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October 7th

 

Deja vu is a weird one. 

This will be the weirdest journal entry I will ever make, So weird I don't know how or where to start. But it started with the most vivid dream of my life. I was at the edge of the cliff next to the lighthouse. In a storm. And a hurricane-tornado-thing. All I know it was pretty fucking big and pretty fucking fast.

I wasn't alone though. This girl was shouting and screaming at me over the wind, and picked me off the ground. Maybe I was hurt? I don't know. She started to talk to me, and stuffed a photo in my face. I will say, it was a cute picture. Just a butterfly in a bathroom trash can for some reason. But everything else was horrifying. It felt like I was breathing underwater with how bad the storm was. Then, before it was over, I heard something and for some reason it stuck with me. Don't you forget about me. Forget about who? Feels like I've already forgotten about a shit ton of people, doesn't really narrow it down much. Then again, there's somebody I used to know in town. 

Yeah. That's probably who said that in my nightmare. Or daymare. I guess it wasn't over when Jefferson called on me after I took a selfie. Duega Dugggaren Duegarrian Do-gair-ian  Something, something process. Only figured that one out when Victoria answered, and proceeded to nail poor Kate in the head. Asshole. Nice shot, though. 

This is a bit of a long one, Maxi. But what else would you do in a bathroom? Use the toilet? Of course not. I've seen too many fucked up things back in Seattle that I'd rather not curse my little innocent diary with. 

But yeah, back on topic. Class ends. I really hope Kates doing okay. We'll probably go out and get some coffee or tea as soon as I'm done with this. She was more Eeyore than usual. Of course, Victoria was flirting talking up a storm to Mr. Jefferson and then shy old me decides to not put up that photo I have of my wall for the contest. 

Me and Nathan made eye contact when I walked into the bathroom. Really random but he kinda scares me. Thought it would be an ape ass football player but no. Just a rich kid. 

And that leads to where I am.

A butterfly just landed next to me. Animal Planet Max. Now that I think of it, it kinda looks like the photo. Probably should take one for the wall collection. Is a wall collection weird? I feel like its veering on horse girl status. Photo girl. 


The door closes and shuts hard. I hold my pen up from the paper and listen as the footsteps get closer and closer. They stop, and begin to pace back towards the door as if to peer into the stalls.

"Where the fuck are you?" a female voice whispers to herself. She doesn't seem so happy. Neither am I but I'm more nervous and she's definitely more angry. 

The plan? Well, there's no plan that ends without them noticing. She's gonna see me come out of the dirty corner of the bathroom where the janitors shit is and think I'm a weirdo. As if half this school doesn't think that already. I reach to slide my hood until it droops over my face. 

Stand up. Walk by. Get out.

I stand up. 

I make my way from out the corner and towards the door, almost looking straight at the stalls.

"Holy shit, Max?"

I pause and look over. 

Wow. If you told me I'd come back years later, and Chloe would dye her hair super crazy bright blue, wear a leather jacket, and have what I'm pretty damn sure is a tattoo, I'd think you were crazy. 

This was just the start of one of the craziest next couple months in my entire life. Enjoy at my expense.

Chapter Text

The journal loosely hangs in my hand, the hum of lights at least softening the fluttering in my stomach. My mouth opens to speak before she quickly interrupts, shifting her weight onto the sink. 

"Uh, the look you're giving me is saying you're not the Max I'm looking for," Chloe says while trailing off.

I open my arms a little. "Reunion?"

Her chest heaves for a second before taking a step back as if she's seen a ghost. I mean, technically she just did. "It is you, holy shit! I thought you hella forgot about me?"

Freeze frame. I can concur that it was most likely her in my dream. "No, fuck no," I say after a pause. "How have you been?" The cringe hits almost immediately but what else do you say to your ex-best friend after five years of literally no contact? It's not like I'm a social queen, that's more of her schtick. It's like every young adult book in Seattle had in the library, where two people find each other after years of not talking.

"Just… do you have any more classes?" The way she speaks tells me that I'm about to get an earful of loving hate.

I shake my head.

She grabs my hand and lurches me towards the door. "Good, because it'd be really weird if I told you everything that happened since you left in a shitty bathroom. Literally." Damn. I forgot how soft her hands were. Then again, I'm pretty sure her's were the last ones I held. Outside of family, of course.

We speed walk through the front doors and field filled with students, her grip letting go as she leads me towards a dingy truck that looks straight out of a junkyard. Now, I'm not one to judge. Especially with me not having a car or even a licence. But whoever drives that car has no regard for their life. I mean, poor things probably has a senior discount at the Two Whales Diner.

She leans on the hood with crossed arms and a look that means either trouble, about to cry, or about to punch me. Probably all three with crying last. "First things, first. What the fuck? I know it's not right to assume because it makes an ass outta you and me, but I'm going to assume that you've been here since the semester started. And you didn't even text me anything? Not even a, 'I'm back in town and ready to get down,'? Second of all, how did I not see you at all? Me and my.... friend drive by here, the diner, and the junkyard all the time. Do you even go anywhere outside of school? Don't you need to go and see nature and shit for photography?" she says through curled lips.

Woah. Bit condescending there, don't you think? But… ugh. Not wrong. Basically just homework and Warcraft. "I wanted to come back," I squeaked out. My voice probably sounded like I was going to cry. Damn it, Max.

A few seconds of silence later and Chloe drops her arms down to her side. "Did Seattle suck hard or did you make it your new Arcadia Bay?" At least this time it sounded sincere, which is really hard to make her do. 

"I mean, I'm here? Rather would've always been here with-"

"Hmm, that's why we texted like, three or four times before you ghosted me, right?"

"I didn't know what to say-" 

"You don't even have to say anything! Remember when we were kids and you'd come over just to steal my candy before going back to your place like a sugar gremlin?"

God damn you, Chloe. Why were you blessed with the art of backtalk? "It's just every day I felt bad about not texting, and then I just kept thinking about how you probably hate my guts for leaving you when all that shit happened." I feel like this conversation happened before. Has it? At this point there so much confusion as to what happened and what didn't. That daymare must've been a crazy one.

She sighs, saying, "Samesies." Haven't heard that one in a while. "Look, we're probably both shitty people for not texting each other. Hella shit was happening and that was probably why you blew me off." She takes a step back, pointing at the dingy truck with her arms as if it were a prize. "My ol' reliable, by the way. Fixed it up with whatever was hanging around the junkyard."

Oh. Oh wow. I just telepathically bullied this innocent or probably not so innocent truck and it turns out to be hers. At least it works right? "Did you buy it or did you find it in the junkyard?"

Her eyes snap from the truck to me. "Yes. Now, let's drive and talk. Too many people I know here."

This feels almost too nice. Suspicious. Foul play. I mentally squint my third eye towards her and scratch myself against the rusted door handle. Currently taking bets on;

A: Yelling at me in a more private space.

B: Driving all the way to the lighthouse just to push me off and say the wind blew my skinny ass into the ocean.

Or C: Actually have a pleasant talk.

One of these things is not like the other. 

 

Chapter Text

We drive in awkward silence for a while, the lighthouse fading away in the rear view mirror. I can see her knuckles turning white from holding the steering wheel but can't tell if it's because she just started driving or if it's towards me but knowing how she just blew up at me back there, it's probably towards me.

Chloe exhales loudly enough to catch my attention from playing with my camera's, well, camera. "Arcadia hasn't changed much, huh? Still a hick town with a pretty view."

A vibration makes me look down at my phone. "I haven't gone outside of Blackwell that much except for coffee and school shit. Just stayed inside whenever there was no class and watched random movies. Total loser move, I know." I click on the text notification.

Warren: bro, u got the flash drive, right?

Oh shit. I slump down in the chair, filled with guilt. We'll be back before curfew, right?

"It's whatever, dude. I do the same thing hella late at night now. Get something to eat, roll up some grass, and press play. Fun fact, watching movies while stoned is like having those 3D glasses," she says while smirking. Chloe smoking weed? Totally couldn't have imagined that. I know her like the back of my hand. Nothing she says can surprise me.

"God that sounds like heaven."

"Indeed. Never go to a play high, though Max. I learned that one the very hard way."

Geez. We just met after five years apart and already back to how it was before. Minus the getting pissed at me part. "Alright, you know what's next. Sto-ry time," I say like a chant at a football game.

She rolls her eyes. "So, my friend's a lead actress in the school plays-"

"Rachel Amber? You know her?"

A blush forms almost instantly alongside a smile that I can see she's trying to so hard to hide. "Uh, you could say that."

"Be honest. Did she replace me?"

Her cheeks are redder than strawberries now. "I think you two would be really really good friends."

Chloe is totally hiding something. Sounds like a job for Detective Caulfield. I wait for a second before saying anything, watching the waves sparkle in the distance. "So… what do you mean exactly when you say I could say that? About Rachel."

"She's helped me with a lot of shit that happened. You know the security guard guy, David?"

I nod.

"Yeah. For like, three years he was my step dad. Worst. Dad. Ever. When my mom broke up with him earlier this year, I really wanted to buy a 'Number second to last dad' coffee cup online but she talked me out of it."

"I take it that you and Joyce are doing okay?"

She laughs. "Yeah. Until she dumped step douche, we got into hella fights. That's when Rachel helped me too. That was way after my ink, though," her arm goes up to show the tattoo, which is actually really freaking cool. Wish I could get a tattoo. Just a little one on my forearm.

"I heard the removal thing for it is super painful." Heard being once on a Google search for a story I needed to write on my finals.

"Fuck that. This is the last thing of my crazy ass days that's still around. Well, my really crazy ass days."

Expected as well. Even back then, Chloe would do shit that had me nervous. Don't blame her though. William's death hit all of us hard. Can't imagine what she felt. "What'd you do?"

A shake of her head is paired with a smirk before indicating into a U-turn, little dangly thing under the rearview mirror shaking and twisting. "Name anything and I've probably done it."

"Drugs?"

"Yup."

"Fighting?"

"Yup."

Hopefully this doesn't ruin the little moment we have here. "Sex?"

"Uh...yeah. Who hasn't by now?"

That wasn't very cash money of you. However, if I wasn't such a wallflower and actually went over to that guys house, then maybe it's a different story. Self cockbloackage. "Crimes?"

"Too many to count."

"Mosh pits? You always wanted to go to one when we were younger."

"Shakabrah, motherfucker." She throws up a rockstar sign like a Californian surfer at a beach. "Me and Rachel would come to my place with bruises and just go hella fast up to my room to make sure my mom didn't see us. She'd freak if she saw it."

Rachel comes over. Then again, I also did. Like a lot. Way more than she ever has. Alright, that was really not coolio, Max. "Oh! The play thing you were gonna talk about."

The truck jumps up, shaking my world like an earthquake. Something underneath pops and nearly swerves us into the railing. Chloe pumps the brake and skids the truck to a stop on the side of the road, the sky becoming orange as I glance out. She lets go out of the steering wheel and looks at me up and down. "Holy shitballs. You okay?"

Reaching for my camera that fell down, my voice is strained momentarily. "Shaken, but not stirred."

"Well, I am very shaken and very stirred."

As soon as I come up with my camera, she's already outside looking at the front tire with disgust. Cold wind from the open door makes me shudder. "How bad is it?"

"Like… if we kept driving we'd be hella dead, bad." I, uh, think that's usually what happens when you drive on a flat tire.

I jump out the truck and join her in examining the tire. It's a complete bust. The rubber split open near the middle and the actual metal wheel was super close to touching the road.

Squatting down, she pulls back a flap. "You really can't be shitting me right now. I told the road dudes that there was a big ass pothole right there like last week!" Her voice is back to when we were at Blackwell, this time way more annoyed and not towards me atleast.

"Well, what's the plan, now?"

She thinks for a second before standing and giving the tire a light kick. "You know anyone who could fix this?"

Warren? He's a car dude. I think. He's a lot of dude things. Chemistry dude, Warcraft dude, weird gore movies dude, kinda awkward but also really cool dude. But we need someone with an actual tire in their car. I just shake my head and bite my lip.

"Guess I'll call the towing people."

"How are we getting back to town?"

Her head bounces side to side, phone in hand. Finally, she sighs. "Rachel just texted me and said she'll be in here in a little bit."

Oh God. Popular people. Hate being around them. Makes me feel so… little next to them. At least she sounds like a really cool person. Plus, what could go wrong? Just sit in the backseat all quiet, and then they talk for super long and realize you aren't adding anything to the conversation so then they ask you something and you don't know what to say. Then the person in the passenger seats does that thing where they put their arm on the driver seat and look back at you waiting for a response. Then the driver looks at you through the rearview mirror so now you're scared that the car's going to crash, but nope. The only thing crashing is your social battery and the will to live after shrugging your shoulders and they go back to talking as if you don't exist.

Not if Detective Caulfield has anything to say about it.

Chapter Text

Warren: i really need that flash rn. don't make me go ape and climb to your window 

Perks of being on the third floor. No way Ninja Warren can get up there. 

Anyways, the towing company came and hauled off Chloe's truck. Turns out we actually have one now, since it came pretty quick. Usually you'd get one from Tillamook. Guess that's nice to know even though I just came for Blackwell and Chloe. Well, if I'm being honest. It really was only for Blackwell. I lean on the railing, my thin jacket barely doing anything while hers is all bundled up with a heavy leather jacket as she joins me. Lucky ass.

"At least the view's nice, right?" Her eyes stay locked on to the skid mark that her truck left when we stopped. "How's Blackhell going for you?" 

If missing work and sleeping in so much that the principal is worried about me is anything to go off of, then I am a-okay. "I like the school. Not the students."

"I see you have met, " she throws her hands up, "the bitch. " One glance at my cocked head and she elaborates. "Victoria. Privileged blonde. With all the fancy schmancy camera shit."

I sigh deeply out of jealousy and annoyment. "Unfortunately."

"Wanna know something funny?" 

I nod and stuff my hands into my pockets, teeth chattering.

"So a couple years ago, I literally just met Rachel I think. And the day before the play or something, we decided to skip school and fuck around the town. Next day comes, and I get called into the principal's office and he's like, hella mad. So then she comes along and takes the blame for it." Wow. That's awesome. Guess she won't be like Victoria like I was so worried about. "Principals like, 'Well, you can't be in the play if you're encouraging this behavior'," she says in a deep mocking voice. 

"Sounds a lot like Wells." I mean, she got everything right. Except he's nicer to me. It makes sense since I'm a goody two shoes and Chloe's a… baddy two shoes.

"Mhm. So now she's out of the play and I feel like an asshole because this play was really big and everyone wanted to watch…" Her voice trails off as she looks past me and at a pair of headlights. She points at it, saying, "that would be our ride." 

The car comes in, doing a very illegal u-turn and stopping at an angle beside us. The evening sun shines on the dark purple coat as the driver side door opens and what I can only assume is Rachel stepping out in an oversized hoodie. "Your chariot has arrived," she says, giving me a smile. Woah, this is actually my first time even seeing her instead of just glances.

Chloe meets her in front of the car, leaning and whispering something in her ear. Thanks, guys. Rachel nods before giving her a light slap on the shoulder. We all jump in the car, me in the backseat of course and mentally preparing to daydream. The radio turns on to some pop music that I probably heard on my last day in Seattle. I lean forward a bit to read the title running across the small screen next to some dials. Looks like Team by Lorde? Sounds like it too. I faintly whisper the lyrics, taking a looksies around the car. Compared to Chloe's car, this is like a freaking palace, and smells like one too. Wait… is that a panda keychain hanging under the rearview mirror? That is so cute. 

Rachel leans back into her seat, one hand on the wheel. "Max, right? In the dorm across from Victoria?"

"Yeah," I respond. I don't know if she somehow knew I'm shy or… that's probably what Chloe whispered before we started driving. Good looking, Chlo. "You don't live at Blackwell?"

"Nope. With my parents. The dorms are really only for anyone taking the two year program." The sound of the road fills the air for a moment before she looks in the mirror at my camera. "So you're the one taking all those pictures, huh? I've seen some that Jefferson showed me in the dark room.

I speak yet nothing comes out. My peripheral vision flashes black and blue and red and all these other… images. What the hell is going on? I look outside the window and see a darkened sky. It rains. I look forward and there's no one. Everything is frozen in time. The roar of the wind outside parades around me, my chest tightening. I reach to clutch-

"You doing okay back there, Max?" Rachel says as she gives Chloe a side eye. 

Uh, what? Just blanked out for a second, nothing major. "Mhm."

Chloe turns around fully. "You looked like you saw some freaky shit just happen."

"Yeah, just a little tired."

She turns towards Rachel and kicks her feet up on the dashboard. There's something in the way they look at eachother. Can't really describe it apart from just saying it straight up, and I don't think that she's the type to be… y'know. Gay. "Did I tell you? Me and Max go back hella far, to when we were kids."

"Oh my god, that's awesome. How did you guys meet?" 

Honestly, I really don't remember, and shrug my shoulders at Chloe who's clearly hoping I would answer. She wiggles her little shoes around before answering. "I think it was lunch at the elementary school we went to. Came up to her because she looked lonely and gave her a jelly bean."

Oh yeah. Mind you, not a bag of jelly beans. Literally one jelly bean. Blueberry flavored. And it was still tiny when my hands were even smaller than they are now. 

"She eats it and I think I just sat down next to her. We started talking and never really stopped ever since…" Her voice trails off. I know exactly what she wants to say next. And with how long they've known each other, Rachel probably knows too. 

She indicates into the lane on the left hand side and lets out a quiet chuckle. "Yup, sounds like the Chloe I know.

Even though I'm pretty sure she has a ton of friends, it's still nice someone else took my place as the really close friend. Would feel pretty shitty to come back and realize that she was alone the whole time. I mean, I was kinda lonely when my family moved to Seattle. And super duper lonely when I came back apart from Warren and maybe Kate. 

Oh shit. Kate. Getting coffee together. Oh God, I just left two people hanging. The guilt from earlier in Chloe's car builds up again and I slouch in the seat to the point of being out of view in the mirror. I take out my phone and quickly start typing in our messages. 

Hey, rlly sorry about ditching the coffee thing: Max

Kate: It's OK. Lot of homework anyways. We could go tomorrow if that's ok.

Damn. She sounds really down. Put that in my schedule, Future Max. Get that girl some much needed coffee. And you need some too after today. First inevitably seeing my best friend from half a freaking decade ago, to hanging out with one of the popular girls who happens to also be really close with said friend? Recipe for knocking the hell out and waking up late for class.

Arcadia Bay lights up through the night sky as we enter through the main road, turning right into Blackwell only minutes away. A soothing silence falls over us as we get closer. The awkwardness from before leaves through my cracked open window. This totally feels like when Mom and Dad would take me on a drive to one of the beaches in Seattle. Butterflies in my stomach as I watch the street lights and houses zoom by on the way to our house, with me all tuckered out and wanting to go to sleep. 

The car pulls over on the side and I quietly get out to try not to kick anything in her unusually neat car. Guarantee Chloe makes it extra messy whenever they drive together. Not like mine would be clean either. 

The passenger side window rolls down and Chloe looks at me with a smile. "It was hella cool to see you again, even if my truck ended up all sorts of fucked up. Welcome back to Arcadia Bay, Max."

Rachel peeks her head out to wave as they slowly began to drive off. "If you need anything, just know even if I'm with those Vortex Club gals that you can just come up to me. I know they're not exactly people that you'd want to be around, but I try to be the one that makes everyone play nice. See you around." Soon after, I could see the headlights turn into what is probably Chloe's house, if she still lives there. 

After nearly two months of social anxiety kicking my ass and grades getting low, this is okay. Getting to know a popular Vortex Club member and becoming friends again. But tomorrow is definitely hang out with Kate and retrieve Warren his flash drive filled with unimaginable horrors and apparently my… photo's day. 

Yeah. That was an uncomfortable thought that made me shudder when I saw that folder this morning. Really hope that's not why he needs it urgently.

 

Chapter Text

October 8th

Hey diary. What a way to start the week, right?

Currently waiting for Kate to get back from the bathroom at Cafe Lanel. Don't know if it's worth talking about but I had another weird ass dream last night. This time, it was on top of the girls dorm, raining super hard. Now that I think of it, it felt like my other daydream yesterday. Some poor girl was standing on the ledge. We start talking and she's crying really hard. It's like I could literally feel whatever she was feeling, could barely swallow with how stuffed my throat was.

Then after a while she just… jumps. I try to reach out but I'm too far and end up throwing my phone on the floor which woke me up. Luckily nothing's broken but it probably gave everyone a good scare in the middle of the night. What could've even caused these two dreams? Something I watched on Warren's drive? There's a ton of fucked up movies on there but none about people front flipping off of buildings to their death. Maybe it's one of those dreams that people say have meanings and represent something in your life.

Then before photography class, Jefferson asked me about Kate. Said he's worried since she doesn't really talk alot and just kinda leaves as soon as class ends.

Side note, he's honestly an awesome sauce teacher. If there was ever some crazy shit to go down, he'd be the last person I'd think of.

I just told him that we're going to get some coffee after so hopefully that says something to him. But maybe the two are related? What if that girl on the roof was Kate? The weird thing is that she had the same kind of just-woke-up ponytail style.

This whole day just feels off. Started raining early in the morning and just stopped as soon as we came in. Luckily the cafe actually cares and has a carp thing hanging over the outside tables when that happens. If there was a day that aforementioned shit would go down, today is that day.

On a lighter note, I'm starting to think Warren likes me to some degree. We talked for a bit in his chemistry class before photography and made a really cool powder bomb thing. Ms. Grant—also an awesome teacher—kinda got mad at us because we stuffed a lot of random shit into it and made a huge mess on his desk. It looked like something out of Breaking Bad. Thank God that Madsen security guard guy didn't see what happened. We haven't had a lot of run-ins but I heard he's a hard ass for no reason. Back on topic, we were cleaning it up and he asked me to go with him to some Planet of The Apes marathon at the drive in. I told him that me and Kate were on a coffee date all the way down near Chloe's house.

Okay well, I didn't actually say date. Just thought it was clever, which it wasn't.

He just kinda said okay with a smile that's honest to God in my top ten most awkward smiles of all time. I feel you too. If it helps, we did make plans for Wednesday. Which is also

The

Fucking

DEADLINE

Alright Max. Tomorrow after class scratch that, tomorrow morning. Get that photo to Jefferson and then you can relax all day. You got this, girl.


The smell of sweet caffeine radiates through the air alongside musky earth from the rain just minutes ago. Our waiter drops off the coffee as soon as Kate sits down next to me, going back inside the cafe to attend to more people. Her scarf scrapes against the wooden table as she crosses her arms on it. "Thanks for going with me," she says in a soft voice before taking a tiny sip.

My hand wavers over my coffee, wispy lines of cream running through the light brown surface. "It's definitely a coffee type of day." Do I tell her about Jefferson? She was really quiet on the bus down here. Probably because her little bunnie's alone at the dorms right now. "How's the whole contest thing going? Did you pick your photo?"

"I'm not putting one in. My parents probably wouldn't even let me go."

Damn. Kate takes really pretty photos, though. Better than me, to be honest. The heat from the coffee causes my hand to flinch upwards and down onto the table. "I mean, you could still kinda represent us, right? You'd still be the Everyday Hero winner. That has to mean something."

"It's just a little piece of paper or trophy that says it, doesn't actually mean I'm an Everyday Hero," she says with huffs of clouds floating up with each word.

Alright. Therapist Max, here we go. Taking a sip of the coffee, I rest on my elbows and lean forward. "Are you okay, Kate? Before class, Jefferson pulled me to the side and he said he was really worried about you. I am, too."

There's a moment where the only sound is tires rolling over the tarmac in the distance and droplets of rain dripping off of the carp above us. "You know that Vortex Club party last week?" Her eyes are locked onto a scorch mark embedded in the table.

"Mhm." This feels like it's going in a direction that I don't want to and my stomach sinks as I prepare for the worst.

"I got a drink, only a little shot because everyone else was drinking and didn't want to feel left out, and I just had it for a couple of minutes. For a second I turned around to say hello to someone, then when I turned back around, I decided to just do it and drink it. A minute later or two and Rachel tells me that we need to go. Right when we made it to the door of the house, I felt really dizzy and she had to basically carry me to her car." Kate takes a trembling deep breath. "She said from the entire time during the car ride and getting me to the dorms, I was completely blacked out and mumbling some prayer the whole time. Apparently, someone drugged my drink and Rachel was the only one who saw it or did anything. Who knows what would've happened?"

Jesus. I cup her lone hand, which she pulls back for a second before accepting. "I'm so sorry that happened, Kate. Those Vortex assholes are something else." If anything, Rachel's the real Everyday Hero. Picked me and Chloe up yesterday, and saved Kate from whatever fucked up plans they had for her. "We need to go to the police-"

"How are they going to believe me? I bought the drink, Max," she snaps back and partially faces towards me.

That fucks this whole thing up. They'll probably just charge her for buying alcohol and send her off. No way Vortex Club didn't pay them off, either. "I heard the assault kits they have tested for party drugs..." I say before a thought comes in, "but those are only the same day. Shit."

Kate takes a big sip of her coffee before wiping off her upper lip with a napkin and letting go of my hand. There's a look she gives that gets me really blue. I can't really describe it, but it's just staring off into the distance like she's focused on some ant across the country. That same look is the one plastered on her face right now, and even back in class this week.

"I didn't mean to bring it up, I'm just worried because you're so quiet." My coffee's gone cold by now but at least the flavor was one that sort of works when cold. Like chocolate infused with crack to make you anxious of everything, but at least you're not tired anymore.

"It's okay, I'm just usually like this."

Hopefully this will be a mood brightener. Heightener. Better-er. "How's your bunny doing?"

A hint of a smile builds on her cheek facing me. "She's doing good. Alice, by the way."

"Hmm. Alice in Wonderland?"

She nods. Silent victory screech for the win. "Is it really that obvious?"

The scream of a seagull echoes overhead and towards the beach. "All I literally do is watch movies and read."

"Speaking of watching movies, what was on that flash drive that Warren gave you?"

"Uh… movies. Really, really gory movies. And my photos." Warren, if you're reading my mind, fuck you for Hannibal Holocaust. Just the first thirty minutes gave me nightmares for freaking days.

Her eyes squint at me, eyebrows furrowed as she takes another sip. "Your photos?" she says in a mumble.

"My actual photos. For photography. Not just hiding in the corner and snapping pictures of me type of photos." Sounds just a little better. A police car with sirens blasting zooms by us, rumbling our coffee. My ears ring for a moment but after being in Seattle, I can safely say that I don't freak out like I used to since it's such a big city. Wait a second. Arcadia Bay isn't a very big town. And when I was writing in my diary, there was a really soft crack in the distance, maybe the junkyard?

It's nothing, Max. Not your beeswax.

"Why does he have your photos?"

For that… I really don't know. "Backup in case, uh, something happens," I lie. Nice one.

Kate leans the cup towards her, revealing nothing left except for rings where the coffee stained inside. "You guys do hang out a lot. And when we were at lunch, he asked where you were."

Uh, in that case, then it's one sided. Kind of. "For the flash drive thing. I gave it back just before photography." High five. Bomb defused. I can feel my cheeks flush but at least it's cold so it makes sense and not just my body being an ass.

We sit in silence to gaze at flocks of birds flying under pillowy clouds, the sunlight escaping and pale red rolling across the sky.


Chloe: where r u

Max: In my cocoon.

Chloe: okay good. feels nice to have someone else I know here, even if it kinda started hella rocky.

Max: Samesies. So I wanted to ask you something about Rachel. How was your day?

Chloe: me and rachel kinda fucked up.

Chloe: more like I did, really

Max: Tell me your problems, young one.

Chloe: elder one to you

Chloe: but i kinda mighta sorta showed off my gun to her when we went to the junkyard

Max: What the FUCK. Where did you get a gun?

Chloe: the little junkyard up north like last week lol. it's davids gun from when he was my step fuhrer.

Chloe: anyways before you start giving me a lecture, i accidentally shot it and scared the living shit out of us.

Chloe: fun fact, she actually told me to keep it b/c my fingerprints are on it. so probably not going back there for a week or two.

Max: So that's what that was. Me and Kate saw some police cars going super fast by us.

Chloe: speaking of kate, is she okay? Rachel said something about her but i was gone off my tits from the devils lettice

Max: Lettuce. Lettice is that math shit with the boxes.

Chloe: no that's lattice. with an A, me thinks

Max: Well, back on topic, we went out on a coffee date.

Chloe: awww

Max :|

Max: Anyways, some krazy shit happened at the Vortex Club party last week. One of the shitheads there drugged her drink and Rachel dragged her out at the last second.

Chloe: fuck those rich pricks. I was planning on going with Rachel as her plus one. at least if i went, i would've kicked serious ass

Max: I know. You're literally undefeated when we used to play fight. And that one time we actually did fight…

Chloe: sawry about that one. did she say she was going to the end of the world party this thursday?

Max: No, I didn't ask. Probably not the best of ideas after that whole thing.

Chloe: oh okay. tell her if she's going for whatever reason, that me and rachel are going to be watching her in case it happens again. you're coming, right?

Max: I mean I'm going to turn in the photo tomorrow so yeah.

Chloe: oh shitake mushrooms. u gonna get super hella fucked up with us

Max: ? - I think you're missing one of those.

Chloe: that wasn't a question, missy. we are coming out of that party like fucking legends.

Max: That's the Chloe I know. Not even a day after seeing each other again and you want to black out together.

Chloe: yuuuup. btw me and rachel broke into the pool

Max: On a scale of how-much-did-I-expect-this, this is a solid 10

Chloe: you know it

CHloe: come down, we're about to hop in so hurry your skinny ass up

Max: I can't :( It's already midnight and I need to go to sleep. Maybe some other time :)

Chloe: the audacity you have to use two emojis in the span of one message. if you actually aren't going, nighty night while me and rachel have the time of our life here :) [revenge emoji]

Max: I really would, but I gotta sleep. Night, Chlo.

Chapter Text

"Well," Chloe says while tossing her phone onto a backpack laid against the tiled wall, "looks like it's just the two of us." Her legs dangle into the water lit up from the pool lights below.

Rachel's voice drips in from behind. "She doesn't seem like the type to do the illegal stuff we do."

"You mean I do?"

She sits down onto Chloe's left, arms wrapping around her. "Sometimes the star student has to unwind. Besides. I can easily talk our way out of anything. Except for the gun thing today."

Her eyes shut hard as she gave a loud sigh. "That was my bad. I didn't think that dumbass would leave it loaded." Only thing is David's ex-military. Would he really throw a perfectly good pistol away without even unloading it?

"Where'd you put it, anyway?"

"Um… in that little box under my bed I think. Don't worry, there's hella shit there and Mom doesn't check it unless she asks first."

A smile raises her cheeks. "See, I told you it'd be a good idea to be on the same level with Joyce. I bet she would've found it by now before."

"I'm lucky she didn't look in it around when you and I met, would've ruined her entire decade," she says while moving her feet in a circular motion, causing waves to ripple across the water.

"So… not to get you mad but I did take a gander inside before you cleaned it out the week before.

Chloe leans away, head facing her with wide eyes. "Dude, I'm so sorry you saw the-"

"Letters? Chlo, they were really sweet from what I can remember. Never thought you'd have a soft spot but a couple of years later and I can certainly say you have a ton of them."

Thank God she didn't see the other stuff.

"I did see all those expired-ass condoms. And those magazines-"

Her free hand comes to Rachel's mouth, muffling the rest of the sentence before using Rachel's wrapped arm to slingshot her into the pool in a display of an absolute splash zone to spray everything close by. Chloe keels over in laughter, face turning red and bare abs softly flexing with each breath.

"Chloe!" Rachel yells out while wiping water out of her doe-like eyes with black mascara running down to stain the pool.

Chloe blows a kiss towards her. "Love ya but I'm unfuckwithable-" Suddenly her ankle is snapped down into the water, nearly toppling on top of Rachel as they surfaced to cling to the side of the pool for support.

"Very fuckwithable, as a matter of fact." Rachel rests her head on Chloe's shoulder. "Very fuckwithable."


October 9th

You already know the biz, diary.

The dream last night was a doozy. I was in someone's room next to their bed. This time it was super detailed and I could actually see what it was instead of some blurry mess. There was a big ass TV on the wall facing this bed with a whole bunch of hospital machinery stuck on its side. There was a girl laid out on the bed, weak and frail, and a photo album in front of me filled with pictures of two kids. Pretty sure one of them was me and the other was the girl, who looked like Chloe a little bit but she was the only thing that was really blurry.

I guess we just woke up because there was some sun poking through the blinds. We start to talk and after a while, she points to a little dial thing connected to an IV. I twist it and she starts thanking me out of nowhere before I wake up to my alarm. But when I woke up, there was something choking me like I was about to cry. It was super weird but I had to keep laying down for a second. I'm okay now though. There has to be something causing these dreams.

Oh and I finally turned in the picture. When class ended, Jefferson called me over to his desk and told me that today was do or die basically. Luckily I had the photo in a folder and handed it to him. Words cannot describe how surprised he was that I, Max Caulfield, turned in a photo after literally bothering me every day. Also, Rachel turned one in as well since she has the class first thing in the morning. It actually made me feel kinda better because I honestly really don't want to be called up to talk in front of everyone. Anxiety attack city right there.

Anyways, Kate's doing much better. We had to do a partner thing in photography class and we decided to go together. The little project was to go around the campus and find something to take a picture of to practice finding something mundane and making it look nice, I guess. Once again, super cool that Jefferson does these types of little assignments. But yeah, she said that if anything else happens that she'll call or text me. Other than that, I finally took that big ass wall of photos down. Looks weird if I'm being honest. Everything else is crazy decorated except for that one where it's straight blank. If I can work my ass off then maybe it'll be home to a real cheap TV. Then again, it's damn near two thousand dollars. Maybe a poster of Akira's sick motorcycle.

Speaking of Rachel, Chloe wasn't bullshitting when they said that they broke in. I overheard Wells talking about a student saying they saw two people come out of the locker rooms right next to the pool. Really hope that they don't have security footage but I think the security douche said they were looking at putting some cameras in the pool for the End of The World Party. It's a weird name for a party. End of the world? Unless some storm comes in and destroys Arcadia Bay, then it's just a… never mind it's a cool name. And from what Chloe said over text last night, we'll probably die from alcohol poisoning anyways.

It's pretty nice to have a little private diary to explain my day-to-day shit to. I should give you a name, though. Holden? Wait I got it.

Emma. Max Caulfield and Emma Caulfield.

See ya soon. Max out *mic drop*


Warren raps his knuckles on the dashboard before looking at me. "You missed out yesterday on that marathon!" The car rumbles to life as he twists the key in place. "How did the thing with Kate go?"

He actually has a really cool car. A teensy bit old but what else can you expect from a seventeen-year-old who got it gifted to him? My camera is tucked into my lap with a small cover over the lens. "Very cold. And my hands literally wouldn't stop shaking when I got home." I glance at myself in the dusty sun cover mirror, praying there wasn't anything left on my lips from the school lunch I saved. A scoop of dry rice and a chicken wing. Rice was good but the chicken wing was pretty bad.

"Lemme guess. Was it kinda light brown and tasted like chocolate?"

I nod.

"Yup," he says while doing a u-turn to face towards the Lighthouse, small clouds scattered across the sky. What is with everyone and their mother doing u-turns? "That one is a little too mighty for you. Kapri's Latte, or as I like to call it, the… uh…. I don't actually have a name for it yet."

Nice one, Warren. The smell of gasoline wraps around us as it pushes through the air conditioning. "How about go-tassium from that little science experiment earlier?"

He gives me a side-eye partnered with droopy eyelids. "Really? That's all Mad Max could come up with?"

"I did give you the key to the little test. Brain powers all used up. Need a mana potion."

"Hopefully the little cliff should wake us up on our little da- I mean hangout thing," he says with an awkward laugh.

There's a loud silence on the way to the Lighthouse. Honestly, Warren's really sweet but kinda weird. Not a bad weird, but it feels like I'm his only friend. Then again, the same thing sorta goes for me too. Sometimes that's all you need, right? Just someone who understands you better than you do… but I already have that person. And she has hers. At first, I was kind of jealous Monday night until I realized that we both moved on. Would be super weird not to after five years.

We park the car on the side of the road and make our way to the top, only small talk about where we're supposed to go or watching out for animal shit. It all looks so familiar to the last time me and Chloe were here. I don't even know what we were doing out here, maybe doing one of our little pirate adventures, and especially alone. Those days were definitely better than they are now.

Warren pushes past a low hanging branch, pointing towards the log stairs that lead up to the cliff. He bends over and takes a deep breath with hands on knees. "Hold on a second, I didn't think it'd be so damn tiring just to get up here."

"We've been walking for only five minutes. Haven't you been up here before, Warren?"

After ruffling his hair, he continues on forward up the stairs. "Honestly… no. That's kinda why you're kinda the party leader right now."

We walk up the stairs and finally reach the top. Jesus, if nostalgia was a drug I'd be overdosing right now. Literal days have been spent up here. There're even my and Chloe's names carved into the side of the bench as I sit down closest to the lighthouse, Warren joining me. For almost two months, the only sound I heard was either cars honking, loud ass music from Victoria's room, students messing around outside, and my keyboard clicking from getting those essays out on time. But now the crashing waves bring fresh air from old carpet and cooked ramen. It's like when you just did a mile run or something super tiring and finally get to take that deep breath that you can feel in your chest. That's exactly what it feels out here, and I think Warren agrees too with how he took off his jacket and is now covering up in a really small pseudo blanket.

"So you're telling me I've been here my whole life and I've been missing out on this?" he says with an arm outstretched to the sun surrounded by orange clouds.

The cold air forced me to cross my arms. "Believe me, when me and my friend found out about this place, we'd come here at least once a week."

"Damn… do you guys still come here?"

We probably will, sooner or later. "Not really. The last time was like, years ago. We were playing around as some pirates, the stuff you'd expect from middle schoolers."

Warren glances over for a moment. "That must've been nice to have someone like that."

"It is." Hm. I sense another angsty therapy session opening up for the second chapter- I mean day in a row. "I don't think I ever asked you this, but did you live here in Arcadia your whole life?"

"Yeah. Weird how we didn't meet each other earlier if we lived in this tiny town."

"Probably did. But back then, I was super duper anti-social. Like, sit in the corner of the auditorium hoping nobody would notice me even though there was a big announcement kind of anti-social. Even this week, Jefferson called on me and I had a mini freak out." Coincidentally that mini freak out led me to meet Chloe and Rachel. Butterfly effect right there.

"Me too, even though it was more of my only choice. People probably like you, Max."

I scoff with a smile to make sure he doesn't get the wrong impression. "Tell that to the Vortex Club, and especially to Nathan and Victoria." You know, with how beautiful the sunset looks, there's a reason my camera's here. I take off the lens and focus in on a lone bird hanging below its flock, perfectly aligning inside the squares Jefferson taught us about. I take the shot and Warren jumps up to stand near me to see the photo.

The camera spits it out and I let him take it. "Damn, Max. Guess Blackwell is the right school for someone with photo skills like you. With a Z."

Well, still getting a B in photography. Getting there. "And for someone with chemistry skills like you. You can keep it, by the way. Already turned in my contest photo."

We sit back down, Warren stuffing it into a hoodie pocket. "Getting blessed by the photographer herself, I see. You going to that End of The World Party?" He scoots a tiny bit closer and leaves just enough for my camera to separate us.

Might not remember going with what Chloe said last night. The sun lowers itself even more into the ocean, beginning to welcome night. "Yeah, with Rachel and Kate I think."

"Woah. Like, the Rachel? She asked you to go with her?" he says like an excited kid.

"Yeah...no...well long story short, yes. I thought she'd definitely be more like the rest of the Vortex Club but she's pretty cool."

"Her gir- uh, friend is really cool too. Punk rock as fuck." He throws up a rockstar sign.

"Chloe, she's that friend I talked about earlier."

There's a moment where his eyes widen. "What the fuuuuck. You knew her since you guys were kids?"

I nod with a half-assed smile. "We did everything together. And no, she was not like how she is now. Like, less vulgar and had normal hair."

"That's the definition of opposites attract. You're super shy and hate attention and she's the life of the party. I remember I went to a birthday party and she was so drunk, Rachel almost got vomited on."

Wish I could rewind back about five seconds before hearing that. Does sound like her though. The ruffle of trees behind us tosses a leaf at me, plucking it off out of my hair. Damn nature. "We'll see if I'm still shy when the drinks start to come in." Alright, that came out a little aggressive, Max. "I didn't know you went to parties, though."

"Wow. That hurts me deep in the soul. You think I just stay in my dorm and play WoW the whole time? Because that's absolutely correct."

I give a giggle and the feeling of my cheeks flush causes me to pull my shirt over my mouth. Also helps with the cold. At least that's what I'll tell him. If he asks. For some reason. We sit in the cold, the only warmth coming from him and the upper half of the sun painting the sky with violet. It's been so long since the last time I saw the sunset from here. Even when me and Chloe got stuck around here it didn't look this good. Now there's nothing between us. Just blue oceans for as far as the eye can see. Seattle looked good, but never like this. There was just this small-town feeling Arcadia Bay gives that revives my childhood. It's not the best place to live but damn if it isn't the freaking prettiest thing in my life.

Warren looks at me with rosy cheeks and hands fidgeting with a pair of headphones. "Hey, Max."

I meet his gaze, somehow telepathically giving him a 'what'. There's a flock of butterflies in my stomach starting to crescendo and get stronger.

"Sunsets really nice, right?" His leg starts to bounce.

"Yeah. Makes me feel… safe for some reason. Like it's watching over me."

"You make me feel safe. L-like comfortable I mean." The wind blows up the sea breeze to us, an extra chilly spike hitting the bench.

Max.

Max.

You know damn well where this is going. There are two options.

Either you take the camera out from between us.

Or say it's time to leave.

And ever since we got here, there's been something lingering in my head about Warren. Doesn't matter what everyone else thinks, or will think tomorrow or some other day when the news gets out. This is between you, and only you. What feels right in your mind. And what you feel in your mind is exactly what's coming out. Usually, you're really bad at shit like this, but for this one time.

Go for it.

I take the camera out from between us and onto my lap, wiping at its yellow and black shell. "I know what you mean," I say with a smile while taking a scoot closer to him. There's only a little distance left behind, and that's for him to venture across. "Only person that came up to me at orientation was you. Everyone else just went by."

The lights of Arcadia Bay shine through the trees on our left to trace Warren's outline. "Didn't want you to feel alone? I don't know, just saw you walking around and taking photos. Which I have now learned that you take really pretty photos."

"You do know most of the photos you've seen are selfies… right?" The darkening sky hides my blushed cheeks but not the fluttering of my heart.

He gives a short awkward chuckle. "Uh, point still stands, I guess?"

Finally, he closes the distance, shoulders touching.

"There's a reason we're here, isn't there?." I turn my body towards him, eyes trailing away from the clouds covering the rest of the fading sun and onto his.

"I mean, from what I heard it's an awesome spot to hang out, especially with you."

"Samesies. This year would suck pretty hard if I didn't know you."

"I… uh…." His voice comes out as soft a mumble. But he leans in, either by accident or on purpose, with a hand reaching to my cheek to rub a thumb over the rosy skin.

I lean in as well to meet Warren's lips.

And it's exactly what felt right in my mind.


10:58

Max: Hey. How did the whole late night dip go?

Chloe: i smelled like chlorine and mom got hella suspicious when i got home. took the fastest shower of my life and knocked out. other than that, it was super fun. you missed out on it.

Chloe: also…

Chloe: rach saw you with warren…

Chloe: ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) (no emojis still)

Max: Wait how did you even get that?

Chloe: copy and paste like the interweb genius i am

Chloe: don't avoid the question at hand tho. soooo what's between you and warren? she said that you gave him a super duper super long hug

Chloe: longer than the ones you used to give me. NOT THAT IM JELLY

Max: Can you promise to not tell anyone, Chlo?

Chloe: pinky

Max: Because I really don't want people finding it out.

Chloe: say pinky back or else i'll make posters of whatever you tell me and hang them up around arcadia

Max: Pinky

Max: Me and Warren are dating.

Chloe: oh

Chloe: my

Chloe: thats a wowzers from me

Chloe: omg max finally found a sk8er boy

Max: Hopefully he doesn't see me l8er boy.

Chloe: wow finally joining in after speaking all proper for the first few days

Max: That tends to happen when your school is full of pampered kids.

Chloe: either that or you're just hella happy and in wuv

Max: I mean… yeah. We went to the Lighthouse and talked for super long. Then I kinda just went for it and we kissed.

Chloe: and she had her first kiss

Chloe: im literally smiling so fucking hard for you

Max: Uh, not my first.

Chloe: explain

Max: High school, kinda cute guy, boom. Nothing else happened.

Chloe: noice.

Max: Anywhoolio, I gotta sleep for class tomorrow.

Chloe: aka meet up with warren

Max: :/

Chloe: wait you guys are coming to the party tmw right

Max: Yes. And yes, I will be drinking.

Chloe: thats the motherfucking spirit

Max: lol night

I close the messages app and click the ringing phone symbol from Warren, a smile from the two of us on our faces through the video call.

"Hey, Maxi."


So can I call you tonight?

I'm just trying to make up my mind

Just how I feel

Could you tell me what's real?

-Can I Call You Tonight?

Dayglow

 

Chapter Text

Chloe: meet me at two whales diner after class and the little warren thing you talked about

Chloe: lovebirds


October 10th today's the day

 

Today's dream was… almost nothing. Just someone falling? Don't get what it meant but there wasn't much else to it. Better than the crazy vivid dreams from yesterday. 

Speaking of dreams, I'm over the moon right now, Emma. Not as much as I thought but still am. Basically at like, fucking Pluto right now. I don't even know how it happened. On the drive to the cliff with Warren, I didn't feel anything. Just two friends going to hang out. But as soon as we got to the Lighthouse, it started to blanket me. When we came back I really thought I'd wake up today and totally regret it because I was so into the moment like a drunk hook-up. But I don't. Not so far at least. Gotta try new things, right?

We went for some shitty school breakfast before the first bell rang and then hung out after our last classes to plan the party. Turns out he's gonna be somewhere around two hours late because of some tests he has to retake. Luckily the party starts I think… five for the early birds and at least until nine since that's when the contest winners get announced. So he should be here by then. Is it bad that I don't care? Geez, that sounds super mean. More like, is it bad that it doesn't really matter that he's gonna be late? It's not like we didn't just hang out for a bit at Lanel Cafe. Don't know how this whole dating shit works, to be honest. Maybe Chloe can fill me in when we get to her house. 

Also turns out Kate is not going. I asked her today during photography and she said she'd rather be in her dorm sleeping. You know, I would too, but there's a raving punk dragging me into this. And after everything that happened to her, it's for the best.

What do I wear? Don't have a dress but don't think I need one. Would be weird to go in a suit that my dad accidentally packed. All I really have is the

Chloe has to have something, even if she's kind of tall compared to me. If that doesn't happen, then probably the patented grey jacket and blue jeans look that everyone knows me by.

Speak of the devil look who's here. Later Emma.


Chloe—dressed in a grey beanie, hoodie, and sweats—barges through the door and immediately spots me sitting in the corner booth closest to the jukebox playing some country. She sits down across from me, facing the Lighthouse through a window. "Dude, you gotta spill the beans." Her arms lay spread out on the red booth cushions. "Who liked who first? Do you fall asleep at night thinking about him? Is he a good ki-"

I shake my head as if to throw the blush off of my cheeks. "I already did last night over text. Also, where's Joyce?"

She rolls her eyes while looking back at the open kitchen-filled chefs running back and before between stoves, sinks, and the waiters. "Took the day off."

"Is she okay?"

"Yeah. Just kinda rolled her ankle down the stairs. Or well, the last step. And since everybody is probably coming here before, during, and after the party, that would've been hella moving around for her. How did your little hangout go with Warren?" she says with a smug look.

It's not gonna stop, is it? "Uh, we hung out at Lanel Cafe. Got super annoying though since Trevor and Dana were there so we couldn't do anything."

"Oh shit, are they dating?"

"Maybe? We just said hey and left."

"Well, don't be surprised if you see Trev and War plotting."  

A waiter walks by us with a to-go box before coming back, the smell of bacon drifting around. "You ordered the take out of large bacon, correct?"

I nod and take the box as he nods back before doing a little jog into the kitchen area. "This is for that drive thing. And also for that whole five years of me turning into Casper." Handing the box over to her side, she opens it up with a smile building on her cheeks. 

"Holy shit, dude. You definitely won the Everyday Heroes Contest in my book." Chloe snatches the box like a gremlin and stands up. "Let's get out of here. You are not going to the party in that Seattle ass outfit," she says while tugging at my hoodie drawstring. 

We go outside into the warm air, clouds swiveling overhead with a strong ocean scent barrelling from behind Two Whales. A scan across the parking lot shows no sign of her beat-up truck. "Where's your car?"

A gruff sigh escapes her as she jaywalks straight across the street with me reluctantly following. "Apparently,' she says with one air quote, "the auto shop said my truck is really fucked up. The alienator-"

"I think it's an alternator, Chloe."

She stops for a moment to give a glare of annoyance before continuing towards the big main road leading a hill up to Blackwell. "Anyways, whatever that thing does, I think power or something, it's about to die basically. So , that's a couple… hundred… dollars. I'm hella lucky that my mom is cool about everything that happened so she kept a little bank account open for me for emergencies and shit. A.k.a, weed and food and stuff and music and food. Speaking of weed, you know that little brat Nathan?" She points the box of bacon at me. 

"Mhm." At this point, I'm super lost like you are. For a moment, her voice gets drowned out by a flock of seagulls culling overhead and landing on a brick building. The view of them sitting up there in a group of ten gives me some sort of goosebumps, like in Seattle when me and my friends would hang out on a birthday or just go out for the fun of it. Shame I didn't bring my camera with me.

"-so the next day, Mr. Trustfund baby over here decides to give me some fucking oregano! Can you believe that shit? Forty dollars just gone down the drain-"

You know that Charlie Brown cartoon? How whenever his folks would talk to him, it'd sound like wah-wah-wah ? Yeah. That's exactly how it sounds right now. It's weird, though. Chlo is never this talkative. Usually, she'd call me out for being quiet or just shut up after a few sentences but geez, man. She's really going far with this rant. 

Unless.

I put a hand on her shoulder to stop us from walking and look into her eyes. Blue irises jumble around before focusing on me, the slightest tinge of red surrounding them. "Are you seriously high right now?"

Chloe gives an awkward toothy grin. "Not seriously high. More like, decently. Kind of." A pause. "It was just a half joint, Officer Max," she says while opening the box of bacon to take a slice. "I'll be fine at the party."

"What about Joyce?"

Her eyes turn into pinpoints. "Oh… shit." She looks up ahead the street, the Price house at the end of our block in all of its purple… purpleness. Even from here, I can see Joyce's signature crossed arms and head shake whenever we would get in trouble, accompanied by some southern phrase. "It's not that noticeable, dude."

I shake my head. "It's really obvious, especially when you basically live with her. Does she know you smoke?"

"Um, no. Rachel had to save my ass a couple of times before. Just occupy her, please? She'll be hella happy to see you again, anyways. I told her that you'd come over but kinda forgot to ask you."

We continue onwards to the Price house, the front door staring at me. Everything looks the same on the outside, at least. Feels like I just time-traveled back to 2007 with jean shorts, trench coats, and Hey There Delilah on repeat on the little radio William used to have. What I would give just to have those years back when we didn't have a care in the world apart from school, parents, and each other. 

Chloe jingles a pair of keys into the doorknob and pushes inward, the stairs up to the second floor still covered in that greyish carpet stained with years of dropped drinks. "Hey, mom! I have your second favorite pirate here!" She tugs me inside and closes the door. "Remember the plan, stan," she whispers.

"Max!" Joyce's southern accent pops out from the kitchen to the left of the hallway, sizzles and a bit of steam reaching us. There's a click of a stove turning off, and out she comes in pajamas. "It's so good to see you again, Maxine. And you still look the same as you did with your freckles." 

"You too, Joyce. N-not the freckles, but good to see you again. Chloe said you hurt your ankle?" I look at the aforementioned totally not sober punk as she drops the box off on a counter and gives the stove a peek, almost salivating into whatever is being cooked. 

Joyce laughs before turning towards the stairs. "It's nothing bad, just gave me a bruise and a hit on my pride but other than that, I'm just fine. Think the house might be telling me something. You want some chicken I'm cooking up? Little old though, but since y'all are going to that party, I figured I might as well finish it off." She waves me into the kitchen and lightly taps Chloe out of the way. 

It's just chicken if you wanted some weird purple prose of succulent chicken. Also doesn't look very good since it's just browned a little, which is rare to say about her cooking. "No thanks, Joyce. We'll just look for something to eat after."

"I find it funny how before, you would never go to a party. Always with your camera." Joyce stirs the pan for a second before giving a side-eye. "How is your photography going? Anything you're working on?"

"My teachers are announcing the winner of some contest at the party. I don't think I'm going to win, but the winner gets to represent Blackwell in San Francisco.'

A sigh escapes her with a smirk. "What I would give to go to San Francisco again. Take some pictures for me there, will ya?"

Chloe tugs on my sweater's arm, making me look back. And holy shit is her eyes bloodshot red. "Me and Max are gonna head up to my lair and plan the outfits."

"Is your girlfriend picking you guys up?"

Wait what? Girlfriend? Chloe? I look at Chloe, and she looks at Joyce while pulling me into the hallway. "I think so, see ya…" she trails off as we go upstairs. 

Soft carpeted steps change to hardwood as we turn into her room on the right. The smell of ash makes my nose crinkle when she closes the door, a poster of some rock concert near the top. Matter of fact, the whole room is filled with posters even on the slanted ceiling since her room is part of their roof. Boxes of magazines cover the floor and stick out from beneath an unmade bed. "Jesus, do you not clean your room?" I step over to sit on the bed and make sure to kick what I'm pretty sure is a singular Lego brick into the hanger stuffed closet. Goal-lasso, or whatever soccer commentators say.

Chloe stops to look at the mess before sitting down next to me as if her room doesn't look like the aftermath of when we blew up her doll. "I mean, it was hella worse a year ago."

"How could it be worse than this?"

A finger juts towards a box of magazines. "Those were covering the floor. My floor was a sea of paper, and I was the captain."

"Also," I say while sitting criss-cross and turning towards her, "what was that whole thing about your girlfriend?" 

There's a moment of rare silence from her. She leans forward and puts her elbows on her knees. "That… yeah. That. I was gonna tell you at the party with Rachel there, but might as well spill the beans now. I'm like, half gay."

"Half gay?"

"Yeah. I like dudes and girls." Her face turns flush with a half attempted smile as she looks at me. 

"So bisexual, then."

"Half gay sounds better. Also, uh, Rachel is my girlfriend."

Detective Max. You have cracked the case. Also, that is cute as hell, but not at all what I expected. But she always had something to say about just everyone, guy or girl, nice or mean. And, also was super complimentary of me. More than what was usual. "How long have you guys been dating?"

"Three years. Four? You can ask her when she gets here."

"Wowzers. No offense, but I figured you'd forever be a one-and-done type of person."

"I was after dad. Then she came along to keep me in place when I was pissed at everything. Blaming everyone for a death I took the wrong way." Chloe's voice is soothing, a contrast from the bright and overactive one from before as she scoots towards me. "I know it's sappy as fuck but Rachel made me look at the world differently. There was more to this than drugs and boys. There was my mom, everyone at Blackwell that I barely even know anymore, and even though there were a bunch of unsent letters, there was you. After Adolf Madsen left, she told me to come out to mom. I did, and she started to talk more to me. Whether it was whatever I did that day or whatever me and Rachel were planning, she just talked to me. A little later and I did the same. Whatever daily asshole got his food slightly overcooked, or memories from you, me, and dad about what we talked about at dinner." She laughs and wipes her cheek. "Fuck dude, I got myself crying like a kid again."

High Chloe is clearly best for late-night talks. At least this one is. "You two are literally opposites. That'd be like us dating."

A chirp of a bird fills the deafening silence. "Uh, slow down there, Maxi. Think you forgot about the whole me and Rachel thing. Is Warren gonna be there?"

That's certainly a moment that's coming back to haunt me months down the line. "Hopefully."

"Aw, Max said hopefully for her boyfriend."

I jab her in the side with my elbow. "He has a test to retake, so probably an hour after we get there."

"Color me not surprised at all. He's all about those grades. Actually… give me a second." Chloe bends over to reach for a box, tossing almost everything to the side. She pulls out a grey packet and places it in my hands. "Wrap it before you tap it, girl."

I flip it over from the back, a slimy and rubbery ring inside the plastic torturing my fingertips. 'Trojan Ultra Thin.' "Chloe!" Throwing it back towards her, I give a face of scrunched disgust. "We've been dating for not even a day!"

"Look, dude. You really do not know when shit is gonna go down. Or when he does. Or when you-" A grin builds as she continues with the teasing before getting interrupted. 

"Chloe Price!" Not a chance my cheeks aren't rosy right now. "Do I really look like I would do that?"

"It's been five years since I last saw you. Who knows?"

My phone vibrates, and so does hers. I open up the notification.

4:57

Dad: I just heard you and Joyce just met. How are they doing over there?

Max: Pretty good. I'm at her place right now getting ready for a school thing.

Dad: I also heard about that party. Look, you're 18 now. I went to a ton of parties your age and even younger. Just be careful, alright? Try not to drink more than you can handle.

Max: Are u really encouraging underage drinking

Dad: Well, who's to say I can stop you? Don't tell your mother I said that. If I remember correctly, Chloe went to a lot of parties. I'd say to follow her and if anything gets weird, make sure to tell her and Joyce will pick you guys up. 

Max: Yeah she looks like she went to a lot of parties.

Dad: Also your mother and I do NOT want news of being grandparents. 

Max: RYAN CAULFIELD

Dad: Have fun Maxine haha

Max: Thanks though, maxoxo

Chloe puts her phone down and shuffles towards the closet. "Rach is on the way." She slides the wooden blinds to the side and grabs a handful of crumpled clothes to toss them next to me. "Pick your poison."

Picking up one shows the logo of Hawt Dawg Man himself, all covered in musty crinkles and a weird moistness that makes me drop it. Not wearing a Hawt Dawg Man shirt to the party, especially an unwashed one from super long ago. Another shirt has the sides cut off but also is surprisingly clean and smells like old cherry perfume. 

"You should wear that one. Warren would definitely love that one," she says with a smirk while rummaging through a pile of clothes on the floor. 

I pluck it from my pile, letting it flow down to my knees. "Me wearing this is like you wearing that one," I say while pointing at the Hawt Dawg Man shirt. 

A box is kicked to the side as she takes the cutoff shirt and stands me up. "Come on. First party, first boyfriend, might as well just do it. You can just wear your generic brand sweater over it." I can tell Chloe sees the blush building on my face as she takes a step back, hands-on-hips. "Take chances, dude! I double-dog dare you! "

A flash of hazel blinds me, and something plants itself against my lips, soft like skin. It follows wherever my head turns but not for long. Pulling away forces the world to come back with tinges of blue and red around the edges of Chloe's room, a cold air running through. Except now, we're standing up next to the closet and there's a look of playful shock on her face. Her lips move with barely anything audible comes out as a ringing silence joins in. My hand moves to scratch at my chest, and even though I can feel rough cloth, everything else feels numbed. But… nothing is telling me to freak out or yelp. It's weirdly comforting, like when doctors stuff you full with anesthetic, and just before you pass out, there's maybe five seconds of euphoria where your head is just floating through empty space.

Chloe's mouth moves again, words finally come out . "Damn. You're hardcore, Max! Now I can text Warren and tell him he doesn't stand a chance… unless he's into girl-on-girl action." 

Woah what? Before I can respond, another flash blinds me, this time filled with spirals, dots of purple, and a tight pressure banding around my head and behind my eyes like the worst hangover in the history of hangovers.

"Hey, Earth to Max? Did you smoke some of my weed behind my back? You look like you're gonna freak," Chloe says with her hands at my shoulders. 

I shake my head before focusing on her. "Yeah, sorry. Just zoned out." Not wrong, right? Two times now. And the dreams. Guess it must be the Indian stuff Ms. Grant talks about anytime Blackwell's construction gets brought up. 

"Is my mere presence really that strong? Also, are you taking the shirt or not because there's another one here that Rachel left, and I think you might like it.

"When isn't it?" I say with a chuckle. "And fuck it. Why not?"

"That's the spirit! You," she pushes a finger into my chest, "are getting fucked up with us."

Usually, that would mean someone's getting their ass kicked. But for today, that means this is the last hour I remember before the inevitable blackout. Hopefully won't have to do a speech while potentially and extremely cross-faded. But of course, first time for everything, Max.