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Love is Strange

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Love is Strange

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Полная русская версия игры (PC/Mac/Linux)

Русская демо-версия (PC)
Русская демо-версия (Mac)
Русская демо-версия (Linux)

Spoiler

Frost_Bite - руководитель проекта, перевод, редактура;
cfif31 - техническая часть;
Grizzly - текстуры;
ViolentValentine - перевод;
KornyPony - перевод;
Lanos - перевод;
mansonsha - перевод;
YeOlde_Monk - перевод;
Reineke - перевод;
egor_dabest - перевод;
CrutoySam - перевод;
Transparent_Roof - перевод.


Spoiler

Max Caulfield - Макс Колфилд
Chloe Price - Хлоя Прайс
Rachel Amber - Рэйчел Эмбер
Victoria Chase - Виктория Чейз
Kate Marsh - Кейт Марш
Mx. Dog - Сосисочка



Если вам нравится наша работа и вы хотите отблагодарить переводчиков не только теплыми словами, то вот номера кошельков:

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Для работы с rpa архивами есть вот такая утилита: rpatool

Я это давно узнал из этого сайта. Но даже с этой инструкцией мне не удалось корректно собрать архив обратно.

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Собирать обратно не нужно. Игра понимает в открытом виде ресурсы. Можно и запаковать обратно, если сильно так надо.

 

Spoiler

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Текстуры демки для перевода https://yadi.sk/d/CMaVrnBvkKfu4. После перевода положить всю папку images в game/ и посмотреть изменения.

Текст демки для перевода https://yadi.sk/d/keuMFi2ikKdgV

 

Spoiler

The breakfast rush at the Two Whales Diner always takes me by surprise, even though I’ve been coming here since I was a kid.

The atmosphere is always electric,

the frantic energy of the bustling staff,

the impatient hungry truckers perched at the lunch counter like hulking, churlish birds on a wire,

the sleepy locals slumped in their booths over steaming mugs of coffee.

I’ve been here nursing my own coffee for ten minutes now.

This morning, I woke up to a text Chloe sent at two a.m. asking me to meet her at the diner at eight sharp for breakfast.

She’s late, of course.

I should probably be more annoyed than this, but I’m kind of used to it.

Chloe tries, but she’s never been able to keep to a schedule.

It’s kind of a miracle she manages to make it to her classes on time, most days.

I suppose this means I should be more worried about asking Chloe of all people to help me with my entry for the photo contest.

But Chloe’s never let me down when I’ve needed her.

Not ever.

And she’s not starting today.

I can’t stop the smile that spreads across my face when Chloe enters the diner.

She scans the room, panting a little, looking disheveled.

When her eyes light on mine, her face breaks out into a grin of its own and she makes a beeline toward our booth.

"Hey, sorry I’m late."

She slides into the booth with effortless cool, shooting me her most charming apologetic smile.

"You mad?"

I sigh, pushing a lock of hair behind my ear.

"You did say, eight sharp. I’ve been waiting for like twenty minutes."

Chloe sighs dramatically, throwing her head back in annoyance.

"Give me a break! You know I’m not a morning person, Max."

She folds her arms over her chest, leaning back into the booth and pouting.

I can feel my annoyance slipping away in the face of her ridiculous petulance.

It’s cute now, but I know if I don’t regain control of the conversation I’ll be stuck with a moody Chloe all day,

and I really can’t afford to piss her off before we’ve even started on the project.

I laugh, shaking my head and taking a sip of my coffee.

"This is actually pretty punctual for you. I’m impressed."

Chloe laughs too, looking visibly relieved.

She slumps back into the booth, beaming playfully and knocking her foot against mine beneath the table.

"I know! Not bad, right?"

Chloe grins at me like we’re kids again, like we’re sharing a secret.

Even though I’ve been back in Arcadia Bay for a year now, there’s something about being on the receiving end of her smiles again that still kind of takes my breath away.

I can tell I’m staring at her with what must be the dopiest look on my face, but I can’t help it.

Deliberately, I drag my eyes from her face and scan the diner, licking my lips.

I lean back in the booth, fixing Chloe with an exasperated look.

"Are you kidding? Chloe, you weren’t even on time for your own birth. I knew what I was getting into."

A flicker of annoyance flashes across Chloe’s face, but she pushes it back.

She shrugs carelessly, reaching across the table to steal the mug out of my grip and take a gulp of coffee.

"You and Joyce need to stop sharing Baby Chloe stories. It’s weird."

I roll my eyes and make a half-hearted grab to take the mug back.

Chloe’s determined though, leaning back out of my reach and draining the rest of the coffee in one long gulp.

She shudders, slamming the mug down on the table like a shot glass.

"Gross."

Chloe just grins in response, looking entirely too pleased with herself.

"You hungry?"

"God, yes."

Chloe cranes her neck dramatically, looking around the diner.

"Where is Joyce anyway? I’m gonna die of starvation before she even takes my order."

"Then she’ll be childless, and you’ll be partner-less, and my sad, hungry ghost will be forever bound to the Two Whales,"

"cursed to haunt greasy truckers and painfully slow waitstaff for eternity."

"Not so fast, Casper-"

Chloe snorts.

I kick her lightly beneath the table and continue despite the interruption.

"Joyce should be out with your food in a minute."

It’s like flipping a switch.

Chloe’s face lights up, the previous conversation immediately stricken from her memory.

She leans forward, seizing my hands in hers and dragging them across the table.

"Max."

"You’ve been my best friend since we were kids,"

"my first mate, my partner in crime... "

"And now, the girl who buys me breakfast."

"I’m ready to take the next step."

"Max, will you do me the great honor of marrying me and buying me food for the rest of our lives?"

She’s been doing this more and more lately.

Saying things that could just be joking but could also be, well...

Flirting.

I just can’t figure out if Chloe’s being deliberately confusing or if I’m such a colossal social dunce that I can’t tell the difference.

Chloe waggles her eyebrows, squeezing my hands playfully.

"Max...?"

I laugh awkwardly, feeling a blush rise on my face and yank my hands out of her grip.

"Who said I’m buying?"

Chloe pouts, bottom lip jutting out dramatically.

"Y’know, I did just offer to spend the rest of my life with you,"

"the least you could do is offer to pay for my..."

"Wait, what did you get me?"

"Your favorite. Bacon, side of eggs."

Chloe slams her palms down on the table excitedly.

"Hot damn! Now we’re talking."

"One short stack, coming up."

Chloe nods appreciatively, face breaking out into a slow grin.

"Not bad, Caulfield, not bad."

"A piping hot bowl of healthy oatmeal."

Chloe groans, flopping back into the booth and shooting me a sour look.

"Gee, thanks, mom."

Joyce bustles out of the kitchen a few minutes later, expertly balancing trays loaded with breakfast foods.

Chloe smirks mischievously leaning forward in the booth,

no doubt with something cheerfully antagonistic on the tip of her tongue.

But the morning rush is so hectic that Joyce barely has the time to set our plates down in front of us before tearing off across the restaurant to attend the family of five that just filled up the last free booth.

Chloe looks briefly disappointed that she lost the opportunity to annoy her mother.

At least until she remembers there’s food in front of her.

Chloe eats with the sort of single-minded ferocity not uncommon in wild dogs.

She’s got about the same level of manners too, I remember,

thinking of all the times she’d stolen food right off my plate and unconsciously hunching over my meal when she looks up and starts eyeing my waffles.

"You gonna finish that?"

I roll my eyes, taking one last bite and pushing my plate across the table to her.

Chloe perks up, eagerly accepting the extra food.

"Thanks, Max!"

"Down girl."

I pull my plate closer to my body and wave my fork menacingly in her direction.

Chloe pouts, fixing me with her best puppy-dog eyes.

"No."

"Worth a shot."

Chloe shrugs and leans back into the booth.

"So, I bet you’re pretty pumped to get started on your project, huh?"

I bite my lip, shifting my gaze from Chloe’s eager face to the window facing the street.

I watch a few cars pass by, trying to gather my thoughts.

"I guess I’m excited..."

"But?"

I glance back to Chloe, unable to stop the smile that tugs at the corner of my mouth.

She always knows when there’s something I’m not saying.

"But I’m pretty nervous, too. I still can’t believe I actually volunteered for the contest."

"I can."

Chloe says it like it’s just a fact.

I feel butterflies flutter in my stomach, nervous for a whole nother reason now.

Confidence has always seemed to come as easy as breathing to Chloe, and I get it.

She’s tough, and beautiful, and smarter than she gives herself credit for.

That all makes sense.

But it’s her unwavering confidence in me that I just can’t wrap my head around sometimes.

"Max, you’re like the best photographer in school,"

"I know sometimes you get all in your head about this shit,"

"but it’s really not so complicated."

"Of course you’re gonna kill it here..."

I smile gently back, hearing the hesitance at the end of her sentence.

"But...?"

Chloe smiles bashfully, cheeks flushing just slightly,

looking up at me through a fringe of blue hair like a kid with her hand in the cookie jar.

"But it was kind of surprising you asked me to help you with your project."

"What?"

Chloe shifts in her seat.

The food is gone now.

She has nothing to distract her from the conversation, so she grabs a packet of sugar from the center of the table,

tearing it open and pouring the contents out into shapes on the tabletop.

Joyce is gonna be so pissed.

"I mean, there are lots of y’know, good photographers in that class, Max."

"I basically only took Photography so I could hang with you and Rachel at school a few times a week."

"Chloe, you’re my best friend, there’s no one else I’d rather have in my corner for stuff like this."

Chloe looks up from the pile of sugar she was carefully shaping into swirls in the center of the table.

"Best friend..."

Her tone is light, but the look on her face makes me feel like I didn’t say quite the right thing.

"My first mate."

"My partner in crime."

"The girl I buy breakfast for..."

Chloe’s face breaks out in a wide grin, cheeks pink.

"In that case, can I order another-"

"No."

Chloe laughs.

"Worth a shot."

"So, I guess we better get started on this thing."

"The rules say you need to take your photo somewhere in Arcadia Bay."

"Do you know where you wanna go?"

"Yeah. I have someplace in mind..."

"Actually, why don’t you tell me where you wanna go?"

The hike to the lighthouse is as pleasant as I remembered. Chloe keeps chatting my ear off, as excited as a puppy.

"Oh man, this was such a great idea. Remember all the adventures we had up here as pirates? We even hid treasure somewhere."

"I remember, we buried it in the woods. What was even in that box?"

"Some pictures, I think? Maybe candy? That must be mummified by now."

I laugh, because I have the sudden picture in my head of a piece of candy wrapped in mummy bandages.

When I tell Chloe, she laughs as well, and bumps our shoulders together.

I feel my smile growing wider.

"Dude this is perfect. We have all these great memories here, you are so going to nail that photo contest."

I laugh but it sounds nervous, forced. I clear my throat.

"I... hope so, Chloe. I hope I can do a good job."

Chloe spins around to face me, walking backwards up the hill.

"Don’t give me that, Max. Of course you’ll do a good job. You’ll do a wonderful job!"

I just hum, unconvinced.

Chloe grabs me by the shoulders.

"I’m serious. I believe that, Max. I believe in you."

I can’t help but smile.

"You really mean that?"

"Don’t you ever doubt that, hippie."

She winks at me, starts walking by my side again.

Finally, the trees grow sparse as we come in sight of the lighthouse.

It looks so much smaller than I remembered.

Bleaker, too, like all the years of salt and wind chipped away all of its life and color.

The sea is still and gray below us, Arcadia Bay lies peaceful on the shore.

The sky is perfectly blue, almost blindingly so.

I feel a prickling sensation on the back of my neck. Suddenly, being here feels off, though I can’t put my finger on why.

Almost as if she senses my discomfort, Chloe nudges my shoulder.

"Yo. What's up with you all of a sudden?"

"For some reason, I feel sad. It’s like... I don’t know. I don’t know what I feel."

Chloe gets really quiet beside me, gaze lost somewhere on the sea. After what feels like an eternity, she nods.

"I feel it too. Can’t explain it, either."

"Maybe it’s just... weird coming up here with you after all these years."

"Everything seems bigger and... quieter."

I can’t bring myself to say anything, so I just nod.

"Nothing’s wrong, Chloe. I’m glad we’re here. Together."

Chloe looks at me with a strange light in her eyes that I can’t quite decipher. Then she nods.

"Yeah, me too. Feels kinda weird though, doesn’t it? Being here, I mean... I don’t know. "

"Maybe it’s just growing up."

She looks at the sea, eyes searching for something on the horizon, something that isn’t there.

I look down at my feet.

Chloe startles me by putting her arm around my shoulders and pulling me close to her side.

"Don’t be like that. It’s still kinda nice, right?"

The sea is glittering under the sun.

I let my head rest on her shoulder.

"Yeah, it’s beautiful."

We stay quiet like that for a few minutes. I love how there's no need for words between us.

It's always been like that, since we were kids.

When we were very little, we used to alternate moments of ruckus to entire hours of playing together in complete silence.

We were so quiet our parents would pop by our rooms to see if we'd fallen asleep.

But I don’t remember being next to Chloe ever feeling so nice.

The warmth radiating from her is so soothing.

I could probably stay like this forever.

Suddenly, she tenses up besides me.

I look at her and her brow's furrowed. She's chewing her lip like she always does when she's searching for the right words to say.

I feel my stomach tighten uncomfortably in anticipation.

Then, finally, after what feels like hours, she speaks.

"Max, there’s something I need to tell you."

This is not going to be good. I feel my heartbeat speed up in my chest, a fast thumping in my throat.

I swallow.

"What is it?"

"Max, I’m... leaving. I’m leaving Arcadia Bay."

The first thing I feel is relief. I was scared she was sick, or Joyce was sick, or Chloe had gotten into some sort of bad, bad trouble.

Then her words truly dawn on me.

"You’re... you’re leaving?"

She's not looking at me.

"Yeah, I... I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. I mean, you know that."

"I just decided that, fuck it, I should do it. I should really do it."

"So I started planning stuff and... I’m leaving at the end of the week."

I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut.

I pull away from her side.

"Chloe, what the fuck? Are you serious?"

Chloe tightens her lips, looks away.

"Dude, I just... come on. Don’t be like that. I... I really do need this."

I’d feel worse about my harsh words, if my chest weren’t feeling so painfully tight.

"Chloe, you can’t... you can’t leave, we just started to reconnect, to spend time together again, you can’t..."

She shoots me an angry glare.

"If you felt so strongly about spending time together, you could’ve just given me a fucking call once in awhile those past five years."

Suddenly, I feel exhausted.

And pretty dumb, too.

I look at my shoes and bite down on my lip.

I startle when Chloe steps into my space and hugs me, tight and warm.

"I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be a shit."

I press my nose against her shirt. It smells like smoke.

"I was a shit first. I’m so sorry."

I squeeze my eyes shut against her shoulder.

"I just... I just don’t want us to be apart."

I shut my eyes and turn my head from her.

"I... I see."

I feel Chloe shift beside me.

"Max, I..."

I squeeze my eyes tighter to drive away the prickling of tears behind my eyelids.

I won’t be a child about this. I won’t.

"I... I get it Chloe. I really do."

"This place... this place has never been good to you."

"You’re right to want to leave it behind you."

"That’s not... that’s not it. It has been good to me. It’s where I met you."

A traitorous tear slides all the way down to my chin.

I spin around and hide my face against Chloe’s shoulder so she doesn’t see it.

I feel her wrap her arms around my waist and I can’t help but sigh.

After a long moment, Chloe pulls away, but keeps her arms loose around my shoulder.

"Listen Max, I’m not.. I’m not leaving because I hate Arcadia Bay."

"I know I say that, I say it a lot, but I don’t, not really,"

"not with all these memories I made with you, and Rachel, and my dad."

"I just..."

She sighs in frustration. I squeeze her elbow softly to reassure her.

"I know some people that have never left this city."

"They were born here, they lived here, they died here, and never once set foot out of town."

"And I am so... I am so fucking afraid I am going to turn out like that."

"I won’t let it happen."

I nod.

"Don’t look so sad! It’s not like I’m never coming back."

"I’ll just stay away for a couple of weeks."

"Or... I don’t know, months. Depends on how well I can handle myself out there, really."

I nod again, faster, trying to process her words.

She really is serious about this. And there is nothing I can do to stop her.

And maybe I don’t want to.

If this is so important to her, she should go through with it.

Still, a painful knot tightens up in my throat.

She nudges my shoulder.

"Come on, Max! I’ll totally call you every day."

"And, like, text you every time something cool happens. Which, let’s face it, will be all the time."

I smile at her, but I can’t find any words to say.

Can’t quite bring myself to look her in the eye either.

She shoves her hands in her pockets and shuffles her feet.

"Max... please say something."

I bite my lip.

"Chloe I... I do understand why you’re doing this."

"And you’re right."

"You are right to want to see the world, to live for yourself,"

"I just... I just have to wrap my mind around it. Around the fact that you’re really, actually leaving."

She squeezes my shoulder.

"I get it, Max."

"But you deserve this Chloe, you deserve a chance to get out of this town and... live your life, and..."

I hear my voice break. Shit.

I look up at Chloe and her eyes are big and warm.

"I’m going to miss you."

She laughs breathily.

"Shit Max, I’m not gone yet. And it’s not like I’ll be away forever."

Chloe pauses and rubs at her nose, like she always does when she’s getting emotional.

"...I’ll miss you too."

I rub my eye and smile at her.

Chloe gives another little laugh, fidgets with the hem of her beanie.

"Jesus, look at us getting all mushy. Come on, we have like... three more days to ourselves."

"Let’s make them awesome."

I grab her hand, squeeze it tight.

"Yeah... let’s make them the best."

Chloe had pulled the beanie off her head and tugged it down over my eyes as soon as we got into the truck. I had wanted to pull it off, but she levied the vague threat of Swift Retribution against me.

Remembering all the retaliatory pranks she had unleashed on those who had dared to oppose her in our childhood, I decided to play along.

Even with my eyes covered, I had felt the excitement radiating off of her for the entire drive.

I can’t deny I’m eager to see what Chloe has in store when the truck finally rolls to a stop.

"Sit tight."

I hear the car door open and close.

Then a moment later, I feel the door on my side open.

She leans across my body, unbuckling my seatbelt for me and wrapping a hand around my elbow to guide me out of the cabin.

I stumble anyway, my clumsiness trumping Chloe’s best efforts to help me.

She catches my weight against her body, steadying me with one hand on my hip, the other still gripping my arm.

"Whoa there."

"Sorry."

I can feel myself blushing, for once grateful that the beanie obscures so much of my face.

"You okay?"

Her voice is so close and quiet.

The gentle pressure of her fingers against my hip makes my heart beat faster and I nod dumbly.

"You ready?"

I can hear the excitement in her voice.

A fluttery feeling blooms in the pit of my stomach.

I’m excited too.

"Yeah."

Chloe yanks the beanie off my head and I squint against the sudden explosion of light.

"Oh."

I look around, taking in the heaps of rusted metal, the scraggly weeds, the towering evergreens looming in the background.

"It’s..."

"... a dump."

Chloe brought me to an actual garbage dump.

She furrows her brows, folding her arms across her chest.

"Excuse you. This is a junkyard, Max. Look around."

I do, turning slowly in place and getting a better look at my surroundings.

"This isn’t some shitty trash dump. All this stuff is scrap, y’know?"

I nod, not really sure what the difference is but persuaded by the urgent tone of Chloe’s voice.

"It is pretty cool..."

"...amazing. Wow, Chloe."

It’s dorky, but I’m actually kind of awe-struck by the atmosphere of the place.

There are so many things around.

Old vehicles, decommissioned signs, busted appliances. Everything with its own story, each piece a unique offering.

"This place is perfect."

Chloe beams at me, shoving her hands in her back pockets and rocking back on her heels.

"You think so?"

"Yeah. God, I could get so many cool shots here..."

"I’m so glad can you see it, y’know?"

"The potential here..."

Chloe trails off, looking thoughtful.

After a beat of silence she turns around, fixing me with a mischievous smirk.

"Let me show you around."

Chloe takes off with a little skip, grabbing the sleeve of my sweater and pulling me behind her.

She leads me on a whirlwind tour around the yard.

We weave between stacks of rusted out car bodies, pick our way carefully through jagged metal and broken glass, around a field of dented metal drums and old tires and rebar.

It doesn’t take long for me to start to understand just what Chloe loves about this place.

There’s a sort of serenity here, among all the wrecks and the refuse.

It’s kind of beautiful.

Chloe drags me over to an old trawler and offers to boost me up over the side.

I decline, that thing looks like tetanus waiting to happen, but Chloe just shrugs and hauls herself up over the side with a cheerful disregard for her own personal safety.

She struts around atop the boat, posing and flexing, mugging for the camera like the charismatic jerk she is when I fall back to snap a few photos.

"Oh no! It’s the dread pirate Bluebeard, here to plunder Arcadia Bay!"

"Arrrr!"

Chloe’s pirate impression is as hilariously bad as ever and I can’t help but laugh.

Chloe rolls her eyes, offended, and casually flips me off.

"Shut up, landlubber. Don’t think I won’t make you walk the plank."

She walks to the tip of the bow and kicks over a chair, propping a leg up on the upturned seat.

"Fuck that Bluebeard shit. Call me Captain Morgan."

I snap another photo, grinning.

"Captain More-Gay."

She laughs and hops down without warning, tossing me one of the metal curtain rods she had been waving around atop the trawler.

"What’s this?"

"Your sword. En garde!"

She takes a slow swing at me and I react on instinct, deflecting the blow with my curtain rod and leading us into a full-blown sword fight.

She swings again and I react on instinct, deflecting the blow with my curtain rod.

And suddenly it’s a full-blown sword fight.

And it’s bizarre because we’ve done this dozens of times.

We’re grown ups now, but somehow playing pirates with my best friend is still easier than breathing.

For as much as she’s changed, for all the hair dye, and the tattoos, and the weed smoked, and the occasional bad attitude, there are things about Chloe that are just fundamental.

Like, she can still make the dumbest, goofiest shit still seem fun and exciting.

Her laugh still makes my heart skip.

Her smile still warms me up from the inside.

And she still gets way too cocky in a sword-fight, leaving herself wide open.

I feint to the right, almost feeling bad when she lunges predictably away, defense slipping.

Almost.

Chloe’s eyes widen as my next swing comes down; she knows she’s gonna get sent straight to Davy Jones’ locker.

Frantically, she tries to dodge but ends up tripping over a stack of tires and landing right on her ass.

"Dammit!"

She sinks back into the pile of rubber in defeat, breathing heavily.

I grin, feeling a trickle of sweat roll down my temple.

"Hey, Chloe, maybe we should stop, you’re looking pretty..."

"Max, don’t say it-"

"Tired."

Chloe groans and rolls onto her side.

Slowly, she pushes herself up to a standing position, patting down her pockets.

"I’m not high enough to deal with this right now. Come with me."

She leads me around a cinderblock shed, along some train tracks and back into the junkyard to a clearing behind the school bus.

Chloe hops up onto the hood of an old car, patting the spot next to her and sparking up a joint.

The metal is warm from the sun as I take my seat beside her.

We’re sitting so close, I can feel her pinky brush against mine on the hood of the car.

Tentatively, I reach over and hook my finger over hers, watching the slow smile that spills across her face in response.

"I’m really glad you wanted me to help you, Max."

"I already told you, there’s no one else I’d rather have helping me with this..."

Chloe speaks through a puff of smoke, looking out towards the trees.

"I know. Not just because of that, though."

"I knew you’d be busy with this project for the rest of the week and I really wanted to spend time with you."

"Max, I’m leaving."

I feel like all the air has been sucked out of my lungs.

"What?"

Chloe winces and takes a hit off the joint to buy herself some time.

"I need to get outta here. I’m so sick of this town. I’m taking off at the end of the week, I just need to... go someplace else for a while."

"You’re leaving?"

"Only for a couple of days!"

"Or... weeks. Look, I’m not sure, exactly but I’m coming back, alright?"

"Chloe, what the hell? You can’t just leave."

Chloe slides down the hood of the car, dragging the smoldering tip of the joint along the metal to stub it out. She spins on the balls of her feet as soon as she hits the ground, leveling a glare at me.

"Yeah, Max, I can."

"I am."

She pops her eyebrow, like a challenge, mouth twisted into a scowl.

My heart catches and I’m so mad for a second.

Chloe and I don’t fight often, but for good reason.

She’s the only person who’s ever been able to get under my skin quite like this.

I open my mouth, ready to argue again and then I notice it.

Chloe’s hands tremble, just barely, when she goes to tuck the unfinished joint into her pocket.

I pause, flicking my eyes back up to her face.

She’s still staring me down, ready to raise hell, but anger was always easier for Chloe than fear.

I think about her nervous admission in the diner, the hesitancy in her voice when she told me she was leaving, and I know that my reaction now could break her.

"Okay. Okay, wait."

Chloe’s face goes slack with surprise, before her defenses come back up.

She shifts nervously in place, the look she’s giving me now still wary, but less certain.

"What?"

I take a deep breath and pat the empty space next to me.

"Get back over here. C’mon."

She hesitates, gnawing her bottom lip nervously.

"Chloe, please."

Reluctantly she takes a seat beside me again, propping her heels up on the front bumper and draping her arms across them.

"I don’t wanna fight with you, Chloe."

"So, if you’re really leaving, let’s not spend our time together that way, okay?"

"Okay."

Chloe glances over at me, worrying her bottom lip nervously. She takes another hit, holds it in her lungs for longer than seems normal.

She speaks again through a cloud of smoke, voice raspy and uneven.

"Okay?"

"Yeah, okay. I get it."

Chloe takes another hit, laughing as she exhales.

The smoke twists and curls around her face.

"No. You don’t."

The smoke dissipates and it’s just the two of us again.

Chloe holds my gaze for a second before staring at the remains of the joint between her fingertips, dismayed.

"Okay, I don’t get it, but..."

Chloe flicks what’s left of the joint into the dirt in front of us and drags her hands nervously down her thighs.

"But what?"

"But that doesn’t matter. If it means this much to you, that should be enough."

"I trust you."

Chloe clears her throat, drumming her fingertips restlessly against her clothed legs.

"It does though."

"Matter, I mean."

"I mean, this isn’t just some spur of the moment decision or anything."

"I want you to get it."

Even after all this time, it takes so much courage for her to be vulnerable like this.

I slide over on the hood of the car without thinking, pulling her fidgety hands into my lap and covering them with my own.

"So, help me understand."

Chloe takes a deep breath and turns her head toward me and suddenly we’re nose to nose.

Her eyes widen just a fraction, and I know I’m not imagining the way her breath gets a little shallower.

I’m frozen in place.

A particularly shrill bird call from the distance rips through the tension and Chloe tips forward, laughing, until her forehead hits my shoulder

I roll my eyes and try to push her off, but she just leans into me harder until I give up and let her guide me onto my back.

My heart’s racing but I’m laughing too and at least from this angle she can’t see how red my face is.

After a few moments our giggles die away and we let the silence linger.

The weight of the sun overhead, of Chloe’s body next to me, of the conversation we’re waiting to have presses down around me.

She sits up, pulling me with her.

"I’ve never been out of Arcadia Bay, Max."

"And sometimes it feels like I’ll never be able to."

"And that’s... terrifying. I don’t expect you to really understand,"

"but I need you to trust that this is what I need right now, okay?"

It’s rare to see Chloe so earnest.

I smile despite the lump in my throat, the tightness in my chest.

"Okay."

Chloe slumps forward a little, relieved and I finally get how tense she was before.

This must have been eating her up.

I reach out and take her hand again and she perks up a little, shooting me a small but earnest smile.

"Guess we’d better get to school, huh?"

I smile back, squeezing her hand as she slides off the hood of the car and pulls me to my feet.

"Guess so."

Her hand in mine is warm.

I hold it for as long as I can.

Yo. Heard you were lookin for me

What's that supposed to mean??

It means you die a lot.

You met Rachel?

It’s about ten in the morning by the time I get to the diner the next day.

There’s still a decent crowd even though it’s a little before the lunch rush,

mostly the usual suspects enjoying a late breakfast; truckers, cops,

and a few students like me. Joyce keeps a watchful eye over these particular patrons.

She smiles at me, however, and I wave at her.

There’s no shortage of seats, so I idle by the door for a moment.

Yesterday Kate and I agreed to meet here so that we could discuss locations for the contest photo.

I was a little hesitant to ask for her help at first. Kate seems to have a lot on her mind lately.

She’s been more shy than usual, rarely emerging from her dorm room except to go to class.

I’m not sure what’s going on, but I don’t want to give her more stress than she already has.

But seeing her face light up reassured me that I had made the right choice in asking her. Maybe this will help get her mind off whatever’s bothering her.

Or at least make her laugh when I make an ass of myself entering a shitty photo.

Speak of the devil - or angel, in this case - Kate enters the diner.

She looks a little bewildered, but she smiles when she sees me beckoning her to stand next to me.

"Hi, Kate."

"Hey, Max. Sorry if I kept you waiting."

"I’ve actually never been here before, so I had to look up the bus schedule before I left."

She may have kept me waiting all of three minutes, if that. Nothing compared to how long I’ve been kept waiting before, on Chloe for example.

Don’t get me wrong, she’s my best friend but...

Girl can’t keep an appointment to save her life.

Kate on the other hand is almost painfully considerate,

always putting other people first.

I guess that’s what makes me want to look out for her.

The thought of someone as sweet as Kate losing her reasons to smile seems wrong.

"No worries. Is a booth okay?"

I gesture to one in the corner near the old jukebox.

Kate nods and we both make our way over to it, sitting on opposite sides.

"Wow, does it always smell so good in here?"

She looks like she’s literally in heaven from the smell of the delish breakfast food being prepared.

I can’t help but smile as I reply.

"Yes, Joyce is an amazing cook. She’ll take good care of you."

A waitress shows up to take our drink orders, coffee for me and tea for Kate.

She may be an early bird, but I need my caffeine fix.

When the waitress comes back I order my usual stack of pancakes, and Kate orders the same thing,

apparently trusting my judgement.

When Kate takes a sip of her tea she practically melts into the cushion behind her,

like she’s truly relaxing for the first time in a while.

I notice the shadows under her eyes for the first time since we sat down

and feel a pang of uneasiness in my stomach.

She looks really tired.

I can’t help but wonder how she’s doing...should I say something about it?

"Are you feeling okay? No offense, but... you look a little worn down."

She seems surprised that I asked, but recovers almost immediately.

"I’m fine. Just a little stressed out with... y’know, life in general."

I’m still not sure she’s telling me everything, but I better not push her for now. She probably has her reasons.

"I hear that. But, listen: if you need to talk about anything, I’m here. Okay?"

I get another genuine smile out of her as she sips her tea again, the warmth of it putting some color back in her cheeks.

"Thanks, Max. I really do appreciate it."

Just as I’m about to open my mouth, I think better of it.

Don’t be so nosy, Max.

She seems to be in a good mood, and I’d rather not ruin it.

Kate’s a big girl, and strong too, even if she doesn’t seem like it.

She knows she can come to me when she wants to open up.

We are friends after all.

There’s no way she wouldn’t be so stoked to help me with this project if we weren’t.

Right, stay focused, Max. We should probably start discussing that soon. After I get some food in me.

"Maybe we should’ve got you coffee in you instead. You’re looking a little on the zombie side."

Kate groans and shakes her head.

"Sorry, I’ve been sleeping in too much. Do I really look that bad?"

Shit, nice going, Dr. Max.

"No, of course not! I just... I meant to say you looked a little tired. Are you sure you’re feeling up to this?"

"Definitely. Sorry for making you worry."

Only Kate would feel bad in a situation where someone else insulted her. I hate to imagine what she’s been through to think like that.

"No, I’m sorry. Just enjoy your tea, Kate."

She gives me a small smile as she takes another sip, and I internally breathe a sigh of relief.

Good, she’s not upset. Let’s try to keep it that way.

Our food arrives and I immediately dig in, not realizing how hungry I had been until Joyce’s famous pancakes were right under my nose.

"Looks like someone’s hungry."

I look from the half eaten meal on my plate to Kate’s,

hardly touched in comparison.

I can hear my mom chiding me in the back of my head, but the grin on Kate’s face tells me that she hardly minds.

It’s warm and glowing, and makes me smile right back her like a huge dork.

Kate seems to have that effect on me.

"More than I thought, apparently."

Kate just laughs.

"I don’t blame you. These are better than anything I’ve had in the Blackwell cafeteria."

"Make sure you pass that on to Joyce."

"I will if I see her before we leave, but... she probably hears that kind of thing all the time."

"I shouldn’t bother her."

I reach across the table and nudge her hand gently with my own.

"You’re never a bother, Kate. You’ve gotta believe that."

She looks at her hand, then back up to me, grinning again.

"I’ll try, Max."

She smiles so much when we’re alone together.

Kate doesn’t open up to a lot of people, preferring to keep to herself most of the time.

I’m one of the lucky ones that get to see the other side of Kate -

her chatty, bubbly side.

It makes me feel awesome.

After I finish inhaling my breakfast and Kate goes about eating hers, I decide to bring up the contest entry.

"Alright, we don’t have a lot of time, so we need to think of a game plan."

Kate looks up from where she’s been twirling her fork in the remnants of her pancakes,

giving me her full attention instead.

"Right. What did you have in mind?"

"Hmm..."

"The location of the photo is going to be really important, so let’s focus on that first. Do you have any..."

I stop, suddenly very aware of Kate’s eyes on me,

not focusing on my words but on me in particular.

"...what? Do I have something on my face?"

Kate laughs, breaking the tension in an instant.

"Yes, actually. You’ve got a bit of... here."

She leans over the table between us and gently wipes the corner of my mouth with a napkin.

She does it so naturally and gently that I barely have time to register what’s happening.

Before I can react she’s seated again.

"There, that’s better."

"Um... thanks."

I touch the side of my mouth where Kate’s hand had ghosted,

feeling a slight heat in my cheeks.

It felt... really nice to get her attention.

Alright Max, focus. The contest, remember?

"See, that’s why I picked you to be my partner, Kate. I’d be all over the place without you."

"Yeah... about that..."

Kate fingers her cross necklace self consciously, like there’s something on her mind.

"What’s up?"

Kate shrugs, looking away.

"Are you... worried about the contest?"

"It’s... not that."

Her eyes snap back to mine.

"I’m not worried about you handling the contest, Max. I’m just not sure why you picked me to help you."

"What do you mean?"

"I haven’t been feeling myself lately. What if I slow you down, or mess you up?"

"I just don’t think I’m as talented as you."

"If I screwed up your chances of winning I’d feel awful."

Wow, she’s really beating herself up over this.

"Kate..."

"Maybe... maybe you should pick someone else to help you, instead of me. I won’t have any hard feelings, I promise."

There’s no way I want anyone else to help me besides Kate. What could I say to reassure her?

I shake my head.

"Sorry, that’s not gonna happen."

"But-"

"I picked you to help me because I thought we’d make a great team."

"I know how to set up a nice shot, sure, but I have trouble bringing it to life."

"I’ve seen your art for those little children’s comics you make, they’re so... vibrant."

"There’s so much emotion in your work, it’s incredible."

Kate looks shocked, looking down again.

"Oh, Max... you are way too nice."

"I’m serious, Kate. You’re an amazing artist, just the kind of person I want working with me."

"So don’t worry, okay? With you on my team, I know our entry is gonna be great."

I’m not a motivational speaker, but Kate actually looks hopeful after I say that.

"Okay, you’re right. Go Team Max."

I put my hand over hers and smile.

"You mean Team Max and Kate."

I give her a small smile.

"Winning’s not everything, Kate."

She sighs and rubs her forehead.

"I know, I know... but this is important to you."

It is important to me... and it would be cool to win, but...

"Let’s just see what happens, okay? I picked you as my partner,"

"and that means I’m gonna stick with you to the end."

"I’m not asking you to be amazing."

"Just that you try your best."

She looks uncertain.

"And what if my best isn’t good enough?"

"That doesn’t matter. I just want you to try, okay?"

She seems to think it over, finally nodding.

"Okay, Max. You seem to have faith in me, so... I trust you."

"And you can trust me on this. Things will work out, one way or another."

"If you say so."

We finish our drinks and get ready to exit the diner.

According to my phone it’s only been an hour since we sat down to breakfast, so there’s still plenty of time left in the day.

"Where to now, Max? Do you have any ideas for a location?"

"I know just the place."

"Hmmm... oh! Follow me, Max."

After Two Whales, we boarded the bus out of town, where it pulled to a stop in front of a large, white building.

The hospital.

I glanced around as we entered, taking in the atmosphere.

It was nothing special on the inside - white walls, shining linoleum floors,

people in scrubs darting in and out of patient rooms.

Just an ordinary hospital.

If it weren’t for the television in the waiting room the hushed voice of the receptionist taking calls at the front desk,

the whole place would be eerily quiet.

I look over at Kate, envious of her calm.

Hospitals give me the creeps.

What could possibly be worthy of a photo contest entry in a place like this?

Kate leads the way, skipping the receptionist and heading straight to the elevator.

She presses the button to go up and we wait for the elevator to descend.

"So... a hospital, huh?"

Unlike Kate, who actually looks very sure of herself here,

I’m a little skeptical.

"I know what you’re thinking, but... well, just trust me."

"It’ll make sense once you see where we’re going."

She must be able to sense my unease, because after a pause she turns to look at me.

"...you do trust me, right, Max?"

No question, Kate’s never steered me wrong before.

"Yes, of course I trust you."

"I’m... just a little nervous. I haven’t been to a hospital since..."

"Okay, you’re gonna laugh, but when I was little,"

"I chewed the eye off my teddy bear and swallowed it."

Kate’s concern instantly melts away as she smiles.

"That is so cute... well, I guess I shouldn’t say that."

"You must have been so scared."

"I was. I just remember, like... doctors in white coats looming over me. Freaky."

I shivered a little at the memory.

To this day, I still can’t watch medical dramas without getting creeped out.

Before my mind can stray to any dark places, I feel fingers brushing gently against mine,

making my heart skip slightly.

"No doctors will get you this time, don’t worry."

Her voice, gentle and reassuring, makes me slightly less anxious.

I rub the back of my neck, not meeting Kate’s eyes.

"Well..."

"Max...?"

Kate falters a little.

"I’ve just... never done well with hospitals. I kind of had a bad experience when I was younger-"

"Do you need to leave?"

Kate is instantly concerned.

"I should have made sure you were comfortable here, we can leave if-"

Kate looks so distraught that I backtrack instantly.

It wouldn’t be fair of me to make her leave now, after she obviously put a lot of thought into coming here.

"No, no, it’s okay! I can handle it."

Kate searches my face carefully.

Despite the knot in my stomach, I manage to play it cool.

"Max Caulfield never misses the opportunity to take a perfect shot."

"You know that."

"I do."

Kate agrees with a small grin.

The elevator arrives and we step inside.

Kate presses the ‘4’ button almost immediately,

like she’s done this countless times before.

The doors open and Kate gently beckons me forward with a nod of her head.

She’s buzzing with energy, looking around the wing in excitement.

It’s actually really adorable.

Looking around, I don’t blame her.

Colors are splashed along the walls, completely contrasting the blank walls of the floor below.

The main area is filled with plush chairs and bean bags,

and there’s a small table with chairs in the corner,

littered with toys and coloring books.

"A... childrens’ wing?"

"Mmmhmm."

After scoping out the area, she turns back to me with a grin.

"Looks like no one’s around. Should we surprise them?"

She points to one of the rooms down a corridor.

I shake my head.

"You go first. I’ll wait out here."

I’ve never been that good around kids.

Not like Kate - she’s a natural mothering type...

Kate bumps my shoulder slightly with her own as she walks past me to stand outside one of the rooms.

"They don’t bite, you know."

She flashes a mischievous grin and darts into the patient’s room before I can retort.

I don’t mind.

It’s so nice having Kate in good spirits again.

A moment later I hear her talking in a soft voice,

then a shriek of absolute delight.

It doesn’t take long for the other kids to catch on,

a small crowd gathering outside the room Kate is in.

They ambush her as she leaves the room,

gathering around her legs and all babbling at her excitedly.

Kate is all smiles, and her usual shyness is gone completely

as she listens and responds to each of the kids.

A few of them turn towards me and I freeze.

Kate smiles in my direction and looks down at the kids.

"That's my friend, Max. She takes the prettiest pictures with her camera."

I flush and shake my head.

"I don't know about that."

I can't meet Kate's kind green eyes right now, so mine dart around the room instead.

There's a stack of coloring book pages on the little table, all filled in with crayon.

"Looks like I might have competition from these guys, anyway."

This seems to distract the attention off me, as the kids eagerly drag Kate towards the table,

wanting to show off their work.

I hang back, sinking into one of the beanbag chairs to watch them some more,

amazed at Kate's ability to handle them so well.

Caring, patient, and attentive-

she really knows how to listen to each of them individually.

The kids eventually get caught up in drawing more pictures,

and Kate sinks down next to me.

It’s a big bean bag, so I move over to make room for her.

"They're sweet, don't you think?"

"I thought they'd give us some inspiration for a nice photo."

"Definitely. They really love you, too."

"It's so cute."

Looks like I made Kate blush this time.

"I know. Some of them don't get a lot of attention."

"Their parents are either rich and leave all their kids' care up to the nurses,"

"or so busy working to provide for the rest of their families that they can't make it out here in person."

"So I try to keep them occupied."

"Kate, that's so awesome. You're like their cool big sister."

Kate raises an eyebrow.

"Cool kids spend their time volunteering on weekends?"

"I'm not sure some of our classmates would agree with you."

I rolled my eyes just thinking about the "cool" kids at Blackwell,

jocks and narcissists that liked to tear people down.

Art school comes with its snobs, unfortunately.

"Definitely. Volunteering is totally punk rock, as Chloe would say."

"You really think so?"

There's a noticeable change is Kate's tone of voice,

quiet and despondent as she turns her attention to the kids instead of me.

"Kate...?"

Something's definitely bothering her.

I sensed it back at the diner but it feels even stronger now.

We don't speak for a moment. I reach out to touch her shoulder gently,

causing her to jump a little.

"Sorry. I zoned out."

"Kate, whatever's going on... I want to help."

Kate sighs, looking at her hands.

"I don't know if you can."

"Let me try, at least."

"I know I don't always have the best ideas, but... I don't like to see you hurting."

This brings her attention back to me.

I smile encouragingly.

"You trust me, don't you?"

I don't expect her to agree so quickly, but she does.

"...I do trust you, Max. Okay."

"I've been dealing with some really... mean people recently."

"What? Who?"

Who would EVEN be mean to Kate?

"It started with the Bible study I tried to start at Blackwell."

"I was just trying to make a safe space for discussion, but... some kids didn't like it."

"First someone wrote curse words on my room slate,"

"then Hayden and his friends started whispering about me in the halls,"

"and then somebody made some... awful drawings of me."

She doesn't explain further and I don't want to make her. I'm already plenty furious.

I don’t get very angry this often, but when it comes to Kate...

I feel like I have to protect her.

Especially now, when she’s getting ganged up on for no reason.

"Kate... I'm so sorry, I... had no idea."

"Better that you didn't. I'm probably just being too sensitive."

"No you're not. Nobody deserves to be treated like that."

Especially not Kate. Poor thing.

Kate shrugs.

"Maybe... but what can I do about it?"

"I'm not strong like you, Max."

"You can't let them walk all over you like that."

"If you don't stand up for yourself, they're just going to keep going after you."

"That is not okay, so you've got to tell them to step off. Before it gets worse."

Kate considers this, looking a little intimidated at the notion.

"I know I should, but... I just..."

"You don't think you're strong enough, I know."

"But you're so kind to me, and these kids,"

"and even the people who aren't nice to you."

"That makes you stronger than they could ever hope to be."

"That's so nice of you to say, Max. I just don't know if I believe it."

I shake my head.

"You've got this, Kate. I have faith in you."

Kate nods.

"You always have. So I'll... try to do it, for you."

"Do it for yourself first. That's the most important thing."

Kate actually beams at this, and I get that warm, awesome feeling in my chest.

"You're a blessing, Max."

"They're just being jerks, Kate."

"Don't give them any more attention, that's all those Blackwell bros care about."

Kate starts rubbing her temples.

"That's what I've been trying to do, but... they just don't stop. It feels like a nightmare."

"I know. But you can't let them get out under your skin."

"If you don't care, then they won't either."

Kate laughs hollowly.

"I guess I care too much, that's the problem."

"You shouldn't care about people who treat you like..."

I stop myself from saying something... inappropriate for a kid to overhear,

in case one of our small friends might be listening.

"...who make you feel bad about yourself."

"You're better than that."

"Don't reward them with attention."

Kate shrugs, turning my words over in her head.

"It's worth a try. I just hope it's enough."

"Thank you, Max. Really."

I hope it's enough too, for Kate's sake.

Kate gets to her feet and takes a glance at the clock.

"I'm a little tired now that I got that off my chest."

"Would you mind heading back to Blackwell now?"

"After I say goodbye to the kids, of course."

"Sure. Whenever you're ready."

Watching her light up as she talks to the kids again eases my worries.

I just hope my advice helped her.

Even a year in, I still feel overwhelmed and thankful to be at Blackwell Academy.

Especially on days like this.

The campus is beautiful in the fall, like something out of a book or a movie.

On some days, I start to feel like Blackwell has become second nature to me, and it’s easy to overlook the little things that I love so much about it.

But on days like today, I feel excited about it all over again, the way I was when I first got my acceptance letter.

Even just getting to eat my lunch outside by the fountain feels like a novelty and a privilege.

I usually eat lunch with Chloe, or I take tea with Kate, but I like the chance to sit alone sometimes.

I love just watching everyone here.

That’s weird, isn’t it? My mind’s always working like a camera, even if I don’t have one in my hands.

I’m supposed to meet with Rachel out here. I’m still waiting, so I take a look around as I nosh on my sandwich.

I love Blackwell’s old brick buildings. They’re especially pretty in the fall, when the leaves all turn the same shades of red and orange.

I love how comfortable everyone looks out here, lazing on the grass.

And I really love that Blackwell’s always rotating the art displays on the quad.

There’s something new in the displays every month. Sometimes it’s student work, but sometimes they feature work by famous artists.

Half of me hopes to eventually be able to see one of my photos in one of these displays, but the other half of me is saying no way.

...I have to work on that.

Confidence.

My friends are always reassuring me, and I know that they wouldn’t lie, but it’s hard to be objective about your own work.

You have to suffer for your art, right?

I’m my own worst critic.

Or maybe I’m feeling extra crispy sensitive because I’m so nervous about the contest. There’s been butterflies in my stomach since yesterday.

I can’t believe I’m going to be working with Rachel on it.

I could have picked anyone, but Rachel’s the closest thing Blackwell has to a real deal model, and I’ve never worked with one before...

Why did I even ask her? I’m so nervous. Rachel’s had her photo taken by so many people at Blackwell. Legit photographers, like Evan.

Then there’s me and my instant camera. Rachel’s so nice...I probably put her on the spot, so she said yes.

Hold on. This kind of negative thinking is just making those butterflies multiply. Rachel’s my friend.

Where is she, anyway? I’ve been waiting for almost ten minutes.

Not that I’m annoyed. I know that Rachel has a really busy social life. It’s almost like she knows how to be everywhere at once.

Speaking of being everywhere at once...There’s some graffiti here with her name in it on the fountain.

I lean over to examine it.

...

Wowser. That's...

Really mean.

There’s so much graffiti about Rachel around campus.

In the bathrooms, in the dorms, on the desks...

I’m not sure why. Rachel’s not the kind of person who would do anything to earn this kind of crap written about her.

At least...

I don’t think she is.

I’ve known Rachel for a year already, and I still feel like I don’t know that much about her.

I mean, I know the basics:

She’s gorgeous, and kind, and she has a wicked sense of humor.

And she’s probably the most popular girl at all of Blackwell, even if Victoria Chase officially wears the crown.

But I feel like there’s lots I don’t know about Rachel.

I’m sure of one thing, though:

She doesn’t deserve this gross stuff about her.

I slide my bag over to cover the graffiti and look at the rainbow bracelet on my wrist that Rachel made for me.

And just like that, with perfect timing, Rachel is calling out to me.

I look up. She’s giving me a wave as she approaches the fountain.

Hey, Max!

"Hi, Rachel."

"I really meant to get here sooner."

"It’s cool. I was eating."

"I should start wearing roller blades. Then I could just fly past all the skater bros."

I look beyond her shoulder. The ’skater bros’ are all hanging out by the steps, like they always are. One of them waves at us...or maybe just Rachel.

I know she hangs out with them a lot. I don’t know how one person manages to fit into so many social groups.

"You’d break their hearts. Justin’s clearly drooling. I can see it all the way from here."

"Hell yeah, I would. I wanna be a maneater!"

"I thought you wanted to be a model."

"Part and parcel, Max."

She grins at me. I smile back.

Rachel’s smile has a way of making you feel special. Like she’s totally happy to be devoting all of her attention to you.

Maybe that’s her secret to popularity.

"Well, I need you to keep it to modeling for this thing...If that’s cool with you."

"Ice cold."

I cringe. Open mouth, insert foot much, self?

"I’m sorry-

"I mean it’s cool, Max!"

"Oh. Of course."

She laughs. I feel embarrassed. Of course I misunderstood.

I think again about how there’s a lot I don’t know about Rachel, and this is a prime example.

Is it that I’m totally socially inept, or is it that Rachel’s an enigma?

...Maybe it’s a bit of both.

"Anyway, I am so excited for this thing."

"Really? I mean, me too, but..."

"Come on. Let’s go chat about it!"

Before I can respond, Rachel is reaching down to loop her arms around one of mine. She locks her grip on me, and I try not to stumble as I stand.

Rachel leans into me, smiling, and she tugs me towards a tree.

I’m a little startled. Rachel’s really physical. I’ve always thought I was a touchy-feely kind of friend, but Rachel has me beat in every way.

She’s always tapping your shoulder, or reaching for your hand, or hugging you to say hi.

I like that about her. She’s so extroverted compared to me.

It’s quieter here, away from the sound of the fountain.

Rachel only lets go of me once she moves to sit, and she pats the grass next to her, unwrapping a granola bar as she talks.

"I’m fucking stoked you asked me to do this with you."

Hearing her say it like that...I believe her.

But why?

"You’re doing me a huge favor, so if there’s anything I can do for you,"

"like if you get a project later in the year that you need help with, I’m there."

"What? I’m doing this for me!"

"Huh?"

"Well, for you, too."

Her exp?ression softens. It lets me know that she’s teasing.

Rachel’s always teasing. It drives Chloe nuts.

"I mean...I want to be a model, and you want to be a photographer."

"So we’re a perfect match, right?"

A perfect match, huh?

"Well, when you put it that way..."

"My logic’s flawless."

Seeing how confident Rachel is, I feel a little better about everything already.

I know that Rachel’s used to having all kinds of attention...not just mine.

"Aren’t you everyone’s Blackwell muse?"

Rachel flicks her eyes up from her granola bar, and then back down.

"Hmm? Oh. Well, I guess so."

"I mean, there’s a lot of people who take inspiration from you."

"I’ve seen Daniel’s drawings. They’re amazing."

"That’s because Daniel’s a good artist. Anyone can be a muse."

"Maybe you’ve got something special."

"That’s what they all say."

She laughs.

I know that Rachel loves having her photo taken. She might actually snap more selfies than even I do.

"You like being photographed, right?"

She lights up.

"Who doesn’t?"

"Touche."

"I don’t know what it is, but I’ve always loved it. I’ve wanted to be a model since I was little."

"I know most people grow out of their childhood career goals, but...here I am."

Her tone is a little sheepish. I’ve never heard her sound like that before. It makes me feel less anxious about this whole thing.

"There’s nothing wrong with that, Rachel. I’ve wanted to be a photographer since I was a kid,"

"and I’ve never changed my mind."

"And we’ll both achieve it. Right?"

Her enthusiasm makes me want to believe her. I smile.

"Right."

Rachel’s so certain that this is a good idea.

I’ve still got work to do convincing myself.

"You really want me to take your photo?"

"Why wouldn’t I?"

Rachel’s giving me one of those dazzling smiles again.

"I love your photos, Max. Those polaroids you took of me at the fair this summer?"

"I look at them, like, every day."

I remember that. I also remember something else.

"One of those is still your profile pic on Facebook."

"And it’ll probably stay that way… At least until you take this new shot for the contest!"

"Thanks, Rachel. Seriously."

"I have to admit...There really is a synergy between models and photographers."

"Uh, not that I would really know."

"You’re kind of the first one I’ve worked with in a serious way..."

Rachel’s eyes light up. She leans in close, like she’s going to whisper. Instinctively, I do, too.

"Synergy! That’s the word!"

Her exclamation makes me jerk back. Rachel can be loud sometimes.

"We’re an electric combo, Max. I can feel it."

"And we can really amp it up one on one."

"Let’s raise the stakes on this contest!"

I laugh nervously. Rachel and I are so different.

Really different.

Can we really synergize?

"I kinda need to figure out what the stakes even are before we do any raising..."

Rachel tilts her head to the side and plays with the feather earring that she’s always wearing.

I’ve never seen her without it.

"Then how about we scout some locations? We can go right now."

"...And ditch class?"

"And ditch class."

Rachel’s smile dares me to take her up on it. I know that if I were Chloe, I’d instantly drop everything and go. They’re always skipping together.

But I’m not Chloe. I’m starting to realize fully that I’ve never really spent time alone with Rachel before.

We hang out, but it’s almost always with Chloe there.

And I have no idea what things are going to be like without Chloe around.

I guess I’m going to find out.

But...skipping class makes me nervous. We could easily just go later.

Still...Rachel looks so enthusiastic about the idea.

I might regret this, but it’s hard to say no to Rachel.

"Let’s go now...before I change my mind."

I guess I must look nervous about it, because Rachel bursts out laughing.

"Okay, but don’t look so nauseous! Madsen’s not gonna pop out and arrest you."

"Probably."

"Oh, no..."

She winks at me, and then she stands and offers me a hand up. I take it. Her grip is really strong.

"I’ve got the perfect place."

"Do you think that maybe we can meet up later?"

I feel uber lame for asking. I really hope Rachel’s not disappointed that I want to stay around and finish class for the day.

She’s so cool, and I’ll always be a geek.

"Aw."

She does look a little put out, but it’s only for a second.

"That’s probably the better idea. I’m trying not to get carried away,"

"but I’m just so excited."

We smile at one another.

"I know. Me, too."

"I’ll drop by your room later, then we’ll go from there."

"I think I know a place that would be totally rad for photos."

Before coming to Blackwell, I could count all of the times I’d ever skipped class on one hand. Three out of four of those were because I was sick, or cramping.

Hooking up with Chloe again means that I’ve missed my fair share in the past year.

And now Rachel’s got me doing it, too.

I know that she was teasing me, but I seriously expected Chloe’s stepdad to materialize from thin air and start yelling at us.

Instead, we just had a pretty uneventful trip to the bus stop.

I guess I was paranoid for nothing, unless he’s waiting to ambush us when we get back.

But now that we’re here, I already feel better.

This was a good idea. The beach is an awesome place for photos. The light’s always so beautiful out here by the water, and the scenery pretty much paints itself.

And with a model like Rachel, it’ll be hard not to take a good photo.

"It’s perfect, right? Just like I said."

"Yeah, actually. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it..."

"The beach is one of my fave places. I love just coming here and zoning out."

Rachel mimes pinching something between her fingers. I get the picture.

"You and Chloe both."

Rachel laughs.

"Don’t worry. I didn’t bring you here to watch me get stoned."

"I know."

I look out onto the water.

We could pretty much take the photo anywhere here.

Yeah. That’s the best part! Anything would make a perfect backdrop.

Rachel spreads her arms to it all. She’s totally right. Even in October, the beach here has a certain warmth to it.

It’s so free and open.

Kind of like Rachel, really.

I watch as she kicks off her shoes and ditches both them and her backpack by the rocks.

She seems so happy here kicking up the sand, and it’s hard not to be caught up in her good mood.

"Hey, come on! I’ve already checked for broken glass with my feet."

Rachel’s got her hands on her hips, looking expectant. I hesitate before kneeling to untie my sneakers.

"That broken glass joke is not funny..."

I know that the beach is a favored spot for Vortex-style boozing.

"That’s why I checked for it first!"

Rachel starts laughing at herself. It’s infectious.

"You probably shouldn’t use your feet next time."

"If I don’t live on the edge, then who will?"

"With that kind of attitude, you will literally be living on the edge."

"Of broken glass."

"Shit happens!"

"You’ll never be able to walk a runway."

"I’m too short for the runway, so whatevs!"

"You’re making a pretty big effort here to justify stepping on broken bottles."

"I’m just saying that if it happens..."

Rachel’s laughter dissolves into snorting. It’s...

Really cute.

I’ve never heard her snort before.

"You’ll have print work, either way."

"That’s the goal."

Rachel’s picking her way along the sand, and, after rolling my jeans up to my knees, I join her.

Rachel seems so at home here, but I know that she wants to make it big in Hollywood.

Maybe that’s why she loves the beach so much. Maybe it helps her pretend that she’s in California, not in Oregon.

The sand turns wet and freezing cold by the water, but it doesn’t seem to bother Rachel.

"I’m so happy that I finally get to work with a real photographer."

For a moment, I’m not sure who Rachel’s even talking about.

But it’s me, of course. Duh, Max.

"”I’m the one that’s excited."

"I get to work with a real model."

Rachel looks really pleased. She reaches up to play with her earring.

"I’m just an amateur hoping to play the pro game."

She sounds so modest about it.

"You will. I’ll have the bragging rights to say I took your pics before you were famous."

"Or maybe I’ll be the one bragging that Max Caulfield did a photoshoot with me before she ever hit it big."

She elbows me. It’s playful, so I elbow her back.

"Really?"

I don’t really know what to say. A real photographer? Me?

"Thank you, Rachel."

Rachel shrugs.

"I know talent when I see it. And I know a burnout when I see one, too."

"So I’m not a burnout?"

"No way. Unless Blackwell makes you cynical like all the other hipsters."

"Ugh. No way."

"That’s...really nice of you, Rachel, but..."

"I don’t know if I’m a real photographer..."

Rachel looks at me sideways and slows her steps. The water just barely misses our toes.

"Do you like taking photos?"

I’m a little taken aback by the question.

"Um...Well, yeah."

"Then you’re a real photographer."

"I guess what I should have said is that I’m not a pro photographer."

"I never said I wanted to shoot with a pro. I said I wanted to shoot with someone real."

Rachel might be blunt, but her words are so reassuring.

"Then I guess I’m your girl."

I look over our surroundings, scanning my eyes from the distant horizon, to the long white stretch of the beach, and then to the cliff and the lighthouse.

"I have no idea where we could even take this photo."

"Anywhere. When it’s right, it’s right. And you’re hardcore! But we’ll have to get it right in one shot, won’t we?"

"Pictures not turning out is a fact of life with film, so I’m always stocking up on extra."

"I want it to be perfect on the first try."

She sounds strangely firm about that.

The sun breaks through the clouds just then.

"The light on the beach always makes me feel kinda..."

I’m not sure what word I’m looking for.

"...Infinite?"

It sounds kind of lame like that...

"Uh, never mind. That sounds silly."

"No, it doesn’t. I feel the exact same way."

Rachel’s looking up at the sun, too. I bet she wishes we were on a beach in LA instead...

I wish I could take her there for the photo, just to say thank you for helping me out.

"I think that’s enough research for today, don’t you?"

Rachel’s stretching her arms above her head.

Or...Wait. No, she’s taking off her shirt.

"Um..."

"I’m going for a swim!"

I stand there and watch, stunned, as Rachel shucks off her clothes. She throws her shirt onto the sand, and then she yanks down her jeans.

The next thing I know, Rachel is standing there in her underwear.

A wave of embarrassment overwhelms me. I almost can’t look… almost. Which means that I do.

"If you’re not coming, I’m heading in!"

I watch as Rachel turns her back on me and bounds towards the water.

My eyes trail to the tattoo on her calf. It’s a dragon that winds from her ankle to her knee. I know she got it around the time that Chloe got her sleeve done. It really suits her.

I watch Rachel run into the water...

...Only to turn right back around, yelping.

"Holy shit! That’s fucking cold!"

"You didn’t get that already?!"

"Rachel, that..."

"That was a really bad idea."

"D-d-don’t you th-think I’ve re-realized that?"

Her teeth are chattering. I feel bad for her, even if she did do this to herself.

Maybe I shouldn’t have scolded her. It’s not my place.

I watch as Rachel grabs for her clothes and hurriedly starts yanking them back on.

I pull my hoodie off and hold it out for her as she approaches. Now I’m cold, too, but at least I’m not soaked like she is.

"Put this on, Rachel."

Rachel looks startled, but she beams at me, even though she’s shivering from her head to her toes.

"No, put it back on! If someone has to get sick, it should be just one of us, not two."

"Are you sure?"

"One hundred percent. Thanks, though, Max. Seriously."

She reaches out and squeezes my forearm with one wet hand, and then she starts getting dressed again as fast as possible.

I kneel to pick up Rachel’s clothes for her and start shaking all of the sand out of them. I hold them out to her when she approaches.

"Here’s your clothes."

"Thanks, Max. That was a horrible idea!"

It was, but it was also really...Rachel. Something spontaneous and crazy and fun.

Aside from the chance of pneumonia, anyway.

Rachel’s pretty tough, though. I think she’ll be okay. I watch her pull her clothes back on.

Five minutes later, Rachel stops shivering.

"I’m not going to do that again. Not until summer, anyway."

"The ocean’s still pretty cold here in the summer..."

Rachel doesn’t respond. She just heaves a huge sigh.

"Yeah, I know. Wishful thinking."

It looks like that’s not the only thing that’s bothering her.

"Hey, Max?"

"Yeah?"

Rachel sits down on the sand. I join her. She pulls her knees up to her chest and rests her arms on them.

"I haven’t told anyone this yet, but I’ve been scouted by an agency in LA."

I’m surprised. Not because Rachel’s been scouted, but because she’s kept it to herself. That seems like the kind of news she’d want to share with everybody.

It’s a pretty huge deal to be approached by a modeling agent. This is the kind of news Rachel has been hoping for for so long.

Why tell me first?

"That’s amazing, Rachel."

"Isn’t it?"

Rachel’s smiling, but...It’s hard to tell what she’s thinking.

"You’re so much bigger than Arcadia Bay, Rachel."

"You have to make the most of this opportunity."

Even now, Rachel is supporting me with the contest, so I have to support her in this.

"I..."

Rachel tightens her arms over her knees.

"Thank you so much, Max. It means a lot that someone with your eye sees me that way."

My eye...

I feel like I should thank her, too.

"I know you’ve got this."

Rachel reaches over and slings an arm around my shoulders.

I feel flustered, but it’s nice. No wonder Chloe’s so overprotective of her friendship with Rachel. Rachel’s so...

Warm.

We sit like that for a little while, watching the water slosh up onto the shore.

"Everyone here loves you so much."

"We’re all going to miss you a lot."

It’s hard to think of an Arcadia Bay without Rachel Amber in it. I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t know her, or knows of her.

"I know."

Rachel’s head dips down towards her knees. The silence turns awkward. I think of saying something to break it, but then she lifts her chin.

"Hey, look."

She points to something, and I look up.

There’s a seagull strutting four feet away.

"I bet you can get his photo if you’re quick."

"If I’m quick."

I slip my camera out of my bag and line it up. I snap the photo, and it startles and flies away.

It’s starting to get colder as the afternoon begins to wane. Rachel seems to be thinking the same thing, because she starts putting her shoes back on.

"We should get back to Blackwell before we both freeze."

"Yeah. We both need to be in top shape if we want to get a good shot later this week..."

"At least you need to be."

"Good photos don’t happen without their photographers, Max."

"You’re right."

"Of course you are."

Rachel just smiles at me.

We gather our things and head back towards the bus stop. Once we’re back at school, Rachel tells me that she’ll text me tomorrow morning.

There’s still time for me to catch my last period, so after I bid her goodbye, I set off running.

But I might as well have skipped it anyway, because I think about Rachel’s enigmatic smile the whole time.

I’m glad that Rachel was okay with meeting up later. The last thing I want is more absences on my record.

I’ve got enough of those already thanks to Chloe...

Just a few more, and I know I’ll be getting a disappointed call from my mom.

So I’m relieved that Rachel was alright with waiting. She came by my dorm room around dusk to get me.

I usually don’t like leaving campus after dark, so I’m really nervous, especially because I don’t recognize this area at all.

But Rachel seems to know exactly where she is. She seems pretty confident about it.

I instinctively stick close as she leads the way down a street I don’t recognize. I don’t want to admit that I’m spooked, but...

I totally am.

Rachel’s not even remotely unsettled.

Actually, when I think about it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her look worried or anxious before… Have I?

When Rachel finally puts her hand on my shoulder and brings us both to a stop, I see where she’s taken me.

"Check it out."

It’s an underpass. It’s eerily lit by the streetlights, a concrete monster with a wide, dark tunnel.

The architecture is interesting. It’s super urban, different from a lot of the things in Arcadia Bay. And there’s a ton of colorful graffiti disappearing into the shadows of the tunnel.

My mind immediately begins thinking of a million different photos I could take here. My nerves start to fade.

"This is..."

Rachel’s looking right at me.

"It’s actually super cool, Rachel. This place will make for a badass photo."

Rachel’s lips spread in a smile.

"I thought you’d be into it. It’s super edgy, right?"

"Yeah. I didn’t know this was even here."

"You should come out exploring more with Chloe and I."

"I don’t know. I was sort of scared we’d get mugged on the way here..."

"You can’t spend your whole life worrying about stuff like that!"

Rachel laughs and walks down the path towards the tunnel. She slips her cell phone out of her pocket and turns the flashlight on. I do the same.

"Look."

I don’t have to ask to know what she’s talking about.

There’s so much graffiti here, I can barely make out what any of it is supposed to be. It’s all just one big explosion of color.

I can’t help but think that this place really suits Rachel.

Not because it’s grimy. It suits her because it feels kind of...

Free and rebellious. Like her.

I know that Rachel wants to make it big in Hollywood. Maybe that’s why she likes this place, the fact that it’s so different from Arcadia Bay.

It’s urban and exciting and untraditional, everything our little town isn’t.

"Check out this one. The blue bird."

I look at the design she’s pointing out. It’s hard to see beneath all of the other tags, but soon I make out the shape of its wings.

"It was my fave. I came here one day and someone had sprayed right over it. I legit felt depressed."

"Graffiti’s a really impermanent form of art."

Rachel grins.

"I’m glad you said that."

"Huh?"

"That it’s art. Some people think this stuff is just vandalism, you know?"

"It’s definitely art. Art is exp?ression, so..."

"This place has so much character. And a thousand different stories! There’s one behind every tag."

"Isn’t that cool to think about?"

"Now that you mention it… Yeah. Any photo we take here for the contest would be amazing."

I wouldn’t have thought about it that way on my own.

There’s just something I really like about this place.

"The lighting is almost..."

"Supernatural."

"There’s actually a rumor that this place is haunted."

I draw my cell phone closer to my chest. As if that would protect me from ghosts. Jeez...

"You’re joking!"

"I swear! I mean, I’m pretty sure."

She pauses, looking thoughtful.

"I was pretty drunk when someone told me the story..."

"There’s a story?"

"Wanna hear it?"

"No! Not right now. Maybe when we get back...I’ll be too freaked to stick around if you tell me right now."

"I’m already in love with the graffiti. I want to take so many photos of it all."

Rachel looks happy. She reaches a hand up to touch what’s left of the blue bird.

"That would be sick! Then you can immortalize stuff like my little friend here."

"And solve the impermanence problem?"

"Yeah. Wish I’d taken a photo."

"But nothing gold can stay, right?"

"Or nothing blue."

"Or nothing blue! Right."

Rachel’s grinning again.

"I’m going to come back here and tag the biggest, bluest bird anyone’s ever seen."

"Try not to get caught."

"If you keep my scheme on the DL, I won’t be!"

"The architecture’s so cool. It’s… different."

"I guess. I mean, it’s an underpass."

"I mean it’s different from most of the stuff in Arcadia Bay."

"Yeah. I think the town’s entire collection of graffiti is here."

"Would you be the expert on that?"

Rachel laughs. It echoes off the walls of the tunnel. Then she seems to have an idea.

"Hey, come on. Let’s go sit up top."

I follow Rachel up the stairs to the side of the underpass. On top, there are lots of cars streaking by.

I’m not sure what Rachel wants to do, but I quickly realize once I see her climbing onto the railing. She perches there and fishes a pack of cigarettes out of her pocket.

I’m way too nervous to try doing the same thing. It would be so typical for me to fall. I wind up just standing next to her.

"Aren’t you scared of falling?"

"Why would I be?"

Rachel says it like she’s surprised by the idea. I watch her light her cigarette.

"I’m clumsy. I guess I forget that not everyone is."

"Clumsy’s cute."

My face feels a little hot. Rachel’s really good at making everything she says sound like the truth.

I watch as she takes a deep inhale. She blows the smoke in the opposite direction, away from my face.

I can’t help but think again about how little I know about Rachel. She seems like even more of an enigma out here under the purple sky...

"I’ve gone to so many crazy parties out here. It’s kind of nice just to chill for once."

"Parties...here? Oh. You mean in the tunnel."

"Yeah. It’s a fun little place to drink in."

"Actually, I bet we’ll probably see some people looking for a good time showing up soon."

"It’s almost a nightly event."

"Maybe we shouldn’t stick around."

"You’d probably know some of them! A lot of Blackwell kids come here to kick it."

I want to ask what kind of Blackwell kids come here, but Rachel has friends from all kinds of cliques. It could be any of them.

"You always seem to know what’s happening and where."

"That’s what it’s like being the life of the party..."

Rachel says it like she’s teasing, but it seems like there’s something else on her mind.

I try to figure out a way to ask as I watch her light up a second cigarette.

Typical me. I have no idea what to say.

"Hey, Max..."

"Yeah?"

Rachel lets out a cloud of smoke.

"I haven’t told anyone this yet, but I’ve been scouted by an agency in LA."

I’m surprised. Not because Rachel’s been scouted, but because she’s kept it to herself. That seems like the kind of news she’d want to share with everybody.

It’s a pretty huge deal to be approached by a modeling agent. This is the kind of news Rachel has been hoping for for so long.

Why tell me first?

"That’s amazing, Rachel."

"Isn’t it?"

Rachel’s smiling, but...It’s hard to tell what she’s thinking.

"Everyone’s going to miss you."

"You’re practically the queen of Arcadia Bay… and Blackwell."

I can’t even imagine what the uproar is going to be like if she leaves.

It’s hard to think of an Arcadia Bay without Rachel Amber in it. I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t know her, or knows of her.

"I know."

Her head dips down, the cigarette lolling out of one corner of her mouth.

I think of saying something, but then she looks back up at me with a slightly mischievous exp?ression.

"”Would that make you my handmaiden?"

"I think there would be a lot of competition for that position..."

"I’m moving your resume to the front of the queue."

"I know you’re having lots of fun here..."

"But I think you should absolutely go for it."

Even now, Rachel is supporting me with the contest, so I have to support her in this.

"I..."

Rachel lowers her cigarette, and she brightens.

"Thank you so much, Max. Can you imagine how wicked cool the parties in LA are? I’ve got to get you over there once I’m situated."

"But first I definitely have to get you used to ragers before I leave."

I don’t know about the ragers, but...

"I know you’ve got this."

Rachel reaches over and slings an arm around my shoulders.

I feel flustered, but it’s nice. No wonder Chloe’s so overprotective of her friendship with Rachel. Rachel’s so...

Warm.

I don’t know how much time passes as Rachel and I chat about school and our friends. It starts to get a lot colder.

She seems to decide that she’s had enough chain-smoking, and I watch as she swings her legs back over the railing and joins me standing.

I hear a commotion down beneath the underpass. Both Rachel and I peer over the edge. Just like she’d predicted, there’s a bunch of people showing up.

Everyone’s whooping and hollering, and probably already plastered.

Rachel turns towards me. Her eyes are bright. I think… I already know what she’s going to ask.

"Do you want to stick around and party?"

"We’ve got school tomorrow."

"We’ll be back before midnight."

"I don’t really like drinking."

Rachel’s exp?ression softens.

"I know. You don’t have to, and I won’t either, okay?"

"Let’s just stay around and dance."

Dancing? I don’t do much of that, either.

But Rachel looks so excited.

I know I’ll be completely exhausted in school tomorrow if I stay, but I’m having a good time with her. I’m not sure what to do.

"I guess there’s a first time for everything."

"Let’s stay and dance."

What’s gotten into me? I don’t do stuff like this.

There’s something about Rachel that makes me want to be more adventurous.

I’m...actually a little excited.

So is Rachel. She’s thrilled.

"Yeah? Really?"

"I mean, yeah! Hell yeah!"

Rachel grabs my hand and squeezes it tight, and then, before I can change my mind, she tugs me down the stairs.

Like she promised, she doesn’t ask me to drink, and she doesn’t, either.

We actually wind up having a lot of fun. Rachel’s burnout friends are weird, but they’re cool. They’re all really nice to me once Rachel introduces me as her friend.

This is what it’s like being social royalty, huh?

I enjoy myself way more than I thought I would. Rachel’s energy is so infectious, I could easily stay way past midnight,

but Rachel that reminds me that we have to head back to Blackwell eventually.

I don’t regret agreeing to stay at all.

Once we get back to the dorms and I hit my bed, I pass out almost right away, thinking about Rachel’s enigmatic smile.

"I don’t know..."

Rachel looks a little crestfallen. I feel like I’ve disappointed her.

"That’s cool. Maybe another night."

Of course she’s being nice about it. Rachel is nice about everything… but I can’t help but think that I’ve screwed up somehow.

"Sorry..."

"Don’t apologize! Seriously. Let’s head back, ‘kay?"

She gives me a reassuring smile.

"Don’t skip school, don’t stay out late… At least one of us is on the straight and narrow."

"Or the lame and uncool."

"Don’t talk like that. Come on. We’ve still got time to catch the bus."

Once we get back to the dorms, I try to concentrate on my homework, but I give up about half an hour into it, because I can’t stop thinking about Rachel’s enigmatic smile.

Hello! I'm Hawt Dog, your guide and teacher.

(Click to Continue)

[titleName] is a visual novel, meaning you'll be reading most of the time.

Every now and then you can pick dialogue choices that change the flow of conversation, or even bring you to different locations.

Got it?

Great! Good job. Let's head over to the Two Whales.

Well, I mean, you just chose 'no', so I think you got it. Let's go to the classroom.

Your dialogue choices can affect the way the other characters in the game interact with you.

Characters in the game have 'Approval Points', which you earn or lose from the decisions you choose.

(You will NOT see these point changes visually. So pick wisely!)

Depending on the approval points you have with a character, it'll influence how they talk to you.

Also, you can use the BACK button on the quick menu to go back and read things.

The quick menu is located to the bottom right.

HOWEVER, if you go back to a decision, you can't undo that decision.

There's no time travel magic here! Once your decisions are made, they are made permanent.

Thanks for sounding so positive!

Don't be so negative.

Do make sure to SAVE your game every now and then!

The game won't remember your decisions if you don't save.

But depending on your decisions,

You'll see different dialogue from characters, get different dialogue options...

Even get different endings.

Because remember: Your actions have consequences.

Good Luck!

Usually I feel totally at ease in this environment,

In the middle of the frantic breakfast rush at Two Whales, complete with an atmosphere so loud and varied it makes it hard to fall asleep.

The diner is alight with a manner of different faces,

hungry truckers tapping their feet and banging their large fists against the counter,

sleepy locals engaging in quiet conversation over steaming coffee mugs,

families dabbing at the faces of their children,

and the already overworked staff bumbling about with a speed and accuracy I sure wouldn’t be able to accomplish without falling over.

And it’s only 10 o’ clock in the morning. It seems way too loud for it to be that time, but that’s the beauty of the morning rush, I guess.

Well, to be more accurate, it’s only 9:58 in the morning.

I woke up this morning to a text from Victoria, demanding to meet up at 10am or never.

Checking my phone to make sure I have the time right, I drum my fingers against the table to burn off the excess energy from my nerves.

If I were to be meeting up with Chloe, I wouldn’t be nervous at all.

Well, maybe a little nervous that she’d leave me waiting for way too long.

I can’t help the little smirk that overcomes my lips at the thought, because I know for a fact that she definitely would.

She always tells me I’d better not be late, but she always is.

It’s fine, though. I guess I’ve learned to deal with the wonky schedule of one Chloe Price.

That’s what you get when you pledge your loyalty to the Captain; there’s no room for me to be that upset.

Being First Mate isn’t all it’s cut out to be.

"Ugh, what’s up with that look on your face?"

I jump in my seat at the sudden voice, and the smile dissolves quickly off my face.

Victoria Chase is standing over my table, arms crossed and exp?ression sour.

I must have been so deep in my thoughts that I didn’t even notice her come in. So much for preparing myself to deal with this.

I look down at my phone to check the time:

10 AM.

I don’t know why I’m surprised. Of course she’d be as punctual as possible.

When I pull my gaze off my phone, I realize that she’s still made no effort to sit down.

I can’t help myself from thinking that she’s probably trying to use that as some leverage over me. As if she doesn’t have enough control over all of Blackwell.

"God, are you deaf or something? I asked you a question."

That sparks some annoyance in the back of my mind, and I hurry to respond.

As much as I want to reply with something worse, I hold myself back and frown up at her.

"I was just thinking about something."

Victoria raises a brow, and then scoffs.

"It had better be something about the project, then."

I can’t keep myself from rolling my eyes, and she narrows her own eyes at me in response.

"Or maybe it’s better if it’s not. If I have to deal with you smiling like a total weirdo all the time, I might just go crazy."

If she’s that worried, her words definitely did the trick. There’s nothing short of a frown on my face, now.

"Very funny, Victoria."

"If it makes you feel better, it wasn’t about the project."

Victoria actually makes a noise of approval.

"Hmph, good. I don’t need you getting ahead of yourself."

I don’t really like the way she says that, like she’s planning on being the driving force behind this whole thing.

I was the one who asked her to help, in the first place...

I cross my arms, looking up at her.

"Wouldn’t you like to know, Victoria?"

For a second, I swear I can see her eyes widen—

—and narrow again, and she looks miles more irritated than before.

I can tell this is going great already, and I resist the urge to do a major facepalm.

"Just so I can mentally prepare myself to deal with a freak like you."

The words actually do sting, a little. I sink back against my seat slightly, hoping she won’t notice.

The edge of her lip quirks up anyway, so I guess she must have. That just makes this whole situation worse.

"Cut it out, Victoria. You’re the one who showed up anyway."

I roll my eyes and Victoria snorts immediately after. Luckily, she doesn’t counter with anything else.

I really don’t think it’s a good sign for our project if we start arguing this early on.

That’s probably too much to ask for, considering who I’m working with.

"Whatever. Let’s not waste any more time."

"Does that mean you’re going to sit down?"

Victoria’s eyebrow twitches at my assertion, and I can’t stop myself from smiling smugly.

I half expect her to say something,

instead all she does is huff and tuck a lock of her hair behind her ear, sliding effortlessly into the seat.

"It’s too early to deal with you, Caulfield."

"Too early? It’s already 10 in the morning."

I raise a brow at her; even Chloe would have called me out earlier than this.

Victoria shoots me a look and averts her gaze to one of the many waitresses passing by, as if that’ll make them show up any faster.

"Some people actually need their beauty sleep."

"I’m not surprised you haven’t heard of it, with how you look."

Ouch. She’s on a roll today. I cross my arms, watching her wearily.

"Seriously? If you were going to come here just to insult me, why did you even agree to work with me?"

Victoria pauses, and then pinches the bridge of her nose.

"Don’t flatter yourself—"

Before Victoria can finish her response, a waitress finally shows up to take our orders. Victoria, of course, wastes no time.

"Coffee. Black."

She shoots me a look, as if I’m the reason she’s getting something so strong. I stand my ground, staring right back.

...for maybe a little too long, because Victoria clears her throat and gestures to the waitress.

"We don’t have all fucking day, Caulfield."

My ears burn, and I avert my gaze.

"Um, just a coffee with bacon and eggs."

Once the waitress pens down our orders and speeds away, the atmosphere feels just as tense as before.

Victoria is extremely quiet, and I can’t find the words to say. It always feels like talking to Victoria is like trying to avoid stepping on landmines.

It almost makes me regret my decision a little, but I quickly dash that thought from my mind.

I know why I picked Victoria to help me. I’ve seen her work before, and for someone so sour, she has a ton of talent.

I guess I’ve always wondered why someone so talented has to be such a jerk. She has everything, so what does she get from tearing everyone down?

I peek at her again, and catch her looking out the window instead of at me.

There’s this little furrow in her brow, as if she’s thinking about something. It’s probably something about me.

Maybe she’s questioning this decision just as much as I am.

"Hey, Victoria..."

Victoria turns her head to look at me, brows still furrowed. As she opens her mouth to respond, our waitress comes by and drops off our drinks.

Whatever she was going to say is swallowed up by her taking ahold of her coffee and taking a sip.

I almost want to wince, imagining how bitter that was.

"So. Our project."

"Right..."

I decide to take the safe route and start with something simple that Victoria can’t possibly argue over.

"Do you have any ide—"

"Do you have any ide—"

We both stop when the words pour out of our mouths at the same time, and Victoria seems momentarily surprised.

She curls her lips down and brings her coffee up to them again, a little too quickly.

I swear I see her grimace this time around, and I hunch my shoulders up a little, reaching for my cup.

"Well?"

Victoria can make anything sound like a demand, and that one word definitely proves that.

"Huh?"

"I’m giving you permission to keep talking."

"So either you take it, or you don’t."

"Do you understand or not?”"

Oh. I wasn’t expecting that one at all.

I thought Victoria would want to get her words in first, but she honestly looks a little embarrassed. I wonder if this is an attempt to be nice or not.

Since I’m dealing with Victoria, it’s probably easier to ask her what she has in mind first.

"What do you have in mi—"

"Do you have any ide—"

We both stop short, our sentences totally mismatched. It takes me a moment to realize what she was trying to say, and really,

I’m surprised. Was she actually asking me for my opinion?

I see her grip tighten on her mug, and she turns her head away from me and looks out the window.

I blink hard, because there’s no way the light pink dusted over her cheeks is real, but—

As soon as I do, it’s gone, and she’s glowering at me again.

"Were you seriously asking for my opinion?"

"Don’t tell me you were planning to peg all the work on me, Caulfield."

Her eyes are narrowed, tone almost downright poisonous.

I groan softly at the accusation.

"That’s not what I meant..."

"This is a collaboration, in case you forgot."

"Maybe if you got your head out of the clouds once in awhile, you’d realize that."

I furrow my brows, a little irritated. Does she seriously think I was trying to push all the work on her?

I tried to be considerate, and all I did was get yelled at.

"Well..."

"I mean, we should probably figure out where we’re going to shoot, right?"

Victoria hums in agreement at my words, seemingly placated for now.

"That’s right. Since the focus is Arcadia Bay, it shouldn’t be hard to find a suitable spot."

"Are you saying you know good places to shoot?"

She pauses and taps her fingers against the table.

"Of course. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to give you a chance to prove yourself."

I can’t help but snort a little, and Victoria shuts her eyes at that, annoyed again.

At least that’s what it looks like, but then she continues easily.

"As I was saying,"

"I’d like to hear your opinion on the matter."

Victoria’s gaze zeroes in on me, and I instantly feel more than a little awkward underneath her blue eyes.

It makes me more nervous than it should, and I swallow dryly and reach for my coffee.

In all actuality, I don’t really know if I’m good enough for this. The fact that Victoria is asking my opinion is more than a bit intimidating.

"I could think of a few, but I’m not sure they’re—"

"Don’t. I wouldn’t ask you your opinion if I didn’t think you were somewhat competent."

Victoria huffs, and I rub at the back of my neck.

Is that supposed to be a compliment?

"...I’ve got something in mind too. Fortunately for you."

"Really?"

Victoria purses her lips, resting her elbow on the table and looking over me again.

"Yes, I do. Clean out those hipster ears of yours and you won’t have to ask me dumb questions like that ever again."

There’s another pause, and then Victoria’s looking out the window again, waving me off.

"Finish your food already, and then tell me what you want to do. It’d be a shame if I didn’t give your petty hipster tastes a chance."

I’m so surprised that she’s letting me take the reigns that I almost do forget I have food in front of me, and I take the opportunity to nosh on it.

I also take the opportunity to think hard about my decision, but I can’t bring myself to argue.

This isn't a chance that comes often...

"So? Spit it out already."

"Um, I think I know where we could go."

"Let's go with what you have in mind."

Изменено пользователем makc_ar

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А зачем всю игру заливать? :smile:

Она очень мало весит, почему бы всю не выложить?)

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Она очень мало весит, почему бы всю не выложить?)

Тут дело не в размере. Встречный вопрос: зачем из портала варез делать? А зачем лог ошибок добавили в довесок ко всей игре? Я понимаю, если было бы невозможно без этих файлов.

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Шалом!) Ребят, в контакте проскочила инфа, что перевод фулл-версии игры уже готов. Я не буду спрашивать, когда вы его выпустите (и так понятно, что работаете над ним), просто хочу спросить: это не шутка была?

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просто хочу спросить: это не шутка была?

Вроде вышла полная версия и ребята переводят.

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Вроде вышла полная версия и ребята переводят.

Ага, я зашла на сайт - есть там полная версия игры!) Жаль, не жители Поднебесной делали, тогда мне и перевод не нужен. Спасибо...

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Шалом!) Ребят, в контакте проскочила инфа, что перевод фулл-версии игры уже готов. Я не буду спрашивать, когда вы его выпустите (и так понятно, что работаете над ним), просто хочу спросить: это не шутка была?

Выпустили почти неделю назад.)

В группе вк закрепленный пост. Правда, порой вылазят кое-какие тех. проблемы, но над этим работают.

Изменено пользователем Верная

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Выпустили почти неделю назад.)

В группе вк закрепленный пост. Правда, порой вылазят кое-какие тех. проблемы, но над этим работают.

Я что-то не видела... А можно ссылку?

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Здравствуйте. Спасибо Вам за перевод, но хотел спросить. Написано Демо версия, а когда полная версия выйдет? Спасибо заранее.

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Здравствуйте. Спасибо Вам за перевод, но хотел спросить. Написано Демо версия, а когда полная версия выйдет? Спасибо заранее.

Полная версия вышла, дерзайте

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К анонсу в стиме человек написал:

kiss_12kb.1468681515.png

Надо искать ошибочную фразу.

Изменено пользователем SergBrNord

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Теперь русификатор поддерживает прочие операционные системы!

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