Sunlight crept through the thin fabric of the flag that hung in front of the open window, covering everything in a red and golden light. The gentle breeze played with strands of auburn hair, which framed a pale, freckled face. A peaceful expression that would make everyone smile who looked at it. That included Chloe who was currently studying the face of her best friend next to her. She carefully brushed some strands away from Max’ss closed eyes and let out a very soft sigh, looking at her best friend in awe. She still had a hard time believing that Max was here with her. Chloe felt like she didn’t have that much to offer to Max, who had been her best friend for as long as she could remember. Unlike her, Max was talented, kind to everyone, and patient… There was nothing Chloe could think of that was negative. Maybe the fact that Max was quite clumsy in general, but that was simply adorable; nothing negative about that.
Chloe pulled back her hand as she got slightly startled when Max stirred, luckily she simply repositioned herself until she seemed to be comfortable. Chloe chuckled softly and went back to softly caressing her best friend’s hair. There was no way that Chloe would be able to fall asleep again anyway, so she enjoyed the view for as long as she could.
Her thoughts wandered off again to the previous day and evening, it had caused her heart to grow another size or two. Or it had felt that way, at least. Max had been messing with her head for much, much longer. But the previous day she had taken it to an entire new level, probably without even realizing it herself.
Chloe shook her head, smiling. Max was pretty oblivious still, maybe it was time to make it impossible for her to be oblivious any longer.
She leaned closer to her friend and softly blew into Max’s exposed ear, which caused her to stir a bit.
“Good morning, Maxipad…” Chloe teased, knowing all too well that Max disliked that specific nickname. As if to prove it, Max groaned and tried to turn around, but Chloe didn’t let her. “Time to wake up, little doe.”
“Five more minutes…” Max mumbled in a very sleepy voice.
Chloe snorted and shook her head. “I’m not your mom, you know. There’s no school, you goof. But I still think you should wake up, I’ve been awake for hours. And I kinda miss you…” Chloe bit her lip and looked away, wondering if that had been too mushy.
“What time is it?” Max asked as she rubbed her eyes to remove any remnants of sleep. A yawn followed while Chloe informed her of the current time. “Wait, what? ”
“I said, it is past eleven.”
“Past eleven?! Are you sure?” Max suddenly seemed much more awake.
“Eleven twenty-one, to be exact,” Chloe answered as she looked at the screen of her phone. Her and Max smiled at her from the background; she loved that picture.
“Crap, I slept really long. Maybe too long…” Max complained. She sat up and moved to sit on the edge of the bed. She had wanted to go out to take some pictures during the morning, but that idea was literally out the window now. Although afternoon pictures could be pretty nice too, just not the same.
Chloe studied Max’s face as she sat next to her, then put her arm around Max’s shoulders. “It’s okay Super Max, there’s still plenty of time. Let’s get dressed and score some free breakfast at the Two Whales, say ‘hi’ to mom and all.” Luckily that did cheer up her friend a bit, as a smile appeared on her face.
“That does sound heavenly…” Max said as she thought of pancakes, Belgian waffles and freshly brewed coffee. “You’re full of good ideas, Chlo.”
Chloe grinned and threw the keys to Max, who looked at the keys but obviously didn’t register in time, causing the keys to fall onto the concrete ground in front of her.
“Nice catch,” Chloe teased and stuck out her tongue at her now flustered best friend.
“Wow, thanks Chloe. What am I supposed to do with those anyway?”
“I believe they were invented to open and start a car… But I could be wrong,” Chloe answered smugly.
“Har har, I’m serious.”
Chloe nodded, “So am I.” Max looked so confused that Chloe almost felt bad. “You’re driving,” she explained and saw Max stop dead In her tracks.
“You want me to drive?” Max’s voice was full of shock and disbelief.
“You want your breakfast?” Chloe smiled and patiently waited for Max to unlock the truck so they could get in.
Max took a deep breath, picked up the keys and unlocked Chloe’s pick up truck. They both got in and sat in silence for a moment.
“I don’t know about this, Chloe…”
“Max, it’s fine. I know you can drive and I promise I won’t let anything happen to us.” She put her hand on Max’s arm and gave her a reassuring squeeze. “You’ve got this, Super Max.” Chloe winked playfully and thought she could see Max trying to hide a blush.
“Fine, but don’t complain about my driving skills. It’s been quite a while,” Max said, let out a soft sigh and started the truck. With one foot on the clutch and the other on the gas pedal, she put down the clutch as she put the truck in reverse after pushing down the hand-break. As she let the clutch slowly come up, she slowly pressed down the gas pedal. Checking the road behind them, Max let the truck roll backwards onto the road. She then pushed down the clutch again and put the truck into first gear and they drove off, as Max put it in second and eventually in third gear.
Chloe smiled from ear to ear and Max shot a quick glance to her right side.
“What?” Max asked and Chloe chuckled.
“Look at you, Miss ‘it’s been quite a while’! You’re a damn natural!”
“Am not , this is not as easy as it looks…” Max responded.
Chloe shook her head, still grinning. “I know, especially in this piece of rust.” Chloe patted the passenger door fondly. “I love it though, it brings me where I have to go.” She’d had the truck for about three years now and it had almost never failed her, except for some minor mandatory repairs here and there. Chloe had grown attached to the rusty truck and the memories it held.
Chloe looked at Max from the corner of her eye, not wanting to distract her too much, she knew Max was still a bit nervous. Her lips curled up into a smile and enjoyed the ride, Max was a better driver than she was. Despite the fact Chloe didn’t like to admit it, she couldn’t deny the truth.
Max looked left and right before crossing the intersection and caught Chloe looking at her, from the corner of her eye.
“Why are you giving me that look?” Max asked, to which Chloe raised her eyebrows.
“That look, Chloe. You know what I mean.”
“Actually Maxter, I don’t. I am just trying to distract myself from the urge to light a cigarette. I know you don’t like it,” Chloe answered truthfully and caused Max to look at her quickly, before focusing on the road again.
“… That is… very considerate, Chlo,” Max replied and smiled as her cheeks turned a light pink shade. “Thank you.”
“Only for my—best friend,” Chloe bit her lip and internally scolded herself for almost saying what she had been thinking. She just hoped Max hadn’t noticed, as she was pretty focused on the road in front of them.
“Man, I am so happy we’re here. I’m starving!” Max said with a deep sigh as she turned the key and killed the truck’s engine by doing so.
“Same here, Maximus. Oh and Max, you did amazing. No need to doubt yourself, because I felt safer than when I am driving myself,” Chloe said and got out of the truck in a rush, not wanting Max to see her blushing.
“Whoa, Chlo… Really? In that case, I might steal your keys,” Max teased and closed the door behind her and locked the truck. A smug look was plastered on Max’s face and Chloe shook her head with a grin.
“Who says I’d mind?” The smug look on Max’s face disappeared immediately, causing Chloe to chuckle. “Come on, hippie. Let’s get some food in you.”
“Good morning ladies,” Joyce greeted the two, coffee pot in hand. She filled up the mugs that were on the table, smiling as the two greeted her in return. “What can I get you two?”
“Belgian waffles sound amazing, Joyce,” Max answered and smiled from ear to ear, which caused Chloe’s mom to chuckle.
“Of course, Max. I will make sure they’re extra special,” Joyce said and winked at Max, then turned to her daughter. “Made your mind up yet, Chloe?”
Chloe looked up at her mom, not sure if Joyce was referring to breakfast or something else. Her mom knew her too well, she could see in her mom’s eyes that she wasn’t referring to just breakfast.
“I think so… Guess I’ll go with pancakes, so Max and I can have both.” Chloe smiled at her best friend and winked.
“Comin’ right up,” Joyce replied and walked back towards the counter.
Max looked Chloe right in the eye, her arms crossed over each other, leaning on the table. “So you expect me to share my Belgian waffles, huh?”
Chloe’s jaw slowly dropped. “Max, didn’t you hear what I said? I ordered pancakes so you can have both,” Chloe protested.
Max giggled and Chloe cocked her head a little.
“… Wait, you…? Oh shush you!” Chloe tried to hide the blush of embarrassment on her face, to no avail, causing her best friend to laugh.
“Sorry, Chlo. But that was just really—I mean, you should’ve seen your face,” Max said in between chuckles. “You do it to me all the time, now you know how it feels.”
“I’d rather look at your face.” Chloe stiffened as she realized what she just said, out loud. Fuck .
“Sorry, what? I didn’t hear what you said,” Max asked before she took a sip of her coffee.
Chloe couldn’t tell for sure, but Max’s face didn’t show clearly if she was joking or not. If there was a hole in the floor, Chloe would jump right in, she felt like an idiot. “N-nothing. Nothing important.”
Max raised an eyebrow at that.
“What is taking so long? I’m starving,” Chloe complained, trying to avoid the subject. She looked out the window, noting that the sky was a clear blue color with only a few big white fluffy clouds decorating it. There were a few cars passing by, two people waited at the bus stop in front of the diner. Just another day in Arcadia Bay.
Max watched Chloe stare out of the window, her chin resting on the palm of her hand. The electric blue hair framing her face, cheeks rosy, eyes darting from side to side as they changed focus on things.
She took another sip of her coffee, not looking away from her best friend. She wondered what Chloe was thinking about, it was obvious she’d been trying to change subjects suddenly. The warm feeling in her chest got stronger and made her wonder… If maybe Chloe had been feeling what she had been feeling lately, Max wasn’t sure. She just wished she had the same courage as her best friend did, Chloe was always very direct and just said what she thought.
She took her camera out of her bag and took a picture, causing Chloe to jerk her head to look at Max.
“ Hey! ” Chloe said and blinked a few times, “you sneak!” She looked at Max, camera still in her hands, watching as Max gently took the picture from her camera and put it on the far corner of the table, where Chloe couldn’t reach. “Smart.”
“I know you, Chloe,” Max responded with a sly smile, “this one’s a keeper.”
“We’ll see about that,” Chloe replied and took a gulp of her coffee. You’re a keeper. She shook her head at her own thoughts and suppressed a smile. Right when she was going to say something else, Joyce came up to them with their food.
“Thank you so much, Joyce. It smells amazing, as always,” Max said as she whiffed at the plates.
Joyce smiled at them as she put down the plates. “Good to hear, Max. Now I better not see any leftovers on your plates when I get back, okay?” Joyce said and walked towards other customers who were ready to order.
For the most part, they ate in silence, glancing at each other every now and then. Max smiled as she suddenly got an idea, she cut another piece off of her second waffle and after pricking it onto her fork, and held it in front of Chloe’s mouth.
“I decided that I’m willing to share my Belgian waffles with you.”
Chloe swallowed a piece of pancake and looked at the piece of waffle in front of her, then at Max and back at the waffle. “Whoa Maxter, I’m shocked. You sure about this?” Chloe looked at Max and gulped, trying to keep her nerves under control and not lose her cool.
“Absolutely sure, Chlo,” Max said and smiled encouragingly.
Chloe nodded and gently took the piece of waffle off the fork with her lips, enjoying the flavor of the deliciousness. “Mmm,” she hummed as she chewed, this waffle was really good. “Can I have some more?”
Max smirked and cut off another piece of her waffle. “Hungry for more, hmm?”
Chloe felt her cheeks get warm, knowing they were taking on a shade of pink again. “Y-yeah,” she stammered, wanting to hit herself. It was getting warm in the diner and she felt like she needed some fresh air. She was pretty certain Max was teasing her and it was working, which was probably the worst part. “I-I uh…”
“Are you okay?” Max asked, slightly worried. “We can go if you want to,” she offered and Chloe shrugged and shook her head at the same time.
She wasn’t sure what she wanted. Actually she was, deep down, but she wasn’t sure if she was quite ready to admit it yet.
“Chloe?” Max pulled her from her thoughts and made Chloe look at her.
“Y-yeah, let’s go. We’ll take the leftovers with us,” Chloe replied in a hurry. She got up and grabbed a box for the leftovers from behind the counter, put the remainders of their breakfast in it and waited for Max at the entrance of the diner.
“Okay, hold on,” Max said, putting the photograph in her bag before slinging its strap over her shoulder. She grabbed the mugs and plates and put them on the counter. When Joyce looked at her with raised eyebrows, Max apologized, “sorry, I think Chloe’s not feeling good. But it was absolutely delicious, Joyce. Thank you so much.” Max took out and left a ten dollar bill on the counter.
“Max, you don’t have to—!“ But Max and Chloe were already outside before Joyce could finish.
The entire ride neither of them spoke a word, the only thing that kept the silence at bay was the music that played. Chloe was feeling insanely nervous and she hated herself for it, this wasn’t who she was. It felt wrong to be this nervous, but nothing seemed to help getting rid of the feeling that gnawed at her.
She had realized her feelings for Max years ago, but always pushed it aside. She had always tried to ignore it with success, until now. It was as if she had been hit by a bus, she slowly came to the realization that this time she wouldn’t be able to ignore it. When she slowly turned her head a little bit to look at her best friend, her heart ached and caused the nerves to spike even more.
“Take a right turn over there,” Chloe managed to say without choking on it.
Max looked at Chloe with a quizzical expression, but didn’t argue. “Sure thing, Chlo.”
The truck gently turned to the right, following the curve of the road all the way up. They drove down the road that stretched out in front of them, Max looked at Chloe every now and then for further instructions; there were none.
“Go left onto that path there,” Chloe said after a little while, not much louder than a whisper. She pointed at the familiar path, so Max wouldn’t miss it. Max followed up her directions and stopped the truck when the road ended. Chloe hopped out of the truck and inhaled deeply, trying to get some oxygen to her brain, in the hopes that it would help clear her mind. Despite knowing that Max hated it, Chloe grabbed a cigarette from the pack in her pocket and lit it. She inhaled deeply, the smoke filling her lungs. After a minute or two the nerves went down slightly, but not nearly enough.
Max watched Chloe from a small distance, feeling slightly worried about her best friend. She wondered if she had crossed the line, maybe that was why Chloe was suddenly like this. Her eyes followed Chloe, who had stopped pacing back and forth and walked down a very narrow path.
Chloe walked down the path, which had become almost overgrown. Her mind was chaos, tons of different thoughts overlapping each other. As if they all were tugging at her for attention, claiming to be the most important.
She stopped and took in the view, mountains in the distance and forest; nothing but forest. Chloe looked down, the ledge was only a few steps away. It was thrilling, and made her feel alive. To her relief the chaos in her head became less intense.
Max followed Chloe, trying to avoid getting tangled in bush branches that had grown over the path. She saw Chloe stopped and she raised an eyebrow, then looked further and was in awe of the view.
“Wowsers,” Max whispered to herself, automatically already reaching for her camera. For a moment she hesitated, but then decided to leave Chloe’s silhouette in the shot. There was something about Chloe being in the photograph, something special. Max couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but didn’t put too much thought into it.
Chloe let out a deep sigh and turned around to look at Max, admiring the cute freckles that decorated her face.
“Max?” Chloe asked softly.
Without giving a response, Max walked over to Chloe while putting away her camera.
“Yes, Chloe?” Max’s voice was soft, sounded gentle and calm. As if she knew exactly what Chloe needed right now, maybe their friendship was just that strong. Max smiled at her friend in front of her, waiting patiently for her to say what was on her mind.
“I—I think—“ Chloe shook her head. “No, I know ; I have to tell you something. This shouldn’t be so fucking hard, but for some reason it is, so bear with me, please?”
Max nodded, giving Chloe the time and space she needed to continue.
“Basically, I’m on the edge right now. Both literally,” Chloe nodded towards the ledge right behind her, “and figuratively. You know I’m hella good at fucking shit up, I just really hope I don’t fuck this up…” Chloe let out a deep sigh and bit her lip. She reached out her hands and gently took Max’s into her own, finding some comfort in them.
“Chloe, whatever it is, I’m not going anywhere.” There wasn’t a hint of impatience or pressure in Max’s voice, giving Chloe a bit more confidence. She wasn’t sure what she’d do without her first mate. Max gave her hands a reassuring squeeze and Chloe cleared her throat.
“Max—Fuck it! I’ve been keeping this in for so long and I’m sick of it—I’m pretty sure I’ve fallen in love with you, Caulfield.” It was almost perfectly silent, except for some birds singing in the distance and tree leaves rustling in the wind. Chloe didn’t dare to look at Max, too afraid to possibly see what she feared most.
Max felt her heart ache and pound in her chest so much that it almost hurt, she had a weird feeling in her stomach and her mind was smultaneously chaos and dead quiet. Had Chloe really just confessed that she had fallen in love with her?
It felt like hours had passed and Max still hadn’t said anything, which caused Chloe to start regretting and her heart started to ache. Had it really been worth it?
“Chloe… I had no idea…” Max whispered as she gently rubbed her thumbs over the skin of Chloe’s hands, which were still holding hers. “I-I had no idea that you… Feel the same way about me…”
Chloe’s eyes widened and she looked up, studying Max’s freckled face.
Max looked into Chloe’s bright blue eyes and couldn’t keep the corners of her lips from curling up into a smile.
“Maximus, you hella better not be fucking with me right now,” Chloe responded, still a bit dazed. As Max shook her head, Chloe’s face lit up and started laughing. “I can’t believe it, is this real?” This time Max nodded, laughing too. Chloe felt so … giddy, it was incredible. “ Fuck , Max…” Chloe whispered, suddenly very close to Max. Her heart was racing in her chest, her breathing fast. Their heads slowly moved closer, until their lips were only a few centimeters apart. Chloe could feel Max’s warm breath against her lips and felt goosebumps forming on her arms, a pleasant shiver going through her body.
Max felt as if she was trembling, her stomach and chest were warm and felt like there were a dozen butterflies fluttering inside of it. Her heart was going as fast as it possibly could, her mind foggy and silent, for once. Chloe’s lips brushed against hers and a little shock of electricity went through her body, which begged for more.
Their lips touched and Chloe felt her heart burst into butterflies, trying to get out of her. Strangely enough, it felt pleasant. She leaned in a bit more, her lips gently pressing against Max’s. She could taste lip balm, but couldn’t quite put her finger on the flavor. The kiss was soft but exhilarating, Chloe wanted more of this; she could do this all day long.
The sun illuminated the forests and mountains in the distance, making the view even more spectacular. Max had already taken a few pictures, but just had to get this shot. She got up after she grabbed her camera and walked closer to the edge, until she had the perfect image in the viewfinder.
“Careful there,” Chloe said softly as she wrapped her arms around Max from behind. “I wouldn’t want you to fall.”
Max turned around with a smug look on her face. “I already did… I fell for you, Chlo,” Max said and chuckled at seeing Chloe’s facial expression.
“You’re such a cliché hipster,” Chloe rolled her eyes and shook her head. “But I’m glad you did…” she whispered, feeling her cheeks flush.
“So am I.” Max got onto her tippy toes and kissed Chloe gently, feeling Chloe’s arms wrap around her a little tighter.
“Look at us being all mushy,” Chloe said and huffed, then grinned. “You did this, Max. You made me go all soft and mushy.”
Max stuck out her tongue to Chloe at that, teasing her best friend. Neither of them wanted this to end, even though this was only the beginning. The beginning of something new, something more.