while kate was used to max being finicky and quick to leave, she'd never seen her this uneasy and anxious. the blond's paper was barely decaled with her usual grim artistry, she was too worried about the paleness of max's face and the way her eyes glazed over as if she were about to sob.
the second the bell rang, max bolted up, her chair sliding backwards and making a horrible noise. while her body showed no fear, no regret, no emotion.. kate stared into her eyes and immediately understood every little thing that pained her.
with a quick 'sorry' under her breath, she grabbed her camera and shoved it into her bag, heading straight towards the door.
"max, excuse me we n-" mr. jefferson's exasperated complaint was interrupted by the brunet. "fuck. you. dickhead." her tone, laced with an ungodly amount of rage, struck even kate and made her confused state get taken over by a shocked one. with a finger raised to give a good 'fuck you, bitch,' she exited the classroom.
mr. jefferson cleared his throat and gave a small laugh, "don't know what that was about, but, hey- let's just forget it and get on with our days." chattering ensued as he finished his final dialogue for the class.
victoria was by jefferson, already sucking up to him. then, there was kate. sucking up to no one but succumbing to something deep and inescapable.
mind racing, kate found it in herself to scan the area, eyes gluing onto max's left behind journal. when using it in class, she's always sure to cover the perimeter so nobody sees her writing and doodles… so, why has she kept it in the open where any nasty person can snatch it up and spread it, her darkest secrets being on the web… upon realizing victoria was in the room, still flirting; still getting rejected, she knew she had to protect max from going through what she had gone through and is going through. she silently rose from her seat and inspected the worn leather before delicate fingers encased the booklet and hid it under her forearm. she got to her bag and placed the journal easily into her assorted lineup of binders and classic books of old fashioned literature. clasping metal and leather, she carefully left the room and descended the halls until met with the familiar red of the doors to the plaza.
with her head hung low, she sped up to make her way to the dormitories; the last time she made it to the dormitories late, she'd been confronted and ‘joshed’ by victoria, taylor, and courtney - joshed was the kind way to put it. they were malicious with their torment. once sure there was nobody outside who would hold her mere existence against her, she sprinted off to the building in the distance.
the second she turned the handle to her door and entered the room, she was practically in her desk chair with the journal sat in front of her. i… shouldn't be doing this. she trusts me, right? but, if she trusts me so much, wouldn't she be fine with me reading this? kate's mind was a bullet ricocheting, left and right and left and right and left and - she lifted the cover of the journal carefully and read over the contents of the crinkled and yellowed page. the first page was labeled being from july of this year, it showed that more hidden and reserved side of max that got really excited over the little things life gave her- in this instance, she was elated to find herself going to blackwell academy in the coming school year. the blond found a fond smile on her face as the energy of the words rested in her brain. she turned the page to read more, this one signed as made in august. it was about her moving, an old friend of hers she wishes to rekindle with, and a part with scribbles and words of anger all over; she could make out a few words like 'photography' and 'hearts… flowers.' she assumed it was about an old lover, probably one she had to leave behind- kate felt a pang in her heart, correlating it with the fact that she's sad over her friend's loss. as she felt… remorse? for max. she read the untouched part of the paragraph and noticed she was talking about finding a partner. not willing to confuse herself further, she flipped a few pages into the almost-present.
september third… kate read down the writing, feeling the upset and slow hatred building in it- that was until the last few words. it talked about names she picked up, kate's being the first on that list. the aforementioned's lip quirked up into a quick grin before immediately faltering, the wording went back to sounding ticked off and kate felt horrible reading her friend's worries and not being able to help.
she knew this was selfish of her but she wanted nothing more than to find every time max said her name and talked about her- she wanted to know how much the brunet thought of her while zoning into her art. september fifteenth was the next mention she saw of herself, it was talking about how she likes her, how she likes her friendliness and apparently her looks. a hue of soft orchid found its way to her face, so she quickly turned the page and read whatever it gave to her.
her eyes ran back and forth over every word, unsure if what she was reading was an up and coming novel or her friend's journal. max has powers? she saved someone's life? she read and read through all seventy-ish pages of this unyielding timeline. surprisingly, while this novella had bigger problems in its works, kate was very prominent through it all. she read how max loved being able to help her and make her forget about everything for at least a second but, she couldn't handle all the emotional pressure of being kate's pillar to lean on. it was so taxing on her, especially because kate finds that in another timeline she almost killed herself and max came to save her with her powers, but in the end perfected her life with just a few words.
kate sighed and leaned back. these past few months appear to have really taken a toll on her somehow.. i know these powers aren't real, are they delusions? i'm going to have to find her and express my worries to her. i hope she gets better.
with that, kate closed the bizarre tale max wrote up and decided she'd do homework before heading to bed; she'd spent a good few hours trying to understand every little piece of the story.
the next morning she woke in her usual blind stupor, not fazed by her trauma, she was just there. then the veil fell and her content was washed over by agony. i have to go take a shower if i want to do anything today about max. she pulled down the hem of her shirt as she stood, adjusting her sleeves too as she grabbed her shower bag before heading out.
as she spent time washing up, she also spent time concocting a plan to speak with max about her mental health. i'll ask her to return my copy of the october country, then we can talk in my room. considering her plan finalized, she turned the shower off and dried using a towel before dressing herself in the day before's pajamas.
while brushing her teeth, max entered the room. she looked a mess and as if she were in a constant state of startle. "hey, kate." max sounded normal, but her face gave away her lying to herself, "how are you doing?" the girl questioned, kate took a second before responding. "i'm here. thanks for erasing the… vulgarities on my whiteboard." she hoped her voice didn't waver as she tried indulging in a friendly conversation. "anytime." max nodded as she spoke, "sometimes, it feels like… some people will only forgive and forget if they're on their deathbed." it seemed as if she planned on saying something else but changed her mind last minute.
kate decided now was the perfect time to go on with her plan, "yeah.. by the way max, do you still have my copy of 'the october country'?" she leaned against the sink while she surveyed max's body language. "oh. yes, of course. it's great so far. i didn't realize bradbury was such a poet." max's mind was like a machine, cogs spinning at an intense rate. "can you please bring it back to my room this morning?" the grip the blond had on her toothbrush tightened, she hoped she'd be able to help max. "i.. just need to take some notes for class." "absolutely. i'll bring it by later." max had an almost invisible smile as she spoke.
as they finished the conversation, max entered the shower and kate continued brushing her teeth. enter victoria and one half of her zombie-follower posse. "what's up kate?" victoria's tone was devious and snarky, she wanted to ruin kate's day as soon as it started. startled, she dropped a reply as fast as she could think it, "school." now it was taylor's turn to belittle her, "that's it?" there was a humoured lilt to her question. like archetypal bullies in a highschool movie, it went back to victoria speaking, "that video of you clubbing didn't look like homework." the former's brow rose, "victoria, that wasn't me.." she raised her voice a bit. taylor rolled her eyes, "oh my god, right." she turned away and rested her hands on the edges of the sink. "don't be shy. i think it's awesome you set a tongue record on video…" taylor gave a hearty laugh as kate turned and walked away, "you're going to be sorry someday."
victoria and taylor continued their bullying, even roping max into the harassment before writing the link to kate's infamous video and leaving. max hurried to get out of the shower, almost putting her shirt on backwards. she was angry, angry that she had to see this stupid fucking link again. every time she leaves and comes back, constantly replaying her life, she sees the link and rage bubbles deeper inside her. she deftly erases it and storms out of the room.
the brunet finds herself in her room; the same, flat soda in that slightly smudged glass sat in just the perfect spot to fuck her day up. she chooses to ignore it, instead she glowers at her annoyingly mute toned wardrobe. t-shirt with a doe on it? check. washed up, tethered grey jacket? check. white mom blue jeans? check. she finalized her incredibly unique outfit with a pair of tennis shoes she's been able to fit into since sophomore year.
begrudgingly making her way to the soon to be crime scene, she reached a hand forward and sent the insatiable drink tipping and spilling onto… gasp! kate's copy of the october country. with a sigh, she stuck her hand out and went back to a few seconds prior. once assuring the books safety by moving the easily dodgeable glass by an inch or so, she grabbed the novel and made her way towards kate's room.
the chatter of the other girls up and down the hallway was drowned out by max's stress. she'd just let her best friend die, and now she'd have to go through the whole 'no kate. sorry kate. police are bad.' talk and let another friend down. although, the conversation they had in the shower room was different due to max not finding her with david in the parking lot, she had a strong feeling something was about to happen.
as her knuckles rapped swiftly and shakily on the tattered wood, max thought through her fully memorized 'script' she was due to follow, “kate, you in there?” with barely noticeable hesitation and the clearing of her throat, kate called for max to enter, "yes, i’m here. come in, max…” the brunet took a swift breath in and let it out at the sight of her friend, whom she normally finds lurching over her desk, sitting on the edge of her bed in typical attire. her legs swung softly by the base of her mattress, max blinked a few rapid blinks to adjust her eyes to the sight of a relaxed kate. “uh, hey kate… i brought your book…” she reached into her tousled bag and took out the booklet of short stories, hesitant to hand it to her friend. kate made an approving noise and reached out to take it, flipping it nonchalantly in her hands and looking over the cover, “thanks.” max was about to speak before the blond piped up, “by the way… i, er, heard something. going around. it was about you, just thought while you’re here we could.. chat about it?” she cleared her throat and moved over, patting the now open spot next to her for max to sit down at. sitting, she responded, “oh? what is it about?”
steady breaths, kate. she’ll understand. “apparently you like writing about superheroes and stuff, time travel. i heard your stories were pretty good. wouldn’t it be super crazy if powers were real?” she halted, wanting to word this next part as kindly as possible, “i think… those believing powers are real should seek help.. i don’t want somebody getting hurt over the belief in something as bizarre as superpowers.” max laughed softly, it was obviously forced. “really? where’d you hear that? also what’s so wrong with thinking superpowers could be plausible? i’ve started believing anything and everything is possible, you would too if you were me.” she, once again, let a pitiful laugh leave her mouth.
“max. i’ve seen your journal. i think your superhero story is cute but can get you in serious danger if what’s described in it is something you genuinely believe is happening. i called you here this morning because i want to help you. you're letting delusional fantasies get to your mind and i'm afraid. i'm afraid that you're tormenting yourself with this imaginary world, something figmented by a creative mind can be torturous." kate found herself turned towards max, hands clasped together in prayer and eyes wide with sincerity. her head shook solemnly as she spoke the words.
max knew she should be petrified somebody had located and read her life story but, she found herself laughing. kate's previously tightly closed hands fell to her lap, her eyes appeared to have enlargened at the boisterous, hearty laugh echoing throughout her room. "you - you - haha - you're adorable, kate." max's hand found place on her friend's thigh as she spoke, trying to really let her next words soak in, "kate, i do have powers -" assumedly knowing exactly how the aforementioned would react she signalled her to wait a second before speaking "- while i know you won't get even close to believing just my word, i have trust in myself enough to prove this to you." kate, although dubious, nodded her head and let max take the wheel. "this world - our world is - is, it's almost like a simulation - was almost like a simulation… i recently, uh.." she stopped abruptly, the terror of grazing a fresh wound is significant but the idea of dipping in deep to the trauma and making the cut impossibly deeper brought tears to the photographer's eyes. "i recently had to sacrifice my best friend's life in order to restore peace to this world, to let the world live and continue as normal. for years i've been naively skipping from one timeline to the next just to hold her a second longer. yesterday was the day i finally gave up, i can't let everybody else die just to find solace in something i'll never have forever." with a quick breath, she continued, "i know that alone won't make you believe the fact that i have powers, but, i thought because… you're now the closest thing i have to a best friend, i might as well trust you with my whole." max used her pointer finger to swipe away fallen and oncoming tears, swallowing to bide time.
kate, having been in a state best described as 'fuck my download is stuck at 99%,' finally came to and spoke. "this is all so bizarre, max… i - i want to believe you, so badly do i want to believe you but… i.. how can you prove to me your powers?" as she finalized her sentence, she sprung her previously down-cast view upwards to face max's gaze.
max's eyes took several passes over the layout of her friend's room; more so for dramatic effect than true thoughtfulness, she knew every place in arcadia as if she grew up there. "i can tell you simple things like what your favourite bible verse is and why you're not too fond of your mother but that's too easy to narc on like that. unless that'd make you believe?" max pondered how untrusting kate was of her powers. "it depends on how you'd chalk up knowledge i haven't told you to 'powers.'" without a second to spare, max replied. "well, you've asked me for your copy of the october country before.. in other timelines. and in other timelines i've spared a glance around your room. your bible has a leaflet in it with a bible verse, matthew 11:28 to be specific. 'come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and i will give you rest.' on the topic of bible verses, i'm fairly certain you don't exactly like proverbs 21:15." kate, pleasantly shocked her friend knew even the ones she felt nip at her bones when read during church, felt a smile rise to her face. "that won't do it for me but, it's pretty cool you know that… thanks max. nobody around here cares enough to find out these things about me." max nodded and heaved a sigh of affirmation, softening her gaze. "i think it's really shitty your mother and aunt are assholes to you solely because you were unwillingly intoxicated at a party." the brunet felt her stomach twist into knots thinking of how sickening jefferson's actions are and how she'd have to go through the pain again of reading the files and exploring the dimly lit hellhole if she wanted that bastard imprisoned. a reaffirming hand placed on her tense shoulder allowed her a moment to steady her breath and continue, "i don't think i can discuss the… atrocities of it all now without getting sick but, i promise you that with the knowledge i have, the one who has hurt you and shamed you most will go down and never see the light of day again. it'll also, hopefully, prove to you my powers." while skepticism was still apparent, the photographer noticed a sense of understanding wash over the taller. kate's hand lie pliant on her shoulder still, sometimes max could feel the pads of her fingers drumming on her shoulder blade as her thoughts consumed her.
a delighted smile formed almost unnoticeably on the blond's features, growing wider as she speaks, "you run a hard bargain, max. you make it so easy to want to believe you. this is all just so new and wild to me." sure she could convince her friend with this final show of talent, she questioned kate. "i want you to think of the three things you love most in life, after about twenty seconds i want you to tell me. i'll rewind and tell you the three things you mentioned you love most and knock your socks off!" max put her hands in front of her face, fist closed and then opening in such a way to imitate an explosion. with a laugh, kate agreed, "sure, max. i have the three."
tap. tap. tap. kate's fingers formed a pattern on her shoulder throughout the seconds waiting. tap. seventeen. tap. eighteen. tap. nineteen. the brunet stuck her hand out and let a daze take over her; she learned, in practice, that staying in a state where thinking is possible will just end in a bloody nose or lightheaded feeling. once back twenty seconds earlier, she ignored the deja vu of the situation and hurried onwards. "this is me telling you the three things you love most in life." kate's reply was confusing to her, she hoped the vagueness of one answer didn't throw her off the train to believing. "first, you said your family - your father and sisters, to be more exact. they mean the world to you and your dedication to them is so heartwarming." with the compliment, kate felt her skin go ablaze. she felt as if the slight touch of her pattering fingers was too much and just let her hand grip inevitably at the fabric of max's sweater. "secondly, you mentioned your faith. this is another thing i find stunning about you," she let her stilled hands move to sit atop her friends, taking and placing the one on her shoulder to kate's lap; right next to her other, "your ability to stay true to yourself throughout the hardships of life and crudeness of others is something that humbles me dearly. while i myself am not religious, you give me hope for a better future." a small squeeze to the blond's hands was all it took for her to respond, "i - you're being so kind, max. that's… thank you, really. your appreciation and care for me is apparent and you make me feel so loved and blessed, thank you, so so much." kate felt like putty as max placed a hand on her cheek, she leaned into the touch. "i haven't said the final thing you said yet, i - uh." she used her now free hand to rub the back of her neck, "i hope i didn't read what you said wrong but… i'm fairly certain i'm the third thing you love most about life." max tilted her head to seem unsure but it was mostly to mask her fear of being rejected by the friend she's slowly pined over for months now - the reason she finally let chloe rest.
the blond decided it was useless to stay quiet any longer, her tone was hopeful and calm. "yes, max. i - i - you are somebody i've felt safe and loved around since day one. you make me feel at home when nobody else does anything but make sickened looks in my direction and throw threatening notes at me. you're like the sun after months of nonstop hail pelting down on me, you light up any room you enter and i am so grateful for that. you've made the pain of the party and the pain of everyday life disperse slowly by just talking to me and listening to what i have to say. i love you, max. and if it means anything, i believe you. thank you." max felt tears form in her eyes, not quite falling down dramatically but also not quite just barely glazing over her eyes. a cold hand was brought up to her face, nimble fingers swiping oncoming and previously fallen tears away. the photographer moved her hand up to kate's which was sitting on her face, cradling it and whispering, "i love you too, kate." the taller's relieved sigh was very welcomed, nerve calming even. a feather light kiss was placed to kate's cheek, then her forehead, then the tip of her nose.
both girls let out soft laughs and shared small kisses as they tangled their limbs together in what was meant to be a hug.
"powers or not, max. you saved my life and i feel so complete with you. i feel like i'm someone who means something and has stuff worthwhile to share with society. before you it was so dark - my mind, everything. i didn't have any hope left. i can't thank you enough for how elated you make me feel." deeming words unneeded, max just cupped kate's face in her hands and reveled in the starkness between the heat of her own body and the chill kate always had - leaning in, she locked their lips together in a kiss lovely and sweet enough to create cavities.
"you've helped me see, max, that you weren't the one coming to me for help. you answered my call and knew it'd be your time to play doctor and help me, not yourself." with a final peck to the blond's lips, max held her tight and promised she'd always be there to help; promised she'd never feel alone with her. promised that this time, in this timeline, nothing would take kate away from her and she was here to stay.