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Ice Queen Victoria Thaws Her Heart

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Chapter Two: Crisis

 

    Following Kate’s dramatic departure, Victoria rose shakily from the cafeteria table and stumbled across the room to plop down in the chair next to where Taylor was seated, still chewing her piece of soggy English muffin smeared with pre-packaged strawberry jam. “Oh God, Tee, I’ve screwed the pooch, again! All I did was upset Kate more than she already was!” Dana and Juliet pretended to be interested in the contents of their breakfast trays, notwithstanding that their ears were acutely tuned to any tasty gossip that they could glean from what had just transpired between Victoria and Kate. Taylor cleared her throat and rose from her chair after placing her hand on Victoria’s shoulder. “Let’s go for a walk, Tori.” Victoria nodded glumly, and with a hasty glance at Juliet and Dana, rose to follow Taylor out of the room.


    Victoria was feeling lost and disoriented as she hurried to catch up with Taylor. “I don’t know what else I can do, Tee!” Taylor shrugged and gently patted Victoria between her shoulder blades. “All’s not lost, Tori, at least she talked to you. Getting Kate angry at you may have even helped her a little, it has to be better than the numb paralysis of depression.” Victoria sighed. “Maybe you’re right, Tee, but I still feel so anxious and rotten right now! That coffee was so bad that I can feel it roiling around in my upset stomach, I feel like I’m going to barf!” Taylor giggled. “I’ll go with you to the girls’ bathroom, Tori, but at least your hair is short enough that I don’t have to pull it up out of the way while you ‘drive the porcelain bus.’” Victoria swatted Taylor. “That’s not funny, Tee! Maybe a cola from the vending machine will settle my stomach, I don’t want to be a hot mess before we go to Jefferson’s photography class. Perhaps I can try to talk with Kate again, you know, afterwards?” Taylor sighed. “Whatever you say, Tori. Just try not to be so know-it-all and bombastic, this time. You need to really pay attention to what Kate is telling you.” Victoria shuddered. “Oh, Tee! Kate was really scaring me with all of her references about death and dying, I’m frightened for her! Then, Kate screams at me about nobody knowing who she really is, so, what am I supposed to do about that?” Taylor smirked wryly. “Talk about ‘the pot calling the kettle black,’ Tori, don’t you see the irony here? Kate is more like you than you’d thought. Both of you craft a persona to deflect suspicion away from who you really are. You can decompress around me, in order to relieve the stress of keeping up appearances, but I don’t think that Kate has anybody, so, what we did to her really broke her.” Victoria stomped her foot in frustration. “Damn, I wish that I’d been nicer to Caulfield, she might know more about what’s wrong with Kate, but how do I approach Max about this, now?” Taylor smiled weakly. “I could try and talk to Max for you, since she isn’t afraid of me like she is of you, oh Bitch-Queen of Blackwell.” Victoria frowned and gave Taylor a shove. “That hurt, Tay-Tay! But now I know what that old saying was talking about, did you ever hear of it, Tee? It goes something like this: ‘Be careful of whom you step upon as you climb to the top, because you are going to meet them again on your way back down.’” Taylor smirked and patted Victoria’s shoulder again. “I know that you secretly crave some Caulfield, Tori, but now you are going to have to ‘eat a mile of her shit in order to sniff her asshole.’” Victoria grinned as she wiped a tear from her eye. “I wish it was really that simple, Tee.” Taylor’s expression turned serious. “So, Tori, from where I was sitting it looked like Kate was telling you a lot of things. We have some time before Jefferson’s class, so let’s go find somewhere private to sit and you can catch me up, I might have some insights.”


    Victoria had everything said between her and Kate still fresh in memory, so she recounted Kate’s certainty that Nathan had abducted her and participated, with one or more other male suspects, in a drugged bondage photo session with poor, unconscious Kate as the victim. Victoria gave kudos to Max for convincing Kate to file a report with the police and undertake a rape-kit test, followed by a gynecological exam, which revealed that she hadn’t been sexually abused, but, had inadvertently outed her as a virginal spinster (ouch!) Taylor was fascinated by Kate’s bullet points tracking her descent into ruin: (1) from the loss of her Abstinence Club; (2) being shunned at her father’s church; (3) ridicule and condemnation from her aunt and mother; and, finally, (4) her depression and inability to create, study, work, eat, sleep and socialize. Taylor speculated that the secret Kate was hiding just might be the exact same one that Victoria was hesitant to reveal. Kate had to camouflage her appearance and behavior in order to divert her fundamentalist Christian family and community’s attention away from her closeted lesbian tendencies. Taylor cleverly deduced that Kate’s abstinence stance was a deterrent directed against the boys that Kate’s family, as well as their congregational friends, insisted on foisting off on poor Kate during their well-meaning, but misguided, match-making attempts. Purity wouldn’t settle well with most young males, since their chances of getting busy, before the sacred commitment of marriage, were zero to none. An abstinent Kate wouldn’t go beyond hand-holding and chaste hugs, as petting to any degree, whatsoever, would be off of the table.

 
    Taylor slyly noted that Kate delighted in handholding and vigorously embracing Max under any and every pretext, especially during their habitual tea dates, even peppering Max with little butterfly kisses anywhere on her face, except the lips, of course. Victoria blushed and swallowed, gratified that Kate liked girls, but just a little hurt and jealous that Caulfield was the object of Kate’s repressed desires. Taylor giggled as she watched the changes of expression and heated blushing on Victoria’s face. “God, Tori, it’s so fucking obvious! You want Kate and Max so badly that you don’t even know which one makes you the most jealous!” Victoria snuffled and sighed. “Ah, Tay-Tay, in an ideal world I would be the sweet Tori meat nuzzled tightly between the slices of a Kate and Max sandwich. I thrill at imagining their pouty, sensual lips sucking and nibbling my jawline, throat and collarbones while those pretty little titties are pressed against my ribs, their fingers tugging and twisting my sensitive nipples while their hot thighs are wrapped around mine as their bushy, sticky, wet pussies rub languidly against my hips. Perfection and high art.” Taylor blushed and coughed. “Erm, Tori? What about your pretty pussy?” Victoria swatted her “Sweet T” and laughed. “Oh, Tee! That special place would be reserved for your talented lips and tongue. Like I said, only in a perfect world.” Taylor scoffed. “Jeez, Tori, you really want it all, don’t you?” Victoria suddenly placed her hands on either side of Taylor’s face and pulled her, resisting, into a fierce kiss, then released her and nailed Tori’s cherished “Sweet T’s” worried gaze with a penetrating and willful stare. “I’m Victoria Maribeth Chase, I deserve it all and I will have it all, never doubt my resolve!” Taylor swallowed, trembling, then moved in to gently kiss her Tori on the lips. “I’m hopelessly devoted to you, Victoria, now and always.”


    Victoria and Taylor strolled past Jefferson as he was occupied, arguing heatedly with somebody on his phone, while pacing angrily outside of the classroom door. Victoria and Taylor seated themselves at their usual table, near the display cases against the wall opposite of the classroom windows. Feeling an encroaching pang of disquiet balling up inside her belly, a premonitory chill coursed through her body as Victoria’s gaze wandered from the blustering rainstorm outside of the windows and fastened on the empty seat across from her, where Kate would normally already be seated. Kate was customarily the first student seated before the beginning of class; Victoria started as she recognized the Deja-vu sensation that she’d experienced this very scenario before. There was a loud altercation outside of the door as Kate’s anguished plaints traded blows with Jefferson’s curt retorts, because he was being impatient and dismissive of her while he was on the phone. Victoria panicked and bolted from her seat, pressing Taylor back down into her chair as she rose to accompany Victoria. “Wait here, Tee, I’m just going out to see what Kate is upset about!” Taylor pleaded with her Tori. “It’s from your dream, isn’t it? You need my help!” Victoria grabbed Taylor’s shoulders. “Follow me if you have to, Taylor, but don’t try to stop me or slow me down!” Victoria brushed past an angry Jefferson, ignoring his shout ordering her back into the classroom, and bolted down the hall towards the far intersection where she saw Kate disappearing around the corner, to the left, towards the doors that exited the main building, leading outside into the stormy quad. As Victoria caught up to Max, whose back was turned to her after Kate had passed Max on her way out of the building, Victoria grabbed Max by the sleeve of her grey hoodie and shouted. “Follow me, Max! Hurry! We have to protect Kate Marsh!”

 
    Once the two of them had banged through the doors of the main building, Max slipped and fell on the rain-soaked walkway, forcing Victoria to release her grip on Max’s arm and surge ahead in a desperate attempt to intercept Kate before she could enter the Prescott Dormitory. Glancing over her shoulder, Victoria saw Taylor pulling Max to her feet as the two of them struggled, hand-in-hand, to catch up with Victoria. Being a runner and aerobics aficionado, Victoria outdistanced Max and Taylor as she climbed the few steps to the walkway that led along the barrier wall that isolated the dorm building from the main campus. Rounding the north wing, Victoria panted and gasped with her redoubled effort to close the distance with Kate, as the distressed little lady disappeared up the steps and through the main doors of the dormitory. “God, no, Kate! Please don’t do it!” Desperately, Victoria struggled through the gusting wind and curtains of rain, she could hear Taylor’s faint shout behind her. While grabbing the handle to the main door, Victoria turned and barked a last instruction to her bestie. “Call 911, Taylor! Tell them that there’s a jumper on the roof! Then, stay down here and give them the information they’ll need, while Max and I hurry up the stairs to stop Kate!”


    Sure enough, a trail of wet footsteps had disappeared through the doorway labelled ‘Utilities,’ located on the right-hand side of the main lobby, that opened to the narrow stairs, zig-zagging up a series of landings, leading to the third story roof of the building. As Victoria sprinted up the stairs, taking the steps two at a time, she heard the heart-wrenching noise of the metal roof door slamming above her. “Please, Kate! Don’t do it!” Victoria desperately scrambled up the steps, two at a time, and was briefly aware of the stairwell door slamming below her, she shouted down. “Faster, Max! You have to help me stop Kate! Oh, Dear God! Please let me be on time!” Once on the top landing, facing the metal door to the roof, Victoria sucked in a deep breath and pushed down on the door handle as she slammed her weight against the roof exit. Wind and rain pushed back on the door being braced open by her hand as Victoria skidded onto the wet, gravely surface of the roof. A hot flash of fear coursed through Victoria as she spotted Kate, with her back turned to Victoria, perched on the raised edge that ran around the roof’s perimeter, thank God, Kate hadn’t seen Victoria, yet. Rather than shout and alert Kate, Victoria sprinted towards her with arms outstretched, intent on grabbing Kate and dragging her backwards onto the roof. The loud slam of the metal door defeated Victoria’s strategy, causing Kate to glance over her shoulder and grimace in fury as she bent her knees and sprang, with her arms extended forward like a diver, up and out into space. With a shriek of dismay, Victoria launched herself across the lip of the roof and caught Kate under her armpits, frantically wrapping her arms around Kate’s chest as the weight of the falling girl slammed Victoria’s abdomen painfully down onto the sharp corners of the narrow ledge, driving all of the air out of her lungs. Victoria’s knees were lacerated from digging into the harsh gravel surface as her thighs brutally impacted the eighteen-inch-high lip of the building. Kate briefly struggled and then went limp, causing Victoria to slip and overbalance, even as she started blacking out from the lack of breath, Victoria was jolted back to consciousness by the startling realization that Kate was taking them both down into oblivion!

    Just as all hope was lost, Victoria felt the weight of Max wrapping around her thighs and shanks, koala-fashion, with her face pressed up under Victoria’s short skirt, tightly between the cheeks of her buttocks, grasping with all of her might to stop their slide into eternity. Gasping desperately for breath as her vision cleared, Victoria glanced down, from their precarious height, and spotted a gathering crowd of onlookers, on the lawn and walkways in front of the dorm. She could hear the approaching wail of sirens and held out a faint hope that she could still save the day, if she could just keep her grip on Kate a little while longer… “Kate! Please reach up and wrap your hands around my neck, I can’t hold you like this much longer!” She heard Kate’s weak, constricted voice. “Let me fall, Victoria! I just want all of this to end!” Victoria started gasping and weeping. “I’m hurting all over, Kate! My strength is failing! I’m not letting you leave me like this, but you have to try and help me! Wrap your hands around the back of my neck or I’m going to fall to my death with you!” Kate weakly reached up and laced her fingers behind Victoria’s neck as Victoria struggled to tighten her trembling arms around Kate’s chest. Kate wailed. “Why are you stopping me, Victoria?”  Victoria gasped out. “We’d both be dead right now, but Max is gripping my legs because she cares about you! I would rather die than lose you, Kate! You have to give me a chance to make things better between us!” Victoria shouted back over her shoulder. “Max! Say something to Kate!”


    At that precise moment, Victoria lost control of her grumbling bowels and violently “sharted” through her sheer, rain-drenched panties, peppering Max’s open mouth and face with a spray of finely divided droplets of hot, pungent diarrhea. Max squawked and let her hold on Victoria’s thighs slip briefly, causing Kate and Victoria to lurch further over the lip of the building, before Max tightened her grip and halted their plunge, her shouted reply muffled between Victoria’s buttocks. “Victoria! I’m getting tired and I can still feel you starting to slip! I had to swallow some of your poop and my face is still planted in your messy butt!” Kate started weakly laughing, joined by Victoria’s guffaw, which was abruptly cut off with a groan as her punished ribs protested. Matters were rapidly worsening just as the metal door behind them slammed open and two uniformed figures bracketed the girls, gripping Victoria and Kate while forcefully heaving them, up and back, over the lip of the building, to safety. The girls landed in a heap, with Max pinned under the weight of Victoria and Kate. Pairs of Paramedics trundled collapsed gurneys through the door and briefly triaged the girls, with Kate being enfolded in a blanket and firmly strapped down, as the attempted suicide subject, while Victoria’s bleeding knees were cleaned and wrapped in gauze, then her bruised ribs were bound with a wide Ace bandage, in preparation for transport. Max stood aside forlornly, with diarrhea streaking down her face and clothing as she was being soaked by the falling rain. A sympathetic EM Responder wrapped Max’s shoulders with a gurney blanket, just before she was led back into the stairwell, by the rescuing Arcadia Bay Police Officers, for a cursory preliminary debriefing.

 
    Max sulked as she was escorted down the stairs by kindly Officer Berry and his partner. Kate and Victoria had already been transported to the Hospital and Max was being released from questioning, so that she could return to the girls dormitory. Max was badly in need of a shower and clean clothing, pending a required visit to the Arcadia Bay Police Station, no later than the next day, in order to complete and sign a formal statement for their records. Taylor spotted Max and hurried over to give her a hug, then abruptly pulled back when she encountered the odorous miasma surrounding Max’s smeared face and chest. Before Taylor could ask, Max wryly observed. “Victoria is the Hero of Blackwell, I just held her legs and swallowed little gulps of her watered-down shit, while trying to breathe through the crack of her ass. And now, Taylor, I’m beginning to worry that I may have to marry Victoria, after enjoying such prolonged intimacy.” Taylor covered her mouth with both hands, giggling, then tugged Max by her sleeve towards the Prescott Dormitory steps. “In accordance with ‘The Queen of Blackwell’s’ specific instructions, you’ve just been promoted to the inner circle, sweet Maxie, and, as Tori’s personal assistant, I’m authorized to join you in the shower in order to bathe, shampoo and pamper you as befits the true and humble Hero that Tori and I know you to be!” Max stuttered. “Uhm, T-Taylor? Are we going to be naked together in the shower?” Taylor laced her warm fingers with Max’s frigid ones and gave her a reassuring squeeze. “You poor thing, you’re frozen! We have to be naked together so that I can straddle you for a proper hot lavender oil massage, after I clean you up, of course. You are Royalty now, Lady Max, and I am your devoted body servant, so please, just try to relax and go along with it, or would you rather see me bound naked, spread-eagled and mercilessly flogged, for disobeying the orders of our Regent?” Max blanched. “Are you cereal, Taylor?” Taylor pursed her lips and sniffled, face blotched red and eyes brimming. “Please, just trust me this once, dear Maxie, and do as I say, so that we don’t have to find out?”

 
    Taylor led shivering Max up the stairs to the door of the second-floor girls dormitory, and once in the hallway on the inner side, she guided Max to the first door on their left, Room 224, Taylor’s dorm. “We have to get you out of those yucky wet clothes, Max, but don’t worry, I’ll launder them and bring them to your room, later. Max’s teeth chattered as she weakly protested. “Y-you d-don’t have to d-do this, T-Taylor, I can go to m-my own room and un-d-dress myself.” Taylor unlocked her door and squeezed Max’s hand reassuringly as she pulled Max into her room and closed the door behind them. “No, Maxie dear, you’re suffering from hypothermia, shaking all over, I’m undressing you and wrapping you in a soft polar fleece throw!” Taylor efficiently unwrapped, from Max’s shoulders, the soaked ambulance blanket, letting it slide to the floor, then added Max’s soiled hoodie, t-shirt and bra to the pile. Taylor reached into her wardrobe, then wrapped a pale-blue throw around Max’s shoulders, before unbuttoning and yanking down her jeans and panties in one swift move. Taylor held Max’s shoulders and guided her backwards to sit on the edge of the bed, then unlaced and removed Max’s squishy, soaked Chuck Taylor tennis shoes and her white socks. Taylor used the back of Max’s wet t-shirt to gently swab the streaks of Victoria’s diarrhea from her face and chest, then pulled the soft, warm throw around Max’s body and cradled her knees to lift Max and stretch her out on the bed. Taylor gathered the wet garments and dumped them into a plastic faux-wicker laundry basket that she’d pulled out from the floor of the wardrobe, and then, expeditiously stripped off her own rain-dampened garments and added them to the basket.

 
    Max stared, with eyes wide, as the exquisitely nude, goose-bump dappled Taylor crawled over Max’s shivering body and pulled the blanket open to join her in an intimate, naked snuggle, now being pressed between Max and the wall. “I’m cold, too, Maxie, so we have to hold each other tight until we both warm up, I’ll be the big spoon, for now.” Max’s teeth were still chattering. “I-I’ve never b-been naked with s-someone before, T-Taylor.” Taylor shushed Max softly, with her warm breath caressing Max’s right ear. “You are so cute, Max, just try to relax and nap with me like this, while I enjoy my Tori’s rich scent in your hair.” Max’s shivering slowed to intermittent trembles as she nervously queried Taylor. “Th-this is all happening so f-fast, Taylor, aren’t you grossed out b-by the s-smell?” Taylor squeezed Max tighter and planted an affectionate kiss behind Max’s ear. “No, Max, I adore my Tori and it is a privilege to smell her on you, and your own scent is really lovely, also, I wouldn’t want to miss cuddling with you, like this, for anything in the world!” After a pause, Taylor’s tone grew serious. “Maxie, I have to tell you something. Our Tori told me that you saved her life just as she and Kate were sliding off of the roof, she wouldn’t have let Kate go just to save herself. People are already talking about how heroic Victoria was, but you are Victoria’s hero, now and forevermore! Victoria doesn’t let just anyone into her personal life, she’s always been so secretive and guarded concerning her privacy, so please, Max, don’t waste this rare opportunity get intimately acquainted with the real Victoria. And please, please, please, Max, open up your heart and let Victoria into your life, she’s totally worth it!” Taylor started hitching and sobbing as she released her pent-up emotions, so Max turned around and pulled Taylor into a tight embrace, their nipples pressed intimately together, as Max comforted Taylor, compassionately kissing away her tears and then murmuring soothing admonishments into Taylor’s ear, until they both gradually relaxed into each other’s arms, their legs affectionately entwined, so that each could feel the sensuous tickle of the other’s bushy privates against their thighs, even as they slipped into a warm and companionable slumber.


    Max was awakened by gentle little kisses on her eyelids and cheeks, and the sweet, warm breath of Taylor’s smiling mouth close to hers as an affectionate peck brushed across her own slightly opened, pouty lips. “It’s the early hours of the morning and nobody else is up, so we have the bathroom to ourselves. Gosh, you are so pretty when you are sleeping, Maxie, that I just want to eat you up!” Max grinned and returned a soft kiss, then saucily quipped. “Don’t you really mean that you would like to eat me down?” Taylor blushed. “Oh, well then, I really left myself wide open for that one, Maxie, I’d forgotten what a little smartass you are!” Max blushed in return. “You know, Taylor, that I’d never actually been intimate with anybody before now. But I’ve just had your beautiful naked body pressed against me all of this time, so yeah, I’m a little aroused!” Taylor sighed and gave Max a squeeze. “As close and personal as we’ve been, up until now, you need to know that I’ve been doing for you exactly what I’d done for Victoria, it’s just that, well, we don’t actually have sex. I won’t cross that boundary with you, and as painfully, profoundly attracted to you as I am, Max, we shouldn’t betray Victoria’s trust! Now, let’s grab my shower kit and a stack of towels, so that we can shower together, then, it would please me greatly if you would submit to my personal body service. I want to give you a relaxing rub down, do your hair, a little light make-up to highlight your loveliness, and then, I’d like to dress you up, from my wardrobe, before we drive over to The Two Whales Diner for breakfast, in Victoria’s white Mercedes, no less, it’s a sweet little E-Class 350 Sport, that she trusts me to drive!”

 
    Max balked. “Couldn’t I just get my own clothes from my dorm room? I usually take the bus, so why are we going in Victoria’s car?” Taylor smirked, nodding her head knowingly. “Victoria texted me, she’d wrangled a hospital room to share with Kate, and she wants us to go see them as soon as visiting hours begin, at eight in the morning. Victoria wants us to borrow her car so that we don’t waste time, and besides, I can accompany you to the Police Station, afterwards, since we both have to fill out and sign statements about Kate’s attempted suicide. Oh yes, and I’d like to dress you up in some of my pretty clothes, it’s just something that I like to do, so be a sport, Maxie, and indulge me, please?  Besides, your sneakers are still soaked, and I have a lot of shoes to choose from.”

 
    When the whirlwind pace of Taylor’s personal body service indulgences was complete, Max found herself seated in the leather passenger seat of Victoria’s luxury sedan, all of her former pains and stresses replaced by a warm afterglow from Taylor’s skilled fingers having massaged out the tight bundles of muscles that Max had been so accustomed to, so that their absence was simply “Amazeballs!” Max gazed down at the outfit that she, Courtney and Taylor had settled on, after trying out several styles and combinations. Courtney had knocked on Taylor’s door, bringing a sudden end to that marvelous hot-oil massage. The girls hastily donned bras and panties (Taylor loaned Max a matching light-grey set of briefs with a sports bra, since Taylor’s endowments rendered the usual bras too loose a fit.) Having heard that Max had helped save Victoria from falling to her death while rescuing Kate (ugh!), Courtney was willing to bury the hatchet and gleefully indulge in a fashion and make-up adventure, that being one of Courtney’s favorite pursuits, she even agreed to launder the soiled clothing while Taylor and Max visited Victoria (and Kate, feh!)  Max is pleased with their wardrobe choices, as the final outfit actually suits her sense of style, since it is so tasteful and sophisticated, yet simple, consisting of an open purple cardigan with white buttons, a white blouse with widely-spaced thin black horizontal stripes, a pair of loose and comfortable light beige trousers and, finally, soft white leather flats. The faint scent of lavender, from Taylor’s body massage, brought an erotic tingle between Max’s legs, as she recalled the exquisite sensation of Taylor’s warm thighs and silky blond pudendum, rocking rhythmically on Max’s buttocks as Taylor’s powerful palms and fingers stroked and kneaded Max’s oiled back, shoulders and neck. Max, at that moment, had a catch in her throat and a sinking sensation in her belly, glancing over at Taylor’s pretty, cheerful profile as she focused on driving, while chatting animatedly, like she and Max had been lifetime besties. Max sighed at the realization that she was very close to falling hopelessly in love with Taylor, after being showered with so much sweet and loving intimate attention. There was still a sad knot of worry as Max mulled over Taylor’s earlier comment about being punished with a whipping, in the event that Taylor hadn’t convinced Max to submit to her attentions. How could Victoria be so cruel to sweet, lovely, devoted Taylor? Max is determined to have her say, when she visits Kate and Victoria in the Hospital, this morning.


   The Two Whales Diner was lit up for early morning customers, in contrast to the indigo sky over the ocean and the red and orange streaks of dawn breaking over the wooded hills, far to the east. Upon entering the diner, Max, who had been holding her breath in trepidation, exhaled a sigh of relief that Joyce hadn’t started her waitress shift, yet. The fondly remembered mother of her long-ago best friend, Chloe, would have fussed over Max and surely would have told Chloe that Max was back in Arcadia Bay, after an inexcusable absence of five years. Max suffered renewed pangs of guilt over how she had callously stopped all correspondence with Chloe, following the death of Chloe’s father, William Price. Max, being only thirteen years old at that time, didn’t have the courage to visit her grieving friend and tell Chloe, face-to-face, that she was moving to Seattle. Subsequently, Chloe found out, immediately after William’s funeral, when Max’s parents dragged her off, bawling and resisting, from the graveside, for the long drive to Seattle. Max would never forget the sight, as she peered out the back window, of Chloe fruitlessly running behind their departing car, falling behind, screaming and stumbling to her hands and knees, onto the pavement. Max sobbed as she remembered how she had been so chickenshit, staying away from Chloe and not even saying goodbye. Within a few weeks, Max had stopped answering Chloe’s desperate texts and couldn’t bear to take any of her phone calls. Profound shame and guilt have paralyzed Max to this present day, keeping her fearful of ever encountering Chloe again. The tired waitress, her name tag, “Gloria,” pinned above the left pocket of her blouse, desultorily announced “Good morning, are you having coffee?” Upon affirmatives from the two young ladies, Gloria set down two porcelain mugs and filled them with fresh-brewed coffee, then walked back to the counter, after leaving two menus.


    Taylor was concerned when she heard Max hitching and sobbing as she held a menu in her trembling hands. “What’s the matter, Maxie, why are you crying?” Max snuffled and looked across the table at Taylor’s worried expression. “I, Oh Taylor, I haven’t seen my best friend, Chloe Price, in five years. Her mother, Joyce, is a waitress here, but she hasn’t come to work yet, and I don’t know if I can handle it if Joyce sees me here before we finish breakfast. I’ve been avoiding my favorite diner ever since I came back to Arcadia Bay and started this semester at Blackwell.” Taylor got up from her side of the table and slid into the booth beside Max, wrapping an arm around Max’s waist and pulling her into an embrace. “Here comes the waitress with her order pad, I’ll ask her for you.” As Gloria paused at the end of the table, Taylor preempted her. “Before we order breakfast, could you tell us when Joyce will be here?” Gloria paused, then smiled thinly. “Joyce usually arrives between seven-thirty and eight, that’s another hour-and-a-half, or so. Do you want me to take your order now, or would you rather have re-fills on coffee until Joyce arrives?” Taylor looked at Max and got a little nod of assent, then turned back to the waitress. “We’ll order now, thank you, we can come back another time to see Joyce, so, uhm, I’ll have your short stack with a side of bacon, and Max?” Max smiled up at Gloria and piped. “I’ll have the Belgian waffles for here, and can we also have two carryout orders of your apple pie, along with a double side of crispy bacon, to go?” The waitress smiled sincerely, this time. “I’ll be right back with your orders, enjoy your meal.” After the waitress left, Taylor whispered to Max. “I know that the take-outs are for Victoria and Kate, but why did you choose apple pie and bacon?” Max snickered. “They taste good cold and are easy to conceal in my messenger bag, something besides hospital food will cheer up Kate and Victoria, and I don’t want to take the chance that the staff will confiscate our contraband.”