Rachel knows that name as long as she knows Chloe. The name is ingrained within Chloe, so deep Rachel doubts she could see it. It—she—is a part of Chloe, whether or not Chloe wants it.
Rachel is jealous, and that in of itself is an anomaly. Rachel Amber does not get jealous. She just doesn’t . She’s the one who makes other people jealous.
Then again, Chloe has always been different. And if Rachel were honest with herself, she doesn’t mind. She’ll gladly pine after Chloe in the sidelines, tucking her unrecruited crush deep in her heart so it’ll never escape out into the open like a majestic-winged bird. She’s fine with that, with never being able to call Chloe hers. She’s fine, she is. She has to be.
To be Chloe’s friend is already a privilege.
To be Chloe’s bestest, closest friend is straight-up magic.
It’s one of those nights—ones where their thoughts are lazy and their words are half-sensical. Chloe lays on her bed, a doobie tucked between her two fingers, and Rachel is next to her, her nose brushing against Chloe’s tattooed forearm. Her fingers twitch, itching to trace the ink. She keeps herself still.
Chloe takes a puff, then blows out a shaky ring. Her eyes trace the ashy gray smoke as it fades away into her ceiling. “Hey, Rach?” Rachel is too entranced by the shape of Chloe’s arm; thin yet ripped, her muscles bulging with every slight movement. “Rach?”
Rachel blinks. “Y-yeah?”
“Have I ever told you about that time I almost fell off of a cliff?”
“I don’t know,” she says. Then blinks again. Then pushes herself up into a righted position. “What?!” She looks down on a grinning Chloe with wide eyes. “No. You’re shitting me.”
“Yes, you are.”
Chloe rolls the doobie between her fingers, a strand of faded-blue hair falling to her face. She takes another drag, and closes her eyes. “It’s not much of a story, really,” she starts. “We used to come up to the lighthouse. My dad used to say the place was magic. That all good things happen there. Never really believed it myself, but, eh—” she shrugs, her shoulders brushing into her pillow “—I was never really much of a believer anyway. One day, we were there, and my dad, he said he wanted to fix the car, said there was a problem with it—nothing too serious. I was bored as fuck waiting for him, so I started to wonder.”
Her eyes still closed, Chloe extends the doobie towards Rachel. Rachel takes it with an absent hand, letting it hang between them. A spray of yellow light escapes through Chloe’s curtains, highlighting her jaw, the apple of her cheek, and her eyelid. She looks like a painting. Rachel’s throat dries. How is this fair? How’s Rachel supposed to tamp down her more-than-a-crush if Chloe looks like she’s been painted by Picasso even though she’s lying in bed, getting high, with a faded beer stain on the collar of her shirt.
“So, I wandered. And wandered. And wandered. And there I was. Right at the edge of the cliff. And, well, I was a weird kid. You know I was. So, when I realised I was at the edge, I thought, ‘What if I stepped closer?’” She breaks off into a chuckle, unaware of Rachel’s horrified look. “Not in the, like, I-want-to-kill-myself kind of way. Just… Well, it was just curiosity. So, I took a step. Just one itsy-bitsy tiny step. And then I took another one. And another one. And then…” Her eyes open—lightning blue freckled with the setting sun’s light. “And then Max yanked me back, and we both fell down. And she was crying and hitting me and yelling at me and I was just… I was just shocked. It sort of dawned on me, I guess. What could’ve happened. And what Max did.”
There it is again.
That name. That person.
Like a ghost, like a fairytale.
Like a curse.
Chloe looks up at her ceiling, her smile dreamy, her eyes half-lidded. “I don’t think she even realized what she did,” she continues. “I think that’s… that’s the best part of it all. Imagine being so good that you don’t even realize you’ve just saved someone’s life. But then again, I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s Max , after all.”
Rachel hates it, the way Chloe says her name. She inhales a large amount, and lets the smoke spread across her lips like a dragon. But not even the weed helps. If anything, it muddles her mind, and guides it to thoughts of a freckled face, a pair of doe eyes, a sweet voice.
“Our picnic—oh yeah, did I tell you that we were having a picnic? Yeah, so, the picnic was super tense. Max wouldn’t talk to me all day. She was just straight-up pouting, the whole time. My dad thought we had a fight. But, well, once we took her home, Max hugged me, and told me to not be an idiot, and… that was that.”
Chloe pushes herself up, her movements cat-like, her tank-top sleeve falling, revealing her bare, strong shoulder. She eyes Rachel, who’s yet taken another puff.
Rachel should say something. Something to break whatever it is that’s growing between them. No matter how good it is, how good it will be if she lets it.
But then the pads of Chloe’s fingers caresses Rachel’s cheek, down to her jaw, and every word dies on her mouth. Her brain shuts off, and what controls her is the strong thump of her heart, which tells her to let the moment go on.
“You’re perfect,” whispers Chloe, tucking a stray of honey hair behind Rachel’s ears.
“You really are.”
And then Chloe’s mouth is on hers, and Rachel’s back hits the mattress, and they’re kissing, kissing, kissing. Soft, at first. Then harder, harsher, needier. Chloe’s hands are everywhere; she’s greedy, and she’s not shy about it. Rachel prefers it that way. She’s greedy too.
Lips on lips. Teeth on neck. Hand on hip.
And then they’re doing more than kissing.
Rachel watches Chloe’s sleeping form—the light frown creating a faint line between her brows, the incomprehensible murmurs she keeps emitting.
The beginnings of hope blooms in Rachel’s chest, like a frail flower that needs special care. She tucks it close to her, lets the warmth seep through her body.
And then, in-between the incoherent sleepy mumbling, Chloe says a name. One single name.
And Rachel’s hope dies before it gets the chance to live.
Chloe wakes up that morning with a grin, giving Rachel sweet morning kisses, then sweeter cuddles to prevent her from leaving.
And after school, Chloe waits in the parking lot, like a knight in leather armor, a cigarette between her teeth.
And at night, Chloe sneaks in through her window, putting on a chaste kiss to Rachel’s cheek before asking her how her day was.
Rachel should stop it. She really should.
Because it’s obvious to everyone but Chloe who Chloe’s true love is; Max. Max Caulfield. Even after years of abandonment, Chloe can never let her go.
And Rachel is her replacement.
She shouldn’t want this. She’s Rachel Amber, she’s nobody’s replacement.
And yet she can't help herself.
With Chloe, she doesn’t mind. Not the heartbreak, not the pain, not the emptiness, nothing. Not even the thought that, no matter how much Chloe loves her, it’ll never compare to the way she loves Max.
No. She doesn’t mind one bit.