All in Time Chapter 8
All in Time
A Life is Strange Story by OuTsYdeR
The Day I Tried to Live
Max awoke, still a bit tired, despite getting plenty of sleep. She’d read that this was one of the side effects of Ambien. Slowly, she crawled out of bed and went to the bathroom. After using the facilities and changing the bandage on her arm, she began to get dressed. After once again fishing one of her shoes out from beneath the bed, she picked up her phone and cigarettes off the night stand and dropped them into her messenger bag. She was definitely going to have to stop by the corner store for an energy drink on her way to work. She stepped out of her apartment, locking the door behind her, and exited the building.
After procuring a Rockstar from the local convenience store, Max lit up a cigarette and alternated bringing the beverage and the cancer stick to her mouth as she walked along the sidewalk toward the Two Whales. Turning her head to look down an alleyway, she thought she saw the man who had attacked her a few nights earlier. He didn’t seem to notice her, however, or he just wasn’t brave enough to make a move in broad daylight. Max picked up her pace a bit anyway, as she exhaled a cloud of smoke into the air.
Arriving at the diner a few minutes early, she took her time finishing both her cigarette and her energy drink. By the time she entered her workplace, she no longer felt tired. She wasn’t really jittery, either. She was just slightly more energetic than her normal self. Putting her things away and donning her apron, she was informed by Joyce that someone around Max’s age was in the corner booth waiting for her. Max wondered who it could be as she clocked in for the day. It wouldn’t be Warren. He would call or text, or just show up at her apartment. She also couldn’t think of any regular customers who were near her own age. Even Frank was a little older, and he skipped town not long after Rachel’s funeral. Besides, he barely knew Max in this timeline, and would have no reason to ask for her. Wanting to get a look at this mystery youth before they had a chance to spot her, Max did her best ninja impression and walked out from the kitchen and to the dining floor as quietly as she could, approaching the booth in question from the back of the mystery person. As she closed in, the recognized the short blonde hair and cashmere sweater.
“Victoria?” Max asked in a surprised tone. “What brings you to the ‘International House of Grease’?”
“There you are!” Victoria responded in her usual borderline regal voice. “I’ve been waiting here in this hellhole for over twenty minutes, sipping the worst coffee known to man.” Her sly smile betrayed her use of sarcasm. Max never could tell when Victoria was kidding or being serious. As far as she knew, Vic was always serious. In fact, this might be the first time she’d ever seen her smile. And, she’d be damned if Victoria didn’t look perfect, as always, despite the early hour.
“I’m sorry for making you wait…I think.” Max said, tentatively. “But, you didn’t answer my question. I never thought you’d be caught dead in a place like this, let alone that you’d be here, asking for me.”
“Look, Max… Um, do you have a minute to sit with me?”
After looking around to see the diner not too terribly busy, she looked to Joyce, who seemed to have overheard. After receiving a nod from Joyce, Max took a seat in the booth across from Victoria.
“So, okay,” Victoria began. “I know we haven’t exactly been the best of friends… But, since you dropped out of school, there’s been no reason for any kind of rivalry between us. And, now that I’ve graduated from Blackwell, I suppose I’ve just realized that it’s kinda dumb to hold a grudge. I’m heading off to college soon, and all this high school shit just seems kinda petty in the grand scheme of things, you know?”
“Uh huh…” Was the only thing Max could think to say. Internally, she thought, She must want something, but I can’t imagine what…
Victoria looked at her as if she were the dumbest person she’d ever met. “What I’m trying to say is, I’m not your enemy, Max. I never really was.”
“I never thought of you as an enemy, Victoria. I tried to be nice to you, as much as you’d let me.”
“I know. Which is why I feel so bad about being a total bitch to you. I guess I just wanted to make amends before I leave Arcadia Bay forever. Just wanted to get it off my chest.”
Now Max was becoming even more skeptical. And, with more customers entering the diner every minute, she was running out of time for beating around the bush.
“Victoria, I find it hard to believe that you got up early and came here just to apologize to me for being a bitch in school…”
“Yeah, I guess there’s no point in trying to sugar coat it… I mean, I do want us to be friends… But, also, I need your help, Max.”
There it is… Max thought to herself. This should be good. “Go on…”
“Okay, so, here’s the thing… I’ve graduated from Blackwell, so I can’t stay in the dorms anymore. And, um… My mom and I kind of had a falling-out. So, I can’t go home, and I don’t have the money for a hotel…”
“I think I see where this is going… You must be really desperate if you are asking to stay at my place…”
“I am… You know I wouldn’t ask if I wasn’t.”
“What about your Vortex Club pals? Can’t stay with any of them?”
“They’ve all moved away already. They didn’t have any issues with their family. To be honest, I didn’t, either, until a couple days ago. Please don’t make me beg, Max. You know I won’t.” Victoria said, firmly. Clearly, she needed help, but she still had some semblance of pride.
“You know my place is tiny, right? It’s only one bedroom.” Max said with a tone of warning. “I can’t imagine you’d be the slightest bit comfortable there.”
The expression on Victoria’s face was priceless. It was as if what little pride she had left was suddenly sucked out of her. “I’ll sleep on the couch, then. It’s only for a couple days, a week tops. Just until this thing with my mom blows over.”
Max thought about it for a long moment. It was going to be super awkward, and cramped. But, she never could say no to someone in need.
“Okay, Victoria. I have a doctor’s appointment after work, but I’ll text you when I get out, so you can bring your stuff over.”
“Oh my god, thank you so much, Max! You are a much better person than I’ve been toward you. I’m sorry, again, for being such a bitch.”
“It’s fine.” Max said, with a little smile. “But, I really need to get to work, now.”
Max finished out her shift, clocked out, and hung up her apron. After pulling the day’s tips out of her apron pocket and stuffing them into her messenger bag, she was out the door and on her way to Dr. Varnado’s office. This was only her second visit to the good doctor, and the first time she’d come straight from work. She only hoped that Jim or the office staff wouldn’t be offended by her smelling like bacon and coffee. Then again, Joyce was one of his patients, too, so he was probably used to it, if she ever came in straight from work.
Arriving at the doctor’s office, she wrote her name and the time on the sign-in sheet and had a seat in the waiting area. After a few moments, she was called back to the session room.
“Good afternoon, Max.” Jim said, warmly. “How have you been since our last visit?”
“A lot better, actually.” Max said, almost excitedly. “I feel more like my old self than I have in a really long time…” She went on to tell him all about how much better her dreams have been, and how she was now getting tons of sleep. He seemed a bit concerned when he asked her to go into more detail about her dreams. That concern was overshadowed only by Max’s embarrassment at describing them in such detail. But, she knew it was for the best. This was therapy, after all.
“So, you’re still dreaming of Chloe every night, only, now your subconscious is giving you what you want instead of playing on your fears and insecurities?”
“Y-yeah…Basically.” Max replied cautiously.
“I’ll be honest, Max. That worries me a bit. Neither extreme is very healthy for you. Ideally, you would stop dreaming about Chloe, or at least only occasionally see her in your dreams, not every night.” He said, flatly.
Max let out a heavy sigh. “So, what do we do, now? Can you, like, hypnotize me, or something? To get her out of my head?”
Jim shook his head. “Hypnosis doesn’t work, Max. Pardon my language when I say that it’s, scientifically, bullshit. No psychologist or psychiatrist worth a damn would ever use it.”
Max was starting to get anxious by this point. She was willing to try anything that could help her move on. She knew, deep down, that the constant dreams of Chloe, whether good or bad, were going to affect her relationships in real life. They might have already affected her relationship with Warren. Maybe, if she could truly get over Chloe, she could disassemble the wall she’d so carefully built up around herself.
“So, what can we do?” She asked.
“Well, this is only our second session, Max. Give this therapy, and your meds, a chance before you start jumping to alternatives, okay?”
Max nodded silently in agreement.
“If it comes down to it, and you’re still having the dreams after several sessions, we might look into lucid dreaming. Basically, it’s a technique where you are dreaming while awake, and therefore have some control over the dream. Certainly not my area of expertise, but I might be able to find someone to refer you to. But, that should be a last resort.”
As she stepped out of the building after her session was over, Max withdrew her phone from her pocket and opened the Messaging app. She first texted Victoria to let her know that she was on her way home and that Victoria could meet her there at any time. Next up, she texted Warren; “Hey, I need the help of science-y Warren. What do you know about lucid dreaming?”
Just as she was about to slide the phone back into her pocket, she got a reply message from Victoria; “Huh? What are you talking about?” Scrolling up, Max found that, instead of her intended message, she had only typed “Splish-splash.”
The color drained from her face as she involuntarily took a step backward. No way she could blame this on autocorrect, she was genuinely losing it. What the fuck, Max? She thought, as she retyped her original message, using the correct words, this time. As she started the long walk back home, she felt a trickle of warm liquid on her upper lip. A quick swipe with the back of her hand confirmed what she already had known. Her nose was bleeding again…