The sun was shining in the clear sky of that wonderful day of July.
The wind was blowing from the sea, spreading everywhere the sweet scent of saltiness, the trees fronds were moving lazily following its rhythm, casting muted emerald shadows in the underbrush and on the narrow path that crossed the forest.
Maxine was running.
She was savoring the heat of the sun’s rays on the skin, the freshness of the air caressing her face, the rustling of the wind within the leaves and the twittering of the birds, the perfume of sea and wood.
The perfume of freedom.
She walk the path with closed eyes, she knew it perfectly.
At the first crossroad she turned left, following the longest way through the woods, then she keept her way until she found a big rock covered in musk . There she left the path, making her way through the woods, jumping huge roots and banding to avoid the lowest branches.
She moved gently the last little branch, and she admired the enchanted show in front of her with eyes wide open: the great glade was a blaze of colors and life, a mosaic of thousand tonalities composed by dozens, hundreds of flowers. The wind blew gently causing crimson, purple and yellow waves. The sweet scent reached her, and she took a long breath.
A multitude of insects was buzzing all around, settling on the petals and bending the stems under their weight. Not too far a flock of beautiful blue birds was moving through the high grass, while deer, squirrels and others animals were protecting themselves from the hot sun of the first afternoon at forest’s borders.
In the center of that enchantment there was a single lonely tree, huge and high. The great trunk was sustaining a little, rickety wood house and, upon her, a black flag with a white skull and two crossed sabers was waving in the wind .
At the sight of the house on the tree, Maxine smiled. She run through the glade.
“Chloe!” she shouted “Chloe! Are you there?”
“Max!” her friend was greetings her, leaning dangerously over the edge of the little terrace “Come on! Came up!”
She didn’t lose time, she reached the short ladder and climb it all in one go .
On the top she found her friend watching her with grim eyes “You’re late”.
The abashed silence who followed was in total contrast with Chloe’s aspect: her fists on her hips, the long blonde hairs framing her greens eyes, watching her friend with rage, her lips so close that seems to disappear, her cheeks swollen as balloons… and that so stupid pirate captain’s hat.
Max couldn’t resist and laughed with her friend, hugging her.
“I’m so happy to see you”
“Me too! I’ve been waiting this moment for the entire year!”
Chloe released herself gently from the hug and watch her right in the eyes. “Are you ready? Today Arcadia Bay’s pirates go back to adventure!
Max was jumping for excitement “Oh yes! Hungry of glory and treasures”
“Exactly! And this year we will finally take over the city! But before…”
Chloe turned around and start rummaging in an old travel bags from where she took an eye patch and throw it to Max. She looked her perplexed.
“Do I really have to?”
“Oh! Yes! Don’t you remember? Two years ago captain Teddy ambushed us and took your eye, avenging his one. The one you swallowed when you where a child”
“Damned vengeful teddy bear!” Said Max, laughing while she put on the eye patch. “Maxine Caulfield ready captain!”
“Well crew! As every year, today the terrible Arcadia Bay pirates are back in action!” Chloe was acting as a true leader: speaking loudly and clearly, looking at the horizon. “And as every year epic battles an rich loot are waiting us, but I warn you: no cowards allowed! Are you with me?”
“AYE AYE CAPTAIN!” Maxine shouted at the sky.
“Then SET SAILS!” Chloe shouted, pointing at the horizon “Come on, follow me!” she said, turning back.
“I’ll be behind you, my captain!”
The two friends go down from the ladder, laughing happily. They ran through that magic glade, going back into the forest. Nature suddenly seemed to wake up: little birds followed them twitting and jumping from branch to branch, squirrels hid in their dens, alarmed. While they were running through the forest Max noted a single doe speeding in the trees, following them. They took the path backwards making attentions to don’t stumble on the bumpy terrain, but without slowing down , without fear. They were together again, now they felt invincible. Nothing could stop them.
The path ended, leaving the way to a dirt road . Now the rustle of the leaves was accompanied by the lapping of the waves on the beach and the shrill cry of the seagulls. The road keep climbing along the cliff
Chloe took Max by hand “Come on Max! To the lighthouse!”
They ran without stopping, reaching the top.
The lighthouse was there, old and corroded by the severe weather, but working perfectly. Little far away there was a bench, very close to the cliff.
The two friends set down, exhausted “what a run!” said Chloe
“You can say that!” replayed Max.
“are you hungry? My mother made us some sandwich …” Chloe was already rummaging inside the backpack, peaking out a little silver wrapper.
“Food! Mine!” Max took the sandwich from Chloe’s hands.
She laughed, unwrapping hers “So.. how was the trip to Seattle?” she asked.
“It was great! We visited Woodland park zoo and the Freemont Troll, we’ve also been on the top of the Space Needle! I took a tons of pictures, one of this days I’d like to show them to you”
“Still with that old instant camera? Isn’t time to change?”
“Never! I love this camera!”
Max took her yellow Polaroid from the backpack, while Chloe lied down on the bench. “Little rest!”
“You lazy! Ok, I’ll take some pictures.”
And she took a lot of them. She immortalized the beauty of Arcadia Bay, the reflexes of the afternoon’s sun in the sea, the white waves crushing on the rocks. Her best friend with her hair caressed by the wind and the lighthouse on the background.
“I’d like so much to stop time.” Chloe was looking at the sky, dreaming “No concern, no one to tell us what to do. Just me and you”
Max smiled to her “It would be great” Chloe got up, reaching her. “Come on! Let’s take a picture, I want to remember this moment for ever.”
They tightened one another, while Chloe took the camera from Max’s hands and took the picture.
“Perfect” said Max, shaking it lightly.
Hearing no respond from Chloe she turned back. She found her friend paralyzed, the eyes filled with terror while she was looking to Arcadia Bay “Max… Look…”
At that moment Max saw the giant tentacle coming out from the sea.
The wind was blowing strongly and the rain fell wildly in that stormy night. Chloe was trying to hold the rudder while the ship was shaken by the waves and the strong currents. The hull and the ropes was creaking and vibrating due to the effort of keeping the ship together. She was interposing her ship within the coast and the enormous tentacle creature come from the sea.
“Cannons ready captain!” Max shouted at her right, holding herself to the parapet to not be thrown outside.
“Fire at my signal!” The creature was coming closer and closer, its tentacles were writhing within the waves, raising giant spray of salt water .
Chloe took the ship in position. “FIRE!”
The first save went out, the shot hit at several meters from the monster, sinking in the black sea.
“Reload and aim better!”
Max run to take other munitions.
The creature turn its enormous body, its single yellow eye was on them.
Chloe now had to stay away from the beast, they had its attention and the city was safe.. for now, but they had to survive.
“At your signal!” Max was already back, ready to fight.
“FIRE, NOW!” This time all the shots found their target, hitting the creature with loud thuds.
The monster opened its terrible jaws with a chilling cry of pain and the tentacles reached the ship.
The force of the crash was unexpected, Chloe lost her grip on the rudder, sliding on the wet floor and fell beyond the parapet with a cry.
Max saw her too late, she run to reach Chloe’s hand, but her friend was already disappeared in the stormy waters. She had no choices, she took the rudder, turning the ship right before crushing on the sharp rocks
The monster was going back to Arcadia Bay, the giant tentacles crushing wildly on the sea surface.
She had to hurry, one cannon was left loaded, but she couldn’t both lead the ship and shot. The only way was to crash on the creature, she had to save the city!
Suddenly she heard a scream behind the ship
“MAX!!!” Chloe emerged, she was reeling within the waves, shaking her arms in terror “MAX!!! HELP ME!!!”
But Max was too far, exactly between the monster and her friend. She had to choose.
The creature was advancing closer and closer to the city, a few minutes and it would have destroyed it.
Chloe was sinking in the icy sea. She keep screaming in desperation while emerge to breath was any moment more difficult.
“How?” Max thought “How can I choose between my city and my best friend?”
The idea came like a thunder in clear sky. Of course! Why she didn’t thought that before?
She took the rudder whit adamantine will and turned it completely, the ship almost turned on herself and Max heard perfectly the snapping of the ropes braking under the terrible effort.
Chloe was completely sank, just a hand was resisting outside the black sea. When she felt the rough surface of a rope caressing her fingertip, she held to it with all her remaining forces. She felt herself lifting and drag outside the water. She woke up only when she felt someone shaking her and call her name.
“Chloe! Chloe! Wake up!” She cough, empting her lungs. Max was in front of her “Max? the monster…The city?” her friend made her stand up
“Take the rudder! I have a plan.”
She didn’t lose time, taking the control of the ship.
“Hold the tentacle beasty on the right!”
Chloe obeyed. The monster had already reached the coast, a single hit would have destroyed Arcadia Bay.
Max fumbled a little with the cannon, aiming. When she fired, the shot fulfilled a perfect arc, hitting right on the head of the monster that turned back, screaming with fury.
“Well done Max! And now it’s time to end this!” Chloe turn the prow to face the beast, in that very moment the wind blow stronger than ever, inflating the black sails. The ship reached her max speed.
The beast was coming for them, opening her giant mouth. Max watched with terror that black pit surrounded by sharp fangs, and for a moment she was sure they’ll end into it.
But Neptune was by their side that night, because a great waves suddenly take form right under them, pushing them above.
The two friends hugged, holding each other to don’t fall.
It was the only thing Chloe could say, before the prow crushed with terrible force on the wide open eye of the creature.
“YEEEEEES!!!” they cried together, while the beast sank back in the ocean.
The sun was slowly going down, spreading every where the soft golden light of the sunset, the waves were bubbling placid under them and the gently breeze was caressing their faces.
“We did it!” Max laughed happly.
Chloe hugged her “You saved me.”
“Of course I saved you! You’re my best friend and I’ll never leave you”
They stayed like this, close one another, for a while. Serenaded by the wind and the rhythm of the waves.
Chloe released herself from the hug, running fast through the road bellow, leading to Arcadia Bay.
“The last who arrive to the ice-cream truck is a big slobbery snail!”
“Ehi! That’s not faire! You started first!” Max said, while she started running.
“Come on snail!”
They run to the city, laughing. There would have been others day like that, they was certain. That would have been their summer.
At the lighthouse, a blue butterfly alighted gently on the bench. Her wings were shining with untold beauty in the light of the sunset, the air seemed to move around her.
She watched the two girls running along the street, happy.
They couldn’t know how many things would have changed. They had no idea of what the future would have been , how much grow up would have been difficult. All the sorrow, sadness and suffering ahead. The decisions, often terrible they’ll have to take.
A veil of sadness fall upon those places, even the wind stopped.
She watched again the two friends laughing happly. In five years that day would have been just a distant memory. It’s really true.
Life is so strange