you are about to read a small piece of the Raven’s Path. It is a Life is Strange story, taking place a few days after the events depicted in the game. The following teaser chapter has been taken out from the middle of the story, to show you what you can expect. It is spoiler-free, which means you can safely read it without the risk of discovering too many important details. I hope you will enjoy it!
Once you finish, please consider leaving feedback on my Twitter profile. I would love to hear your opinion on the story.
I would not be able to share this chapter with you without the help of my awesome friend, Epic Glitter. They made a tremendous effort of proofreading this part of the story and pointing out the ways in which it could be improved. They offered me a thoughtful feedback, teaching me about traps and nuances of English grammar. Their constant support motivated me to keep writing, to push myself even further, to learn new ways of pouring my thoughts on paper. Thank you for everything, my friend!
Did you know that Epic Glitter write their own Life is Strange fanfics? They are absolutely amazing! I wholeheartedly encourage you to check Epic Glitter’s profile on Archive of Our Own, where you can find a lot of beautiful, immersing, captivating stories from Arcadia Bay and beyond.
I dedicate this chapter to my #WeAreLiS family.
You are my angels.
I love you.
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.
Mary Elizabeth Frye
When Max reached the bus stop after last period, Kate had already been waiting for her. She noticed Max approaching and waved her over with a smile.
“Oh, I’m so happy you made it, Max!” She said, hugging Max warmly. “You’ll see, you’ll definitely feel better changing your surroundings a little.”
“I hope so, Kate.”
“Where do you want to go?”
Max shrugged. “I don’t really mind any place. We can go wherever.”
“Are you sure?” Kate inquired and Max nodded in response.
“Okay, so…” Kate said with voice full of excitement “let’s see the lighthouse! I’ve been wanting to go there ever since I came to Arcadia Bay, but I had no one to go with at first and then, after the Vortex Club party…” an ephemeral trace of sadness appeared in her voice. “I didn’t feel like hiking. But now I’m with you and I would absolutely love to see Arcadia Bay from the cliff! I’ve heard it’s a picturesque view.”
Max hesitated. She didn’t really want to go to the lighthouse, that place was full of sad memories, plus the nightmare she had last night… But she saw the hopeful look on Kate’s face and she realized she couldn’t think only about herself. After all, it was Kate who wanted to help her and offered her a friendly talk.
“Sure, we can go see the lighthouse” Max agreed, to Kate’s delight.
“Great!” Kate exclaimed as the yellow school bus with Blackwell Academy Transportation written on the side pulled to a stop in front of them.
The bus quickly filled with students. Despite the fact that some of the students were eligible for place in the dormitories, the majority of the school population lived in the town itself and now, once classes were over, they were coming home from campus. After half of an hour the bus finally arrived at the stop on the north side of Arcadia Bay. It was the closest place to the lighthouse they could reach with a school bus. Three other students from Blackwell got off at this stop. Max briefly recognized them as being from the younger class. They headed towards the path leading to the beach, while Max and Kate took a gravel road leading uphill, to the cliff and the lighthouse overlooking the bay. Max looked up and noticed that the upper story of the lighthouse was bathed in sunlight, a snow-white obelisk towering above a dark-green forest. It had a captivating aura to it.
They followed the uphill road for a few minutes. When they reached a parking lot near the trail leading to the lighthouse itself, Max spotted a blue jay that perched on a boulder, looking at her curiously. Max instinctively grabbed her messenger bag to take out the camera, only to remember that, since Chloe’s death, she was no longer carrying her Polaroid with her. Maybe that’s okay, after all. I lost my passion for photography anyway. She observed the bird proudly ruffling up its feathers for a moment, and then moved on.
When the girls emerged from the forest into an open space at the top of the cliff, Kate let out a cry of astonishment.
“Wow… Max, it’s so beautiful up here!” she exclaimed, absorbing the view in the distance.
Although in the morning the weather was somewhat capricious, now the sun was shining bright and strong, bathing the entire town of Arcadia Bay in golden light. Throughout the town, as well as the rest of Oregon, trees had already started to lose their green coating and forests were speckled with shades of yellow, brown and red. In the bay, several fishing boats had ended their daily routine, slowly returning to the port to sell their afternoon catch. For someone like Kate, who had been here for the first time, the vista must have been truly stunning.
“Gosh, this sight is incredible” Kate’s voice was full of admiration. “Is it always so wonderful?”
“If the sun is shining and the weather’s okay, then… yeah.”
“Ah, what a pity you don’t have your camera on you! I bet you’d have taken gorgeous photos!”
Max nodded slightly, pretending to agree. It was good to see Kate happy, and with every passing minute, she reminded Max more and more of the old, carefree Kate from the time before Victoria’s video came to light. Max, however, could not share her happiness. Looking around, she couldn’t get rid of an unnerving feeling of déjà vu, as if she was reliving her all-too-recent nightmare. Although it was a sunny afternoon, in her mind, Max could still see the terrifying storm. She remembered the huge tornado that once raged above the ocean, blinking as the present-day crests of gentle waves calmly lapped against the undisturbed shoreline.
Max looked in the direction of the higher part of the clifftop, close to the lighthouse. That was the place where she met Chloe in her dream. Max walked there slowly, stopping near the cliff’s edge, near the spot where she watched Arcadia Bay reduced to dust. She gave the town a long look. Four thousand six hundred and twenty-five people. That’s how many residents of Arcadia Bay owe their lives to Chloe, though they didn’t even know about it, nor would they ever. Did Max act properly? Did she have a right to trade one life for four thousand others? Was that really what Chloe wanted? In her last moment, knowing that she would soon cease to exists and that her timeline would soon be irrevocably terminated, did she regret her decision? As her best friend stared at the photo, did Chloe want to tell her to stop?
No, Max thought with intensity, maybe Chloe was not perfect, but she was not a coward. Never.
Chloe might not have been a coward, said a voice in her head that belonged to herself, but you are! You were afraid to make the decision yourself, you convinced yourself that Chloe knew better, that she had a right to make such a dire choice. You did nothing to save her. You did not oppose her. You just wrote her off.
“No!” Max cried out loud, trying to drown out the thoughts that tormented her. She took a step forward, standing almost on the very edge of a cliff. She looked at Arcadia Bay. It felt like when she blinked, under her half-closed eyelids she could see the contours of a tornado making its way toward the town. When she closed her eyes and concentrated, she felt that she could hear the deafening roar of wind and the sound of rain, overpowered by the peals of a thunder every couple of seconds.
“You shouldn’t stand so close to the edge.”
Max opened her eyes but did not look back. She glanced down and saw the shadow of Kate, who was standing two steps behind her.
“What do you mean ”why?“” Kate sounded surprised. “You can fall, Max!”
“It doesn’t matter” Max replied in a flat voice, staring blankly at the horizon. “She’s gone…”
Terrified, Kate watched Max standing motionless on the edge of a cliff. After a moment that seemed like eternity, Max took a deep breath and slowly, unhurriedly, turned back. She saw Kate’s concerned face and noticed her watery eyes. Max passed her without a word, going to the lower part of the cliff and sitting down on the lone wooden bench.
“All is lost, Kate.”
Max herself was surprised by the lack of sadness or despair in her voice. It was completely emotionless, hollow, tired. Max didn’t wallow in self-pity, she was merely stating a fact.
Kate’s look was still full of worries. She went to Max and sat down beside her, hands clasped together on her knees.
“All is not lost, Max” she assured, trying to sound confident, but her worried tone was not very convincing. “You are not alone. There are people who care about you.”
“Like me” Kate stated, her voice gaining some confidence. “I’m tremendously sorry for your friend, but you don’t have to fight this pain alone. I know perfectly well how terrible it is, when your world collapses and you can’t get any help. But you’ve helped me! Please, let me help you now.
Max looked up and and turned her head, staring at Kate. She looked at Max intently and her gaze was… kind. Full of compassion and… understanding. Ever since Max lost Chloe, she hadn’t seen understanding in anyone’s look.
“I don’t know how you can help me” Max said honestly. “I don’t know how to help myself!”.
Kate took Max’s hand in her own. Their eyes met.
“Maybe we can start by just talking?” she suggested.
“I don’t know where to begin.”
“Begin at any point, I’ll put everything together” Kate assured her.
Max looked at the sky above the cliff, where seagulls were soaring calmly, their screams reaching the lighthouse with the wind. She wanted, really wanted to tell Kate everything, but she knew it was impossible. What would she say? I saw my best friend being shot to death by Nathan Prescott, then I discovered I could rewind time. I saved her, spent a week with her, I’ve fallen in love with her, I solved the mystery behind Rachel Amber’s disappearance, only to ultimately find out that my powers had caused a huge tornado that would have killed everyone in Arcadia Bay. So I came back to the very beginning and I let my beloved die on a dirty bathroom floor, lonely and scared. I let her bleed out, convinced, in the last moments of her life, that the last words she’d ever hear, ‘Nobody would ever miss your punk ass, would they?’ were true. Because of me, she left this world believing that everyone who has ever loved her, abandoned her in the end!
“Take your time” Kate said calmly, “we have an entire afternoon.”
“It won’t work” Max sighed, shaking her head. “I really want to tell you everything, but I can’t.”
Kate’s face darkened.
“Why?” she asked, disappointed.
“Because” Max replied with a resigned voice, “not everything can be described with words. Because sometimes words are hollow, dead, they lack the emotion that drives them. Because you cannot turn back time that has already been rewound. Because regardless of how much we would struggle to change the past, our fate will always reach us in the end. Because memories are always real, even if the events themselves have turned into nothingness.”
“That’s… really deep” said surprised Kate after a moment of silence.
Max laughed grimly.
“Trust me, Kate, deep things, repeated time and again, quickly become clichés.”
“If you say so.”
Kate evidently wanted to avoid confrontation. For a moment, both girls remained silent. Kate stared at her knees, her right hand holding the little cross hanging from her neck. Max was looking straight into the horizon.
“You know, Max…” Kate began after a moment, whispering, as if embarrassed by what she wanted to say. “I have to tell you something.”
Max glanced at Kate. She was looking down, at her shoes, avoiding Max’s eyes and unknowingly turning the golden cross in her hand. She looked like she was gathering her courage to tell Max something important.
“I’m listening to you, Kate.” Max encouraged her, trying to make her voice sound a little softer after her recent tirade. Max knew she could not solve her own problems, but she would never allow anything to torment her friend’s caring, gentle soul. After taking a few deep breaths, Kate began:
“After the Vortex Club party, when… when that video showed up on the internet” Kate winced, as the corners of her mouth dropped in a sad grimace. Although Max helped her last week, it was clear that the wound was still fresh. “I felt so… lonely. Abandoned by the others. When I tried to explain what happened to me, and ask for help, nobody believed me. No one wanted to listen… I was alone, that is, before you helped me” she added quickly, glancing at Max apologetically. “I had the feeling that I was trapped in a nightmare, a nightmare I could not wake up from…”
Max shuddered. Obviously Kate couldn’t know that, but she repeated almost exactly the same words she had uttered in another reality, standing on the rooftop, moments before she jumped into the void.
“It was a terrible feeling” Kate continued, closing her eyes as if to recall some mental image. “Sleep did not bring me relief, only nightmares. Even after waking up everyone was laughing at me and scorning me. I couldn’t get help from anyone, I felt that… I could not take it anymore. I just wanted to… stop suffering. Rest.” She opened her eyes and looked at Max, her expression filled with a mix of pain and compassion. “I was considering, very seriously…” she paused, searching for the right words. “I-I wanted to end it all. You know what I mean?”
Max nodded in silence. Of course she knew. She did not admit to Kate that she knew even more than Kate had told her. She had no idea if Kate was going to jump from the dormitory roof in this reality or chose another way to depart this life, but Max was painfully aware that if she hadn’t had a serious conversation with Victoria in Jefferson’s classroom, it might have ended with another tragedy.
“Max, I’m telling you all of this because… I saw your drawings today, in Esperto’s class” Kate hesitated, the lingering embarrassment in her voice mixed with concern. “I was… I am worried about you” she corrected herself. “I don’t want you to make my mistake. I don’t want you to… do something terrible.”
Max looked at Kate, her throat tight with a mix of emotions. Poor Kate, poor shy Kate, how much effort and determination it must have cost her, to admit to Max she’d struggled with such desperate intentions and suspected Max may have done the same.
“Please” Kate added after a moment, “don’t tell anyone about what I told you, okay? I don’t want them to bully me again.”
“Of course, Kate” Max quickly assured her, “you have my word.”
Tears appeared in Kate’s eyes and began to drop on her cheeks.
“Can you… can you also promise me that… that you will not do anything stupid? Please, Max…” she started to break down, tears staining her white shirt. “I would never forgive myself if you… if you…” she broke off, sobbing.
Max hugged her, letting her rest her head on Max’s shoulder.
“I will remember your words, Kate, I promise. Thank you for being here for me… You are the only one…”
A few minutes passed as they held their embrace. The warm afternoon sun lit their faces, both bearing traces of tears, although neither of them were crying anymore. Max stared at Arcadia Bay below. The idyllic atmosphere was suddenly interrupted by a black raven who swooped down, sitting on a board bearing an Arcadia Bay map. Years ago, Chloe had scrawled a red pirate skull to mark the location of their tree fort. He cried loudly, making Kate look up. The raven turned his head a bit, and one of his eyes fixed on the girls.
“He looks like he’s watching us” Kate noticed.
No, he looks like he’s watching me Max thought, feeling a strange unease. She tried to convince herself it was nothing more than a mere coincidence. It was quite possible that some stray raven just flew over to them, hoping to get some corn… No, Max didn’t believe herself at all. This raven looked identical to the one sitting on Chloe’s shoulder in Max’s most recent nightmare. Such happenstance could occur anywhere, but not in Arcadia Bay. There were no coincidences in Arcadia Bay.
“Maybe we should feed him?” Kate suggested timidly. “He might be hungry.”
“I don’t think he came here for food, he’s just being curious, that’s all” Max said, feigning confidence in her voice. She did not want to scare Kate, telling her that mysterious animal from her dream has just materialized in bodily form ten feet away. “Besides, I don’t have anything to eat that I could give him. What about you?”
Kate looked inside her bag, rummaging. In the meantime Max kept her eyes fixed on the raven. And the raven was looking at her. Did he just wink at me? she thought, surprised. No, that’s not possible. I think I’m really starting to lose my mind…
“I don’t have any food either” Kate answered after a moment, closing her bag.
“That’s okay, he will fly away soon enough.”
The raven seemed to understand what Max had just said. He squawked and flew to the other side of the map, where he began fiercely tapping his beak against it, as if trying to split a walnut. Surprised, Kate gave out an involuntary cry, but it did not seem to scare the raven away. He paused for a moment, looked at the girls, and resumed pecking the map shortly after.
“Shoo!” Max shouted, jumping from her seat and flailing her arms. The raven took off, circled above them and perched on a high branch of a nearby pine. Max’s angry stare followed him. “Damn bird.”
“He was a bit strange” Kate said cautiously. Max always wondered how Kate could keep her distance and watch her words in different situations. “It looked like he wanted to peck a hole in the map.”
“Hmm…” A sudden thought came to Max. She turned away from the raven sitting above her and walked to the stand displaying a map of Arcadia Bay. The map was made of thick laminated paper, resistant to water and sunlight, so it wasn’t weathered much, despite its age. The lighthouse and the water tower marked opposite ends of the town, with Blackwell Academy, the town hall, and other important sites throughout the rest of Arcadia Bay were also visible. Max’s look, however, turned to a red, crooked pirate drawing, made with a permanent marker by eight-year-old Chloe Price. The symbol faded slightly in the sun, but it was not what drew Max’s attention. There were fresh scratches in the laminate, precisely in the spot where Chloe’s pirate symbol was located. Scratches made with a bird’s beak.
No fucking way… Max turned back to the forest and looked at the branch where the raven sat a moment ago, but the branch was empty. The bird was nowhere to be seen.
“Did he destroy the map?” Kate asked worriedly, but Max shook her head.
“No, he only scratched it slightly, never mind.”
Were the scratches actually made by the raven few moments ago? What if Max was hallucinating, or starting to see a mystery in things that did not matter? Regardless, Max realized one thing: since returning from Seattle, she’d avoided visiting the tree fort Chloe and her had built together. She didn’t visit it in any of the timelines.
“Kate, would you like to go somewhere else with me?” Max asked suddenly.
Kate blinked, surprised.
“What do you mean?”
“There is this one place I haven’t visited since the childhood. I’m curious if it’s still standing” Max answered, making sure she didn’t involuntary look at the pirate symbol on a map. She didn’t want Kate to get the impression that Max was doing something because of the bizarre story with the raven.
“I don’t know” Kate hesitated, glancing at the sun as it slowly dipped towards the horizon. “Maybe we should come back? We’ve been here for some time already, and I would not like to stay in the woods after dark.”
“Come on, we’ll get there in half of an hour! The sun won’t set for another two. Besides, we’ll get closer to the town.”
“Fine” Kate sighed, rolling her eyes. “But if I break my leg in the woods in the dark, you’ll have to carry me to Arcadia Bay yourself!”
“You have my word” Max said, grinning.
“So where are we going?”
“South” she replied, pointing the direction with her hand.
At first it was a bit difficult. Max got lost twice, looking for a path that used to trace the edge of the woods, and was now completely overgrown with dense bushes. But when she reached the crossroads with a huge, graffiti-covered boulder, she knew they were on the right track. She remembered how Chloe had once scared her when they were children, jumping out from behind this boulder and screaming maniacally. Chloe’s face was smeared with mud and she had small branches and leaves attached to her clothes. Max screamed at the top of her lungs, thinking that some monster wanted to eat her, until she realized that the monster was laughing in the same way her best friend did. Max smiled at the memories.
“We are getting closer” she assured Kate who bravely kept the pace. “Just ten more minutes.”
It took them fifteen minutes to reach the tree fort. When Max saw the strange structure suspended in the fork of a huge oak, she felt a twinge of sadness. The fort looked smaller than she remembered from her childhood, and it was in much worse condition than she expected. One wall was missing and the roof seemed to be very skewed. Some boards were rotten and covered with lichen, although here and there Max noticed the whiteness of new wood, a certain sign that someone was attempting makeshift repairs. A rope hung from an anchor in the fort, its neat knots lying against the trunk of the old oak in neat intervals. Its threads were stainless and unfrayed, making the rope ladder look quite new. Max guessed it was supposed to make climbing up to the hideout a bit easier.
“Amazing!” Kate praised, standing next to Max and eyeing the fort. “It looks like a real paradise for children!”
“It was a paradise for me as a child,” Max admitted in a nostalgic voice. “For me and Chloe. We dressed in pirate clothes, put on captain hats and eye patches, and pretended that we wanted to conquer all of Arcadia Bay.”
“Did you make it?”
“I don’t know” Max shrugged. “For some time it seemed that everything was possible. That we would always be together, two pirates from Arcadia. But then the world caught up with us. Chloe’s dad died in a car accident, I left for Seattle with my parents. Our childhood dreams remained just that. Childhood dreams.”
Kate walked to Max and stood beside her, looking at the tree fort. She gently placed her hand on Max’s shoulder.
“You came back here” she said. “You came back for yourself and for her. Pirate ships always return to their home port, don’t they?”
Max didn’t answer, lost in her thoughts.
Kate took her bag off her shoulder and began to rummage in it. After a moment she took out a hard cover notebook and a few colored pencils.
“I would like to draw your fort” she said to Max, opening her notebook on a blank page. “Every child dreams of such a fort, and if one day… if one day my dream comes true and I’ll become an illustrator, this drawing might be an inspiration for children in the future. Then… then your dream will come true in some way, you will conquer the world with Chloe…”
Max felt tears gathering in her eyes, not for the first time today. This time, however, they were tears of gratitude. She remembered how, as children she and Chloe claimed this forest their own. They called it their kingdom, a free state and sanctuary for all kind of pirates. She remembered how the other Chloe, with beautiful strawberry blond hair and soft, mellow voice, that lacked the usual anger and rejection, said:
Being with you again has been so special. I just wanted to feel like when we were kids running around Arcadia Bay…. and everything was possible. And you made me feel that way today.
Max only said “thank you,” trying to hold back her tears.
In response, Kate smiled and sat down on the grass, crossing her legs. She looked observantly at the fort and began drawing.
Max approached the oak and looked at the rope. When she and Chloe were children, the small wooden ladder that William had built was placed by the trunk. Now, however, there was no trace of it. Whoever was still using the tree fort probably didn’t want others to access it too easily. The floor was situated not lower than thirty feet, and small bulges on a trunk told Max that all the branches below the floor must have been cut off quite a long time ago. Therefore, climbing up the knotted rope was the only option available for someone who wanted to get inside. When Max grabbed the rope and pulled hard to test it, it held up. Apparently, whoever placed the rope here had been meticulous about it.Max made sure her messenger bag was safely slung over her shoulder. Then, she gripped the rope with both hands and, using knots on the rope and bulges on a trunk as support for her feet, slowly started climbing up.
She thought it would be easier than it actually was, though the difficulty laid mostly in the fact that Max felt quite weak. Walking all the way from the bus stop, to the lighthouse, and from the lighthouse to the pirate fort, had exhausted her more than she anticipated. When she finally reached the fort, she laid on the floor, breathing heavily.
“Wowser, that was hard” she muttered to herself, catching her breath. Fortunately, she started feeling better after a while, so she sat up and looked around the interior of the wooden structure. From the inside, it was also clear that the fort had seen better days. The roof apparently leaked in a few places, resulting in development of some green algae on the floor. On the edges of the missing wall, Max noticed the remnants of rotten boards, which meant that the wall most likely fell down when the rest of the structure was unable to support the damaged part. On the other hand, due to the whole wall missing, much more light reached the inside of the fort than used to through the lonely small window in the neighboring wall. Max could see the interior better, lit by the golden rays of the sun which was slowly approaching the horizon in the west.
She was disappointed to see that drawings she and Chloe made with colored chalk as children did not survive. The largest of them all, depicting two girls in superhero costumes, along with Captain Bongo, was just on the missing wall. This didn’t mean, however, that the three standing walls were completely devoid of decorations. On the contrary, almost every free surface was covered with drawings or inscriptions made with some black marker. Five years is enough time to change Chloe, but also to change our fort Max thought, getting up and looking at each wall while admiring the creative work of… Chloe, probably. Who else would write, with capital letters, BLACKHELL SUCKS! across the entire wall?
Some of inscriptions Max could understand, like I CAN’T SLEEP ANYMORE. She felt a twinge of sadness when she saw a small inscription written in tiny letters, I’m always alone. This one wasn’t written in capital letters. It looked like done not in anger, but rather in sadness or resignation. For some reason that fact hurt Max more than the underlying sketch of her and Chloe in pirate costumes, in which Max’s face has been scratched with a huge X.
Not all inscriptions were understandable for Max. For example, she had absolutely no idea why at the bottom of one wall, just above the floor, Chloe wrote FUCK YOU ELIOT! She also didn’t know what Chloe was talking about in a huge writing than ran around the only window in the fort and read: NO MORE TEMPEST! NEVER AGAIN! To make things even stranger, there was a figure drawn at its end, that looked like a caricature of a person wearing a hat with a great beak, like toucan’s.
“Is everything OK, Max?” Kate’s voice called to her from below. Max walked cautiously to the opening where the fourth wall was missing and saw Kate looking up, still keeping her notebook and pencil in hands.
“Yes” she waved to Kate. “Do you want to come up? The view is pretty cool.”
Kate shook her head.
“I’m not a good climber” she laughed. “With my luck I would break my leg for real and you would have to carry me to Blackwell on your back. I prefer drawing from the ground level.” “If you change your mind just let me know!”
“Mhmm” agreed Kate, resuming drawing in her notebook.
Max turned around, closely inspecting the equipment stashed in the treehouse. Only now did she realize that the floor was not as clean as it might have seemed. Practically in every corner of the fort there were empty beer bottles (in one corner they stood arranged in quite an impressive pyramid). Here and there there were also cigarette butts, thought most of them filled the red “OREGON” ashtray. The most distinctive piece of equipment, however, was a small, worn-out leather suitcase, lying on its side in the corner of the room. Max noticed that it was the only dry corner in the whole fort, the one where all rotten boards had been painstakingly replaced with the new ones and all holes in adjoining walls covered with plywood. Max came closer and looked warily at the suitcase. It had a lock, but apparently it was defunct, since the lid was kept closed by a piece of wire. Max bit her lower lip, hesitating.
She didn’t want to brusquely go through private possessions that probably belonged to Chloe. It must have been something valuable to her, since she made efforts to keep this corner of the tree fort relatively dry and protected from the elements. On the other hand, Max was grimly aware that Chloe would never come back for these things. On top of that, if Max left these items in the fort, eventually either someone would steal them or they’d be destroyed by the elements. For a long time, Max stared indecisively at the suitcase. At last, she came up with an idea.
“Can you finally tell me why you took this suitcase?” Kate asked for the third time as they were returning to Arcadia Bay. The sun was already low above the horizon and the girls cast huge shadows ahead of them. At this time of day the school bus had already ended its course and no regular lines were stopping at that bus stop, so after a short discussion, they decided to return to Blackwell on foot. It was less than two miles, except that walking on the pavement was much faster than hiking through the overgrown forest path.
Max let out a moan of resignation. Although Kate was shy and reluctant in everyday life, at times she could be a really irritable pain in the ass. Where did all this stubbornness come from?
“I didn’t want the things inside to get destroyed. Besides, someone could steal them.”
“You mean, someone other than you? Then why didn’t you just put those things in your bag? Why are you schlepping this old, broken suitcase all the way to Blackwell?” Kate asked in a matter-of-fact tone.
Max looked at the suitcase in her hand.
“I did not want to open it” she admitted after a while, passing the intersection and turning towards the road leading to the hill Blackwell Academy stood on. “These are Chloe’s things, they were probably important to her. I don’t want to… violate her privacy.”
“I know what you mean” Kate nodded. “Wise decision.”
“One of the very few, lately” Max muttered to herself, but Kate didn’t hear that. After a minute she asked Max another question.
“Maybe…” she began cautiously, “since these are Chloe’s things, we should give them back to her parents? I mean, to her mother.”
Max stopped for a moment, considering Kate’s suggestion.
“No” she responded finally, resuming her walk. “For some reason Chloe kept these things outside of her home. I don’t think she wants… she would have wanted” Max corrected herself, “to bring them back to the house she disliked so much since David moved in. It would not be right.”
Kate did not reply to that, but Max could see in her look that something was still bothering her.
“Max…” she finally spoke in an unsteady voice, unable to hide her nervousness. “What if there is something illegal in there? I do not want you to get suspended or worse, expelled, because of this suitcase.”
Max kept to herself the fact that she had already almost been expelled due to David’s complaint, which was another reason why she was not going to set her foot on Cedar Avenue again. Kate would be even more worried, and Max didn’t want that.
“Whatever’s inside, nothing will happen until I open it” Max said rationally. “After all, it’s not a nuclear bomb or something…”
Carrying the suitcase, Max could feel that its contents were light, so it probably didn’t include a pistol with a supply of ammunition or a set of hand grenades. Although, knowing Chloe’s fondness for guns, Max briefly considered running the suitcase through a metal detector, just to be sure.
“I hope you are right” Kate replied.
When the girls reached Blackwell Academy, the campus was already deserted. Max only saw a group of students leaving the drama group meeting, but she and Kate headed straight to the dormitory building, avoiding any questions. The corridor on their floor was also empty. Kate stopped in front of the doors leading to her room and reached into her bag for keys.
“Thank you, Max, for going with me to the lighthouse. I’m glad we spent some time together.”
“Thank you, Kate” Max answered, “for your good words and support. I needed that” she admitted honestly.
“Any time, Max! Good night!”
The girls hugged goodbye. Then, Kate disappeared into her room. Max opened the doors to her own. It was dark inside, but Max didn’t switch the lights on. She placed the suitcase on the floor under the mirror and lied back on her bed, not even bothering to change her clothes. She was tired. An afternoon full of adventures and the long walk took away all her strength. She only wanted to fall asleep without any dreams.
“It’s good you finally came back.”
The foreign voice made Max jump to her feet. She reached to turn on the chain of small hanging lamps, which softly illuminated the dozens of Polaroid photographs dotting her wall. She looked around her room in panic. In the dim light she saw a figure who was sitting calmly on the couch, giving Max a scrutinizing look.
It was Chloe.