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after all these years

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Her morning had been going fine. She’d been hanging out with her mother, talking about some new lyrics she’d conjured up last night when she couldn’t sleep, when she got a completely unexpected text.

It was from Dinah, who, after an unresponded to congratulatory text for her album in early 2018 (which wasn’t intentional, it just got past her and she regrets not responding), hadn’t reached out to her except for following her on Instagram again.

That was now broken with a text she got this morning. It was simple, Meet me at the Starbucks by the hospital in an hour. 

If she’s being completely honest, she wanted to chicken out. She didn’t really realize she’d agreed until she sent a text back, saying, ok . She knows it’s a lame response, but she could barely think as she got ready to go and her mom offered to drive her (Yes, she’s aware that she’s 25 and she still doesn’t know how to drive.)

Thanks to the invasive paparazzi, the entire world seems to know which hospital Lauren’s staying at, and now Camila’s been hunkered in the corner beneath an oversized hoodie and random cap that she had laying around her house for half an hour, hopefully going unnoticed while slowly drinking a hot chocolate.

Dinah’s never scared Camila, really, since they met on X-Factor, which isn’t saying much because Ally scared her and Ally’s a ray of human sunshine (social anxiety’s a bitch). The only times she truly saw Ally even close to angry was during the group therapy sessions in 2016, and even then it wasn’t really anger and more of a disappointed look, which everyone knows is worse.

Dinah, however, was her best friend until she abruptly left at the end of 2016 (well, she already had her solo projects, but the leaving still felt abrupt to her.) One day she was Camila, a member of Fifth Harmony , and the next she was Camila Cabello . She’d be lying if she said she didn’t miss Dinah.

However, now confronted with the blonde six years later, she’s not sure that meeting again after all this time was the best idea. Dinah seems off-put, which is a stark difference to back in 2016 when they still had eighty different nicknames for each other and giggled at stupid movies in the back of the tour bus on nights where they couldn’t sleep. She misses that part of her, but at the moment, she’s scared of this newer Dinah. What is she going to say? Does she hate her?

She stirs her hot chocolate with the stirrer for another minute before Dinah sits down across from her, bearing a coffee and muffin. Camila watches as the younger girl breaks off a piece of her muffin and eats it before finally making eye contact with Camila. Everything about the look she’s being given shoves aches through her entire body.

There’s a tense silence before she finally speaks up, “Hey.”

What a lame starter, she criticizes herself.

Dinah’s silent, studying Camila’s face for a second before opening her coffee so it’ll cool off. Camila knows her palms are sweating and this is probably the most anxious she’s been in a long time - which is stupid, this is Dinah , who at one point was on her list of favorite people in the world. She loved it when fans called them friendship goals, but after a while it hurt because she was the one that ended things (even though all she did was forget to respond to a text, but things were different before that ever happened anyways).

“She got the flowers you sent her.” Dinah finally says after another minute coated with awkward tension. “And the note.”

“Is this just about Lauren?” Camila asks, looking down at her drink (she doesn’t know why Dinah speaking about Lauren makes her both aggravated and insanely curious, but it is), “I was just reaching out in good faith.”

“We’re all back in town, Mila. Ally and Mani are at the hotel right now, sleeping, because we were with Lauren until late, and Lauren’s having an operation on her wrist as we speak.” Dinah informs, and Camila just thinks on every word that came out of her mouth for a minute. Normani, Ally, Dinah, Lauren and Camila all in the same vague location? Lauren on an operating table ? What kind of twisted world is this? Haha, oh yeah, it’s real life.

She finally finds herself asking, “What happened?”

“She barely knows. All I really know is that she got into an accident on her way from the venue to her parents’ house and that she broke a couple ribs, has a concussion, and her wrist is kinda screwed for the next month or two.” Dinah explains and then shakes her head, “It’s been six years, Mila, and if I extend a branch to you today, will it be worth my while?”

A small smile creeps up on her face at the lyrics, she feels like it’s been forever since she heard them, “Yeah, but I guess we should catch up first.”

Dinah finally offers a small smile, and Camila smiles as well, some of the anxiety leaving her chest. “Alright, I’ll start, what the hell happened to you? Matthew Hussey ? And I thought that Austin was a low point.” 

Camila crinkles her nose at the name, “You sprayed Austin with ketchup.” Dinah chuckles and Camila shakes her head, “And Matthew was PR if that wasn’t obvious enough.”

“Not surprised,” Dinah sips on her drink before continuing, “I’m proud of you for all your success, Mila, you deserve it, but that was so stupid. I saw footage of you two in my feeds and I cringed more at that than at my original audition on X-Factor .” - That one gets a snort out of Camila - “What about Shawn?”

Camila sighs, “He was… fabricated, kind of. We thought that we might have feelings for each other, hooked up once, and I had this… like... moment where I was like... yeah, I’m gay, so that kind of ended in private but we had to keep it going for the cameras. We’re still best friends, though, obviously.”

“You two would’ve made a good couple had you not had a better relationship as best friends.” Dinah comments, an amused smile on her face, “So… you’re gay?”

Camila presses her lips together and nods, “Yeah. My family knows, and so does my manager, but he said that being gay would hurt sales, and how dare I hurt sales?”

“God, that sucks, Mila.” Dinah sighs and reaches a hand over the table that Camila takes, “I’m really sorry.”

“It’s not a big deal, really, gives me an excuse to not want to do the whole public dating thing other than I’m tired and I don’t want to make out with a random dumbass.” Camila shrugs, retracting her hand after a minute and playing with her fingers, “I don’t even care about coming out at this point, I just want to find a girl that loves me for me and not… Camila Cabello .”

“That’s going to be hard with you being the superstar that you are.” Dinah says, “Maybe you should just change your face and your name and disappear off the side of the planet.”

Camila laughs dryly, “Lauren used to say that she’d do that if she could.”

Dinah’s amused demeanor drops at that comment, and she swallows before asking, “How much have you talked to Lauren? When they recovered her phone they gave it to me and I saw a missed text from you.”

“Well… we’ve exchanged congratulations and then thank yous, but aside from that, nothing.” Camila sighs, “She and Mani are the only ones that I’ve really spoken to if you even categorize it as that.” She’s quiet for another minute, thinking, “I’m really sorry, Dinah, I should’ve stayed in contact.”

Dinah’s quiet too, “Yeah… I don’t know about Lauren, Mani, and Ally, but I wasn’t really angry. More hurt than anything. I missed you, y’know? We were best friends… and then you just left.”

“I had to.” Camila sighs and runs a hand through her hair, “I was dying . Ally and Mani were always kind of indifferent with me, Lauren barely spoke to me, not to mention all those people saying that you’d be better off without me anyway.”

“Do you miss any of it?” Dinah asks after another pause.

“I mean…” Camila ponders the question for a second, “I miss having people with me that know what I’m going through, you know? It’s so weird when you’re by yourself. I’ve had fun and I’ve adapted, but it was nice having you guys on the road with me and we’d cheer each other up when we were sad and whatnot.” She stops herself, also remembering how much she hated it all, “It sucked when we were pit against each other for my solo projects because god forbid I do what I always wanted to do and make my own music.”

Dinah smiles at her, “I really am proud of you, Mila, your music’s everywhere.”

Camila smiles to herself, remembering her Bad Things performance when Dinah watched off to the side and hugged her when she got off stage, “Thanks, Dinah. I’m really proud of you, too, your album was awesome. I wish I reached out, but truthfully, I didn’t want you to be like… fuck off, hoe , or something, you know? It’s easier to have the image of you being a supportive best friend that I lost contact with than best friend that now hates me.”

Dinah laughs at that, “I’d never. You’ve never given me a reason to treat you like that.”

Camila smiles, feeling way more at ease now that she knows fully that Dinah doesn’t - and never did - hate her. “How were the rest of the girls after I left? I mean… I’ve been civil with Lauren and Mani and I’ve tried to reach out to Ally, which was fine until I guess she changed her number and someone asked me who I was and why I was congratulating them on Dancing with the Stars .”

Dinah snorts, “Yeah, she changed phones or something and didn’t keep her number. It took me like a week to get used to the change.”

“I guessed so,” Camila responds, “I didn’t know how to really reach out after that, so I just kind of… didn’t. I feel bad about that.”

“I don’t think that they were ever truly angry with you, Mila, I think we were all just hurt,” Dinah replies, “I remember when Mani and you saw each other again, Mani called me and told me about it and she was really happy. Happy she saw you, happy that you’re doing well… happy that you don’t hate us. I was going to reach out and then the Don’t Say You Love Me video was released and I got caught up in my feelings about that being it… Fifth Harmony, over.”

Camila mulls over that in her head, she knew it was coming, obviously, and a part of her wishes she’d just hung on, but she doesn’t know where she’d be now if she did. A part of her thinks she would’ve just been more miserable, and that thought tends to keep her in check.

Dinah’s about to say something else when her phone vibrates, “Oh, I gotta go. I’ll keep in touch, though, I’m here for another few days.”

Camila nods, standing with her and grinning widely when the younger girl wraps her in a tight hug, “I really missed you, Walz.”

Relief floods her body at the use of her old nickname, and she finds herself shakily breathing out, “I missed you too, China.”