A N D Y
I inhale deeply, my eyes skimming the sea of heads in the little cafe. Max stands, her dark curls bouncing around as she waves at me from a table at the back. I motion to the coffee counter, but Max waves me over.
“I’ve got coffee,” she breathes, her lower lip trembling as I near her. I swallow down the lump in my throat, sitting down before she can hug me. Disappointment flickers in her eyes, her lips parting as she sinks into the chair in front of mine.
“Thanks,” I smile, hitching my jeans up my thighs to allow for comfort before lowering myself into the seat.
“Andy,” Max begins, her hands wrapping around the mug in front of her. She looks good, but recent events have taken her out of any romantic future I have. She pushes her hair behind her ear, her apologetics eyes meeting mine. “I’m so sorry.”
My arms are folded, and I try to relax my tense posture.
“Hey, none of this was your fault,” I say, glancing around the room. “It was just bad timing, and bad fucking people. Are you alright?”
“Yes, I’m fine.”
“Your sister Frankie is lovely, she’s a good friend of mine now,” I add, lifting my coffee to my lips. “Don’t think I’ll ever be invited round for dinner, but you know what I mean.”
Max smiles faintly, her cheeks flushing.
“Thankyou for seeing me. I didn’t think you would,” she sucks in a deep breath, before sending me one of her stunning smiles.
“Max, I don’t have a problem with you.”
“I couldn’t defend you because I didn’t remember anything,” Max chokes out, moving her shining eyes to her mug of coffee.
I knew this already. I’d been in close contact with Frankie, who swore her sister Alex was lying. Up until my ex-girlfriend's arrest, I didn’t know why I was involved at all. Hayley was insane. I just didn’t get why her sister said she couldn’t remember anything. I shake the thoughts out of my mind, focusing my attention on Max.
“I know. It doesn’t need to be discussed, Max. I’ve got no record, I’ve moved cities. I’m hoping this will all be a bad memory one day.”
Max nods, biting down hard on her lip.
“Cain and Frankie always believed you.”
“Who would have thought that?” I laugh, sipping my drink. It's lukewarm now, but I drink it anyway. “Are you and Cain still seeing each other?”
Max nods, and smiles, from her eyes to her mouth. Her eyes shine, but not from tears, her head rests on her hands as she gazes at me. I try to ignore the sinking in my chest, or the way I had felt with her in my arms.
“We’re giving it a go, yeah.”
Cain was a man, a real lock, stock and two smoking barrels kinda man. He was also a genuinely great guy, and I owe him a lot. I couldn’t think of anyone better for Max, which pained me to admit.
“I’m happy for you,” I manage, hoping I’m believable.
Max leans back in her chair, a look of relief on her face. She studies me, before clearing her throat.
“Thank you. He thinks highly of you.”
I drop my gaze then, reminding myself that Cain deserves Max. It doesn’t matter that she still makes my palms sweat, or I desperately want to kiss her. I’m not the right man for her. Plus her family would come after me with pitchforks.
“Max, I can’t stay,” I swallow, as her eyes sadden. “I hope things work out between you and Cain. When I’ve sold the house I won’t be back this way anymore.”
Max reaches over the table, gripping my hand in hers.
“You didn’t deserve any of this. I’m so sorry.”
I lean forward, my thumb caressing her warm cheek, now wet with tears. I can feel her pain and confusion. The guilt. It isn’t fair that she is a victim too.
“Keep in touch if you want,” I force a smile, dragging my hands away from her. “Maybe throw me an invite to your wedding, huh?”
Max scoffs, but her eyes light up. Cain Harvey was a fucking lucky bastard.
“Frankie thinks the world of you,” Max whispers as I raise myself out of the chair.
“She’s a good person,” I smile, meeting her eyes. “But she isn’t you. Goodbye, Max. Thanks for the coffee.”
Why? Why did I say that?!
I leave the coffee shop, my emotions clouding my vision. I knew that Max was special, but I also knew I couldn’t have her. She belonged with Cain. Once outside, I take a lungful of air, walking back towards my car.
Despite everything, I’d realised something important. The world keeps on spinning, even if it stops for you momentarily. Even when I was at my lowest in that cell, I had to keep believing that I’d be out of there one day, walking down the street and smiling at strangers.
It’s funny how people like Cain come through for you at your darkest hour, despite the fact I stood in his way with Max. There were good people in the world.
My mind moves back to Hayley, and I shudder. The fact that she was behind all of this didn’t surprise me. I hope they lock her up and throw away the key. That woman was vicious.
As for Yan- I’d never met the man, and he had almost taken my life from me. I hope I never see him, or I will be serving time.
The sister perplexed me though. Alex. Frankie was her twin- and she had told me she was lying. Maybe she was a friend of Hayley’s- who knows. But one thing was for sure, I’m keeping away from The George family.
I just hope I can.