Principal Wells wakes up experiencing the worst hangover he has had in a long time (which, in his case, is saying quite a bit). He sits up a little too quickly and has to put his hand on his bald head in the hopes of soothing the throbbing headache he now experiences. He is also simultaneously experiencing great thirst and a full bladder.
Looking down, he sees that he is still wearing his slacks and shirt from yesterday. He looks around and finds himself sitting on an old sofa; a large flatscreen TV sits across from him on the other side of the coffee table on which his keys and phone are sitting. Turning to his left, he sees his jacket and tie draped over a blue chair on his left, with his shoes sitting next to one of the legs.
"Where am I?" he asks aloud.
"You're in my house. Now drink this water," replies a female voice, startling him. He looks behind him.
"It's Mrs. Madsen now, Mr. Wells." Joyce hands him a glass of water. She is already dressed in her waitress's uniform.
"Oh. Right. I—I don't understand. What am I doing here?"
"Do you remember where you were last night?"
Wells sips the water as he thinks for a moment. "I...I was at the bar with David. We...probably had a few too many...everything after that is a blur. Oh god, please tell me I didn't drive."
"You didn't. Sam at the bar is a friend of mine. He called me up last night when he realized you and David were in a rather sorry state. I ended up picking both of you up and bringing you back here. You weren't exactly speaking coherently."
"Please accept my sincere apologies, Mrs. Pr—Mrs. Madsen."
Joyce shakes her head. "No worries. Just try not to do it too often. From what Sam told me, you two were having quite the conversation last night. I'm rather relieved David's opening up to someone—I just wish it didn't require so much drinking. I couldn't talk him into seeing a counselor after what happened to my daughter. I think he took it worse than I did; blames himself for not protecting her."
"I am so sorry for your loss, Mrs. Madsen."
Joyce smiles sadly. "Thank you, Mr. Wells."
Wells leans forward and sets the now-empty glass on the coffee table and picks up his phone. He realizes that he needs to get home soon so he can shower and change clothes for work.
It takes some effort for the large man to stand up. "Would you mind pointing me in the direction of your restroom?"
"Upstairs, end of the hallway on your left."
When he returns downstairs afterward, he speaks to Joyce again as she cooks in the kitchen. "Thank you for letting me stay here last night. I apologize for overstaying my welcome and I will be calling a cab shortly."
"Nonsense. David will be up shortly; I'll drop you both off at the bar to pick up your cars when I go to work." She points toward the dining table. "Sit yourself down. Don't you dare think I'm going to send either of you off without some breakfast to help you with those hangovers. There's coffee brewing on the counter if you want some. Now, would you like bacon and eggs, or pancakes?"
A long pause. Then Wells sighs. "Pancakes sound really good right about now."
Max approaches Dana and Trevor, who are holding hands on the bench in front of the dorm.
They really are such a cute couple, she thinks.
"Morning, Max!" Dana greets her cheerfully.
"Hi, Dana. Hi, Trevor." The skater waves in response with his free hand.
Max takes a breath. "Listen, Dana...you know about the art project the students in photography class are working on?"
Dana nods. "Heard about it. What's up?"
"I finally figured out what I want to do, and I was wondering...would you be willing to be my model? I was thinking I'd do it this evening."
Dana smiles. "Sure! Should I wear anything?"
Max raises an eyebrow at her. Trevor grins at this, having also caught Dana's error.
"Are you implying you'd be willing to wear nothing?" asks Max, now grinning as well.
Dana gets a confused look on her face before realizing what Max is talking about. "Oh!" She laughs. "I meant, should I wear anything in particular."
Max thinks for a moment. "Think of something you might see someone wearing when they're depressed. Like if something happened to Trevor here, and you couldn't bring yourself to leave your room. Something you might wear after having just woken up."
Dana and Trevor look at each other. Then Dana turns back to Max. "Umm...okay. I think I might have an idea of what you're looking for."
"Awesome. You know where the photography studio room is? Not the classroom, but the place where the photography students get to practice their work?"
"I think I know which one you're talking about."
"I reserved it for 4:30. It may take a couple of hours. Is that cool?"
Dana nods. "I'll meet you there!"
The studio room is very well designed. It is spacious, with high ceilings, and it also has windows, but they are currently blocked with blackout shades, which renders the room nearly pitch black when the lights are off. It has multiple lamps which can be moved and configured however the photographer needs, and a good backdrop as well as various props and furniture pieces.
Max is already moving lights into place when Dana arrives exactly at 4:30pm. The cheerleader wears her gray sleeping shorts, a slightly darker gray sweatshirt with a faded teddy bear on the front, and flip flops; in one hand she carries a gym bag. Max notices that she even made her hair look less kempt; it's in a ponytail as always, but small locks of hair of hang down by her face. While Max wouldn't say so out loud, she thinks Dana actually looks even more beautiful than in her normal clothes.
"Hey, Max." She sets the gym bag on the floor and kicks off her flip flops. "I brought more clothes in case these don't work."
Max looks Dana up and down and smiles. "I think that will be perfect."
The cheerleader smiles back. She glances over to a nearby table and sees a camera resting on it. "You're not using your Polaroid camera?"
Max shakes her head. "I checked this out from the school. I'm going digital today. I plan to do some editing work on the computer later. Photoshop, filters, that sort of thing." She points to the backdrop. "Just take a seat on the floor there, facing to the right."
As Dana does so, Max walks over and turns off the lights.
"Okay, that is really dark," says Dana.
A moment later, Max turns on the lamps and adjusts their brightness settings (taking Dana's clothing colors into account).
"So." Dana looks at Max. "You wanted me to act as though Trevor had died?"
Dana smiles. "No. I think it will help me achieve that sadness you're wanting."
Max nods slowly. "Okay. For the first shot, try kneeling on the ground, face buried in your hands." Dana does as Max instructs. "Good." Walking over, she adjusts one of the lamps slightly for Dana's new position. "Hold that pose." She picks up the camera and starts snapping away, moving around to different angles as she does so.
Afterwards, Max has Dana try various different positions (adjusting the brightness and position of the lamps every time); kneeling, sitting, standing, looking up, looking down, covering and uncovering her face. Some shots even incorporate props, namely a table and a chair. All shots feature Dana looking sad, however, and she does a great job of it.
Finally, Max turns on the lights and says, "Okay, I think we have enough to work with for now. Let's take a look at these photos."
Sitting down at the table, they look at the shots on the screen on the back of the camera. After much discussion, they finally find one they like more than any of the others.
"I think this will work for what you're doing," says Dana, smiling.
"Yeah...I guess so." Max holds her hand over her mouth, as if deep in thought.
"You don't seem so sure, Max."
"Don't get me wrong, it's a great shot...something still seems off about it though."
Dana looks at it for a moment.
Then she smiles. "Max...I think I know what the problem might be. Let's recreate the shot real quick and see if we can't fix it. Let's put the camera on the tripod this time."
Max is skeptical, but decides it couldn't hurt to try.
The lights go off again. Dana gets back in the same position as their favorite photo, and Max adjusts the lamps again to recreate the effect. Then she places the camera on the tripod and adjusts the position and height so that the framing is the same as in the photo they had decided is their favorite so far.
"You got it?" asks Dana. "Same exact setup as before?"
"Yeah," replies Max. "So what is it that needs to be fixed?"
Dana gets up and walks over next to Max. "The problem is that it's me and not you."
"What are you talking about?" asks Max. "You're doing a great job!"
"You're not understanding me, Max. You don't need me as your model...you needed me as your stand-in."
"Wait...you're saying I should be the one in the picture?!"
"Yep. You've got the lighting and framing set up, so you just need to imitate what I was doing."
"But...you know how to model. Better than I could ever hope to do. Not to mention you're far better looking."
"Thanks for the compliment, Max, but you're selling yourself way short. Just try it."
Max shakes her head. "I'd have to go back to the dorm for the right clothes. And I'm not sure I have anything that matches your colors."
Dana laughs. "Max, you're making this way more complicated than it has to be."
Max is shocked when Dana pulls off her sweater and drops her shorts, revealing a matching pink bra and panties. "Uh, Dana, what are you doing?"
Dana holds out the sweater and shorts to Max. "Put these on."
Max realizes what Dana is suggesting. After glancing at the door to make sure it's closed, she pulls off her own shirt and jeans (revealing, per usual, a mismatched set of underwear) and puts on Dana's sweater and shorts. The sweater is a little big—no big surprise, given that Dana is a couple inches taller and has a noticeably larger bust—but it works.
Dana reaches out and thoroughly tousles Max's hair with her hands. Soon, it decently resembles bedhead. Then Max walks over and sits down on the backdrop where Dana was before.
"Now for the hard part," says Dana.
Max nods slowly. She thinks of the childhood memories of Chloe. Of the final week they got to spend together. Of the final kiss they shared. Of how she had to listen to her best friend (and more) die one last time while she could do nothing but lean against the stall and cry. Of the dream she had the night before. Within moments, tears pour down her cheeks.
Dana is speechless for a moment. Then: "Jesus, Max. That's good; really good. I could never cry on cue like that. You should consider acting."
She compares Max's position to that of the photograph of herself they are now imitating. "Okay, move your left foot forward a little...raise your arm...not that much...okay, perfect! Hold that pose."
Tears have begun hitting the backdrop as Dana presses the button.
A moment later, Max gets up, wiping her eyes. Removing the sweater and shorts, she walks over to Dana to look at the photo.
"Wowsers." Max is amazed. "It's perfect. You were right, Dana." She wipes her eyes again. She turns to Dana. "Thank you so much."
They embrace in a hug.
Then the door to the studio opens.
A female voice: "Hey, Max, I heard you were in here, could I get my copy of Memento back from you? Warren and I are watching a movie tonight, and it's my turn to pick."
The room lights go on, and Max and Dana, still embracing, turn to see Brooke Scott standing there.
Brooke's eyes grow wide momentarily. "Oh! On, uh, second thought, I'll pick a different movie. Maybe Mulholland Drive. Um, sorry for interrupting." She leaves the room rather quickly, shutting the door behind her.
Max and Dana break the hug and stare at the doorway where Brooke was just standing.
"What was up with her?" Max is puzzled. "She was acting rather weird."
"I think it might have to do with the fact that we're both still in our underwear," replies Dana.
"What?" Max looks down at herself in horror. "Oh my god!"
Trevor successfully completes a tre flip.
"Awesome, you managed not to hit yourself in the nuts this time!" Justin claps as Trevor gets off his skateboard and bows in exaggerated fashion.
"Hey, better than anything you could do, bitch!" They give each other a high five.
They are on the sidewalk in front of the school where they usually practice their skating; evening is approaching, so they will have to call it quits soon.
"Hey, Justin...I want to ask you something." Trevor seems a little worried about something.
"What's up, man?"
"Do you think there's such thing as too much of a good thing?"
"Um, sure. I've found out the hard way there's such thing as too much weed at a time."
"I'm being serious, Justin. My life seems to be going really good right now, and it worries me."
"You're so lame, Trevor. I wish I had your 'worries'."
"Yeah. You're probably right...but I just keep thinking that maybe I don't deserve it, and that the universe is going to be smacking me in the face with a big dose of karma soon."
"Is this about Dana?" asks Justin. "Because if she's causing that big of a concern, I can totally take her off your hands."
Trevor chuckles. "Don't even think about it, man."
"Hey, just letting you know the offer is out there!"
"I do worry, though." Trevor looks down. "I love her, and I think she loves me, too. I sometimes wonder why she picked me. She could have had any guy she wanted, and she picked me! I know it's stupid and paranoid and insecure, but I sometimes worry that she'll eventually find some other guy, you know, someone better."
A new voice enters the conversation. "Hey, Trevor."
Trevor looks up. "Yo, Brooke, how's it hangin'?"
"Couldn't help but overhear your conversation," says Brooke. "Trust me, I think Dana finding 'some other guy' might be the least of your concerns." She turns around and walks away, stifling a giggle.
Trevor watches Brooke walk away for a minute. "Uh...thanks? I guess?"
He turns to Justin. "What the fuck was that about?"
Justin replies with a confused shrug.
Author's Note: I decided this chapter needed a couple of lighter, funnier moments after how the last one ended. Hope you enjoyed it!
Teaser for upcoming chapters: Max continues to work on her photography project; Taylor asks for Max's help with Victoria; Thanksgiving.
I am debating a few possibilities regarding future pairings (especially ones involving Max). Let me know if you have any thoughts on this.
As always, please leave feedback and let me know what I am doing well, what I could be doing better, and so on. Thanks!