She IS Here
“You’ll never bail on me, right?”
“No way, Chloe. If I leave, I’m taking you with me.”
“Hell yeah! L.A. or bust, right?”
“Damn right. And once we’re there, everything’s finally gonna go our way.”
There was really only one spot in town where they could be completely alone – it was the one downside to having a friend that was so popular. It seemed like wherever they went, Rachel was constantly bombarded by people who really had no business talking to her in the first place.
But here in their little hideaway, tucked in the American Rust Junkyard, they could really be alone and escape the world. It wasn’t totally ideal, but it was better than nothing. There was something oddly peaceful about the place…if you could ignore the occasional train chugging by.
“Do you ever feel totally…I don’t know, stifled here?” Rachel asked. She’d been bent over a sketchbook, her hair falling in her face, but looked up when asking Chloe her question.
“All the time.” Chloe doodled on a random piece of scrap paper. “Arcadia Bay sucks. I mean, ever since my…”
“Your dad?” Rachel said softly.
“…Yeah.” For some reason, talking to Rachel about William didn’t really feel right – maybe because her friend hadn’t known the man. “I don’t know what I’m going to do if my mom marries this douche she’s been seeing. I might actually run off.”
“I’ll come with you.” Rachel smiled brightly, sitting up a little straighter. “Got any plans of where you wanna go?”
“Not really. I just really want to get out, you know?”
“Trust me, I know.” Rachel tapped her pencil against the sketchbook a few times. “I’ve got it – we’ll head out to L.A.”
“Yeah! I’ll sign myself up with a bunch of model agencies and you can be a graphic designer. Or maybe take all of my head shots.” After setting down the sketchbook, Rachel flipped her hair over her shoulder with a sly smile. “What do you think?”
“I think…” Chloe realized a little too late that her cheeks felt hot and glanced away. “I think you’d make a hella awesome model. Agencies would be totally crazy to not sign you.”
“Awesome.” Rachel seemed genuinely pleased. “You know, I think we should mark this life-altering decision with something.”
“Uh, with what, exactly?”
“With…” It only took a quick glance around to apparently give Rachel an idea. She hopped up and grabbed a marker from the pile of random junk they’d been leaving in the hideout. With another sly smile, she uncapped the marker and wrote in big letters on one of the walls.
RACHEL WAS HERE.
“There.” She presented it with a flick of her hand. “Write yourself up here, too. Then when we’re rich and famous and out of Arcadia Bay, whoever comes here next will be completely amazed that we graced this spot with our presence.”
“Right on.” Chloe got up with a smile and took the marker, scrawling on the wall as well.
CHLOE WAS HERE.
“Now nobody can ever take this place away from us,” she said, capping the marker.
“That’s right,” Rachel agreed, slinging her arm around Chloe’s shoulders and admiring their handiwork. “This place might be a complete wasteland…”
Chloe leaned into Rachel without evening thinking about it. “…But it’s our total wasteland.”
One of the many reasons why Chloe liked going to the Two Whales with Rachel was because Joyce never seemed to mind giving them free food when they were together. When Chloe was alone, her mother would sometimes complain.
But when she was with Rachel? Not a word.
If they could conquer Joyce’s waitressing habits, maybe they really could conquer the world. After all, she needed someone by her side to do it.
“You know what would be a completely amazing thing to do for your birthday?” Rachel said, dipping a piece of pancake into some syrup. She was on another vegetarian kick, so she’d given Chloe her bacon.
“You should get a tattoo.”
“C’mon, don’t tease me.” Chloe shoved a piece of bacon in her mouth, eating it before continuing, “You know I’ve wanted a sleeve for ages, but uh, hello, no getting around the law. I’m turning seventeen, not eighteen. And I’d rather get my ink done at a legit place instead of some random craphole downtown.”
“What if I told you that I know of a legit place that looks the other way when it comes to their customer’s ages?”
“Dude, no way.” Chloe’s eyes grew huge. “You can’t be serious.”
With a wicked smile, Rachel moved the bracelet she’d been wearing on her left wrist. Inked onto her skin, and previously hidden by the bracelet, was a small star. “Completely serious.”
“You got one?!” Chloe gripped Rachel’s wrist, totally slackjawed as she examined the tattoo from every angle, ignoring the way Rachel was laughing. “And you didn’t tell me?!”
“I wanted to surprise you.” Rachel gently took her arm back to eat another piece of pancake. “I know you’ve been wanting one for a long time. I heard about a place from the Vortex Club that’ll ink underage people…with one catch.”
“That it’s either easy to hide…” Rachel wiggled her arm, which slid the bracelet to her wrist again, effectively hiding the tattoo, “…Or that it’s a completely original design. That tells them that you’re serious about it and you’re not just someone waltzing in there on a dare.”
“Sounds good to me.” Chloe lifted her arm up a little and stared at her bare skin, excited about the possibilities of it being covered in color. “But y’know – as much as I want a sleeve, I’ve never really given much thought to the design.”
“Well, if you’re interested…I’ve kind of been doodling stuff during class.” Without waiting for a reply, Rachel reached into her bag and pulled out some wrinkled papers. Several of them had designs that were clearly a dragon, and others looked like more intricate pieces of art.
“These are all completely badass.” Chloe shoved aside her plate and smoothed out the papers. “I don’t know about a dragon, though.”
“Those are for me.” Rachel quirked a smile. “I’ve been thinking of getting it done on my leg.”
“You totally should.” Chloe grinned. “Man, can you imagine? We’d be hella punk. Totally unstoppable.”
“Definitely,” Rachel agreed. “Here – pick a sleeve design you like. I’ll help you fine-tune it so it’s something you’re really into. We’ll start getting both of ours done after your birthday, okay?”
“We can go on my birthday if you want.”
“Yeah. I’ve got nothing else planned.” Chloe tried not to sulk as she said the words, but then her expression evened out as she looked up at Rachel. “I just want to spend it with you.”
Rachel smiled back, though it didn’t have quite the same openness that Chloe’s expression had. “It’s a date.”
“I can’t believe you did it!” Rachel all but screamed as she reached out and fluffed Chloe’s newly-dyed hair with her fingers. “It looks amazing!”
“Obviously, since you convinced me to finally just do the whole thing.” Chloe grinned, turning and glancing in the mirror in her room. Having a few streaks of blue was one thing, but to have her entire head that color?
She looked totally badass.
“It seriously suits you,” Rachel said, coming up from beind Chloe and resting her chin on her shoulder. Chloe immediately ducked her head a bit.
“What, want me to do yours next?”
“Please, I could never pull it off. But on you? Completely awesome.” Rachel moved away so she could fuss with her own hair.
“Mom’s seriously going to freak when she gets home.” Though hopefully in good way. Honestly, after coming home with a tattoo sleeve, Chloe was pretty sure Joyce had used up enough freakouts for a lifetime. “Hopefully step-douche doesn’t say anything.”
“I’m glad they’re gone for the weekend.” Rachel sighed heavily. “I wish David didn’t work at Blackwell.”
“Just…bad vibes.” Rachel waved a hand as though that would explain it, and then knelt down, digging through Chloe’s CDs. “But hey, as long as they’re gone, now we can blast whatever we want.”
“Hell yeah.” Chloe immediately forgot about David and turned away from her reflection. “Pick something we can mosh to. Or, well…pretend to mosh to.”
“Gotcha.” After a moment, Rachel selected a particular CD and slid it into the stereo. Instantly, loud guitar riffs rang through the speakers and both girls grinned, immediately breaking into dance mode.
Chloe knew she could move, but she’d always thought that Rachel was a truly exceptional dancer. Something about the way her body flowed to the music was totally mesmerizing to watch, and it was probably the real reason she kept getting invited to those Vortex Club parties.
“I love this song!” Rachel shouted over the music. “It makes me feel like I can do anything!”
“Right?!” Chloe yelled back. Even though it was just the two of them in her bedroom, the music was so loud that it was hard to hear each other.
They danced and pretended they were moshing until the song faded into another one. Rachel turned the sound down a bit, her face a bit flushed. “Oh man, I’m so pumped right now. I want to do something totally crazy!”
“I believe that,” Chloe replied with a smirk. “So what’s it gonna be?”
“Hmm…” Rachel swayed a bit to the current song, looking totally lost in it, until a wicked grin crossed her face. “I know…”
“I dare you…” She moved her way closer to Chloe, “…to kiss me.”
Chloe completely froze. “…What?”
“Kiss me,” Rachel echoed, not deterred by her friend’s reaction. There was a lazy smile on her face. “Because the music can make you do anything, right?”
The lyrics had nothing to do with love or romance or even just random crushes, but it was still invigorating – and it was enough for Chloe to grasp Rachel’s arms and pull her close, their lips meeting in a quick, clumsy kiss.
Rachel laughed across Chloe’s mouth, slowly pulling away. “See, I knew you had it in you.” She widened her eyes a little as the song changed again. “Oh yeah, I almost forgot – I’ve got something for us, because tonight, we can totally do anything.”
“What is it?” Chloe asked, her mind still reeling a little from the kiss.
Rachel went to her bag, which she’d dropped on the floor earlier, and rifled through it, eventually pulling out a small plastic bag. She held it up and shook the contents so they were shown off evenly. “Ta-da.”
Though she’d gotten high once or twice with other Blackwell students before the school had kicked her out, Chloe had never had access to her own supply of weed before. “Where did you get that?”
“I…know a guy.” For the first time that night, Rachel’s smile faded slightly, but it was immediately on again as she flopped on the bed. “Come on. What’d I say?”
Chloe grinned and pulled out her camera from her desk, sliding an arm around Rachel and holding up the camera to snap a quick shot. What could she say? She wanted to remember this.
“This night is ours, and we can do anything.”
“I have to go away for awhile.” Rachel threw one of the darts, missing the bulls-eye by a mile.
Chloe paused before taking her own shot. “Go where?”
“I don’t know. Just on a little road trip. Things have been a little…weird lately.”
“Weird how?” Chloe threw her dart, getting a little closer than Rachel had.
“Just…weird.” She seemed reluctant to talk about it. “Look, I just need to clear my head. I’ll send you a postcard so you know I’m okay.”
“Do more than that.” Chloe watched Rachel miss the target again. It was a good thing this little hideaway was a piece of shit, or they’d get yelled at for all the holes the darts were making. “You’ve gotta come back for me.”
“I will. We’ve still gotta get the hell out of here for good.”
“Damn right.” Chloe twisted the dart in her fingers instead of taking her turn. “Look, Rachel, you’d…you’d tell me if something was up, right?”
“Okay.” Neither of them sounded convinced, but Chloe just set her mouth in a line and threw her dart. Closer, this time. “Look, Rachel, I…”
There was a long pause before Chloe finally sighed heavily. “You know I love you, okay? Just come back and get me.”
“Promise.” Rachel threw her dart, smiling when it landed. “Bulls-eye.”
Even though it had been months and seemingly everyone had given up, just citing Rachel as a runaway, Chloe knew in her bones that it wasnt true. Rachel wouldn’t have just run away. Not without her.
Chloe slapped some more ‘Missing Person’ posters all over Blackwell, trying to look as nonchalant as possible. After all, she had to sneak in to talk to a certain Prescott and get her money somehow.
As she easily navigated through the crowds of students in the hallways, her eyes darted up to a poster she’d managed to put up a few weeks ago. The photo of Rachel stared at her almost pleadingly, like she was begging Chloe to find her.
There was no way she was gone for good. Just no way.
Rachel is here, Chloe thought.
Rachel is here.
RACHEL IS HERE.