All in Time – Chapter 2

All in Time

A Life is Strange Story by OuTsYdeR

Chapter 2
Cradle by the Sea

 

The conversation with Joyce had gone better than expected. She’d even shared the secret to how she remained so strong while Max was fraying at the edges; Lexapro, Xanax, and lots of therapy. She even gave Max her psychiatrist’s business card. She also expressed how glad she was that Chloe was happy in the week before her untimely demise. Except that it never happened. Max thought to herself, with a frown. She was suddenly overcome with yet another wave of regret for not having contacted Chloe when she first got back to Arcadia Bay. Maybe they could’ve been truly happy together, at least for a while. Maybe she could’ve prevented the events that led up to Chloe’s attempted blackmail of Nathan…

Stop it! You can’t change the past, Max. Well, actually, you can, but you already know how that story ends. She admonished herself as she turned the key and twisted the doorknob to enter her apartment. She had forgotten to go to the drugstore again. Or, rather, she remembered, but was simply too tired to deal with it. Letting out a long sigh, she dropped her things onto the floor right next to the door before closing it and locking it back behind her. She immediately went into the bathroom, took off her gross work clothes and got into the shower. When you work in a diner, you shower AFTER work, not before. She could literally feel the greasy film being washed off of her skin and hair as she scrubbed.

Stepping out of the shower, she grabbed what turned out to be her last clean towel from the wire shelf in the corner of the small bathroom. After drying off, she threw on an old pair of shorts and a tee shirt, and put her hair up in a ponytail. She was momentarily surprised at just how long her hair was getting. She hadn’t gotten it cut since the week from hell. Feeling slightly rejuvenated from her shower, she decided that she should probably take at least one part of Joyce’s advice and try to eat something. Exiting the bathroom and stepping through the bedroom, she made her way to the kitchen.

Her apartment was rather small and under-furnished, but it suited her needs. Walking into the front door brought you into the small living area where there sat an old, ratty couch, but no other furnishings to speak of. To the left was the kitchen, which housed nothing more than a stove, sink, and fridge, with a few cabinets for storage of dishes and food. To the right was the bedroom which saw a bed and a night stand which held a small lamp and an ash tray, about half full of cigarette butts. Connected to the bedroom was the tiny bathroom. Nothing in there but a sink, toilet, and small shower stall. She would say that it was Spartan, but she’d like to think that even Spartans lived in relative luxury, compared to this.

Once in the kitchen, it was foraging time. Come to think of it, Max couldn’t remember the last time she had been to the grocery store. Opening the door to the refrigerator revealed little more than some five day old leftover Chinese food, which had started to grow mold. Gross! Bad Max! I have got to clean this thing out! She thought to herself before shutting the door quickly, lest the grossness come to life and attack her. Moving to the cabinets, she opened the ones that kept her non-perishables and stood there in front of them, as if staring into the abyss. At last, there it was! Her only hope! A box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. She had just pulled the blue box out of the cupboard and started looking for a pot when she heard a knock at the door. Who could that be? I already paid my rent for the month. She thought.

Walking to the front door, she realized that she still had the Mac & Cheese box in her hand, but decided she didn’t care enough to walk back to the kitchen to set it down. Standing on her tiptoes to peer out the peephole, she was amazed at the sight. Wowser! She never said that anymore, but she allowed herself to think it. She quickly unlocked and opened the door. “Warren?! What are you doing here?”
“What? You don’t respond to my Facebook posts or return my text messages anymore. So, I decided it might be harder for you to reject me in person. Besides, I thought maybe you could use a friend right now. Um, we are still friends, right?” Warren said, a hint of a blush coming to his cheeks.
“Of course we are! I’m sorry I’ve been out of touch lately. I just… Well, you were right. I could use a friend.” Max looked down to Warren’s full hands. “Especially a friend with pizza and… wine?” Indeed, Warren was carrying a box from Max’s favorite local pizza joint in one hand and a large bottle of blackberry merlot in the other. She didn’t think Warren would be resourceful enough to get ahold of alcohol, but she wasn’t going to ask how. After all, she had her own ways of acquiring adult beverages. Warren grinned and handed Max the bottle. “Consider it a belated housewarming gift.” Which reminded Max, she had been living here long enough to completely trash the place. “Oh, geez, Warren. I’m sorry about the mess, but please, come in.”

As he finally walked in, he instinctively looked around as if surveying the damage. “C’mon, Max, it’s not that bad.” Her idea of a mess was a stray shirt hanging on the back of the couch and a few dirty dishes in the sink. Luckily for Max, he couldn’t see into the bedroom or bath. Max instructed him to set the pizza down and have a seat on the couch while she went to procure some glasses for the wine. Warren set the pizza box down on the arm of the worn sofa and shrugged off his backpack, which he placed on the floor just beside him and sat down. As Max returned with the glasses, he fished around in his pocket and produced a flash drive. “I brought movies!”

“Oh, shit, Warren… I don’t have anything to play them on! I pawned my laptop, and I don’t even have a TV or anything.” Now it was her turn for flushed cheeks, as she suddenly realized how lame that sounded. She was officially one of the poor people.
“It’s cool. I got you covered!” Warren said excitedly, as he unzipped his backpack and withdrew his own laptop. “I figured, since we never got to ‘go ape’ at the drive-in, I’d download all the old school Planet of the Apes movies and bring the drive-in to you. Just, you know, with a much smaller screen, and on your couch instead of in my car.”
Max shook her head a little, and actually had to fight back tears. “Warren, that is so freakin’ sweet. You’re gonna give me cavities over here.” She smiled through her misty eyes as she opened the wine and started pouring it into the glasses.

Somewhere between “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” and “Escape from the Planet of the Apes”, Max came to the stark realization that she was drunk. She didn’t know how many glasses she’d had, but it was more than Warren (freakin’ lightweight), and the bottle was now empty. She also came to the realization that Warren’s arm was around her shoulders. She’d had to sit close to him to see the screen of the laptop in his lap. She started to curse herself for being too cheap to buy a coffee table, but, then again, it actually felt pretty nice. Human contact was something she’d been avoiding for too long, she decided. In that moment, she made another decision… “Warren?” Max said, softly. As he turned his head to face her, she brought a hand up to the side of his neck, gently caressing his cheek with her thumb as she leaned in and kissed his lips hungrily.

Warren was obviously quite surprised, as he nearly dropped his laptop, and it took him a few seconds to gather it up and start kissing her back. Max had to giggle a bit in her head. She wondered if this is what he’d expected to happen at the drive-in. Of course, she likely would’ve had to make the first move, there, as well. As they finally pulled apart, Max had to chuckle at Warren’s stunned expression. He laughed along with her as he closed his laptop and gently set it down on the floor before “jumping back into the fray”, as it were. The next thing Max knew, their clothes were falling to the floor and she was leading Warren into the bedroom…

Everything had happened so fast, and that wasn’t a joke about Warren’s stamina (or lack, thereof). He was now lying next to her, sound asleep. Max, however, was wide awake, weeping silently. It wasn’t a horrible experience, to be sure, but she simply couldn’t get the thought out of her head that her first time should have been with Chloe. It was weird enough, it occurred to her, that she was almost nineteen and had just lost her virginity. That made her a late-bloomer by today’s standards. She didn’t necessarily feel ashamed, though. Hell, she almost owed it to herself, and, on some level, to Warren. She couldn’t help but feel a little badly about locking him down in the friendzone for so long. It also dawned on her that it was probably his first time, as well. The poor guy practically had “virgin” written on his forehead. She wasn’t sure if that made her feel better or worse… Still, Chloe was her first true love. She should’ve been her first partner, as well.

Max slid out of bed and walked to the front door of the apartment, where she’d left her bag. She unfastened the flap and withdrew her cigarettes and lighter. Slipping silently back into bed so as not to wake Warren, she lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply. The buzz from the wine was wearing off in a big way, and she felt wholly exhausted. She smoked the cigarette down to the filter and stamped out the butt in the ash tray. Sliding down the bed to rest her head on the pillows, she closed her eyes, trying not to think about what had just happened. Exhausted as she was, she fell asleep almost the very instant her eyes closed.

Max suddenly found herself in an all too familiar setting. She was standing on the roof of the girls’ dorm at Blackwell Academy. She was vaguely aware that she was in a dream, but had no control over her actions. This became obvious to her as she stepped up onto the ledge. The same ledge that Kate had jumped from during the week that never happened. Looking down, she saw the same spectators who were gawking from ground level on that fateful day. They were, all of them, frozen in time, surrounded by this sort of blurry haze. For a moment, she thought that maybe she was playing the role of Kate in this dream. However, glancing down at her own clothing told her that she was, indeed, still Max Caulfield. Which meant that someone other than herself had stopped time. Why she was still able to move was a bit of a mystery, but then, dreams didn’t have to make sense.

“Max! Don’t do this!” She heard someone call out from behind her. Max turned her head slowly. If this were a true role reversal from what had happened in the past, she would expect to see Kate Marsh coming from the roof access door. However, she recognized the voice the moment she heard it, and it did not belong to Kate. “Chloe, just go home. I have to do this. I deserve this.” Max heard herself say, though she seemingly could not form her own words.
“No, you don’t. You have to stop punishing yourself, Max. Everything that happened, it wasn’t your fault.” Chloe spoke softly, seemingly trying to choose her words carefully. She was advancing slowly, drops of blood slowly trickling from her nose, her right arm extended, reaching a hand toward Max.
“I’m sorry, Chloe. I didn’t want you to have to see this.” Max took one last look into Chloe’s eyes through her own tears, before turning back toward the front of the building and the crowd gathered below. She took one confident step and suddenly was falling toward the ground. Somehow, her body had turned back toward the roof where she saw Chloe first hold out her hand just as Max did, desperately trying to reverse time. Once that proved to be ineffectual, Chloe sprinted to the ledge, looking down at Max as she plunged ever downward…

Max’s eyes opened in the real world, just as her body hit the ground in the dream. Once again, she found herself panting for air. Her hair was slick with sweat, and, yup, her nose was bleeding again. She was suddenly aware that the sun was out, providing dim light through the tightly closed blinds. Checking her phone, she saw that it was 9:08am. The dream seemed to only last a few minutes, but, in reality, she’d been asleep for about seven hours. Good thing I’m off work today. She thought. Despite the unexpected bumper crop of sleep, though, she couldn’t say that she felt the slightest bit rested. Sliding her still naked body out of bed, she made her way into the bathroom. Wetting a washcloth in the sink, she started to clean up her bloody nose. It was only then that she realized that Warren was gone.

 

Next Chapter: Damaged

Previous chapter: Night Terrors

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