Without bringing up Rachel, the two girls chatted on and off over the next several hours. Chloe mentioned wanting to visit her aunt, who lived in Eugene, and if she wasn’t on such a tight time crunch to get back, she would probably divert her plans for a quick visit. She didn’t stop much on her trip, only to use the restroom a few times and swing by a drive through or two when her stomach wouldn’t stop growling.
Eventually, she grew weary and pulled over near a Sacramento rest stop to sleep in her truck. The front of the vehicle was big enough for her to lay comfortably, and it wasn’t the first time she used the long, cushioned seat as a bed. Chloe cautioned Max to be on her guard during the meeting with Tom, and she urged her partner-in-time to wait for her to return so she could be by her side. Just as the older girl needed to go on this road trip for personal closure, Chloe realized the younger girl needed to learn more about her power. She seemed optimistic about the meeting but also cautious. Chloe was worried but knew when Max made up her mind, she was hard to convince otherwise. Plus, she would be a damn hypocrite if she pushed too hard about her best friend’s decision. In the back of her mind, she was concerned that she might have made a big mistake choosing to see Rachel before seeing Max, but she didn’t want the girl to know she was having second thoughts. The trip needed to happen and she needed closure. Period.
The blue-haired driver trekked down the coast inching closer towards her destination. As she continued south along I-5, she noticed the signs that informed travelers to exit if they were headed to Big Sur State Park. She always knew she would take this road trip one day; she only imagined her best friend would be right beside her enjoying the experience too. She wondered what would have happened if they had stolen Frank’s RV that day and just took off. It was another “what if” that crossed her mind involving California.
Rachel and Chloe planned to escape Arcadia Bay together several years back. She wasn’t completely convinced her gorgeous, hazel-eyed friend really wanted to leave with her, but they made secret plans regardless. They considered maybe going to New York, Los Angeles, or nowhere in particular, just traveling around like gypsies. Rachel’s heart, though, was set on L.A., as she wanted to begin her professional acting career there at some point. It was strange looking back now; they were only young teens when they made those ambitious plans. As childish as it seemed to consider running away now, Chloe would have left with her in a heartbeat, but was beginning to wonder if fate kept her in Arcadia Bay specifically for Max’s return. All she knew was she couldn’t wait to be back and spend time with her favorite little time traveler.
Memories began to rattled around and through the girl’s mind the closer she got to her destination. Her stomach was churning, and the anxious and jittery bouncing of her legs wouldn’t seem to stop. The metal music she was blaring couldn’t drown out the noise in her mind. She was either nervous to see Rachel again, or the traffic was starting to get to her. It was probably a combination of both; L.A. traffic was horrible, and the last time she saw Rachel, her body was rotting in the ground in the junkyard. She played it cool with Max but was indeed terrified to see her friend again.
Rachel texted Chloe the address for their meet up spot before she left. The actress wanted to connect in a park near West Hollywood, and since construction was taking place almost everywhere near her loft, parking was atrocious. Rachel said she planned to spend their time leisurely strolling around the city so they could catch up. It would be nice to just spend time with the girl she thought was dead.
Chloe finally pulled up to a parking meter on the perimeter of the park, paid the specified amount in coins, and then noticed a stunning beauty sitting on a bench about one hundred feet from her truck. The blonde stood up with one hand in the air and motioned for her to come over.
When the taller girl arrived at the bench, Rachel casually remarked, “Chloe Price.” Her eyes were half-squinted like she was beginning an examination, arms crossed at her chest.
“Rachel Amber.” Chloe coyly responded, her voice cracking a bit as she spoke.
“I cannot believe you still have that damn rust bucket. How did you not break the hell down driving all this way here?” Rachel moved her hands to her hips, looking as confident as ever with a smirk on her face that informed the world she was knew she was the queen. The girl wore a purple flannel button-down over a black spaghetti-strapped tee. The charm hanging in the middle of her silver necklace was indigo and matched her choker and bracelets. Chloe thought she looked exactly like she remembered, except for her choice of earrings. Diamond studs glimmered from both ears, rather than her patented blue feather. “You really should have flown.”
“Where’s your feather?” Chloe asked, reaching up gingerly stroking the side of the girl’s flawless face where her earring used to hang. Her skin felt silky and soft, the way she remembered. Part of her wanted to extend her pointer finger and just poke Rachel to make sure she was real and not part of some fucked up dream. In her mind, she was freaking out, and she was proud of her self for acting calm in light of the situation. Her head was telling her that this girl was dead weeks ago, but she pushed those thoughts out so her emotions wouldn’t take control.
“It’s somewhere safe,” she playfully responded, grabbing Chloe’s arm and pulling her in for a hug. She squeezed the taller girl around the waist, and buried her head in her stomach, clearly delighted to see her friend, almost knocking the girls to the ground in the process. “God, I love your hair. I remember when you first colored it. I thought it was super fucking hot.” Still holding her waist with one arm, Rachel tiptoed and ran the fingers of her free hand through the strands just above Chloe’s ears. The blue-haired girl adored the pleasant sensation, feeling similar to how it did when they were younger.
“And now?” Chloe teased, eyes closed and enjoying Rachel’s gentle touch; she smelled like jasmine, per usual.
“Still hot,” Rachel confirmed with a whisper that vibrated her earlobe just slightly sending an electric cascading shiver through her body. Letting go of the hug, Rachel nudged Chloe with her shoulder. “I’ve hella missed you, Miss Price.”
Nervously reaching up and touching the back of her head, Chloe returned the nudge before responding. “Feels like I haven’t seen you in ages, and I miss you too, so damn much, Rach.”
Grabbing Chloe’s arm and interlocking it with her own at the elbow, the shorter girl turned the pair around and towards the sidewalk. “Do you want to get some coffee, maybe some ice cream? There’s this totally cute spot a few blocks from here.”
“Can actresses even eat ice cream? Don’t you all count your carbs or some shit?” the punk giggled.
“Don’t take this the wrong way, Chloe, but you’re the only one of us that’s gained any weight.” Rachel reached down and pinched Chloe’s stomach on her side.
“Geez, thanks a lot bitch.” She instinctually pulled out her pack and lit one of her last remaining cigarettes, disregarding the no smoking signs placed around the park.
Laughing to herself, the blonde mischievously responded, “It’s a good thing. The last time we saw each other, you were skin and bones. But now? Mmm, nice curves.” Chloe noticed the girl move her head backwards to glance at her ass before dramatically licking her lips. “Let’s get some coffee and ice cream. We can come back to the park after.”
“I’m used to you searching for pot and alcohol, now you’re wanting coffee and ice cream? Who are you and what have you done with Rachel Amber?”
The flannel-clad girl titled her head upward and thought for a moment, finally responding, “Chloe, I think I’ve changed and it’s because of you. I know it took a while to convince me, but moving out of Arcadia Bay was the best thing I’ve ever done. I wonder if I would have been caught up in that Jefferson shit. Not surprised at all Nathan and his bullshit were involved.”
“How did you convince your parents to let you come out here on you own anyway?” the weary traveler questioned. Then she remembered she didn’t know many details about Rachel and what happened around that time. Abruptly she recalled looking through her phone after she and Max’s photo jump. It occurred to her the girl that she and Rachel spoke many times and for sometimes hours at a time. Her questioning something like that might seem extremely odd.
“Are you kidding me, Chloe?” the blonde snapped, shooting Chloe the stink eye. “You know you helped me convince them and shit. I can’t believe my dad didn’t have you arrested after what you said to him.” Eyes wide and mouth gaping, Chloe didn’t know what to think. It hadn’t occurred to her that she might have been involved at that level.
“Oh, yeah. I was just… uh, joking around.” Rachel tilted her head looking at her friend like she was studying a script. Chloe knew the girl could see through her bullshit. She had a talent for being able to know when someone was telling the truth or lying, but she did not say anything if she noticed. They continued along the sidewalk, still locked at the arms, without speaking for several minutes. Feeling awkward, Chloe decided to break the silence, “It’s nice Rachel we’re having,” followed by a cheesy ear to ear grin.
After a moment, the two girls erupted in laughter. “Classic Chloe Price!” Rachel exclaimed. “You were damn cute during our train ride. You were different than anybody I had ever met. I had such a hard-on for you.”
“Shut your damn face, Rachel Amber. We both know I had more feelings for you than you did for me. It wouldn’t have lasted between us. You were never the ‘settling down’ type anyway.” Chloe bent down, bracing her self on the ground, and snuffed out her cigarette on the concrete. Her heart thumped like it might crash through her chest. This was the type of conversation she wanted to have when she thought about ‘closure’ with Rachel.
The drama queen considered for a few seconds, then agreed. “You’re right. I wasn’t in a good spot in my life for anything stable. I didn’t know who I was, and I mostly only cared about partying, alcohol, drugs, girls, guys, whatever floated my boat in the moment. I did care about you though, more than any one person, and I know you knew that.”
“Yeah, I did. But you didn’t have to mess around with Frank. That was low.”
“Frank is a good guy, Chloe. We really cared about each other. He’s been in some dark places, seen some shit. But I wouldn’t call him ‘low.’”
“No, you dumdum, I know Frank’s a good guy. You not telling me was pretty fucked up. Yeah, I would have been against it, but we’ve always been open and honest with each other, you hid that from me. I would have never hidden anything from you.”
“Chloe, you knew me better than anybody… EVER! You saw my flaws and loved me anyway. Yes, we kissed, and fooled around a bit, but I never showed you the total love you showed me. I was always after the next best high.” Chloe pulled her in to her chest and slid around a corner so nobody would see her friend in tears.
“Rachel, I…” she was interrupted.
“I’m sorry, let me pull myself together. I just. Just…” She wiped her face and attempted to look like she was fine. “Your truck might not make it back to Oregon, why don’t you stay with me tonight. Maybe longer than tonight.” The confident girl knew she looked cute with her head tilted to the side like a puppy dog.
“Rachel, there’s something I need to talk to you about.”
Seemingly refreshed, the impulsive beauty pulled Chloe out of the alley and into the ice cream shop. “We’re here. We can talk later, it’s ice cream time!” She seemed genuinely excited about the sweet treat. “You have to try my favorite – Cotton Candy Explosion.” She scanned her eyes around the shop and expressed, “Isn’t this place stinking cute?”
The pair ordered, paid, then began to stroll back towards the park, enjoying their desserts as they walked. Rachel went on and on about how much she loved Los Angeles, and she seemed to fit in well. She had an audition scheduled in the morning for a voice acting part in some highly anticipated video game that Chloe never heard of. She’d only been in California for a half-dozen months, and in that time, she was selected for a few stage acting roles. Rachel was doing quite well. The voice acting spot would be contracted, which meant she would have steady work for nearly a full year, and the listed pay was nice.
When they returned to the park, they sat down at a bench. Rachel snuggled up to her friend, laying her blonde head on the punk’s shoulder. She looked up, grabbed two hands full of blue hair and casually kissed her on the cheek. “The last couple of hours have been great, Chloe. It’s felt like old times, just in a more mature ‘I’m not trying to get fucked up’, kind of way.” Chloe laughed harder than maybe she should have.
When she opened her eyes after the laughter subsided, in one quick movement, Rachel straddled her, grabbed her face, and pressed their lips together. She tried to speak, “Rachel, no, I can’t I’m in love with M…” But the moment had set in. The kiss was deep, and it lasted several moments. Chloe knew this wasn’t the first time they’d kissed, but it might have been the most… intense.
At the thought of the word ‘intense’ Chloe squealed and pushed Rachel off, shoving her to the grass. She hastily jumped up and started running towards her truck. “Fuck. FUCK. Goddamit! Fuuuuck!” she screamed. “What have I done?”
“Chloe!” Rachel called as her friend turned the ignition and floored the gas pedal.
She ran two red lights, almost hit a pedestrian, and nearly wrecked several times. She pulled into a gas station, parked the truck, got out, and ran to the wooded area between the station and a local restaurant. The world was rapidly spinning around and going way too fast. Bending over, she grabbed a shrub and everything she had eaten that day came back up, which was mostly fast food and ice-cream. “She trusted me. Fuck!”
Her mind toiled and reeled, her stomach twisted in knots. She fucked things up again. Why did she always fuck up? She would have to tell Max. “Fuck! What do I say?
“Max, I’m garbage. Rachel and I made out on a park bench. SHIT!” …
“I promise, it didn’t mean anything, but Rachel tried to kiss me. Well, she did kiss me, and I kissed her back. FUCK!” …
“Max, I need to tell you something, I cheated on you with Rachel. DAMMIT!” …
She couldn’t help but pace around witlessly, thinking about breaking Max’s heart. “This is going to destroy her. She feared something like this would happen and chose to trust me anyway.” Chloe knew how Max was going to react. She wears her heart on her sleeve, and
Getting back in the truck she pulled out of the gas station and hit the road. Instead of closure, Chloe managed to open a can of worms. The thought of not telling Max never crossed her mind. She would have to beg for forgiveness, but not on the phone – in person. Her little hipster deserved that much at least.
Chloe had a full day’s drive to think about what just happened. How could Max ever trust her again? She knew she’d been tricking herself. She even started believing the things Max would tell her. She began to believe she deserved to be happy, and the bad things in her life just sort of happened, and they weren’t her fault. That belief went up in flames. She knew she was the fuck up and the cause of her own pain, but hated she was the reason for perfect, amazing Max’s broken heart.
“Goddammit, I love you Max! Please forgive me!”
Not five minutes down the road, Chloe’s phone started ringing. It was Rachel. She didn’t particularly want to take the call, but knew she needed to. “Rachel.”
“What the fuck, Chloe! I thought we were having a great time together, why did you run away?” Her voice was stern and lined with hurt.
“I’m sorry, Rachel. I tried to tell you, but everything happened so fast.”
“Tell me what?” Her inflection was unsympathetic and harsh.
“I’m in love with someone else. I wanted to tell you, fuck. She’s my everything.”
“I wish you would have said something earlier. I mean, I was there too. You were giving off signals, and I couldn’t resist you. I felt your tongue in my mouth. It wasn’t just ME kissing YOU. That’s not something you do when you’re in love with someone else.”
Chloe felt ashamed and attacked. “I’m a fuck up, have we met? That’s so easy to say now, Rachel. I was in love with you once. I would have run away from Arcadia Bay back then, but you didn’t feel the same. You came around when you wanted to feel loved. Or when you were drunk or high and needed attention. You knew I was sitting by the phone just waiting on your call. It broke me. Then, when you went missing, I felt empty. It was a fucking nightmare I couldn’t wake up from!”
“What are you talking about, Chloe? When I went missing?”
“I mean… uh, when you left.”
“You helped me leave! I thought it was what you wanted.”
The taller girl felt her back was against the wall. She needed to tell Rachel about Max; she still needed more closure. “Let’s go get that coffee, Rach. I’m sorry I ran out, but I have a lot to tell you. Will you meet me somewhere?”
Rachel didn’t respond for several seconds. “You’re acting hella weird, and I’d appreciate a fucking explanation. So, yes.”
“Send me an address and I’ll meet you there.” Chloe turned the truck around and started towards the coffee shop. This time she would come straight out and just be honest from the beginning. She wished more than anything she would have told Rachel about Max from the get-go. She felt ashamed, embarrassed, saddened, gross, and many other emotions that complicated her thoughts.
“Max, I’m so sorry. It didn’t mean anything. I’ll make it up to you, you’ll see. I am so in love with your picture-perfect ass!”
A sudden thought occurred to the truck driver, her feelings were not directed at Rachel. Upon reaching the destination, she closed her eyes to remember the kiss. She fled so quickly she didn’t have time to unpack what she had just experienced. From her memory, she had her tongue in that freckled dork’s mouth. “That’s it!” she howled. She hadn’t felt anything for Rachel, nothing! In her mind, she had just made out with Max.