At eleven-years-old, Destiny’s moms took her to their small town’s local Christmas parade. She’d been every year since she was a little girl, at least that’s what she remembered. No matter how busy they were with M3, the family’s successful photography business, they always made themselves available to enjoy this holiday tradition together.
That year, they found a nice spot with a clear view just down from the Main Street bridge where the parade route customarily crossed through downtown at the Broad Street intersection. It was a chilly evening so everyone was bundled up in multiple layers of clothing. It wasn’t so cold that it was miserable, but the constant breeze made it feel twice as icy as the temperature indicated.
Once they set up their tailgate chairs and blankets, Destiny plopped down and kicked back, pulling out her phone to play a game.
“You’re just gonna hangout here?” her taller mom asked. “Let’s go get some hot chocolate at the square.” She tilted her neck to point down the hill towards the town center. It would be about a three-block walk, six if you count there and back.
Destiny briefly looked up from her game, over the top of her phone. “Nah, I’m good, Mom.”
“Usually you come with us, sweetheart,” her freckled mother miffed. “Want us to bring you one back, I guess?”
“Yeah, that sounds good.” The middle schooler shifted her gaze back to her phone’s screen. She could hear her parents walking away and noticed their silhouettes disappearing as they moved further down the sidewalk. They strolled together, arms around one another, with hardly a gap between their touching hips.
It wasn’t like Destiny didn’t want to be there this year. She recently began realizing the things that felt new and exciting when she was younger, didn’t have the appeal they once had. Plus, she just downloaded the mobile port of a JRPG she loved from Square Enix, and she fully intended to dive into the story.
As the sidewalks continued to fill in with more townspeople, the blonde looked up and noticed a girl she went to school with sitting between her mom and dad directly across the street from where she sat. The brunette raised her hand in the air and marginally swished it back and forth, obviously noticing they were looking in each other’s direction. Destiny returned the gesture then rolled her eyes back down towards her game. She looked up again, briefly, and saw her classmate focusing on other things with her family.
They shared several classes together since they were toddlers, yet Destiny didn’t know much about her besides the few things she’d observed. Pearl was a more popular kid, and Destiny knew she ran track. They always seemed to be partnered with other kids when they had to be in groups, never really speaking to each other. The blonde was always taller and felt more awkward than those her age, so she never felt like she fit in.
Destiny decided to pay the family no attention and went back to her game. She spent the next half-hour or so leveling up her mage and exploring the new town she came across.
Finally, her parents returned just as they’d left; hand in hand, arm in arm, always touching and never far away from the other.
“Max thought we should buy you a small so you don’t get a sugar rush and get all wired, buuuuuuut I fought for you. Here ya go, brat… medium hot chocolate.” Chloe handed her daughter the styrofoam cup. “You’re welcome. Don’t worry, I know I’m awesome. No need to shower me with compliments.”
“Yeah, yeah, babe,” Max responded. The shorter woman sat in the tailgate chair to Destiny’s side. “When she can’t sleep tonight, you’re on call.”
“Fine, Maxter.” The women bumped shoulders then turned in and pecked each other on the lips standing directly over Destiny’s spot.
“Oh? You think that’s gross, brat?” Chloe pulled Max in and bent her lower, purposely in Destiny’s sightline, and began making out with her wife. It was sloppy and overdramatic.
“Nooooo!” The young girl pushed under and turned away. She made a fake vomit sound and watched as her parents reacted. Her taller mom laughed so hard Destiny thought she could see moisture gathering in the corners of the woman’s eyes. Her brunette mother smiled, but her cheeks turned a shade of pink that could even be noticed in the dim moonlight, among the colors of the nighttime lights. Despite the sheer horror the middle schooler felt seeing her parent’s making out above her, she found it comforting to know she was surrounded by love.
After the trio settled and made themselves comfortable in their chairs, the police sirens began, signifying the start of the parade. The cop cars rolled through first followed by the mayor and other VIPs in nice cars. Like they did every year, the local equestrian group rode several horses. It seemed like an odd placement that one of the high school bands followed the equestrians.
As her suspicion was confirmed, one of the horses dumped out right in the middle of the street. Watching the band members attempting to avoid the pile, made Destiny giggle. In a matter of randomness, the parade progression halted because of a train up ahead that caused a delay. The band was forced to stop right as a trombone player stepped directly in the horse poop. Because the band had to consistently march in-place even while not playing, the boy continued to splash the fresh dung over and over again.
Through tears from laughter, Destiny could see her classmate across the street pointing and laughing hysterically also as they witnessed the same event. As soon as the blonde girl’s moms noticed what was happening they began to laugh as well.
“Oh, shit! Like, literally!” Chloe erupted. “Hey, Destiny? How do you get a bathroom door open in a hurry?”
Max placed her palm over her face and shook her head. “Oh, no.”
“With a doo-key.” She laughed, slapping her leg as she fought to catch a breath. “Get it? Doo…key. Like poop and key.”
“Yeah we get it, babe.” The brunette’s voice sounded annoyed, but the smile on her face showed that she was anything but.
The moment eventually passed and the family of three headed back home. On the drive, Destiny thought about the girl across the street and wondered if she saw her laughing earlier as well. She shook the thought away and looked forward.
From the backseat, she noticed her moms holding hands in front of her. They were happy together, like nothing could ever change their world. It was the first time she sort of thought about them and their seemingly perfect relationship. She’d heard them fight before, of course, but it never lasted long, always ending with apologies and hugs or kisses. She always knew they loved each other, but it was like she suddenly noticed how deep their connection was rooted. A strange new thought crossed her mind. She wondered if she would ever find someone who cared about her like her moms did about one another.
“…Let me ask you a question. Do you remember a band called The High Seas?”
Still sitting in the diner’s parking lot, Max considered her wife’s words then shook her head. “I don’t, sorry.” She twisted the key counterclockwise. Their vehicle’s vibrations stopped, bringing the car to a softened calmness.
As she removed the key from the ignition, she felt for the fuzzy, rabbit-shaped medallion that dangled from an attached chain. Kate had given it to her a couple of years ago on her birthday during their double-date dinner. In her playfully loving way, Chloe poked fun at Kate for giving Max a “gum ball machine trinket”. Her joking tone was obvious and all four at the table laughed. Max was fond of that memory in particular because it was one of only a handful of days where she didn’t recall feeling anxious even once.
“Pixie, Dex, Dwight, Tammi… nothing? Oh shit! Remember Tristan? Fuck. That dude could like, phase in and out of realities, I think. He helped bring you b-back to me.” Her lip quivered slightly. She seemed to recall something emotional that struck her heart.
Thunder clapped overhead and the wind picked up outside. Through the windshield, Max could see the trees that flanked the restaurant begin to abruptly rustle. A thick darkness had set in because of the black clouds filling the sky. Despite the sun having recently risen, the solar-activated street lamps in the parking lot switched on, providing several orb-like glows throughout the area.
As the names rolled off of her wife’s lips, memories upon memories that were folded and tucked away, started sparking in the distance. Like hundreds of fireflies scattered throughout a dark field, scenes from a different universe lit up and peppered her recollection until the dots illuminated everything. Suddenly, like an old film reel, each memory the Max from that universe experienced sped through her mind.
After what could have been several seconds or many hours, a faraway voice called out to her from somewhere beyond view. It sounded foreign and hollow at first, then became an auditory beacon helping guide her out of the trance and back to reality.
“Max, answer me!”
Blinking frenetically, the driver shook away the memories she’d just added to her mind.
“Holy shit,” Max whispered.
“Dude! Are you okay? You sorta disappeared on me. It was like talking to one of those auto-Max fuckers you left me with back in the day.”
“How long was I gone?” Max peered through the driver’s window and saw rain spilling from the dark sky in buckets. Cascading rivers of water washed across the parking lot, as lightning periodically lit her peripheral view like the flash from a camera. She felt Chloe’s hands move away from her arm and shoulder as the blonde shifted back into a sitting position. She must’ve been leaning across the middle console to check on her while she was lost in a raging river of memories.
“I dunno. Ten seconds… maybe.”
“Chloe, I remember everything. The High Seas, being away from you for over two years, living with a different version of you and Rachel, me stopping another storm…” The brunette looked back to the interior of the car, adjusting the rearview mirror. She glanced at the clotted gash above her brow then slowly lowered her gaze. Looking into her partner’s eyes, who seemed to be eagerly waiting for something, she knew what needed to be done.
“Yeah, Maxi Max. That version of you… you could manipulate time in smaller spaces.”
“Pocket time,” Max blurted, eyes wide. She could almost feel the emotional moment she returned from that reality and landed in her soulmate’s arms.
“That’s it. You told me you could feel the stitches of the storm or something crazy like that. It was like you unraveled an impossible knot.”
“Chloe, I remember like it happened yesterday: Moisture, air density, heat… Threads of a storm. That’s what I was untangling.” She squinted then raised her hands up to eye level.
“Love, maybe you could…” The passenger was pointing toward Max’s wounded forehead.
“I’m way ahead of you, babe.” All of a sudden, Max could feel the molecules and stitches of reality between her fingers. At the same time, she reached the sweet spot in her mind and gently pressed. A microscopic pulse of unseen energy spiraled from the area where her power resided and into the space where she had been struck earlier by Esther.
As she gradually spun her hands in a circular motion, Max unwound time. She could feel the laceration rewinding back to a healing moment before she was struck. When she finished, she looked back into the mirror to see the gash had completely vanished.
“Goddamn, Max! You fucking did it!”
“Wowser. It-It doesn’t even hurt anymore.” She rubbed the spot with her palm and was astonished at the results.
Chloe reached over and gently dragged her fingers across Max’s forehead. “That’s incredible, Super Max. First, worm holes. Now you can heal and shit? My wife is a superhero! Not that I didn’t know that before, but like… damn.” The blonde threw her hands in the air, dramatically celebrating her favorite person’s newfound upgrade.
“I don’t know about that. Maybe more like leveling-up.” She grinned at the idea of her power evolving. At one time, she hated the feeling; it was more like a curse than a gift. It felt mildly pleasurable when she released a pulse, and she worried that she could end up like Tom. Years ago, she wished she’d never been given the ability to directly impact time. She realized without it, she wouldn’t have been able to save Chloe, and she would always be thankful from that perspective.
“No, scratch that,” Chloe announced. “You’re not a superhero… you’re a goddess. MY goddess.” She reached over and placed a finger under Max’s chin, slightly tilting her head. Craning over, Chloe pressed her lips against her partner’s and sank into a deeply caring kiss.
Max closed her eyes and enjoyed the closeness of her wife’s support. She knew Chloe loved her, super power or not, and it still felt emotional and pure each time they kissed.
Chloe pulled away and sat back in her seat on the passenger’s side. “Okay. Enough of that. I’m starving. Guess we gotta run in through this storm.”
Max realized she hadn’t unbuckled yet, so she reached down beside her hip and pushed the button to release the restraint. Before she could unlatch the door and run inside the diner, she felt her shoulder being touched.
“Max, do you think Esther could detect your power when you healed yourself?” Chloe’s brow was furrowed and she looked worried.
“Actually, I don’t,” Max replied with tenderness to ease her wife’s concern. “I could sense the power being more… localized, I guess. It didn’t seem to radiate very far.”
Chloe nodded then twisted back around towards the door. “Beat you inside, hippie!”
“You’re on.” Max felt for the handle and opened the door. She jumped out and could immediately feel the cold rain beginning to soak her hair and clothing as she quickly slammed the door behind her. With each step, puddled water splashed up and inside her shoes, saturating the brunette’s socks. Music from the diner’s jukebox blared from the inside and could easily be heard as the women ran towards the front.
Just before reaching the covered sidewalk beside the building, Max felt a hand grip her arm, stopping her from running and spinning her around. She looked back at what was hindering her approach, and her wife was standing in the rain tugging her arm back towards herself; a goofy grin on her face.
“Chloe, what are you doing?! We’re getting soaked!” Max was forced to yell over the wind, rain, and diner music in hopes of her voice being heard. She looked back at her wife’s mischievous grin and knew something was up. Her impish gaze and raised eyebrows reminded Max of the time they broke into Blackwell for a nighttime swim.
“Maxi Max, I love this song!” The brunette stopped resisting and allowed herself to be pulled into her wife’s embrace. “John Fogerty is a legend!”
“Babe, it’s freezing!”
“Shut up and dance with me,” the blonde whispered with her mouth pressed against her best friend’s ear, sending a heated tingle down her back. “We can warm each other up.” Max pressed herself into her favorite person’s arms and could feel the woman’s heartbeat through their soaked shirts. It was as if their souls were in alignment, as the beating pace of their hearts seemed to be synced to one another.
As the first verse from the song began, the lovers rocked back and forth to the music.
🎵 Someone told me long ago
There’s a calm before the storm
I know, it’s been coming for some time
When it’s over, so they say
It’ll rain a sunny day
I know, shining down like water 🎵
Despite the unpleasant feeling of each icy rain drop needling down at her body, Max felt an essence of peace and love wash through her like the cascading ripples of water that were streaming across the parking lot. Her wife was staring into her eyes and smiling. Their foreheads touched in the center.
With the music, the glow of the street lamps, and the wetness surrounding them, Max realized her current view was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen. It was the only thing she wanted to experience for the rest of her days. She felt renewed and invigorated; their souls were frolicking together in harmony and the rest of existence didn’t matter.
🎵 I wanna know, have you ever seen the rain?
I wanna know, have you ever seen the rain?
Coming down on a sunny day 🎵
All that remained were the two of them. A weightlessness of love and trust enveloped the married couple and a moment of pure joy replaced all other cares or concerns.
Chloe lifted her arm and Max spun around. She giggled as she twirled and pressed herself back into Chloe’s body after making the 360° spin.
🎵 Yesterday, and days before
Sun is cold and rain is hard
I know, been that way all my time
‘Til forever, on it goes
Through the circle, fast and slow,
I know, it can’t stop, I wonder 🎵
Max held her partner’s hand with one of her own and wiped her eyes with the other. She no longer saw the individual in front of her as a middle-aged, grown adult woman. She wasn’t a successful businessperson, nor the mother of an amazing, strong-willed girl. In that moment, they were in their early 20s again; still healing from the trauma of Arcadia Bay, but very hopeful and head-over-heels in love. Chloe’s hair was soaked from the rain, but it was blue again. She cackled towards the dark sky then spun Max around once more.
🎵 I wanna know, have you ever seen the rain?
I wanna know, have you ever seen the rain?
Coming down on a sunny day 🎵
Chloe pulled them back into one another, bodies touching and hands held together, fingers entwined, down at their hips. Leading with her mouth, Chloe inched closer. She pulled back, teasing the younger girl with a giggle. Max pushed in, forcing herself through her partner’s taunt. Her rain-drenched lips would not be denied. Like a butterfly’s wings, their mouths gently brushed sending warm tremors of energy through their bodies. Like metal to a magnet, the power was too overwhelmingly strong to deny. They clung to one another as the tangible universe completely swayed from existence.
After a series of passionate, sloppy kisses, the girls marginally pulled apart.
🎵 ……………………………………………………………………………………….. 🎵
The music continued to play but it slipped deep into the background of their surroundings. They were focused only on each other. The freezing rain and their sopping clothes and hair even went unnoticed.
“I love you,” Max whispered, eyes swimming inside of her beautiful spouse’s. “You’re my everything.”
Max’s words must’ve enticed Chloe once more, because she leaned in and confidently gripped the brunette’s lips with her own. The intensity of their embrace increased, while a wave of momentum built. Hand movements, heavy petting, and all-out groping began in an almost lewd display. If anybody was watching, neither of the girls cared.
Several minutes passed and they finally loosened their holds. Max noticed the rain still pummeling their bodies, and the pair nodded at each other in agreement. It was time to get inside and out of the cold. Hand in hand, the two best friends, lovers, soulmates, and partners splashed their way inside the diner and held one another close, keeping their bodies warm.