Visibility returned as the sunlight made its beginning approach through the cracked window in her upstairs bedroom. She could barely keep her eyes open the night before, as she continually and obsessively checked her phone for notifications. She had hoped for anything at that point, but half-expected the worst. Sometime during the night, her worry turned to anger. Anger turned to fear. Fear turned to anguish. Her jealousy and suspicion had been replaced by Max’s main concern, her girlfriend’s safety. From her memory, the last time a girl her age went missing, it didn’t turn out very well.
She regained awareness and checked her phone – still nothing. She was surprised she was able to fall asleep at all with how upset and uneasy she had been the previous night. Her girlfriend was missing, and she had acquired new information about her power. She desperately desired to discuss her coffee house experience with Chloe.
Max’s head felt like it had been fractured into a thousand pieces. She needed some type of cosmic adhesive to put it back together. Chloe was Max’s glue. She knew her partner in crime could help her make sense of the new knowledge, as well as ground her a bit. It was difficult to concentrate on the events at Victrola given the circumstances. The only thing that mattered now was Chloe. The other issues felt minuscule in comparison, though they continued to loom in the back of her mind.
“Max, how are you, sweetie?” her mom asked through the closed and locked bedroom door. “We haven’t seen much of you this weekend?” She got up and opened the door for a face to face chat.
“I’m sorry, Mom.” She reached up and touched the back of her head with her hand, smoothing her hair down. “After the last few weeks, I really just needed some me time, you know?”
“How was your coffee date last night? We heard you come in and shower, but nothing after.” Vanessa’s arms were folded in front of her chest. “Hope you’re enjoying your car.”
Max honestly didn’t remember showering. Everything besides Chloe and the new information had been on autopilot. “It wasn’t a date, Mom. I just had coffee with a… friend, that’s all. And yes, the car is amazing, thank you so much.” The photographer realized she wasn’t sure what details her mom knew about her life. After the photo jump, she checked emails, texts, and social media, but didn’t ascertain anything about her parents.
“You really don’t look well, sweetie. Are you sure everything is fine? You don’t have to talk to me about it, but a mother knows when her daughter is hurting. Just know that I am here.”
“Mom? Thank you so so so much for sending Chloe that letter earlier this year!” She wrapped her arms around her mother and gently squeezed.
“We should never have split you two apart the way we did. I’m sorry, I regret that decision. When you have a family of your own, you have to make tough choices where no outcome is ideal. You just do the best you can. The letter was nothing at all, I’m glad I found it.”
“No, not nothing,” the daughter cut in, “It meant everything.”
Max heard her phone’s ringtone come on and nearly jumped out of her skin. “I have to take this, Mom,” she said as she began closing the door.
“You should join us for dinner tonight. We’re going to your favorite restaurant, Sho Gun!”
“That sounds great, thanks.”
As soon as the door closed, she ran to her bed and grabbed her phone. The caller ID read ‘<3 Chloe Price <3’. Her heart was jumping so fast she had to take a deep breath to calm her nerves. Her eyes were beginning to water as she answered the call.
“No, this is Rachel.”
“What? Rachel? Where’s Chloe?”
“She’s with me now and she’s never coming back to you. I figured I’d call and show you the courtesy Chloe wasn’t planning to.”
“No, no! This can’t be happening.”
“Oh, it’s happening. Did you really think you had a chance against someone like me? I’m an actress, Max. You’re a… well, I don’t know what you are. Maybe a wannabe photographer? And you are so… average, I’m stunning.”
“Let me talk to Chloe, please.”
“No, you’ll never speak to her again. This is payback for ghosting her for five years. Five goddamn years, Max. Who the fuck does that to someone they care about? You, that’s who. You’re a shitty friend, a shitty photographer, and an even shittier person. You weren’t around, so I had to pick up the trail of damage you left behind. You might as well have killed Chloe when you left her. Instead, I was killed. I didn’t deserve to die, but you do. I literally wish Jefferson had murdered you.”
Max shot straight up in bed. “Ahhh!” she called out; her forehead saturated with a hot, sticky blanket of sweat. “Fuck nightmares!” She reached for the glass of water she placed on her nightstand the evening before and took a large gulp, noticing the alarm clock glowing ‘7:15am’. The brunette went to the bathroom and washed the moisture from her face with cold water.
While cleaning up, her phone rang from the bedroom. Half expecting it to be another nightmare, she slinked towards her nightstand. Not even looking at the caller ID, and just before the voicemail kicked on, Max meekly answered the call, “Hello?”
“Oh, God, Max! Fuck! The phone fell in the bed between the wooded… thingies. And I didn’t hear the alarm. I passed out so hard. It’s Rachel’s fault. Her Egyptian damn cotton sheets! She was supposed to wake me too. I’m so sorry!” Chloe was talking a mile a minute with no signs of slowing down. “I miss you, Max. I’m on the way. I’m driving as fast as I can! The damn truck won’t go much faster or the fucker’ll explode. Max, I…” Her voice caught, and she swallowed. “I need to talk to you about something, but not until I see you.” Finally, she paused long enough for Max to respond.
“Chloe! Please relax. It’s great to hear your voice, but I had a really rough night and I can’t keep up. My head is spinning.” Max took another sip of water then asked, “Wait, did you sleep in Rachel’s bed?”
“I did, but nothing happened, I swear. Maximus, that’s what I want to talk to you about. Things didn’t really go as planned, I’m way behind schedule. But I did get closure.”
“I didn’t know what to think, Chloe. You weren’t answering or texting back. I thought,” her voice crackled, “that something bad had happened to you. After all we’ve been through, after all we’ve seen, I thought you might be… dead.” The freckled brunette couldn’t hold the tears back any longer.
“Please don’t cry, babe. I’m alive and speeding towards you as we speak. We’ll be together soon, and everything will be perfect, you’ll see.” The early excitement of connecting with each other died down slightly. A content calmness was starting to set in.
“That’s fantastic, you found the closure you were looking for. I know I said I trusted you, and I do, Chloe… promise. I just couldn’t shake the feeling something was going to happen between you and Rachel. Then when Tom said certain things, it made me question that trust.” Max sniffed and wiped her face with her pajama sleeve.
“Fuuuuck, Max. I am so sorry. I totally spaced on the meeting with Tom. Dammit! I’ve been so involved in my shit, I forgot about it. I’m guessing that went okay?” Max could tell Chloe felt guilty. She’d never been very good at hiding her feelings.
“There’s no need to feel bad. Rachel being alive had to be a total mind fuck, and you shared a very important time in your life with her. I wish I could forget, but I do remember when we found her in the junkyard. I get it, Chloe.”
“I’m still fucking selfish, Super Max. The meeting with Tom was the most important thing happening to the girl I love, and all I could think about was my shit. Hell, your meeting might have been the most important thing happening in the entire universe. Fuck. Well, I have a long-ass drive ahead of me, would you like to fill me in?”
“Chloe, he was bizarre. I don’t think he’s a bad person, but seemed strung out, or a bit insane. At one point I was genuinely scared for my life.”
“Where is he, I’ll kill the bastard!”
“No, he’s gone. He didn’t hurt me. Since he had the time travel power before me, he actually told me some pretty helpful things. I’m hoping you can help me make sense of some of it.”
“Ummm, we need to work on your story telling skills, Maximus. Why the hell didn’t you lead with the whole ‘he had time travel power’? That’s huge! I mean, holy shitballs!” The truck driver’s focus shifted momentarily. “Hey, watch it asshole!” Max could hear the truck’s engine rev up with a grind and the tires squealed and screeched. Over the phone the tires sounded like air being slowly let out of a balloon by pinching and stretching the blowhole.
“Be careful, Chloe. What good will it do if you die on the way back?” The typically overcautious brunette implored, assuming a particular finger was shared with the other driver.
“Fucker nearly sideswiped me!” the girl with tats and ‘tude excitedly conveyed.
“Please, Chloe. If we’ve gone through all of the shit we’ve gone through, and you get killed on the road…”
“You’re right, I just can’t wait to see you,” her attitude began relaxing. “Ok, I’m sorry, back to Tom. So, wudya learn?”
“Apparently, there’s a chain of others who’ve had the rewind power, and only one person at a time has it. Once your purpose is finished, the power leaves. That’s what he said anyway. It seems to be true.”
“So, how did he find you?”
“After the power leaves, there are abilities the previous power holder receives, or maybe unlocks… I don’t really know. But it’s designed so the former person can find the next one. Chloe, the power messed Tom up big time. He said he could feel it through me. It was frightening. But that wasn’t the strangest part. After he delivered the information, he began losing his abilities. I rewound, hoping I could warn him or something, but it didn’t work.”
“Wait, you rewound? Was that your first rewind since we jumped?”
“Where did you rewind to? Like, what was happening when you stopped rewinding?”
“What does that matter, Chloe?”
“Just humor me, Mad Max.”
“Um, I was taking the selfie to send to you and Rachel.”
“Shit, I thought so. Max, I think I felt you rewind.”
“I dunno. It was like everything just stopped, but just a pause, more like an abrupt and broken interruption. It felt like the earth angrily shuddered. I know that sounds dumb but…”
“Oh, dog! No, it actually makes sense. Maybe it happened when you jumped with me. You coming into contact with the power must’ve… done something.” Max knew her and her partner in crime shared a special connection, but this was on a different level. They were already totally bonded for life, but Chloe experiencing the power, even on a small scale, made Max happy. She wanted to share everything with her punk.
“Chloe, I got this feeling that Tom didn’t really know a whole lot. Yes, he experienced the power, but I don’t know if he knows much more than us. It was weird. He knew things but didn’t understand what or why he knew them. It’s strange to say, but even as frightened as I was around him, I felt… I dunno, more powerful than him.”
“That’s because you’re Super Max! Dammit, isn’t this fun!? You and me, together on another adventure. Let’s keep going. What else did Tom tell you?” Her voice was bouncing with excitement. The road warrior loved discovering and uncovering details, revealing truth from chaos.
She’d practically known Chloe her entire life. She was in love with the girl. But there were elements of her life she didn’t know much about, like the years between her father’s death and Max’s return to Arcadia Bay. The unknowing was exciting. She couldn’t wait to spend more time with her Captain Blue Beard so they could figure each other out.
Max shivered at the thought of the other thing Tom said. Originally, she assumed his question was directly related to his own personal romantic experience. She didn’t want to bring it up but would most likely have to at this point. It pronged and poked at her as if beckoning to be revealed.
“Chloe? Tom said one other thing. I’m not sure how to ask this without seeming mistrusting, but…” her voice caught, “are you hiding anything from me? He seemed sure you were.” She hated even asking the question but was certain the answer would be ‘no’ and they could move on.
The truck driver didn’t respond right away. There were a few seconds between the question and Chloe’s response. “Max, I… I don’t want to discuss this on the phone. There is something, but it doesn’t change anything. And I’m not hiding it, I’m waiting to tell you in person. It’ll be better that way.”
Anxiety and suspicion began building, and a mild sense of fear formed in the shorter girl’s heart. As plainly as she could muster, she responded, “You said nothing happened between you and Rachel. Did you lie to me?”
“No, I would never lie to you. I said I slept in her bed, and nothing happened then. But fuck, Max, can we please talk about this when I get back? I’m begging here.”
“Nothing happened… then? Did something happen another time?” The brunette could barely breathe. She knew Chloe could hear her deep breaths, but that didn’t matter anymore.
“Max, Please! Do you want to talk about this now? I will. But we really need to talk in person, face to face.” Chloe was pleading. Despite her tender voice, Max could only hear sadness.
“You told me we were exclusive. I trusted you despite every bit of my heart saying I could never compete with Rachel. So, what happened, Chloe? Tell me the truth.”
“Fuuuuck! Ok, Max. We met in the park, got ice cream, caught up, and she kissed me. I pushed her off and ran away.”
“Oh… is that all? She kissed you and you left?” Max took a deep breath feeling a slight relief, followed quickly by another gut punch. “Wait, you said you got closure.”
“That’s not everything. She kissed me, and… and… I kissed her back. We held it for several seconds until I thought about you. Max, it didn’t mean anything, and I regretted it immediately. I am so sorry! You mean everything to me. Please understand that! Fuck, Max, Please!” Chloe was full on weeping at this point. Almost so hard she was barely understandable. “I did push her off and ran away. I couldn’t be the cause of your pain. All I wanna do is protect you, and hold you, and be with you…”
“I can’t do this. I can’t! After so much has happened to us. We’ve fought and clawed our way through time together. You promised me. You fucking promised! This can’t be real. Another nightmare…” Her eyes glazed over, and her limbs felt like noodles.
“Max, I’m driving as fast as I can to come be with you. Rachel is long gone, and…”
The freckled brunette didn’t let her finish. “Was I blind? I’m such an idiot.”
“No. No, Max. This has nothing to do with you. I mean, it does, but shit! Don’t you see? This was it; this was the closure. We kissed and all I could think about was you. I…”
“I’m not sure anymore. Goodbye, Chloe.” She ended the call, powered off her phone, and laid down in bed.
Chloe couldn’t believe what just transpired. She knew it would be tough on Max, but she wasn’t prepared for this. Her attempts to call the freckled girl’s cell phone came up non-successful. She heard the same voicemail message over and over, “You’ve reached Max Caulfield. Please leave a message. Thanks! <beep>.” She sounded happy on the recording, which sent another dagger through the guilt-ridden girl’s heart.
“I’m so dumb. Goddamnit! I don’t deserve her. She’s perfect and I’m a shit mark.” The weight of the situation came crashing down as she continued to drive north. The world unexpectedly seemed different. Before this phone call, she had a purpose. She had a reason to live. The only person who ever showed her that she was unconditionally worthy of something, was Max. Now she’s gone… again. This time it was her own fault. “Fuuuuck!”
Suddenly, a thought came into her head that helped dissolve the self-loathing boulder she was carrying. It wasn’t a unique thought. She’d had it at least a dozen times in her life, and she knew her beautiful hippie understood it the same as she did. “We’re always together, even when we’re not.” Ripping the tears from her eyes, Chloe stepped on the gas.
Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she realized her girlfriend was hurting. Yes, she made a terrible mistake, and yes, it sucked. “We are Max and Chloe – fucking Max Caulfield and Chloe Price!” This was just a fight. They would laugh about it one day. She also realized the kiss with Rachel might have been a good thing. She meant it when she said the kiss was closure. It was a realization that she and Rachel were through. She felt nothing for the girl beyond friendship. She cherished the memories they shared, but her heart and soul belonged to her Maxter. It would be a tough fight at this point but damn worth the battle.