Oh look, there's a phone on the floor.
A girl in t-shirt and jeans, wrapped in a hoodie and shoulder bag sat on a window ledge at a house party. She watched an overcrowded house of teens chatting, laughing and dancing. An intense game of beer pong was being played to her left that went up in a roar as several people yelled 'DEATH CUP!' One team then proceeded to jump around high-fiving each other and body bumping in celebration. To her far right she could see a girl with a sidecut do a keg stand. How does it not pour out your nose? She'd been nursing a single beer most of the night, picking the logo clean with her nails and depositing the paper mess on the ledge next to her. Her two friends showed up at her house about four hours before and dragged her away from her night of doing nothing. Her parents left for a weekend getaway and any normal teenager would've jumped at the chance to get up to some mischief. She, however, sat in her room and looked at polaroid pictures that she had taken that week and wrote an entry in her journal. Max Caulfield: the teenage rebel.
Kristen and Fernando showed up just after nine and insisted that Max needed to come with them to a house party. As Max tried to come up with an excuse not to go, Kristen tossed Max her hoodie and told her to zip it. "Max, your parents are away for the weekend, and you're here, alone, drinking… tea? Writing in your journal? You're coming out with us and we're gonna have some fun. The last time we hung out was two weeks ago in Fremont. So put on your sneaks and let's goooo!"
"Ouu! Someone just answered but it disconnected, I'll try again." Fernando had his phone in front of him calling Max's number. At some point during the night of 'partying it up' (which really meant walking in between people who were drunkenly dancing,) Max's phone had fallen out of her hoodie. My parents are going to kill me. Fernando had his phone up to his ear again, waiting, "It's gone to voicemail now," he said over the music, "Someone probably found it and laid it down somewhere. I'll give it a few minutes and try again maybe between songs, might hear the ring tone," Max gave Fernando a forced smile, "Someone will get fed up of hearing it ring and will answer it, and we'll get your phone back, Max!"
Or they'll toss it, Max thought.
"Thanks, Nando," she said. It was one in the morning. Max sighed. I just want to leave, I don't want to be here... fuuuuck.
"Hey, Caulfield!" Someone called out from the party. Max looked in the direction of the person yelling her name. She recognized the girl as the keg-stander, now stumbling towards her making a bee-line through the crowd. She had a beer in one hand and a joint hanging from her mouth, talking on her phone. "Hey Caulfield..." she repeated as she walked in between Fernando and Kristen's group of friends who were sitting on the floor. The girl bumped and stumbled over them a little, knocking over Kristen's beer.
"Hey watch it, Sloane," Kristen said, annoyed.
Sloane shouldered her phone, looked down at Kristen, patted her messily on the head and then used her head as leverage to keep her moving though the group. "Sorry. Sorry, Caulfield!" Sloane, the sidecut girl, grabbed onto Max's shirt and hauled her off the window ledge, "You haven't been drinkin', right?" Sloane reached for Max's untouched beer. Before the brunette could answer, Sloane was holding it to the light, closely eyeballing its content level. She haphazardly placed it back on the ledge.
"Well n-o..just thi-" Max replied, wide-eyed and frightened at the aggressive handling. Sloane slapped her beer bottle on the same ledge and looked directly at Max with determination (well, as much determination as she could muster, being slightly drunk and possibly stoned.) The joint wiggled in her lips as she spoke.
"You have to get me to her," Sloane slurred as her eyes individually blinked at Max. Get you to who? Max thought. Sloane switched the phone to her the other ear, grabbed Max's hand and started dragging her through the party of people, making their way to the main door. "Everyone make a hole!" Sloane shouted. The packed house of teenagers barely moved. Sloane pushed her body though, knocking people away. Aggravated, she yelled, "She's gonna blow chunks!" It was like parting the Red Sea. I'm the juggernaut, bitch. People around them immediately all but dove out of their way, scared to have projectile fluid on them. The two made for the exit and the fresh air outside.
Max tugged at Sloane's hand, "Sloane, let go! What's wrong?" Sloane didn't answer until they got outside. She flicked the joint into the brisk night air, not caring where it landed. Taking the phone away from her ear, Sloane pulled Max close, gravely looked at her and spoke, drunkenly serious.
"I need you to be a designated driver for me," she said, "My friend is in trouble, she needs help. I have a friend with her now but I need to get there." Sloane hauled out her keys and slapped them in Max's hand. Max stared wide-eyed at Sloane, taking in the request.
"Oh-oh-oh, okay?" Max answered with a stammer. She rubbed Sloane's shoulder and arm, hoping to comfort her. "Where's your car?" Sloane looked at Max's hand as she rubbed her arm, confused at Max's attempt to comfort her.
"Uhmm, fucked if I know," Sloane replied. Both girls looked at the driveway and street littered with vehicles including ones of the front lawn. It's a miracle that the cops haven't shown up yet. Max lead Sloane down the driveway and onto the street, using the car's fob she clicked it to activate the horn and unlock the doors. They turned in the direction of the noise; Sloane's twirl was a little too much for her and Max had to grab her to keep her from tipping over.
"Shit, easy Sloane," she said. The drunken girl side-stepped a few times as Max struggled to keep an arm on her. What am I getting myself into?
"There she is!" Sloane yelled, grinning as she walked towards her vehicle, arms wide open as if to embrace an old friend, "Mah girl!"
Max looked up at a raised grey truck, "Ssshiiit," she said, "Sloane this is… I d-don't think I can..." Sloane made her way to the driver's side. She spoke a couple of words on the phone as she placed her hand on the door to open it. "Hey, you're not driving!" Max said, quickly walking towards her.
Sloane stumbled and looked back at Max while opening the door. She started to fall as the momentum of the door opening pulled her inebriated body along with it. Max, in two strides, was there to somewhat catch her. It was more of a weakly grunted “uhhhhhhgh” with her arms positioned out in front of her, knowing that she didn’t really have the strength to stop Sloane from hitting the deck, it was just instinct to put her hands out. Unfortunately for Max, Sloane and her flailing phone arm swung around Max’s neck and they began to fall together. Sloane grabbed at the door handle with her free hand while squeezing Max with the other. She took an awkward step back and then suddenly lurched forward, launching Max back towards the truck side and pushing her up against it aggressively.
“Augh!” Max yelled, wincing.
“Sorry! Sorry," Sloane patted Max’s collarbone with genuine drunken concern, looking at the girl to see if she physically hurt her. She adjusted Max’s hoodie, “Did I hurt you?” She then brushed Max’s swept bangs, “Fuck, I sorry.” Max placed both her hands on Sloane’s shoulder to steady the swaying girl.
“I’m fine. I’m fine, Sloane,” Max said, “You’re not driving, though. You asked me to." Max felt like she should talk to Sloane as if she was a child.
Sloane looked at her truck, then at Max. Then at the truck, then back to Max. She blinked, letting Max’s words sink in. She looked at the truck, then back to Max one last time, “K.” she said. She stumbled backwards, turned and walked in front of her truck, Max watched her slide her hand along the vehicle’s hood for support, before she tripped on the sidewalk. Sloane stumbled sideways with flailing arms and fell with a thud. Max sighed. Fuck. Sloane giggled from the ground.
Max sat in the driver’s seat and watched her drunken passenger make multiple attempts of getting herself up into the seat. The truck was raised, which made it hard enough for Max’s sober ass to up climb and get in, let alone someone who had clearly had one or five too many. Sloane finally belly flopped up onto the seat. Max grabbed Sloane’s belt buckle, grunted loudly and hauled the girl into the truck, “AAauuhh Sloane fuu-"
“Ahhnnnngg, wedgie!” Sloane giggled like a schoolgirl, grabbing at anything to give her leverage, Max started to laugh.
“Dog, Sloane,” she said, “Could you have found a more difficult way into your truck?" Sloane righted herself into the passenger seat and wrinkled her nose at something being wrong, then tugged her underwear out of her butt. She leaned back, letting her head hit the seat as she smiled stupidly. She let her mouth fall open as her eyes closed. She giggled a little more and settled into the seat. There was a long moment of silence, the cabin of the truck was lit only by Sloane’s ongoing phone call, the phone loosely held in her hand at her lap. “Uhm...Sloane?” Max said, nudging her. Don’t pass out on me. Sloane replied with a grunt. She didn’t want to move. “How do you start your truck?" Max persisted. What is all this shit? Sloane slowly opened her eyes and looked over at Max who had the keys in her hands, not knowing where to put them. She was looking at the driver’s console with no idea where to start. “This is like looking at a cockpit," she said. Sloane watched the girl and the sense of hesitation on her face. “Sloane I don’t think I can do-"
“Max, you are the only one that can,” Sloane casually said, “It’s a truck, not an Arwing. Wait. You do have your license, right?”
Max smiled at the StarFox reference and replied, “Yeah, it’s just... wowsers. What the hell is all this?”
“I made a couple of mods to mah girl," Sloane pointed towards the ignition then turned her attention to the person on the other end of her phone call, “Sorry, we're in mah girl, I’m getting my pilot the rundown to rev her up."
Max put the fob in the ignition and pressed the button to start the truck. The diesel engine came alive, which powered the music that was left on way too loud. The driver’s console and tablet display all lit up at the same time. Max squeaked with a jump and held her hand's palms out, too intimidated to touch anything. There were so many little buttons and toggle switches, and she’d never used a vehicle with a tablet screen... and it’s a manual. I don’t have a lot of experience with a stick shift; there’s no way I can do this. I should go in and find someone that can drive her.
Sloane leaned forward and hit the tablet a couple of times, stopping the music, “Shit, sorry. Fuckin’ hell. Loud noises!" She noticed the apprehension on Max’s face and grinned. She loudly whispered into her phone, ”Gimme a sec.” Sloane straightened herself up. “Alright, Max McCloud, this is your vehicle for tonight, she won’t bite." Sloane grinned, rubbing the dashboard lovingly. “Mah girl will take care of ya, but first things first. Alexa." The virtual assistant made an audible Boop Boop tone as it recognized the verbal command. “New driver I.D," Boop Boop.
“New driver I.D," Alexa repeated as the tablet displayed a new I.D screen, “Please say new drivers name." Boop Boop.
Sloane looked at Max, her mouth slightly open, dumbfounded and looking at the screen. Sloane raised her eyebrows and moved her head towards Max and loudly whispered, “You have to say your name," Alexa made two audible tones Boop Boop.
“Voice I.D recognized," Alexa said as Sloane leaned over and started hitting the tablet multiple times, cancelling the setup.
They started over.
“Alexa,” Boop Boop, “New driver I.D." Boop Boop.
“New driver I.D,” Alexa replied, “Please say new drivers name." Boop Boop. After the two audible tones, Sloane drunkenly smiled at Max, waiting for her to say it. Max leaned toward Sloane and the tablet.
“Max,” she said, looking at Sloane for approval. Sloane gave her two big thumbs up with a stupid smile.
“Voice I.D recognized,” Boop Boop, “Confirm new driver I.D, Max,” Alexa confirmed Max’s voice playing it back to her, giving the brunette a smile at hearing her own voice. A new display popped up showing every control for the truck. Sloane stared at the tablet then seemingly at random, started drunkenly tapping the screen.
“Is the seat position good for you?” she asked. Max leaned back into the seat with her hands on the wheel.
“Ahh, yeah,” she sighed.
“It the seat angle comfortable?”
“Can you see out the mirrors?”
“Is the steering wheel in a good position?”
“Can you see the console lights?”
“You want her to eat you out?”
“Yes… Wait. What!”
Max could hear a giggle from Sloane’s phone. Sloane roguishly chuckled at Max who had turned many shades of red.
“Tee-hee,” Sloane teased, “Why Max, are you and mah girl gonna get it on?"
“Sloane,” Max replied, blinking slowly. Sloane laid her head on Max’s shoulder, cooing.
“I mean rev her engine and turn on the butt warmer, she will-” Max shook her head at Sloane’s drunken affection.
“SlooOoooane, oh my dog,” she smiled and smacked Sloane’s shoulder.
They could both hear more giggling from Sloane’s phone. Sloane brought the mic end up close to her mouth, “Quiet youuu!” She then hit a few more buttons and turned her attention back to Max. “Alright I got the basic shit put in, we’re good to go. Wait. Can you drive stick shift?”
Max looked down at Sloane and nodded. Sloane threw up the horns, “Awesome possum!" Max rolled her eyes but smiled at the childlike play Sloane was displaying. The drunken girl pushed herself off of Max’s arm and continued the rundown, “It still has the same setup as any other vehicle. You don’t need to worry about these toggles here as they are for the extra roof lighting. You don’t need these ‘cause I have the risers set to automatic."
Max started looking through the instruments, confirming where everything was. She turned the wipers on and off, ditto for the direction signal, up and down, “Okay, I’m good," Max said with a small smile and a nod to Sloane.
“Sweet!” Sloane replied happily and excited, kicking out both her feet and fist pumping in a cheer, “Right, let’s go!" The girls buckled up and Max pulled the truck out of the parking spot and headed down the street. “Alright, we are on our way,” Sloane said into the phone, “I’m gonna put you in the dock and on speaker, give me a sec."
After a bit of apprehension, Max was now revelling in the driver's seat. I’m so high up in the truck, I wonder if I could drive over that hatchback like those monster trucks. She’d love that. This thing is awesome I could see us taking this everywhere. We could go off-roading. Man, she would loooove getting this thing dirty. Max caught herself thinking about her again and the realization of her life brought the brief moment of joy to a bitter end. The guilt and depression seeped back into their regular, sombre spot. Max let out a sigh.
“Where do need me to drive you, Sloane?" Let’s get this over with. Sloane was still fiddling with getting her phone into the docking station. Get in. The. Damn. Holder.
“Sloane?! Where are we going?” Max asked again.
The truck screeched to a halt and Sloane let out a yelp as her seatbelt violently held her in place. Her phone flew from her hands, bounced off the windshield and settled on the dashboard.
“WHAT?!” Max yelled, “I CAN’T GO TO PORTLAND! THAT’S LIKE THREE HOURS AWAY!”
Sloane ignored Max and grabbed her phone from the dashboard, “Shitshitshit, are you still there?! Okay, good. Sorry, just a sec."
“I’m not going to Portland, Sloane!” Max said, shaking her head, “I can’t. I-I…”
“Max...I-" Sloane began before being cut off by Max.
“No, I can’t. That’s too far,” she said, “You’ll have to find someone else. It’s, like, after one, almost two in the morning. My parents will freak out. I can’t leave." Sloane finally placed the phone in the dock and looked at Max.
“It’s not really that far, you just spent four hours ‘partying it up,’” Sloane said, using air quotes, “You sat in the same spot nursing one beer. How is being at a party for four hours different than driving for four hours or whatever? Look, there’s no one else. I’ll feed you caffeine and if I sober up I’ll take over the driving. Text your parents, by the time they wake up in the morning there’s nothing that can be done. If they get pissed just tell them exactly what happened,” Sloane leaned back and looked at Max with an eyebrow raised, “Wait a minute, do your parents even know you’re at a party, and out at this time of night, young lady?”
“I-I-” Max ignored Sloane’s question as she frantically tried to come up with a reason not to go to Portland. She lifted up on the clutch, which jerked the truck forward and stalled the vehicle.
“Max,” Sloane held Max’s arm, “look at me," Max looked at Sloane, her breathing quick and her eyes too wide. “Hey, breathe. Big, slow breaths," Sloane demonstrated the breathing. Sloane was well aware of Max’s anxiety issues; most of the school knew about her anxiety. “It’s okay, Max. Just think about your breathing... in and out, nice and slow." Sloane rubbed her hand on Max’s arm for support, “Take your time, Max."
“Sorry, I just get thi-." Max began to apologize.
“Nope, don’t apologize,” Sloane shook her head, “I hauled you off from your friends and then dragged you to my truck in the middle of the night and said ‘hey we’re going to Portland.’ Nope that’s not creepy or weird at all!"
Sloane’s truck sat in the middle of the road under a street light. The two occupants sat in brief silence. Sloane reached to the steering wheel and pressed the button to open the window, letting cool night air in. Max slowly opened her eyes and looked at Sloane.
“Are you good?” Sloane asked.
"Okay," Sloane placed a hand on Max's arm and looked off to her side, "Max, I need you. There is someone..." Sloane sighed, composing herself, then looked back at Max, "If you knew that there was someone who you cared for more than anything else in the world and you knew that they were hurting, would you help them?" Max's mind immediately went to a girl she knew, the only person that mattered in the world. She felt her throat constrict, her mind quickly replayed her last moments of that day. Knowing that she was already hurting and grieving, giving her more pain by leaving, then breaking promises to keep in touch, not replying to messages. Max felt her heart continually slam in her chest and the thumping in her ears. The guilt rose again. She forced herself to try and swallow. She grit her teeth against the quickly building emotions. Her vision of Sloane was becoming blurry. I can't let go in here, not in this truck and not in front of Sloane. I'll look more like an unstable freak, 'What the fuck is wrong with you,' she'll say. Jesus, Max you are such a fuckup.
Max stared at Sloane. Save it for home. Save it for the quiet corner of my room. Not here. She thought about her set routine of letting the emotions out when they've built up and they could not be contained. If your parents are home, lie to them and say that you are tired and are going to go and chill in your room. Turn on the stereo and set the volume to seven... anything louder and the parents will complain and they might come into your room and they will see you're an emotional fuck up. You're already a disappointment to them because you're in the IEP class. Walk to the corner of the room because it's the furthest away from anyone in the house. You're not allowed to feel the comfort of family, you don't deserve it after what you have done and continue to do. Grab your pillow and the box of tissues because you are weak and you need to clean up your fuckin' childish mess. Crumble to the floor because your shaking legs can't hold you up anymore. You are so Goddamn weak. Grasp the pillow and let the emotional guilt overtake you. Pass out when your mind and body can't take it anymore. Clean up your fucking childish crying mess afterwards. Rinse and Repeat when necessary.
Sloane watched as Max's eyes looked through her then started to glass over. Max turned away to stare out the window. Woah, Sloane thought. She knew that feeling, that look, the struggle to breathe and swallow all to well. Fuck. I pushed too hard too fast. I already gave her one small attack. Sloane placed Max's hand in hers and slowly squeezed, trying to bring her out of whatever memory she was captured in.
I can't do this, Max thought, I can't leave Sloane when she needs my help. I can't do this again. To walk away from someone when they are hurting. I've only known her for two semesters; Literature, Math, and Music are the only classes were in together, and only one of them we actually have conversations, albeit limited ones. She's nice to me, even helped me that time when Jason was being an asshole. Max reminded herself of Sloane's confrontation with the boy. Yelling an obscene amount of F-bombs and leaving the boy in a bloody mess. She'd even threatened him with hospitalization if he ever placed a hand on Max again. She also remembered quickly running away before it all ended and not having a chance to thank Sloane for what she did. Typical me, running away. We've sat together on a few occasions for lunch. She pitied me, because I was alone or there was no other place to sit. I can't do this, fuck. Portland is too close to where she lives. What if I run into her in Portland, she will see me and will yell at me, tell me how she hates me and...I can't do this again.
"Max I- maybe I shouldn't have asked you to do thi-" Sloane said as she watched the conflict on Max's face.
"I'll do it," Max replied quietly.
"I pushed you too hard, I wasn't thinking. I-" Sloane said, not listening to Max.
Max furrowed her brow and turned to look at Sloane, "I'll drive you there. I-I c-can't walk a-away knowing that y-you n-need my help," the words stumbled out, "I can't do that anym-more."
Sloane smirked at seeing a little spark in Max's eyes. "Okay."
"Okay," Max echoed and started the truck again. I'm doing this. I'm not going to run away. Not this time.
Sloane leaned towards the tablet, "Alexa." Boop Boop, "Road Map. "Boop Boop.
"Destination?" Alexa asked.
Sloane looked at Max and smiled. She was happy to get a smile back.
"Portland, Oregon," the brunette said.
Within seconds Alexa replied, "From your current location it will take you two hours and forty-five minutes," Boop Boop, "There are no current highway closures," Boop Boop, "Traffic congestion is minimal," Boop Boop, "It is currently sixty-nine degrees Fahrenheit, clear in the evening leading into the morning with sunny skies of sixty degrees Fahrenheit," Boop Boop,"Your fuel level is too low to achieve your destination." Boop Boop, "Fueling stations added to your map," Boop Boop.
"So cool," Max said, grinning.
"That's mah girl," Sloane rubbed the center console, "So we gotta fuel her up, we gotta get some caffeine 'cause I need to keep you awake and I have to sober the fuuuuck up," Max started to drive towards the intersection. "Ooo! One more thing," Sloane retrieved Max's phone from her pocket, "I found your phone in the house, some dude named Fajito kept calling you!"
Max sighed happily, taking it, "Oh, thank Dog. My parents would shit bricks if I lost this."
"Text your parents, let them know the shit-show I got you into," Sloane said, "If you need to blame someone, blame me. Again, sorry to put you in this situation, but you're my only hope, Obi Wan Max." Max pocketed her phone; her parents wouldn't know she wasn't home since they were up north. What they don't know won't hurt them, or make them pissed. Max felt stupid at having even worried about what her parents might think, because they wouldn't know unless she told them anyway.
"Ooo! Another thing," Sloane said as she hit a button on the truck's tablet, talking to the person on the other end of her ongoing call, "You still there?"
"Yeah, I'm here," the female voice replied. Max glanced at the phone.
"Sorry, there were a few technical difficulties," Sloane said, "We're on our way. We'll hopefully be there around 5:30."
"It's gonna be a hella shock to her when she sees you," the female voice said.
Sloane looked at Max, flashing a warm smirk, "No doubt, It's gone on too long."
There was a pause for a few seconds, then from the phone came the sound of something sliding like a door or a window, followed by the female letting out a small grunt, "I had to go outside, I don't want to wake her up."
"Well, introductions are in order, I think," Sloane looked to Max, "Max Never-Maxine Caulfield, I'd like to introduce you to Rachel Amber, one of my friends that's also helping me out tonight."
Max looked at the phone and smiled, "Nice to meet you, Rachel."