Beca: I’m coming home x
Beca: Please don’t tell anyone x
One hour earlier
Beca felt herself returning to the room, having spent the last few minutes blissfully zoned out.
“Sorry,” Beca said laughing. “What was the question?”
The talk show host laughed good-naturedly and turned to give the studio audience a playful shrug, who in turn started laughing.
“I was just asking about the new album,” he said, grinning. “I guess that rock and roll lifestyle is starting to catch up with you, huh?”
The audience laughed, and the host gave her a wink.
Aren’t we having fun? His roguish wink and playful smile said.
Don’t fuck up my show, the look in his eyes said.
“Something like that,” Beca said, lightly tugging on her hair before putting on her own fake smile. “I hope you’ll edit that big pause out. I don’t need people to see me buffering.”
The audience laughed and he grinned, shaking his head in a ‘what are we gonna do with you?’ way.
“Sure, we can edit live TV. I don’t think anyone’s watching.” The audience laughed again when he threw them a wink.
She had been introduced to the host before the show and had then immediately forgotten his name. His show was relatively new, and booking Beca as a guest had been a big deal for him. She would pull in the viewers that he desperately needed.
She spotted Theo standing behind one of the cameras looking stressed. He always looked stressed these days.
“But, um, yeah, the album is doing well, people seem to like it,” she said.
“You’ve been here there and everywhere promoting it, right?”
“Right,” Beca said. “There’s been a lot of, um, Red-eyes and stuff.”
“Well that explains it then,” he said, his eyes flashing again. Be the charismatic, funny, charming, asshole you are on every other fucking chat show. “When did you last sleep in your own bed?”
Beca laughed and ran a hand through her hair. “What’s sleep again?”
“I guess you could use a vacation?”
“Just a nap,” Beca said, feeling relieved when the audience gave a chuckle. “I promise the next time I do your show I’ll be more well rested.”
“Did you hear that folks, she’s already agreed to come back! We didn’t scare her off that bad! Well, thank you for chatting to us Beca Mitchell! We’ll see you again at the end of the show for some music, right?”
“Right,” Beca said.
“Big round of applause for Beca Mitchell, everyone!” He said raising his hand as Beca gave the crowd a wave. “We’ll see you after the break!”
“And we’re off!” A man in a headset said.
The smile died on the host’s face.
“Sorry about that,” Beca said, standing so a runner could unhook her mic. “I don’t even know what day it is.”
“It’s lucky you can hold a tune, eh?” He said, his overly cheery robotic demeanour gone now. “You need a pick-me-up or something? I’m sure someone could find you some coke.”
“No,” Beca said. “I’m good, thanks.”
She returned to her dressing room and collapsed onto the sofa.
Seconds later, Theo was letting himself in.
“Well that wasn’t a total fucking disaster,” he said, typing something into his phone.
“That guy’s a prick,” Beca said.
“Sure is,” Theo said. “But he might be the new Fallon, so play the game, okay?”
“I’m sorry,” Beca said. “I’m just exhausted. I literally don’t remember the last time I slept in something that wasn’t plane or a car.”
“That’s the price of fame, Beca,” he said, finally looking up from his phone. “You think I’m getting to sleep anymore than you?”
“No,” Beca said. “But you also aren’t being paraded on live TV and expected to be miss charm and personality.”
“Oh was that miss charm and personality?”
“Don’t be an dick,” Beca said.
“You’re acting like I’m making you do all this stuff for the good of my health. We’re doing this for you Beca. For your album,” Theo said. “If you don’t want to do this anymore, then just walk away. The public has a short memory, give them a few months and they’ll forget you ever existed. You can quit making music and go and get a real job. Is that what you want?”
“No,” Beca said. “I just want to make music, dude. That’s all I ever wanted.”
“We’ve been through this,” Theo said, sighing. “You want to make music, the label wants to make money. To make money, people need to buy your record. They need to go to your shows, and wear your merch. They won’t do that if they don’t know who the fuck you are. So you need to go sell yourself on these chat shows and you need to sparkle. You need to fucking shine.” He checked his phone again. “You have about ten minutes before you need to get your ass out there and perform. So pull yourself together, yeah?”
And then he left.
And Beca felt a wave of fatigue and misery wash over her.
Was this going to be the rest of her life?
She turned away from the door where Theo had been standing and spotted a window.
She was taken by the sudden desire to just climb out of it and run home.
She thought about how pissed Theo would be.
How pissed everyone would be.
It would be stupid and reckless to run away.
It would be career ending.
So why was she pushing at the window, seeing how far it would open?
Why was she now pushing the sofa so it blocked the door?
This was stupid. This was very, very stupid.
“Fuck it,” she muttered, climbing up on the table and forcing her way out of the window.
It was messy and ungraceful, and she definitely twisted her ankle as she spilled onto the ground, but before she knew it, she was running as fast as she could away from the studio.
“Why are we watching this?” Chicago asked, groaning when Chloe turned on the Rodney Stevens show. “I hate this guy.”
“I know,” Chloe said. “But Beca’s on tonight.”
“Woo hoo,” he said, sarcastically. “Can’t you record it and watch it later?”
“No,” Chloe said. “She’s my best friend, I’m watching it live.”
They watched in silence, and Chloe felt the familiar swoop of pride in her stomach when Beca came on screen.
“Well isn’t she miss charisma?” He asked, sarcasm still heavy in his voice.
“Shut up,” Chloe said, distractedly. “Look at her, she’s exhausted.” Chloe’s chest felt tight as she watched the way Beca’s eyes went from unfocused to nervously flicking back and forth. The way she kept tugging at her hair and the way her leg bounced slightly. It was so obvious to her that Beca was quietly falling apart, she couldn’t believe no one else was paying attention.
Chicago scoffed. “Maybe she should get a real job.”
“You’re being an asshole,” Chloe said.
“That’s me all over, isn’t it?”
They sat in silence for a few more minutes.
“I found an apartment by the way,” he said. “I’ll be out of your hair by the end of the week.”
“Okay,” Chloe said, wondering what emotion she was supposed to be feeling. She didn’t think relief was appropriate, but it was accurate. She was tired of pretending.
The show started again, and Rodney Steven’s plastic smile was even more forced than usual.
“Welcome back folks!” He said to the audience, as his house band played him in. “Unfortunately, we’re going to have to mix things up a bit tonight. Beca Mitchell has had an… unforeseen situation, and won’t be able to perform tonight.” The audience let out a sound of disappointment, and Chloe felt something hard drop in her stomach. “I know, I know. But don’t worry! To play us out we have the house band, and I thought we could do a little sing-along, how about it?!” The crowd cheered.
“Holy shit, has she actually done a runner?” Chicago said, laughing as he sipped his beer. “She might actually have done something interesting.”
“She’s always been fucking interesting,” Chloe said, grabbing her phone off the coffee table and leaving the room. She called Beca, her stomach flipping as she waited for her to answer.
“Hi you’ve reached Beca, leave a message.”
She ended the call and texted her instead.
Chloe: Hey, I was just watching the show. What’s going on? xx
It was early the next morning when Chloe was woken up by her phone buzzing against her nightstand.
“Hello?” She answered, sleepily.
“Chloe. Where is she?” She recognised Theo’s voice on the other end.
“Where. Is. She?”
“What are you talking about?” Chloe said, rubbing her eyes and sitting up. “Where is who?”
“Who do you think I’d be calling about? Where is Beca?” He sounded stressed, like he was on the verge of snapping.
“What do you mean where is she?” Chloe said, trying to wake up enough to focus. “Is Beca missing?”
“Don’t act dumb,” he said.
“Okay, if you’re going to be an asshole I’m just going to hang up,” Chloe said, feeling a mixture of anger and fear.
Beca was missing?
“No, don’t do that,” he said, sounding desperate now. “I’m sorry, I just thought she’d come to you first. She… I dunno, I guess she ran away or got fucking abducted by aliens or something.”
“She ran away?!”
“Left a note saying she was sorry, climbed out of the window of her dressing room,” he said. “And then… I don’t know. She’s not at her house. I assumed she’d be at least on her way to you if she wasn’t there already.”
“I tried calling her last night,” Chloe said, worry now gnawing at her stomach. “She wouldn’t answer. She didn’t text back.”
“I think her phone’s off,” he said. “Look, if you get in touch with her, please ask her to come back? She is majorly fucking up both of our careers right now.”
“Glad to know you care about her wellbeing,” Chloe snapped before she could stop herself.
“Okay, obviously I care about her wellbeing,” he said, sounding exasperated. “Just tell her to call me if you hear from her?”
“Fine,” Chloe said. “But if anything happens to her, this is on you. You knew she was overworked and you still kept pushing her.”
“I’m not the bad guy here, Chloe. This industry is the bad guy, I’m just trying to help her succeed.”
Chloe spent the next few days repeatedly calling Beca, messaging the Bellas to see if they’d heard from her, and scrolling celebrity gossip websites which were now full of speculation about where Beca had gone.
Where is Beca Mitchell?!
Beca Mitchell spotted at LAX at MIDNIGHT?!
Beca’s Uber Driver Speaks Up! Where Did She Go?!
She was sat on her bed, scrolling down her phone and nervously biting her thumbnail when there was a light tap on her bedroom door.
“Um, so I guess I’m gonna go?” Chicago said, a duffle bag slung over his shoulder.
“Right,” Chloe said, distractedly.
“Is that it?”
“Sorry,” Chloe said, standing to give him a hug goodbye. “I’m sorry it didn’t work out, Chicago.”
“Yeah,” he said. “Me too.” He gave her a kiss on the cheek. “I’ll leave my keys on the table.”
“Thanks,” Chloe said, turning her attention back to her phone when she felt it buzz in her hands.
He sighed. “You know she’s an adult, right? If she wants to run away and hide she can. You’re not her mom.”
Something seemed to light up in her head.
Why hadn’t she thought about calling Beca’s Mom?
After Chicago left her apartment for the last time, she began hunting around for Beca’s mom’s number.
She eventually found it on some old Bellas paperwork in the back of a cupboard. She was listed as Beca’s emergency contact, despite living miles away.
She hoped it was still her number.
“Hello?” A familiar voice said after several rings.
“Hi, um, is that Elizabeth Wattley?”
“Hi Ms Wattley, I don’t know if you remember me, but my name’s Chloe Beale. We met a few years ago when you came to see Beca perform with the Barden Bellas?” Chloe said. “And then I came to stay with you for a few weeks that summer?”
“Yes,” Elizabeth said, her voice a fraction warmer. “Of course I remember you, Chloe. How can I help you?”
“Well, I don’t know if you’ve seen but, um, Beca’s gone missing. I’m just calling everyone to see if they’ve heard from her,” Chloe said, praying that Beca’s mom would know something.
“Is that right?” She asked. “Missing? You’ve tried calling her?”
“Yes,” Chloe said. “I don’t know if her phone is off or if she’s just not answering.”
“Maybe she just doesn’t want to speak to anyone,” Elizabeth said. “I’m sure she’ll resurface when she’s ready.”
“I’m just really worried,” Chloe said, sensing she was about to be hung up on. “I don’t… I’m not looking for her so she can go back to work. I just want to make sure nothing’s happened to her. I want to make sure she’s okay. She’s my best friend.”
“I see,” Elizabeth said, her voice softer. “Well, I’m sure she’s okay, Chloe. But maybe you need a vacation?”
“I’m sorry?” Chloe said, thrown.
“You sound stressed. You sound like you need a break. Portland is beautiful this time of year, if you were looking for a nice quiet vacation spot,” Elizabeth said. “Why don’t I text you the address of a place to stay?”
The night of
Beca: I’m coming home x
Beca: Please don’t tell anyone x
“Huh, Rebeca Mitchell, kinda like that singer,” the woman at the gate said, handing Beca back her boarding pass and smiling.
“I get that a lot,” Beca said, pushing her glasses up her nose, adjusting the straps of her backpack, trying not to look like a world-famous musician on the run.
She made her way onto the plane and found her seat. She glanced across the aisle to see a woman reading a gossip magazine that happened to feature a picture of her own face on the cover.
She turned away quickly, worried she’d be recognised.
She had cleaned off all her makeup, tied her hair back, replaced her contacts with a her glasses, and changed out of her fancy TV outfit into a pair of sweatpants and hoody. She didn’t think anyone would recognise her, but she couldn’t be sure.
She imagined someone tweeting a picture of her on the plane, saying they had just spotted the Beca Mitchell on a plane to Portland.
She imagined Theo and the press tracking her down to her Mom’s house. Imagined them crowding at her front door, banging on the glass, screaming questions.
She felt sick, and her hands were starting to get clammy the way they always did when she was feeling anxious.
She put her headphones in, took off her glasses, and pulled a sleep-mask over her eyes.
At this point, it had been almost 4 hours since she had ran away from the studio, and the adrenaline she had been running on was starting to falter. She really was exhausted, so it didn’t take long for her to drift into an uneasy sleep, praying that the other people on this flight wouldn’t know or care who she was.
It was early morning when she stepped off the plane and into the bitingly cold Portland air.
She felt herself breathe properly for the first time in days. Weeks.
She climbed into a cab, gave the driver her destination, and felt herself relax, knowing she’d be home in less than an hour.
If the driver recognised her, he didn’t comment, which she was grateful for.
She watched the snow fall against the window, trying to remember the last time she had been home.
Her mind drifted to that summer she had spent here with Chloe, and she felt a pang of guilt knowing Chloe would soon be getting grilled by Theo who would be trying to track her down.
She’d hoped her note would be enough that he wouldn’t consider calling the cops or anything, but she knew Chloe would be the first person he went to.
The cab pulled up outside a bar, a short walk away from her childhood home. On the off chance he did recognise her, she didn’t want him to know her mom’s address.
Once he pulled away, she began the walk home.
It was brutally cold, and Beca was still just wearing a hoody, but she didn’t mind. After the suffocating heat of L.A., the cold felt nice. Familiar.
The sun was just beginning to rise when Beca knocked on the door.
Every emotion that Beca had been bottling up over the last few months came rushing out at the sight of her mother at the door, and she broke down in tears before she could stop herself.
“Oh dear,” she said gathering her daughter up in her arms and pulling her into the house. “Oh my sweet girl.”
“I don’t want to do it anymore, Mom,” Beca said, crying harder than she could ever remember doing. “It’s too hard, I don’t want to do it anymore.”
“Okay,” she said. “You’re okay.” She kissed her head and then stepped away from her, her hands on Beca’s shoulders, trying to look her over. Beca’s glasses had steamed up from walking out of the cold and into the warmth, so her mom took them off so she could see her eyes better. “Look at me.” Beca did, her breathing uneven, tears still falling rapidly. “Are you hurt?” Beca shook her head. “Are you sick?” Beca shook her head again. “Are you, or anyone you know, in immediate danger?”
“Then we don’t have to worry about this today, do we?”
“No,” Beca said, wiping her eyes. “But I’ve made my mind up, I can’t-”
“Shh,” her mom said, squeezing her shoulder. “No decisions. No worrying. No thinking. You’re going to come and eat some breakfast, and then you’re going to get some proper sleep. You can’t be expected to make a rational decision when you’re in this state, can you?”
Beca wiped her eyes again, and put her glasses back on. “Okay,” she said, knowing it was pointless to argue, relieved to have someone take care of her because they loved her. Because they cared about her, cared about what she needed, rather than what they needed, or what the label needed.
After breakfast, she followed her mom up to her old bedroom, and let her tuck her in the way she did when she was a child. She might have felt embarrassed about turning up in tears on her mother’s doorstep after running away, and having to be looked after like a kid, but she wasn’t. She was too tired for that.
There were two people in Beca’s life that she was completely and utterly herself with. Two people with whom she didn’t need to put up walls and defences. Two people who felt like home.
And one of them was her mother.
She fell asleep almost instantly, her mom removing her glasses again was the last thing she remembered, as she dreamt about the other person who felt like home.
Four days later
The flight from New York to Portland, Maine wasn’t a long one by any stretch of the imagination, but Chloe felt like it went on forever.
The fear of not knowing where, or how, Beca was had been eating at her ever since she’d gone missing, and knowing that she would soon be seeing her again (if she hadn’t misinterpreted the hints Elizabeth had been giving her over the phone), was making time slow down.
When Chloe finally arrived at Beca’s childhood home, less than 24 hours after their phone call, Elizabeth seemed pleasantly surprised to see her.
“You don’t mess around, do you Chloe?”
“I’ve spent the last four days thinking something terrible had happened to her. That maybe she’d been kidnapped or gotten hurt or something, and no one else seemed to care. I need to see that she’s okay. And if she doesn’t want to see me, I’ll leave. I won’t tell anyone she’s here,” Chloe said, feeling tears prick at her eyes. “I just want her to be safe and happy.”
“Come in, sweetheart,” Elizabeth said, stepping into the house. “I’ll make you some tea and see if she’s up yet.”
“Don’t wake her,” Chloe said, as Elizabeth lead her into the kitchen. Elizabeth turned to look at her, eyebrows raised. “I can wait, if she’s sleeping. She needs to rest.”
Elizabeth smiled at her, and gestured towards the table for Chloe to take a seat. She looked like she’d just realised that she’d made the right decision when she’d not-so-subtly hinted that Chloe should come to Portland.
“She’s been sleeping for about 3 days,” Elizabeth said. “If she isn’t rested now, she never will be. Plus, I’m sure she wants to see you.” She headed up the stairs to where Chloe knew Beca’s childhood bedroom was.
After a few minutes, Elizabeth returned, with a sheepish looking Beca following her.
“Hey,” she said, rubbing the the back of her neck.
“Hi,” Chloe breathed out, tears brimming in her eyes. She stood up and pulled Beca into a hug, relieved when she felt Beca hug her back.
“Did you track me down to my mom’s house you stalker?”
“You scared me,” Chloe said, half laughing, half crying. “I thought something bad had happened to you.”
“Sorry,” Beca said. “I’m sorry I scared you.”
“You could have answered your phone, jerk,” Chloe said, squeezing even tighter. “I wouldn’t have ratted you out to Theo.”
“I literally text my mom to say I was coming home and then I switched it off. I didn’t want him to fucking track me or something.”
“Language,” Elizabeth said, setting out mugs and saucers on the table.
“Sorry,” Beca said. They ended their hug, and Beca ran her hands up and down Chloe’s arms. “I can’t believe you’re here.”
“I’m just so glad you’re okay. I can’t imagine how bad things have been if running away felt like your only option,” Chloe said, taking in Beca’s appearance.
She was scrubbed free of makeup, her hair was tied in a messy ponytail, she was wearing sweatpants and an old t-shirt, and was wearing her glasses instead of her contacts. She still looked tired, but she looked more relaxed than Chloe could remember seeing her, ever since she exploded into stardom. She looked nothing like Beca Mitchell the famous musician, and everything like her best friend Beca Mitchell. The Beca Mitchell she’d spent the last five years falling in love with.
“Running away is what I do best, right?” Beca said, frowning as she dropped into a chair.
“Only when you feel trapped,” Chloe said, sitting beside her. “Only when you feel like you don’t have a choice.”
Beca gave her a weak smile. “I know it wasn’t the most responsible thing to do, but I just couldn’t do it anymore. I don’t… I don’t want the fame thing. I like making music, I like performing music, but all the other stuff? It’s just not worth it. If I hadn’t left… If I’d just kept going along with it all, I might have… I might have done something stupid. Something stupider than running away.”
Chloe rested her hand on top of Beca’s and squeezed.
Elizabeth poured them some tea, and then kissed Beca on top of her head.
“Well, we don’t want that, do we?” Elizabeth said, her mouth still pressed into Beca’s head, her eyes closed as he held her daughter for a minute. Beca had reached up to take hold of her Mom’s hand, which was resting on her shoulder. “I’ll leave you girls to catch up,” she said, letting her go after a few seconds. “It’s lovely to see you again, Chloe.”
“So,” Chloe said. “Now what?”
Beca shrugged and wiped away a few stray tears. “I don’t know. Speak to Theo I suppose. Try and make some kind of deal. I can keep making music and touring, maybe slightly less touring, but scale back massively on the press and the talk shows and shit. And if he won’t… Then… Then I don’t know.”
“You know,” Chloe said, turning Beca’s hand over in her own, tracing patterns on the palm of it. “You don’t need Theo, right? You don’t need the label.”
Beca let out a scoff.
“I’m serious,” Chloe said. “You made your own music for years before them. You always have done. You can produce, edit, write, and sing. You could do an album totally alone using just your old mixing equipment. You could ask any bar in New York to let you play a show, and they would snap you up. Use twitter and instagram for promotion, self produce your album, play small gigs. You can do it all the way you want it. You’d get to be in control.”
Beca looked at her now. There was something like hope in her eyes. “What about my contract? And money?”
Chloe shrugged. “I’m sure you have savings, right? Sell that big ass house and car you have in L.A. and come move into my shitty apartment in Brooklyn. People will pay for your album whether you’ve produced it or whether a label has produced it, you’ll start earning money again. And you haven’t signed a new contract yet, right? You’ll be free of it in a few months. Take a break until then.”
Beca let out a small laugh and shook her head. “You sound like you’ve thought about this.”
“I have,” Chloe said, quietly. “A lot. When I’d watch you on talkshows, looking tired and miserable, I’d think of ways that I could convince you to… to give up all that shit you hate. To come back to me… to come home, and things could be the way they used to be. When we were both happy.”
“What about Chicago?” Beca said, feeling a pain in her chest at the thought of getting to go back to her old life with Chloe.
“It didn’t work out,” Chloe said. “He… He wasn’t you.”
Beca swallowed and tried not to cry. “What do I do?”
“What do you want to do?”
Before Chloe was ready, Beca was capturing her lips in a slow, soft, kiss. “I want you,” she said, eyes closed, their foreheads pressed together. “I want to make music and be with you.”
“I think you’ve made your decision then.”
Beca nodded, smiled, and kissed her again.
“How long can you stay?”
“As long as you need,” Chloe said. “But, like, no longer than a week. I have work.”
Beca laughed. “So we spend a week hiding here, and then I call Theo?”
“Sounds like a plan. Can I text the Bellas to let them know you aren’t dead? I won’t tell them where you are.”
“Sure,” Beca said. “Can you text Theo the same?”
Chloe nodded and pulled out her phone and typed out a message to the Bellas letting them know Beca was okay, and then one to Theo.
Chloe: I’ve found her. She’s safe. She’ll call when she’s ready.
When he started calling seconds later, Chloe blocked his number and put her phone away.
They spent the rest of the day hanging out around the house, catching up, helping Beca’s mom with dinner, and just enjoying each other’s company knowing there was no time limit and would be no interruptions.
When they started to get tired, they changed and then curled up together on Beca’s childhood twin bed.
“I’m so glad you’re here,” Beca said.
“Me too. I love you, Becs.”
“I love you too.”