“It has to be flawless for her. I won’t accept anything less than the absolute best, David. She damn well deserves it and so much more.”
“Yeah, I understand, she does. But so do you. Go easy on yourself, sweetie, it’s gonna be great. Do you wanna know why? Because she’s marrying YOU.” The military veteran pointed his index finger, lightly touching his stepdaughter’s shoulder. “She loves you more than anything in this world. That’s been clear since I first met her. Damn, reminds me of the time when she took the blame for that joint in your room.” The man with the ponytail chuckled to himself then continued. “Anyway, Victoria said she’s not stressing out at all about tomorrow, take that as a very good sign. It means most of the theatrics and ceremonial crap doesn’t really matter much. She just wants to be with you.”
“Thanks, David. If one thing goes wrong, though, I might flip my shit. She’s fucking cool as hell not worrying about most of this, and she shouldn’t have to, but it has to be the greatest experience of her life. Do you know how much pressure that is? Every little thing must perfect.”
“It’ll be fine, Chloe. Don’t go doubting yourself. As you get older, you’ll realize that experiences are all that matter anyway. Spending time together and sharing moments are the most valuable things in the world. You know her better than I do, but it’s obvious she’s head over heels in love with you. It’s gonna be fine.”
“You’re right. I’ve just fucked up a lot of shit in my life, and I can’t mess this up. Kristen and Fernando literally RSVPed early this morning, and before last night, we didn’t have an officiant. That’s cutting it too damn close.” The blue-haired girl was anxious and nervous. She and Max divvied-up the responsibilities, and she felt hers were being held together with loose tape.
The previous woman who agreed to officiate dropped out the week before. Chloe didn’t tell Max because it was her responsibility and she didn’t want to put additional stress on her fiancé. She contacted a dozen random individuals that she found online, then she remembered what she saw in the first dreamspace window. After a little digging, she realized the man was Brody Holloway, a travel blogger who had already confirmed his attendance at the wedding. He quickly agreed to perform the ceremony, as he had recently been ordained in the state. They were supposed to meet with him a week prior to discuss the ceremony, but he had to cancel because of car trouble. She was putting her faith in a man she knew little about and hoped it would all come together.
“He’s right, you know,” a middle age brown-haired lady agreed, stepping from around the corner in the hotel lobby. The engaged couple met the woman when they visited David in the desert just prior to their gallery trip to New York. Karen had become her stepdad’s travel companion over the last couple of years, and they had gotten pretty close. Chloe knew they weren’t necessarily in a relationship, but they spent a lot of time together. David told her the woman had two sons who had gotten into some trouble at one point, and they came to see them at their commune as well. Besides those few details, she didn’t know much about her. “As long as you’re the one she’s looking back at when you profess your love for each other, everything will be fine.”
There was something about the way she spoke. Her voice was calming and full of worldly experience. If someone had to deliver bad news to her, she hoped Karen would be the one to do it. “I know you guys are right. But…” She paused momentarily as the phone in her vest buzzed, “… we’re talking about Max. She’s my person. This one moment in our lives will be remembered forever. I’ll be damned if I let something go wrong.” Walking away from the group, Chloe answered the call. “Ryan? What’s up?”
“Chloe,” Max’s father began, “I don’t know how to tell you this, but Max is… uh… well, she’s missing. That is, unless she’s with you.”
“What do you mean she’s missing? No, she’s not here.” The girl’s heart sank from her chest to her stomach as terror choked through her mind. Max was staying at her parents’ house while Chloe was staying at the hotel her stepfather and Karen had reserved. The girls knew it would be a strange night being apart; they hadn’t slept in separate beds since before the first storm week, but Max wanted everything to be as traditional as possible.
“She’s not here and the Subaru is gone. It only concerns me because she left her phone on the kitchen table, and the only time I remember her ever leaving this late was… well… with you.” Ryan’s voice sounded serious, but he didn’t seem to have reached the urgent point of calling the police to begin a manhunt. “She couldn’t have been gone long. I spoke to her about five minutes ago. I’m sure there’s an explanation for her whereabouts, but I figured I’d call you.”
“Shit, did she mention anything about leaving?”
“I feel bad but I wasn’t completely listening. She came into my office and mentioned something about someone special. It’s tough to focus on anything besides work sometimes.” His voice slightly hitched with regret followed by a deep throaty swallow.
“Tomorrow is your daughter’s wedding, and you’re fucking working? Anytime Max speaks you should give her your full goddamn attention!” Chloe stopped and took a gaping breath as she unclenched her tightly balled fists. “I’m sorry. I’m stressed about the wedding and now nobody knows where my bride is. I didn’t mean to snap on you.”
“No, you’re right. I should have paid more attention. There has to be a good reason for her leaving, though. She wouldn’t take off after dark without some sort of plan.” He didn’t seem confident with his words, but Chloe felt he must be right. Max most always thought things through before taking any sort of action. It was part of what she loved so much about her beautiful freckled fiancé.
“What about Vanessa? Maybe she knows something.” The missing girl’s partner was hopeful for some good news.
“No, she’s sitting right here. We’re in the same boat.”
“Well, damn. If you hear from her let me know, yeah?”
“I will contact you right away when she turns up. I’m sorry to panic you; I’m sure it’s nothing. Figured I should tell you, anyhow. Hopefully, it’ll be one of those things where I should have just not bothered you about it.”
“Thank you, Ryan. Sorry again about jumping down your throat. I’m already on edge, and not knowing where Max is scares the hell outta me. Anyway, I’ll either hear from you tonight or see you tomorrow.”
“Good night, Chloe.”
“Night.” She ended the call with new thoughts on her mind. For the better part of the last week, she’d been inundated with wedding details. Just as David said, she knew in her heart that Max wouldn’t mind if the sky were falling as long as they stood together and said “I do” in front of their friends and family. Chloe just wanted to make it as special as she possibly could, which put extra pressure on herself. Now that she had no idea where her soulmate might be, the only thing she wanted to do was find her girl.
She suspected snapping at her future father-in-law wasn’t just because Max was missing, she was worried about their missing daughter now as well. The couple decided not to make the pregnancy announcement until after the wedding and honeymoon, but Ryan couldn’t know about the baby until the time was right; nobody could know just yet.
Chloe’s cellphone was still in her hand so she decided to call Victoria. The voicemail came on and Chloe ended the call. She redialed immediately, and after several rings the blonde picked up.
“Hey, Chloe, what’s going on?”
“Have you seen Max? Apparently, she’s missing.” There was no time to beat around the bush with pleasantries, Chloe only had one thought bouncing around her brain.
“Missing? No, she’s at her house. I was over there a few hours ago, and guess what… I finally convinced her to let me do her hair tomorrow. She shrugged it off until I practically begged. We did a test run and she’s going to look absolutely fabulous for you tomorrow. You are very welcome. No need to thank…”
“No offense, Victoria,” Chloe interrupted, “but I can’t chat. She left her phone at her parents’ house and they have no idea where she went. Did she say anything about needing to leave?”
“Not that I can remember. I’m sure she just ran an errand or something.”
It baffled the taller girl how calm her friend was at the news of her missing partner. “I know her, she doesn’t go run errands at night by herself. Something had to have happened. If she weren’t so fucking traditional, we wouldn’t have to spend the night apart. I know it might seem weird to you, Victoria, but I miss her.”
“I mean, I know it’s weird for you two. She told me she probably wouldn’t sleep a wink without you beside her, but it is only one night. It’s a special night, too, because in the morning you ladies will officially be married.” Chloe appreciated her blonde friend trying to calm her down, but it felt superficial given the circumstances.
“Yeah, yeah… I, uh… gotta go. Thanks.” She hung up as she noticed her stepdad staring in her direction. A concerned look was on his face and he seemed interested to see what was going on. It occurred to the bluenette that she hadn’t exactly been whispering. The high lobby walls and marble floors caused an amplified echoing effect around the large room.
Chloe hastily walked over to where Karen had left David standing beside several pieces of ornate, almost gaudy, old-fashioned furniture. “Did you hear that conversation?”
“Not all of it, but I heard enough. Did you say Max is missing?” The man folded his arms in front of his chest and slightly tilted his head awaiting his stepdaughter’s response.
“Yeah, Ryan and Vanessa said she left for some reason. She took the car but left her phone. I’m worried about her, David. If something happened to her, I don’t know what I’ll do.”
“Hey, don’t talk like that. She’ll be fine. I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about. Take it from me, being overly suspicious doesn’t help anyone. Let’s take a deep breath and think it through. Is there anyone besides her parents that might know where she is? Sounded like Victoria wasn’t helping, but what about those other friends of hers from when she first moved here?”
“Nah, she wouldn’t leave this late the night before our wedding to see some old friends she hasn’t talked to in years.” Chloe shrugged and a tiny, barely audible sigh escaped her lips.
“Is there anyone else you can think to check with? Or is there anything else we can do?” David didn’t seem overly concerned, but it was clear his suspicion was growing. She considered unplugging the fast-forward pulse for a quick second since she knew their connection allowed them to feel each other’s powers. It seemed like a great idea until she recalled the pact they made a couple of weeks ago. They wouldn’t use the powers again unless they both agreed it was a special circumstance, and as worked up as she had become, she would never break a promise to her perfect person. If Max was driving, she also worried about causing a wreck if she felt Chloe’s power.
“Besides calling hospitals or police stations, I don’t know what else to do. Maybe I am overreacting, but if you knew her like I do, you’d know this is way out of character for her. She wouldn’t just leave without telling me.”
The military vet placed his hand on the girl’s shoulder and gently squeezed. “You should try and get some rest, Chloe. Everything will work out. This time tomorrow you two will be on your honeymoon. Think about how much fun you’ll have. Listen, she’s fine. Try and not worry so much.”
“I’m just gonna grab a drink from the bar then I’ll be up. Go ahead and hangout with Karen. I’m be fine.” Her attempts to convince David she wasn’t freaking out anymore seemed to be working.
“Sounds like a plan. If you hear anything or need either of us, just come on over. We’re here for you, Chloe. Love you.”
“Thanks, David. Good night.” Trying to appear calm and casual outwardly, even though she was terrified on the inside, was something she did for most of the latter half of her teen years. It didn’t come as easily as it used to, but she knew she had pulled it off when her stepdad walked away and strolled towards the elevator.
As David rounded the corner and walked towards the hallway, Chloe slowly made her way to the bar. For a crisp Thursday evening, the hotel restaurant was dead. The ‘seat yourself’ sign was up and the staff had been reduced to the minimum necessary. The bartender seemed to be the only person working besides maybe a cook or manager in the back. She sat alone at a bar stool and ordered a Chopper’s Red Ale on draft. It was a locally brewed beer she never heard of, but it seemed better than the others on tap.
It didn’t take her very long to finish the first beverage and order a second. She realized she was panic-drinking but didn’t know what else to do. Typically, alcohol helped calm her nerves but tonight it was making her even more anxious. Chloe sent a series of texts to Victoria, Ryan, and even Fernando, but none of them had heard anything from her partner. Terror was beginning to set in again and she decided she had to do something. She checked with local hospitals and police stations with no success. She would have been relieved to know her fiancé wasn’t in jail or in a hospital bed somewhere, but Max had been through other horrifying experiences that made those two possibilities seem like decent options.
The blue-headed girl wanted to be brave, but the longer she sat in silence the more her head became her worst enemy. “What if she’s in a fucking ditch hurting somewhere?” she asked the mirrored wall in front of her that shelved thousands of dollars’ worth of liquor. She began drinking her third beer as horrific potential scenarios waltzed around in her mind. Anger and sadness enveloped her every thought. “Goddamn universe just can’t let us be happy! Why is something shitty always trying to rip us apart?”
Suddenly, from behind her slouched shoulders she heard the only voice that could pull her from her downward spiral. “The universe can’t touch us, babe. We’re unstoppable.” Chloe spun around so quickly she almost became dizzy.
“MAX! Fuuuuck!” Jumping up from the stool she grabbed her favorite person and wrapped her long arms around the girl’s torso compressing their bodies together with a firm grasp. Their heads were pressed together at the ears and fixed in their location due to how hard the buzzed girl was squeezing.
“Not too tight, Chlo. We’re hugging for three now.” The brunette giggled as her soulmate loosened her grip slightly.
“No fucking way am I letting go. I’ll give you two some room to breathe, but you’re never leaving my sight again. Where the fuck did you go? I was panicking. Your dad even called me worried, and he said you left your phone on the kitchen table.”
“Shit. I’m sorry. I wanted to surprise you with something and rushed out without my phone.” Chloe noticed her fiancé had a blue giftbag in her only free hand. The other arm was still trapped between the chests of the two girls. “It’s sorta a gift for both of us.” They withdrew their embrace, and Max placed the bag on the bar counter. The engaged couple kissed several times then took their seats. They sat down and stared into each other’s beautiful blue eyes for what seemed like an eternity, nothing existing but the duo.
“So, what’s in the bag?” the taller girl finally questioned, snapping away from her gaze. “What could be so important you would nearly give me a damn heart attack.”
Max grabbed the bag and sat it in her lap. Before opening and revealing its contents to her future bride, she picked up Chloe’s beer glass from the counter and chugged the last third. “Mmm, Chopper’s Red Ale,” she replied with a bit of froth on her upper lip. The thumb from her lover slowly swiped left to right collecting the left-over beer foam and stuck her thumb in her mouth.
“Mmm, I love the way you taste, love.” Seeing her partner again after being apart for half a day was turning the older girl on. The dim purple glow from the bar area made for a romantic ambiance.
“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue… familiar with it?” Max ran her fingers through Chloe’s hair as she finished the traditional wedding phrase with an emphasis on the word ‘blue’. She nodded in response then her soulmate continued. “It took me some time to locate the first item, but it’ll be the ‘something old’ you can fold and put in that inside pocket on your dress. I know you didn’t want the pocket when we picked out our dresses, but trust me, it’ll be worth it.”
The brunette pulled out the first item which she had cut in two equal pieces from corner to corner. “This was your dad’s handkerchief. Remember, he wore it when we let him play pirates with us? I knew I still had it somewhere, but I had to find it. ‘Something old’ symbolizes moving from your past life to the new one we’ll share together. I’ll put the second piece in my secret dress pocket too. William was like a father to me, and I love and miss him so much, babe.” A single tear slid down the cheek from the listening girl’s eye as a second threated to fall from the other. Noticing the tear, her best friend tenderly wiped it from her face and kissed her on the cheek.
“For the ‘something new’ part, both of our dresses are brand new. They simply represent a hopeful future.” Chloe sat in amazement just watching her wonderful soulmate go through her incredible presentation. “The last thing in the bag will work for the other two.” She reached in and revealed an item that made the blue-haired girl gasp and more silent tears roll down her face. This time she wiped them herself and took the item into her possession. She held it up, tenderly between her pointer and her thumb, and listened to her partner’s words.
“The ‘something borrowed’ is a little bit of a stretch because it’s typically from another bride. But in our case, this is perfect because it symbolizes luck being transferred from one person to the other. I have come to not really believe in luck, but I believe our fate and our destiny was solidified because of the person who wore it.”
“The ‘something blue’ could have just been your blue hair, although it’s sorta looking a bit blurple these days.” Max laughed to herself as Chloe stared in awe. She couldn’t believe how amazing this whole thing was. “It symbolizes purity, fidelity, and love. I can’t think of better words to describe what we have, babe: pure love. Fidelity means faithfulness and loyalty. We are both faithful and completely loyal to one another, but that’s not the entire thing. She wore this when you two were close, and she was more than faithful to both us. She saved our lives and the life and our daughter because of her loyalty and her love for our family. Technically, this could have been the ‘something old’ too since it also symbolizes the protection of a baby to come.”
Max retrieved the blue feathered earring her partner was holding, and gently slid it through her fiancé’s earlobe. The tender way the girl caressed her neck and ear sent a pleasurable chill through Chloe’s body. A large satisfied grin formed on her face and she kissed the girl on the cheek. “Will you do me a favor and wear this during the ceremony? I can’t think of a better way to keep our promise to her than to honor her memory as we say ‘I do.’ What do you think, Chlo?”
With eyes wide, Chloe marginally shook her head up and down. “I don’t know what to say, love. This entire thing, and you… you’re… I don’t know. I’m speechless, amazed, and honestly mystified by how goddamn perfect you are. What the fuck, dude!” She stood up and hugged the freckled girl around the neck. Placing one hand on the back of her head and one under her chin, she tenderly dragged her lips across her partner’s. A few deeply loving moments passed and the girls pulled back. “I love you so much.”
“I love you too, Chlo. I just had to see you again before tomorrow. Thank you for letting me do this. It means a lot to me. I know it’s goopy, but I hope it means something to you too.”
“It’s not goopy, it’s romantic, and it’s special. You’re special, Max. You’ve always been the most incredible person around. And it’s not like you’re flashy or selfish, or want any recognition, you just want to express your love and care. I love that so much about you. Fuck, I love every single thing about you.” She thought about her last words and could feel the corners of her lips curling upward. “Well, I don’t like when you leave your damn phone and go on a secret trip without me.”
Max tried to hold her laugh in but couldn’t. The girls giggled together and squeezed each other firmly. No kisses or roaming hands were needed. Feeling each other’s warmth was more than enough. They were Max and Chloe, and that is all that mattered. “We need to get to sleep. I have a thirty-minute drive ahead of me and Victoria will be over early to help me get ready.”
“Oh, shit. I just realized she told me you agreed to let her do your hair. That’s amazeballs! I’m glad you decided to go through with it.”
“I want to look my best for you. When we turn the corner and see each other for the first time tomorrow, it’s gotta be perfect. I want to look perfect for you, Chlo.”
“You already look perfect, but thank you for doing it. You’ll be glad you did when we get the photos back. It’s our special day Maxi Max! Fuck, I’m getting excited now. I was so nervous earlier, then when I thought you were missing, I was sorta regretting the whole wedding thing all together. Now that my mind is clear, I’m so damn excited to do this with you; to share the best day of our life together.”
“Save some of those words for your vows, babe.” Max’s smile was so cute and charming, she couldn’t help but smile back.
It abruptly dawned on her that she hadn’t even started writing her vows yet. As much as she wanted her best friend to stay, she started thinking of ways to hurry her out so she could run to her room and get to writing. “You better be safe on your way home, and text me dammit! Text me the second you get inside so I’ll know you’re safe. THEN, send me another one when you get in bed.”
“Promise.” Joined at the hands, the girls walked out to the Subaru and kissed goodbye. Before leaving, Max reached up and unhooked the earring her fiancé still had dangling from her ear. “I’ll keep this for now.” The next time they’d see each other would be when they rounded the corner during the ceremony.
As soon as Max was on the road and out of sight, Chloe sprinted to the elevator and went up to her room. She gathered a pen and the notepad the hotel provided when she checked in. She turned out all the lights, leaving the one above her bed on, and began writing. About two sentences in, she closed her eyes and fell asleep with thoughts of her and her soulmate’s wedding day sweetly dancing around in her head.