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molecules of you

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When Chloe gets home from work the next day, with dirty clothes and a rumbling stomach, she finds a letter lying innocently in her doorway, her name scrawled messily across the front. It’s clearly been hand delivered, since there’s no address or stamp. Chloe doesn’t know anyone who would send her mail - it’s not like her family are going to contact her after what happened.

Chucking her tattered bag to the floor, Chloe picks up the smudged envelope and rips it open, her heart in her throat. She’s half worried it’s a letter from her landlord, demanding the rent she’s been promising to pay for the past two months. The man is a complete ass, but Chloe’s hoping he’ll take some pity on her and allow her till the end of the month to get him the money.

(Chloe hates other people pitying her, because it’s almost always never genuine, but in this case, she’s desperate. She also has no idea how she’s actually going to find the money to pay the rent she owes.)

As she unfolds the letter, smoothing out the faded white paper, her stomach drops. She should have seen it coming, she knows that, but it’s all just so sudden. She’s lived here for six months, and now this has to happen. Tears spring into her eyes as she claps a hand to her mouth, trapping the sob that bubbles up in her throat.

Miss Beale,

I regret to inform you that, due to not receiving your rent payment for two months, you must leave your apartment. You have twelve hours to leave the premises, or I’ll call the police.

Mr Smith

The letter slips from Chloe’s loose grasp as she staggers backwards and sinks down onto her thin mattress. She’s being evicted. Kicked out. It suddenly feels like six months ago all over again, a familiar sense of shame and embarrassment washing over her as her mind begins to wander, thoughts racing around her head at a million miles an hour, colliding and crashing violently.

She can’t leave, can’t live on the street. She doesn’t want to. She can’t. Chloe chokes on a sob as she stumbles to her feet, her legs aching as she moves towards the door. She rubs a trembling hand through her tangled red hair, takes a deep, shaky breath, and opens the door.

She has to at least try.

Chloe marches down to Mr Smith’s apartment on the ground floor as confidently as she can, her head held high, dried tear tracks still glistening on her cheeks. The redhead would wipe them away, but she’s worried they’ll just be replaced by fresh ones, which would be a lot worse, especially in front of her asshole landlord.

After steeling her expression and planting her feet firmly in front of the door, Chloe raises her hand and knocks once, twice, three times. “Mr Smith!” She yells, banging against the wood when she receives no reply. She knows he’s in there, because she can hear quiet murmuring — it’s a cheaply made building, so the walls are paper-thin.

There’s a series of crashes on the other side of the door, followed by a small cry, before it’s aggressively yanked open by Mr Smith. “What the hell do you want?” Chloe frowns and instinctively takes a step back when she sees him; he’s half naked, a pair of worn boxers clinging to his thick hips, and a cigarette is balanced precariously between his slimy lips. The redhead fights back a cough as smoke attacks her senses, and has to resist the urge to punch the fag from his mouth. (Chloe hates smokers; her dad always smoked at least forty a day. There was never a time there wasn’t a cigarette in his mouth, smoke billowing around the room.)

“Um, well I’m here about my rent,” Chloe starts, clutching the hem of her thin cardigan tightly as she wraps it around her skinny frame. The redhead swallows thickly and takes another step back; there’s just something about Mr Smith’s beady black eyes and thick, wiry beard that unsettled her greatly. A vaguely seductive voice floats out from inside the man’s apartment —“Mark? Are you coming back? I’m waiting for you.”— and Chloe wrinkles her nose in disgust. Of course he has a prostitute in there.

“What is it? The letter not clear enough?” Mark’s voice is deep and raspy in a way that reminds Chloe a little too much of her father when he’s drunk. An involuntary shiver runs down her spine, forcing her to curl into herself, her already high walls rising. Coming here was definitely a bad idea.

“N-No, it was, but— I’m just going to go. I’m clearly, uh, interrupting something,” Chloe says nervously, the words tumbling from her mouth in a jumble in her haste to get away from the man. As the redhead turns to leave, thick meaty fingers wrap around her bony wrist, tugging her back somewhat forcefully. Breath catching in her throat, Chloe turns around nervously, her heart pounding rapidly in her rib cage.

“How ‘bout I cut you a deal, Miss? I’ll let you stay in your lovely apartment for a little something in return.” Mark leers suggestively at Chloe, his hot smoky breath tickling her throat uncomfortably. She flinches and yanks her wrist from his sweaty grip, clutching it to her chest protectively.

Chloe stumbles backwards as quickly as she can, almost tripping over her own feet as tears well up in her usually bright eyes, blurring her vision. She turns on her heel and flees Mark’s apartment, his cruel laughter chasing her mercilessly as she tears up the stairs.

Just twenty minutes later, Chloe’s ready to leave. Everything she owns is folded neatly and tucked into the same backpack she carried on her back six months ago when she fled her home at her father’s demand. The only things left in the tiny room are her poor excuse of a mattress and the small, half-broken fridge. She has all her money (some measly $100) stuffed in the inside pocket of the bag, along with two stolen breakfast bars and a crumpled family photo.

Chloe’s only experience of being homeless is the freezing night she spent on the streets when she was just thirteen. She’d decided to flee after a particularly bad beating from her father, and had slept, curled up in the corner of an alley for the night. Despite her efforts to stay low, stealing discarded food — which was all perfectly good, thank you very much — and creeping around out of sight, her father had found her the next day and dragged her home, kicking and screaming.

She’d gone to bed with five new bruises and two new cuts that night.

Chloe has no idea how she’s going to survive the coming months — it’s nearly November, and the New York winters are brutal — but she attempts to steel her expression, and drown the emotion in her eyes. There’s no one around to see her desperate attempts — people like her are invisible on the bustling streets — but her ability to control her emotions calms her somewhat. It’s an art she perfected when she was just ten, and she’s only been getting better since.

At exactly 5:30pm, Chloe slams her apartment door behind her and trudges down the rickety stairs, her rucksack strapped to her back, not looking back once. What’s there to miss, anyways?

(Okay, apart from the roof over her head and the marginal warmth it provided. The roof leaked, and it was barely warmer than the icy streets, but it was something.)

Chloe swallows thickly and steps outside, trying to ignore the sudden shiver that shoots down her spine as a gust of wind sweeps around her. People shove into her as she turns and scurries down the street, all too focused on themselves and getting where they need to be to notice the dirty, malnourished woman weaving in between them.

The next two weeks really don’t go well.

Chloe likes to think she’s doing okay, likes to think that she’s getting enough food and sleep, likes to think she doesn’t hate herself for this, but she knows just about everything is wrong with her life right now. Sleeping in dark — and probably dangerous — alleyways huddled up with nothing but a threadbare blanket isn’t doing anything to help her health. She was already hungry — not starving, because she eats more than those poor children in Africa, even if it’s not by much — and weak before getting evicted, so spending her days on the cold streets of New York is agony.

Thankfully, she’s able to sneak the odd sandwich from Starbucks, but she’s trying to be more careful since one of her nosey co-workers caught her attempting to steal three tubs of pre-heated tomato and basil soup.

(“Hey you, ginger, what the hell are you doing?”)

Chloe whips around to see Adam standing behind her, an odd expression on his face, his eyes narrowed. She glances down to the small plastic pots of soup tucked under her arm and winces, realising how strange it looks.

“Just, um, throwing these out. Th-They’ve gone off,” she stammers, desperately hoping Adam won’t be able to detect the slight shake to her voice. The man squints at her disbelievingly and gestures to the soup, his brows furrowed. 

“I put those in there yesterday. They’re definitely not out of date,” he says confidently, his head held high in that annoyingly cocky way Chloe hates. Her heart drops, because shit, she really didn’t plan for any of this. Adam isn’t the kind of guy to let things go easily. (He’s still mad at her for rejecting him for the nineteenth time. He really doesn’t get the hint.)

“Uh, well I’m just taking orders from Stephanie. If you have a problem, take it up with her,” Chloe lies, trying to keep the tremor from her voice. She steps back nervously, fighting the urge to pull her bottom lip between her teeth and chew on it to relieve some anxiety.

Stephanie is the manager, and probably one of the only people Chloe actually likes and considers a friend. The rest of them are somewhat hostile — all friends with Adam, no doubt — so Steph had taken poor Chloe under her wing when she started working at Starbucks, her spine curved forwards and her head tucked into her chest. They formed a strange but strong friendship, but Chloe refuses to let it grow outside work, politely declining all of Steph’s invitations to go out for drinks and whatnot. She just isn’t in the right place at the moment, let alone to have friends.

Of course, Stephanie didn’t actually tell her to throw away the perfectly good tubs of soup, but Chloe knows the brunette will back her up in the blink of an eye, so she’s not worried if Adam decides to ask her. (It’s unlikely that he will, he’s not that smart.)

Adam hums quietly and leers at Chloe, his smoky breath washing over her neck uncomfortably. The redhead flinches away, hugging the soup closer to her body as she shuffled backwards, wanting nothing more than to scrub the stench of smoke from her skin. She’s hungry, tired, and she knows she probably (definitely) smells; she doesn’t have the time or energy to deal with someone like Adam right now.

“Um, sorry, but I have to get back to work.” It’s not a complete lie; she still has half an hour left of her shift, but technically she’s finished all her jobs, so she’s just wandering around doing the odd job here and there. (But Adam doesn’t need to know that. Besides, he should be serving customers right now.)

“Hmm, what a shame. Maybe next time?” Adam winks suggestively and leans forward, his lips brushing against Chloe’s ear as he speaks. He skims a hand over the redhead’s wrist as he turns to leave, his fingers pinching at the skin for a split second.

As soon as he’s out of sight, Chloe crumbles, her body sagging against the counter as she sighs heavily. That was close.)

Chloe clutches her blanket closer to her chest, fingers curling into the thin polyester as she fights off the violent shivers wracking through her thin frame. Pale, wispy clouds form as she puffs out a weak breath, watching the pale vapour fly away against the inky November sky. She tips her head back against the brick wall behind her, wincing as her skull cracks painfully. It’s something though. It’s feeling. At least it’s better than the numbness seeping into her bones, devouring her piece by piece.

Clamping her hand over her mouth to stifle a yawn, Chloe sips carefully at the small bottle of water she snatched from work earlier. People stare at her as she sits there, tucked away in the alley, their gazes cold and uncaring. They all cling to the arms of their significant others as they walk past, afraid she might leap out and attack them. Chloe sighs. Why is that what they all think?

It’s not like she’s offended by it. Not really, anyways. She’s well past the point of caring.

Her bones ache, infected with a deep-rooted exhaustion that only worsens as each minute, hour, day passes. Hunger gnaws at her stomach, eating away at her insides as she draws her legs impossibly closer to her chest and breaths hot hair onto her trembling hands. Sobs crawl up Chloe’s throat, and she chokes, bringing her hands up to her neck, nails scraping painfully at the skin. As tears roll down her cheeks, dripping innocently down her grazed neck, splashing onto her blanket, she wonders what the hell her life has become.

Beca’s sat at the bar, perched on the high stool, her slim fingers wrapped around the neck of a beer bottle. The moisture seeps into her skin, a nice contrast against the hot, sweaty atmosphere of the bar. She was, of course, dragged in by Stacie and Aubrey, both intent on forcing her to let her hair loose for once.

Although Beca hates bars, she is due her monthly one night stand, so she supposes her being her isn't that bad. Usually she'd dancing with a girl by now, their bodies grinding together in the slick heat, blood rushing. But she’s not. Beca hates to think that she’s becoming soft, desiring more than just meaningless flings every now and then. Is quick, easy sex not enough for her anymore? Beca’s never wanted a relationship in her life — they’ve always seemed like too much work — but now she finds herself almost craving the simple domesticity of it all.

Beca startles she feels a soft hand touch her shoulder, and she whips round, fingers curled into a fist, to see an attractive blonde woman standing beside her, smirking. Her hair falls down around her shoulders in soft waves, and a tiny, tight black dress clings to her slim frame. Finally. Maybe someone I can try and forget about everything with, Beca thinks, relaxing her hand as she lets her own lips curl into a small smile.

“I couldn’t help but notice you’re alone,” the woman stars, pausing to take a sip of the vodka martini clutched in one hand. Beca knows it’s meant to be sexy, and it is, but it’s just so slow. What’s the problem with being direct these days? Everyone seems to dance around their feelings like fairies, instead of actually getting on with it.

Beca slips easily off her bar stool and holds up her hand to stop the young blonde from continuing. “Let’s cut to the chase. My name is Beca. What’s yours?”

The blonde looks mildly startled at the blunt words, but her emerald eyes sparkle as soon as the tension seeps from her shoulders. She knows she’s hit a jackpot with Beca. “Melanie,” she says, pulling her bottom lip between her teeth coyly.

“Great, nice to meet you Melanie. Now let’s fuck.”