Slipping her feet in her white sandals, she began to walk with the man. “I used to dream about you,” she calmly acknowledged. “When I was at my lowest point, after you… died. You gave me advice and helped me get through some dark moments.”
“I know, I was there, remember?” He softly chuckled to himself continuing to look forward as they strolled along the beach. He whistled a familiar song, but Chloe couldn’t quite place it.
“Seriously, Dad, you came to me and gave me advice when I needed it. Is that what’s happening now? Do I need advice?”
“Sweetheart,” he stopped and turned to face his daughter. “You’ve grown up. You’re so strong now.” The man gently grabbed both of her hands and placed them in his. “You two don’t even realize it yet, but she can’t do this on her own, you have to use your strength to help her.”
“What does that mean? Are you talking about Max? She knows I’m never leaving her, Dad. We’ve never been happier or stronger than we are now.”
“Think about what has been happening, Sweetheart. Everything has a purpose, and her purpose is not yet finished.”
“There is no purpose for you dying and being taken away from me. In a world where rewinding is the norm, how can anyone believe in purpose?”
“Yes, of course there is a purpose,” he tenderly responded. “You’re not using your brain, Chloe. Connect the dots. You used to be the best at that. Look out over the bay. Do you see it?” He released one hand and pointed towards the horizon.
“I don’t see anything.”
“Look harder, sweetheart.” He pointed to a specific spot. She squinted and held her hand to her forehead, shading the sun from view. “There’s a window that only you two can open together. Not just her, not just you… both of you. But only she can go through it, and she must go through.”
“I see it, but I don’t understand.” The corners of her peripheral began to dim. She noticed reality fading to a mere shimmer. “Dad, don’t leave me again. Please!”
“… give rise to each other… complementary… both of you… together…”
Chloe pushed up to her elbows and gasped deeply for air.
“Chloe! Oh, god Chloe!” Max squeezed her thin arms around her girlfriend’s body, burying her head in the girl’s chest. They pulled away and just looked at each other. “This must be how you felt when I passed out.”
“I’m good, I’m good… I think,” she nodded, picking up Max’s blood-soaked shirt and wiping the remainder of the liquid from her nose and mouth. “I can’t imagine a more beautiful sight to wake up to than a shirtless Max Caulfield.”
“You scared the shit out of me. I wanted to rewind again but was afraid I’d do even more damage. Are you okay?” The shakiness in her voice and the dilation of her eyes clearly indicated the girl was frightened.
She moved to sit beside her freckled cutie and put an arm around her shoulder. “Max, I’m fine. But I think I know what we need to do now… well, kinda.”
“Did I ever tell you I had visions of my dad after he died, after you left?”
“No, but I imagine that’s not uncommon after losing someone that close.” Max went over to her dresser and put a fresh shirt on.
“Sure, but these were more than just visions. My dad talked to me and helped me get through things. It was like he was actually there to give me advice, in a dark and cryptic way, but it was always the guidance I needed. Anyway, just now, I was walking with him on a beach. He made me feel like I wasn’t supporting you, Max. Like I needed to do more.”
“Oh, Chloe. You’re wonderful. You’re already doing so much.”
“He told me I’m not connecting the dots and I need to help you more.” The girl paused for a second. “I know you don’t wanna hear this right now, Max, but we need to rewind again.”
Vigorously shaking her head, Max puffed, “No way. Absolutely not. Nope. After all that blood you just lost, there’s no way we’re doing it again.” It was cute watching Max fold her arms and huff. She knew in the coming years she would have a great time poking at her partner just to see that reaction.
“I just need you to trust me. When you rewind, what do you imagine? Like, how do you do it?”
“I’m not really sure. It feels like a raised… uh, button in my mind. No, it’s more like, and don’t laugh, a syrupy bruised spot on a banana. I just press down on it and allow the flow to trickle into a pulsing wave.”
“I’ll bruise YOUR banana,” she joked. “Sorry, had to. Okay, do you remember when you said you could go slow?” The brunette nodded. “Do that again, just go as slow as you possibly can.” The girls held onto each other in preparation for the rewind. Max held out her hand and locked eyes with her favorite person. Chloe returned the glance with a confirming nod.
As the pulse began, Chloe also extended her arm. She closed her eyes hunting for any semblance of the button, or bruise, her partner mentioned but couldn’t find anything. She kept searching and was only pulled back when hearing Max’s strained voice.
“Chlllloooeee. Caaaannnntt. Gooooo. Baaaccckkk. Annnnyyy. Moooorrree.” She knew her girlfriend wouldn’t let her try again if it didn’t work this time, and her only chance was slipping away. “Chlllloooeee!” the time traveler screamed. Max seemed to be at the end of her rewind capabilities.
Out of desperation, she reached deep in her mind one last time. After forcefully tensing then releasing every muscle in her body, she perceived a valley of grey mass. As she searched the mass, she noticed a dull trickle in the back of her head; a tiny, meshed bubble of sap dripping with an energy she hadn’t experienced before. She feared she would lose it amongst the grey, so she reached out and grabbed her partner’s outstretched hand for support. As soon as they connected, a blinding light burst in front of them only inches from where their fingers were wrapped, causing the duo to fly backwards and land at the head of the bed. The pulse was plugged, and the rewind dissipated.
Vision took a moment to return after the flash of white, and Chloe could hear water running in the bathroom. They hadn’t been in the shower for over an hour. “Your nose, Max.”
“Ugh… Damn…” She reached for a tissue from her nightstand and wiped her face. “Is that the shower? I’ve never gone that far back before.”
“Max, check it out!” Chloe held her hand in the air where a tiny ray of light like a laser beam formed a circular dot on her palm. Searching for the source she moved her hand towards the center of the room. The dot slowly grew until she reached the area just beyond where they had interlocked fingers during the rewind. “It’s like a hole to another… something.”
Max stood up and went to the bathroom. Chloe heard her splash some water then turn the shower off. She returned to the bedroom, face still a bit damp, and joined her at the golf-ball-sized, floating hole. “What the hell is that?”
“I’m not sure. Looks like we ripped a gap… in space, I guess.” The punk cautiously inched her pointer towards the hole.
“Don’t touch it!” The photographer snapped, pulling her camera out from her bag. Chloe moved back and out of the shot so she could take a picture of the hole. “Whoa. That’s some sci-fi shit. What if it melts your finger off or something?”
“It’s not gonna melt my finger, dork. You’ve been watching too many movies.” She slowly reached out with her hand; palm faced towards the chasm. Her hand passed straight through as if nothing were there. It was like passing through a ghost, she thought. She moved her hand back and forth, repeatedly, through the plane where the spot floated. “Hmm.”
“Let me try,” the freckled girl suggested. Mimicking her partner’s method, she opened her palm and approached the hole. As she edged forward a puzzled look formed on her face.
“What’s the matter, Max?”
“I feel a stream of air. Did you feel it?”
“No, nothing,” the taller girl responded. She waved her hand through the plane again but didn’t feel a thing. She watched as Max’s palm touched and struck the hole. It vibrated and rippled like a pebble being tossed in a lake. Max quickly pulled back then touched it again. The white light scattered and was gone.
“Wowser. Chloe, come look.” A chamber of sorts appeared to exist on the other side of the window.
“This is it, Max!”
“I don’t know how to explain it, but this is a window to somewhere important. It’s what Dad was talking about. He showed me something in the vision, but it looked bigger somehow. It was a circular window, like the ones on cruise ships, just much larger.”
Max studied the area and a look of worry replaced her former curiosity. She placed a thumb from each hand on opposite sides, grabbing the edges of the opening, and began pulling outward. The window gradually increased in size with each tug. The farther apart her hands traveled, the tougher it was for the girl to find enough strength to keep it open.
“Chloe, I’m scared.” Her voice shuddered. “I think I have to go through right now, but I don’t know what will happen. I refuse to be away from you. I won’t do it!”
“I think you’re right, Max. I’m sorry but listen to me.” She grabbed her girlfriend’s head and turned it in her direction, both hands on each cheek, then quickly kissed her lips. She could see how hard her partner was struggling to keep the window open. “Chill out! It’s going to be fine.”
Tears began sliding down the freckled girl’s face. Chloe reached over with her thumbs and wiped the streaks from under the girl’s eyes. “We’re Max and Chloe remember? We’re always together, even when we’re not.”
The window had widened as far as Max could force it. She stretched it almost perfectly shoulder width so her petite frame would easily be able to slip through. “Chloe, I… I fucking love you.” Her arms were trembling and growing weak. She wouldn’t be able to hold on much longer.
“I love you too, Super Max. You’ll be putting a dollar in the swear jar when you get back. Now go. I’ll wait for you.” The girls shared a lovingly empathetic smile.
With that, the brunette dove through the window, which squeezed shut behind her, rapidly shrinking. Finally, it was closed completely. “Wait,” Chloe spoke to no one, waving her arms and hands in the spot the window once was, “this can’t be right. It wasn’t supposed to fucking close all the way!” She had been strong for Max for as long as she could, but her courage had vanished, not unlike the hole her girlfriend just disappeared into. She fell on Max’s bed, face first into her pillow, and the flood gates were released. She wept in a way she hadn’t since her father passed.
After several minutes, she realized her work wasn’t finished. There was no need for grief, Max was somewhere out there, and she would be damned if she didn’t contribute in some way to bring her safely back home. It occurred to the punk that Max left her cellphone and bag. She snatched the phone from the nightstand and entered the same password Long Max Silver had used since they were dorky kids, and it worked. “Note to self,” she said to no one, “teach that girl to change her damn password every now and again.” She located the texts from Tom, still listed as ‘Unknown Sender,’ and decided to give him a call.
The phone rang at least ten times with no voicemail. Finally, a man’s voice was heard on the other end. “Max?” the man grumbled.
“Nope, but close enough. I’m Chloe. Nice to meet you and all that shit. We need to talk.” Her playful voice didn’t match the seriousness of the call. “Max told me about you, and that you used to be able to rewind too. I need your help.”
“Chloe?” Tom responded, after clearing his throat. “You’re the one she chose to save, aren’t you?”
“Understatement of the year, Tom. She’s saved me more times than I can count.”
“She had a choice. And she chose you over other lives. How fucking selfish can a person be?” the man chided. “I had to let Vera die yet you get to live? We all have sacrifices to make, to save everyone else. Yeah, that’s unfair to you, but it’s not your decision.”
“Yeah, you’re right. It’s not my decision, asshole. It’s her decision, and it doesn’t even matter now. Both choices were joined.”
“It can’t stay that way. How could you be so fucking naïve to believe it? The cycle doesn’t stop. It can never stop.”
“Our love is too strong, Tom. That’s the difference between this time and any other time. We’re Max and Chloe…”
“That doesn’t matter, bitch,” the former time traveler broke in. “We were in love too. We were Tom and Vera, and nothing mattered but saving those kids. Now she’s dead, I’m fucked up, and the cycle moved on. That’s how it’s meant to be. One life for many.”
“Fuck you for calling me a bitch, but, Tom, I didn’t call to argue with you. I need your help. Please, don’t hang up. Max and I opened some sort of hole, or portal, to another… universe or something. She went through it and it closed behind her. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, I just know I can’t sit on my ass and do nothing while she fights.” Her voice grew more desperate with each word.
“What do you mean you opened a portal?” Tom questioned.
“When she photo jumped back, she took me with her. Since then, every time she’s rewound, I’ve felt it. Some of the power transferred to me, we think. When she rewound earlier, I used what little power I had, the powers combined somehow, and it tore a hole in fucking space. She climbed through it, it closed, and… well, here we are.”
“Unbelievable! You let her go through?”
“It happened so fast…”
“You two are fucking with shit you shouldn’t. What gives you the right? Goddamn kids getting the power. What a joke!”
“I called for help, Tom, what am I supposed to do?”
“You’re supposed to die, Chloe. That’s all. Easy peasy. Max will realize soon enough, if she’s not already dead herself.”
“Fuuuuuuuck!” She slammed the cellphone down, ending the call. From Max’s description, she knew the man would be tough to deal with, but she hadn’t expected the conversation to go so poorly. It was a bit discouraging, but she didn’t let it get her hopes down. She was still unsure what her purpose was, but she had to do something. She felt alone and prayed to any god who would listen, to protect her soulmate. She promised herself she would always keep Max safe, but now she didn’t even know where she went.
Dumbfounded and feeling lonely, Chloe decided to call her other best friend. The girls discussed the vision, the hole, Chloe’s newfound trickle of power, and Max’s disappearance. A lot had happened since the actress left.
“I’m out of ideas, Rach, but I can’t just sit here.” Her head was swimming.
“What about your vision? Didn’t you say it was a beach in Seattle, near the Space Needle? Maybe you should go there.” The blonde was still on the road, having just entered the Arcadia Bay city limits.
“Yes, but the positioning of the landmark, to the far right in the distance, and my location on the beach, it sorta reminded me of…” Chloe trailed off, contemplating what she witnessed. “Rach, I think I know where I need to go; where WE need to go. Please, this is important.”
“If it’s important to you, it’s important to me, but I’m not driving back to Seattle. This girl has driven enough in two days for two lifetimes.” By Rachel’s tone, she seemed worn out.
“No, I’m coming to you, back to Arcadia,” Chloe groaned. Her initial thought was to stay in Max’s room in the event she returned to the same spot. But the reality of the matter had set in. The window had closed, and there’s no telling where her girlfriend ended up. When she finds her way back it won’t matter where Chloe is located. They’ll find each other like they always have.
“I’m meeting my dad and Rose for an early dinner, then I’ll join you… um, where, The Two Whales?”
“Meet me at the lighthouse in about three hours.” She figured the trip from Seattle to her hometown would take about that length of time.
“Color me intrigued,” she responded. “I also have something I want to give you.” They said their goodbyes and ended the call. Chloe bounced up feeling energized, as she typically did when on a new adventure. Captain Bluebeard was on the hunt for her first mate.
Before heading out the door and jumping in her truck, she grabbed Max’s satchel. She knew when her partner returned, she would want it. As she lifted it from the ground beside the bed, the camera, car keys, and several photos spilled back down to the ground. She gathered the contents and slung the strap around her neck. On her way out, she stopped to look at herself in the mirror. Allowing her right arm to hang by her side, she reached across her body and placed her hand on her right shoulder, in typical Max Caulfield fashion. Then she cackled, finding humor in the fact that she was cosplaying as her sweet girlfriend.
Moving from the mirror with the intention of leaving in her truck, Chloe remembered she had access to a more reliable mode of transportation. She felt more comfortable in her truck, but she didn’t need a breakdown impacting her trip. A quick and safe arrival to Arcadia Bay was much more important now. She reached in Max’s bag and fished out the keys to her new ride.
“Maaaaax?” a voice called from downstairs. She grabbed the last item she needed from Max’s dresser and ran down, meeting Vanessa as the older woman was putting her purse and keys on the dining room table.
“Chloe? Hey, sweetie. How’ve you been? It’s been a long time.” Max’s mom pulled her in and wrapped her arms around the girl. She’d always been nice to Chloe, but they never grew particularly close.
“Very good, Mrs. C. I was just leaving.” She didn’t want to waste time, but also couldn’t be rude to her girlfriend’s mother. Especially since it was her actions that eventually saved Rachel.
“Where’s Max?” she asked.
“Oh… she’s… well… she’s not here right now. I’m actually going to pick her up… somehow.”
“But her car is still parked in the driveway, and I’m assuming that’s your truck?”
“Yep, a beauty ain’t she? Well, I gotta go. It was nice seeing you.” Chloe ran out the door, unlocked the car using the key fob, and cranked up. She slammed it in reverse, flew down the driveway, pushed it to drive, and blasted down the road, catching a squealing wheel or two in the process.
Once the neighborhood disappeared in the distance, she unfolded the last item she grabbed. She was not sure why but knew it would be important. She folded the napkin three times and tucked it in Max’s bag.