I sat by the fire, leaning toward the warmth and staring as snowflakes sifted past the dark window. Max sat on the floor next to me, watching the flames and his own thoughts. The blue hair is gone, shorn free when it got too burdensome to maintain. His hair is now so short that it gives him a military look, or possibly thug. It's not Max, whatever it is, and he cannot wait for it to grow out.
"I love you," I said.
"I don't love you," he replied. Joking/not joking.
Max has a capacity for truth telling that can startle. He notices random things and does not have the impulse control to leave them unsaid. He was the one who let me know my hair color wasn't good. Sometimes it's a hard gift to appreciate.
I looked at him, sprawled on the floor, one giant foot reaching out to poke the cat. He is mostly a man now, and not just physically either. I represent to him his greatest frustration - the tug of war between freedom and safety. He wants to be more unfettered than he's ready for. He doesn't want the prices for his choices to be even as high as they already are. He does not know where to put his foot sometimes, and so he stomps and bellows.
He sighed, slid down to his back to stare at the ceiling.
"I do love you," he muttered.
I felt the heat off the fire and looked out at the snow.