The Ones We Left Behind
William was about to leave. “And no Chloe and Max wine-tasting session…” he said with a firm but caring voice. Not exactly the words a 14-year-old girl likes to hear in front of her friend. ”Dad!” Chloe responded slightly embarrassed. But she knew Max wouldn’t bother anyway. They were best friends like forever, and Max was virtually a member of the Price family herself. “Don’t blow it because tonight your mother promised to make us her world-famous salmon surprise with chocolate cake for dessert. Max, you’ll be here too, right?” Max had no chance to react as Chloe quickly butted in with the only answer she would allow. “She’s never leaving me!” – “That makes all of us.” With these words William eventually left the house to pick up Joyce.
“The pancakes are almost ready, Maxine!” Chloe giggled back in the kitchen. “Chloe Elizabeth Price! It’s Max, never Maxine! You know that!” Max stared dreamy at a brand new picture of Chloe and her. “Your dad is so talented when it comes to photography. I wouldn’t even know what subjects I should take a picture from.” She looked up and saw a conspicuous blue butterfly sitting on the fence in the garden. “That would be a cool shot.” she thought, while Chloe stepped next to her and put the pancakes onto the table. “Take pictures of yourself!” – “What? That’s not a cool subject, Chloe…” – “Oh it is. Just call the photo ‘best friend ever’.” Chloe’s bright eyes and her warm smile made Max feel comfortable. “Now let’s finish our breakfast before mom and dad come home.”
Some minutes later.
“That was delicious. Now let’s clean up and watch another movie. How about ‘Blade Runner’?”- “Your dad’s gonna kill us!” Max chuckled, while she helped Chloe carrying the dishes. The ringing of the phone interrupted their conversation. “Don’t be a chicken, Max!” Chloe said while she picked up the phone. “Hi. This is Chloe Price, who’s there?” – “Hi sweetie, it’s me.” – “Oh, hi mom. Where are you?” – “I’m at the Two-Whales. Is your dad still at home?” – “No, didn’t he pick you up yet? He has left the house at least 20 minutes ago…” Max lurked around the corner and noticed Chloe’s mood changing for some reason. “That doesn’t sound like dad. He’s never late! Maybe he had to… Uhm… Mom? What’s that noise in your background?” – “It’s sirens. Looks like there was an acci.. dent.. Oh god, no.. Chloe, stay at home! I love you!” – “What’s going on there, Mom? Are you there? MOM??” Max winced as Chloe started to yell. She never saw Chloe so frightened before. Instinctively she moved towards her best friend and took Chloe tightly into her arms. Chloe, white as a sheet, pressed her face onto Max’s shoulder and started crying. “He’s never late, Max! Never!” Max didn’t know that William died in a car crash a couple of minutes ago, but somehow she could foresee that this wasn’t going to end well.
A few days later in Chloe’s room.
Chloe lay on her bed and stared to the ceiling. Max stood in the middle of Chloe’s room, hesitating to say something. She tried to read Chloe’s face, but she wasn’t able to discern its contours since the whole room was covered in dark. The windows were veiled behind flags and rags, intended to lock out the world. Only a few rays of sunlight found their way into the once so merry place, illuminating dust particles in the air. Fittingly to the environment, both girls wore black clothes. After a moment that felt like an eternity, Max plucked up courage. “Uhm. That were very hearty and sincere words from that girl at the funeral. What’s her name again?” Chloe seemed absently, but after a few seconds she eventually answered the question. “Kate Marsh. Her dad and my dad are.. were.. good friends.” She sighed. “It was OK, but I’m not that religious. Max, would you mind to switch on the music?” Max turned around and saw that the cd player was just paused. She pressed the button and the music started to play. “But what’s so easy in the evening, by the morning’s such a drag…”
Max walked over to Chloe’s bed, sat down and pensively looked at her friend. “I remember the day when she lost Bongo, she was so sad back then. But this is different. She didn’t even cry today. I wonder what she’s thinking.” Chloe turned her head towards Max. “He lied to me.” Max was caught by surprise. “Uh, what?” – “He lied to me. He said he’d never leave me. And now he’s gone. He abandoned me.” Chloe stared at the ceiling again. “Chloe, you know that’s not true. You know it’s not his fault.” – “Then whose fault is it??” Chloe yelled, while she leaped up. Suddenly she was very incensed. For a moment Max looked a bit unsettled at Chloe, then she started to hug the forlorn girl. “I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault. Sometimes life’s just not fair. I’m so sorry Chloe…” Tears ran down her cheek. Chloe returned the hug. “Please don’t cry, Max. I’m sorry, I didn’t meant to shout at you.” She whispered. “We still have us. That’s the only thing that matters now.” The two girls looked at each other. “Do you remember when dad built us the swing and I helped you to get almost as high as the roof?” Chloe smiled. “Of course, how could I forget that day? I was flung out and broke my arm!” Max recounted. Chloe started to giggle. “Yeah, that was an awesome tumble. My dad was so mad at me.” – “Oh yes, what was the punishment again? Two weeks no TV?” – “Three. And I had to clean the dishes for that time.” – “I think that was the only time I saw your dad angry. He was always so cool!” Chloe let herself fall back on the bed again. “He was.” she said with a touch of melancholy. Max lay next to her. “I already miss him, Max.” – “I know, Chloe. I know.”
“What’s so simple in the moonlight, now is so complicated. What’s so simple in the moonlight, so simple in the moonlight…”
Two weeks later.
Max sat on the bus. She looked concerned, something seemed to bother her. Since William’s death she had been at the Price’s house every single day, except for yesterday. She looked out of the window and soaked up the impressions of the landscape, but in a ruminative way. Then the bus stopped, and she slowly walked out and towards the door of the half-painted house. The top of the house was blue, the bottom still white. William had no chance to finish it. “This still makes me sad” Max thought as she hesitated to ring the bell. Joyce opened the door and almost knocked down the surprised girl. “Oh, hi Max! I didn’t hear you ring the bell. I’m about to leave for work, but Chloe’s in the garden. I see you later, darling!”
Max entered the garden and saw Chloe sitting on the terrace. She sat down next to her, not saying a single word. Anxiously Chloe looked at her. “Max? Are you alright? I tried to call you yesterday, but your mum said you didn’t feel good?” The younger girl released a deep sigh. “No Chloe. I’m not alright. Actually, I have to talk to you…” – “Wow Max, you sound bloody serious. Has someone died or something?” Chloe smiled for a moment, but then she realized that Max had tears in her eyes. “Uhm.. Max? What happened?” Max kept looking at the ground. “We’re leaving Arcadia Bay.” she said barely audible. Chloe made a short noise that sounded like a laughter. “I thought you just said you’re leaving the Bay.” She focused on Max, expecting her to say something different. The smaller girl wiped some tears away. “Yes, we are. My family moves to Seattle. We will leave in three days…” Max turned her head to see Chloe’s reaction. Tears ran down her cheek again. Chloe stared dumbfounded straight through Max as if she wasn’t right in front of her. “You’re.. you’re leaving me…” she stammered. “You’re abandoning me too…” – “Chloe, I…” – “No!” she screamed. Both girls jumped up, preparing for a fight.
Chloe was about to yell at Max. She opened her mouth, but no sound came out of her throat. She just looked at her best friend, standing in front of her like a reflection of herself in this very moment, broken-hearted and alone. It started to rain, and Chloe looked up towards the sky. “Rain? I mean, seriously? What a fucking cliché!” She wandered around in the garden, looking to the ground and shaking her head. Eventually she stopped and turned towards Max. “Let’s just break away!” – “W.. what?” Max responded a bit confused. “Yes! Let’s just head to, I don’t know.. San Francisco? No! How about Los Angeles? That’d be awesome! Just you and me…” Chloe stepped in front of Max and took both of her hands. Max could see a spark of hope in Chloe’s eyes, but she knew this wouldn’t work. “That would be so cool. But we’re just kids. Where are we going to live? Where do we get food and other stuff?” – “Oh, that’s no problem! I will look for a job. I’ve heard of many people who started that way in L.A., so no obstacles here for Max and Chloe, the famous pirates from Arcadia Bay!” Chloe laughed. “Chloe… I wish it would be that easy, but…” – “But what? What’s the problem? You know what? I think you don’t want to be here and stay with me! I think you’re happy to get away from me and this fucking place!” she yelled. Max felt forced to make a step back. “You know that’s not true! I don’t want to go! I want to stay right here with you!” Chloe quieten down and took a deep breath. “Then why don’t you?” she said with a firm voice. Max didn’t respond. What could she say anyway? The two girls just stand in the rain for a moment and looked at each other, until Chloe turned around and walked towards the sliding door of the house. She stopped at the threshold, not turning around, and said: “Get your ass to a dry place, Maxine. You want to be healthy for Seattle…” She strode into the house, closed the door and got out of sight, while Max started to shiver.
Three days later.
Max hadn’t heard from Chloe since their fight. She stood in front of her old house, right next to the SOLD sign. It was one of those damn hot days which are only bearable when you jump into a pool and stay in there the whole day. But the Caulfields had other plans for today. “Honey, are you ready? We’re going to leave in five minutes.” Max’s mother said, while she tried to puzzle with some luggage to get everything inside the car. The daughter didn’t seem to be as excited as her parents though. She looked around and tried to catch sight of her best friend. In vain. Once again she looked at the house in which she lived for her whole childhood. It was a beautiful, big house, red painted and with white pillars, which kept up the roof of the porch. Max thought of the good old days. Almost every memory she could remember was about her and Chloe having fun. They built a castle out of pillows and defended it against the evil intruders – of course Max’s parents – for two whole days. They often pretended the ground was made out of hot lava, and they jumped from couch to couch to avoid getting burned. And they loved to play pirates in the backyard, travelling the seven seas to find a treasure. They had such an innocent childhood, but now everything seemed to be different.
“Max, we’re ready. Let’s go!” her dad interrupted the girl’s daydream. “Dad, uhm, I feel like I forgot something. Can I go in and check one more time?” she asked with a shaky voice. “Buttercup, we know this is tough for you, but you’ll make it. I promise that you will have fun in Seattle.” – “But dad, seriously, I’m sure I forgot something!” Max begged. “Don’t fool me, sweetie, we double-checked every room. Now jump in and let’s go!” Max turned around with a last desperate attempt to spot Chloe on the other end of the street. Nothing. Slowly she walked to the car and entered the rear seats. “Now let’s start this adventure!” her dad laughed, as he set the car back onto the street. Max looked a last time at their house, and then down to mailbox. She detected the same kind of blue butterfly that she saw the day of Williams accident. The car started moving, but suddenly Max jumped out of the car, causing her dad to perform an emergency braking. “MAX!” he screamed, but she already reached the mailbox. The butterfly flew away as Max opened the box and found an envelope inside.
There was no address stated on it, only her name. She looked inside and found a photo from her and Chloe dressed as pirates. And there was a letter from Chloe. Max began to read, while her parents stepped behind her, put their hands onto Max’s shoulders and started to read themselves.
I am infinitely sorry that I am not around. But I can’t do this. I cannot watch my best friend driving away from me, maybe forever. I am sorry that our last encounter ended in a fight. You deserve better. The last few weeks were some hell of crap, but I’m so thankful that you went through this shit with me, right by my side.
We had such a wonderful time together, and I will never forget that. I will never forget you. I hope you will be happy in your new home. I truly do. Maybe we can keep in touch and write each other letters? I’ve never done that before, so.. Sorry if I suck at this.
I’ll miss you, Max Caulfield. Don’t you forget about me!
I love you.
A few moments later, Max was on her way to Seattle. She cried for the first half of the trip. At the same time, Chloe was lying on her bed, crying into her pillow. The sun was setting. And unlikely enough, in this moment the radio in the car and Chloe’s music system played the same song.
“Goodbye to the roses on your street.
Goodbye to the paintings on your wall.
Goodbye to the children we’ll never meet.
And the ones we left behind.
And the ones we left behind…”