The ticking of the grandfather clock repeated endlessly on Max's ears. She glanced up, 7:34 it read on its old hands.
She was sitting in the dining room of her Seattle home, her eyes glued tiredly on a group of photos haphazardly sprawled across the dark cedar table. Each picture was different and unique, with memories tied to every one.
Good and bad ones.
Her eyes found the picture of a man, his baby blue eyes glowing with fondness and a blinding smile on his face.
She flipped the picture over. Not today, she decided.
Max stood, stretching as her mother came waltzing in, looking tired and drained. She always did look that way these days. Max tried to ignore the bruise on her jaw. "Max," her voice was hoarse, "you've been up all night again."
Max shrugged, "Couldn't sleep." Her voice was quiet, "I'm packed and everything is in the car. Blackwell Academy here I come." Excitement made her body buzz.
Maxine Caulfield was a photographer, she always had been since she got her hands on a camera for her tenth birthday eight years ago. She had a knack for polaroids and most of her work centered around her own selfies.
It was weird, but it was weirdly Max. No one was surprised at her passion and hey, she wasn't a shabby photographer.
But Max didn't wanna be an "okay" photographer, she wanted to be famous. Travel the world and map it with polaroids that would fill galleries. However that took an education, and no high school in Seattle offered such classes. Blackwell Academy, in her hometown of Arcadia Bay, Oregon did. In fact, it was the best in the country.
So, ever since she left the coast town behind, she had been working her ass off to go back.
And somehow, it worked.
"Max." Broken from her thoughts, the girl looked up. She shuffled in her gray hoodie as her mom looked her up and down. "Are you sure you want to go back? Aren't you forgetting someone....." she trailed off as Max purses her lips.
Oh right. No, she hadn't forgotten, how could she ever forget Chloe Elizabeth Price? Her childhood best friend and the girl she hadn't spoken to for five years out of fear. It was bad timing, Chloe had lost her father and the day of the funeral she lost her best friend.
"I'm going to call her." Max said with a strong voice and her mom narrowed her eyes.
"Are you?" She murmured, "Better do it quick, your flight is at nine."
Nodding, Max turned on her heel and bolted down the hallway into her cove. It was a large room that was supposed to be used as a game room or den but Max had fallen in love with the isolation of it and her parents couldn't refuse.
The walls were covered in posters of movies that she liked and a few fandom posters here and there but mostly it was band posters. There wasn't much of anything else, Max had packed everything except the excessive amounts of posters, some old Christmas lights that were broken, her bed (obviously though she did take the fluffy blue blanket from it), and a few other items that were fine being forgotten.
Max reminisced the times she spent in this room. It wasn't anything special, mostly pictures and movies but hey, they were happy memories.
And those were hard to come by these days.
She shook her head, refusing to think about it. She clicked her phone's home button and it lit up in response. She choked, seeing the screensaver was of her and Chloe at ages thirteen, dressed up as pirates and grinning like madmen.
She unlocked it and was lost in time. Her phone was a time capsule, frozen in place for five years. She chewed her lip and eyed the countless ignored messages from Chloe, the countless ignored calls.
She had been a fool.
Taking a shaky sigh, she did something she should have done five years ago and clicked Chloe's name on the missed calls list. She didn't even realize that it was still early and that Chloe was not a morning riser but it apparently didn't matter because it picked up on the second ring.
"..." Max's throat closed as she heard faint breathing. She bit her lip and opened her mouth, wanting to speak.
"...Chloe.." Her voice was choked, full of raw emotions of guilt, sadness, and pain. Tears poured down her face and she covered her mouth to keep herself from sobbing.
"..." The hipster heard Chloe breath yet she didn't answer.
What was Max suppose to say? A million apologies rushed her tongue yet would none come out. Max had ignored her best friend for five fucking years after she lost her father. She should hate Max thought, she probably did which is why she wasn't speaking. Maybe it was to get back at Max, for her silence, and Max deserved it but she wanted to hear Chloe's voice.
"I..." Max swallowed as her voice came out high-pitched with sadness, "Hi.." She said awkwardly, quiet and broken.
There was silence on the other end and Max was considering hanging up but, finally, a voice broke out. Raspy and low and Chloe. "Five years Caulfield."
"Five years to return this call." She was smiling, Max could hear the grin in her voice but she could also hear the bitterness. The 'why?'.
She couldn't answer that, not yet.
"I'm sorry." Max broke, sobbing into the phone. "I'm so sorry." She shook her head. "I'm such an idiot, I'm so sorry."
"Stop that." Chloe's voice was stronger now, sounding not as raspy. "Don't call me after five years and break down. I lost my dad and best friend in the same fucking week. If anyone should be breaking down it's me. Five years, Max, I waited for five years."
Max shook her head because the confusion and pain and anger in Chloe's voice hurt. She wanted to curl up, she wished she could have reversed time by lifting her hand and avoid this call but that was wishful thinking.
"I wanted too." The words tumbled from her lips before she could stop them.
"Why didn't you?" Chloe grunted, sounding tired and defeated. "I needed you. I thought I had gotten over you after all these years, but of course, the universe loves to fuck with me. Of course, you would call just when I think I don't need you anymore." The girl laughed but it was bitter.
Max wanted to die.
"I'll tell you everything." Max promised, "But not right now.. Not yet."
Chloe barked a laugh, "So how many years until I hear from you again?" She spat, making Max flinch.
The photographer bit her lip, trying to control herself as tears dried on her face. "I..I'm coming back."
Chloe sounded stunned and there was a sound of movement and then a muffled bang and a distant 'fuck!'.
It almost made Max laugh.
"I'm coming back to Arcadia Bay for school. Photography." She said softly, "I got a scholarship." She chewed her lip. "I'm coming back to you Chloe." She said that softer, but she knew Chloe heard because the breath on the other side of the line hitched for a moment.
"When?" Chloe asked after a moment.
"Today, my flights in about an hour." Max said after glancing at the digital clock near her bed on the table.
There was nothing but static for a few moments before Max felt her phone buzz. "I sent you an address. Go to it when you get here." Chloe said.
"Wait! I- I- I uh.." Max stuttered before she gulped. "I...I kinda need a ride from the airport? I was hoping you or Joyce could..." She bit her lip.
Chloe was silent before she laughed. The sound wasn't bitter now, it was full of amusement and happiness that made butterflies explode in Max's stomach. "So you think after five years I'm gonna drop everything to come to pick you up?" The laughter continued before she calmed down, "Five years and you're still Max Caulfield. Yeah, I'll send someone." She was grinning and the thought made Max smile.
"I'm sorry." The hipster shuffled, "I left you hanging... I.." Pictures of broken glass flashed in her mind and yelling in her ear made her shudder.
"Hey.." Chloe's voice was softer, yet it ripped Max out of her thoughts violently, and Max could feel her friend's hand on her wrists, as they would have been when they were kids. "I know you can't see me, but look. I was an asshole to ream you like that, I have no idea what's happened to you in recent years. It was shitty timing but.." Chloe hesitated before she sighed, seemingly letting go of her anger, "but we were kids. There wasn't anything you could have done to change it."
"I could have texted you." Max said automatically.
"You could have." Chloe agreed, "But you didn't. It's over with and hey, my number's still the same. You can text me now and, even if it was five years late, you called. That proves you still thought of me."
You don't even know... Max thought, remembering nights she spent sobbing and wishing she could just talk to Chloe.
"Yeah." Max said, taking a shuddering breath.
"Look Max, I-" Chloe seemed to swallow. "I gotta go, but there will be someone to pick you up. Look for a girl: blonde hair, hazel eyes, and a torn up flannel with torn up shorts. And Max?"
"Hm?" Max hummed, reciting the description of the girl who would pick her up from the airport.
"Thank you." Click.
Max was frozen in time for a few moments, her heart hammering in her chest and her phone still cold and pressed against her ear. Limply she dropped it to her side and dropped her hand with it, a stupid smile on her face.
"Maxine?" Her mother poked her head into her room. "It's time. Did the call go well?"
"Yeah, I think..." Max hesititated, remembering the hint of warmth and gentleness of Chloe's voice in her ear. "I think I'm gonna be alright. I think things will be alright."