The secret diary of Chloe Price, she wrote out in curved, even handwriting. ‘Diary’ looked odd on the page, a dirty, unfamiliar word that didn’t fit her, and definitely didn’t fit what had essentially become their escape plan.
“Nope, that’s hella weird.” She scratched it out.
Dust particles danced in the low light that filtered in through the slats of her window as the day began to fade.
“Come onnnn,” Rachel teased from where she lay on Chloe’s bed. The blonde was rolling a slim piece of paper between two fingers. Her lips were curled up in a cheeky grin. “We don’t have all night. ‘Rachel and Chloe’s Foolproof Plan to Get Our Asses to California’! Step one.”
“That’s not a step.”
“You’re impossible.” She was tempted to just chuck the book right at Rachel’s perfect, pretty grin. Chloe got to her feet, then closed the distance between them to pluck the joint from her fingers. “Not in here, Stepdouche will lose it.”
“Gosh, he’s usually so reasonable,” Rachel tried to snatch the freshly-rolled joint back. Chloe laughed despite herself, keeping it just out of arm’s reach. “So? Let’s hurry up with the plan. I’m ready to see my name in lights.” She paused, then leaned close to grab Chloe gently by the chin. “Will you be my faithful assistant?” Chloe’s gaze lingered on Rachel’s mouth as she spoke.
“Hell no, I’m no assistant.” The stared at each other with a sombre intensity for a moment before they each cracked up.
“Sorry, Miss Price—”
A text message alert sang out from Rachel’s phone, silencing her more effectively than anyone ever could. She read quickly, texting back with some unseen somebody. It made Chloe’s hackles go up. Rachel had been doing this more often lately, ignoring whatever conversation the two of them were having in favour of whoever it was she kept texting. Maybe a bunch of whoevers.
Chloe let out an exaggerated sigh and whipped around to face her desk where their travel diary lay open. It was just as well Rachel had shut up about their plans, since Stepdouche would be home any minute. She could just imagine his bitter, furious scowl as he stood at the bottom of the steps ready to make her life even more of a living hell. As if he had any say over her, over her mom. As if he were half the man William was. It wasn’t her fault he had PTSD. It wasn’t her fault their whole two-bit town was shit. And it wasn’t her fault Blackwell kicked her out. …Maybe it was slightly her fault about Blackwell but the circumstances were–
“CHLOE!” The front door was opened and then quickly slammed shut.
“Speak of the paranoid devil.”
Rachel snapped to attention, her head turning towards the door to Chloe’s room just as they heard David’s heavy-footed steps hitting the floor.
(Get out of here!) Chloe mouthed, gesturing at Rachel, wildly waving her hands around.
Rachel sighed, tucked her phone directly into her bra with a smirk, and leisurely walked over to Chloe, taking time they didn’t really have to plant a kiss on her cheek. The door to Chloe’s room swung open just as Rachel’s shoes disappeared out the window behind her desk.
Enter the Stepdouche.
“You better not have any those deadbeat friends of yours in there! You smoking weed again? Joyce and I blah blah blah! Punch me in my big stupid face.”
…That’s what he should have been saying. She tuned him out. All the yelling came from nowhere. She could only listen to the same insane suspicions founded on delusions so many times.
“It’s fine,” she cut in. Every word jumped off her tongue like it couldn’t wait to leave. “Just looking into some new schools. That’s what you want me to do, right? So I am. Maybe Bay City, who knows. OK? Chill.” She made a show of going over to her laptop and opening the Bay City College website, pretending to study it intensely.
There was a tense pause as he eyed her, trying to suss out whatever she was undoubtedly hiding from him. He finally decided he was satisfied and slunk off down into the depths of the house to his garage workshop-slash-mancave.
She barely had time to doodle in the journal before her phone chimed. She had a couple messages she hadn’t noticed during David’s ranting.
[FRANK: Cash, girly. Don’t think I’ve forgotten.]
Running her fingers through her hair, Chloe groaned. Something else to add to their secret diary. Speaking of which…
[RACHEL: Once Stepdouche lets you off the hook, you know where to find me. <3]
The air was salty and acrid on Rachel’s tongue, but the high – both that of the drugs she’d score and the one she’d get from the man himself – made it worth it. The beach and RV never seemed to complement one another, but Frank didn’t care. He had Pompidou; the dog needed the space.
Half an hour later she was down some cash, up a few grams of some of her favourites, and sporting a fresh batch of hickeys that peeked out just over the edge of her collar. The call of their secret hideaway in the middle of the junkyard was too strong to ignore. Harder to ignore was the call of the baggies in her jeans pocket.
She’d blazed through more than a few joints and beyond by the time Chloe’s slight frame finally appeared in the doorway.
“Figures you’d drag me out here under cover of darkness. Is it time to play secret agents?”
“Dork,” Rachel breathed. She leaned back against the cinderblock wall and held her arms out towards Chloe. “C’mere, you little Devil.”
“What’s up, Angel?” Once Chloe was at her side, she could see Rachel’s eyes were bloodshot, glazed, and unfocused. The blonde snaked her arms up around Chloe’s shoulders and she linked her fingers behind them, holding on as if for dear life. “You went to see Frank again?”
“Don’t be jealous,” she smiled into the blue waves of hair beside her head. “I saved you some, too.”
“We’re going to have to find some more cash for that getaway,” she frowned.
The two drew apart and Rachel held a freshly rolled joint up in front of Chloe’s nose.
“So you’re telling me you don’t want to smoke with me right now?”
They sported matching smiles.
“Never leave me.”
“I never will.”
Hours later, with a fresh high and half of the hash they’d started with, the two of them were lying head-to-head, staring up through the holes in the shoddy ceiling to the inky blue-black sky above.
Rachel pointed out a line of stars nearly hidden by cloud.
“Buuuullshit,” drawled Chloe, swatting the other girl’s hand out of her view. “That’s a bird if anything.”
“Riiight,” Rachel smirked, rolling over onto her stomach so that she could look at Chloe head on. Her hair fell down around Chloe’s face in wheat-blonde sheets. “Since when are you into birdwatching?”
“A bird would make a way better constellation than a butterfly.”
“Whatever you say.”
“You know I’m right.”
Rachel got to her feet, and shrugged on her coat. Their clubhouse hideaway was nowhere near warm enough for the cool March evening. They didn’t care. It was better there than anywhere else. With a Sharpie in hand, she hunched towards the wall, pausing to smile over her shoulder at her blue-haired friend before scrawling directly on the rock.
RACHEL WAS HERE
“Heads up!” After a moment admiring her handiwork, she threw the marker over to Chloe, who managed to catch it without much effort. “You’re next.”
“Really? I thought you wanted to forget all about Arcadia Bay. You want a memorial here for anyone to find?”
“…I don’t want to forget everything about it. There are things here that I love. People, too.”
Silence. Without another word, Chloe got up and scrawled her own sentence above Rachel’s.
CHLOE WAS HERE
“See? It’s perfect. ‘We’ll always have Arcadia Bay’…”
“Dork. Do not-”
Rachel’s phone chimed again, and before Chloe could even realise what she was doing, she found she had reached forwards to grasp the blonde’s hand with both of hers.
“Hey. Don’t. Just, for now?” Her eyes pleaded her case better than her words. “Let’s just be here, alone – together – and lost to our own special place in the world.”
Rachel raised an eyebrow, her lips quirking mischievously. With a shrug she put her remaining hand over Chloe’s.
“Okay. I’m right here.”
They filled the diary faster than seemed possible. Some of it was the getaway plan; details like how they’d scrounge up enough money to pay back Frank and fund their trip; but just as much of it was stupid scribbles and doodles; where they dreamed they would end up; what sorts of finery Rachel would get to model; and the kinds of people who would live in L.A.
Better days awaited them there. They had promised each other so much; Chloe was wildly impatient for them to leave. She’d made sure her truck was running perfectly. But the more they planned, the busier things seemed to get. As the chilly air of winter finally began to fade away into spring, Rachel was less focused, more attentive to her chiming phone than to anything else.
Some days, the diary was a better companion than Rachel; yet it kept the two of them together as they wrote back and forth. Chloe was adding a few words of her own before she’d hand it off. She tried to tell herself Rachel’s contributions weren’t growing shorter.
Neither of them had great home lives; her mom and Stepdouche paid more attention than Rachel’s parents ever did – and that was saying something for their straight-A student – so she tried not to let it bother her when Rachel spent so much time at school after hours working with Professor McHottie.
Your nickname for him, she wrote next to the name, not mine.
It was hard for Chloe not to be pissed off all the time with the growing wait, especially when David threw tantrums at every turn. She would be free soon… but the eternity of it stretched out like the maw of an impossibly large, hungry beast.
The ground of the farmyard, covered in detritus from winter past, crunched under the tires of Jefferson’s car. He got out at the old farmhouse and took one look at Nathan. The kid was a mess; his shirt was soaked through with stress sweat. His hands were shaking. A lone owl was their only witness.
“What did you do, Nathan?” The initial calmness of Jefferson’s voice was more terrifying than he expected.
“I-I don’t know, it just, I think she’s sick, I think I fuc–”
“I messed up! She needs help, she OD’ed– oh, god.”
He was struggling with his bag now, trying to shove the photos he had taken into it. The diary came tumbling out, falling open to a page where Rachel’s handwriting proclaimed she was excited to meet ‘W’ that night, if a little nervous. Jefferson grabbed it before Nathan had a chance to react. He read it, pinched the bridge of his nose, inhaled one slow, even breath, and then exhaled.
“Just what we don’t need, Nathan. More evidence.”
It was a short drive to the junkyard. Here lay the sins of manufacturing. It was just as good a burial place for any fallen star.
“You’re lucky I’m here,” he hissed, watching the jittery teen freeze up when he tossed him a shovel. The body would need the work of them both if they were to hide it before dawn. Then, another dose – and Nathan could forget it all, could live in blissful ignorance until he outgrew his usefulness… if he hadn’t already.
Jefferson’s sleek, black shoes stood over the charred, ashen remains of the handwritten diary, the curled handwriting of its users just barely visible as they vanished into the smoke of the fire pit. With any luck, nobody would notice the flames.
“Yeah, real lucky,” Nathan could feel himself losing control again, the panic and fear overtaking him as the dose began to wear off. His skin was on fire, every inch feeling like it could char his clothes right off. He didn’t like the way the fire played off of Jefferson’s face, his glasses. “This is a nightmare. It’s OK, I’ll wake up. It’s all fine, it’s good, I’ll wake up, I’ll be fine, Rachel’s fine, Rachel’s OK, it’s OK…”
That was more than enough for him. With the last shovelful of dirt lifted onto the shallow grave and patted down flat, Jefferson could now take care of the rest of the situation. No one would ever find Rachel Amber.
The faint pinprick of a needle kissed Nathan’s throat, and everything went black.
“Forget about Max,” Rachel’s lips were dangerously close to Chloe’s, threatening to silence all her complaints. “What do you need her for? You’ve got me now.”
“You’re all I need, Angel,” she grinned.
“Chloe… c’mere, you little Devil…”
Chloe sat bolt upright, looking over to where she was sure the voice had been coming from moments earlier. Rachel was not there.
“Fuck,” she muttered under her breath, “I’m losing it…” She glanced over at the half-empty bowl still sitting on her bedside table.
But it’s better than keeping what I have here. Just one more toke. …No. Maybe Rachel’s still awake? The thought struck her from nowhere, and hope fluttered like a bird in her chest.
She sent a text, and waited — no response. It wouldn’t be completely impossible for the night owl to have called off her studying early. Nothing to worry about…
…Until morning, when there was still no word.
Until noon hit, and there was still no answer.
Until Chloe filled her inbox with voicemails.
Until a day had passed.
She went through all the proper channels (and several improper ones) she could think of, but nobody wanted to look for answers. Not for her, and not for Rachel Amber.
Fuck this, and fuck you! became her standard response to the townsfolk, the principal, her own fucking parents and the police who claimed this wasn’t out of the realm of normal behaviour for Rachel, like she would fucking leave Chloe to rot in this city alone, like Chloe never mattered to her. Chloe knew how Rachel felt. She wouldn’t dare.
She couldn’t shake the dread that had nestled in around her shoulders. Rachel had promised her she’d never leave her. She had to believe that, no matter what. Something was wrong.
Chloe clutched a bundle of missing posters to her chest, feeling her heart pound against them from the other side. She took slow, deep breaths.
So it was up to her to find Rachel Amber?
“I’ll find you, Rachel. I promise. Whatever happens… I’ll find you.”