“Big change, huh? Bet you could take some awesome shots here, Max.”
Max nodded, only hearing the last part of Warren’s sentence. Truth was, she was distracted by how beautiful this place was. If Max stood at the end of the street, she could get a killer depth-of-field perceptive image by aiming towards the long and skinny winding roads being enveloped by the building’s shadows. San Diego seemed to flourish with art and photography culture, and great opportune shots to shoot photographs.
“Earth to Max.” That seemed to knock her out of her thoughts. *****, focus. “Are you going to go swimming with me and Brooke?”
From the look on Brooke’s face, she was hoping to God that Max said no. Brooke is the relationship equivalent of a boa constrictor, and she wasn’t sure how this hasn’t dawned on Warren yet. “I’m not sure. Maybe. Let me unpack first.”
After Kate dropped out of going to San Diego Comic Con last second, Max was nearly going to join her when Warren practically begged her to come. Coming back to the present - equipped with her suitcase and messenger bag - Max lingered behind the couple by several feet. This was her way of trying to avoid the reminder that she was third-wheeling with a boy who used to have a very awkward crush on her and his salty girlfriend.
“I’m going to go down to the pool.” Warren said, sliding his key card into room #228, turning his head to face Max before opening the door. “Maximillian, are you sure you don’t want to join us?”
“Like I said, I’ll think about it.”
The moment the three of them walked in, Brooke and Warren beelined for the restroom with their bathing suits in hand. Once they came out, Warren had a blue and black plaid board short swimsuit on whereas Brooke came out with a highlighter-colored graffiti two piece. “Alright, Mad Max. We’re out of this joint. Catch us at the pool if you need something or want to swim. If not, we’ll be back in an hour.”
Max waved them off, digging through her bag for that bathing suit. The crimson colored ruched one-piece vintage bathing suit sat abandoned at the bottom of her matching vermillion suitcase. Down below at the pool area, she could hear screaming and laughing and splashing of the pool water. Max got up from her suitcase, and opened the curtain enough to look out at the hotel pool. Several other people were down there, pushing the time limit very close to closing in an hour from now. Come on, Max, you’re really going to let your whole adventure be ruined by the usual high-strung Brooke?
Max nabbed the swimsuit from the hidden corners of her suitcase, stripping herself down to pull the swimsuit onto her body. Once the swimsuit was on, she turned her waist feeling the soft fabric conform to her small but still vaguely prominent curves. Max can remember Mom always saying that she looked good in red, so she recommended a red one-piece since Max doesn't have the confidence to show her stomach to anyone.
Well, except her best friend Chloe. They used to take bubble baths together as toddlers so it used to be the most natural thing in the world to get dressed in the same room together. It must have been a better time, where there were no insecurities. Now Max has trouble calling her up without her finger freezing up as she attempts to type the very last digit of Chloe’s phone number into her phone.
As Max turned around in the mirror, she noticed how her lack of a rear end was a lot more distinguishable in red. Wowser, Max thought, this looks really good on me.
“Wowser.” Max said aloud to her reflection, and threw on a bathrobe.
It must have been ten minutes into Warren and Brooke swimming when Max opened up the pool gate, entering the vast perimeter of the pool area. There were significantly less people around the pool, where most of the people still inside the pool area were kids our age. “Max, you’re here!”
This made two teenagers stop in their tracks as they were opening up the pool gate at the other end of the pool to leave. One of them whipped around so fast that it was a blur of blue hair. “Wait…”
“Is that…Max Caulfield? It looks a lot like her.” Rachel asked to Chloe, who hung her jaw open in disbelief. No ******* way.
Furrowing her eyebrows, she watched Max drop the robe on a nearby chair. Like an awkward penguin, Chloe watched her best friend waddle up to the pool edge & cannonball into the waters below oblivious to the two girls standing at the gate watching her. “You’re going to wake up the neighbors and the owner of this hotel's parents forty miles away, Warren!”
“Do you want to go say hi to her?” Rachel asked Chloe.
As Chloe decided on actually going to surprise her, Max's friend said something that made Chloe change her mind in a split second.
“How would you know? Besides, you’ll eventually forgive me for that once you meet the entire cast of Star Trek tomorrow, Max.” Warren yelled at Max, and Chloe did a small grin as she turned away from her best friend, closing the gate on both of the girls.
“No. Guess the oblivious nerd is going to Comic Con too.“ Chloe took one last look at Max before going back inside the hotel with Rachel Amber at her tail. "Do you think she'll recognize me in cosplay?"
"Probably not. Unless I drop the bomb on you guys."
“Shhh. I don’t need you ruining my surprise party, *******.”
Max, Brooke, and Warren weren’t in the pool for long, since Warren bumped his head into the side of the pool while doing laps with Brooke. They had to get out, and put an ice pack on Warren’s sore bump on his head. “Now how am I going to cosplay the 11th Doctor? I need to gel my hair back, but I have this gargantuan bump on my head.”
“We’ll figure it out, sweetie.” Brooke said, and Max nearly gagged.
Max went back to the hotel room first, since being around Brooke made her want to strangle her. This whole third-wheeling thing was annoying, and Max was regretting coming alone without Kate as her faithful chauffeur. Nonetheless, she wasn’t going to let that ruin her trip. She was here to have fun. And to take a bunch of photographs, of course.
The next morning around 4:00 am, Max was rudely awoken by Brooke who shoved her in her shoulder. “Get up, Max. We’re leaving in thirty minutes from now.”
Was that necessary? Max thought, crawling out of bed. From the bathroom, she could hear Warren fretting over the mammoth-sized bump on his head as both of them got dressed in their cosplay outfits. “Okay. That hurt a lot. Ow, ow, ow.”
“Oh, is there anything I can do to help?”
“Shut up, guys.”
Feeling slightly irritable from the loud ruckus Brooke and Warren were making in the other room Max rolled out of bed. She rustled through her suitcase for a pair of skinny jeans and a white t-shirt with the print of a doe on the front. Once she had her clothes, she stood up to walk into the restroom to change when she noticed the ending result of both of her companions.
Brooke’s multicolored dark hair was pulled down in waves framing the scarlet dress with a black belt fastened around her waist. As for Warren, his usually shaggy brown hair was gelled back for his cosplay. She had to admit, he looked handsome in his mahogany jacket, red bow-tie and matching suspenders, and the cotton collared button-up he wore underneath. For a cosplay of The Eleventh Doctor and Clara Oswald, it was quite impressive how close they looked like the actual characters of the TV show Doctor Who.
“Take a picture of us, Max!” Warren said in a chirpy voice.
Max pulled out her camera, and pointed it at the couple who held up peace signs together. Once the picture rolled out, the couple split apart to put on the finishing touches of their cosplay. As for Max, all she had to do was throw on her clothes. There wasn’t a lot of work in dressing up like normal people. Besides, she’s never really been a fan of cosplay.
If you want to count dressing up as pirates with her best friend Chloe on Halloween five years ago cosplay, then yeah, Max has cosplayed several times before.
“Max, hurry your *** up. It looks like the amphitheater is getting crowded from here.” Warren yelled from outside the bathroom door towards Max, who sloppily tied her shoes.
As they exited out of the large double doors of the four star hotel, Warren and Brooke took the crosswalk, pointing out people cosplaying as characters from TV shows or video games. They were smiling and laughing, leaving Max to third-wheel again. Instead of lingering on it, Max put in her headphones and turned on Crosses by José González tuning them out.
“Where is the line?” Max asked Warren as they approached the crowded complex filled with restaurants on one side and the amphitheater on the other side. Tents were set up here, even.
“This is what I call natural selection. If you come prepared with prior knowledge on how this works, you can conquer this haphazard looking line.” Warren spread his arms out, motioning towards the crowd that was rapidly growing in size.
“Let’s go, Warren.”
Like an octopus, Brooke latched onto Warren dragging him into the depths of the growing sea of people. After three painful hours of waiting, Max felt the crowd start to lighten up around her as excited but deafening chatter filled the air of the surrounding herd of people. Everyone was clamoring loudly, quickly rushing into the open doors with their San Diego Comic Con day pass thrown around their neck.
As soon as Max received hers, she eagerly threw her day pass around her neck. After buying a small breakfast sandwich from a booth, Max decided to start people watching. Some of the cosplays made her laugh like the Darth Vader cosplayer leading a conga line of faithful storm troopers, taking long confident strides.
Max took several photographs of several different cosplayers, ranging from Doctor Who, Scott Pilgrim vs The World, The X-Files, Breaking Bad, Undertale, Magic: The Gathering, and Family Guy. When it started getting crowded, she got up from her chair and entered the large archway into the convention center filled with colorful tents and cosplay galore.
Wielding her camera bag close to her waist, Max carefully maneuvered her way through the sea of people as she took a look at the booths. Suddenly, the throng of people became too much for Max. An elbow into Max's side pushed her into the left side of her waist, throwing her into a booth.
“Hey, are you alright?”
Max’s eyes glanced up towards a blue-haired girl cosplaying as Pris from Blade Runner, who had grabbed her waist. Something about her was actually kind of familiar, however, Max couldn’t tell. “You hit that table pretty hard.”
Max felt the warmth from her waist leave slowly. “This crowd is suffocating. I need a place to breathe around here. It’s too claustrophobic for my liking.”
“Are you alone or something? Because I could always use company in my tent. It gets hella boring inside this tent sometimes.”
“Do you say that to all of your customers?” Max asked, chuckling nervously at the blue-haired cosplayer’s comment.
“No.” She mumbled something under her breath that Max didn’t quite catch. “I mean – unless you’re uncomfortable with it. I’ve seen people faint multiple times from claustrophobia here.”
Since her head was bent down over a sketch she was doing in a journal, the only way Max could tell that the girl was blushing was by how red her ears had gotten. The realization that the girl became a nervous wreck all of a sudden after that comment had made Max’s day already.
“Maybe you’re right. I should just sit down. There’s no places to sit around here, though.”
The blue-haired girl patted the armrest of the empty fold-out chair behind the table. “This is Rachel’s chair, but Rachel is helping out with the convention rave for later. She’s on the committee or some ****.”
“And an annoyance at times.” Max went around the table, taking a seat in the chair the girl patted. It was itching at her brain that there is something about this girl that is so nostalgic.
Suddenly, a long brunette-haired girl billowed through the back curtains of the booth, where Max saw a tattoo chair in the back along with an extended table with clutter everywhere. “Chloe, do you have my phone? I really need it right now.”
Wait a second. “Chloe?”
“Great. Thanks a lot, Rachel. You ruined the element of surprise.”
"No ******* way!"
After Chloe handed the phone to Rachel, Max followed with her first impulse, throwing her arms around Chloe. Immediately, Chloe laughed as Max nuzzled her head into Chloe's shoulder blade. Max could feel the initial excitement pounding in her chest as Chloe tightened her grip on her as well. “Get a room, Chloe.”
“I will shove this combat boot so far up your *** –”
“Okay, I’m leaving. I need to call Frank and see when he was going to get here.” Rachel stated matter-of-factly, then added as she was leaving, “Hope you have a fun reunion.”
Once Chloe let go of Max, she held onto her arms staring into her face. “Wowser. This is crazy. You’re dressed as Pris from Blade Runner. That is definitely my ****.”
“I hope so. Someone asked me if I’m cosplaying Ramona Flowers from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Now I will accept that misunderstanding because Ramona Flowers is my woman crush.” Chloe glanced over at Max, changing the mood merely by narrowing her eyes at the brunette. “Alright, are you going to explain why you didn’t call or text me for five years?”
It was so sudden that Max suddenly felt inferior to Chloe. "I'm sorry. My parent's decision to suddenly move to Seattle wasn't my choice."
"That's not a good enough reason." Chloe attempted to change the tone of the mood lighter, since this wasn't exactly the place to discuss that. "So what's up with you? Living it up here in San Diego or something?"
"I - uh - moved back to Arcadia Bay. Two months ago."
"Without a phone call, telling me that you moved back." Chloe pressed her lips together, annoyed. "Nice one, Caulfield. That's just ******* peachy."
Max started to get a little irritated herself. "Look, I'm sorry. Can we just drop it?"
"I’m sorry, Max. I don’t want to be the ******* to ruin your day. In fact, this was the complete opposite impression I was going for. If you want to punch me for being such an annoying rat, go right on ahead.” Chloe pointed at the bicep of her left arm.
I shook my head – chuckling as Chloe kicked back her chair – propping her feet onto the table cluttered with various types of artwork. There was a dozen pieces of art here, but I noticed Chloe was really into abstract watercolor paintings. Mostly Chloe did sketches of characters from TV shows and video games and painted it in watercolor. One of the paintings in particular caught my eye.
Of course – like all of Chloe’s paintings – it was strikingly beautiful: In front of an obsidian background was a butterfly with eye-popping azure wings. One of the wings seemed to be slightly blurred to give more definition to the closest wing. “Wow, you’re a real artist.”
“I’m also a tattoo artist. If you want to get a tattoo, just hit your girl up. It’s on the house for you.” Chloe said, holding out her arm to show me. “Rachel helped me with both designs.”
Chloe had a beautiful sleeve on her arm and a tattoo on the top of her hand of a red chrysanthemum. Max traced the red ribbon detail on her arm tattoo with one finger, making Chloe shiver. “Dude, you can look, but you can’t touch the tats.”
“Sorry, it’s beautiful.”
“Hopefully it will still look beautiful when I look like the human equivalent of a raisin when I’m 80.” Chloe joked, holding out her arm in front of her face. “How about it, Max? Wanna get tatted up by your best friend Chloe? It might be a great experience for you, hippie. No gang related tattoos, though.”
“Yeah, because I’m totally a part of a gang.”
The smile that lit up Chloe’s face sent Max into a comatose state of delirium. Her eyes focused in on Chloe like a lens, taking shots in her head so she didn’t forget this moment with her best friend. For once, Max was having fun. “You’re still a ******* geek. That’s good news.”
Chloe shook her head before getting up. “Alright, so do you want a tattoo or not? This is your final offer, Max. Don’t let it go to waste.”
“I don’t know. You know I’m scared of needles.”
“Still?” Chloe grabbed Max’s shoulders. “Come o