Chloe: Spider Max!
Chloe: Enjoying ya new wheels dude?
Chloe: Must be, stop ignoring me! >:-(
Max: NO EMOJI
Chloe: Har har! guess you’re rubbing off on me :-*
Chloe: That’s a kiss, yea?
Max: Ya, but I wish it was the real thing.
Chloe: Sooooooon! Should I add more ooooooooo’s?
Max: Maybe 1 or 2 XD
Chloe: Max, the drive to LA is 15 hours!!!
Chloe: Prolly gonna take 2 days at least. You OK with that?
Chloe: No crying. Call you when I leave. Need to hear your voice
Max: Wait, that’s at least 30 hours on the road! :*****(
Chloe: Damn Caulfield does that mean extra tears?
Chloe: NO CRYING!!
Chloe: Emojis are cool I guess. Hate it when you cry.
Chloe: Out the door now
Max: Call me!
Chloe: On it
The phone rang several times before Max picked up. She delayed answering not because she didn’t want to speak to Chloe, of course she did, she wanted to sound strong, not dejected and pathetic like she felt. But there would be no way of hiding it from her best friend. She cleared her throat then answered, “Why, hello there, Chloe Price.” She dropped her voice down an octave clearly attempting to sound brave.
“Maximus, what the hell was that?” The older girl scoffed. “I know you’re not happy about this, but I need you to understand.”
“I do understand, Chloe, honestly. I just feel like I can’t compete with someone like Rachel Amber. I’ve seen pictures and spoken with so many people about her. She’s gorgeous, funny, talented, smart…”
“Let me stop you right there.” Max could hear the truck’s loud exhaust in the background. At least she thought it was the exhaust. She wasn’t as vehicle savvy as her partner, she just knew it was noisy. Her ears struggled to keep Chloe’s words and the truck’s grumblings separate. “Shit, dude, you are every bit as funny, smart, talented, and gorgeous as Rachel. I really hope you realize it soon. She had, uh… HAS a confidence about her, and she’s got a way with people. If Rachel wanted it, she was going to get it. She’s cunning and crafty and…”
Max wasn’t sure if Chloe’s talk was supposed to make her feel better, but it was having the opposite effect. All she heard were compliments aimed at Rachel, making her feel small and insignificant. “Rachel is amazing, I get it.”
“You didn’t let me finish, dork!” Chloe barked. “She’s all those things… but she’s no Max Caulfield. She doesn’t even compare to you. I mean it, you’re literally perfect. As soon as you realize that shit and gain more confidence, you’re gonna be unstoppable.” The older girl paused and inhaled a deep, airy breath. “I prolly should’ve made it clear before, Maxter. I’m meeting Rachel for closure only. Period. Nothing more. I’m in no way interested in her beyond that. I’m sure she’s crushing on someone in L.A. by now anyhow… and… well, I have you. She’s only a friend. Just think of it as, um, just like, if you went to meet Warren for coffee or some shit.”
“It’s sooo different, Chloe, and you know it. I always saw Warren as a goofy, weirdo guy friend. You’ve made it clear to me that Rachel saved you and she was your angel. I feel silly being jealous, but it makes sense that I would be, right?” Max felt a bit crazy, but she also felt justified in her feelings. A couple of weeks ago, she didn’t even know what true love felt like. Now she was anxious and hurt that her favorite person wants to spend time with someone she figured was her ex-girlfriend. At least she knew they were close friends, probably much more.
“No, you’re right. Rachel and I have a… uhm… history, and she was, or is, very important to me. But you and I have so much more. We were kids together. You know, I even had a crush on you then…”
“No, you did not, Chloe Price,” Max interrupted.
“Oh, it’s damn true. I didn’t understand my feelings at the time, ya know? We were kids. But, looking back, it’s very obvious. Max, goddammit you’re the best thing that ever happened to me, you gotta know that by now.” This time the truck driver’s voice sounded more serious and focused. “After all we’ve been through, it almost hurts that you don’t trust me.”
“It’s not about trusting you. It’s about not knowing HER, and it’s about knowing what she means to you. I asked like, everyone what they knew about Rachel Amber during our detective shit, and the stories I heard ranged from her being a manipulating druggy, to a sweet and loving saint. Also, we’ve never discussed our relationship, Chloe. I don’t know where we stand. It would probably be naïve to think we are exclusively… together, or girlfriends… or…” She trailed off. The last part sounded so weird coming from her lips. Not being exclusive with her, whatever they were, wasn’t something she wanted to think about. She’d never been in a real romantic relationship before. Her words repeated over and over in her head as a silence had fallen between the girls.
Finally breaking the silence, Chloe responded, “That’s fair. Let’s talk about our relationship. I was hoping to do this in person, but you deserve it right away. Right here, right now.” Her voice was a bit shaky, yet tender. She could be extremely caring and nurturing when she wanted to. “I remember kissing you, what… three times? A threesome of kisses… kinda. I know that’s complicated by some sort of timeline fusion shit or whatever the hell happened, but we’re still us. When we kiss, I feel this wave of electricity, like nothing else matters.”
“Those kisses,” Max cooed, remembering every taste and every groove of the girl’s soft lips. “They felt… so damn good. Your touch makes me feel safe, Chloe.”
“I know right?! Max, we’ve kissed, held each other, and fought the fucking time god himself to be together. I know you feel it too. There’s something happening between us that’s deep and sweet and hella fucking awesome! We’re Max and Chloe, dude!” Her excitement was building, and it felt amazing to hear her passion. The girl who was now in Seattle knew her best friend was right. Why was she so jealous? Why had she made this a ‘thing’? “We are very much exclusive. Just your bony, hippie ass and my extremely cool and badass… well, ass. Now and forever. You’re stuck with me, so deal with it biotch.”
The older girl drove Max crazy in a way that filled her heart to the brim with a cascading warmth. They were so very different, yet strangely a lot alike. Chloe was the yang to the freckled girl’s yin, and it helped Max to hear the girl’s love for her verbalized. “Chloe?” she asked as if it were a question. “You know what?”
“Chicken butt?” Chloe sneered then cackled maniacally.
“You drive me insane in the brain.”
“Hmm,” the girl with tats and ‘tude reflected. “If you start using my phrases, I’ll start using yours.”
“My… phrases? I don’t have any phrases.” She could feel an embarrassing nervousness warm her cheeks and hide her freckles behind blotches of crimson.
“Uh, yeah ya do, dork! Shall I list them?”
“You shall not.” Max felt her face growing even warmer. “Please don’t.”
“Oh, now I have to, fo sho. Let’s see… ‘Shaka Brah’, ‘Are you cereal?’, ‘Wowser’…”
“Stop! Please.” Max laughed so hard she snorted. “What about you?! ‘Hella’, ‘amazeballs’…
Chloe interrupted, “Wait. Just. A. Fucking. Minute. You use ‘hella’ and ‘amazeballs’ as much as I do now. I’m a good bad influence.” Max could tell her favorite was proud of herself. No doubt she had that patented Chloe Price ‘I’m a badass bitch’ smirk on her face. She was the smartest person Max knew; using humor and her sharp mind to entice a giggle from the brunette. After William passed, her grades slipped, and she was ultimately expelled from Blackwell. Max was a believer that grades in school didn’t properly reveal a person’s intelligence. Her partner-in-crime could turn a phrase so naturally. She was quick-witted and, when you couple that with her ‘me against the world’ attitude, she seemed like she could go toe to toe with anyone.
“MaxGyver? I don’t mean to upset the mood; we were vibing damn good. But we need to be able to share everything.” The shorter girl feared what Chloe was about to divulge. “The word ‘hella’ came from Rachel. I yoinked it from her and made it mine.”
Suddenly, Max felt a calming, almost euphoric wave flow through her body and the jealousy that she felt earlier mostly dissipated. She realized she had been looking at this entire situation all wrong. “Chloe, when you see Rachel, please thank her for me. She kept you safe and happy when I couldn’t, and she even gave us ‘hella’. Now that I think about it, hug her for me too. You wouldn’t be here and, well, you wouldn’t be YOU without her. I owe Rachel big time. She took my place when I was away. I at least owe her respect for being there for you.” Max considered that to be one of the darkest times in her life. Even though she knew her parents were mostly to blame for her lack of reaching out to Chloe, she secretly hated herself for not being more assertive and being there for the one person that mattered the most to her.
“Fuck you, Caulfield! Just when I think I can’t love you any more, you go and say some beautiful shit like that. You’re a goopy goop… and I love it!”
Max pressed her ear harder to the phone. “Why don’t I hear your truck anymore?”
“I pulled over when our talk got more serious, not even out of The Bay yet,” she confessed.
“Chloe!” Max howled. “Get your ass going! The sooner you get there, the sooner you get to come back to me. I need to see you!” Her mind suddenly jumped back to the Rachel topic. “It just occurred to me; how are you going to approach Rachel? You know, she died, and we saw her body. Not to get morbid, but we did. It was shitty, but now she’s alive. You gotta act like nothing happened, right? And you really shouldn’t tell her about the rewind stuff. It might freak her out. We need to keep this between us. Our little secret.”
“Yeah, you’re prolly right. I’m not sure, though, guess I’ll play it by ear, sorta improv. Rachel and I used to do these dumb improv things a while back.” Max could still feel the better sting of jealousy, but the more she thought about it, the more she realized she just wished she had been around to see Chloe during that time. Her pirate captain must’ve been hella cute. “I was even in a play with her once. Well, sorta. Did I ever tell you that? Sorry, you said ‘act’ and I’m on my way to meet her. It made me think about that time in my life. She was, or IS, an amazing actress; sorta a drama queen to be honest.”
Chloe cleared her throat then continued. “I want to tell you everything, Maxi Max, and I will. We’ll have tons of time to officially catch up when I get back. We have our entire lives, right? You should know more about my ‘Rachel years’ and I should know more about your ‘Seattle years’. Remember, we’re together forever. I’m never leaving you. Though, I need to keep some stories back, so you don’t get bored of my ass.”
“Never!” Max proclaimed. “I couldn’t get bored of you if I tried.” She heard the engine turn and the truck roar back up.
“Welp, I guess I should call her and let her know I’ve left. And Super Max, please don’t worry. This is basically a bidness trip. Nothin’ to it.”
“Who’s worried?” the hipster waggishly asked. “I trust you with everything, and I can’t wait to see you again. Like you said, when you get back things will be… what word did you use? Oh, yeah, ‘intense’. I can’t wait for whatever that means.”
“You have no idea, Long Max Silver. Oh, just had a thought! Maybe we should dress up like pirates for our first time… naaah, prolly a bad idea.”
“You’re hot, I can’t help it.”
For the next couple of hours, Max combed through texts, emails, and social media posts, tweets, and status updates. She realized most everything seemed unexceptionally normal. It felt weird learning details about her life like she was somebody else. It was as if she was sitting outside of reality observing her own existence. The most interesting things she learned came after Chloe received the letter she wrote that her mom sent.
She had reached out to the other Max making damn sure she wouldn’t be ignored. She called her cell phone over a hundred times, messaged on Facebook, sent over 50 emails, and texted too many times to count. Max finally responded and apologized profusely. It was so cute to see their messages back and forth after being apart for so long. They sent each other selfies and talked on the phone periodically.
The scariest memory Max read about involved the Blackwell restroom. Chloe still owed Frank, the local drug dealer, a large sum of money, and she still got royally mixed up with Nathan Prescott. When she went to meet him in the restroom for a shakedown, however, she kept her cool, unlike before. Nobody pulled out a gun, nobody pulled any trigger, nobody was shot, and nobody needed to rewind. The other Max still ended up hiding in the corner, and she still took the photograph of a shimmering, blue butterfly as it landed on the metal cleaning bucket.
The letter she wrote during the photo jump was created under a heightened sense of urgency. She couldn’t write every detail but wished she would have warned Chloe about this moment. She internally beat herself up for not thinking about this part. The moment in the Blackwell restroom might have been the single most important event of the storm week. Her focus was on quickly and correctly writing the minimum to save Rachel. What if she messed up and lost her favorite person? The ‘what ifs’ sent a thorny chill throughout her body.
Max desperately wanted to hear Chloe’s voice again but decided not to be the one to call. When her punk got bored of driving, she would pick up the phone; Max was sure of that. Plus, she didn’t want to feel too clingy or needy. In the interim, she had a decision to make about what to do with her time during the week. She considered calling some of her old Seattle friends for coffee or tea, but it didn’t really interest her. She rummaged around her room looking at photos and taking selfies in different poses. She knew she was only procrastinating and needed to follow up with that text she received, but her mind stirred with thoughts of her… girlfriend… on the road. She wasn’t sure if thinking about Chloe as her girlfriend was correct, but it felt damn good.
Having put it off as long as she could, Max decided she had better deal with the message she previously received from an unknown sender. While piecing together the events that took place as she was in photo-jump la la land, she simply avoided it. Max knew it was something she needed to deal with on her own. Chloe hadn’t brought it back up; she was too involved in her own dealings and was more tuned in to her own personal journey at the moment. The girls were starting down two separate paths, alone, both seeking answers.
She stared at the message for a moment, not knowing what to say, but she eventually replied. It didn’t take long for a response to arrive, however.
Max: Who are you?
Unknown Sender: We have a lot to discuss.
Unknown Sender: Can we meet?
Max: I don’t know you
Unknown Sender: I mean you no harm.
Unknown Sender: But we do need to talk.
Unknown Sender: Been searching for you for a while.
Unknown Sender: Tough tracking down a time traveler, though.
Unknown Sender: I’m close to you. In Oregon.
Unknown Sender: Wasn’t sure how to reach out without you getting creeped out.
Max: Def creeped out now.
Unknown Sender: I’m sorry.
Unknown Sender: It’s important we meet.
Unknown Sender: I had the power to rewind before you did.
Unknown Sender: Coffee in a public place. It’s all I ask.
Unknown Sender: Just talk
Unknown Sender: 5pm tomorrow, anywhere you feel comfortable
Max: Seattle. Victrola Coffee Shoppe.
Unknown Sender: See you soon. Thank you.
Unknown Sender: Oh, and my name is Tom.