My heart is wasted and cut up like a drug
And your tears - they taste like vinegar and blood
And these conversations choke us 'til we're numb
No matter what we're saying, it never seems enough
So take me to the start
Take me to that kiss
'Cause I gotta know, baby, what I'll forget
Sorry that I lost our love, without a reason why
Sorry that I lost our love, it really hurts sometimes
And I'm sorry, sorry
What do you want, what do you want me to say?
Sorry that I lost our love
Until the end of time
~Meg Myers - Sorry~
Letting Chloe go is the hardest thing I've ever done. That counts travelling back in time and getting caught by Mr. Jefferson, trying to save Chloe's dad and losing her instead. I've seen Chloe dead more times than anyone should have to see any number of people die. I don't recommend it. When I went back, when Chloe begged me to go back, I didn't think I'd be able to go through with it. In fact, some part of me imagined I'd be stuck in that bathroom forever, like a perpetual pause button on my last minute few moments with Chloe.
To be honest, I considered whether or not it would be possible. If I could just hold on forever in a place where Chloe could still be alive in both places: where I'd left her on the hill just before the tornado devastated Arcadia Bay and on the floor of the bathroom at the beginning of this week from hell, her head in my lap, bleeding.
If I could hold on to a moment though, I knew I didn't want it to be that one. And if I wanted to save the bay, it was the only option I had. I'm always going to hate myself a little about that. Just a single visit to Arcadia Bay in the last year and maybe… maybe there would've been a day I could visit and just stay. But when I've got Chloe's head pulled up into my lap and I'm watching her slip away, clutching one of her hands in mine, there's nothing more for me to recognize that there's nothing left for me to fix. This is the moment I have to live with. This was the choice I made and while I hate it, I don't know any other way to do this.
She gives me a weak smile before she's gone. I'd like to think that she remembers it all. I want to believe that for a moment just before the end, that time worked differently for her. Somehow maybe she got to see all the memories the other Chloe has of us. Maybe she got to see what she really means to me, every version of her.
Even there, when I know she's leaving me and even though it's in the future of a different life, there's a part of me that still expects the storm to come. I can almost hear the sound of it in the distance, feel the chill from the bay and the wind, as if I've brought it back through time with me.
And there really is a storm around me but it's not the kind I'm waiting for. It's loud and messy and there's a flurry of action that I can't quite hold on to.
I'm not really with it when they find the three of us, though I know it must be quite the tableau. It's only after the paramedics start sliding Chloe out of my arms when I realize that time's moving on without me. I'm led away from the bathroom by someone I don't recognize. An audience of students has gathered in the hall and I hear whispering, some of it is for me, most of it isn't. I ignore them because it's the easiest thing to do when my vision is blurring together with tears I'm just barely holding back.
It's Mr. Jefferson's voice that finally snaps me back into this world. His words are the only ones I can hear above the whispers. immediately I feel winded, like I've just been punched in the stomach. (Or like I've just woken up back in his disgusting dark room.) Moving out of the reach of his arm as he approaches, I shake my head.
"No, get him away from me," I say. The words are hard to get out at first, held back by the lump of tears and anger and denial I've been holding on to. But once they're out, I can say them again. And again. "Get away from me. Get. Away. From. Me."
And then I'm looking for Nathan in the crowd, or David. I don't see them, but I don't see much of the crowd, the faces blur together. I know I can't wait on them anyway, its not like they can know what I know. Nathan's a mess anyhow. I remember his whimpers, the sound of the gun hitting the floor, his pleading, sorry voice as he collapses at Chloe's side. I know he didn't mean it and I know it was Mr. Jefferson that drove him to it.
"It's his fault," I yell, pointing him out. He looks around, feigning innocence or confusion, but I won't let him get away with it. I'm too angry to stop. He's coming towards me like he wants to quiet me down, or take me aside, like he wants to photograph me.
I'm not that Max anymore though.
"Nathan," I'm calling. "Nathan, tell them it's him. Tell them about Rachel Amber. Tell them about the dark room. David! David, it's Mr. Jefferson. He's the one you've been looking for."
Someone does grab me eventually. But they take Mr. Jefferson away too, outside, towards the collection of flashing lights in the parking lot. A bell rings, the hall goes quiet and then everything goes dark.
They tell me I passed out. I was delirious, ranting, and exhausted. The doctor said it was likely just the shock, and the nurses said they called my parents just in case. I convince my parents I am going to be fine and there's no reason to keep me in the hospital if I don't want to stay (I don't). I text them on the way back to school, after their demands I keep them up-to-date on my whereabouts. I have a few dozen other messages too, most of them left by Kate or Warren. It's kind of nice to know they're thinking about me.
By the time I reach my room at Blackwell that night, I know that Nathan and Mr. Jefferson were both arrested. No one seems to know exactly why Mr. Jefferson was taken by the police, other than my outburst in the hallway, but that was enough for the rumor mill. The rest of the messages waiting for me, other than one nasty one from Victoria, are all trying to figure out what else I know. Everyone wants a story.
All I want though is to get to the end of the week. I want to know that it's all done, that it's over for good. Truthfully, I'm hoping that the end of the week comes and goes and with it, my powers go too. They weren't any good, if I can't change the one thing I want to save with them in the first place.
I half expect classes to be cancelled, forgetting I guess that Blackwell isn't like other schools. But I wake up to the normal sounds of girls in the hallway outside my room, almost like it's any other day.
I remember some of it from before. How it feels to go to school without Nathan, or Mr. Jefferson. Some of it is a little different, some of it is a lot different, some I don't remember at all because it never happened this way. If I hadn't already spent a week or more (or however it works all the times I've rewound time) trying to figure out how my powers work and change time, the strong déjà vu might be harder to get through when I remember Chloe's gone too.
There are moments though, when I see things I'm not supposed to. Mr. Jefferson leaning against a table in the photography classroom. Kate's empty seat. The ghost of a dead plant on my window sill. Sometimes I even hear Chloe's voice in my ear, whispers about the park, or Rachel Amber.
And maybe to Chloe's credit, it's supposed to be harder and there's a part of me that just doesn't know how to deal properly with having lost her… again. I think it's because the week isn't over yet. I see snowflakes when there are none, the scent of dead fish floats through town even though the beach is empty. The only thing I know is gone for good is the doe. She doesn't return, not in town, not in the forest, not near the lighthouse (where I spend more time than I should). I think, hopefully, that it's gone because Rachel Amber is finally at rest. Maybe when the week's over, Chloe can have some peace too. I want that for her, I think.
Before all this happened, I was never much of a dreamer. Now, they're vivid and loud and I when I wake up, I don't feel rested. Chloe comes to me a lot and I find myself drifting off in class, thinking about her. I want more of her, more of her than I ever had and I wish we'd had more time on the hill before the storm came. One kiss is not enough to sustain a lifetime.
My dreams try to compensate. I remember Chloe in the pool in next to nothing. I remember lying next to her in the dark, her arm over my stomach as she slept. I wish there were a picture of that: a moment I could visit just once. Maybe my powers are useless now, maybe one visit would be all it would take to destroy the whole world. I wonder if maybe it might be worth it.
Joyce calls me and I meet her at the diner for dinner one night. It's… quiet. Nice, I think, despite the circumstances. When she thanks me for being there at the end, for Chloe, I can't help but cry. It's the first time I really think Chloe -the other on-the-hill-Chloe- might have been right. Maybe, saving Joyce and the rest of Arcadia Bay is the right choice. Before I leave the diner, her mom invites me to go to the funeral with her and David. I can't help but say yes. Chloe's step-"douche" doesn't know what he's done (what he did- would've done-) for me. I wish I could tell him and Joyce what they meant to Chloe, but I know even if I could tell them, it's not really my place.
It's a clear morning the day of the funeral. Everything feels wrong about it, like I don't recognize anything, even though I know where I could be. Where I was.
My head feels like it's full of wool, or static, a constant numb buzzing that I can't shake. My skin feels strange too and I shock myself a few times just walking around the room whenever I touch something metal. Kate comes to check on me once when I'm getting ready, but I can barely talk to her. It's like there's two of her standing slightly apart from each other or perhaps more like there's one of her moving so quickly I can see both where she was and where she'll be at the same time. I'm shaking a little when I meet David and Joyce for the service.
We're walking to the gravesite from the church when the rain starts.
It's like one small, wet drop of rain finds my cheek and then the who sky splits open. We're caught in a downpour moments later, and soaked before we reach Chloe's grave at the top of the hill.
That's when I see the clouds out into the bay. It looks dark where we are because it's raining, but it's easy to see the difference from higher ground. There's a storm in the bay that's nothing like the rain we're currently standing in. If I look down towards the beach, I can already see the way the wind is picking up. But no one else is looking out at the tornado on the horizon.
I notice the drop in temperature and the way the wind blows in from the coast, but I don't need it to know what's happening. My gaze has moved on. From the hill I can see the cliff, and the lighthouse, and two small, distant figures climbing up towards its base. They flicker in and out like lights behind a fogged window but I don't need to see anything more than their shadows to know exactly who they are.
Sirens go off all over town and they reach us in the graveyard, echoing back off the hill so it's a twisted and ghostly noise by the time anyone realizes why they're going off. It seems appropriate that the sound is so distorted. When I look over at Joyce and David, they might as well be ghosts too, or shadows, I can see through one to the other and beyond.
Chloe's mom reaches out to me but I shrug away from her. If she touches me, I'm afraid I'll be pulled back, stuck in a reality where Chloe stays in that box at our feet. And maybe I'm wrong, but I can still see shadow Chloe and shadow me in the distance. I can still see the tornado out in the bay, it's not ripping up the coastline yet and for the first time in a week, I feel calm.
I avoid bumping into Kate and Warren as I turn away from Chloe's parents and I do the only that makes any sense to me in the moment.
Shadow Max flickers into view in the distance and I watch her stumble. My vision goes dark, blurry and pressure fills my head like I'm on a plane that's gaining altitude. I feel an arm around me, pulling me up. "Come on, Max. Get up!" Chloe's voice is so close and I feel like if I just looked to my side, she'd be there.
In the distance, Shadow Chloe helps me to my feet holding one of my arms around her shoulder.
My lungs and throat are burning, I'm freezing from the rain, and tornado is close enough now the wind feels like it's pushing me and pulling me at the same time. The sirens, if they're still sounding, are too distant for me to hear them. Or maybe my head is just too full of choices.
I stumble through the streets of downtown Arcadia Bay, warmth catching me off-guard. Fire to one side of the street, wood cracking, and a scream I don't recognize fills my ears. The diner is in the distance and I know Joyce is inside, I'm supposed to get there for… something important.
"Maaaaxxx, where are you?" I hear Mr. Jefferson calling for me in the darkness. There's lockers on every side of me and a dim circle of light at the end of the hallway.
"Come on, Super Max. See the lighthouse?" Chloe adjusts her weight and I sway to one side as she pulls my arm tighter around her neck. She's walking, half-dragging me up the hill. I say something and bring a hand to my head, trying to stop the pain and the buzzing.
The rain stops and I glance back at the bay to see the tornado moving in onto the coast. I want to look back towards the graveyard but I know I'm too far away now to see if anyone's still up there or not. Well, Chloe might still be, I think. She's ahead of me too now and the ethereal shadow of a doe runs towards her, leading me up the path.
I'm not really thinking about what I'm going to do when I reach them at the base of the lighthouse. Them. Me. Chloe. But I don't know how any of this works.
They're right in front of me now, ghosts of an alternate world, me and Chloe. She handing me the picture and I'm leaning in to kiss her.
My hand goes to my mouth as if I can feel the same kiss, the soft, salty taste of Chloe's lips on mine. I remember it so vividly, which seems silly to think when I can watch it played out right before me."Chloe," I whisper and I don't know which of me is talking. Perhaps it came from both of us.
I'm soaked from the rain and it's in my eyes. I'm cold when Chloe pulls away from the kiss and I reach for her again. I'm not done, not yet. I glance to the coast and watch the storm moving in. I know it's almost too late. I have to use the picture but I'm not ready to give Chloe up yet. I've been dreaming about her all week and I can see her now. The vision is stronger, her hair is brighter, her skin is wet under my fingers and I grip her tightly.
"I'm not ready. Chloe-""Go on, Super Max. Save the world. It's okay."
"No." I shake my head. "No. I miss you. I miss you so much, Chloe. I can't-"
"What?" It's a whisper and she stares at me, shock written into the wrinkles forming on her forehead. "Max…"
"Just kiss me again."
Another version of me is backing away, a photo in her hand. There's a hardness to her features and she stares intently down at the image. I want to watch her, but I can feel Chloe watching me so I turn back to her. A half-smile forms on my lips and I lean forward, lifting on my toes to press my mouth to hers. I feel her start and then fall back, resting a foot behind her to keep us both upright. My hands slide around her waist, under her shirt and I squeeze as if I could hold on to her forever.
My vision swims and darkens as I kiss her. I'm spinning… or the world is.
"Max," she breathes my name into a kiss and the rain could melt me where I stand. I'm barely here, a shadow of myself.
"No," I whisper back. "I won't lose you again."
Her fingers rest on my back, her short nails lightly digging into my dress. I close my eyes and see the gravesite and the rain. I can hear the music playing softly during the procession and the kind but empty words of the man from the funeral home. I push the image away, back, back, back into my mind.
I fight it until I feel her in my arms again. The bottom drops out of my stomach and I'm twisting, spinning until my head feels like it might explode from the pressure. Everything is dark and then I feel like I'm fading. Chloe's fading, both of us nothing but shadow and then-
"Max? Please wake up."
My face is wet and my head feels like it's full of cotton balls. I reach for my nose; I'm pretty sure I'm bleeding.
"Max. Oh god. Max. Don't move. Just don't-"
I stop, I never want to move again if it's making Chloe sound like that. She sounds terrified.
I feel someone's arms pulling at my shoulders and a kiss on my forehead. I'm warm, a blanket maybe, or no-
"Ch-Chloe?" My voice is hoarse and I am barely able to say her name.
"Oh god Max, I thought- I thought you were gone. Oh god."
There's a long silence and I feel more than here Chloe leaning down to me. She presses her head against mine, cradling my head with a hand. I want to cry but it hurts to move and I my eyes hurt when I try to open them.
"What-" I croak, "Wh-what happened?"
She kisses me softly and I feel like I'm melting again. Like there's a fire burning inside me and I'll dissolve into the earth as nothing but ash. I feel a drop of water on my cheek and I try to kiss her back, breathing raggedly between each soft press of her lips. My eye lids finally crack open, but they burn and everything is a bright blur, shadows slowly resolving into blobs of color.
"I'm sorry," Chloe whispers. "Max, I'm so sorry."
"Me- I- Chloe." I don't know what to say first so instead of finishing a thought, I work on focusing my vision.
Eventually I feel Chloe lay down beside me, resting her head on my shoulder. My heart is pounding in my chest and I want to move but everything is stiff.
After I don't know how long I manage to ask, "Tell me what happened?"
"I wish I could," Chloe responds in a whispered air of what sounds like awe, or sadness, or disbelief. "You were leaving… and then somehow, you weren't. You kissed me."
"And then you were here. And the storm…"
I think about how quiet it is.
She sniffs and her breathing is louder, shaky and then she takes a deep breath, letting it out in starts. Her head slides along my shoulder as she nods.
"I thought-" There's an soft sob and then she finishes, "I think you blacked out."
"Huh." I think she might be right, though I think there's more to it.
"I don't know how-" we both start. She finishes, "you did it."