Life is hella weird [Episode 1 – Chapter 3]
Start from the beginning
Chapter 3: Angel
1st Alternative Universe: Monday 10/07. Late afternoon
The rest of the ride was silent, but despite Chloe’s internal rage, it was not unpleasant. She expected a cold and awkward silence filling the air, like a physical presence between them but that never happened. It was… odd, considering the circumstances.
From time to time, Chloe couldn’t help but steal quick glances of Max, as if she was trying to convince herself she wasn’t looking at a mirage of some sort. Like she was trying to convince herself that this girl was real and right there, just inches away from her.
They arrived at the house that Chloe had lived in her whole life. She loved it, because it was like a physical token of her memories. And she also hated it for the same reason.
Like always, she parked the truck in front of the garage, killed the engine and jumped out of the cab, closing the door behind her with her boot.
She approached the door, guarded by the United States flag, waving lazily with the soft coastal breeze of the afternoon. Her eyes wandered for a moment over the unfinished paint job on the front of the house and shook her head in a vain attempt to kill a bad thought.
She searched in her pockets for the key and just then, noticed that Max wasn’t behind her. The brunette was still near the truck, looking a little nervous.
“Come on in, don’t be shy.” Chloe said, her voice a little down.
It seems her mood wasn’t going to leave any time soon at this point, even if she promised herself to take the chance.
“The house still looks… nice.”
Chloe snorted at the statement and opened the door widely.
“Home shit home.”
Chloe stepped in and closed the door behind Max once she was inside. Without wasting time, she started to climb the stairs, two steps at a time. She could almost feel Max’s eyes fixed on her back as she reached the upper floor and entered her room, opening the door widely without much ceremony.
“My room looks a bit different than the last time you saw it…”
The two girls were sitting on the single bed on the far side of the room. An awkward silence filled the air, barely contained by the soft and clean purple walls.
The taller girl, with her strawberry blond hair falling over her back like a waterfall had her blue eyes red and puffy from crying so much. The tears were still there, eager to fall again for the thousandth time in just a matter of hours.
The funeral just ended, and now the remains of William Price were six feet underground, with a cold marble plaque over where his head was supposed to be.
And the fourteen year old Chloe felt as cold as that heavy stone, still trying to understand why her world had just fractured and lost part of it’s meaning. If not all of it.
Thirteen year old Max scooted closer to her and held her tight with her slim arms, capturing her in a hug that felt like a lifeline at the moment. The only thing holding Chloe’s broken pieces together. Yes, the world was indeed a very empty place for her right now. But if she had to think about anything besides that… it was this clumsy little shy girl holding her right now.
The remnants of a warm feeling in her guts struck her again, as the already known butterflies hiding inside her raised flight.
“I am so sorry, Chloe.” Max said with her voice broken and the tears starting to fall again. “I am so, so sorry…”
Chloe shook her head and approached the bed, trying to get rid of the last bits of the memory. She let herself fall onto it, looking at how Max entered the room behind her, her body language making clear that she didn’t feel comfortable at all being there after everything that happened. Or didn’t happen.
The brunette looked around for a moment, absorbing the essence of the room around her. The graffiti, the posters, the mess on the floor, the desk almost covered entirely by papers, ashtrays and empty bottles, the American flag hanging lazily over the window… There was no sign left of Chloe’s old room.
The punk cracked up an eyebrow when she saw a soft smile appear in Max’s face.
“Its cool.” She said. “At least we can chill out.”
Chloe snorted at the statement, while leaning over her left side taking the ashtray resting over the night table, or box for that matter, near the messy double bed. The joint she left last night was still there, waiting for her return, and after shit got real not long ago, she couldn’t help but actually need it’s bitter and strong scent flowing through her.
“This isn’t exactly my “chill out zone”… My step-fuhrer makes sure of that. Come in and close the door. Put on some music while I medicate.”
Chloe lit the joint and took a long deep drag of it, closing her eyes for a moment. She could hear Max snooping around her room and tried not to think about how awkward and odd the whole situation was. Max could just go away again like last time, or worse. Max being in Arcadia Bay could hurt her in more than one way but she decided to give it a shot anyway.
“Not everything changes” Max had said… and Chloe couldn’t agree more, due the stupid flips her guts were doing for the last half an hour.
“So… Tell me…” She said, opening her eyes and looking at Max, who was looking at the height marks over the wall nearby. “What does Max Caulfield do for fun now that she’s a grown-up?”
“Not much.” Max replied with a little voice. “You know me. I like to observe the world more than participate…”
Chloe snorted again, looking away as she played a little with the joint between her fingers.
“So, I take photos.” She continued. “Of me, the world, everything. It may sound sad, but I have a blast.”
“C’mon, Chloe!” Eleven year old Max complained, holding the the retro camera with both hands in a tense posture, like she was afraid to drop it and break it. “I know your dad let me use it but I need to return it soon and I can’t take the picture if you keep moving so much!”
“But it’s way too fun to stop, Max”! Chloe said, lowering her foot over the back of the skateboard and grasping it in midair when it jumped. “Besides, wouldn’t it be awesome if you snapped the pic when I’m in the air? That would be so badass”!
“Yeah, I know but I’m not fast enough”. Replied Max with a sad tone, frowning at the camera for a moment. “And I don’t want to waste all the film taking photos of nothing. I suck”.
“Hey, it’s okay”. Chloe said softly, noticing Max sudden change of humor. “You already take great pictures. And you will get better with practice. One day you will be able to catch me being one hundred percent badass flying on this bad boy. But until then… C’mon”!
Chloe made a goofy smile and winked an eye and stayed still for a couple of seconds, holding that pose and hoping to make the brunette snap the picture.
“Come on, Maxaroni” She mumbled, barely opening her mouth to not ruin the pose. “I can’t be still all day…”
Max laughed and raised the old camera, shaking a little due her anxiousness.
“It doesn’t sound that sad…” Chloe replied, looking away.
“I’m happiest when I’ve got a great image in my lens. I’m not lonely, not afraid…”
“That’s more inspiring.” Chloe said, smiling at her a little. The remnants of that memory still warming her heart. “I don’t feel so… totally hopeless.”
After that, a deep silence ruled over the room while Max kept looking for a disc to put into the Hi-Fi. Chloe was still struggling to deal with those flashing memories that seemed to be common coin today.
“It is that kind of day, huh”? She thought, kicking herself mentally for being so soft about it. She tried for a long time to bury all those memories in the back of her mind and never bring them up again. Rachel helped a lot with that.
“Where is she ? Why did she leave ? Why didn’t she take me with her ?”
Those questions were always floating in her mind. For the past six months, there was no way to think about anything else. And now, she was in a position she never imagined possible.
Something snapped her out of her line of thought and when she realized, she was staring blankly at Max, who was kneeling at the foot of her bed, with a picture between her hands.
“Hey ! Give me that”! Chloe snapped furiously and scooted closer enough to take the picture from Max’s hands, maybe with a little more strength than necessary.
“Sorry.” Max apologized, her voice soft and regretful. “I wasn’t trying to be nosey. Obviously she was a good friend…”
Chloe looked at the picture for a split second and then looked away. The image hurt her, making her heart pound heavy in her chest, making the anguish rise through it and tighten the lump in her throat.
The sight of Rachel looking at the camera with her hazel eyes, her blonde hair falling like a waterfall both sides of her face and the familiar blue feather hanging from her left ear…
The photograph was bent in the middle, hiding the other half. Hiding Chloe’s half, looking angry and showing the finger, like always.
She placed the photo aside and held her head with her left hand, fighting the awful feeling rising from her chest. Anguish was even worse than real physical pain.
“That’s putting it mildly…”
She saw at the corner of her eye how Max sat next to her on the bed, keeping a safe distance from her. Her body language showing how nervous and anxious she was. Like when they were kids, Chloe could read Max like an open book.
The punk looked away, cutting off a line of thought before it developed into something more and took another drag of the joint, letting the smoke fill her lungs and then exhaling a cloud over her head.
“That’s Rachel Amber…” Max said with sad voice. “Her Missing Person posters are all over Blackwell.”
“Yeah, I put them up.” Chloe replied, fighting in vain with the sorrow-ish edge to her voice. “She… she was my angel. After my dad died and you moved, I felt abandoned…”
Chloe had her eyes fixed on the wooden floor nearby, and she closed them tight when another memory kicked in.
It was always a little windy at the cliff. The sun was setting, painting everything in gold and orange, making the metallic point of the lighthouse shine. As the sun went down, the orange became red, dying the blue ocean in a bloody tone.
Chloe was crying, her knees scraped after she fell on them, hugging herself in an attempt to hold all her pieces together. But there was no use. She was broken and she couldn’t take it any more. Her dad was gone and her best friend abandoned her too.
A year and a half has passed and she never got a call, or a letter, not even a text message. It wasn’t enough that she would never hear her dad’s low and cheerful voice again. It wasn’t enough that her mother chose to marry a prick to replace her dad.
It wasn’t enough that she may never hear Max’s laugh ever again or look at her deep dark–blue eyes, sparkling with emotion every time she saw that well known confident grin spreading over Chloe’s face when she came up with a new, not always good, idea.
It never was enough for the universe and it’s cruel, torturous games.
She approached the edge and looked down, where the waves crashed softly with the dark rocks, splashing against them. That wasn’t her first time on that cliff, looking down, wondering…
She felt empty, betrayed, abandoned… She knew she was all alone, that nobody cared. It was an awful feeling, unbearable, like someone had ripped her heart apart and left her there to bleed out.
She wished to be dead, because at that moment, she felt so fucking alive that the pain would overwhelm her, shatter her, destroy her in every way possible. She was done suffering.
A soft voice in her head was begging her to stop it, to put an end to that sorrow and loneliness. To put an end to this cruel games life seemed to love playing with her. She could almost hear it laugh maniacally, after taking everything from her.
She gave a step forward, extended her arms and was about to leap, to let go, to just… quit once and for all…
“You don’t have to do this”
Chloe almost fell off the cliff, startled by the soft and crystalline voice that interrupted her line of thought. There was worry on the edges of it, concern and fear.
Chloe looked over her shoulder slowly, her eyes filled by salty tears that were already streaming down her face. Her short blonde hair waved a little when another breeze from the ocean stroked over her.
A girl was standing there. A petite and slim girl, wearing an oversized shirt and ripped jeans. Her hair was blonde and long, waving furiously in the breeze. Chloe couldn’t avoid her eyes, two beautiful big hazel eyes filled with fear and concern. Two caring eyes that didn’t see her as the total fuck up she felt she was at that moment.
“What do you want”? Chloe asked trying to sound intimidating. Her voice broke like it did when she was a little girl, crying over a broken vase.
“Look, I don’t know why you want to do that…” Said the girl, looking at the ocean for a moment and then fixing her eyes again on Chloe’s. “But you don’t have to.”
“Yeah, I have to.” Chloe replied, looking forward again, trying to gather back the courage the sudden appearance of the girl seemed to have drove away. “I have nobody left. And no one cares if I die or not.”
“I do”. The girl said, with a bit of annoyance in her voice. “I know who you are and I care if you’re alive or not, you know”?
That make Chloe frown and turn around to face the girl with annoyance.
“The hell you know me. You don’t know shit!”
“I know you’re Chloe Price, that you are attending Blackwell”. Said the girl with an annoyance that matched Chloe’s. She crossed her arms defensively. “We have literature together every monday. You… you once let me borrow your textbook.”
Chloe’s eyes opened widely when the memory slapped her on the face. She remembered the girl, sitting uncomfortably at her left, too anxious to stay put and also too shy to actually say anything.
While she was doing nothing but wasting time in that class, the girl tried to keep up with the lecture, reading over her arm.
“May I…”? The girl said, pointing at the book, a little ashamed.
“Sure, whatever”. Chloe replied and slid the book towards her.
They never spoke again and Chloe left without even bothering to retrieve the book.
“Yeah, whatever. I let you use my book. What’s your point?” Chloe snapped angrily, still trying to gather her resolve.
“You didn’t have to let me use it.” The girl replied plainly. “I’m new here, I don’t have any friends. I was bullied on a daily basis and you were the only one that helped me, even if you didn’t know at the time. I wanted to say thank you and talk to you but you left. So, like I said, I have no idea why you want to jump off there… but I assure you, it’s not the same for me if you do it or not.”
“And why not ? I’m nothing special. I’m just a burden for everyone. I’m all alone and nobody wants me near. Why would you care?”
“Because I’m alone too.” The girl replied. “And maybe you are special, maybe not… but I’d love to find out. Please.”
Those words worked like a spell on Chloe’s mind. She looked down at the ocean, coming and going, clashing with the rocks meters away from her and… she just couldn’t do it.
“Fuck…” She muttered and her knees met the grass again.
The sobs came and shook her body violently as the tears started to fall again like waterfalls down her face. She covered it with both hands and shook the adrenaline away.
A pair of hands grabbed her by the back of her shoulders and held her firmly. It wasn’t a hug, no. It was more like a friendly reminder. “I’m here. I’m with you”.
Once Chloe finally calmed down and the sobs turned into lonely tears, she raised her puffy blue eyes and looked at the girl beside her. She smiled a little, visibly shy.
“Who are you?” Chloe asked, her voice raspy and broken.
“I’m Rachel. Rachel Amber”.
“… Rachel saved my life”.
“Man, I had no idea…” Max replied, still looking away.
That answer only made Chloe’s burning anger rise again, unstoppable and relentless.
“Of course you don’t fucking know.”
“Well, you never made much effort to find out”. Chloe said, her voice sounding way less bitchy than she intended. “I was fourteen, we were best friends…”
“I never forgot”, Max said, daring to look her right in the eyes for the first time she entered in the room. “Even if I was an asshole and didn’t keep in touch”.
“And you expect me to buy that bullshit”?
“But… you had Rachel”.
“Rachel had my back… We were gonna kick the world’s ass”. Chloe said, nodding. “You would laugh at how different we were… she wanted to be a star.”
“She looks like a model” Observed Max.
“She is so beautiful… so beautiful and gone. Fuck.”
“That was her plan. Our plan. Get the hell out of Bigfootville, and into Los Angeles.”
“So, what happened? Did your folks… your mom, try to stop you”?
Max’s voice was filled with genuine interest, to Chloe’s annoyance. She shook her head, cursing internally that some things didn’t actually change.
“My mom was too busy hooking up with Sergeant Shithead”. Chloe said with anger.
“I feel the love…”
“Now, when did Rachel actually disappear?”
“Six months ago. She just… left Arcadia. Without a word. Without… me”.
She kicked herself mentally for thinking that Rachel actually did that. She hated feeling that pain, that awful anguish in her chest every time she realized that was indeed possible. That Rachel actually left, alone. That Rachel actually left her behind, too.
“What about her parents”? Max asked. “Are they looking for her”?
Chloe shook her head. She never liked Rachel’s parents to be honest. Her mom was okay but her dad was a total douche. Even worse than David sometimes and that was certainly a mark to break.
“They are in denial”. Chloe replied, but it wasn’t entirely true. Rachel’s mom was little more than a zombie nowadays, walking around town, crying in silence. Her father… well… he was not exactly the caring type. “Max, I know she’s missing.”
“I… assume you know more than that”.
“It seems like I’m one open fucking book now, huh?”
“Before Rachel left, she said she met somebody who changed her life…” Chloe admitted, shrugging a little. “Then poof”!
“And you haven’t heard anything from her since”?
Max voice was so… caring. So worried, for real, about what Chloe was saying. Worried about Rachel, like the girl knew her or something. It was weird and kinda… kinda like the Max she always knew. The Max that held her when William died… and the same that kept a painful radio silence for five years.
“Like everybody in my life.” Chloe said, her voice bitter. “My dad, you… and Rachel. Gone…”
Too painful, too heavy, too hard. Not even the joint was helping.
She felt like drowning in anguish again, the same anguish that she carried every single day, but she kept pushing away with her bad habits. She was always trying to escape her own feelings, her own thoughts… her own memories.
And like always, that anguish came with another feeling. The inexplicable urge to push people away. Even if part of her was grateful for Max return, and that little ray of bright hope of her being back in her life, in any way, really existed inside of her heart… it was like she went numb, unable to distinguish cheap politeness and faked smiles from genuine affection. It made sense, of course.
Or at least she thought it did.
Chloe shook her head in anger and sadness.
“Can you put on some music now?” She begged, wishing in the deep corners of her heart that Max would actually get the fuck up and just leave her alone.
And she did. The brunette shot one last sad look at her and got up slowly, almost carefully. She walked to the hi-fi at the other side of the room, put the disc in and hit play.
The very moment the sweet and soft tunes of an acoustic guitar filled the air, Chloe felt like her own pain, her own anguish were turned into music all of the sudden. She laid down again, her knees bent, and took the joint back to her lips with a trembling hand.
She dragged one, two, three puffs in rapid succession, begging that the weed finally kicked in and shut her brain down, killing those awful thoughts tormenting her.
She could almost feel Max staring at her, even if she couldn’t see her in that position.
“Do I need to be more fucking obvious”?
“Anyway… you can find tools to fix your camera in the garage…”
“Chloe… are you okay?”
“What do you think, Sherlock?”
“Sure. I’m awesome. I just want to blaze and be alone for a moment.”
The boiling anger added a sharp edge to Chloe’s voice that she expected it was enough to push Max away, at least for a while. She heard her sigh softly and leave the room slowly, closing the door behind her.
And Chloe hated herself for being a fuck up that always drives people away because she’s not good enough. She’d never be good enough. She wasn’t good enough for Rachel. And certainly, she wasn’t good enough for Max either.
Chrysalis Start from the beginning
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.