Calm Before the Storm

How was she going to tell them? Max looked at the acceptance letter again, before shoving it into her messenger bag. It was the Blackwell Academy acceptance letter. She had learned that the famous photographer Mark Jefferson was going to be teaching. A part of her thought that she might not get accepted, but she did. Now she was standing outside the school’s cafeteria because she knew her friends Fernando and Kristen were waiting for her. With a sigh, Max walked into the cafeteria. ‘Let’s do this,’ Max thought to herself.

Immediately, Max was met with the smell of the typical gross school food and the loud chatting of dozens of students.

“Max!” Fernando shouted from their usual table. Fernando was a wearing a black jacket over his shirt. His sleeves were pushed up.

Max shot him a weak smile. Thoughts were racing in her head. She knew it would be good for her photography to learn under such a famous photographer. Would they get that?

“Hey guys,” Max finally said as she sat down. She set her bag on the table carefully. Her analog camera was sitting in it so she was always cautious with it.

Kristen swallowed a bite of whatever it was on her tray. “You look sick, Max.” she replied, brushing her dark brown bang out of her eyes.

“I’m fine,” Max lied.

“You better be!” Fernando exclaimed, “We are going to have a good time at The Troll after school.”

‘Oh no!’ she thought. Max almost forgot about that. They had planned to go see a Seattle public sculpture called Fremont Troll. It was called that because it was under a bridge in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle. The three of them had been planning on going for quite some time. Max thought it would be an interesting place for photos.

Thinking about photos made Max grab her bag and pull her camera out. The school didn’t like her taking pictures, but it didn’t stop her. It was her passion, after all.

She pointed the camera at Fernando and Kristen. Fernando posed with a wide goofy smile. Kristen, however, didn’t notice and had just taken a large mouthful of food. The flash went off and Kristen’s eyes widened.

“Max!” she muttered with a mouth full of food still.

Fernando and Max started to laugh. Kristen became flustered and looked away as she swallowed the food.

“You should know by now that Max will always take the shot,” Fernando chuckled, wiping a tear from his eyes.

Max grabbed the photo and looked at it after it came out of the camera. Her two friends showed up after a few seconds. It was a great photo.

“You’re so mean, Max!” Kristen joked. Max shot her a cheeky smile. She had been good friends with Kristen and Fernando since she got into high school. She moved to Seattle just a few years ago.

“I’m sorry,” Max replied playfully.

“You’re lucky you’re such a good photographer,” Kristen sighed with a smile, “or these pictures you take wouldn’t be taken so serious.”

Max never thought about that. She wondered if there were actually people out there that enjoyed taking embarrassing photos. Paparazzi just came to mind. She shuddered mentally.

“I hope the Troll has some good angles,” Max explained to them.

“You’d be the one to see them,” Fernando replied.

The two of them really supported Max’s passion for photography. It was nice to have friends like them, even when Max doubted the quality of her photos.

After a few seconds of silence, Max swallowed hard. ‘I need to tell them,’ she thought to herself. ‘They’re my friends. They should understand, right? Maybe I should bring up something vague.’ She decided to ask out loud, “What are you two planning for next year?”

“The usual,” Kristen immediately replied.

Max looked towards Fernando. “Probably the same. Come here; take the classes I need to take to get by.”

“Why do you ask?” Kristen questioned.

“I guess I was just thinking of doing something different for next year,” Max replied.

“I hear that,” Fernando quickly said in response. He then added as he looked around and then back to Max, “Tired of the math and science classes we’ve had to take the last few years.”

“Yeah! I’m going to take more electives this time,” Kristen added with a smile. She was obviously fed up with the required classes too.

Max smiled back at them. They didn’t understand what she meant, but she wasn’t going to change the subject. She was hoping they would understand that she is leaving. “I think we should be done with the standard issue of classes by now,” Max explained, “So we could take more fun classes.”

“Like art,” Kristen said.

“And a sport,” Fernando added.

“Or photography,” Max muttered. Riiiiing. It was the school bell. It was time to go back to class. ‘Saved by the bell, I suppose.’ Time moved so quickly. Perhaps Max waited to enter the cafeteria for more time than she had thought.

“Well, I’ll see you two later,” Max said as she packed her camera once more and waved goodbye to them. She decided to wait to tell them about moving.

*****

Max was surprised to see no one at the Troll. It was a rather popular tourist spot, but all the parking under the bridge was open. Max’s parents drove her. Her father, Ryan, got out of the driver side door. He stretched as he gazed at the large sculpture.

“A bit ugly, isn’t it?” Ryan chuckled.

Max shot him a smile. “Well it is a troll,” Max’s mother, Vanessa, replied.

“It’s art,” Max said quickly, before her father could reply.

“Yeah, it is art,” her father said. His smile was wide and covered in a bushy brown beard.

“We’ll be taking a walk around here, so don’t mind us,” Vanessa told Max. Max knew they didn’t want to impose on her and her friends exploring the sculpture.

“Thanks, mom,” Max replied with a smile. She watched her parents walk away together.

Max looked to the sculpture. It was large and gray. Its hands were large and seemed to be clawing their way out from under the bridge; one gripping a car as if it had recently stole it from the bridge.

Laughing came from behind the Troll. It sounded like Fernando and Kristen. They both lived nearby so they didn’t need a car.

Max walked around to climb up the steep hill that the Troll came out of. She looked at the graffiti that painted bits of the sculpture. One of the notable marks was a heart. Max thought if it was merely a heart or if it was a statement of some kind.

“Max!” Fernando exclaimed as he saw her. He was still in the same clothes from school. He stood up and stumbled towards her.

“Whoa, careful,” Max laughed as she reached out for him.

“Sorry, Max, we got to celebrating early,” he muttered. His breath was strong with alcohol. Max wasn’t one to drink really. She never cared for it.

“I can see that,” Max said with a smirk. She may have not cared for alcohol, but she wasn’t going to force others to see it as she did.

“He hasn’t had that much,” Kristen added as she stood up to greet Max.

“Is that so?” Max asked as she looked to Fernando. Fernando simply smiled widely, like he normally did.

“Don’t be a downer Max,” Fernando finally said, “It’s a celebration!”

“You don’t need to worry about me cramping your style,” Max laughed.

Fernando balanced himself by leaning on the back of the Troll’s head. Kristen laughed as she stood up from where she sat. She looked out towards Max’s parents’ car.

“Where’d your parents go?” she asked Max.

Max looked over her shoulder. Her parents weren’t in sight. She simply shrugged and said, “Probably walking around the neighborhood.”

“I’m sure they won’t like seeing us like this.”

“Well they aren’t going to be hanging out with us, right?” Fernando asked.

Max shook her head. She almost wanted to chuckle at their paranoia about her parents seeing them intoxicated.

“Did you bring your camera, Max?” Kristen asked.

“Of course.” Max reached into her bag and pulled the camera out.

“Well take some pictures!” she exclaimed happily.

Max aimed the camera at Kristen and Fernando. The two moved closer and made silly faces. Max took the picture. She began to think of how alcohol changes people. Kristen normally didn’t like being caught in a picture acting or looking silly.

The photo slid out of the camera. Max grabbed it before it fell out to the ground. She looked at it carefully. ‘They are not going to want me to keep this,’ she thought to herself.

“How’s it look?” Fernando asked.

“It looks awesome,” Max replied with a smile.

Fernando cheered loudly. His “woo” echoed throughout the underside of the bridge. All three of them started laughing as they listened to the echo.

“You can take some more pictures, Max. Don’t let us stop you,” Kristen said.

Max nodded. She wanted to say she might not ever get another chance to be here with them at the Troll. She didn’t want to bring them down. ‘Maybe I can tell them if they sober up a bit,’ Max thought.

She decided to look around while Fernando started to tell a joke to Kristen. As Max moved back down the side of the Troll, where the graffiti was, she could hear Fernando stumbling with his words. She lifted her camera and took a picture of the heart. ‘Someone out there loves you, Troll.’ Max put the photo into her bag.

After a few seconds, Max walked down to in front of the Troll. She looked closely at the car it was holding. It had a California license plate. ‘Wrong time to visit Seattle,’ Max joked to herself. She snapped a picture of the car.

The other two began to walk down the side of the Troll. “You need to get a picture of it too,” Fernando told Max.

Max looked up at the large sculpture. Without taking a moment’s hesitation, she aimed her camera and took the picture. Fernando and Kristen crowded around her as they looked at the photo.

“Another great shot!” Kristen announced.

“Could be better,” Max admitted.

“Hey Max,” her father called out from near the car. Max turned as the other two continued to praise Max’s photo. “Let me take a picture of you three on the Troll!” Ryan said.

“Yeah! Let’s all be in one together!” Fernando exclaimed.

He and Kristen began to climb the Troll once more. Max’s father walked closer towards the sculpture. Max handed him her camera. “Thanks, dad,” she said with a smile.

“You should have something to remember this by,” he simply replied. He motioned for her to go ahead and get in view of the camera.

Fernando was on the Troll’s right hand. Kristen was on top of the left one, the hand that held the car. Max climbed up next to Kristen and sat down.

“Everyone smile,” Max’s father told them.

Max smiled. She was hoping that Fernando and Kristen were as well. The camera flashed and the photo slid out slowly. Ryan grabbed it and looked at it. Max and the other two began to climb down to go see it as well.

“This is a pretty good shot, if I do say so myself,” Max’s father said.

“It is a really good shot, dad,” Max chuckled.

“Maybe you get your skill from me, huh?” he joked.

Max laughed. He handed her the photo and her camera. He slowly backed away to let Fernando and Kristen look at it.

“It’ll mark this day forever!” Fernando said proudly.

“It’s a good photo of all three of us,” Kristen added.

Max nodded. It was a really good photo of them all.

Before long, the time at the Troll came to an end. Max sat in the backseat of her parents car. She held the photo her father took in her hands.

“Did you tell them?” her mother asked from the passenger seat.

Max shook her head, but then realized she should say something. “I didn’t.”

“Why not?”

“I can’t just yet.”

Her mother nodded, as if she understood what Max was going through. She couldn’t tell them quite yet. She might wait till the end of the school year, but she knew it had to be the right time.

I know they will be okay with it,’ Max started to tell herself as she looked out the car window, ‘I guess I just have to learn to be okay with it too.

Looking back to the photograph, Max knew this one was special. She wasn’t sure what was going to happen when she finally moved, but she knew her friends would be alright. Max was going to take the photo with her to Blackwell Academy.

Max was going to cherish the memories she has made in Seattle, no matter what life throws at her.

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