The door to Chloe's truck didn't close the first time she slammed it shut. Instead, it collided loudly with the doorframe and then bounced back open.
"Stupid, fucking, piece of shit," Chloe muttered as she swung the door open and then pushed it shut with everything she had. The door latched shut just as Chloe remembered her bag was still in the truck.
"Son of a fucking Bitch!" Chloe yelled at the top of her lungs, startling a couple people around the parking lot. It was, she decided, one of those days, had been one of those days for a couple months now. It was only October and Chloe wasn't sure she could take it anymore, couldn't take Arcadia Bay for one more minute. Mom was driving her crazy with her constant worrying, step-douche was pissing her off by existing, her classmates wouldn't stop dragging her into their stupid ass drama, and Rachel Amber wasn't even fucking here. She'd been the only thing that made this town tolerable and now she was fucking gone.
Calm down Chloe. She told herself as she opened her truck back up, grabbed her bag, and threw the door shut again.
It's just a year. Finish school and then you get to blow this shithole and meet up with Rachel like she promised. One more year was practically her mantra, but it wasn't helping much, not when the days were moving glacially slow. It felt like ten years had passed already and the first semester wasn't half over yet.
She sighed and shouldered her backpack before walking across the Blackwell parking lot towards another day of classes. As she crossed onto the lawn a group of nearby students suddenly fell quiet. Chloe could feel their eyes on her as she walked by. It wasn't anything new. She was used to getting attention. After all, she was Chloe Price, the nineteen year old super senior with blue hair and a tattoo, who'd dropped out of school two years ago, only to return and start dating the most popular girl at Blackwell. A lot of people talked about her, few actually talked to her. She was used to it.
She walked a little further down the lawn when she noticed Justin sitting in his usual spot down by the sidewalk. She checked her phone. No new messages and she had enough time to go say hi. Justin was one of the few people Chloe could stand to talk to at Blackwell anymore. They weren't exactly friends since they didn't hang out or anything, but Justin was a drama free dude which put him on Chloe's list of good people. He also usually had pot and didn't mind sharing which helped his case.
"Chlo-ee, how's it hanging?" Justin said with a glazed smile. Justin was one of those guys who always looked relaxed and slightly distracted. It meant you never could really tell when the kid was high or not.
"You know, same old shit, different day," Chloe said as she walked up to him.
"Well, for a shitty day it sure is nice," Justin said with a laugh as he turned to look at the horizon. Chloe frowned and looked out herself. She'd never been one to stop and smell the roses, that had been Max's...the point was she wasn't one to stare at sunrises and crap like that.
"I guess," Chloe said.
"You want to skip morning classes? I've got a fresh supply and my board's itching for some rails." Justin said.
"It sounds tempting," Chloe admitted sadly. "But you know I can't." Justin nodded.
"Principal Wells sucks. 'Take one step out of line and you and your poor ass our out of my elitist, prick school,'" Chloe said in her best Well's impersonation. It had been one of the agreements Wells had forced on her return. Permanent probation until she graduated. No more skipping classes or she was gone. He hadn't even wanted her back, Dr. Strong and Mom had just forced him into a corner. Normally she would have just said fuck it and given up, but she wanted to rub her diploma in Well's stupid, fat face so bad she could taste it.
Plus Rachel really wanted her to finish. Even if she wouldn't wait for her and took off for Portland. Without Chloe.
"Ha, that was pretty good," Justin said with a laugh. Chloe felt her pants buzz and every nerve in her body suddenly went on alert.
"I'll catch you later Justin," Chloe said quickly, giving him a wave before turning away. She dug her phone out and checked the text.
You're making a huge mistake bitch. When and where?
Chloe chuckled as she read the message. Still trying to sound all macho, but he's desperate to meet. I have him.
Tomorrow after school. Girl's restroom.
Whatever. You don't know what you've gotten yourself into.
She put the phone away with a smile. He didn't know what he got himself into. She was going to make sure he never forgot what he did to her. He was going to pay her big if he didn't want the whole town to know the heir to the Prescott family was into drugging and kidnapping girls at bars. And with money like that, she would be able to get the hell out of town the second after they handed her her piece of paper.
Chloe hefted her bag and made her way to the school entrance. She pushed open the doors and caught sight of a head of brown hair disappear around the corner, heading towards the lockers. She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. She closed her eyes.
You didn't see anything Chloe. Nothing.
She walked forward and when she turned the corner the brown haired girl wasn't anywhere to be seen. A wave of relief spread through her, as well as a tinge of sadness she chose to ignore. She hadn't told Dr. Strong about these particular moments. They'd started popping up about a month ago, but Chloe didn't want to talk about them. Better to just ignore it. She put her things in her locker and headed to class.
After what felt like a month, classes finally let out for the day, releasing Chloe back into the world. It was hard to be entirely happy about it though. Classes sucked, but going home to an evening of loneliness and step-douche wasn't exactly thrilling either. If she didn't have some homework she needed to get done she'd probably just go to the junkyard and blaze the whole night away. But she did have homework, so she couldn't, so today was continuing to be one of those days.
That was, until, she got to her truck and there was a girl leaning against it that shouldn't be there.
She was short and had a ponytail of dirty blond hair. She was wearing a jean jacket and those ridiculous sunglasses that cover half your face. She was supposed to be in Portland.
"Rachel?!" Chloe said, dropping her bag as the girl turned to her with a smile.
"What the fuck are you doing here?" Chloe asked. She sprinted across the parking lot, not even bothering to wait for an answer. She pulled the girl into a hug, lifting her up and spinning around like she was twelve again.
Rachel raised both her hands up, screaming with laughter as she spun around. Eventually Chloe's arms gave out and Rachel awkwardly came back down to the ground.
"Can't a girl come see her girlfriend?" Rachel asked as she regained her breath.
"Any fucking time you want Rachel. Everyday. Anyday," Chloe said. She pulled Rachel into a kiss and buried her lips into Rachel's. She tasted like lipgloss and cinnamon. It was intoxicating.
"How could I not come see you, you were sounding positively pathetic in your texts," Rachel said when the kiss ended.
"I was not pathetic," Chloe said. Rachel quirked an eyebrow. She dug into her purse and took out her phone. She opened it and started reading.
"Hey Rach, hope you're up to something fun. Got nothing going here, so I'll just stare at the ceiling till I pass out," Rachel read.
"I was just telling the truth,"Chloe reasoned. Rachel stared at her and then looked back down at her phone.
"Yo Rach, been awhile since I've heard from you, hope you didn't forget about me haha," she read.
"Well it had been."
"It'd been six hours. I do work you know."
"...okay, maybe a little pathetic. I really missed you though. And you know how much this town sucks."
Rachel put her phone away and gave Chloe a smile. "I missed you too." Chloe's heart soared. The fact that someone like Rachel Amber could miss her just blew her away.
"So, do you want to go hang at the junkyard, catch up on the last month?" Rachel asked.
"Hell yeah, that sounds...shit!" Chloe said, suddenly remembering her homework.
"I have this stupid report due in history tomorrow. I kept putting it off and now I have to do it tonight."
"Skip it? It's just one report."
"It's worth, like, a fourth of our grade though. I really can't ," Chloe tried to explain. Why couldn't she have worked on it last week? Fuck past Chloe.
"Oh," Rachel said, sounding a little disappointed. "Yeah, okay. No big. We'll just hang at your room tonight. I'm here for a whole week so we have time."
"Sorry Rach…wait did you say a week?" Chloe asked, a huge smile lighting up her face.
"What can I say, I can't help spoiling you."
Rachel was bored. It wasn't exactly Chloe's fault. She had to get her report done by tomorrow and Rachel hadn't given her any warning before showing up. Chloe was trying to finish as fast as she could, Rachel could tell. Her hands were a blur on her keyboard she was typing so fast. But still, Rachel was bored.
She glanced around the room from her position on the bed, trying to think of something to occupy herself with. There had to be something, you never knew what you could find in Chloe's room. It was an eclectic mess of posters, papers, figurines, knick knacks, and DVD's. There had to be something in here to pass the time.
And then it came to her. Rachel glanced over at Chloe. The blue-haired girl was still busy typing away and not paying her any attention. Good. She scooted off the side of the bed and looked underneath. She spotted it, the small metal box she'd always been curious about. There had to be something interesting in there. She pulled it out and put it on the bed. She looked over. Chloe was still clueless.
She opened the box and rifled through. There were some CD's, a couple pictures of Chloe's dad, a picture of Rachel (that was kinda sweet) and a large journal. She picked up the journal and opened to a random page, reading the first sentence. She almost busted out laughing. Oh, this is too good.
"I had another dream about Max last night. Big fucking surprise there. This time was a little different though. She was naked for some reason?" Rachel read out loud.
At her desk Chloe's whole body tensed. Rachel smiled, anticipating some embarrassment. That's not what she got. Chloe slammed her hand down on the desk hard as she stood up.
"Where the fuck did you get that? Give it to me," she said said, her face furious.
"Who's Max? Your first girl crush? Should I be jealous?" Rachel asked with a sly smile.
"Give me the damn journal," Chloe said, completely ignoring Rachel's playful tone. Rachel sighed and handed it over with a frown. She was just trying to have a little fun. Usually Chloe didn't care when she messed with her stuff.
"If you want to hide something, don't pick a metal box right under the bed. It was practically begging me to open it," Rachel said, trying to lighten the mood.
"How about respecting my fucking personal shit," Chloe said as she walked backed to the desk.
"Fuck Chloe, it was just a joke. Chill out."
"This," Chloe said, holding up the journal, "is not a joke," she finished, throwing the journal at her desk and sending papers flying all over. "It wasn't fucking funny Rachel."
Chloe stomped off towards the corner of her room as Rachel tried to process what the hell was going on. Chloe was known to get her rage on, David walking anywhere near her was enough to get her going most days, but it was rare for her to be genuinely angry. Especially at her.
"Chloe, I'm sorry, I didn't know okay," Rachel said. Chloe tapped her foot rapidly, silently fuming for a moment. Finally she rocked to the side and turned around.
"It's fine, just caught me by surprise," she said, but her eyes looked like thunderbolts so Rachel knew she wasn't entirely off the hook.
"This Max girl must have done a number on you." Rachel carefully probed. Chloe was usually an open book with her, it wasn't like her to keep secrets. And this was starting to smell like a pretty big secret.
"You have no idea," Chloe muttered.
"No I don't, how about my girlfriend enlightens me," Rachel said, bringing out the big guns. Chloe always got weak when Rachel brought out the g word. This time was no exception. Chloe's face softened and she sighed. She walked over to the desk and picked the journal back up. She flipped through the pages and stopped, reading whatever was written there. Finally she turned back to Rachel.
"This is a dream journal my therapist convinced me to keep for awhile. Apparently I have very vivid dreams, so she thought it might help with stuff. I don't know if it did," Chloe said. She looked up at Rachel and then handed the journal back over. "Go ahead and finish the one you were on, it explains some things. I'm gonna go get a smoke."
Rachel took the journal, her curiosity winning over Chloe's obvious discomfort. True to her word, Chloe walked out of the room right after handing the journal over. Rachel watched her walk out the door, and then started reading.
June 23, 2011
I had another dream about Max last night. Big fucking surprise there. This time was a little different though. She was naked for some reason? I mean, I've never seen her naked before but apparently I have a good imagination. Okay, I just realized how stupid that sentence was.
Anyway, she was naked and so was I. No idea why, but at the time it didn't seem so strange. It was just, I don't know, natural or something, like why wouldn't we be naked together? And we weren't doing anything weird, just talking and walking around my room like normal, only with more nakedness. It was all just normal stuff, we talked about the music I was listening to, what school was like, who was being a bitch, what we wanted to do over the weekend, just stupid shit like that. Only we were naked. And I was highly aware of naked Max, let me tell you. I was watching every move she made, every bend of her body, every turn of her wrist. I don't want to sound like some creep, but I was totally being a creep.
And when I woke up I just started bawling. Like snotty nose, crying like I was thirteen again, bawling. And it's not because apparently I might be into girls. I kinda already wondered about that. When I say a girl looks cute, I'm pretty sure I don't mean it like most girls do. And even if it turns out I'm not flying the gay flag, I don't think it's that weird to have erotic dreams about the same sex. Pretty sure that's low on the list of issues I have.
No, I cried because I missed her. I still miss her. I miss Max every fucking day and I don't think I'll ever stop. If she showed up today, I'd probably tell Dr. Strong to fuck off and go right back to hanging out with her every day.
Even though I know she isn't real. Even though I know she's just some fucked up fantasy in my head, some projection of my ideal friend, someone so perfect for me there's no way they could actually exist.
But don't worry Dr. Strong, Max isn't coming back. Because I don't think I deserve her. I'm so fucked up, I can't imagine someone perfect like Max ever wanting to hang out with Chloe fucking Price. And if I can't imagine it, then there's no way she'll show up again. Pretty convenient huh?
"Chloe," Rachel said as Chloe walked back into the room smelling strongly of cigarettes. Rachel was a little surprised that's all she smoked, but she was actually relieved. Rachel was all for blazing through problems, but she wanted to talk right now.
"Interesting read?" Chloe asked with a morbid smile, the kind that doesn't touch the eyes and just makes your face look worse.
"What is this?" Rachel said, gesturing towards the journal. She'd read a couple other entries. Some of the dreams were about Chloe's dad, who Rachel never met but could tell Chloe had adored. Some of the dreams were more normal, like first day at school gone horribly wrong type dreams. None of the dreams were happy though, with the exception of dreams about Max. Those were mostly good dreams, but they seemed to make Chloe even more upset than the nightmares from what she read.
"You know how I told you I go to therapy about my dad?" Chloe asked. Rachel nodded, it had taken Chloe a long time to admit that one. It was right before they had started dating a year ago. "Well, that was only half the truth. Max is actually the first reason I went."
"Max, who doesn't actually exist?" Rachel asked. Chloe hadn't walked further into the room, electing to stay near the doorway. She shuffled her feet for a moment and then answered Rachel's question.
"Right, she was my imaginary friend I'd guess you say. Met her in elementary school. Or made up? I guess that's more correct," Chloe said.
"Your imaginary friend?"
"Kinda cute right? Chloe Price and her imaginary friend Max?"
"I guess?" Rachel said. She'd never had an imaginary friend or ever really talked to someone who had.
"Well, at first Mom and Dad thought it was cute. Little me, running around with my imaginary friend, dressing up like a pirate. I looked happy, so they didn't really worry about it."
"But then?" Rachel prompted.
"But then I got older and older and it stopped being so cute. Middle schoolers aren't supposed to have imaginary friends. Mom and Dad, they talked to other parents and they started realizing how I treated Max wasn't how most kids treated their imaginary friends. I wasn't making friends at school, I wasn't interested in sports or clubs or anything, I just wanted to hang out with Max. Dad started getting worried something might be wrong, like I could be schizophrenic or something."
"Were you?" Rachel asked. Part of her wanted to get up, go over and hug Chloe right now. Another part of her was scared though. She knew Chloe had her issues, Rachel did too, but she never considered Chloe could be insane or something.
"No. I wasn't schizophrenic," Chloe said, almost sadly. "They don't know what caused my obsession with Max. Dad got me a therapist, but just a couple weeks later the crash happened. A couple days after Dad died Max just...vanished. I never saw her again. My therapist, Dr. Strong, she says Max disappearing is a projection, that I couldn't handle the grief from Dad dying so I made Max go away because grieving over a friend was easier to handle than grieving for Dad."
"What do you think?" Rachel asked, relaxing a little now that she knew her girlfriend wasn't seeing things anymore.
"I don't know what I think," Chloe said as she finally walked into the room. She moved back over to her desk and started picking up the papers she had strewn around. "All I know is I missed Dad and I missed Max. Losing both of them sucked hard, they were the most important people to me. Without them, I didn't even know who I was anymore. I took it hard." Rachel nodded, she knew some of this. It's why Chloe was still in high school at nineteen. She'd had a complete breakdown her sophomore year of high school and missed most of it.
"Do you still miss her?" Rachel asked, but she already was pretty sure she knew the answer. Chloe paused from picking up her papers, glancing over at Rachel with a concerned look on her face.
"I...try not to think about her anymore," Chloe said. Rachel got up from the bed and bent down to help Chloe pick up the papers, which finally brought a smile to Chloe's lips. Chloe looked so sweet when she actually smiled a real smile and not that smirk she showed to most people. It's what convinced Rachel to try dating her instead of just being friends, she got to see more of them.
"Is that why you haven't told me about her?" Rachel asked. Chloe nodded.
"I don't talk about Max with anyone, well except for Dr. Strong. I don't even talk to Mom about her anymore, whenever I did it just made her nervous, like I might have another fucking breakdown all over again."
"I'm so sorry Chloe," Rachel said. She put her arms around the taller girl. Chloe leaned against her, resting her head in the crook of her neck.
"Sorry I didn't tell you earlier Rachel," Chloe said against her.
"It's okay, I haven't told you about my first crush either," Rachel said with a laugh.
Chloe didn't see Nathan Prescott at school all day. That wasn't entirely unusual, Nathan was part of the Blackwell art snob group, while Chloe was more of a general education student so they didn't really have too many classes that overlap. Just one really. History. And it wasn't uncommon for Nathan to skip that one. Hell, Chloe used to skip history all the time. But now, with her status of permanent probation, skipping wasn't an option. Just another reason it was great to be Chloe Price.
By the end of the day Chloe was beginning to freak out. She should have seen Nathan by now. She even waited outside his last class, trying to get a peek inside to see whether he was there, but she didn't catch sight of him.
Don't freak out Chloe. He said he'd be in the girl's restroom so he will. You picked the location, you have the upper hand.
She could barely focus at all during science class. Miss Grant usually was decently engaging and Chloe liked science, but today Miss Grant might as well have been one of the adults in Peanuts.
When class was finally over Chloe shoved her things into her bag and started b-lining for the door at record speed.
"Hey Chloe!" Brooke called to her as she rushed by.
"Yeah?" Chloe asked without really even slowing down.
"You want to try out my drone? You're one of the only people who'd appreciate it. " Brooke asked.
"Another day, definitely. I gotta run though, nature calls," Chloe said as she threw the door open and bolted into the hallway. She stopped herself from running the whole way to the bathroom. When she finally got close she stopped and checked the time. She was a little early. Should she wait in the bathroom or outside to see when he went in?
After a moment's consideration she decided to wait outside. That way she could make sure he wasn't bringing reinforcements or something lame like that.
Chloe took a position across from the vending machines by the door. She had a clear view of the bathroom and was out of sight of most of the hall entrances. Hopefully Nathan wouldn't even notice her before he went in.
"They really should call those things sugar dispensers right?" A soft voice said close to Chloe. Eyes focused on the bathroom, it took a moment for Chloe to even register the person was talking to her.
"Huh? Yeah, I guess. Nothing in there's good for you," Chloe said with a distracted wave at the vending machine. She didn't even look at the person, figuring her uninterest would convince whoever it was to go away. It wasn't Nathan, that's all she cared about.
"You know, I don't think it's a great idea to go in there," the voice continued. It was a girl's voice Chloe suddenly realized, and sounded vaguely familiar.
"Go in where?" Chloe asked, only half paying attention.
"The bathroom. It's a terrible idea. I should know." Chloe blinked a couple times, her brain taking a second to register what the person was saying. When she did her eyes went wide and she quickly turned towards whoever was talking to her. She looked and her heart simply stopped working.
She was small, both short and thin, just like Chloe remembered. She looked a lot older than the last time she'd seen her, but she'd always aged right with Chloe so that wasn't surprising. She was wearing a plain grey hoodie that matched her style exactly and her hair was cut a little different, but was the same color of brown. Chloe wanted to hug her. Instead she turned away and screwed her eyes shut.
This isn't real. It isn't real. You're just nervous about meeting Nathan so you brought Max back to talk you out of it. She isn't real. You're thinking about her because of yesterday. That's all this is.
"Chloe?" Max's voice asked with a measure of concern.
"No," Chloe said, shaking her head. "No Max, just go away."
"Okay, if that's what you want. Just please Chloe, don't go in the bathroom," Max said, her voice pleading. She sounded so scared all of a sudden. Despite herself, Chloe opened her eyes, feeling irrationally guilty about making her imaginary friend sad.
But of course it was just her now. Max wasn't there. She'd never really been there.
"Fuck!" She yelled. She turned and kicked the wall hard enough to send pain shooting up her whole leg. "Fuck," she said again, quieter this time. Tears formed in the corners of her eyes. It was just going to be one of those days.