Taking place right after Choices, Choices, Max (Rainbow) prepares for Prom, which has surprisingly little to do with Prom.
Author’s Note: Thank you all for your staggering support in this little fic. I hope not to disappoint with the last two chapters. I meant to make this story short and sweet, and not to drag on (like my other stories). I’ve skipped some years, and landed on the important parts.
But as a reviewer pointed out, it may be going a bit too fast in terms of the timeline. The last chapter was two and a half years, all through high school, because I wanted to skip to the good parts.
To make up for that, I added a new scene, in the beginning of this chapter. It was always one of my favorite scenes in the game, giving Max the option of sitting down somewhere and looking around the area, reflecting on her latest choices. Very calming, and the scenery shots were always appreciated.
Update: For timeline reference, Choices, Choices happens sometime between the end of the last chapter and right now. A Multi-Max Theory fic, featuring “Rainbow”.
Max sat heavily in one of the diner’s high chairs, leaning against the counter.
She was thankful for the empty establishment – it gave her time to think.
It’s hard to think of this as my new life. My old life doesn’t feel like a decade ago – It feels so much longer. Still, every day of my life, I’m looking at the differences. It’s become an obsessive game for me. Such small details, so different from before. I didn’t even know Kate was an Arcadia Bay Native. Should I have befriended her that soon? She was so accepting of Chloe and me, even before we were together. We’ve all become even better friends since. I can see the friendship between father and daughter; I wish I was there for her when she stood up for our friendship to her mom, but she said it was handled well. And she’s always so happy. I’m sure she was happy before she met me, but this time, when she goes to a friend for help, my words will actually mean something. She’ll never have to feel alone. I think I just answered my own question.
She looked around the diner. I can’t believe I volunteered to work here seven years ago. It’s gotten so much bigger around me. It’s almost a restaurant at this point, but it still has that same feel. I’m glad that after all the fortune that’s come their way, they still stick to these jobs. I guess, given the choice, most would do what makes them happy. If they were happy before, then I guess there isn’t much of a difference to them.
A part of me worries that they’re saving all that money for Chloe and me. We’re beyond taken care of, with Miss Fields being an unofficial sponsor of us. I need to find a way to tell them without freaking them out. They were already confused as hell when I bought Chloe a truck for her seventeenth. Thankfully, Chloe thinks it came from William. He wouldn’t have thought of the modifications I had arranged for it. Obviously, he didn’t. That thought made her cringe. Cynical, much? I’m glad they both have my back, or maybe they think the money’s from my parents. It’s done, anyways. A normal truck, with the durability of a tank. I just hope she doesn’t get in an accident. It would be hard to explain why there is barely a scratch. And why her wraparound has shock absorbers like a fucking bumper car.
She absently rubbed her multicolored wristband, looking up at the ceiling. I feel like she’s up to something. We usually go to lunch together. Yet, here I am, alone. Maybe she’s getting ready for Prom. Or she’s working on a painting she doesn’t want me to see yet. She seemed to really like the picture I took of the both of us, looking at our wall of photos. That’s a checkpoint photo I’ll proudly cherish.
We’re getting closer to that date. Judgement Day is an appropriate name. I can’t seem to stop counting down the days in my journal. Through all the fun Chloe and I have had, It’s under a raincloud sometimes. I can’t believe how positive she is sometimes. I can’t help but think it’s because of me. And I’m so happy with her, when I’m not doubting the over looming doom I carry. The happiness we share – I never want it to go away.
I find it really hard to forget details – near impossible. I remember every time we’ve embraced, every kiss we shared since her first kiss two years ago. I remember every time she needed comforting, every smile she’s ever had. I guess I’ve always been a freak when it comes to details – I remember your smile, too.
I hope you’re not mad at me. You actually enjoy school – you like the challenge. You love helping little kids. You love tutoring. Just the other day, you told me about a guy you helped out a few months ago and he looked so utterly depressed. He’s now in LA, with a wife, and apparently a calling. I don’t know how a waitress would have such a presence, but you did. You are what you’ve always wanted to be. Your parents are so proud of what you’ve become. I’m so proud of you, Chloe.
And that’s why I have to let the past go. You will always be my pirate buddy. But I feel like I’m cheating on my Butterfly. I love you so much. And I always will. But you don’t exist anymore. She’ll never replace you in my heart and mind, but in every single other way, she is you. Time travel is fucked up that way.
I would have taken any version of you, my pot smoking rebel, and we could have run away, and never looked back. But you’re right – I love this version of you even more. I love this version of me so much more than the hipster, but I’ll always have a soft spot for her. I even have a pencil case.
In any reality, we make each other better people. And now, we’ll no longer have to imagine what would happen if we never left each other’s side.
I love you. I love her.
I love you.
And tonight, I’ll tell you, for the very first time. I know you love me, too. But I hope you’ll be able to say it again, for the very first time. You’ve had trouble saying it, and as ironic as it is, I don’t want to wait any longer.
You were my first love, and you’ll be my last. If I have to do it all again, and again, and again, just know that. You’re my first and my last. That’s how it ends. Always, Chloe Price. Always.
“Always,” she whispered.
She spun in the 50’s style high chair, only to come face-to-face with her girlfriend. That in itself was normal – what was unusual was the uncannily familiar black cotton beanie on top of her head. “New cap?”
She nodded. “I got it from dad. I can’t let you see my new look before prom.”
Max smirked. “You finally decided to dye your hair, huh? Took you long enough.”
“Well, I had to! You were outclassing everyone, looking like a Brony. I swear, if I blow into your hair, skittles might fall out.”
“I’ll try to go for one color by the time we leave. No guarantees.”
“I don’t mind. I wanna see that hair shake around like a helicopter. You might hypnotize me.”
“Bark for me.”
“Can’t do what’s already done.”
“So you’ve got me under your spell, fair enough. Just don’t make me, you know, hump your leg at prom. Because I totally might play along, and you only have yourself to blame. Wait until we get to the hotel.”
“No hotel tonight, babe. I’ve got a night planned.”
She tilted her head. “You know, I completely forgot you told me that. I’ll change the dinner reservation to tomorrow.”
“Are you sure? Was it somewhere expensive?”
“Dirt-cheap, but it’s the thought that counts.” She gave her a curious eye. “Were you talking to yourself before I got here?”
“Uh, yeah. I talk to myself sometimes, you know that.”
“… Holy crap, did you just make up a lie right in front of me? Did you think I’d fall for that?”
“You’ve never talked to yourself?”
“You haven’t. Spill, Max. What’s up?”
She quirked her lips. “It’s been a while since you asked me that. Unfortunately, same answer; I had a daydream.”
“At work? That’s not like you.”
“It’s been a slow day.”
“Still. You okay? Nervous or something?”
“A little. As you’ve stressed, this is our first real date. I don’t want to disappoint you.”
“Yeah, like that’s even possible.” She leaned forward and pressed her lips to Max’s own. She gave a little peck to her nose as she backed off. “Just try to keep it all in Oregon. I don’t want you to steal my ideas for my planned date.”
“It’s nothing huge. It’ll be just you and me. It’s really hard to do that in this city – a place for just us.”
Chloe smiled wistfully. “It is, isn’t it? I will remember this conversation, Caulfield.”
“When we buy a house or something?”
“Let’s see how tonight goes first.”
“I will remember this, Price.”
Awkward cough. “Uh, wow. Wow. You, umm… you c-clean up nicely, Doe Eyes. You look, um, great,” she finished lamely. “I mean, as great as you usually do, but… wow.”
Though she planned on saying out loud those three important words this very night, she fought every part of her from spewing it out now, in the presence of the light blue, sparkling dress-clad woman in front of her. “You… are so beautiful, Chloe.”
The girls both chose simpler styles, shopping together days earlier, and the other could guess what they would look like. But what they saw was something else entirely.
Joyce and William, watching the two look each other up and down, decided not to bother them for a picture. Besides, knowing Max, they’d have enough for a scrapbook by the end of the night.
They would. Two scrapbooks, actually. And a small, personalized album that would never reach the Price parents’ eyes.
But right now, Max had more clothing to add, that she made herself. From behind her back, she produced a silky, flowing belt with a blue butterfly pendant, already pinned against the rainbow colored arrangement. “If I may?”
Chloe was almost in tears as Max neatly wrapped it around her waist, carefully pinning it to her bodice after looping it over her bare shoulder. She wordlessly pulled her best friend, her other half into a hug, and the two stayed like that until Chloe could manage to keep her tears in check.
“Thank you guys,” Max choked, before clearing her throat. “We’ll be back soon.”
“Not too soon,” William told them sternly. “Have fun. You two have been model students, and quite frankly, it’s worrying us. We’re proud of you both; you deserve this night.”
Chloe brushed back a blue streak behind her ear, and reached for Max’s hand. “We’ll make you proud, dad.”
His face was soft and kind, and Max never took for granted how relieving a sight it was. “Enjoy yourself.”
“I’m in love with you, Maxine Caulfield.”
A bit earlier than planned, but she wasn’t going to complain. She took the key out of the front door and placed it in her small purse, then put her full attention on her girlfriend. “Chloe Elizabeth Price, you couldn’t even wait until we stepped off the front porch before I blow your mind with my surprises?” She put her hands on her hips. “I wanted to earn that. Then again, that’s probably why I love you so much.”
She quickly wrapped her hands around her lover, smiling so gratefully, and kissed her soundly. “Been wanting to say it for a while,” she whispered against her soft lips, “just couldn’t find the right time, and I still can’t. But I couldn’t wait any longer.”
Max pulled back and smirked.
In the distance, a distinct series of clops were heard, and a rolling noise with minor squeaks and squeals broke through the silent night. Chloe was dumbfounded as a manned horse dutifully trotted towards the front of their house, carriage in tow.
“Max… you didn’t…”
“I like to go old school.” She refrained to mention how ridiculous the price was to rent a white horse for the night over a limousine. “Doth carriage awaits, Butterfly.”
Chloe began to tear up, again, and Max would have been a little disappointed if she hadn’t. She produced a small, square version of the sash she had given her, rainbow colors and all, and dabbed the silky piece on her cheeks. “You’re the best friend ever,” Chloe muttered.
Max said nothing, only leaning up to kiss her cheek. Wordlessly, she pulled her date along towards the carriage.
“I love you, Chloe Price.”
Chloe groaned at the ironic tone, remembering not five minutes earlier that she couldn’t think of when to say such a statement, now in a fucking horse-led carriage. “…You’re right. I should have waited a few more minutes.”
Max wrapped an arm around her girl, pulled her close as the horse gently galloped forward. “You may find this a surprise, but I forgive you.”
“You know, I never pictured you as the assertive one in this relationship.”
“Me neither. But I’m having fun. You?”
Chloe snuggled her head into the crook of Max’s neck, and laid a kiss against the pink strap of her flowing gown. “My sweet prince.”
As expected, the night got better from there. Pulling up to prom in a horse-drawn carriage wasn’t a common sight, and the couple that stepped off the stage-coach was, while common, not exactly attention seekers. But now the spotlight was on them, and the two couldn’t care less. All that mattered to them were each other, and their friends.
Daniel DaCosta gave a low whistle. “Wow, you two! Coming out with flair!”
Chloe made sure no was watching except their closest friends, and flipped him off. “We came out a while ago. You’re just clueless.”
Dana Ward simply nodded her head as her date looked dumbfounded between the two. “They were dating for almost two years, Danny.”
“Really?” He looked perplexed. “So that time I asked you if I should ask Max out, and you just glared at me for like, ten minutes until I backed away… I thought you were just playing overprotective sister?”
She rolled her eyes. “Nope. Just overprotective.”
Max shook her head. She was glad – she’d already broken Warren’s heart enough times, she didn’t need any extra baggage. And she still, after all these years, didn’t know how to gently break that to someone. “You guys planning on staying?”
“Nah,” Daniel answered. “We were actually planning on going to the Vortex Party tonight. Wanna come with?”
“No thanks,” Chloe made a disgusted face. “Max and I drove by there once, and the music almost rocked my truck. Hell no.”
“I’ve got a night planned,” Max revealed happily, “and a freaking barn is nowhere near my schedule.” It didn’t surprise her that the Vortex club still existed, but she was pleased that they were forced to work outside of the school’s confines. It was no longer a recognized organization within Blackwell Academy. Instead, they hosted their parties at the newly renovated barn, still owning the place after the police cleaned out the area. Apparently, the bunker was an attraction to people.
If there was any saving grace it was the fact that Kate had opted out of the night altogether, instead choosing to spend her night helping Courtney get over the flu. She and Chloe planned on stopping by the next day to help out. Really, the girl was a saint, and Max was going to make sure that Kate would be recognized for her selflessness.
“I wonder what that building’s all about across the street?” Dana pondered, sitting back in her comfy chair – there were a lot of those around the edge of the gym, and it was vastly preferred over actual dancing. “Think it’s a new McDonalds? It’s always a new McDonalds.”
“I wouldn’t mind a Starbucks,” Max commented, counting down the days until she could have iced coffee. You really don’t know what you have until you lost it for a decade. Still, she was more than a little curious about the renovations across the street. It was a park before she had made the Leap, but the park had been moved to further down the street, along with a playground. The building was a surprise, and surprises worried her. Still, there was nothing she could do but wait and see. And that worried her even more.
“There you are,” Taylor found the two couples huddled together. “About time you two showed up. You look amazing. Have you guys seen Evan?”
“Bathroom,” Daniel answered her without missing a beat. “He told me if you asked for him, meet him in the furthest stall.”
She wrinkled her nose. “Pig.”
Max and Chloe gave each other a knowing glance. She’d be joining him in ten minutes. “Well,” Chloe lingered on the word, “if you guys don’t mind, I have to see this epic date Dream Girl’s got all planned out.”
They stayed around for one dance, but the music around them didn’t set the mood they were going for, and that combined with all the staring (“Two hot lesbians are hot,” Chloe warned her), they decided to bow out earlier than expected, but that fit into her plans quite nicely.
The group said their goodbyes, and the pair left just as quickly as they’d arrived, only stopping to take a picture at the entrance, for alibi purposes.
“What’s next? A smooth gondola ride down the river?”
“Nope.” Though she made a mental note. “And Arcadia doesn’t have a river.”
“So what’s in the plans?”
“Something more… adventurous.”
In another life, Max had always made it a point to speak to the school’s custodian, Samuel, every once in a while. His affixation to nature always made an easy topic to stick with, and he never failed to say something interesting. But even then, there were perks beyond that. Samuel, so comfortable talking to Max, that he never complained while she walked alongside him some mornings, keeping some space while he did his checklist of morning duties. On one such occasion, he had left his set of keys in his truck, and, by instinct, went over to dig under the third bush on the left, to recover a ring of keys so heavy, she was sure the squirrels could have never carried them away.
In this life, she hunted down the keys again, and copied them.
“And… we’re in,” Max grinned, while Chloe looked on in shock.
“Holy shit, you’re hardcore!”
“Thank you, thank you,” she simpered, and pushed the door open. “Feeling a little impish? The Blackwell Pool is ours.”
She took in the sight of the Olympic-sized pool, while Max explained. “I know how much you loved the pool at my old house, so why don’t we relive old times? Pirate buddies!”
She looked down at herself, and back at Max’s beautiful dress. “More like high class wenches, right now.” Her eyes brightened, and she smirked devilishly. “Now when you say ‘impish’…”
The partial brunette said nothing, rather removed her straps and let the entire dress pool at her feet. “I will if you will.”
Chloe didn’t even hesitate; two could play daring. She stripped down to her strapless bra and panties, and after a teasing smile, flung the cups to the side.
Max was lost in her gaze, staring at her girlfriend’s flawless, perfect breasts, until she decided to get on with it.
With a steady breath, she removed her bra. And after a small moment of gathering courage from her girlfriend’s lustful eyes, she stepped out of her matching lace panties.
Chloe noticed immediately. “Shit, Max! You shave?”
She shook her head. “Not until this morning.” She stepped closer, and Chloe found it alluringly intimidating. Her ankle strap heels still adorning her feet, she stalked towards her girlfriend with a predatory gaze. “What? I like to plan things out.”
The strawberry-blonde reached out to stroke her bare waist, and her hands was clammy as they glided across the smooth skin, feeling the goosebumps ripple. “You’re beautiful, Max. Breathtaking.”
Max reached up to remove the clip holding up her lover’s hair. “As are you, my Butterfly.”
“My little doe,” she whispered, leaning down to take the brunette’s lips onto her own.
The stagecoach stopped in front of the Two Whales Diner. “Want something to eat? Joyce gave me the keys.”
Chloe, so relaxed after their ‘pool session’, merely nodded wistfully. While they had done a few things before, tonight took it all to a whole new level. “Usually,” she muttered after a few seconds, not even aware she was walking to the door with her, “you’re supposed to take me to dinner first.”
“Au contraire; I had to know if you were worth putting my money up for,” She grinned cheekily, unlocking the glass doors.
She was thankful for the swimming cap Max had given her before they entered the pool, as the cold air was just beginning to affect her. Her sleek, shining hair reached her shoulders, and she tossed it back as her girlfriend opened the door. She reached back to undo her hair. “Max, this has seriously been the best. Thank you.”
Max gave her a look. Then a smirk. The door opened wide, and she was confronted by a single table in the middle of the diner, glowing by candlelight, some Bowie playing in the background. “You’re welcome, Chloe.”
“Oh, Max,” she gasped, covering her mouth with her hand. She wasn’t gifted to this sight often – her love being shocked to her core with her blatant thoughtfulness and care – and Max licked it all up. “You’re fucking spoiling me.”
“I’m only spoiling you if I don’t think you deserve it,” she countered, having expected that line to come up at least once tonight. “You’re worth so much more to me than all this, Chloe.”
Her smile was so bright. “I wanna laugh and cry at your lines at the same time.” She pulled her into a hug. “God, I don’t know what’d happen to me without you.”
“You’d probably cry less.”
She sniffed. “Somehow, I doubt it.”
Max was truly glowing as she embraced her girlfriend, and though she tried to be the strong one, she was on the verge of breaking down herself. This was what she could have been doing all those years, had she made the right choices. And now, she was afforded the chance to live this moment. This was her new life.
Chloe’s stomach grumbled. She giggled. Chloe actually giggled. “Sorry.”
“Don’t apologize. We had a good workout.” She pulled her along and pulled back her chair. “So, what’ll it be?”
“Wait.” The strawberry-blonde looked perplexed. “You’re cooking?”
She crossed her arms. “You’d think I’d let you cook for me, in that beautiful dress, and let you gallivant and serenade me all night, and cook for me? I can’t let you do all this!”
She had suspected that old independence streak to surface, but she still didn’t have an answer to it. “I have an apron.” Uncomfortable pause. “Would you rather we stared into each other’s eyes and reflect on our life thus far?”
“Maxine Caulfield, I won’t stand for you cooking for me. Not tonight. And yes, I do have a better idea.” She wrapped an arm around her neck. “What say you and I go one more place?”
“I, maybe, already sent away the horse. I didn’t think we would’ve needed it again.”
“Then let’s use three hundred. I can drive now, remember?”
Max stared up at the lighthouse with a very familiar, foreboding sense. “Chloe?”
“Do you remember this place?” She looked so relaxed, so in her element, driving her birthday present. Left elbow on the open window sill, her noticeably longer strawberry-blond hair with dyed blue tips waving behind her, her slim hands holding the wheel with the greatest of ease as they ran the curves. “When we were little, we came up here all the time. I can’t remember the last time.”
Max could. But it wasn’t the same date Chloe had in mind. She wracked her mind for a memory that was, essentially, over two decades ago. They had gone back multiple times in the last timeline, but not in this one. “We were playing here, my parents were sitting on the bench. It was the last time we really got dirty playing pirates. We were five, I think.”
Chloe nodded, parking next to the walking path. She stepped out, and before Max could unbuckle, the door was open, and her girlfriend was ready to lead her on. “What else do you remember?”
“Bongo,” she recalled with a smile. “Your parents showed up, and Bongo leapt out of the car.”
“Yeah,” Chloe smiled fondly, removing a basket from the open trunk. “I saw that little kitten for the very first time. God rest his little old soul.”
Max nodded sadly. Now buried in the backyard, the end year had been extended by four compared to last time. It was really shocking how many car accidents she had to prevent in this family. She didn’t want to curse it by calling it out loud an actual Price family curse. “When did you pack a basket?”
She shrugged. “Remember my dinner reservation? This is my table for two. Take notes.”
“So you had a plan for tonight?”
“Half of one. Had to involve this place.”
The two travelled up the narrow path, hand-in-hand. “Because this is the only place in the world where we could pretend it was just you and me. We were never alone. Ever. We’ve always had friends, family, perfect strangers. I mean, sure, we can count our room, but it was never… this special, y’know? This was our spot. Our haven. Even as our parents looked over us, our little heads couldn’t even register it. We were the only two little girls in the world, alternating eyepatches and black paper hats. I don’t know why we stopped going here. I think mom and dad were afraid of Bongo running off, so they decided to keep us in the gated backyard.”
“No. They saw a deer and were wary of wild animals. I went up to it and pet it. They were way too terrified to take a picture of that.” At some point, they were supposed to return after it became more of a tourist attraction, with an actual dirt path to follow, but this time, no one brought up the idea of returning.
“Wow,” Chloe commented with a smile. “You really were hardcore, Mad Max.”
Max brought her clasped hand around to her other side, so Chloe’s arm could wrap around her waist. “Haven’t gotten a nickname like that in a while from you.”
“Because Doe Eyes really fits.”
“Does it still?”
“Uh… are we about to do a dare or something? A streaking challenge?”
“Max, give me more credit than that. I don’t need an excuse to see you naked, and I don’t need anyone else to see. You’re all mine. And this,” she paused, dramatically waving her basket towards an open space, occupied by a spread-out blanket and an unlit candelabra, “is just a small token of my gratitude.”
“Oh wow, Chloe…”
“See? There’s the doe-y eyes I was looking for.” She tucked a strand of reddish-brown hair behind Max’s ear, getting a better view of her astonished visage. “Now, we’re gonna eat right. On the ground, no chairs, no Bowie playing… I’m starting to think this is a horrible idea.”
“It’s… it’s perfect, Chloe. Thank you.” She gently tucked her legs beneath her as she sat on the ground. “Come on. Join me.”
Chloe took the offered hand, and sat down next to her. She opened the basket. “Oh, would you look at that? You’re not the only one who can go old school.” She smirked as she slyly pulled out a cassette player. “No Bowie, but I’ve got someone you might be interested in.” She clicked a button, and a smooth acoustic wafted over the area.
“Crosses?” She had played that title frequently in their room, while working on homework, or even just relaxing. But it was in a slightly different arrangement. “Chloe… is that you?”
She nodded. “How is it?”
Max closed her eyes. “It’s amazing. It’s even more complex than my arrangement.”
She looked at the cassette player with some pride. “I was gonna dumb it down so it could make some nice background music, but then I thought, ‘Why the hell would I do that when I have the chance to impress Max Caulfield?’ So yeah, now you know why mom gave me a different lunch break. Needed time to work this down in a studio we call a garage.”
“Well, consider me deeply impressed.” She rested her head against her girlfriend’s bare shoulder, eyes still shut.
Chloe was careful not to move her other shoulder as she pulled out the food and the lighter. “I’m glad most of this stuff is supposed to be eaten cold. No burgers or anything. I’ve got a few turkey sandwiches, though.”
“Of course. Can’t eat that shit dry.”
“You’re the best.”
“Oh, please, my little doe. I am merely an apprentice to the master.” She carefully lit the three candles on the silver holder, then focused on unwrapping the food. “Huh. I’m glad we knocked hypothetical boots in the pool earlier. I forgot I packed so much shrimp and tuna and seafood, and not nearly enough mouthwash.”
Max chuckled. “You really want to talk about eating etiquette after what happened at the pool?”
She wiggled her shoulder. “Hush you. No discussing our statutory dalliances in public.”
Chloe rolled her eyes. “Shut up and drift away to my acoustics, please.”
The girl had no problem doing just that, grabbing a deveined shrimp and relaxing, if only for a temporary moment, staring off into the moonlit sky covering Arcadia Bay.
One moon, one town, all in one piece. She marked that as a huge victory. That combined with her soulmate by her side, enjoying each other’s company as they had always done, and this time, both were fully aware of how much they meant to each other. Together as friends, lovers, and pirates.
Just eight more months – she just had to hold out until October eleventh, and if there weren’t any tears in time and space, or falling birds, or dead whales, or spirit animals, or double moons, or realities shifting into one another – and it would all be over. She’d won. She hoped.
Chloe shivered, and Max felt it, still leaning on her. “You cold? Chloe?”
“No, I ah, just… I was thinking.”
“Thinking about something that gave you the chills? Did it involve a pool?”
“No, smartass. I was more thinking of, well, the final surprise of the night.”
“There’s more?” She really didn’t feel like getting up, and short of a plane trip to Italy, there wasn’t much else she could think of as a surprise. “Back to Prom?”
“Do you want to dance? Right here?”
It didn’t take much for her to feel into it, the music still playing. “Can I… take off my shoes?”
“We’re on a blanket. Go crazy.”
She was already unbuckling the ankle straps. “How’s your footwork?”
“Good. Because I’m more in favor of that idea you had back at the diner.”
“Oh?” She reached up, and Chloe graciously pulled her to her feet. Her partner kicked her heels somewhere behind her, and the two wrapped their arms around each other. “And what was that?”
“This,” she muttered, raising their entwined fingers beside them and wrapping her arm around her waist. “You and me. Staring sappily into each other’s eyes. Reflecting on life. It would probably work better without context, but hell, that’s what we’re doing.”
“Oh, I don’t get a choice?” The slightly shorter girl joked, returning the arm gesture.
“Maxine, life is full of choices. This is one of those choices that is simply out of your hands. Just let your dear Chloe serenade you for the rest of the night.”
She pretended to think about it for a few seconds. “I kinda don’t want to go anywhere. But I’ll happily go wherever you take me.”
Chloe said nothing, merely leaning up slightly to catch a kiss on her forehead, and resting her chin on her lover’s shoulder. “Good,” she finally admitted. “Because tonight, this is our stop.”
Her rendition of “To All of You” was the next track, playing with little distortion on the small cassette player, and they gently rocked along to the music. If there were any mistakes, Max didn’t care to listen to them; she was only absorbed in the song itself, the atmosphere, and the comfort she found in it all.
It was a lifetime ago when she found herself terrified of this place. Her life had almost ended here. She had come to this place for shelter, a place to protect herself from the storm. It was a nightmare even before Chloe gave her the ultimatum. It was a nightmare before her actual nightmare. Even as she kissed her best friend, it was under the pretenses of letting her go for the final time, before her epiphany. And then she was forced to watch her world get brutally ripped away.
Once upon a time, The Arcadia Bay Lighthouse was an actual, possibly literal, hell for her.
And in this very single moment, the thought never even occurred in her content mind. Not once.
“Hey, Max? Quick question. Will you marry me?”
Max blinked. Was she in another dream? Did a time rift fast forward happen? It hadn’t occurred in over a decade, never in this timeline.
She looked down, and sure enough, her sparkling pale pink dress was still on, and Chloe’s beautiful blue gown, with a flowing silk rainbow sash, didn’t look any different. Even the music playing was the same. “C-Chloe?”
“I-I’m sorry, it’s just – ”
“I was confused for a second. I thought we were somewhere else.”
“Oh! Oh. So you… you didn’t… hear me?”
“I did. I just thought I was dreaming.”
“Oh. Okay.” She chuckled nervously. “I made it awkward.”
“I dream about it often.”
She blinked owlishly, her fingers trembling against her spine. “Oh. Really?”
“Yeah. I dream awkward.” She let the thought linger. “So ask again. Please.”
She took a deep breath. “Okay. Where do you see yourself in five years?”
Max blinked. Maybe she had been dreaming? “That wasn’t what I heard.”
“I’ll get back to that, I promise.” She said it quickly, like she regretted that the words ever left her mouth, and putting more words in front of it would push it to the back of her mind. “And yeah, I know I sound like a school counselor and all, but it’s something we never talked about. What’s next? After we graduate Arcadia High top of our class, me as president and you as valedictorian, and we ace our way into Blackwell, and we burn the fucker down with our mad skills, and you just write this impassioned article for the paper about how Arcadia Bay is on the map because of us, and – ”
She stopped her rambling, and worked her mouth for a few solid seconds. “San Francisco?”
Max nodded. “Or Los Angeles. If that’s cool with you.”
She considered it. “I didn’t exactly say we should leave town, but… this city is kinda holding us back, huh?”
“It’s a nice, small fishing town.” And it had gotten a lot better after the town celebrity was jailed for life and shanked in his cell, and the local multi-millionaire was found in one of his own hotels in Colorado, years later, overdosed. The irony. “But I don’t think being promoted to Two Whales Manager was ever in the plan. No offense to Joyce.”
“So… you’ve thought this out.”
Max bit her bottom lip and nodded. “Did you?”
“Well, frankly, I wanted to talk to you about it. But I see that you’ve already decided.” It wasn’t intended to sound hurtful, or angry. It was more a look of genuine confusion.
“Plans change. It’s not set in stone. It never is. What we define is our own, and no one can take that away. It’s just that, well, I’m always going off the assumption that you’d always be with me.” She frowned. “They’re always dreams. Never an actual plan. I’ve got a book full of photos that, if I pull a few strings with some teachers, I could have published, but I haven’t. I’ve seen portraits that you’ve drawn that could put you on international tours if they ever see the outside of the house. I’m a dreamer, Chloe. Together, we could be doers. I can plan whatever I want, but until you’re ready, I’m staying right here. San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, New York, Atlanta, Spain, Italy… or right here in Arcadia Bay, Oregon. I’m not going a damn place until you come with me. That’s my plan.”
Chloe’s blue eyes sparkled as they swayed together. “That speech sounded planned out, Doe Eyes.”
Max shrugged. “No. Dreamed out. Wanna know my actual plan? Where I’ll see myself in five years?” She pulled her date even closer. “Dancing. With you. Not in some fancy high-end white void, filled with food I’ll never eat, sucking up to people I’ll never truly respect. Right here. Celebrating the five year anniversary of one of the happiest nights of our lives. That’s my plan. And it’s got you in it, from beginning to end. And it started with your question.”
Chloe nervously cleared her throat. “So it does.” She reached back to undo the rest of her hair. “You know, I, uhhh… didn’t picture tonight being so… you know… this. And I thought, just this afternoon, ‘You know what I’m gonna do? I’m gonna blow her mind. She wants old school, she’s got it!’ And then you bring in a goddamn horse and a carriage, and you just don’t have a clue how much I love you for that. Or maybe you do. Well, it’s what you want, Max. I want to give you one of the happiest nights of your life, and dammit, I just can’t let it end here. Not with a picnic. You give me so much, and all I want is you. And all I can give you is a promise.” With visibly trembling hands, she slid a small, silver band down the middle of her shoulder-length hair. “And you’re not a material person, I know. Neither am I. We keep it mad simple. But, for once, I wanted to give you something complicated.”
She backed away, lingering in her girlfriend’s touch as she was forced to let go, and dropped down to her knee. “I love you, Maxine. And I’m not afraid. You mean everything to me, and I’m not afraid to let you know that. I know you’ll say yes, and you saying anything else doesn’t scare me nearly as much as it should. I know, you and me, we’re going to rock the fucking world together, famous or rich or not, and that doesn’t scare me. What scares me is, and I don’t really know how to explain it, but what really terrifies the shit out of me is how fearless you make me.” The silver band glimmered brightly, reflecting the soft candlelight as she pinched it between her fingers.
She held it out to her lover; her everything. “Our greatest adventure yet, Doe Eyes. You and me. Will you marry me, Maxine Caul – woah! Mfff!”
Max had dropped to both knees and grabbed the back of her new fiancée’s head. She then gave her the most forceful kiss she had ever initiated. “Sorry, but you talked way too fucking long, and yes, holy shit, YES!”
The two embraced, the teens laughing at the other’s antics even in the most serious of moments, unapologetic in their actions.
It was several minutes after literally rolling around in the blanket, did Max remember to actually put on the ring. The two looked over, both pleased and amused to see the ring lying next to a standing bottle of wine (“Don’t tell mom, but dad was really serious about us having a good time!”), and a single, purple butterfly fluttered softly to land on the ring.
Chloe softly nudged Max into action, and she reached over into her purse.
Photo submitted by Max Caulfield, “Pricefield” 2013
The butterfly effect. You’ve all heard of that, right? You don’t need to have seen the movie to know what it is; I haven’t. And you probably don’t need to, any sci-fi time travel movie will tell you. Step on a butterfly in the past, and the future is altered, usually for the worse, and by ‘worse’, I mean total chaos and utter destruction. Of course, that is only applicable in the same existence as time travel. You can’t step on a butterfly and just take notes in the differences on a future that hasn’t happened yet, compared to a future that would’ve occured.
Still, it’s fun to think about, and I wouldn’t have such an imagination today if I didn’t entertain the notion. It’s an indecipherable breed of truth and fantasy. It’s even absurd, and scary, trying to describe it; think of how many choices you make in a single day, starting from what time you think to wake up, to what time you fall asleep. Every single second in-between and after is a factor, waiting to be decided by you. And yes, sometimes those factors don’t leave much of a choice for you. Sometimes, choices are taken out of our hands.
Once, I wasn’t given a choice what I wanted. I thought I did; and I tried to make the best of it, but I couldn’t. No one could’ve, I’m starting to realize. And that’s okay. I took the option that wasn’t given to me. Keyword: ‘Took.’
You’ve heard this speech before; life is full of choices. But they will never tell you how shitty those choices could be. Take the butterfly, for example. It chose to be where you next wanted to place your foot, but it didn’t choose to be stepped on. Perhaps you and the butterfly have intertwined destinies?
Who’s to say that if you didn’t step on the butterfly, that the world wouldn’t end in chaos? What if you were meant to step on the butterfly to maintain balance?
That’s a morbid thought, isn’t it?
I’m not going to suppose a theory that if you didn’t step on the butterfly, the apocalypse arises. Well, more astutely, I’m not going to theorize exactly how it got to that point. But it does pose a very interesting question; would you step on the butterfly?
I wouldn’t. And I’d never look back. End of the world be damned. Because, at the beginning of the day, I made the choice to do things my way, and to live with those consequences. And I can’t go back and change that. I don’t think anyone reading this would go out of their way to step on it, would they? Would you? You couldn’t possibly conjecture that the world might be doomed if you decided not to. You look at one of the most beautiful, graceful creatures on this earth and think the world would be a better place without it? No. Of course not.
The butterfly chose to be under your foot. You can choose whether to step on it or not. That’s your choice. And eventually a force, whether it be an equal, or something bigger than yourself, will have that same choice for you.
And, maybe naively, Karma is what I fully expect. But it doesn’t always happen. Bad things can happen to good people, and good things can happen to bad people. It’s all about the choices you make, yes, but it also depends on the choices others make. The world doesn’t revolve around you; everyone revolves around each other.
So, please choose wisely. For everyone else’s sakes.
And, looking at the picture in this article, that’s been affectionately named ‘Pricefield’, there’s no doubt in my mind that I made all the right choices.
So, this is the biggest choice you will make in the school newspaper today, I promise. But since I have a medium to release such big news, Why not put it on the headline of the paper? I’m on my way out, anyways. I’ve got nothing to lose. Also, Chloe dared me to. You know how that happens.
But I want to take you all with me. So – I, Maxine Caulfield, am engaged to the amazing Chloe Price. Consider this our official announcement, and our official RSVP. Please contact Kate Marsh, my planner and Maid of Honor, and Courtney Wagner, Chloe’s MoH, for more information.
Now, I’m sure many of you can see the problem we’ll have to go through, while a few others can only see the immediate problem that is my personal life choices. Luckily, I’m not asking for the latter’s compassion. In three weeks, a certain law will be presented that will affect the entire state of Oregon; a certain law that can make things a little simpler for us to progress in life. Thank you, each and every one of you, for signing our petition, but we could always use more. We are today’s youth, and Oregon will fall to our will one day – let’s show them that we are capable of being on the right side of history, and make a huge difference from the get-go.
From the prideful supporters, to the casual believers, to the hardcore rebels of the cause: It’s a choice that can change lives, and not just mine and Chloe’s. And I won’t say that it’s the end of the world if it’s turned down, either. It wouldn’t even be the end of our world. We could go to Washington, or California – It doesn’t matter, short-term.
But nothing would make me happier than to marry my best friend in my own home, surrounded by all of my friends and family, and to be recognized as legit for doing so. From one Oregonian to another, it’s my home, and it’s where I want to be. Would you give that up? Would you stand for what you believe in?
We didn’t choose to be in this position. I can only beg that you take one step to the side, and allow us to live our lives. The Butterfly Effect – you’ve all heard of that, right? It’s all about making choices.
Graduating Class of 2013, I tip my grape glass to you, courtesy of the bottle in the picture (because that’s totally what it is, and you can’t prove any different). Go make all the right choices.