One Last Push
Thunder and lightning cracked overhead.
Winds roared with enough force to rip a house out of the ground.
Cold water splattered down my face…as Chloe’s warm lips pressed against mine.
I have made…a terrible choice. I have chosen to let my best friend die.
No. She’s not my best friend anymore. Over this past week she has become so much more than that.
Chloe and I have been best friends for as long as I can remember. We were like sisters. Always playing together, always laughing together. We would run around the forests surrounding Arcadia Bay pretending we were pirates, ready and willing to take over the world! Looking back now, those were golden years. Years of childish innocence. Years of looking towards the future and believing anything was possible. Anything was possible…but the one thing that would never change would be us. We would always be friends. And we would always be together. Forever…
Or so I thought. But life never worked out the way you hoped it would. My parents moved to Seattle and took me with them, wrenching me away from Chloe when she needed me most. Her father just died and I couldn’t be there for her. For five years Chloe was alone in her anger and grief. I never called her. I never texted her. To this day I don’t understand why. We were so close and yet I just left her behind? What was wrong with me?!
But even after my return things did not change. Chloe wasn’t that far from Blackwell. I could have easily called her. I could even just visit her! But still I made no attempt to reconnect as I settled into my life at Blackwell. I could make excuses all day long but it doesn’t change what I did. I failed to connect with Chloe until the day she died. Or rather the day she was SUPPOSED to die.
I had never seen anybody die before. At least outside of TV anyway. It was a terrifying sight. But what was perhaps even more terrifying was the revelation that followed. I could rewind time. I was a living, breathing time machine. And the first thing I did with it was to save Chloe’s life.
Of course I didn’t realize it was Chloe at the time. She was some weird blue-haired punk girl with an attitude. You can imagine my surprise when I met her again and realized it was Chloe Price, my childhood best friend. This made the memory of what happened in that bathroom even more terrifying, that I almost missed the chance to reconnect with Chloe completely. But it also made me happier because it meant I saved my best friend’s life.
What followed afterwards was the most unforgettable week of my life. In both the best and worst ways imaginable. I endured nightmare after nightmare. Seeing Kate try to commit suicide, discovering the Dark Room and Rachel’s body, all the horrifying things Mark Jefferson did to me…
But from all this pain I found strength. Strength to become a more confident person than I ever thought I could be. The will to bond with Chloe in ways I never thought I would again. But the most important thing of all that I discovered…was love. Love for Chloe Price.
I’m not sure at what point it happened exactly. Steadily I found myself growing happier and happier in Chloe’s presence. My heart raced a little whenever I looked at her. When we woke up in bed together after our dip into the Blackwell pool, when I looked at Chloe’s sleeping face I felt a serene calm I had never experienced before. And each time I saw Chloe get hurt, every time I saw Chloe in danger, I felt myself die a little bit inside. I was filled with an overwhelming drive to protect her. To keep her safe. I practically tore time and reality apart to do just that. I created multiple timelines and jumped between them to ensure Chloe survived and we were together.
I don’t know when it really started. But it wasn’t until Chloe handed me the butterfly photo and begged me to let her die that I realized that what I was feeling had gone beyond simple friendship. It was love. I was in love with Chloe Price. I think Chloe was starting to feel the same way?
But it was all becoming a moot point. As this monstrous storm threatened to tear apart our childhood hometown, Chloe begged me to use my Rewind power one last time. She begged me to use the butterfly photo to return to the moment she was supposed to be killed by Nathan Prescott…and just let it happen.
My powers caused the storm. I don’t know how. I don’t know why. But it was the only explanation. And the only way to keep this storm from ever happening was to prevent myself from using my powers in the first place. If I let Chloe die, all my subsequent time manipulations would be undone. The timeline would be restored and everything would be made “right”. Theoretically, anyway.
Regardless if it would work or not, Chloe begged me to do it. She thanked me with all her heart for the love and friendship I showed her this week. But she insisted that she didn’t deserve it. That there were so many people in Arcadia Bay that deserved to live more than her. Her Mom especially and even David, whom she finally addressed as her “step-father” for the first time.
I didn’t want to do it. God, I didn’t want to do it! But as I looked into Chloe’s eyes…I knew I didn’t have any other choice.
And so I kissed her.
If Chloe and I were to forever part, I wanted us to at least have this moment. To show her how much I truly loved her. If things were different, I would go to hell and back to keep her happy and safe. In a way, I already did. But I would happily do it again.
Chloe pulled away from me, her breathing shaky and her eyes wide with shock and confusion. I like to think that my kiss not only showed her how much I loved her but how much she loved me as well. But that didn’t stop her from encouraging me to do what needed to be done. She told me to go before she changed her mind. Before she “freaked out”, as she put it.
“And Max Caulfield…don’t you forget about me,” she said to me.
“Never…” I said back softly.
I could never forget Chloe Price…
I turned away. I stared at the butterfly photo and began concentrating. I could feel my powers awakening. The photo became blurry. I had done enough of these photo jumps to know what was supposed to happen next. I needed to focus on the picture, to “tune in” to it to bring it back into focus. When I did, I just needed to focus all my energy onto it and I would slip back into time.
But…I couldn’t do it. I tried and I tried to bring the image back into focus. But each time I came close, it just slipped away. Slipped away because deep down, I didn’t have the will to do this.
Slowly I lowered the photo. “I can’t do it,” I thought. “I can’t give up Chloe…”
I dropped to my knees. I stared at the photo for the longest time before turning my gaze to the storm on the horizon. The tornado was about to make landfall. Any second now it would begin ripping up all those buildings. Tears poured down my face. Or at least I think they did. With all the rainwater splashing on my face I really couldn’t feel the tears.
I screamed. I screamed and roared at the nightmare before me. It was so unfair! Chloe and I were finally together! Together and realizing our true feelings for each other! And now we were being ripped apart?! WHY?!
Inside me raged a storm of anger and frustration equal to the one in front of me. It just didn’t make any sense! I was given the power to rewind time! To manipulate time however I saw fit! Maybe I used it in ways I shouldn’t have. I shouldn’t have used it to get the right answers in class. Shouldn’t have used it to make myself look cool around certain people. Those were selfish wastes of my gift. But using it to save Chloe? To save a life? How as that at all selfish? I discovered my power because of her death. I discovered it just in time to save her. Why did all that happen if I wasn’t destined to save her in the first place??
WHY IS THE UNIVERSE TOYING WITH ME?!?
I screamed and sobbed for I don’t know how long. In my anger I had completely forgotten that Chloe was still there with me. Though she was struggling to keep her resolve, she did her best to try and comfort me. To help me find MY resolve! She dropped to her knees right next to me and wrapped her arms around me. She whispered encouraging words in my ear to try and get me to do it.
“It’s okay, Max. It’s okay,” she whispered. “I love you Max. And now I know you love me. But you need to let me go. Think of all the people in Arcadia Bay. Kate…Warren…Joyce and everyone. Please don’t let them die, Max. Don’t let them die…”
I know she was trying to help me calm down but in truth it only made me more frustrated. She was trying to motivate me to do what needed to be done. But her words only made me want her more. With her arms around me my desire to be with her was stronger than ever. I couldn’t let her go. I just couldn’t…
I looked up at the storm again, my face contorted with fury.
“Damn this thing!” I thought. “Damn my powers! If only there was something I could do! If only my powers could…could…!”
I reached out my hand like I was going to do a Rewind. But what could I possibly do with it? I could only rewind a few minutes. What good would that do? My powers were useless right now. Just like when I tried to save Kate. Just like when I tried to save William. They were useless. Completely useless.
“No they weren’t,” a soft voice whispered in my head. “They were not useless. Not at all.”
A lightbulb went on in my head. Like the pieces of a puzzle slowly coming together to form an image, an idea began circulating through my mind.
My powers…weren’t useless in those situations. Not completely. My powers couldn’t help me when trying to talk Kate down. But if it weren’t for my powers, if I hadn’t pushed myself to an entirely new level to freeze time completely, I wouldn’t have made it to her at all. My powers evolved again when I wanted to help Chloe feel better, unlocking my photo jumping ability. Though I couldn’t save William with it, this power proved invaluable in saving Chloe from death at Jefferson’s hands.
All this time my powers have been steadily evolving. Whenever I needed them, my powers found a way to reach new heights.
If it could happen then…why not now?
I stretched out my hand again. I reached towards the storm as though to grab it and began concentrating.
“Max?” I heard Chloe say. I ignored her. I focused all my strength and willpower on the storm in front of me. This monstrous storm…
“One last push…” I muttered. “One last push to save the town…to save Chloe! Forever…”
I focused on the storm, my hand still outstretched. I didn’t know what I was trying to do but I had to do SOMETHING! I needed to push myself to a new height. To reach a new level of power. No way was this storm going to destroy my hometown! No way would it take my Chloe away from me!
My head began to throb with a familiar pain. My powers were waking up. I ignored the pain and kept concentrating. The pain throbbed even harder. My arm started to feel very heavy. I had to struggle with all my might to keep it outstretched. If I failed now, I feared I would never have the strength to do this again.
“Max, what are you doing?!” Chloe cried out. I didn’t respond. The throbbing pain was getting even worse. I felt something warm on my lip. My nose was probably bleeding again. That was what Chloe was panicking about. But I ignored everything and kept concentrating. The pain kept getting worse and worse but still nothing seemed to be happening. Time was still moving and the storm was still advancing. I could see the first of the buildings touch the edge of the tornado and begin crumbling…
Then I saw it. A flicker of light. It wasn’t lightning from the storm. This light I had seen before. Each time I rewound time. The light flickered again and brought friends. Lights shone and flickered all around us and slowly…very slowly…the storm came to a stop.
I felt Chloe tighten her grip on me as time slowed to a crawl. I heard her call out my name one last time, though this time distant and echoing. I wanted to look at her. I wanted to see her beautiful face again. But if I turned away now then everything I was trying to do would come undone. I could feel it.
At last time had stopped completely. The tornado was frozen. Lightning bolts hung in midair like cracks in the sky. It was just like when I tried to rescue Kate. But this time it felt…different. I felt a strange presence. Like we weren’t alone. I couldn’t see them but I felt like someone or something was out there waiting…and listening.
“I…want it…to stop,” I choked out. My head was throbbing with an unbearable pain. It was a struggle to form even a single thought, much less speak. But I gathered what little strength I had left and pushed on.
“Stop…the pain,” I said. “Chloe and I…have suffered enough. Please…let us be happy. Let her live. Let us be together. Spare us…and spare the town. Don’t let Arcadia Bay suffer because of us. Please let us…live…”
A long time seemed to pass. A strange thing to say considering time itself was frozen. I could feel my words echoing around me, permeating every inch of my surroundings. The storm stayed frozen and I kept my arm outstretched. For how much longer, I couldn’t say. My strength was fading fast…
My vision began to blur. I couldn’t take it anymore. The pain was too much. But as I started to pass out, I thought I saw something odd. The storm seemed to start moving again. At first I thought my powers were failing. My time freeze was ending as I weakened and the storm would advance again. But as my vision darkened I could swear that the storm started to move in the opposite direction. It was moving AWAY from the town! Not towards it!
And that was the last thing I could remember. Until I woke up in my bed.
“Chloe! Oooohh…” I bolted upright and immediately grabbed my head. It was still throbbing hard. I closed my eyes and waited a few moments for the pain to subside. When it had diminished enough, I opened my eyes and squinted at the light pouring in through my windows.
Sure enough, I was in my dorm room at Blackwell, wearing just my jeans and t-shirt with my jacket and bag sitting on the floor next to my bed. The light of the Golden Hour on a clear sunny day illuminated my room. It was actually a very picturesque setting. For a brief moment I pondered grabbing my camera until the realization of what was happening really set in.
“I’m…in my bedroom,” I mumbled in disbelief.
“But what day?!”
I quickly grabbed my bag and pulled out my phone. I checked the clock and gasped when I saw the date and time.
6:27 PM October 11th, 2013
I jumped up and ran to my window. I looked around frantically at the courtyard. Even though Blackwell was pretty far inland, there was no way it escaped the storm completely undamaged. But there was nothing. No signs of damage. No signs of devastation. No signs it had even rained recently! So if my clock was correct…that means it was the day of the storm. But the storm wasn’t here.
It was gone.
The storm was gone.
I checked my phone again. This time I checked the text messages.
“Please say she’s in here! Please say she’s in here!” I thought repeatedly.
My heart stopped when I saw Chloe’s picture in my saved text messages. And I burst out crying when I saw the time stamp on the latest ones dated this afternoon…
My legs gave out. I couldn’t take it. I collapsed to the floor and started sobbing hysterically. But these were tears of joy. Chloe was safe. Arcadia Bay was safe! Whatever I did saved everyone and everything I loved!
But what did I do exactly?
That lone thought ate away at my happy moment. As soon as I shed my last tear and found my strength, I grabbed my jacket and bag and stepped outside. I needed to find out what happened exactly. It couldn’t have been a simple Rewind because it was the day and time of the storm and yet it wasn’t here. It couldn’t have been a photo jump either. I didn’t use a photo! I needed to talk to someone to figure out what was going on. And to my great fortune, and relief, the first person I saw was Kate Marsh.
Kate walked down the hall with several books in her arms. Her gaze was turned downward like she was sad. Or simply lost in thought. I sincerely hoped it was the latter but I was grateful that she was alive and well. Kate did not notice me as she approached her dorm room door. Just as she opened it I called out to her. She looked up at me and smiled. It was a warm and friendly smile, the likes of which I hadn’t seen from Kate in a long time. This wasn’t the smile of someone who had recently attempted suicide or was even being bullied. Kate looked…happy.
“Hi Max! Can I help you with something?” she asked.
I stood in front of her and opened my mouth to speak. Then I closed it without a sound. I opened my mouth again and closed it again. There were so many questions I wanted to ask…and yet I couldn’t think of a single one. What could I even ask? “Kate, do you know what happened to the giant tornado that was going to destroy the town?” How could I possibly ask that? Instead I settled on a very simple question.
“How are you feeling, Kate? Are you…okay?” I asked gently.
Kate’s smile faded a little, making my heart sink.
“I’m still a little shook up from what happened at the party but…” she started to say. Then her smile brightened again. “I’m just grateful that nothing happened in the end. Nathan is in jail and we’re all safe. Thank God Dana was there and saw him trying to spike my drink. I don’t want to think about what they were planning to do to me…”
Kate visibly shivered as though recalling something horrible. I was confused. Spike her drink? Was she talking about when Nathan dosed her at the Vortex Club party? That didn’t happen?
I was so stunned I didn’t know what more to say. But Kate smiled again and said she had some homework to do. She reminded me about our next tea outing and went into her dorm room. I silently waved goodbye like an idiot while my mind processed all this.
“Kate’s dosing didn’t happen? But…how?” I wondered.
I needed more answers. Kate mentioned Dana. Maybe she could tell me more? I hurried over to her room and found the door ajar. Dana was laying on her bed inside reading a magazine. I knocked on the door to get her attention. She looked up and smiled when she saw it was me.
“Max! This is a surprise. Come on in!” she greeted warmly. I stepped into the room and closed the door behind me. For the conversation we were about to have I wanted a little more privacy. She said nothing about me closing the door and sat up as I approached. She quietly watched me while I paced around a little, trying to decide how to say what I wanted to say. She was starting to grow concerned until I finally spoke.
“Dana…can I ask you some questions?” I started. Dana smiled softly and replied, “Sure thing. What’s on your mind?”
I hesitated again before answering. “Before I do I should warn you. What I want to ask you is going to sound…weird.”
Dana chuckled. “Max, it’s been a dull day. I don’t mind a few weird questions if it’ll make things more interesting.”
I almost laughed. “Dull day” she said? If only she knew how “exciting” this day was originally supposed to be. I thought some more on my first question when I had an idea. “Tell you what,” I said, “My questions will probably make more sense if you…pretend I hit my head recently and lost my memory of the last few months.”
Dana gave me a concerned look. “DID you hit your head recently?”
I shook my head in response. “Just pretend that I did. Now my first question…” I took some deep breaths before continuing. “…What happened between Kate and Nathan at the Vortex Club party?”
Dana’s smile faded and her expression grew sour. But then it looked confused. “I’m surprised you’re asking that,” she said. “I thought everyone knew all the details by now! The whole thing has been a pretty unforgettable affair. I know it has hit YOU pretty hard with Mark Jefferson’s arrest and all.”
My heart skipped a beat. Mark Jefferson has been arrested?! I’ve been so focused on Chloe and now Kate that I completely forgot about that son-of-a-bitch! I asked Dana to go over everything from the beginning. Dana leaned forward and began recounting the tale.
“Well, Kate apparently came to one of our Vortex Club parties to make some friends,” she began. “I was surprised to see her there. Though I was happy she was coming out of her shell I could tell she was a little out of her element. I decided to keep an eye on her during the party. And I’m glad I did. After some dancing I went to get a drink and saw Nathan talking to Kate. It looked like he was offering to get her a drink. Kate looked nervous but accepted. Nathan turned away to pour her a little wine. He probably thought no one was looking or in a position to see his hands. But I was. I saw him slip something into her drink. I don’t know what but I knew he used drugs. Before Kate could take a sip I knocked the cup out of her hands and confront Nathan. That’s when things really started spiraling out of control…”
I pulled up Dana’s computer chair and sat down, not taking my eyes off her as she continued her story. It was all so radically different than what I heard originally transpired. According to Dana, when Kate realized she was almost dosed she started freaking out and screaming bloody murder. This and Dana’s accusations caused Nathan to flip out. Big time. He tried to attack them but thankfully some members of the football team present leapt to their defense and restrained Nathan. During all this someone called campus security. David Madsen showed up with some of his men and took Nathan into custody. Dana was a pretty credible witness so they believed her story. The police were called in and Nathan was formally arrested. But that was just the start.
Because he was a Prescott, the police made the mistake of not handcuffing him as they took him away. But after they got him into the parking lot Nathan flipped out again. He attacked the officers and stole one of their guns. He was about to shoot one of them too until David stepped in again and disarmed him. His military training really paid off. They made sure to put him in chains this time and hauled him away.
The police grilled Nathan hard at the station. They expected that he was drugging Kate so he could rape her and were hoping to get him to give up the name of his drug supplier. Instead they got something much bigger. He confessed that he was going to kidnap her to take her to the Dark Room. He confessed what he and Mark Jefferson were planning to do. He told them all about Jefferson’s collection of red binders and his plans to help his mentor create even more. A raid was launched on the Dark Room, with help from David Madsen who had been watching Nathan, and Jefferson was arrested a few hours later.
Dana explained how badly shaken Kate was after news broke about the Dark Room. Police tried to keep the details under wraps but in a town this small something like this can’t be kept secret. Stories circulated about the contents of the red binders. Kate started to have nightmares about how she almost had a red binder made about her too. But I smiled as Dana told me how I was there for her, comforting her and helping her get through it. I did all this despite how sick I was about Jefferson’s arrest! I apparently took it hard when I learned that the man I looked up to was a monster. But helping Kate through it also helped me through it.
“The only other person who had it as bad as you two was Victoria,” Dana continued. “It’s no secret she was hitting on Jefferson. She and Nathan were also pretty close too. And this scandal has pretty much killed the Vortex Club too. Losing her friend, her crush and her clique like that really knocked Victoria for a loop. She locked herself in her room for days and wouldn’t speak to anyone. But then she started talking to YOU!”
It was a real struggle to hide my shock as Dana explained how Victoria came out of her room one day just as Kate and I were about to leave for tea. We invited her to come along and she accepted. Now that the Vortex Club was gone and she was no longer its Queen, a lot of Victoria’s uppity attitude had vanished. We’ve been hanging out together more and more and, as unbelievable as it sounds, becoming friends.
I felt like someone slapped me in the face. I thought to myself, “I’m becoming friends with someone as evil as Victoria?!” But I stopped this train of thought before it went too far. It was wrong to brand Victoria evil. Jefferson was evil. The bullying Victoria inflicted on Kate was evil. But Victoria herself actually wasn’t. There was a good person inside her but if Max’s adventures taught her anything about her nemesis it’s that her snobbery and cruelty were just masks to hide her insecurities. Didn’t excuse what she did to Kate before…but now it’s looking like it didn’t happen at all. Things were obviously very different than what they were before. It would be wrong to continue judging Victoria on things that had no longer happened. I’ll likely meet Victoria again soon. I’ll judge things for myself then.
Everything Dana told me after that reflected a quiet, pleasant high school life at Blackwell. No mention of freak snowfall. No unexpected eclipse. No dead whales. And certainly no storm.
But one question still ate away at my mind.
“Have you…seen a girl with blue hair around campus at all?” I asked nervously.
To my relief, Dana nodded. “You mean your friend Chloe? Yeah, I’ve seen her around plenty of times. Didn’t she drop you off earlier this afternoon? Next time you see her you gotta tell that girl her truck needs a new paintjob!”
We both laughed at that. A single tear of happiness rolled down my cheek. I wiped it away before Dana could notice. I thanked her profusely for indulging my strange questions and told her there was somewhere I needed to be. I ducked out into the hall and ran out of the dorm. It was getting late but there should still be at least one more bus scheduled to take me into town. I needed to get to it fast!
I ran nonstop to the bus stop and barely made it in time. The bus driver warned me that this would be the last trip for the day and he wouldn’t be able to pick him up until tomorrow. I told him it was fine and that I could get a ride home from someone. Someone I knew for sure was still out there…
I didn’t listen to music like I usually did as the bus rolled through Arcadia Bay. I listened to the hum of the engine as I stared out the window, soaking in the sights of early evening Arcadia Bay. I couldn’t help but smile. Every single building was just as it was supposed to be. Intact. No signs of storm damage. I could see the lighthouse in the distance, still shining its light for all around. When the bus came to a halt I jumped off and started running again. I ran down familiar streets to a familiar house, one badly in need of a completed paint job.
I knocked on the door and waited impatiently for someone to answer. I clenched my fists and shook from head to toe as I strained to hear some sound inside. But soon I heard shuffling on the other side. The lock clicked, the door opened and Joyce appeared to greet me with a warm smile.
“Why Max! What are you doing back here so soon? Did you forget something?” she asked.
I really didn’t know what to say. I stood there with my mouth hanging open for the longest time before I found the words to speak. “I just…need to see Chloe again. She’s home, right?” I asked.
“Well of course she is! Chloe! Max is here again!”
She called up the stairs for Chloe. I waited nervously for some sort of response. Eventually I heard a door open upstairs. Then the heavy footfalls of Chloe’s boots as she descended the stairs…
Chloe was wearing her usual ripped jeans and punk top but no jacket or beanie. She looked very blurry as she descended the steps. I realized it was because tears were welling up in my eyes. I blinked several times to clear them. Chloe was giving me a surprisingly glowing smile as she approached the door. I smiled back, at a loss for words. Joyce was smiling as Chloe showed up but steadily she looked confused as she looked back and forth between me and Chloe. Neither of us said a word to the other. We both just stood there smiling, gazing deep into each other’s eyes. Joyce eventually decided we needed some time alone. She checked her watch and announced that she was in danger of running late. She was meeting David for dinner. She grabbed her jacket and shooed me inside. She said goodbye, reminding us that she and David would likely be very, very late, and left. We said nothing to her in response. We were too fixated on each other.
We both stood in the front hall for a long time, silently staring at each other. I was so overwhelmed with happiness that I couldn’t think of a thing to say. Chloe seemed to be equally lost for words. But a nagging thought in the back of my mind made me question why? It occurred to me that Chloe would have no memory of our past week together. No one other than myself has ever remembered what happened following a Rewind. Not that this WAS a Rewind.
My train of thought was broken when Chloe chuckled. I focused on her again as she gently shook her head.
“You really are a time goddess, you know that Caulfield?”
I blinked. Did she just call me a…but why?! How could she?!
“Chloe…” I started slowly, my hand partly over my mouth in shock. “Do you…remember everything?”
Chloe’s grin widened and she nodded. She invited me into the living room so we could talk. We sat down on the couch and Chloe gently squeezed my hand. I squeezed it back as I asked Chloe what was going on. Did she really remember what happened this past week? With Nathan and the storm and everything? Chloe nodded.
“You bet your bony little ass I do,” she said with a chuckle. I was dumbfounded.
“But how?! You’ve never remembered anything during my Rewinds in the past! What happened?!”
Chloe shrugged. “I got no fucking clue. But I do remember it happening. I was holding you when all these weird lights started shining all around us. Then my body froze completely. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t talk. But I did hear YOU talking. I heard what you said…about letting us be happy…”
She squeezed my hand a little tighter. I squeezed back and blushed, looking away for a moment before looking back into Chloe’s beautiful eyes. Chloe smiled and continued.
“Then you started to pass out. At the same time everything started moving…backwards. The storm reversed course. The lighthouse uncollapsed itself and all other kinds of weird shit started happening. The lights grew even brighter when you passed out completely. I tried to hold onto you but it felt like something was pulling me away. I held on for as long as I could until I was ripped away. I went flying through the air and I saw you do the same. Everything after that was just a blur until I woke up in my room.”
“Wowser…” I mumbled softly. I asked Chloe if she knew what all has gone down the past few weeks. She nodded. She heard all about Nathan and Jefferson. And of course she noticed the storm was nowhere to be seen. I finally caved and voice my confusion aloud. “How could a simple Rewind have done all THIS?!”
“Max…I don’t think you rewound time,” Chloe said slowly. “I think what you did was REWRITE time.”
She let that sink in for a moment before continuing.
“All the bad things that had happened lately. In this timeline they just…didn’t. It’s like…say the past several months were turned into a storybook. I think what you did on that cliff was open the book, erase the parts you didn’t like and replaced them with something happier. When you reached out your hand God or the Universe or whatever listened to your wish for a happier world and…gave it to you. And I guess…they decided you would be happier if I remembered too? Or maybe it was because I was holding on to you like I was? Who the fuck knows…”
Chloe’s words were making perfect sense. A Rewrite! My powers really did evolve again! First the Rewind, then the Time Freeze, then the Photo Jump and now a Rewrite! My powers reached a new level even I didn’t expect! Then came a new thought. Did I still have my powers at all? I figured I’d better to test this now to be sure. Might as well get it over with. But Chloe refused to let go of my hand. She said I could do the Rewind…but she wasn’t letting me go. I squeezed her hand back.
“Here goes nothing…”
I stretched out my hand and concentrated. And concentrated. And concentrated…
Nothing happened. No Rewind. No nothing.
My powers were gone.
In a way I was greatly relieved by this. Knowing what consequences they could bring now, I wouldn’t use my powers again if I still had them. But losing them removed the temptation. I hugged Chloe. To me, the loss of my powers meant that it was really over. All was right with the world.
“All is right with the world…” I repeated aloud. Chloe hugged me back and ran her hands up and down my back. I expected her to say something back but she stayed silent. This concerned me. When our hug ended I looked at her.
“Everything IS right…isn’t it?”
Chloe’s expression was blank. I couldn’t get a read on what she was thinking.
“Follow me upstairs, Max. There are more things we need to talk about. And one thing I’d like to show you…”
She stood up and led me down the hall.
“We don’t need to worry about Mom or David coming back home for a while. People are actually calling Step-Douche a hero for taking down Nathan and helping the police find the Dark Room. Really mellowed him out. He’s a lot easier to talk to now.”
I was glad to hear that. But I knew that wasn’t what Chloe wanted to talk to me about. Or show me. She led me upstairs and waited outside her room for me to catch up to her. She kept her hand on the doorknob and looked at me, clearly nervous about something.
“Max…” she started to say. Chloe’s breathing became shaky. She looked like she was going to cry. But her smile indicated they would be tears of happiness.
“Before we go in, let me just say…thank you.”
Before I could respond, she swung open the door. I looked into her room…and gasped. Slowly I entered the room, walking sluggishly like a zombie as I stared at the person sitting on Chloe’s bed.
It was…Rachel Amber.
It was unmistakable. She looked just like the photos from her Missing Person posters. Posters that were clearly never made in this timeline.
Rachel was sitting on the edge of the bed with her legs crossed when the door opened. She wore the same shirt and jeans I wore the day after Chloe and I snuck into the Blackwell pool. She was typing away at her phone and looked up when we entered. She smiled at me and Chloe. For the first time I heard Rachel speak. Her voice was as beautiful as her face.
“Back again, Max? Please say you’re here to give Chloe a CAT scan. She’s been acting weird all afternoon!” Rachel laughed. She laughed while Chloe and I looked on like a couple of idiots. Her laughter quickly died when she saw my stupefied expression. “Max, what is it?” she asked. I made some weird croaking sounds before I managed to form a sentence.
Rachel feigned a look of shock and said, “I am?!” She quickly patted her chest as though to make sure she was real. She then faked a sigh of relief and said “Lucky me!” and laughed. But her laughter died again and she rolled her eyes as I continued to silently stare at her. She got up and announced that she was going to leave.
“You’re acting weird too, Max. I’ll leave you two lovebirds alone so you can be crazy together. Talk to you both later!”
She patted me on the shoulder as she walked past and gave Chloe a hug before going downstairs and out the door. I fell to my knees in shock. Chloe helped me up and guided me to the bed. I sat down, still in shock at this revelation. Slowly I turned my head to Chloe and choked out a simple “How?” Chloe could only shrug.
“She apparently never went to the Vortex Club party where she was going to be drugged and kidnapped. She never disappeared…and we all became friends.”
I laughed. Laughed at how miraculous all this was. I deeply regretted that were weren’t able to rescue Rachel. But she was killed long before I returned to town. There was nothing I could have done. But now I had saved her anyway. Somehow I rewrote time so she was never in danger. Chloe explained how she had been grilling Rachel for details since she woke up, much as I did with Dana. Apparently the three of us have become incredibly close, having lots of fun together and getting into a bit of mischief too. We were like sisters, Chloe stated. But if that were true then why did…
“Chloe…” I started. “Why did…Rachel call us…lovebirds?”
Chloe blushed and bit her lip. She looked away for a moment before turning back and looking me in the eye and smiling warmly.
“Because…we’re together, Max,” she explained. “Rachel told me that…you and I are an item. We have been for weeks now.”
I blinked. I felt like Chloe had just slapped me in the face. But…it was a good slap. A very happy slap.
Chloe and I were…dating in this timeline?
Something dawned on me that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of sooner. I reached into my bag and pulled out my journal. Of all the places I could have gotten answers the the best one was practically in my pocket! How could I have forgotten about it?!
I started this journal fresh when I learned I had been accepted into Blackwell. I flipped to the beginning and began speed reading. Early entries were much like I remember, being excited for heading to Blackwell and nervous about reconnecting with Chloe after not speaking to her for years. But entries began to change as Rachel came into the picture. She was on the same floor as me in the dorm so of course we crossed paths. She took a liking to me and my photos and invited me to hang out with her and her best friend. My past-self was utterly shocked to learn it was Chloe.
It was an awkward first encounter. But soon Chloe and I were hanging out together like we were kids again. We bonded again as quickly as we did in the old timeline, even without the life-saving and whatnot. And with Rachel in the mix things were even more exciting.
But as my journal entries went on, they became more and more focused on Chloe. I talked about how happy I was to see her again. How peaceful I felt in her presence. How over time I felt nervous when she wasn’t around and grew terrified this one time she fell down a hill and I thought she had been badly hurt. It was all sounding very familiar to me. But things really came to a head when we were all hanging out at Chloe’s secret hideout at the junkyard. We were laughing and joking and playing games. Like when we were kids, we played Truth or Dare. It was my turn and I chose Dare. Like in the old timeline, Chloe dared me to kiss her. I did.
Everyone was so shocked that I did that. Me most of all. I felt a flutter in my heart when my lips touched hers. I think Chloe did too. But we tried to laugh it off and continued with our game. It was Chloe’s turn and she picked Dare too. Rachel chose the dare. She dared Chloe to kiss me again. Chloe almost chickened out. But when our lips touched again…they did not part for the longest time.
My journal entries grew pretty chaotic for a while after that. I was clearly struggling with my feelings for Chloe and my own sexual identity. Was I gay? Or at least bisexual? I struggled with this question for a full week. Then Chloe came over and we sat down for a talk. She was feeling the same way I did. And we agreed to explore it further. Together.
And we’ve been together ever since.
I finally noticed that Chloe was resting her head on my shoulder, reading my journal alongside me. She chuckled and said, “So these are the hipster chronicles, huh?”
I snapped my journal shut and blushed. She straightened up and I turned to her, at a loss for words. Chloe smiled for a while but slowly her smile faded. She turned serious and took my hand, squeezing it gently.
“Max…” she began. She looked me in the eye, unblinking and dead serious. “I know we’re…supposed to be together in this timeline. But I’m not the same Chloe you wrote about in that journal. You’re not even the same Max that wrote them! I’ll never forget that kiss you gave me on the cliff but…”
She placed her hand on my face, lovingly stroking my cheek with her thumb.
“…But we don’t need to follow in their footsteps. If you want to…choose someone else…I won’t blame you. I won’t hold you to what some ‘other Max’ felt and wrote. You could say that kiss you gave me was from the heat of the moment. But if you still want me, I’ll be yours. And if you just want us to be friends…I’ll be your friend. Because I’ve got your back, Max Caulfield. I’ll always have your back…”
Her voice drifted off as she finished. She was starting to choke up, tears welling up in her eyes. It was a struggle for her to say all that. She said she was happy just being friends with me. But her eyes were clearly saying she wanted more.
But is that what I wanted? I know what I thought and felt on the cliff with the storm right in front of us. Would I still have felt that way if I didn’t think I was about to lose Chloe?
Once again I had a choice. Another choice about Chloe. Do we move on together as friends? Or as lovers?
I reached up and touched Chloe’s hand as she continued to stroke my face. I squeezed her hand gently and closed my eyes, savoring her gentle touch. And when I opened my eyes…I made my choice.
I kissed Chloe. I put my hands on her face and kissed her just as I did on the cliff. No words were needed. I had gone through hell and back to rescue her. Ripped apart and rewrote time itself to keep her alive and ensure our happiness. There was no one else I wanted to walk the road of life with.
Chloe placed her hands on my face just as I was doing to her. Slowly we both fell onto the bed, our lips locked together in the first of many kisses to come. What followed next was the most passionate, most unforgettable night of my life as Chloe and I fully accepted our new reality.
Chloe and I were together. Arcadia Bay was safe. Life is strange…but couldn’t get anymore perfect!