At first I could only remember the light turning. On. Off. Light. Soft. Dark. Lost.
I wasn’t sure if I was asleep or awake.
I woke up in the spring. It smelled of wet leaves.
There were blanks. At times, I’d open an old scrapbook, covered with cut-up colours and bad handwriting, words smudged, written by my hands, but not by me. My fingers would brush over all these glossy photographs that I didn’t know. Smiles I had once had.
‘Chloe + Max. The Lighthouse. 11.10.13.’
I wanted to cry, but I think I had forgotten how.
'Max! Get over here man.'
It was disorientating. I lived by a schedule, pulling together the crossroads of my life without a map. I had lists of numbers and faces and places keyed up on my phone: I knew none of them. I met, and laughed with friends whose faces were faint impressions. Sometimes I’d know what their favourite colour was, whether they could stand math class, or their second name. Sometimes I’d even remember hanging out: I could recall the crunch of popcorn, or a broken ice cream cone - spilt. But no dates. No names. Just snapshots.
In time, I think I’d half-remember some things. Senses of things. Maybe events. My mom’s name. The smell of her half price fragrance she’d grabbed at the nearest grocery story. The colours of rain in places I’d lived.
I remembered the shutters. The black, the white.
It took a while to find the pieces relating to her. A Mix CD: black marker, title: Mean Supreme Super Max The Time Queen (I put a load of your indie shit on here max u better like it haha). A flag, tattered, proud. I remember the amount of crap that nested in her bed – boxes, papers, details, notes, things that would spell out memories that had been taken. A nest of secrets.
I could picture someone writing on my skin. Crawling. The abstract; the details. My life was pages, snapshots. Not lived. Not living.
I was going to be sick.
'Max! Super Max! I – I haven’t seen you all week, I – I was worried, did your phone get hit by a brick or – ‘
A shock of blue. A beanie from the dollar store. A smile.
'We’re still up for the lighthouse, yeah?'
Leant back on a locker, she shouldn’t be in school. She touched my hand. Breaking the rules. People were staring, glares cut into my back, hot.
'Yeah,' I said, smiling.
I had no idea what that meant.
‘Chloe + Max. The Lighthouse. 11.10.13.’
Chloe Price. I wrote that name down. Print. All Caps. I knew Chloe. I couldn’t forget Chloe. That patched-up punk from the junkyard, bottle breaker, railroad shaker, three bullets, three lives, all butterfly blue. It was – she was – important, somehow.
I pulled out a sharpie – blue – and drew a pair of wings on her.
If I forgot anything, I would still have her name.
At times, I’d dream of whirlwinds. I’d dream of me, debris, and the world I’d emptied. The shore lay slick with bodies.
This had to be a sick, sick dream. Almost everyone I cared about was dead. This Max - the girl they smiled at, laughed with - I don't know who she is.
I made a list of details, in case. A notecard, pocket-sized. Three bullets.
- Maxine Caufield. 09/21/95. Blackwell student. ‘Super Max’, ‘Mad Max’, ‘Partner in Time’.
- Arcadia – Seattle – Arcadia.
- CHLOE PRICE. Blue, bright, (beautiful?). The Top Priority.
I stuffed it in my coat pocket. If time twisted further. I couldn't forget.
A light, bright, bursting.
It broke open, the cable cut, the lamp smashing into the floor, shattering. Disruptive. Tsk. Too bad.
Was I still asleep?
Was I still awake?
Whirlwind. I was a whirlwind. I was a contest-winning photo entry. I would break everything, just by shaking – it was so cold – so dark – I was going to be sick –
GIRL, 19, DESTROYS EVRYTHING
GIRL, 19, DESTROYS
I tore it up. I tore it all up. I was on the floor, in my dorm room, scattered paper, inky hands, red fingers.
I pulled out my notecard:
- this isn't a dream.
- this isn't a nightmare.
- her body is cold, dead, buried in the wreckage by the lighthouse.
I fucked it all up. I broke Arcadia Bay. I broke Chloe. I broke -
Black and white seemed to make no difference. No contrast, dimmed to grey.
I shuddered on the floor. I couldn’t find myself any more. No reflection.
'Max? Max – Max Max Max – '
'Stop it,' I said. I felt my voice shake. 'Please. I know I broke it. I know I broke everything. I know – '
'It’s not your fault, Max.'
'It’s not your fault.'
Soft touch, brushes along my chin. Like a painting. Colour.
I feel so broken.
I feel so cold. I’m alone, and in the dark.
the world shuddered. I felt the rain pour down.
"Max. Please. God – don’t do this to me. This is just some weird time travel magic, it has to be, oh god. Oh god oh god oh god. I – I’d do anything for you just please wake up… please…"
It was Chloe.
I opened my eyes.
"Max! Thank fuck you're still with us, I was real worried there."
The rain beat down against me. Tickled my skin. Her skin. Her arms were around me, shoulders and hair, there - present. Alive.
"I - " she said. "I thought - this is so stupid - that you were gone for a moment there. Like, bang! She's gone."
She was laughing, a little weakly. My mouth twitched, but I couldn't laugh with her.
"I'm - I'm sorry."
"You have nothing to be sorry for, Time Queen."
I thought about how the shadows had crawled, they had itched, criss-crossed and missed. I thought about how little light there was, in the Dark Room. I thought I'd been
a missing page, a torn photograph
"You've got enough on your plate Chloe. You shouldn't have to worry about me."
"Bullshit. You're a hundred-fucking-percent worth caring about, Max Caufield."
And she made little gestures, a one, a zero, and a zero, with her fingers, to stab the point home. Then she punched me on the shoulder (before grabbing it again).
"Ha," I said.
It wasn't a laugh, really.
"Hey - c'mon, now," her arms let loose, let me free - except for the hand, that stayed firmly in hers. "Are we going to catch a storm or not?"
"Catch a storm?"
She looked at me, with genuine concern, before her tone shfited:
"Max - what's with you? You know? The super hella rad super storm of the century those dusty farts on local radio have been talking about for months. It's today and we're definitely going to see it. Remember?"
"Oh, um yeah. I know. And you said super twice."
She rolled her eyes - and when I say eyes, she rolled her shoulders, hips, head, eyes, all at once. Hella exaggeration. Chloe, you are too uncool.
She raced ahead, her hand clutching mine - didn't let go - through the blitz of wet green, bushes and cold leaves, stone and pine trees, the rain and the thunder and the winds
How hopelessly lost would I be if I let go of her?
As we reached the top of the cliff, where the lighthouse sat vacant, she hurtled away, vaulting over the bench and - tripped, and fell into the mud.
Smooth Chloe. Smooth.
"Too slooow Caufield! Chloe wins!"
She really didn't care, did she? And like it counted, anyway, she was holding my hand the whole time. I peered over at her from above, arms crossed.
"What's the prize, o glorious winner?"
I could do this. I was good at pretending.
"Me," she said, grinning. She never laughed, never smiled, this much in the photographs. And when she jumped up, she cupped my face with both hands and kissed me hungrily -
when did this happen when did we initiate this when when oh my god she was using tongue -
Even soaked in the rain, blue hair flat on her face, cheap leather jacket soaked through, she was
well, all I really wanted right now, all I could fall into right now. my hand trailed up her cheek. My lips met hers and
"Max, please stop. Something is wrong, right?"
"Are... are you sure?"
She pulled be into her arms, wet arms hugging my shoulders.
"Max, whatever happens, you know I love you right?"
I nodded, meekly, into her jacket. It was freezing. I – uh, wasn't really sure what that meant – she loved me?
"Good. Uh – do you... want to talk about it? I mean we can just make out if you want too, I'm not gonna rush you."
I could make out with Chloe.
I could make out with Chloe.
“Earth to Max? Hello?”
I just - wow, it was unbelievable, I was shaking, the cold, I was crying, shit, goddamn it -
I sobbed into her jacket. The rain washed it all away but she could feel my chest heave, my shoulders crumple, upwards, into a teeny tiny ball.
"I had a dream, Chloe. It was awful. And I forgot some stuff. I can't..." I took a breath, the air was sharp, salt-lined, bracing. Real. "Can't believe I'm really here."
"Hey, it's ok. You're with me here. You need me to go over what happened?"
"Uh, yeah, that’d be good. And I...” I smiled, weakly. “I know. I just forgot what that felt like."
I looked out to the storm. A little crackle of lightning here and there, dancing on the waves, some winds, some rain. But it was small, almost unremarkable, really.
There was no whirlwind.
No thunder, no blood. No buildings torn apart.
There was nothing – nothing but the whirlwind of butterflies inside of me, swirling.
"So, I’m Chloe," she began, dragging me straight back down to planet earth. "Your best friend, your 'gal pal', and your girlfriend, lucky you. This is Arcadia Bay, your home. Our home. It's March... the 14th, I think? 2014. You cut English class to be here, you punk."
I chuckled, a little.
"Yeah, I figured that much."
"Well, I don’t know how much you’ve lost, ok? I mean… what if you’ve forgotten… us? I mean, we’d have to re-do everything."
I stayed silent.
Her face fell, panicked. Then:
"… it wouldn’t be that bad, actually,” she added, with a smile. “Hey. You get to have your first kiss. With me. Twice. Don’t tell me that’s not awesome."
I started crying again. God I was so pathetic why couldn’t I do –
She pulled me in close, arms tight, heart jittery, all mud and rain and mess.
"I love you, ok?" she whispered in my ear. "I love you Max. You’ll always have me, ok? If you want me."
"I want you."
She bent down, gently, I didn’t know she could be that soft, her fingers brushed my cheeks, wiped away the rolling tears, and her lips touched mine.
"I love you, Max Caulfield," she said. "You’re totally awesome, and... I love you. I love you, I love you - I can't stop saying it, fuck it."
"Don't stop, you dork," I said, laughing.
I knew I still wasn't all right. Was not 'okay'. But, in that moment, I felt the world lighten, and... flutter, almost, like it was on air, and... I knew things were going to be better. I knew it. Chloe was here.