All in Time – Chapter 1
All in Time
A Life is Strange Story by OuTsYdeR
Max’s eyes opened slowly, a smile creeping across her face. Chloe lay mere inches away, on her side, propped up on an elbow, a smile on her lips as well.
“Good morning, sleepyhead.” Chloe said, the dim morning light shining through the window catching her hair, creating an ethereal blue halo effect.
“Good morning.” Max replied in a slightly raspy voice. She rubbed her eyes and blinked a few times before taking Chloe’s hand in hers. “Is that coffee I smell?” Max asked, as excitedly as possible considering she’d just woken up.
“You know it!” Chloe replied. “I know how grumpy SuperMax gets when she hasn’t had her caffeine fix.”
Max’s eyes lit up. “Oh my god, you’re the queen!”
“Yeah, I know… You said the same thing last night.” Chloe said with an impish grin.
“Oh, shut up!” Max said, before whipping the pillow from beneath her head and hitting Chloe in the shoulder with it.
Chloe sprang up from the bed with a giggle. “C’mon, up and at ‘em! Time marches on, or some crap like that.”
Max couldn’t remember the last time Chloe seemed so happy, so chipper, so…content with life. She smiled at her better half as she forced herself up out of bed. “I love you, Chloe.” It felt so good to say that out loud. Not that it was exactly a secret. It’s just that their relationship started on some pretty shaky ground, what with having to save Chloe’s life on numerous occasions and all.
“Do you, now?” Chloe responded, arching a brow.
“Then, why did you let me die?”
“What…?” Max’s stared at her, confused.
“You heard me. You just hid and cried while I bled out.”
Max’s brain felt like it was swirling in her head. She felt nauseous. It was coming back to her, all of it. What had she done?
“You fucking killed me, Max!” Chloe’s voice trailed off, becoming more and more distant, until…
Max’s eyes flew open. She sat up quickly, panting to catch her breath. A quick swipe of her hand confirmed that a trickle of blood was coming from her nose. The nausea from the dream was also here in reality. It had been months since she last used her power, but she was still plagued by the nightmares, the occasional headaches, and, yes, the nosebleeds. Whatever damage she had fixed in the fabric of time and space, had not yet been mended in her mind or body. She turned toward the night stand and picked up her phone. Pulling the charger cord out, the screen lit up, revealing that it was 3:29AM. There was no way she was going back to sleep after that. She’d just have to look forward to being a zombie at work today.
God dammit, Max. She thought to herself. This town is still standing because of you. You did the right thing, what Chloe wanted you to do.
She recited this same speech, or some variation of it, to herself nearly every single day. It did little to comfort her. Deep down, she knew it was true, of course. She’d seen ‘The Wrath of Khan’, she knew that the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few (or the one). Still, dreams like the one she’d just had teased her with a glimpse of what might have been. She laid back down and closed her eyes, defiantly. Trying to will herself back to sleep. It didn’t work.
Her alarm went off just as the first signs of sunlight were beginning to filter through the blinds. Max rolled over, twisting her body once again toward the night stand, tapping the ‘Ignore’ button on her phone screen to silence the evil, shrill siren. She stretched with a long yawn before pushing herself up out of bed. So tired; partially from lack of sleep, but mostly from the crying. Crying, she found, was absolutely exhausting. She let out a heavy sigh, resolving for the third day in a row to remember to buy some sleeping pills.
A quick check of her phone, where she found that Warren had tagged her in several Facebook posts, and she crossed the rug in front of her bed and into the bathroom. After using the loo, she stood in front of the mirror, dreading the impending sight. Keeping her eyes on the sink, she turned on the faucet and splashed some cold water on her face before gathering the courage to bring her gaze up to her reflection. The dark circles under her eyes were getting worse. No amount of makeup was going to fix this. Simply too many nights with too little sleep. In fact, she hadn’t gotten a full night’s sleep since Chloe was shot. The fact that Nathan Prescott and Mark Jefferson were now behind bars gave her little solace.
A chill ran down her spine as she began to reflect on how she got here. Eight months ago, two days after Chloe’s funeral, Max dropped out of Blackwell Academy. There was no way she would be able to focus on her coursework after everything that had happened. Besides, her main reason for going to Blackwell was Mr. Jefferson, who turned out to be fucking lunatic. She had thought about moving back to Seattle. That probably would have been so much easier. Her parents would have comforted her as best they could, not to mention given her shelter, food, the necessities. But, something, some unknown force of nature, compelled her to stay in Arcadia Bay. Maybe she just didn’t like the idea of running away from Chloe’s memory. Maybe it was some sort of messiah complex, seeing as how she had practically saved the town from destruction. But, who was she kidding? Chloe sacrificed herself to save the town. In the end, Max was the one being selfish, and Chloe Price the selfless one. Who would’ve ever thought? Chloe was the hero, and the one who actually had super powers was, well, powerless. Whatever the cause, she had decided to stay. Joyce had managed to get her a job at the Two Whales. It didn’t pay much, but it was enough to afford a one bedroom dwelling in the shit-tastic Ocean View Apartments. The landlord said that you can see the lighthouse from the window of her second story unit, but Max never tested this assertion. She kept the blinds closed at all times, never wanting to set eyes on that damned lighthouse ever again.
Snapping out of her thoughts, Max quickly brushed her teeth, brushed her hair, and started getting dressed. Hopping around on one foot, she searched for her other shoe. It was under the bed, as always. How do they keep getting under there? She wondered, as she reached beneath the bedframe and box spring to retrieve it. Sliding on her wayward left shoe, she grabbed her phone from atop the mattress and pressed the sleep/wake button. “Shit!” She exclaimed, seeing the time. “Joyce is gonna kill me if I’m late again!” She very briefly considered reversing time, if it would help save her job. But, the thought left her mind as soon as it had entered. She was never using that god-awful curse again. As quickly as she could, she pocketed her phone, snatched up her keys and messenger bag, and headed out the door, locking it behind her.
Exiting her apartment building to begin the fifteen minute trek to the Two Whales, it was quickly apparent that the air was colder than Max had expected. She immediately regretted not throwing on a coat, but decided that she was running too late to go back for it. The wind was blowing in from the west, carrying the crisp smell of sea salt from the coast. I got that sodium chloride bluuuuues. Meanest blues of ‘em alllll… She sang to herself, in her head. She deftly side-stepped her neighbor Mrs. Washington, who was out walking her dog, as per usual this time of morning, and opened up her messenger bag. The former home of her camera hadn’t seen its Polaroid partner in some time, now. In its place now dwelled what most would consider “normal purse stuff”. After rifling through its contents for a moment, she pulled out three items. Sunglasses, an insomniac’s best friend, which she quickly slipped on over her tired eyes. A pack of cigarettes, and a lighter. Popping one of the Camel Blue 99’s between her lips, she struck the orange Bic and brought the flame to the end of the cigarette, inhaling deeply before tossing the pack and lighter back into her bag and fastening the buckle. It was, even in her own words, a “gross” habit. She’d never smoked or drank before the week that never happened, followed by the week from hell. Not that Chloe’s smoking had influenced her at all. Just, after losing her, Max needed something to calm her nerves. Picking up some new vices seemed to do the trick.
Of course, she had tried alternatives. She’d actually gone to church with Kate a few times, after Chloe’s funeral. But, she just couldn’t bring herself to believe in a deity that would make anyone go through the things that she and Chloe, and even Kate, had. Granted, it was people, not some higher power, which had put Kate through hell. But, if God did exist, and had imbued Max with her “gift”, only to then punish her for using it to save Chloe’s life, then God was a fucking asshole.
Taking one last drag from her cigarette before flicking the butt into the parking lot, Max arrived at the back entrance to the Two Whales diner. She exhaled one last cloud of smoke before turning the knob and stepping inside. The smell of grease, food, and coffee hanging thick in the air made her want to vomit. The breakfast rush was already starting, and she was met almost immediately by a slightly more than slightly angry Joyce Price. “Joyce, I’m so sorry I’m late… again.” “Oh, Max,” Joyce replied. “I know you don’t have a car, but you need to start leaving the house earlier. I recommended you for this job. That makes you my responsibility.” “I know.” Max said with a genuine frown as she took off her sunglasses and slipped them back into her bag. “I’m really…” “Maxine Caulfield…” Joyce interrupted, noticing the ever growing dark circles beneath the eyes of a gaunt face. “You look like you haven’t slept or eaten in days! I want to talk to you after work. But, right now, get your apron on and get out there. I’m not waiting all these tables by myself.” She gave Max a reassuring smile and gently grasped her shoulder. For her part, Max returned the smile, even if half-heartedly.
The day went about like all days go working in a restaurant, Max imagined. She was becoming a real pro at hiding her feelings, her issues, in front of her customers and coworkers. Joyce was the only one who could ever see through the façade, and now she was standing in front of her, near the back booth, closest to the jukebox. “Have a seat, Max.” Joyce said, her voice gentle but unwavering. Max took a seat in the booth, and Joyce did the same. “What’s going on with you, Max? I hate to sound like David here, but is it drugs?”
“No…” Max responded, turning her gaze out the window.
“Come on, Max, let me in. Like it or not, I’m the closest thing to a parent you have here in Arcadia Bay, and I’m genuinely concerned.”
“I can’t sleep.” Max said, still staring listlessly out the window. “Lack of sleep makes me nauseous, so I can’t eat full meals. I just have little snacky-snacks throughout the day.”
“Is this… Is this because of Chloe? I know it had to be hard, seeing her for the first time in five years at her wake.”
Max’s attention turned back to the conversation and her eyes met Joyce’s for the first time in as long as she could remember. She hadn’t really been expecting that question, although she probably should have. Should I tell her? She thought. I mean, I guess I have to tell someone. It can’t be healthy to keep this all to myself. Maybe I’ll just skip the part where I can reverse time…
“Joyce, I never told you this, and I feel kinda dumb for not saying anything before, but… Chloe and I…reconnected…About a week before she got shot.”
“Really?” The look of surprise on Joyce’s face was quite earnest. “Why didn’t I ever see you around?”
“Well, you know how Chloe is…was… She never liked to spend much time at home.”
Joyce nodded in agreement. “I suppose that’s true enough. Especially when David was at home.”
“Right,” Max continued. “Anyway, we spent a lot of time together that week, and… Well, I think… No, I know. We fell in love.”
Joyce’s expression turned from stoic to shocked, instantly.
Max could tell that this wasn’t going well. The stunned silence seemed to go on forever, even if it was, in reality, only a few moments. Faced with the choice to either keep talking or let the silence take over, she nervously continued. “Or at least I fell in love… I’m pretty sure Chloe felt the same way.” Joyce’s expression then went from shock to empathetic sadness. A frown crossed her lips as a tear made its way down her cheek. She reached across the table and took both of Max’s hands into her own. “Oh, Max. I’m so sorry…”
Next Chapter: Cradle by the Sea