The spring wind carried itself in from the shores of Arcadia Bay and across the streets of the quite town. The warmth of the morning sun could be felt on the faces of the town’s early risers; the students of Blackwell Academy heading to the cafeteria for breakfast before class, the fishermen preparing to set sail for a long day of catching their livelihood, and the workers driving into the lumber mill while hearing the sound of the horn signifying the beginning of their shift.
As the locals of the small town maintained their daily routines, one former resident of Arcadia Bay was driving in from Seattle, signifying the beginning of her yearly visit to the place she had once called home and still believed that it was so. 24 year old Max Caulfield drove through the streets of her hometown while glancing at the homes, parks, and businesses of the community, reminiscing about how many times she had walked its streets.
Max pulled her car into the parking lot of the Two Whales Diner and smiled at how the place looked the exact same as it did every year she visited. Even though business in the town had steadily been picking up over the past few years and bringing in out of town competitors, namely in the restaurant business, the small diner that Max had been eating at since she was a little girl had never had to worry about the competition as the townspeople maintained strong ties with each other and their locally owned longstanding businesses.
Upon entering the diner, Max was greeted with the familiar smell of bacon and maple sausage. She remained standing for a moment and admired all of the customers trying to catch their morning coffee and food before carrying on with their daily lives. She looked at the two police officers sitting at the counter enjoying their coffee and pastries while deep in conversation. She drew her eyes to her left to three truckers sitting at a booth laughing in front of their finished plates. She scanned the room and the nameless faces of the diner’s patrons until she finally settled her eyes to the far right side and walked towards the old juke box that sat along the wall not playing any music; as she walked closer she saw that a note had been taped to it that read “out of order”. She sighed but knew that it was no surprised considering that the thing had been sitting in its exact same spot playing music since before she was born.
Giving up on the hopes of listening to some hit classics; she found herself a booth with a view of the street and quietly took a seat. She stared out at the vehicles and pedestrians passing by but had taken more into account at how beautiful the day was becoming as she scanned the blue skies, unlike in Seattle where it rained almost every day.
“Max?” said the voice of a woman.
As she turned her attention from the outside she instantly recognized the approaching waitress as Joyce Madsen. Max stood up to great her, sharing a warm embrace as if it were between a mother and daughter. Max stepped back and looked at the face of the lady whom she had known since she was a child. Joyce still possessed the sweetest smile that made everyone she met feel at ease and she still kept her diner uniform spotless as if it were brand new.
“Max Caulfield,” she greeted as if she were a long lost friend, “I was wondering when you would arrive today.”
“Hey Joyce,” Max replied cheerfully, “it seems now would be the answer.”
“Oh dear, all the way from the big city? You must be exhausted.”
“Nothing that some coffee can’t fix.”
They smiled at one another as Joyce had Max take a seat and fetched her some coffee. She had never had much of a taste for it up until a couple years ago when she had to do sunrise shoots for National Geographic whom she had been working for at the time. Joyce returned with a fresh pot and a menu. As she stood there filling up a cup Max stared up at her and had noticed at how the sun was shining in through the windows on her, making her glow, also making Max had wished that she had not left her camera inside the car.
Joyce and Max talked for a bit before she had to return to the other costumers. She spoke about how life in Seattle was still going good, how she was doing working for a local outdoors magazine, and how she had a spot in an upcoming gallery display in autumn. Joyce mentioned how she and David were doing; last year she had spoken in depth about their vacation in Hawaii and how they were now taking more road trips up and down the coast. As glamorous and perhaps as exciting their lives had become there was nothing in the world that mattered more to them than their lives in Arcadia Bay; Max had even spoke often on how she intended on buying a home in town for when she visited, but until such time Joyce had always insisted that she spend the night at her and David’s place.
Max had sat quietly and enjoyed her breakfast while Joyce made her rounds. Before she paid for her meal she mentioned that she had to head to Blackwell academy to make her appearance to the seniors in photography class as she did every year. The opportunity to sit and discuss her life in professional photography with aspiring students came to her 3 years ago when she had been sitting at the diner during her yearly visit and Joyce had introduced her to Blackwell’s photography teacher Mrs. Shapeton. As they spoke, Shapeton became so interested in Max’s work with National Geographic that she wanted to give the students a chance to get a perspective from a professional. At first Max reluctantly agreed as her annual visits were not for such activities but after the first class she became more eager to offer every year as she enjoyed the time with the students.
After parking her car Max made her way through the courtyard of Blackwell Academy. The school had still looked the same since she graduated and she was happier for it as she enjoyed how every familiar thing from the court benches to the lockers had brought back so many memories. As she made her way to the principal’s office, she was greeted by a grey bearded Principal Ray Wells.
“Max, it’s so lovely to see you,” he greeted gleefully, “I had almost forgotten that it was that time of the year again.”
She asked if David Madsen, Joyce’s husband and head of Blackwell’s security was around as she was hoping to say hi, however he said that he was patrolling the dorms at the moment but that if she wished he could notify him; she declined, knowing that she would see him later that afternoon regardless when he and Joyce were both off work.
After both had agreed not to keep the class waiting any longer, Wells escorted Max to Mrs. Shapton’s photography class. For the next three class periods Max spoke with the senior students about what it was like to be a professional photographer, its challenges especially when you are first starting out and you are trying to get your work noticed, and the success you feel when you finally land a big break.
After Max had finished up for the day, she looked at her watch and noticed that it was time for her to head out for what she had come to Arcadia Bay to do, and so she hopped in her car and made her way to the lighthouse on the cliff overlooking the town. Once she had arrived she walked the trail leading towards the lighthouse and stood at the cliff staring out over the town and the Pacific. Every year she would come to the lighthouse and would recollect on all of the wonderful and painful memories that she had on that spot. Images of a time that no longer existed would creep into her mind. She remembered standing there as the tornado closed in on the town, her best friend Chloe Price by her side. It was this very spot in an alternate time that Chloe had asked her to make the most difficult decision of her life. The choice to travel back in time to where it all began, to the moment that Nathan Prescott had shot a killed Chloe, and to allow it to happen had been difficult to bear for the months that had followed as they came with nightmares, loss of interests and appetite. It had taken Max quite some time to recover. She thought of the times when she had wanted to go back and save Chloe all over again, to try something different, anything that would save both her and the people of Arcadia Bay, but then she would always know deep within herself that no matter what she did or how hard she tried she could not save them both, and she knew that Chloe was right, one life was not worth the lives of everyone in that town. Max had never attempted to manipulate time since that unforgettable day; she honestly had no clue if she even possessed the power any more, nor did she ever want to find out.
As she sat on the bench located at the lighthouse she heard the familiar sound of her cell phone notifying her that she had received a text message. The message was from Joyce telling her that David had gotten off work early and that she was at their home getting ready; Max texted that she would meet them at the Arcadia Bay Cemetery.
Max sat in her car outside of the cemetery and tried to put her mind on other things but it was difficult; this was never an easy day for her or Joyce and David, but she kept reminding herself that today was not a day for mourning but for celebration; after all it was the 11th of March and it was Chloe’s birthday. After Joyce and David arrived she greeted David with the same hug that she had given his wife. She imagined that David had suffered a difficult kind of loss when it came with Chloe as neither of them had ever gotten along and that he had never had the chance to form a bond with her.
The three of them walked in silence through the graveyard until they had made it to Chloe’s final resting place. Max had taken notice that the lawn had recently been mowed, which gave her relief that the caretaker had kept up with the landscaping as soon as the last of the snow had melted away a couple of weeks ago. As they stood there in silence Joyce lit a small candle and placed in at the foot of Chloe’s grave. Max read the words on the tombstone every year she came.
Chloe Elizabeth Price
March 11th 1994 – October 7th 2013
“No mother or friend could ask for such a greater gift than you,
And now you rest forever in our hearts”
Max felt the tears begin to swell and stream down her face gently as a lovers hand and the unforgettable feeling of loss rose within her. With Joyce kneeling in front of Chloe’s tombstone, she whispered the words “Happy birthday sweetie” and began to cry in silence. As she stood Joyce put her arms around both Max and David and they stood there for what felt like an eternity to all of them. Several minutes passed before the feeling of a light wind disturbed the silence at which point they began to make their departure. Max told them that she would join them in a moment. She thought about the blue butterfly that had been present the day Chloe had died and what she felt like was the same one the day they buried her. Every year the exact same colored butterfly would appear at Chloe’s grave, and today left Max a little confused and slightly disheartened that it was nowhere to be seen.
Max wanted nothing more than to talk to Chloe, to hold her and tell her how much she had loved her. She then whispered “I love you Chloe” before taking her leave, however just as she began to depart movement had caught her eye to her left; she looked at her shoulder and to her joy she saw a blue winged butterfly. The area where the butterfly laid felt warm as if it were some ones hand. Max smiled as the butterfly flew off her arm and circled her before finally disappearing around a nearby tree.
“Until next year” Max said, and she made her way out of the cemetery.