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we keep this love in a photograph (wait for me to come home)

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“I’m just so damn tired,” moaned Max by way of a greeting. She trudged over to Lucas’s desk where he was sitting and plopped down onto the bed in front of him. She scooted forward slightly. “Whatcha workin’ on?” She bent her head over the paper, her fiery hair spilling over her sweater-covered shoulders.

Lucas grinned and took the opportunity to plant a kiss on her neck. “Do you remember that birthday party you had a few years ago, at Will’s house?”

Max nodded, reminiscing. Neil and Billy, who was back from college for the weekend, had straight up ignored her 15th birthday, Susan being no better by muttering an empty promise to go shopping sometime soon. Not like she cared. After school, Lucas claimed to be biking her to his house, when he turned onto Mirkwood. She had thrown open the front door to reveal Mr. and Mrs. Sinclair, Erica, Joyce, Hopper, Jonathan, arm in arm with Nancy, Steve, standing by the counter lighting the candles on a chocolate cake, and of course, the people Max cared for most: Will, Dustin, Mike and El, arms slung around each other, all in front a table piled high with presents that Max never thought she’d recieve. At the end of it all, she’d pulled Lucas aside and kissed him hard, saying nobody had ever done anything like this for her before. It was there that Lucas presented her with the red ring that Max always wore around her middle finger, as if she could harness the power of Lucas’s love for her whenever she flipped off mean people.

Which is kinda what she did, anyway.

Max nodded again. “I do, where you gave me the ring, and Mike choked on cake, and El used her powers to hang the streamers, and where Hopper yelled at El for using her powers to hang the streamers, and then El ranted about hating manual labor… I remember.”

Lucas chuckled. “Yeah. You also remember that… It was the first time I ever said I love you.”

Max smiled at the memory. “Yeah. The first of many, but what does this have to do with…” She gestured to the paper on the honey-colored desk.

“Well,” Lucas swiveled around in his chair to face her completely. “I am making you something for you to hold onto. Just let me finish writing it.”

Max nodded, and sat contently on Lucas’s bed, looking around his room. It was pretty neat, and didn’t have as much “nerd things,” as his sister, Erica, called them, anymore. There were pictures of the Party on the shelves, but the picture that Max knew was Lucas’s favorite sat on his nightstand, where it had for the past year and a half.

It was a picture Jonathan had taken at Joyce and Hopper’s wedding. Lucas had his arm around Max’s waist. Max was resting her head on Lucas’s shoulder, her orange locks spilling onto his dark blue suit. Max was wearing a light blue dress that somehow worked perfectly with her hair; it went to her knees and hugged her waist, bringing her to her full height. She had paired it with her black Vans, remembering what she had said to her mom, about not wanting to wear heels. Eventually, Susan had given up and let her go in her sneakers.

Max remembered how excited Will, El, and Jonathan were that day. El, Nancy, and Max had been the only bridesmaids, with Mike, Jonathan, Lucas, Will, and Dustin as groomsmen. Steve had sat in the front row, openly crying and taking tons of pictures with Jonathan’s camera. El was kinda confused about exactly what a wedding even was, but she was happy nonetheless.

Max remembered dancing with Lucas there, and being grateful that she even had someone to love her this young, whereas Joyce and Hopper apparently took the better part of forty years to figure out that they were head over heels for each other.

Eventually, Lucas snapped Max out of her trance. “Okay, done!” He pulled a binder out from the top drawer of his desk and placed it on the top of the table, slipping the paper he had been writing on into the front inside sleeve. He stood up and handed it to Max.

“Take a look,” he said, a wide grin on his face.

She opened the binder, to see a note inside.

Hey Madmax,
So Mike gave me this idea a while back: make a scrapbook. Cheesy.. I know. But we DO have a lot of pictures, courtesy of the Byers brothers, and I figured: hey, why not? So enjoy reminiscing all the wonderful times (and seriously freaky times too) that we’ve had together.

I love you, carrot.
Your stalker :)

Max flipped to the first page. The Snow Ball, 1984. Max, Lucas, and the Party, all together. Max remembered that; it’s where she properly befriended El and made up with Mike. She was able to forgive them for being angsty: after all, she would be too if she missed someone for that long.

The second page: Polaroids of Max and El, making silly faces at the camera. Lucas and Max cannonballing into the lake at the same time, summer of ‘85. Lucas and Max at the ice cream shop in town. Lucas and Max on the first day of school. Lucas and Max, Lucas and Max, Lucas and Max, everywhere she looked.

Even a copy of the wedding photo was in there, page seven, enlarged, with a caption of “Blue must be our color” under it. But the best thing was on the final page, a picture that Jonathan had taken several weeks before, when he and Nancy were visiting from NYU.

Lucas was being led into a field by Max, who looked like some kind of fairy: She had the light bouncing off of her red curls, with a giant smile on her face, her hoodie drooping slightly at the wrists. They had gone to an open-air concert with the party (and Jonathan, who needed some candids for a project), in Indianapolis. Lucas was gazing at Max with such love in his eyes, it was unreal.

Usually, it was Mike and El that were seen as the golden couple. A popular inside joke among the party (and Steve), was that you should “get someone who looks at you the way Mike looks at El,” and vice versa. But here, Max could see where they were wrong.

She praised herself for finding somebody who looked at her like Lucas did, like the entire world could crumble, and he wouldn’t blink.

She looked up from the scrapbook, tears in her eyes. “Lucas?”

He hung an arm around her. “Yeah?”

She pulled back, only to kiss him once she had turned fully around.

“I love you, too.”