Give It Another Shot [Chapter 5]
Chapter 5: Falling through memories” font_container=”tag:h2|font_size:24|text_align:center” google_fonts=”font_family:Roboto%20Condensed%3A300%2C300italic%2Cregular%2Citalic%2C700%2C700italic|font_style:400%20regular%3A400%3Anormal”]
Chloe woke up suddenly next morning with an awful pain in her neck. She had fallen asleep on the couch of Max’s hospital room, in the most uncomfortable position ever, after watching her best friend sleep for a while. She stretched… and then she noticed they weren’t alone.
Max’s nurse, a young, dark haired woman was taking a look at her. Chloe and the young woman dressed in white had crossed paths more than once over the last few weeks, but they had never actually spoken. She just looked at Chloe with a little smile when she heard her wake up.
“I’m sorry…” Chloe said. She wasn’t sorry at all. “I know I shouldn’t be here…”
“Don’t worry about it.” the Nurse said, checking on Max’s vitals and writing something down on a piece of paper. “It’s obvious you really care about her, you’re always around.”
“Don’t blush, don’t blush damn it…”
“Anyway… Max’s parents will come soon with her doctor. He needs to take Max and run some tests on her to check her condition now that she’s out of the coma.”
“She’s gonna hate that…” Chloe said quietly, remembering about the nightmare Max had had last night and her fear, within good reason, to needles.
“I’m sure she will, but she seems like a strong young woman. She’ll survive.” the nurse joked.
“Well, I better get going before someone else catches me off limits…”
“I really want to stay but… I can’t just follow Max around everywhere.”
“I’ll be going,” the nurse announced. “I’ll give you time to escape without being noticed” She added, with a smile.
“Well, that was… weird.” Chloe thought, when the nurse left the room.
She saw Max waking up slowly, with her sleepy eyes narrowed, looking at her. They were full of tears and her hands were shaking. Another nightmare, no doubt.
“Hey, Mad Max…”
“Nightmares?” asked the taller girl, sitting on the edge of Max’s bed. She nodded. “Don’t worry. The fucker is in jail and he’ll never get out of there.”
“It wasn’t him this time… “Max said, shrugging a little. She was looking at Chloe intensely; like she was trying to be sure she was there, within her reach. “But I’m okay now.”
“You’ll have to tell me about these nightmares eventually, you know?” Chloe said worriedly.
“Listen… the doctors are going to take you off and run some tests on ya… The nurse said she’d buy me some time to get the hell out of here before they came back.”
“Yeah… “Max said, seemingly unconvinced and biting her lip like she always did when she was a kid.
“You’ll be back here before you know it.” Chloe reassured her with her always confident grin. “And I’ll be here pestering you again in no time. You owe me half an explanation.” Chloe looked at the journal in her hand and moved it up and down, as if she was trying to calculate its weight. “Kind of…”
Max chuckled softly.
“I do. See you soon.”
Chloe had a lot of free time until the visiting hours started and not much to do. Arcadia Bay was alive and bustling with activity, even with Blackwell closed for the time being. The students still lived there, because there was nowhere else they could go for now, and since the classes were suspended, they were scattered all around town enjoying their free time.
Chloe crossed paths with Justin and his skater friends at the Two Whales, where she went as always for a free meal. She talked with them for a while and then she sat on the bar, looking at Joyce working in the kitchen.
“Even if I’m always hanging out here, it feels different.” She thought, looking around.
She had never noticed the smiles on the customers’ faces before, the usual presence of the truckers and cops, the delicious scent of the coffee and the sweet, warm environment of the diner. Whenever she was in the diner, she was always with her mind somewhere else, spaced out.
She looked at the last table, near the window. She remembered every single time she had sat there with Rachel, hanging out, bitching about life… Chloe sighed. She knew she hadn’t any right to be angry at Rachel for being with Frank. She always knew she didn’t stand a chance, so she had remained silent. She never told Rachel about her feelings, knowing it’d make things awkward. She preferred to suffer in silence rather than destroy their friendship.
“If I knew this would happen…” She thought, looking away. “At least you’re in a better place than this shithole, Rach. You and Dad.”
Joyce came out of the kitchen and smiled at her daughter affectionately.
“Looking for a free meal, sweetie?” She said, with that playful brightness in her eyes.
“You know me well…”
Joyce rolled her eyes, came back to the kitchen only to return with a big plate of eggs and bacon. Double ration.
“Since when were you so generous to the needy?” Chloe asked, frowning at the big plate in front of her.
“I don’t know how on earth you’re still standing at the moment.” Joyce said. “You barely sleep and eat… you spent all day in the hospital and you don’t want me to take your place even if it’s for a little while. How’s Max?”
“She woke up.” Chloe said with a bright smile.
“She’s awake, and fine, and alive, and… goddamn it. I missed her so much…”
Joyce looked at her, narrowing her eyes a little, like she was seeing inside Chloe’s mind. She smiled too.
“I’m really glad she’s okay. I should visit her now that she’s awake. And you… it’s been years since I saw you smile like that, honey.”
Chloe was suddenly very interested in the big amount of meat on her plate. Joyce knew she was doing it on purpose, so she didn’t say anything. She got back to work, leaving her daughter alone, still smiling.
“I bet I didn’t smile like that in a while.” Chloe thought. “My life has been submerged in shit for the last couple of years. But… maybe this was meant to be… in some twisted way. Since dad died, nothing was the same anymore… I know I’ll never get over his death. I’ll never accept what happened to him and I miss him so bad… But… Max even tried to change that for me. I need to ask her about that… How would it be? Suddenly being thirteen again, the best time of our lives… my life… It’d be hella weird.”
Chloe noticed she was just playing around with her food. She wasn’t very hungry now, even when compared to a couple of minutes before she was starving. She pushed a slice of bacon to one side, then to the other, while her mind was overflowing with thoughts and memories.
She remembered that day like it was yesterday.
“Chloe, listen to me… whatever happens today, I want you to be strong.” Max had said, with her eyes wet, grabbing Chloe by her shoulders.
“You okay?” Asked the young Chloe, worried about her friend suddenly strange behavior. ”You’re acting so fucking weird…”
“Whatever happens, I’ll always have your back. No matter what. Always.”
Then, she realized that that weird behavior now had an explanation. Eighteen-year-old Max in twelve-year-old Max’s body. She knew William was going to die…
“And she tried to change things… and screwed up everything even more. I can’t imagine myself like that, paralyzed and in a wheel chair, incapable of doing anything on my own. Not that I’m doing a lot of things for myself now…” She sighed and then smiled cynically at herself. “Maybe I should.”
She slowly started to eat; enjoying every single bite like it was the last one she would ever have. She was so aware of… everything. Like she was enjoying life itself to the fullest, even with the pain of losing one of the people she loved the most, again. That was part of life too; the pain means you’re alive and fighting. Right?
“Since when did I become so mushy?” She asked herself. “And what kind of clichéd quote is that?”
She could be dead now. Maybe she should’ve… but there was Max, saving her. Again and again.
“Max gave me another chance. What have I done all these years? She has a scholarship, plans for the future… she’s the best photographer I have seen and she has talent… whereas I’m just a junkie without a job, expelled from school… Maybe this was some kind of signal. Rachel is gone for good, Frank left too… Max came back to save my ungrateful ass… Maybe she’s right. Maybe this was meant to be. Maybe I needed to read all that crazy shit and… I don’t know. Let things go? Grow up? Destiny sure can be bitchy sometimes.”
She looked at her own reflection over the metallic counter of the bar. She didn’t remember when the last time that she had looked at her own image on a mirror was, or in a reflection like this one. She looked oddly different, yet still the same. Less… angry. Maybe.
“Mom?” She called, looking over the counter. Joyce raised her head and looked at her, curious. “I need to ask you something.”
Chloe left the diner a while later and headed home. For the first time in years, she enjoyed the house around her, full of treasured memories.
The wine stain on the carpet, as a result of a failed wine-testing session with Max. The couch they used to pretend was a pirate ship, their pirate ship. The kitchen, battlefield of a thousand flour wars while making pancakes. The back yard with the swing William made just for them, now covered in rust and dust. She remembered wanting to swing all the way around and how that scared the shit out of Max. The board, full of drawings, now abandoned against the fence, almost invisible now…Her bedroom, so different now from the room that used to be their lair, their safe place, the place that had held many pillow forts and sleepovers.
The place where they used to talk about their future. About how Max wanted to be a famous photographer and how Chloe wanted to be her bodyguard, living uncountable adventures together as a team, as companions, as superhero and sidekick.
Chloe’s memories of Max were so vivid, so clear… she remembered everything with painful detail. When Max left… every single spot of the house became dark without the younger girl around.
“I’m so sorry, Chloe!” Cried twelve-year-old Max, grabbing her hands while the tears fell down her face. “I tried, I really tried, but they wouldn’t let me stay!”
“Why?” Asked the young Chloe, crying her eyes out, an unbearable pain in her chest, like somebody was crushing her little heart with a fist. Again. “Why do you have to go? I need you here, I’m… I can’t…”
“I know, I know!” Little Max hugged her taller friend tightly, sobbing uncontrollably on her shoulder. “I don’t want to go, I don’t want to!”
“I love you, Max! Please, please, stay. I can’t…”
“What a damn depressing trip I’m having now.” thought Chloe, returning to the present and letting herself fall backwards on her bed with a sigh.
And then, after William died and Max left… those were dark times. Bad behavior, fighting in school, low grades, vandalism, bad boys, drugs, piercings, tattoos, blue hair, whatever that kept her busy enough to escape reality, even if it was just for a while…
That’s when Rachel appeared. Right there, when Chloe was seriously considering jumping off the cliff near the lighthouse to finally get over the pain. When she said Rachel saved her life… It wasn’t a way of speaking. It wasn’t figurative.
Months passed and Rachel had made her life worth it again, somehow. And of course she told her about Max and how she left… how much she missed her and how much it hurt not hearing from her in all those years.
“I know it’s weird.” Young Chloe said, lying on her bed with her hands behind her neck, looking at the ceiling, the sun lighting her half-blonde, half-blue hair.
“I don’t think it’s weird.” Rachel answered, lying just next to her, her hands over her belly, thinking about what Chloe had just said. “She seems to be really important to you. Even if she left, you still think about her.”
“Yeah, I do… I would’ve never imagined I’d miss her almost as much as I miss my dad. I really wish you could meet her. She’s… amazing.”
“Maybe someday. Who knows?” Rachel said, leaning on her elbow and looking at her friend with her hazel eyes. “Maybe someday she’ll come back and we can hang out.”
“I’m not sure that’s possible, Rach.” Chloe answered, with a bitter tone. “Even if she came back… I’m not sure if I would be able to forgive her for leaving when I needed her the most. I’d never do that to her.”
“You’re hurt, but you don’t hate her. I can tell. Someday, if she returns… You’ll not be able to keep holding a grudge to her.”
“How are you so certain?” Chloe asked, frowning a little. Rachel chuckled.
“Come on, every time you talk about her your eyes glow and you can’t avoid that stupid grin of yours… Even if you’re hurt, I bet you totally had a crush on her.”
Chloe grabbed the pillow next to her head and hit Rachel’s face with it while the girl was laughing hysterically.
“I was thirteen!” She said, scandalized, the blush spreading wild on her face. “What were you thinking inside that dirty little mind of yours?!”
“Don’t play dumb! Ah! Stop hitting me!” Rachel said between laughs.
“I’ll beat the shit out of you for this!” Chloe threatened, laughing too.
“May lightning strike me dead if you aren’t right, Rach.” Chloe thought, coming back to the present, shaking her head. “I wasn’t aware of that when I was younger but… now? Damn. It’s like a punch in the gut every time I see her smile, or laugh or just… sleep. It kills me to see her on that bed. Of course I couldn’t hate her when she left. How could I? And then after all those years she just appears and takes a shot that was meant for me… she screwed up time and space to save my ass and…”
Chloe let a sad sigh slip through her lips.
“I know I loved Rachel. I felt it, it was… real. But Max is… different. Everything is different. I knew I hadn’t had a chance in hell with Rachel and I lived with that. Painfully, but I got through it. With Max it’s… I don’t know. I don’t know what to say, what to think, how to act… And I’m scared shitless. I’m not sure about a damn thing except that I want to be with her all the fucking time. I don’t believe I will be able to lie about that. And… I’m not even sure if she’s not gonna leave again.”
She closed her eyes, just to rest her eyes a little.
“I want to be with her all the time, like when we were kids… well, not exactly like that but… everything always seemed so right when she was around… she’s back and it’s like she never left. It’s so… weird.”
She felt so tired, so wasted all of a sudden. Her eyes felt so heavy that she couldn’t open them again.
“Max… what the hell am I going to do? I wish… I wish I know…”
She crashed so hard that, when she opened her eyes, the sun was low in the sky, painting everything with a beautiful orange tone.
“What do photographers call that?” She asked herself, half asleep, looking at the dust flying over her head, illuminated by the sun. “Something about golden… what? I’ll ask Max. I’m sure she knows. Max…”
Then she snapped her eyes open and got up as fast as she could.
“Oh, shit! How is it possible that I overslept like this? Me, of all people?”
She put some clothes on, grabbed the journal from the desk and left the room in a rush, but not before she frowned at the graffiti “I can’t sleep” over her bed.
Previous chapter: https://lifeisstrangefans.com/give-it-another-shot-chapter-4/
Here? I’m the punk queen of Arcadia Bay, of course.
In real life, I’m an artist, gamer, crappy musician, game dev and a wannabe writer. Oh, and I’m always running late. MaiQueti in a nutshell.