1. The girl with bulldog face (and the glass globe heart)
Chloe is a child wearing too-big cowboy boots, walking with a swagger practiced and imitated from hours of Jack Sparrow.
Chloe is heat and anger and passion. It vibrates in her throat and tendons. It’s in every jerk of her hips and fingers when she’s above Rachel, below her, behind her. Taking her against the window of her truck or shoving her hands down her pants at some house or metal show.
She’s insecurity and Daddy Issues with a capital ‘D’. She’s empty, pointless rebellion. Fun, like candy and cocaine caught between her even teeth.
She’s so easy to twist and wrap around Rachel’s fingers. Her littlest one in particular. She doesn’t even have to say what she wants and Chloe will start sniffing around for a way to give it to her.
But, she never does. Rachel isn’t about to hitch her wagon to a busted truck that can’t even make it past the town border.
Chloe is for sunny days, she’s for nights with smoky eyeshadow and trips to the mall.
But, Rachel knows Chloe will never leave this town. Sure, she’ll attend Community College one town over, and even get a scholarship to study at MIT or Berkeley, and Chloe will want to go.
Something will happen. Something always happens to Chloe Price, and she’ll end up bitter and working at the diner or maybe fixing cars, endlessly emptying her change into a jar labelled ‘Paris’.
It’s depressing, and honestly, it, like Chloe, spends a lot of time harshing Rachel’s vibe.
2. The boy with the bulldog (who pretends he is a man)
Frank is cool in the ways Chloe is hot. He is slow movements, dulled by pot smoke and a hangover. His breath is always worse than Pompidou’s, and his eyes redder and droopier to match.
He wears a leather jacket and ballcap like armor to hide and guard the soft interior. It puffs him up, making him more intimidating that his thin shoulders and rounded stomach allow.
Frank, has a bark worse than his bite. He’s so quick to roll over and show his belly. He bemoans the spoiled youth of Blackwell, even though Rachel has found a photo of his childhood home and family. Silicon Valley, parents with white smiles and glasses. He’s Blackwell alumni too.
A modern day vagabond, hippie, or beat. Pretending to fight the power by accepting handouts from his parents to support ‘finding himself’. Another empty rebellion.
Frank is for overcast and muggy days. For nights when Chloe’s too angry to be fun and Rachel needs something to take reality away. He never charges her for drugs, and for a girl pinching her pennies to move to LA, free drugs are an asset.
Frank might go back to Silicon Valley with his tail between his legs. He might work at a used car lot, pushing a new product on another clintele he’ll hate.
Or he might end up dead in ditch, having pissed off the wrong person. She doesn’t hitch her wagon to Frank’s RV.
But, damn he has good weed.
3. The broken boy (the only one who listens)
Nathan is raw. He is an open sore of a human being, and everyone seems quite content to watch him fester and bleed. Authority figures will talk about him in hushed voices or over emails, about how concerned they are.
And then they get into their cars and go home without ever actually doing anything to help him.
Nathan is constantly screaming. Even when he is silent, Rachel can hear it building in his ribcage. It’s in every fresh cut on his arms, legs, ribs. She wraps his cuts, and gives him pennyroyal tea and ginger ale on the days he can’t eat because his medication makes him sick.
His ribs are getting starker under his pale skin, and the circles under his eyes just keep going deeper.
He feels like he’s going to fade away, and it’s almost to the point where she’s afraid she’s going to crack his hips from riding him too hard.
It’s infuriating that he keeps his hands clenched at his sides, or will just gently stroke her hair. There’s all this anger and violence he projects outwards, but never at her.
She can take it. She wants to. Why else would she wrap herself and roll in the most angry, broken people she could find in this shitty town? Their pain is why she’s there. They’re so easy to control, and they’re all so delicious when they’re breaking and being built back up by her.
She slaps him, hoping for retaliation. He just flinches and she breaks.
She tells him everything. Everything except that one thing that she can’t tell him. She talks about Frank and blood pacts, Chloe and trips to LA that will never happen. She tells him about how she learned to control people with a coy smile and a flutter of lashes, because that’s how you survive where she grows up. Her sickness shares her home, her body, and it needs others to feed off.
Nathan offers her diet pills. The “laxatives” he cuts his drugs with. Amphetamines. Medicine in his book.
She asks him why and he says that they stop him from eating and make him feel less repulsive.
Nathan gets out of Arcadia Bay, but she doubts he’ll make it to twenty-one at the rate he’s going.
And when he starts screaming more, getting violent with her, begging for help. She does what everyone does.
She leaves. Or, she tries to. He’s crying behind that camera and begging Mark to stop, and in the end, she knows that they failed each other on this one.
4. The broken girl (she can’t tell Nathan about)
Victoria is a good idea when she’s blasted out of her mind and wants to listen to Marina and the Diamonds, and drink pink champagne, and fuck.
Victoria is angry and sad and loud like the others, but unlike the others, she looks at Rachel through clear eyes.
“How many others?” She says around a post-coital joint.
“A few.” Rachel says and stands to redress.
Victoria just shrugs and goes back to texting whoever.
It’s kind of like fucking a mirror. (A mirror with a size eleven glove, who can make Rachel scream and shake faster than the others) Victoria is bitter and pretty and manipulative. They could share notes on tactics, but Rachel’s the master. She scoffs, watching Victoria’s clumsy attempts to rub up on what she actually wants. She exposes her hand too easily.
She pretends to be two-faced and detached, but for all her coldness, Rachel sees the fire that pulses beneath the surface. Victoria feels everything too much.
The dresses she bought and don’t fit ‘but they might fit you and you keep them or whatever’ cost more than Rachel’s Mom’s crappy car. She cuts them to pieces and wears them over cutoff jeans to watch Victoria wince and bite her lips until they bleed.
“You look cute.”
Rachel smiles, wearing the pieces of Victoria’s shredded heart like a victory banner.
Victoria will leave Arcadia Bay. She’ll move to Seattle or LA, and she’ll be crushed under the weight of her own inadequacy and parental expectations.
Rachel sees a future of Victoria’s shaking hands and a husband who knows how to play Victoria just as perfectly as Rachel does. Children who have never seen their mother smile.
1. The biggest mistake of her life
Mark is someone she meets at a party at Prescott house, and that should be the first red flag there.
He’s charming and funny and utterly repulsive. Something dances behind his eyes. The girls at school mistake it for mirth and intelligence and warmth. Rachel sees something disgusting and rotten leaking into his irises. His breath is sour with the really expensive gin Nathan’s dad keeps in his study.
She does not see a lover. She sees an opportunity.
Like any aging man afraid of becoming irrelevant, Mark sees a muse in her. A manic pixie dream whore to plug his ‘second coming’ into.
Well, if he could make it to the first one. He takes her on a desk (ugghhh, teacher kink is so boring) and is all rough hands and sharp thrusts and she is almost bored enough to check her phone while waiting for him to finish and fall in love with her.
But then, clearly by accident, he does something that feels good and startles the moan out of her.
His face scrunches up and he goes soft.
With self-deprecation he says, “Sorry, it’s been awhile.”
‘...Since the girl enjoyed it.’ She finishes saying in her head.
Mark Jefferson can take her as far as San Francisco. Take her to formal parties, introduce her as a student of his. The people whose hands she shakes give her tight smiles and ignore the bruises on her wrists.
One of them will be an agent or a model or another photographer and she’ll leave with them as easily as she did Mark.
When she moves to go, he blocks her way to rattle off about photos and John Lennon, and suddenly she’s not having fun. He should be an easy whale to catch. Pump his ego, act fragile, pose for his pictures, get famous and leave him in the dust.
But that thing behind his eyes. That thing that is him, minus the human suit he wears is seeping out and dripping on every word.
She leaves and writes a draft to Chloe about a man who can finally take her from this town.
Rachel is no fool, and she knows it might be stuffed into the back of his car.
She ignores Mark’s calls and spends the night protecting Nathan’s ribs with her hands. His betrayal, whether intentional or not, hurts the most.
Because, he was the only one she was honest with.
Rachel hates herself and she honestly wonders what any of them see in her. Are tits and ass really worth the broken promises and empty words she drags them through?
She does it because it’s the only way she knows how to live. Does doing it fuck her up more? Does it fuck them up more?
The room is too bright and everything is ugly. That thing in Mark is overflowing and spilling all over white tile, Nathan is stepping in it. It climbs his legs and sinks between his ribs. His eyes are unfocused and the screams from his body are deafening.
She’s bound, but she still has a strong enough jaw to tear out a piece of Mark’s arm. Blood pours down his ‘oh so deep’ H. R. Giger inspired skull sleeves. There’s a sharp pain and everything goes blurry again. She watches him as long as she can. Flit around with your camera, you fuck, have fun explaining your arm to anyone at the hospital.
Rachel is outside of herself, watching the destruction she left in her wake. She sees Nathan cradling her, his hands shaking too hard for shovel he’s using, his tears obscuring his vision. He buries himself next to her, but he leaves in Mark’s car all the same.
She sees Chloe waiting for her at the lighthouse. The cigarette goes long enough to burn her fingertips. She keeps checking her phone.
Frank cuts his GHB with water while watching Jeopardy and eating a Hungry Man dinner. Her letter is stuck to his fridge.
Victoria texts her. Victoria never stops texting her, well, she does, but only when she wants to give Rachel a taste of her own medicine. Ignoring her for a change.
It lasts a day.
She’s going to miss the way Chloe’s eyes crinkle when she smiles, how the back of Frank’s neck smells, the weight of Nathan’s head against her heartbeat, Victoria’s laugh and how it starts as a rumble and turns into a fit of giggles.
None of it matters anymore.
5. The one she never had
Max infuriates Rachel.
Max is the eye and the storm. She’s quiet tranquility wrapped around this force that could destroy everything. She does it so easily and without intent in such a way that Rachel had to fucking work at and perfect.
The worst part is that she doesn’t mean to. Max is a hurricane that is stumbling and apologizing to the trees she strips to planks, and to the cars she flips.
Max is a quiet smile and a loud breath, standing in this corner at five foot two.
She sees these broken people Rachel left in her wake. She sees the pieces Rachel collected like the seashells she used for bracelets. Max sets about putting the pieces back together. Her hands are unskilled, not practiced in the art of building up and tearing down. She sticks the wrong pieces together and uses too much glue.
But what comes out is healing and whole and breathing in a way Rachel never could perfect.
It makes her want to tear at Max’s hair and skin. To slip like a blade inside her. Get under the skin and find a way to wind Max up and burn her down. To let her fire destroy her, like Chloe or Victoria, or to let her be consumed by apathy and vice like Frank and Nathan.
Would Max crumble or burn?
She’s angry too, but it’s a righteous rage. The pure hearted knight.
Max takes Chloe by the hand and bleeds out fire and anger bit by bit. Or, she tries, but there’s so much to bleed and it might even consume her too. It cools under Max’s touch. Chloe recognizes the feeling of someone trying to piece her back together. She misses Rachel’s finesse.
Max asks Frank about dogs and Rachel and jumps at his barks. He doesn’t bite, but she flinches all the same. She makes him laugh, sarcastic and genuine at her lanky limping gait and inability to be anything but a huge dork.
Max hears Nathan screaming and she keeps begging people to help. To notice that he isn’t even there anymore. There is something inside him that is rotting and it’s taking Nathan with it. Max tries to starve it instead of feed it, but like everyone else, she feels powerless facing that void. He admires the attempt though. The part of him that can still feel is grateful.
Max sees Victoria hiding behind her own poor Rachel imitation. Like a wounded animal, she draws her out with a soft voice and offering tasty pieces of acceptance and affirmations. Victoria wraps herself around Max like a cat twisting figure eights between bow legs.
She replaces Rachel. Fills in the cracks and the holes she left behind.
Rachel sees the same hungry look on Mark Jefferson’s face and wonders if Max will be literally filling her shoes… shoes, grave, same thing really.