he can't calm down. It's absolutely no point in talking some sense into that baby..."
"You remember Leo had left before?" Carmen asked. This all sounded so unbelievable.
Max moved towards the door and nodded without taking any further recognition of the couple standing in the middle of his office, not knowing what to do or say.
"Yeah, I know...," he said. "I know why I've been out there in the middle of the night. I know why I was roaming the streets and I know exactly where that car hit me... and more importantly...," he hesitated for a split second. "I know why... And that's nothing I want twice in my life, believe me. If he wants to act like the poor misunderstood victim...well, go ahead Leo Bloom! See, if I care...!"
He grabbed his coat and quickly put it on, moving yet closer to the door.
"You really wanna turn and just keep on going the way you always have?" Carmen didn't believe it. "Hiding behind that show? Not thinking about him anymore?..."
Max shook his head. "Forget what I said about that show... I'm out of this. It's not up to me to decide anymore..."
Roger and Carmen looked at each other questioning, before turning back on him.
"You mean the casting of Ulla?" Roger asked.
"Yeah... her and everything. I won't be part of this one... I didn't do anything and yet managed to ruin everything," he answered.
"Wh...Where are you going?" Carmen asked a little nervous, having watched him getting dressed and now reaching for the doorknob.
Max opened it and only turned to look at him once, while moving outside.
"I'm going after that kid...what do you think?" he answered desperately. "He's...afraid of the dark and can't be out there alone..."
Thus, he closed the door behind him. Roger and Carmen, being left behind, needed some time to get all of this straight. Then they looked at each other once more. Whatever happened here...it was crazy.
"My God...," Carmen whispered.
They both didn't waste another time and followed Max as fast as they could.
Leo had his head pressed against the window pane, watching the window getting steamy with his condensed breath. He was lost in his thoughts. He didn't know for how long he was sitting there already, but it didn't matter to him. He'd been watching the people outside for quite some time, for even at night the streets were never empty.
indeed never sleeps," he thought by himself. He tried to look up to the
sky but too many buildings were in his way. It was then he realized he
was never able to see a little further than his own eye level... And
maybe this was the whole problem.
"Maybe it was my fault then...," Leo thought. "Maybe he was right...and I was selfish all the time..." Mentally, he found himself back a lot of years ago. He was searching for a clue to prove his memory wrong, but actually there was nothing he could find. Why did he come back to Max after he explained that five-step-scheme to him? Because he saw his chance to follow his dreams just for once... Why didn't he leave after meeting all those obscure people who were unknowingly up to help them cheating their way through all of Broadway?... Because he knew that guy could lead him out of his own misery and open some new doors. All he had to do is go through them. Why didn't he waste another second when he heard what had happened with Max and ran back without hesitation?...Because he didn't know what to do without him...
Leo sighed. He couldn't find anything against this theory. It was really him being the selfish part. But why did he return to turn himself in then? He'd had everything... Money, a beautiful woman and Rio...
As hard as he tried he couldn't find an answer. It had never been for his personal advantage...Or had it? He just didn't know. Maybe it was more a proof; more like some sure-fire evidence he was a good person. But to whom? To himself? Why did he give that up? Maybe, because Ulla blamed him for feeling guilty? Maybe... But why did he feel that way? Could it be it wasn't just for himself?
"You're still here?"
Leo was shaken awake by that woman again. She stood in front of him with that smile she wore from the moment he first saw her. She carried a tray of dirty dishes and just collected the cup in front of Leo as well.
"I got a bit carried away, actually," he smiled back at her.
"Well then, it's very nice to see a smile on that sad face of yours for a change," she answered.
Leo looked at her a bit perplex. "Sad face, huh?"
He looked down again, but had to smile considering that notion. Most of his life people were referring to him as shy or anxious... But thinking about it, she was right. 'Sad' was a much better way to put it. It mirrored himself much better...Or at least he felt more associated with it.
"Yeah, but it's no wonder really," she said, sitting down for a moment.
She shook her head and her blonde pony-tail flew across her shoulders.
"I can only imagine what you have been through... And a heartache is never something one can put away that easily."
Leo sighed. "No. You're certainly right. But I was kind of thinking... About what you said earlier..."
"About why you fell in love with her?" she asked, looking at him with her big eyes.
Leo nodded. "Yeah."
"And did you figure it out?"
"Not really..." He only glanced at her from the corner of his eyes. "But it just won't let me be."
"Don't you know or don't you wanna see?"
Leo had not the slightest clue how she did that. Asking the right questions was a talent not many people possessed, but she certainly mastered a new level of asking.
He turned his head and looked at her again.
"I guess I don't want to see right now," he smiled. "It's been a bad argument. So, I am still trying to understand a few things myself."
"I see," she answered. "Well, did she change you?"
"Yes. Like...Your behavior, your way of thinking and of acting. Just the whole way you see the world now compared to before you knew her...," she asked, leaning on the table in front of her.
Leo had to think about it for a moment.
Did he? In a way, yes... No, who was he trying to kid here? Max changed everything. Leo never stood up for anyone including himself before. The city had been a huge scary place, before he showed him how great it could be to live in New York. Leo never had dared to scream at Max before... Even when he got to know him better it took quite some time before he even fantasized about admitting he thought differently in some situations... So, yes... He did change him in every way he could imagine. Why would he fall back in this old behavior pattern then?
Leo looked up with wide eyes. She was smiling at him.
"I thought so," she said softly. "You know, I always dreamed about not having to do this here..."
"Working as a waitress?"
"Yes. I wanted to try my luck as an actress coming here...But well, it never worked out," she said. "And then I met my husband...and he changed everything. I don't mind working here and in two other restaurants actually. As long as he is with me! So, I guess if someone changes your point of view it's kind of worth fighting for."
Leo still smiled at her. Maybe she was right. And he felt an amazing wave of admiration for her all of a sudden. If she could do it, even though she didn't manage to keep her dream alive, why did he drew in his horn? This was crazy. He'd after all achieved everything he's ever dreamed of. And maybe even a little more.
"Do you think I've been wrong all the time?" he asked her after some hesitation.
She shrugged. "I don't know... I know too little of you actually, but I guess mostly it's just about not understanding each other the way you should. You have to decide whether it's worth fighting for..."
Leo looked down. She was right. They had come so far... He never thought anything like it would happen anyway and Max reacted to him in a way he never dreamed of being possible. So, was it worth fighting for? … Yes! Yes!
"Yes," he said.
"Yes what?" She looked at him a little confused. Leo didn't even notice she couldn't follow his thoughts.
"Yes, you are right," he said and smiled. "It is worth fighting for..."
He jumped up and nodded towards her. She agreed by nodding back.
"Thank you," he said, handing her some money, but she just stared at him questioningly.
"What?" he laughed. "I told you I wasn't a homeless... I can pay for that here."
She took it and started to grin again. "Well, in that case," she put it away carefully. "Thanks a lot, Mr. Sad-Eyes!"
"I have to say thank you," he answered, shaking her hand. Then he turned and ran out of the cafe as quick his feet carried him.
She was left back flabbergasted and looked after him some time. Then she closed her eyes and smiled again.
"I don't even know your name," she thought and thus returned to clean the tables around her.
Roger and Carmen followed Max as soon as they got what was going on, yet still managed to let him go astray. When they left the backstreet and ran into the first bigger crossroad, they had no idea where he went, to say the least. They spent hours of walking through New York trying to trace him down, but slowly ran out of ideas.
"So, what do we do now?" Carmen asked, looking up to Roger who kept on looking around from time to time. "I've really no idea where else to search?"
Roger shook his head reluctantly.
"I don't know either," he answered. "And I'm honestly starting to doubt he knows where to search for him..."
"You think he's just wandering the streets?" Carmen asked.
"Probably... I'm pretty sure he knows some more places he could have vanished to, but I doubt Leo is anywhere there..."
"What makes you think that?"
"Because," Roger tried to explain his line of thoughts carefully. "Young Mr. Bloom is way too emotional. I highly doubt he thought of somewhere to go... just putting it he really sort of left without any further thinking."
"He showed up on our door before," Carmen replied.
Roger nodded. "Yes, but this time... Well, I don't know what exactly happened. He probably doesn't wanna show himself this time..."
Carmen looked straight ahead while he kept on walking. He thought about what Roger meant. Was this really such a serious thing? He tried to imagine what he would do. But he would never leave... at least not really. But then, he didn't know what happened either. And if it was true Max remembered everything again... well, then maybe it was something concerning a little more than just a fight. Then, maybe this was about finding out what he really wanted...
"He seemed so frightened...," Carmen murmured more to himself, thinking.
He looked up to Roger again, who kept looking ahead. Sometimes it felt like he could read his mind.
"Did I say that aloud?" Carmen blushed slightly and earned another nod from his partner.
"To reassure you, I also think I've never seen him that frightened," Roger explained. "I guess he noticed."
Roger stopped and smiled at the smaller man, who looked at him with big eyes.
"Noticed that as much as he tried to hide or pretend in the past and even as much as he manipulated his way through life always...there's one thing he cannot abandon just like that."
Carmen thought about it for a moment, then a smile started to spread across his face as well.
Again the older man nodded. "I guess... Max has made one major mistake... And that is letting Leo in his life... I guess he can't be without him anymore, even though his 'defensive measures' are still working."
"But he appeared to be fine with it while not remembering..."
"So what?" Roger asked. "Just imagine you don't recognize anyone... You are a stranger anywhere... and you feel kind of lost..."
Carmen listened closely.
"...And then...," Roger continued. "You fall in love... and all of a sudden everything comes back to you... Wouldn't you be scared too? It must feel like giving up a great deal of who you are."
"So, he really is in love then?" Carmen asked, but half expecting the answer already.
"I believe he was before too... But he just never admitted it to himself. Same thing with Leo...," Roger answered. "I guess it's that one dilemma everyone has to go through sooner or later."
Carmen nodded knowingly.
"Whether to allow yourself to love and take the risk of getting hurt...," he said looking straight into Roger's eyes.
"...Or deny it and live with the subliminal question of 'What if?' for the rest of your life," he continued Carmen's thought.
"It can be painful," Carmen nodded in agreement.
"Yes, it sure is. And I think he does realize Leo's important to him, but what he doesn't realize," Roger agreed. "... is that he will have to decide what he wants. It can't work the way it was..."
Carmen started to grin and kind of enjoyed the confused look on Roger's face, seeing it.
"Now I think I understand why Leo's left," he said. "... He's decided for himself."
Roger couldn't help, but smile as well. He flung his arm around Carmen and they continued walking through Manhattan as the first sunlight started to let the peaks of the huge buildings glow in a silvery light.
He kept on running...again. And just as before he had no clue at all where he should start to search.
"I cannot believe this happens twice in a lifetime," Max thought.
And yet, he felt he needed to do this. There was no understandable reason for it, he knew. And even though he didn't even know where Leo went, his feet were carrying him themselves. Just like an invisible hand grasping him and pulling him through the city. He looked at every face that passed him and felt even more worried recognizing none of those people were the person he was looking for.
And then a new feeling arose inside of him...As he suddenly stopped. Why the hell was he so worried? Leo was a grown man. And even though he acted like a child most of the time, he was perfectly able to stand on his own feet. He'd proven it...in so many ways over the last few months. And even before that... So why worry? There was absolutely no need to... And hadn't it been Leo who made his decision? He left. He hated him. He said so himself.
"Let me be...I hate you!"
Max started to shake thinking about it and closed his eyes.
It was true then. He knew... Even though he hadn't noticed in those past years, he noticed now. And this realization made it even harder to bear.
"I... I love him...," Max whispered to himself. And he meant it. It wasn't just a twist of fate occurring while he hadn't remembered anything... It was true. That's why he was so worried. He was about to lose the one thing that meant something in his life...
And as pathetic as it sounded in his head, he knew this was exactly how it was meant to be. He had to lose everything to realize what was important to him... Just to lose it again.
"Is this fair?" he thought. But then again life had never been fair. That was the very reason he had become the person he was...
"No, that's not true," he kept on thinking. "I was different. When I had no idea of how idiotic I always had been... I was a better person when...when he was with me... He's made life fair..."
The sound of squeaking wheels ripped him out of his inner monologue. It was so loud and and appeared to come closer. This was so familiar. Looking around his heart started to pound all of a sudden. Max turned and his eyes grew wider in shock. He saw the black car. It was so close. He heard people screaming on the streets; saw their panicked looks. And without really thinking he jumped forward...
Leo opened the office door too quickly. He heard the crashing sound it caused when it bumped against the wall with a slam. But he didn't bother to take a look. He would fix this later.
He hasted through every room, just taking a brief look., but Max was nowhere to be found. Damn it. Leo stopped in the middle of the office. His thoughts circled in his head. He wasn't there?! How could this be?
He shook his head slowly. "I know," he whispered. "It's my fault. I said despicable things..."
He never intended this. He had been selfish. And the worst thing was, he didn't even know why the pure mention of Ulla's name caused such a reaction in him. This was over. It had been long before... He felt so sorry for how he had reacted. But it seemed he didn't get the chance to set things right.
"I'm such a fool," he thought.
He had to find him. He had to tell him. If there was one thing he was sure of, it was this. He'd been unsure all his life. Even though there had been no reason to. And even after he'd gotten everything he'd ever dreamed of, he was full of doubts and wicked thoughts of 'what if'.
This had to stop! It just couldn't be... And if history really repeated again and again, he was convinced not to let this chance go to waste.
Leo started to move towards the door, barely noticing how his steps got quicker until he almost flew down the stairs of the corridor and ran out of the building. He was driven by one thought only:
There weren't too many places he could be. After all, the city was strange to him still. He knew no one, except the few theater people he got to know while being with him. He hurried down the streets, trying not to run into anyone approaching him. He rushed down one road and another...
This was insane. How should he know where to find him? Maybe he could ask for help... Roger and Carmen would be a good start. But then... He would have to explain a lot.
"Maybe I should have stayed in the office, just waiting," he thought as he finally stopped to catch a breath.
He whirled around. Someone called his name... He heard it clearly. This couldn't be...
was running towards him, closely followed by Carmen. Leo felt his heart
skip a beat. He had never been more grateful to see them and flung his
arms around Roger, who appeared to be a little surprised, but let it
"It's so good to see you here," he said, without thinking. "I need your help..."
Roger and Carmen nodded simultaneously. "We know..."
Judging the confused look on Leo's face, Carmen stepped to him as well.
"After your fight...," he started.
"They know?" Leo thought a little taken aback.
"... we went to check if you're okay and, well... only found Max...," Carmen continued.
"Yes, it went so wrong...," Leo admitted a little ashamed. "But that's the problem... I wanted to go back and...and can't find him anywhere..."
Carmen shared an omniscient look with Roger, knowing very well Leo must have seen it.
"He's...," Carmen started, but just hadn't the heart to tell him. So he just hesitated and tried to ignore Leo's frantic gaze.
"He's gone to search for you," Roger stepped in.
"He is?" Leo felt his heart beating faster. How could he do something as stupid as this? Why would he even do that? Just that moment Leo seemed to realize how wrong he had been. He shook his head as if to erase the thoughts which came into his mind.
"No... NO!," he suddenly said, looking up to his two friends again. "He can't wander here alone. Where does he wanna search anyway...he...He still doesn't remember anything..."
"Leo...," Carmen tried to calm him down, reaching out for him.
"I have to find him... Oh God, this is all my fault," a slight panic started to arise inside of him again. He recognized it, yet he felt unable to inhibit it.
"I have to find him...please, I need your help. I guess together it'll be a whole lot easier...Please!" He looked at the both of them desperately.
Carmen took a breath again to say something, but was interrupted by Roger, who put his hand on his shoulder to stop him from saying anything. Then he turned to Leo and nodded.
"Alright!" he said. "You think of any places he could search for you... and we'll split."
Leo nodded and the three of them parted to search in different directions. Roger and Carmen looked after him for just a moment, then turned to walk the other way, when they heard Leo's voice again.
"Thank you!" he yelled in their direction from afar. Roger smiled, as did Carmen. They looked at each other, knowing perfectly well what the opposite was thinking.
"You didn't tell him?" Carmen asked.
"No, I think it's not up to us..."
They smiled at each other, but were distracted from the horrible sound of squeaking wheels and the inconceivable loudness of a group of people gasping at the same time. They looked up, but didn't believe their eyes. Some people around started to scream. Others were just standing paralyzed.
Carmen started to run first, closely followed by Roger... None of them said a word anymore... It was as though everything around stopped breathing for a second...
Leo waved at Roger and Carmen and turned to keep on searching. He had never been more thankful for having friends like them in his life. After all he'd spent most of it alone and always thought he'd been just too weird to be among people. Only after he got to know Max and his world he felt accepted.
"I think I've never told them," he thought by himself, while crossing a street, finding himself at exact the same point again. No way led around it. That waitress had been right. And everyone before had been right... It was Max...Max, who changed this misery he had called his life. He had to find him... He simply had to...
But what was that?... He heard a squeaking noise somewhere close... And it was getting louder. He lifted his head walking across that street and saw that huge thing coming closer...And closer... Like a huge black shadow. It seemed like moving in slow-motion though. And there was this silence. All around him... Then there was someone screaming. Leo couldn't make out where it came from. And that shadowy thing was getting larger with every second. And its shapes were looming more and more.
Leo noticed this thought shooting through his head, but also noticed that know in his stomach that seemed to tighten with every inch that car came close. His heart sunk and felt like almost stopping to beat...
"Oh my...," he heard a little voice inside of his head and felt his eyes widening in shock.
He couldn't think properly and he couldn't move his feet. He heard the noise of someone jamming on the breaks, but it was like someone put his feet into solid stone. Unable to move he could only wait for the inevitable crash...
He felt a sudden tension on his whole body and lost the ground underneath his feet. He could feel his hair waving in the wind of what seemed to be a fall and something pulling on him... He had his eyes closed. Yet, he felt no pain at all...Nothing. This was so different from how he imagined it. It was a feeling of mere falling...nothing more. Soft somehow and comforting up to a certain amount...
But then he felt the brute impact of him landing on the hard stone street and felt his whole weight shaking through his body...
And there were screams again. He heard them clearly...
As he dared to open his eyes again, he saw that black danger drive past him, sounding its horn for everybody to hear. The driver was gesturing at him and people who stood nearby kept staring at him.
How could this be? He was sure it must have hit him... Yet, he lay a good distance away from all that on the curbstone of the walkway, not grasping it.
"Oh my God, are you alright?"
Leo whirled around. Next to him lay Max who, as well as himself, was covered in snow. He was looking at him worried, almost frightened, taking his face in his hands as if to stare into his soul.
Leo looked into those eyes and couldn't believe it.
"Leo?...Are you okay?" he heard him ask again.
He must have jumped...
"You... just... saved my life...," Leo's voice wasn't more than a mere whisper; his eyes still wide in shock.
"Never mind!" Max answered quickly. "What about you?"
He seemed so worried...so fearful. Leo couldn't remember having ever seen him like that. He looked into Max's face... This was so unreal, so bizarre somehow...
"You're bleeding," Leo said at once, pointing at Max's head. A thin red line was running down his temples, arriving at his cheeks. Max only shook his head, not taking his eyes away from him.
"I'm fine...Max...," Leo slowly came back to his senses. "You shouldn't have done that..."
"And what?" Max answered. "Let you die?... Is that what you think I would do?"
He still seemed desperate. "Leo...I...I've made that big mistake to lose you twice... It won't happen again..."
Leo didn't understand. "What...?"
"I've been an idiot... I know that now," Max was still looking straight into his eyes. "You were right. It had to be about me...always."
"No, I know it;" the desperation in his eyes was now in Max's voice as well. "I've been like that my whole life... I never thought anyone could change it. I've given up. A long time ago... And grew older without believing in such things anymore... I thought it wouldn't matter anymore...Until you stepped over my threshold. Shy little you...with that stupid ticket stub in your wallet..." He had to smile. A sad smile.
Leo's eyes grew even bigger. This couldn't be...
"And I noticed...this was it. This was the second chance I was hoping for since I was much younger... ," Max said. "And I hated it... For years..."
Max nodded. "I hated to be proven wrong. I've learned life wasn't fair... It never had been...And then came you... and made it exactly that. How could I not hate it? You know me better than anyone... Can't you imagine?"
Leo nodded and felt tears welling in his eyes. "You thought you'd have to give up...yourself?!"
"Yes...," Max touched Leo's face once more. ""But then...after all we've been through...after you gave yourself up...for me and went to jail with me, I started to re-think all of this..."
Leo didn't believe what he was hearing, looking at Max without daring to say anything.
"And...and accepted this... And I wanted to tell you... so many times before... and then I did ruin it ...again and you left..."
"And you followed me?" Leo was starting to understand.
Max nodded. "And this happened... And I ruined it again... So, how can I let you share the same fate?"
"Fate?" Leo had his problems collecting his thoughts.
"It seems...," Max said, holding Leo's face even closer to his own. "...Everything I ever did wrong is coming back to me anyhow... And if...if this all repeats...over and over again...If it is foretold or whatever... I can't let you be the one to suffer from it..."
"Max...," Leo tried to fight his tears back, but lost it and felt them running down his face. "You remember?..."
Max nodded slowly and his expression turned from desperate to sad.
"I know this sounds ridiculous... and I know it's hard to believe...but I know I would walk the same path all over again... Just to know you are at the end somewhere..."
He looked at Leo, who wasn't able to answer.
"And I am totally aware that it was the most rotten thing of me not to remember you," Max continued, sounding like he was about to sob as well. "But I am thankful for everything... Everything you did...and everything that happened... For I know now...And I had my eyes closed to it for so long...," he took a deep breath. "But... I would fall for you all over again... No matter how often this repeats."
This was too much. Leo flung his arms around Max, not caring about how the both of them must look...lying there in the snow on the ground, while he was crying frantically.
"I am so sorry," he whispered into Max's ear, while Roger and Carmen approached from behind.
"I promised you not to go away...And I won't...,"Max answered silently.
The weeks passed quickly and everything almost returned to normal for the both of them again. Max was his usual self...sometimes grumpy, sometimes moody and always loud. But Leo saw beyond that now and he knew Max would never let this side show when he was with him. He noticed so many times how he tried to pull himself together, no matter how hard a day went. He was kind and caring whenever Leo was in the same room with him.
As for Leo... He had a lot more to do lately and enjoyed those quiet moments with Max alone.
For Max had kept his word. He had pulled himself out of production ...at least for that one show. It was up to Leo to do it...and only him. He felt very grateful for that opportunity, even though he was a little scared of it as well. But he knew Max was there, even if he wasn't in the theater. He would always help him out, whenever he had questions or got stuck somewhere. And Max giving something like this away to someone else was the greatest evidence of his words being true; Leo knew for sure.
And even though it was weird to know he'd have to work with Ulla again, he managed to get on with it in a very professional way...Just as Max had predicted.
She would come to him once or twice, trying to flirt around him, just like she did before. But Leo simply ignored it.
"Why Bloom don't talk nicely to Ulla again?" she once asked.
Leo grinned at her and simply answered: "You are very nice. But I'm afraid I'm not interested anymore."
"Because Bloom is with Mr. Bialystock now?" she asked.
Leo was a bit surprised at this notion, yet nodded without the slightest hesitation.
"Yes," he answered. "Yes, I am."
"Ulla knew," she answered.
But after that things went quite well. Leo had never really been sure, if Ulla understood everything properly, yet this time she seemed to have gotten it perfectly. And Leo noticed... maybe for the first time in his life... he wasn't scared to admit it. Not at all... All doubts that had been there before were gone.
Roger and Carmen asked him as well while he was working in the theater during rehearsals.
"Are you alright?"
"Yes, we're fine," he smiled.
"And are you sure this is what you imagined?" Roger asked, while Carmen simply smiled back at him.
And again he nodded. "Yes, it is..."
The show became a huge success. Not only did the audience and critics love it just the same... it was new, fresh and so much different from the usual works they had produced in the past... but also Leo felt something he had never dared to feel before. He was proud... Proud of having accomplished something in his life, he never had thought he was capable of.
After the opening night, people went crazy with talking to him about it. He was the center of attention. But actually, there was only one opinion he was eager to hear...
Max stood in a corner, having watched the whole show from the mezzanine for a change and hadn't said much the whole evening. When Leo approached him, smiling slightly, he started to grin.
"It's really good," he said and ruffled through his hair. "I guess we've reached that point now..."
Leo looked a bit confused.
Max sighed and hesitated a moment, turning his gaze away from the younger man.
"The moment you don't need me anymore...," he said and seconds later stretched out his hand towards Leo. "Congrats," he smiled. "That's what you wanted to achieve, isn't it?"
It wasn't meant in a sarcastic way. Leo knew his words were true. Yet, Max turned and left the theater shortly after that.
Max arrived in the office...their office to be exact... and slowly climbed up the stairs of the hallway until the door saying "Bialystock & Bloom – Theatrical Producers" appeared in front of him.
He looked at it for a moment and started to smile.
"Look, how far you've come," he thought. "Little shy Leo... You've really managed to make your dreams come true."
He opened the door and stepped inside. It was dark when he carefully closed it behind himself again, searching in the darkness for the switch.
But when the light illuminated the room he couldn't believe his eyes. He stood there as if turned to stone, his gaze wandering through the whole room.
There were thousands of bunches of red roses spread everywhere. On the desk, on the floor, even on the leather couch. He looked around slowly.
"What the...?" escaped from his mouth. He couldn't grasp it. And in the very same moment he could hear the office door closing again quietly, as footsteps came closer.
Max didn't move.
He felt someone leaning against him and knew in an instance it had to be Leo. He closed his eyes and smiled.
"What's this about?" he asked without opening his eyes again.
Leo leaned forward, hugging Max from behind; snuggling close to him.
"I just wanted to let you know," he said.
"Let me know?" Max opened his eyes again and turned his head slightly to look into the brown loving eyes of the man that meant so much to him.
Leo moved closer, kissing him softly; leaning his head to Max's.
"...That I will always need you..."
Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, LobbyLaneWrite a Review