October 5th, 2009
this is bullshit. I’ve decided it is. So you show up out of nowhere like some kind of fucked up angel, say all the right things, laugh at all the right times, give me the first sincere apology I’ve heard since You Know What and tell me you love me like four times in a row, and then? You tell me I can’t have that again for four fucking years?
Fuck that. Here’s a letter. Expect more. They might not make it through time but there is so much shit you just left me alone with, I think I need someone to vent to.
I mean, you made me write a list.
Okay, I wrote the list on my own.
One of the bullet points is “Make a Plan”.
Like? You needed someone to save Arcadia Bay and you went with me; the fucked up, 15yo, just-lost-a-Dad, kind of pissed at you former-maybe-again-best friend? That was your plan. Because nobody else would have believed you, probably.
Well. We’ll see about this. It is kind of nice to have someone believe in me like this again. You know, like I’m back in fourth grade and a straight A student with a bright future in the sciences ahead of me or whatever.
Except a little more responsibility. Make a plan, Chloe . You’re great at those. No pressure.
Fuck, my room is a mess.
I don’t think any of the bullet points on my list are urgent right now, so I’ll start with that. Baby steps, Max, baby steps. Superheroes start small.
See you around, Max.
- October 12th, 2013: Max comes back
- Mark Jefferson (google) Blackwell teacher 2010 (creep)
- January 2013: tell police about secret bunker underneath Prescott Barn -> evidence of Nathan Prescott + MJ drugging & posing girls
- stay away from both
- if police don’t work, try David Madsen (Blackwell Security) (hates you) (might work better if Max did it) don’t investigate on your own!!! security camera
- Max be good friend to Kate Marsh 2013. Suicidal
- snowfall -> dead animals -> eclipse -> two moons; October 2013 – prepare for storm
- MAKE A PLAN?!?!?!?!?
September 2nd, 2010
Fucking hell, Max.
You know who’s my teacher now?
Yeah, you do. You knew it a year ago.
Jefferson. “101: Visual Concepts”. I never googled the guy, because, well, it didn’t seem urgent; and I don’t know, man, it made it easier to ignore the goddamn list I couldn’t do anything about, anyway.
So I went to the class expecting someone outwardly creepy, like, someone with a weird beard and watery eyes and a lisp who is obviously too old to call us ‘sweetie’ but still does it, anyway. And then Jefferson.
Jefferson is Charming. Well, I assume you met him. And when I talked to the other you on the phone, you seemed to be pretty into him, so you probably know what he looks like, but I’ll tell you anyway. He looks young. Scruffy. He’s a little full of himself, but that’s the only thing that might potentially have made me not like him.
But that he’d start teaching at Blackwell was your first prediction that turned out to be spot-on, and the next one is that he fucking drugs and poses women for fun. Maybe worse. I have a feeling you were trying to protect me there.
Fuck, Max, maybe a little more detail wouldn’t have hurt.
Ah well. I’m good at holding grudges, so I guess that’s what I’ll do.
Love you (even though you withheld vital information from me and then expected me to fix everything, anyway)
March 12th, 2011
Haha, Max, you’ll never believe what happened now.
No, I mean it this time. Even you couldn’t have predicted it would turn out this way.
Remember how I have resolved to keep a grudge against Jefferson? Well, I run out of reasons a lot, so I talked to Mum about it over breakfast.
Maybe you don’t understand how big a deal this is: I don’t do breakfast. I wake up and hurry to school before I miss the first lesson. Sometimes I sleep through the first lesson.
And when I do breakfast, it’s in total silence. I hate talking in the mornings.
On top of that: I’m not really talking to Mum at the moment, with the whole David business. You really could have told me that was how I’d know him, you know.
Anyway, we’re sitting at breakfast because I fucked up my sleep schedule so thoroughly that it turned right back around again and I woke up at 6 a.m. (weird ass feeling.) and I ask Mum, because you know, she’s been a woman her whole life, maybe she knows: “Do you think it’s weird that Jefferson always smiles at the girls in our class but never at the boys?” She looks at me like I’ve gone bonkers, so I add: “You know, it seems like he isn’t taking us as seriously?”
And then Mum says, in that careful voice, you know the one – wait, no, you don’t – the one she uses when she thinks she’s bonding with me about Dad’s death, “I’m not sure… is this your new thing? Feminism?”
And, ugh, I hate that voice. I hate the way she said feminism , like it was completely new to her, but she’d try it out for my sake. So I’m all set to fake concern about missing first hour to get out of there asap, when she adds: “I could get you a book about it for your birthday, if you’d like?”
And I thought, why the hell not. Might as well find out what marks Jefferson as a freak. So I said yes.
And yesterday morning, there was not one, but three books next to my bed, all wrapped up nicely: “Feminism 101,” “Gender Trouble,” and “Why Does He Do That?” I opened “Gender Trouble,” and I shit you not, it might as well have been French.
Well, I knew most of the words, but the way they were connected to form a sentence? No clue.
So I’m starting slow. Feminism 101 it is. I even got out the markers David gave me in a not-so-subtle attempt to make me pay more attention in school. The pink one is for female coded bullshit.
I love you
Chloe (the Feminist Superhero)
June 13th, 2012
I, uh. Made a friend.
There’s nothing about her in your predictions, so I’m not sure if she’s there to stay. But then again, you didn’t say more than you absolutely had to about David, either, and he for sure is in my life for good, whether I want him to or not.
It was more or less an accident.
I never know what you know about people, because you talked about David like you know him, so it makes sense to assume you’ll come back to Blackwell at some point. Or you, you know, just know everything.
I’m just gonna describe Rachel to you, anyway.
It’s been ten minutes and I have no words. Let’s try introducing her gradually.
Jefferson was being a sexist ass again, and I am so done with that. Everyone else is just hanging onto his every word, literally nobody realizes how creepy he sometimes comes across, and how objectifying his photography is, but then again, neither did I a year ago, so I guess that’s fair.
This time he said something about “the softer nature of a woman,” and I must have made a face, because he looks right at me and says, “Not all women, of course, Chloe,” like he’s trying to make me laugh.
He says my name a lot. He says everyone’s names a lot. I’ve read that it’s a tactic to endear people to you, and since then it’s only ever felt cheap.
I don’t even look at him. I’m just like, “Of course. Some women are softer in nature, just like some men are. So, are you saying that we should depict people with a softer demeanor in softer lighting and with warmer colors?”
The way he goes from charming to angry in so little time always gives me goosebumps, but nobody else seems to find it odd. Maybe because they’re all always angry at me.
“I believe you know what I meant, Chloe,” he snaps.
And I’m a bitch, okay? I’m allowed. I stopped giving any shits a year ago.
“No, I don’t,” I say, sweet as I can. “Enlighten me, please. What did you mean?”
“Of course there are exceptions to every rule, Chloe. But there is a subtle difference between the sexes that a sensible artist should not ignore. I suggest you read a book sometime.”
And isn’t that just lovely, because I never would have gotten into this discussion in the first place if I hadn’t Read A Book.
At this point he’s standing in front of me, his hands on my desk, leaning forward. For everyone else, it must look conversational, but, Max– he scares me. I know what he’s capable of. He rattles my fight-or-flight instinct a lot.
I get up. I stand there for an eternity – I’ve heard somewhere that it should be fight-or-flight-or-freeze, actually.
Finally, fight wins out.
(It wins a lot, these days. I’m so angry and it has nowhere to go.)
“As a matter of fact, I have, Mr. Jefferson . And honestly, the way you talk about women – like we’re soft and innocent and unable to protect ourselves against the vicious nature of men who just can’t help themselves? That’s textbook sexism, right there.”
Jefferson comes around my desk to where I’m standing, and I know I’m tall for a girl, but he’s taller.
So I get up on my chair.
I inform him that looming over people so they feel physically smaller and weaker is a tactic abusers use, and then, through the expected collective groan, there it is.
Rachel Amber gives me a pensive look.
Like she’s seriously considering what I just said.
This is a big deal, because Rachel is popular and I am not anything, really. I’m kind of nowhere in the hierarchy. Apparently, that is what happens when your Dad dies. You aren’t picked on anymore, but only because people avoid you like the plague.
And Rachel is kind of the exact opposite of me.
You know how I’m kind of angry at everyone, these days? How I’m getting into a lot of fights? How I always know how to get under people’s skin?
Well, Rachel is that, but with niceness.
She knows just how to behave around everyone to charm them into liking her.
Sadly, knowing this does not stop me from being charmed. She’s like a forest fire. Acknowledging it’s there doesn’t make it stop burning. It doesn’t make you immune.
Anyway, that was off-track – I am standing on my chair, Rachel Amber gives me a thoughtful look. Jefferson turns away like he doesn’t care about my antics, but I’ve made him angry often enough by now. I can tell.
“I’m not getting on a chair,” he says, like that is my goal. What the fuck. “I’m not playing your games.”
“Good,” I tell him, because what the fuck. Why would I want him to climb a chair? “I don’t want you to. I want you to stay down there and deal with the fact that I’m taller than you. How do you like my softer nature so far?”
He doesn’t say anything for a moment, just standing with his back turned, and you know… standing on a chair during a lesson is a very strange thing to do. Especially when everyone is quietly willing you to get down. So I’m a split-second from caving and just sitting down again, when he says, “Of course some women won’t accept their nature. Every species has its outsiders.”
And, I mean, he just degraded women to be an entirely different species. So many comebacks. What even to choose?
But before I can say anything, he has turned around to Rachel, who is sitting slightly in front and to the left of me, and says: “And then there are prime examples.”
I forgot to mention he’s smiling as he’s saying this. His smile hasn’t betrayed him yet, it’s still just as charming, all crinkled eyelids and warmth… but it is really uncomfortable, and this time I am not the only one who notices. I can tell everyone is shifting in their seats.
I can’t see Rachel’s face, and I am this close to just – unleashing the kraken on Jefferson, so to speak, when she gets the fuck up and on her chair, too.
I haven’t had a sister in arms in ages.
It’s glorious .
You can actually see Jefferson’s face fall.
He tries to go back to teaching after that, but his voice just sort of drones on.
Turns out standing on your chair during a lesson is sort of ok when you’re not the only one.
I high-fived her on the hallway after the lesson ended without really thinking about it, because you know? Nothing quite pierces middle school hierarchy like literally standing up to your sexist teacher together.
She only hesitated a little before accepting. I’m counting that as a win.
Expect more Rachel stories in the future, I think I’m in
January 2nd, 2013
and a happy new year to you too, Max. Well, wasn’t that a waste of time.
I went to the precinct today. I don’t know if you’ve ever been, but in case you haven’t: it’s tiny. It’s the sort of place where every policeperson knows about every criminal and also the most notorious reporters of crime.
And me. For whatever the fuck reason.
I went up to the guy behind the counter, said I wanted to report a crime. He asked for my passport, and I handed it to him. He looked at it, looked at me, and grinned. Not in a good way.
“Chloe Price, huh,” he said.
“The one and only,” I said, because I get fresh with people when I’m nervous. It’s what I do.
“What’s the crime you want to report? Someone being sexist again, huh? Did a teacher smile at a student?”
What the fuck. I have never once been to the police with any of these things, I promise.
I had half a mind to just leave and do the goddamn thing myself, but I remembered you said to ask for help, to enlist the police and anyone I could, because Jefferson is dangerous. Because he nearly killed you.
So I went on. It didn’t seem like a good plan to start by accusing Jefferson, so I said everything else first. “I have heard from someone I trust that there is a bunker beneath the Prescott barn, that Nathan Prescott and an accomplice use to take pictures of female students they drugged and posed…”
I faltered, because the policeman had stopped writing when I said Nathan Prescott’s name.
“Are you sure you want your name on this?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“Because if we follow up on this and it turns out to be false, you will be in deep trouble, young lady.”
“I know,” I said. I didn’t tell him not to call me ‘young lady’. It seemed unwise. “It’s not false.”
“The Prescotts are a very influential family. This is not something you would get away with easily.”
‘As easily as last time,’ it sounded like, which, what the hell? As I said, I haven’t been here before.
“I know,” I said again. “But it’s true. Get a search warrant for the bunker, there will be plenty of evidence – pictures Nathan and Jefferson took-“
“Jefferson?” the policeman said, sounding incredulous. “As in, your teacher, whom you already pestered and accused of being sexist because he called women ‘softer in nature’?”
And isn’t that just lovely.
“Who told you all this?” I asked.
“I’m not at liberty to say,” the policeman answered, at which point I was so angry I wanted to call him by his name to make sure he knew how mad I was, but he wasn’t wearing a name tag.
“You seemed to be at liberty to say plenty of other stuff,” I said. “If Jefferson came in here trying to get a cease-and-desist…”
“It wasn’t Mr. Jefferson, Miss Price,” he said. I’ll just call him Daniel. He looked like a Daniel.
“Principal Wells, then. If he came here trying to get me to stop standing up to my teacher, that is one thing, but are you actually refusing to act on my tip because I have a history of – what – feminism?”
“Not at all,” Dirk said. (I just decided to change up his name. He doesn’t deserve a set name.) He pointedly continued filling out his form. “We will get a search warrant, alright. It might just take a while.”
“My friend was hurt,” I said, furious. I mean, it’s true – in my timeline, at least. You called me when I was fifteen and told me he’d almost killed you. “Are you dragging your feet just because you don’t like what Principal Wells had to say about me?”
“I don’t like your attitude , Miss. You’re showing plenty of that on your own, no need for Mr. Wells to tell me anything. And about your friend – if you could produce her, maybe we can hurry things along. We don’t like to act on hearsay.” Dave put away his pen and slid the report he’d written under the window that separated us. It was all there. I had no choice but to sign – none of Dennis’s arrogance had made it onto the paper. I scrawled my name beneath it and said, “I hope you’re proud of yourself when you realize that it was your fault that more girls were drugged and who knows what else, because you didn’t like the one who gave you the tip.”
Domian gave me an impassive look, and I left. I only just resisted the urge to give him the finger. That probably wouldn’t have worked out well for me.
Fuck that guy.
Fuck Wells. Fuck Jefferson.
Fuck my need to get receipts on Jefferson’s sexist bullshit.
Fuck it. I’ll wait a week, and if nothing happens then, I’ll try David. God help me.
Chloe (the vigilante, if only you let me)
January 28th, 2013
Remember how I wasn’t supposed to go investigate the Prescott Barn on my own? Remember how you said there was a security camera? Because I do.
But fuck, Max, what was I supposed to do?
You said January, and January is almost over, and I couldn’t for the life of me remember whether January was an important deadline. What if Jefferson kills someone if I don’t get him arrested in January?! I don’t want anyone to die.
So I get over myself and call David, like you said.
Except I guess in your timeline I never read the fucking feminist texts and never told Mum what a sexist ass he was and never showed her my sources and they never broke up because of me, and uh.
That one might have been on me.
I know he’s technically not one of the bad guys, as you kept insisting.
It’s just that I hate his guts.
Well, that kind of bit me in the ass.
So, he refused to help me. And by that I mean he picked up and yelled at me to leave him alone or he’d report me to the police, which I definitely could not use.
And I know you said to get your help with that but I didn’t see what good that would do – since you’re still in Seattle, and completely unaware, and I’d have to make up a believable story as to why I needed your help convincing this guy you didn’t know rather than, for example, talking to Rachel.
Rachel, who does the kindness thing. I swear she has everyone in Arcadia Bay around her little finger.
SO, I got Rachel on board instead.
Easiest thing I’ve ever done. I just took her aside the next day during break time, and asked her: “If I told you that someone told me in confidence that Mr. Jefferson has a habit of drugging his female students, and that all his evidence was stored beneath the Prescott Barn, would you help me get him arrested?”
Well, that’s the short version. I embellished a little. I said it was a Blackwell student who told me, which technically isn’t a lie, since I’m assuming you’re a Blackwell student now.
(That it’s not a lie is important because Rachel can smell lies. It’s awful.)
I eased her in a little.
I’ve been angry for so long, Max, I had almost given up on having someone being angry with me.
Rachel is the most beautiful person I’ve ever met, and that doesn’t change when she’s angry. She looked like an avenging angel. I’m not gonna lie, that felt pretty great.
(Having someone to share my anger with, I mean. Not making her angry.)
I told her about my troubles with the police and David, and we made a plan.
Since the police already knew that the rumor of the Prescott barn being where Jefferson keeps his evidence came from me, we couldn’t have Rachel just go to the police.
And sadly, it turned out that Rachel had gotten into some sort of trouble with David, who accused her of smuggling drugs (I didn’t ask), so it wasn’t like she could just straight up approach him about this without endangering our whole endeavor, either.
So our plan was this:
I would drive to the Prescott barn at a time when both Nathan and Jefferson would be otherwise occupied – his lesson. Rachel would attend the lesson to make sure none of them left the classroom at any point, texting me at any sign of danger. I’d go down into the bunker and take pictures of the evidence. I’d go back up and to the police and confront them with the evidence before the lesson is over, tell them that there is a security camera down there and that they have to act right now if they want to catch Jefferson and Nathan.
It was cold today, just above freezing, the sky dark gray. By the time I arrived at the barn, I felt a sense of dread so strong I swear, if I hadn’t thought human lives were at stake I would have turned around and gone back home.
As it was, I parked the truck and started investigating.
I was inappropriately dressed – I was wearing disposable gloves, so as not to contaminate the evidence, but they were doing nothing against the cold – so by the time I had wedged the door out of the way, my fingers were about frozen solid.
The barn looked forgotten. Unused.
How can you just forget about a piece of land that you own? How can you be that stinking rich? I hate the Prescotts.
I checked my phone. 8:05 – the lesson had just begun, and I had a text from Rachel that both Nathan and Jefferson were there.
I had packed a wirecutter, which proved useful for the lock on the trapdoor. It used to belong to Dad. I had not packed Dad’s strength, so it took me a while, but eventually the lock broke. (The ugliest sound you can imagine. Fingernails on chalk boards are nothing against this.)
I swung open the trap door, and – wow, Max. I had expected, like, a dark hole and a ladder or something. But there were stairs. And a fucking – bunker.
I know you said bunker. I just assumed you were freaked out and exaggerating, but no. It had a proper combination lock and everything.
Oh, fuck. It had a combination lock.
I checked my phone again – 8:10, and no new messages – and took it up with the goddamn lock. Thankfully, three of the numbers were worn with use, and I mean, there are only so many ways to arrange three digits. I don’t remember which combination it turned out to be, but the light turned green and the heavy door clicked open after a few tries.
I don’t know why I didn’t close the door behind me.
Something about locking the only exit of this creepy place just didn’t sit right with me.
I checked the time again – 8:15 now, still plenty of time – and then I allowed myself a first look around.
Oh my God, Max.
If I hadn’t known the purpose of this place, maybe it would have felt different. But knowing that these people came here with students who were helpless – out of it – maybe unconscious – and then reconciling that knowledge with the sight of expensive artwork on the walls? A monstrous printer? A fucking couch, like this was just a game to them? And then all that fucking equipment.
I took a bunch of pictures, sending them to Rachel immediately (8:22), just in case.
Only, they didn’t send.
Because this was a bunker.
Because you don’t usually have the greatest reception in a bunker.
I didn’t know this, because like some kind of idiot, I didn’t check.
I spent the next minutes ripping open cabinets at random, found a sound system, boxed up photography stuff – – – and then there they were. Neatly labeled binders. Female first names.
I snapped a picture, flipped one open – –
I knew the girl, I see her on the school grounds sometimes. She seemed nice, if a little bit aloof. Her name was Diana, apparently. I hadn’t known this until just then.
In the picture, she wasn’t even conscious. Her hands and feet were bound with thick ropes, and she was posed on her knees, her forehead touching the ground, hands on her back. Naked.
The picture was black and white.
– – –
I took a picture.
I shoved the photo into my pants, for some reason. I just really wanted to make sure some of the evidence would survive no matter what, I guess.
I shelved the binder.
I was just about to close the cabinet when I heard a shrill sound – a phone – not my phone – just outside the door, oh fuck.
How could there be nowhere to hide in a place this big?
I scanned the room – the printer was too slim, the cabinets gave no escape route, the sound system was too small – I could hear Jefferson swear outside, and then I saw the door swing open a little more.
I clutched the wirecutter and flattened myself to the wall around the corner from the door.
I don’t know what I thought. Maybe that if I just stabbed hard enough I could overwhelm Jefferson.
What happened was that he came around the corner with a pistol in his hands, and I – let go of the wirecutter and grabbed the pistol because I knew: he wouldn’t hesitate. He’d just kill me. I turned the muzzle as far away from me as I could get it, which wasn’t very far, and –
Jefferson didn’t even say anything, or even yell. He just saw me, and pointed the pistol at me, and shot. And. Kept. Shooting.
I knew I wasn’t going to last. I had let go of my only weapon, I needed both my hands and all my strength to keep the pistol pointed away from me, and Jefferson was so furious – the pistol was heating up in my hands –
It’s pointless, I thought. My entire life is pointless. You gave me this list and one of the bullet points said “Don’t investigate the barn on your own, Chloe” and I thought I could outsmart you. And if I can’t even save this girl’s life, whoever she is, then what is the point of me? I might as well die now. I lowered my arms.
“Freeze!” I heard someone shout.
Well, I say someone . I know David’s voice.
Jefferson decidedly did not freeze. He tried to whirl around to David – I guess he wanted to take out the gun first. I threw myself on him with everything I had. I don’t have a lot, but it made him stumble enough to miss David the first time.
And then David just shot him.
I mean, I suppose there are some things the army is good for.
Shooting people without hesitance must be one of them.
I stared down at Jefferson, who was clutching at his arm. David gave me a brief glance, then set to unarming him.
“You okay?” he asked gruffly, and it took me a minute to realize he was talking to me, not to Jefferson.
Stupid. Of course he wasn’t asking Jefferson if he was okay. He’d just shot him.
“Yeah. Thank you for, you know. Saving my life,” I said just as flatly, and left.
As soon as I stepped through the bunker door, my phone blew up with messages and missed calls from Rachel.
Go get em, Chloe 🙂
Oh shit, Jefferson’s phone just beeped, and he stepped out. I’ll see if I can stop him but if I can’t you’ve got maybe ten minutes to hightail it out of there
OH SHIT CHLOE
I called David. He’s on his way. Sorry I know you hate him
I went to Wells & spun him a tale about how I was worried about Jefferson just leaving the class. Wells had the classroom checked and then called Jefferson but of course he didn’t pick up. I don’t know why I did that I don’t know why I’m writing this
Then, the pictures finally sent.
THANK GOD CHLOE
are you okay?
Shit that looks so professional what the fuck
Chloe why does that binder have my name on it
I ran back into the bunker. I must have stepped over Jefferson, there was no other way to get through, but I don’t remember any of it.
The cabinet was still open. Rachel’s binder was the bottom right one – the newest, I assumed. How could I not have noticed? I took it out. What if end of January was already too late? What if you didn’t know Rachel, only cared about her because she provided evidence to convict Jefferson– what had they done to her–
The binder contained a single picture: One of Rachel’s headshots that she handed out left and right.
It was a good one, too.
Not that there are bad ones.
I breathed out. I took a picture, and sent it to Rachel – well, I tried. I made my way across the room again.
Just as I had reached the door – this time I remember stepping over Jefferson, because David yelled at me to pick a place to stay and stop running around like a headless chicken – the police reached it from the other side.
“Freeze!” One of them yelled.
This time, I froze.
“Put your hands where I can see them!”
“I told you, the situation is under control,” David cut in, his pistol wisely out of reach and his hands already behind his head. He nodded to Jefferson. “He tried to attack her, wouldn’t respond to my warning. I had to shoot him in the arm. It’s nothing major.”
Nothing major had soaked Jefferson’s entire shirt by that time.
The police rushed to clear the bunker and let the paramedics in, after that.
We were handcuffed.
It’s not a nice feeling.
You know, it was weird – I knew that technically, they were all on my side? David had saved my life, and the police were probably going to make sure Jefferson wouldn’t kill me in the future either. But
I don’t know, it all seemed so impersonal. None of them really gave a fuck. Like yeah, I got a blanket once they had cleared up that no, I was not in fact a would-be killer, and yes, Jefferson had actually tried to kill me.
But that was about it. In the end, they didn’t care.
So I just sat there with my orange blanket that crackled a little with electricity, the sky still like a weight hanging above my head, thinking to myself that this was not how I imagined my heroic adventure to end. The photo I’d stuffed down my pants so unceremoniously was digging into my thigh, and I considered discreetly getting it out and somewhere more comfortable.
That was when Rachel arrived.
Rachel, and her parents, and someone else that I didn’t recognize. Not that I recognized her parents, either. It was just one person too many to be her parents.
She got out of the car in a tangle of limbs, practically sprinted towards me, and threw herself at me. I don’t mean to say she hugged me, because I was still sitting down, and then all of a sudden I had an armful of Rachel, who cares so much it continues to almost break my heart.
You know, I never knew exactly where I stood with Rachel, because she is such an excellent liar, but knows exactly when I am lying – kind of gives her an unfair advantage.
In that moment, I knew exactly where I stood.
“Thank God you’re okay,” she said.
“It was just your headshot in the binder. You’re okay, too,” I said, stupidly.
“I know, the picture sent. But then you didn’t reply – “
“Well yeah, I was in handcuffs,” I said, trying to get back to familiar ground. Joking is familiar.
That’s when her family plus one arrived. Rachel turned her head, then grimaced and extracted herself from my arms.
“Uh, that’s my mom, my dad, and your lawyer,” she said, pointing to a brunette lady with a kind-ish smile, a tall man with a face I didn’t trust, and –
I blinked. “My what now?”
A woman in a dark blue suit stepped forward and held out her hand for me. I shook it, because I was still in shock and apparently, my manners decided to make an appearance. She looked important.
“Angelica Hayes,” she introduced herself. “Your young friend thought you could use a lawyer after your…” A delicate pause. “Adventure. I was visiting James and Rose here when Rachel called, so I came with them when they rushed over to pick her up and bring her here.”
She had great hair, I thought stupidly. It was almost a buzzcut, just barely long enough to pass for professional. And a wide mouth that looked like it was smiling even when it wasn’t.
“Chloe Price,” I said, a little belatedly, and then: “I can’t afford a lawyer.”
Mrs Amber stepped forward. “After everything you’ve done for Rachel, I think it’d be only fair if we covered for your lawyer. It looks like you saved her from…” She looked away. “Awful things.”
I did, I suddenly thought. The girl that I was supposed to prevent from dying. That must have been Rachel. Max, why the hell did you never tell me?
I looked at Rachel for a moment, trying to get to grips with this: in an alternate timeline, Rachel was dead.
Rachel smiled at me encouragingly, probably misinterpreting it for a plea for guidance. I had no idea what she had told her parents about me, but there couldn’t have been many truths among it, if they talked to me like that.
I decided to play along: after all, their daughter was alive because of me, and I did probably need a lawyer.
“Thank you, Mrs. Amber,” I said. “That is very kind.”
Ms Hayes sat in on my police interrogation, after she got the short version of events out of me on the car ride there.
“Tell them the truth, but not more than they’re asking,” she told me before we went in.
When I’m all grown up, I want to be like her, getting teenagers that are in way over their heads out of trouble and looking like a pro doing it.
The police lady that interrogated me was wearing a thin smile and her hair in a bun. She had laugh lines, but she wasn’t using them much.
“So you broke into the barn and then the bunker. You used the wirecutter we found at the crime scene.”
“Yes,” I said, when Ms Hayes inclined her head in my direction.
“You were wearing disposable gloves.”
I nodded. The police lady pointed at the recorder sitting on the table between us, so I sighed and said, “Yes.”
“So you did not break in in a spur of the moment situation, to save someone. You planned for it.”
Ah. Would that be a problem? I looked at Ms Hayes.
“Detective Schuster,” Ms Hayes started in a very polite tone. “You do realize that if my client goes to court, I will have to ask her about every detail of the story.”
“I am not going to tell you how to do your job, Ms Hayes, but I assume that’s what you will do,” Detective Schuster replied curtly.
“I will ask her to tell me all about how she went to the police weeks before the incident and told them everything they needed to know to get a search warrant for the barn. She told them exactly what kind of evidence was stored there, where it was, and who brought it there. Only when the police did nothing to secure the aggressors for several weeks, and it seemed plausible that more people might be hurt, did she take action. It is no question in my eyes whose sense of justice failed in this instance.” She gave Detective Schuster a meaningful look.
Schuster gave a few false starts. She took a breath.
“Evidence we don’t know if it has been tampered with,” she said finally. “Miss Price was wearing gloves. We don’t know if she didn’t plant it all. She was in there for God knows how long before Mr. Madsen arrived-“
“And then, no doubt, Mr. Jefferson barged in to kill me for – what, trying to defame him?” Ms Hayes was trying to catch my eye, but I had enough. I got up, dug the photo out of my jeans (Detective Schuster’s hand flew to her holster) and slapped it on the table. “And I assume I got all these girls in on it as well, yeah? They posed like this voluntarily?”
Each knob of Diana’s spine cast a shadow across her back, stark black against the white of her skin. I remembered the thing Jefferson had said in that first memorable first lesson I had stood up to him: to render women in softer hues to emphasize their innocence. To use warmer colors for them. He took Diana’s innocence and then he took her picture in this harsh light to make it real obvious. Fuck him, I thought.
Then I had to hide my face in my hands for a moment.
Maybe, if I hadn’t wasted so much time, I could have caught Jefferson with fewer binders on that shelf – –
Ms Hayes put a hand on my shoulder. Surprisingly, it felt steadying.
“If you don’t have any questions for my client that aren’t accusations, we will leave now. God knows she did enough of your work today.”
When Detective Schuster stopped the recorder, she had the good grace to look guilty.
Ms Hayes walked me out of the room, one hand still on my shoulder. I’m pretty sure that was the only thing that kept me upright at that point.
I looked at my phone: it was just past noon. Crazy, how so much could happen in only one quarter of a day.
Rachel was waiting outside, and so were her parents. So was mum.
Someone must’ve called her, and she had left her shift at the diner early for me –
I don’t know why I thought that, of course she did. She’s my mum. She’s a pretty great mum, too.
She took a hesitant step forward, her arms lifting just barely, and I remembered all the hugs I had refused her in the past years, and then I rushed forward into her arms.
I felt a little embarrassed crying in front of the Ambers and Ms. Hayes, but honestly, at that point? I felt like I deserved a good cry.
One down, I thought.
Two to go.
Make a plan, Chloe. You’re good at those.
I guess I am.
When Max opens her eyes, the October sun is still shining down on them. Chloe shuffles through the letters in her bag, taking another one out and looking at it pensively.
“Does that reassure you?” She asks when she notices Max is looking at her.
“Yeah,” Max replies, drowsy. All is well. She reaches up a hand to touch Chloe’s hair. “So Ms Hayes inspired your haircut, huh?” She says.
Chloe ducks her head out of reach, and Max lets her hand fall back to her side and dna edis reh ot kcab llaf dnah reh stel xaM dna ,hcaer fo tuo daeh reh skcud eolhC
.syas ehS “?huh ,tucriah ruoy deripsni seyaH sM oS” .riah s’eolhC hcuot ot dnah a pu sehcaer ehS
“Lily?” Chloe says, worried. Max wipes at her nose with the back of her hand, and it comes away red. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” Max replies, staring at her hand. Is she? It was just a tiny rewind, nothing like going back four years or stretching the limits of her ability until the edges of her vision go red. Why is she bleeding now?
“Did you just rewind on me,” Chloe asks flatly.
Max’s head snaps up.
Chloe doesn’t look mad , exactly, just very done with your shit.
“Uh,” Max says. “Uh, I touched your hair and you flinched. I thought you didn’t– ” This seems like a conversation to have face to face. She sits up, hands twisting in her lap. “I thought you’ve been through enough without me inadvertently triggering – some – memories – or…”
“Oh! Oh, Jane, don’t worry about it – I don’t mind having my hair touched. No trauma there.”
So it’s just me you don’t want to touch your hair, Max thinks.
“Jane?” She asks, trying to get away from the topic.
“Doe.” Chloe points at her shirt.
Max looks down; ah, yes, she is wearing the Jane Doe shirt. Huh.
“How did I get two nicknames from one thing I said,” she grumbles.
“It’s not that you said it once, ” Chloe says, grinning. “More like, every day was a doe reference with you. I mean, it fits.” She looks sidelong at Max. “It used to, in any case.”
Max combs a hand through her hair. “Did I change much, then?”
She winces. It’s one big tangle.
“Like day and night,” Chloe says instantly. When Max looks at her, she looks a little wistful. Max realizes with a lurch that she isn’t the only one who lost a version of her best friend to the indifference of the universe today. She stops herself from apologizing, and then from asking if Chloe misses her old Max. After a few false starts, Chloe takes over, gentler than Max is used to: “Maybe not that crassly. More like… you grew up so fast. I wish I had been there for you through everything you survived. It must have been awful.”
“You were there,” Max reminds her. You just didn’t survive it a lot, she doesn’t say. “Your alternate self had blue hair, you know,” she settles on, and Chloe’s eyes light up just like Max was hoping they would.
“What!” She exclaims. “Blue? Like, baby blue? Alternate timeline me rocks , baby!”
“I like it like this, too,” Max concedes, and then almost rewinds. The drying blood on the back of her hand stops her. She rubs it off on her pants.
Chloe runs a hand through it, bashful. “Thanks,” she says. “Ms. Hayes left quite the impression.” She glances at Max. There’s guilt in her eyes, and Max doesn’t want her to feel any type of negative way again if she can help it at all.
“You had tattoo sleeves, too,” she says with a grin that probably looks at least twenty percent fake. Thinking about her other Chloe is bittersweet. This time, the bitterness prevails. What if Max abandoned her in that car? What if that timeline never fizzled out like Max thought it would, and somewhere out there is a Chloe who loves her in ways this Chloe never will, and Max just left her?
“I’m going to have to come back to that, but you are looking way too sad over there,” Chloe says, scooching closer. She lays a hand on Max’ shoulder, carefully, like she’s afraid to startle her. “About the flinching,” she says slowly.
Max gives her her best deer in the headlights look.
Chloe only squeezes her shoulder and ventures on. “I probably flinched because I’m not sure how you feel for me – I mean, not your alternate Chloe, that one’s pretty obvious, but me. I just – I don’t think anything in the direction of dating would be a good idea. And there’s another thing that I should have – ugh…” She throws a crumpled up letter onto Max’s lap. It’s the same one she had eyed before. She never put it back with the others. “Read this.”
Max smoothes out the paper and reads, a new kind of dread settling in the pit of her stomach.
January 29th, 2013
Jesus, wow. Things just won’t stop happening.
Yesterday, after mom and I drove home in separate cars like a proper American family, we had our first long, honest talk since dad died.
I’m so glad I have my mum, Max. I’m so glad I got her back. Or maybe that I came back. That she has my back.
We ordered takeout and ate it on the floor because neither of us felt like uncluttering the dining table.
It was dark by the time I went up to my room to write your letter.
I felt jittery – like anything was possible from here on out. I had made a real impact. I could do anything. I had two people who loved me so much it almost hurt. Three, if I counted you.
I felt like dancing, but just when I’d put away pen and paper and headed for the stereo, I heard a tapping sound.
Now, I might be a lonely person, but I know the sound of a rock on a window pane when I hear it. I waited for the next tapping sound and opened the window.
Rachel was standing outside.
“Why don’t you text like a normal person?” I called down. She pointed at her phone, eyebrows raised. I looked at mine. It was blinking furiously with unread messages. Huh.
“Wait, I’ll open the door for you,” I told her.
I went downstairs on tiptoes, let Rachel in and led her to my room.
She flopped down on my bed. “You’re hiding something,” she said.
I froze up.
Did I mention Rachel is freakishly good at detecting lies?
“Specify,” I said finally.
Rachel grinned. It didn’t look terribly amused. “I think it’s sad that I need to specify for you which of the things that you’re hiding from me I mean.”
I said nothing. With Rachel, that’s usually better. When she’s questioning you, anyway.
“I mean the Jefferson situation. Ms Hayes didn’t call you out because she’s your lawyer, not a judge. But I’m judging.”
“What do you mean?” I said.
“This anonymous person who told you where to find the bunker.”
“Yeah?” I said, heart pounding.
“Why couldn’t she go to the police again?”
I could have come up with any number of reasons on the spot. But I’m not kidding when I say that Rachel smells lies.
So I said: “She just couldn’t, okay?”
“If she couldn’t do it because she didn’t want anyone to know she was a victim of Jefferson’s, why did she want you to tell the police where to find all the evidence?”
I shook my head, helpless.
“Even if she only didn’t want to talk to the police about it, why can’t you tell us her name even now? It’s out now! The names on the binders were on the photo you sent me! They will all be questioned. What’s the point now?”
I swallowed. “I just can’t tell you, Rachel, okay?” I said. “Can you let that slide? Just this once?”
She eyed me. “I have just a few more yes or no questions. If you can answer those without lying, I’m laying off you. Deal?”
“Deal,” I said. No way was she gonna guess at the truth.
“She’s a Blackwell student,” Rachel said.
“Wrong tense,” I said. I’m clever like that.
“She used to be, then. Okay. Did you hide her binder?”
“No!” I said. “What the hell?”
“Did you mess with the evidence in any way?”
“And she’s not you.”
“Okay. Then I can live with it.”
Rachel got up and walked up to where I was still standing.
She put her arms around me in slow motion, like she wanted to make sure I could pull away anytime.
Like I had any intention of pulling away.
“Did I thank you yet, for saving my life?”
“Technically I didn’t…” I started, but I didn’t really believe it.
“You don’t believe that,” Rachel said, smiling audibly. Her hair smelled like flowers. I might have buried my face in it a little.
Rachel took my hand and tugged me to my bed, until we were both sitting on it.
“Thank you ,” I said belatedly. “For saving mine.”
“That’s not really something you just move on from, right?” Rachel said. “Saving each other’s lives. That is soulmates stuff right there.”
Rachel hadn’t let go of my hand. I felt my heartbeat quadruple, and then skip.
She leaned over, turning me to face her with her other hand on my shoulder. Her mascara was smudged, and somehow, I felt touched that this whole mess of a day hadn’t left her unaffected. I lifted a hand and touched the thin skin beneath her eye.
She drew away a little, wiping at her eye with the back of her hand. “I started crying when you did,” she confessed. “You went through all that – you found this creepy place and Jefferson almost shot you, and I was just sitting on my butt the whole time with my parents holding my hands.”
“You did plenty,” I said. “When the secretary called Jefferson, it warned me that he was there. He was standing right outside. And then David showed up and saved me right on time. That was all you.”
“Then why won’t you let me kiss you?” she said.
Who just says that?
It took me a while to recover from that. “I’m – it’s complicated. There’s someone else, but I’m waiting.”
“How long have you been waiting?”
“Three years and a bit,” I said.
“How long until you don’t have to wait anymore?”
“Nine more months.”
She raised her eyebrows, and I relented. “Maybe. Maybe it’s just nine months until I know I waited for nothing.”
She nodded. “Here’s the deal. I fill these nine months, and then you can see if you waited for nothing, and if you did, I will probably still be there.”
“That doesn’t sound fair to you,” I said.
“I mean, you could also decide whoever you’re waiting for isn’t worth it after all. That’s up to you.” She swang her leg over mine, straddling me. “Come on, let me kiss my soulmate here. Let’s try this.”
And, I mean, have you ever been straddled by a beautiful woman? It makes it very hard to say no.
I made my decision then. I want to call Rachel my girlfriend, not you.
This doesn’t mean I don’t love you.
I just think we’re probably better at being best friends than lovers. We’ve had a lot of time to practice that.
Max folds the letter up into halves, quarters, eighths. She tries for sixteenths, but the paper is too thick. She hands it back to Chloe. Weirdly, she has a strong sense of deja vu.
“Thanks for telling me,” she says and manages a smile. “I bet you two are a great couple.”
It’s such a small price to pay.
That she went through hell just to arrive at teenager problems yet again at the end of it all seems a bit unfair anyway. But apparently, she’s not getting out of this one.
“We should get you something to eat,” Chloe says. She’s a little red in the face, fidgeting with the hem of her shirt. She ducks her head under the pretense of stuffing the letter back into her bag. “How do you feel about the Two Whales?”
It’d be great to make sure Joyce is alive, Max doesn’t say.
“Ravenous,” she says instead. It’s true. She doesn’t know when this Max has last eaten, but Storm Max’s priorities did not include breakfast.
Chloe helps her up, and they fold up the picnic blanket together before packing it all up into Chloe’s truck.
“Where’d you guet that one, anyway?” Max asks, clapping a hand on the hood appreciatively. It’s nice to have something that’s exactly as it was in the other timeline.
Chloe gives her a weird look. “The junkyard,” she says. “Rachel and my secret hiding place for when we were skipping class. Did I not have it in the other timeline?”
“No, you did,” Max tells her. “I just didn’t really get around to asking.”
Chloe fixes her with a look over the roof of her truck.
“You know… at some point, I’ll want to know what happened in that other timeline. Not today, you deserve some rest. But… when you’re ready.”
“I don’t think I will ever be ready,” Max confesses, and ducks into the passenger seat. Chloe gets in on the other side.
“Not good enough,” she tells her.
Max focuses on the graffiti on the dashboard. It says, in bold letters, FUCK THE POLICE. Max imagines Chloe scribbling furiously after her unsuccessful trip to the precinct. She is relieved to find that none of the graffiti say you are about to die like they used to. It seems like a good omen, if she needed another one (she always does).
“Hey,” Chloe says. The truck rumbles to life.
“Yes,” Max replies. “I’ll tell you someday.”
She doesn’t look forward to reliving the past five days. Was it really only five? So much shit happened. Chloe died so many times. Kate –
“Someday this week,” Chloe prompts.
“I don’t see why not,” Max says, defeated.
“Hey,” Chloe says again, softer. “I know it’s probably traumatic and stuff, but you gotta talk about this shit. And I’m the only one who, you know. Knows.”
“It’s not nice things. You died a lot. I don’t want to pull you down.” Max looks out of the window, the trees and rocks flashing past. Chloe is a good driver, if she sets her mind to it. The silence stretches a bit.
“I mean, I knew I died in that timeline, but I didn’t know I died a lot ,” Chloe says eventually. She clears her throat. “We could – you know, set you up with a therapist. Obviously you wouldn’t be able to tell them everything, but some of the stuff?”
Max imagines herself lying on a couch, talking to the ceiling. And then my best friend got hit by a train, but I rewound time and now it’s all fine again. Oh, she also got hit by a stray bullet. And then by a bullet that wasn’t astray. And she died in a storm a couple of times. And now she’s dating this other girl that I also saved and I kind of don’t know how to feel about it.
Chloe gives her a lopsided, sympathetic smile. “Okay. I still want to hear it all, though.”
“Okay.” Max leans her head against the passenger window and falls asleep immediately.