Chloe stares out the front of the car attentively on the road, but a quick glance at the left side mirror fills her mind with distracting thoughts as she catches a small glimpse of Arcadia… what’s left of it. She shakes it off and looks over at Max leaning against the seat with a blank stare out the right side window and her analog camera in hand.
“As long as we have each other Max, we will get through this.” Chloe doesn’t wait for a response, turning back her attention to the road ahead.
A few kilometers later Chloe turns in towards a gas station, as she looks over Max, she looks back at her.
“I will be right back, okay?” With no more than an affirming look, Chloe heads out of the car and starts refuelling it.
A few moments later Max steps out and walks up next to Chloe. “I… I think we should go to Seattle.” She says as she nervously rubs her neck.
“Okay. I’m almost done here… maybe it would be best if you called them… let them know.”
“Right…” Max pulls out her phone and heads back inside the car, while Chloe walks inside the gas station.
Max grips tightly around her phone as memories take up her mind of everyone she has met in Arcadia in merely a week. ”Joyce… I’m sorry. I couldn’t imagine a world without her. I promise to take care of her.” She finds her father’s number and calls it. As the dialing repeats all of the loss almost overwhelms her, but her father’s voice breaks her thoughts.
Her father breaks the silence. “Honey… what’s wrong?”
Dad…” Tears start running down her cheeks and her voice trembles as she tries to explain what has just happened, but doing so would be accepting it’s real. She made a choice that affected thousands of people.
As her father is about to try and comfort his daughter, Max hears her mother’s voice calling for his attention.
A few moments later, Max senses that the silence can only be one thing. “Dad?”
“Are you hurt? Injured? Where are you?” The urgency and worry cuts clear through the phone.
“I… I’m okay. I’m with Chloe, we —” She pauses, trying to gather her thoughts but is once more overwhelmed with guilt. With a deep breath she continues. “We are coming home. I am not sure how far, but I will call when we get there.”
Her father sighs in relief. “Your mother and I will always be here for you… and for Chloe. We love you honey.”
“I love you too dad.” Max hangs up, still reeling from the tears.
Chloe’s eyes immediately fall on the voice coming from the radio sitting on the counter. A female voice is talking about the storm that destroyed Arcadia just three hours ago.
The cashier notices Chloe staring in fear at the radio. “It’s sad… all those people.”
“It’s… —” Chloe’s voice starts to tremble slightly. “A lot of good people didn’t make it.”
“I’m so sorry, I didn’t realize.“ the cashier adds when they realize where she has come from.
Chloe lays the money for the gas on the counter, turns around and leaves without batting the cashier a second glance.
Max sits up when she notices Chloe entering the car.
“How… how did they take it?”
“He sounded terrified.” She hunches over as tears start to roll down her cheeks again.
Chloe leans over embracing her tightly. “We should get there within a few hours. No stops, and once we get there we both get to break down… I promise.”
The road ahead starts to distort slightly for Chloe as the weariness slowly kicks in. Next to her Max is sound asleep, enjoying some peaceful moments before they shortly arrive in Seattle. Just over the treeline the Space Needle stands tall like a lighthouse in the early night. Chloe quickly reaches over with one hand to wake up Max.
Groggily Max sits up straight. “We are here already?” She says when she spots The Needle off in the distance. Max looks over at Chloe and notices her squinting her eyes. “You never stopped?”
“No… I didn’t. Seattle was close enough and I didn’t want to spend more time on the road than needed. So, where do your parents’ live?”
“North, past the Needle up in Queen Anne.” Max pulls out her phone and calls her dad.
Outside their single story house, Max’s parents watches them anxiously from a bench on the front deck, as they turn up the driveway. Her parents walk up to the car before it stops, ready to embrace Max.
Chloe looks over at Max exiting the car and being lovingly embraced. With a deep breath she exits the car and walks around to the other side.
Max’s father looks up at Chloe. “I’m so glad you are both safe, from what —”
“The lighthouse was out of it’s way… there wasn’t much left.”
“Let’s head inside.” Max’s father says breaking the awkward silence.
“After max called, we prepared the guest room.” Max’s mom says as she gestures to a door at the end of the hallway.”
“It won’t be necessary, Chloe and I will stay in my old room.’
“Of course. When you two feel ready, let me know and I will get dinner started.”
Max and Chloe nods and head inside Max’s room.
Barely one foot in Chloe stops as she admires the wild variety of posters of people she can’t even dream of knowing and polaroids strung along all corners of the room. Just above the foot of Max’s bed Chloe recognizes a series of polaroids of them in their old pirate gear.
“This… is something. Didn’t take you to decorate like this.”
“Me neither, but after we moved in here.” She stops for a moment as she remembers how much she screwed up by not staying in touch. “I… I figured why not try and make it my own… and you are one to talk, your room i — was much more of a mess.”
“I’m sure it is totally messed up now.” She says half-laughing it off, trying to bury the pain.
Both stare at each other in an awkward silence, as neither knows what to say. Both not wanting to have to bring it up.
After a while Max sits down on her bed. “Look, about what happened at the light —”
“We talked it out… we both made our choices.”
“I did and I hate thinking about everyone. Warren… Joyce…”
Chloe sits down next to her. “I can’t even begin imagine everything you’ve been through but we both accepted our choices when we left the lighthouse. This is one thing we can’t undo and it fucking sucks… but we are safe now, so we have to try our best to move forward… and never forget.”
Max collapses onto Chloe’s arms and Chloe onto Max’s.