Sundays are the worst. Sunday nights? A nightmare. Melancholy comes from everywhere—the headlights of cars on busy streets that are replaced by the dry noise of shoes echoing in the silent house. A subtle warning that the cycle starts again the next day.
And it’ll go on and on, over and over again.
Chloe gets home, kicks her shoes off and walks to the kitchen to come back with a half-full glass of wine in hand, and awkwardly stands in the middle of her own living room, while wondering why she decided on renting such a big house for herself.
Silence isn’t her thing. It has never been. She is used to weekends filled with laughter and chatting that wouldn’t fade even when she was trying to sleep.
Chloe’s mom has always been loud and messy. On Friday nights, she used to buy two six-pack of their favorite beer and turn on the loud music right after seven o’clock. Chloe and her dad always fell into the spell—because honestly, why wouldn’t they? All three of them ended up in a mess of laughs and dance moves at the backyard.
Life didn’t feel lonely a month ago, when Chloe had a roommate. Living with Aubrey was fun, especially because they have known each other for a lifetime. Chloe loved their small apartment, even though they often had to hear their neighbor—a blond Australian girl who insisted to be called Fat Amy—arguing with the other neighbor, Stacie. Over the porter. Always over the porter. Aubrey was always the one to separate the two.
Truth be told, Amy would argue with anyone who stepped in her way whenever she was having a bad day. She was their next door neighbor, so both their tiny balconies faced the street. Every Monday afternoon, a truck would stop by to bring bananas to the local shop—Chloe never understood why they needed so much bananas—and always the same guy would unload it. They lived on the first floor, so it was easy to fall in a conversation with him—eh Chloe might have invited him inside once, and things got... heated. She remembers vividly how Aubrey had literally squeaked, “I can’t believe you fucked the bananas guy!”
On a very specific day, Chloe was watching from her balcony as Connor did his job and for an unknown reason, Fat Amy was arguing with him. “Looks like Amy is down in the street putting up a fight with the bananas guy.” She distractedly commented, hearing Aubrey murmur as she cleaned the table that she wouldn’t stand up for Amy anymore. “Oh, she just grabbed a knife,” Chloe added, voice still airy as if she was just commenting a movie scene.
Aubrey literally ran down the apartment to stop Amy from murdering the guy.
Just the memory of it all makes Chloe throw her head backward in a loud laugh, as she unboxes her office stuff.
It isn’t her first Sunday night at the new house, but it is the first Sunday night she feels lonely . So Chloe keeps herself busy with setting up things she hadn’t bothered to until then. The wine, loud music and texts coming from Aubrey are good distractions as she unpacks her books.
The shelves aren’t up yet, but Chloe hates to leave her books inside boxes for a long time, so she takes her time placing one book atop the other, next to where she’s sitting on the floor.
It's hard for Chloe to look at the house and say, even to herself, "this is my home." She doesn't feel like it is. The walls of all rooms are too wide and too far apart, as if they’re opening up more space for solitude to enter and become a permanent visitor. Or perhaps, a place with such greatness should be filled with more people.
The music that starts to play in the speaker has Chloe closing her eyes tightly and leaning her head against the wall behind her. Her dad used to listen to John Denver almost every day. "For Baby" was Chloe's favorite one because her dad sang it to her, his baby. The only one.
In the verse "I'll sing you the songs of the rainbow," Chloe would run the small distance between one wall of the living room and another, and jump in the air, being wrapped between her dad’s arms, which at the time, was what comfort meant to her. Her mother laughed in the corner, watching the scene.
And during every second of the song, Chloe remembers her childhood. She remembers the smell of apple pie that her mother cooked, just because it was her favorite. She remembers hot summer days and a pink hat her father insisted her to wear, so she didn’t get sunburned while playing in the park, and chasing bees from flower to flower, until she was stung by one.
That time was too special. How much hope, joy, how many dreams it carries. And what remains of it all is gradually disappearing without Chloe realizing it.
The music ends and she opens her eyes, head tilted a little to the side, facing the wall painted a salmon pink, almost the color of her own room when she was little. The wall was already painted when Chloe rented the house. This color gives her comfort, and makes her think this room belonged to a child before turning into Chloe's (almost) office.
Her gaze is focused on the corner of the wall. She didn't expect to find anything there, but as the cloud of memories disappears from her mind and she slowly returns to the present, Chloe realizes uncertain lines are drawn there. And the more she stares, the more the lines come together and form numbers in sequence.
A phone number.
The numbers are large and flawed, apparently written by a hand that hadn’t yet mastered writing completely. The black ink of the pen is disappearing, but Chloe can decipher all the numbers perfectly. And she wonders how long they have been there, in the low corner of the wall, just waiting for someone to finally find them.
Chloe likes to pay attention to the signs that come her way—a car accident that prevents her from arriving on a date she was incredibly excited to go to. A job opportunity that appears the day after Chloe had cried on the phone with Aubrey, not knowing which way to go. Or, a phone number that magically appears on the wall in the house she moved to a month earlier.
Maybe it’s silly. Maybe it doesn’t mean anything at all. But Chloe is curious, and well, she’s drunk. So she types down the unknown number on her phone, just as a notification pops up from a new text coming from Aubrey.
She laughs at the text, and quickly types an answer before getting up and following to the bathroom so she doesn’t piss her pants. Chloe stares at herself at the mirror for too long, to make sure her surroundings aren’t spinning too radically, and leaves the bathroom. She takes ten minutes to find her glass of wine—she had taken it to the bathroom—and, after a quick trip to the kitchen to refill it, Chloe grabs her phone and decides it’s enough unpacking books for the night.
The living room isn’t as welcoming as she would like, but it’ll get there eventually. Right now, she ignores the extremely-white-everything, and throws herself on her large beige couch, brows coming together in a deep frown at the text on her phone screen.
Think you’ve got the wrong number, dude.
Chloe’s impulsive (plus drunk) mind has her answering back with an I’m not a dude! and hitting send before she acknowledges she accidentally texted the number she just saved in her phone, instead of Aubrey’s.
She doesn’t know how she did it, though. Again, she is drunk. And when yet another text comes from the unknown person, Chloe’s mind goes back to the salmon wall and the uncertain lines, and she questions why that number is written there. How long it’s been there and who wrote it there.
Who is talking to her now.
If the number still belongs to the same person it did back then.
Then you’ve got the wrong number, lady.
Chloe considers her options. She can apologize and let it go, or reply in a way that suggests she wants to keep talking.
She doesn’t know if she would ever send a text, but since she accidentally did, Chloe decides quickly. After all, it isn’t every day she finds random phone numbers on her house’s walls.
I was supposed to text my friend. It’s late, I’ve been drinking and I’m tired from unpacking all day. I’m sorry.
There’s only enough time for a sip of her wine and another text comes in.
Seems like I just got myself a mysterious late night drinking buddy.
Chloe’s lips curve up in a small smile. Maybe this person on the other side is feeling just as lonely as she is.
And it’s okay. Moving can be a pain in the ass, I get it.
Moving sucks, Chloe types back. What’s keeping you up?
She sends the text, and only wonders if she’s somehow pushed too hard when no reply comes back. Her stomach twirls, and Chloe realizes she hasn’t eaten anything in the last four hours. She kills what’s left of her wine and gets up to leave her glass in the sink.
After a quick trip to the bathroom to brush her teeth and change into her pajamas, Chloe lies on her bed, staring around at her still-too-empty bedroom. The silence feels almost suffocating.
She misses the many noises she used to hear in her tiny bedroom when she shared the apartment with Aubrey. Especially on weekends. She’s heard loud teenagers down in the streets, car crashes and many angry voices sounding from the hallways—usually Amy’s. Right now, there’s a single cricket singing to the moon, and a police siren sounding distantly. Chloe lets the sounds embrace her like a lullaby, and she’s almost giving in to sleep when her phone rings with a new notification.
I had a nightmare.
And in the quiet atmosphere of her room, surrounded by the shadows of the trees on her front yard that come from the balcony’s door, Chloe questions if the person took all that time to decide whether to share those words or not.
What was it about?
But she gets it. It’s easier to share your insecurities and fears with people you don’t really know. They know nothing about you. Their judgments will be based on your words, and your words only.
I was walking through a bridge. It was so high I couldn’t see the floor, or where it ended. Someone was walking by my side, but they slipped and I couldn’t help them, I couldn’t hold them.
But Chloe doesn’t judge.
I can still hear their scream.
She believes there’s a reason why people are the way they are. And she always, always chooses empathy instead of hate.
Maybe it means you have to let something go so you can follow your path.
I... I don’t know how to.
Chloe sighs, although the other person obviously can’t hear it. She knows how hard it can be to let go.
You can take baby steps. It’s okay to go slowly.
Her mouth is suddenly watering, and Chloe can taste the wine coming up her throat.
Wait, I think I’m getting sick, she quickly sends the message and leaves her bed in a hush, entering the bathroom and only having enough time to go down on her knees in front of the toilet.
“Shit.” Chloe mumbles to herself as she lifts a shaky hand to her sticky forehead. The blue and yellow tiles on the bathroom wall seem to be moving, and Chloe feels dizzy. She closes her eyes tightly and breathes through her mouth, waiting to make sure she won’t vomit again.
The results of drinking half a bottle of wine over an empty stomach.
Chloe flushes the toilet, brushes her teeth once more and goes back to her bed. And she wants to keep talking to that person, she really does, but the words seem to shuffle with one another and the more she keeps staring at her phone screen, the more the shadowy room spins around her.
She eventually gives up, turning between the comforter and curling her body so her knees almost touch her chest. Sleep quickly falls over her.
Her alarm rings at seven o’clock. Chloe groans, blindly turning it off and turning to the other side, allowing herself ten more minutes of sleep. When she finally blinks her eyes open, she’s faced with warm rays of sunshine peeking through the thin curtain, and curses under her breath when she realizes the ten minutes turned into one whole hour.
It’s truly impressive how practical she can be when she’s in a rush. Chloe takes a very quick shower, changes into her work clothes—formal, but not exactly fancy—and puts her hair up in a high, casual ponytail. All that within twenty-five minutes. There isn’t time for her morning coffee, though, but she can wait until lunch time.
There’s an important meeting at Chloe’s work this morning. She’s too excited to present her new projects and the idea of getting late isn’t fun at all.
But of course, that’s exactly what happens—fuck you, L.A. morning traffic. Chloe gets to the meeting room just to see all her partners (and oh boy, her boss ) already sat around the table while listening as one of them talks. She tries to be as quiet as possible, but her heels sound impossibly loud in the silence that follows when the man stops talking while Chloe shuffles to take her seat.
“I’m sorry.” She quietly mumbles, and lowers her head when her boss’ cold stare meets her eyes.
That’s definitely not how she expected her Monday morning to go, and Chloe quickly makes a mental note to never drink on late Sunday nights again.
The meeting ends up taking the entire morning, until lunch time. Chloe’s project is met with excitement and she leaves the room feeling so much lighter than when she first arrived. Her head feels like exploding and she’s starving, but at least the day is going professionally well.
She quickly goes to her office and shuts the door behind her, sighing heavily. She orders some sushi and sits down on her chair, ready to kill all of her rest time, unlocking her phone for the first time in the day.
Then, everything from last night rushes back into her mind. The salmon wall and the numbers there, and the mysterious person Chloe got to talk to a little bit. She re-reads the texts they exchanged and feels herself sinking back into the chair when she realizes how desperate that person had sounded.
How suffocating it must be to feel haunted by your nightmares and having no one to talk to.
There are three texts Chloe hadn’t seen last night, which were probably sent when she was already asleep.
Oh my God, are you okay?
Ten minutes separate the first text from the last two.
Well, I think you probably collapsed into bed already, or I’ve frightened you away with my shit.
I’m sorry. I hope you’re not too hangover tomorrow.
Chloe spends way too much time with her lower lip between her teeth, trying to decide what to say. When the ticking of the clock on the wall reminds her that she doesn’t have all the time in the world, her fingers seem to have a life of their own and type an answer by themselves.
You haven’t frightened me away. It’s okay.
And when the reply comes almost instantly, Chloe wonders if the stranger was scrolling through their texts from last night—just like she’s been doing—waiting for an answer.
Oh, you’re alive!
Barely. I’m sure my head will explode within minutes.
Ugh, I’m sorry to hear that. Hangover is the worst.
The telephone on the desk rings, and the sweet receptionist lets Chloe know her food has arrived. She sends an answer before leaving to go get it.
They definitely are! I don’t usually drink a lot when I have to work the next day, but well, seems like yesterday was an exception.
She’s at the door when her phone rings with another text, and Chloe’s excitement makes it too difficult to leave without checking it.
Touché, stranger, she thinks.
Yeah... I’m not a fan of silence.
This time, Chloe literally runs out of her office, so she doesn’t hear it if her phone rings once more. She laughs quietly to herself while waiting for the elevator.
It’s strange to feel all this excitement about talking to a stranger. Maybe what calls her attention so badly is the fact Chloe has found the phone number written on the wall of her house. It fills her entire being with a curiosity that seems to never go away, making Chloe want to know the stories that house carries—one that started way before she moved in.
Or maybe it’s the nightmare that person had shared with her. Something so personal, that Chloe isn’t sure it would be shared if the stranger knew who she was.
Maybe she’s just compassionate about lonely people, because she is getting familiar with loneliness.
Whatever it is, it just stays. Settles down in her chest with no apparent wish to leave anytime soon.
Chloe grabs her lunch, makes small talk with a woman from her team for a little while, and runs back to her office, closing the door behind her. She sits on the chair in front of the computer, and opens the package to grab a sushi with the chopsticks, and her phone with her free hand.
There are two new texts.
Yeah, I get that.
Last night you said you were unpacking. Are you new in town?
Chloe smiles as she bends her body to grab another sushi and bring it to her mouth.
No, not really. I’ve been living in LA for four years, but I used to share an apartment with a friend. It’s the first time I’m by myself.
What about you?
Is it just you, too? , she adds.
A knock on the door has Chloe standing and moving to open it, mouth full of sushi. When she’s faced with her boss, Chloe chokes and quickly brings a hand to cover her lips.
“Beale,” Chloe’s boss greets, face serious.
“Hm, hi!” Chloe answers, feeling her cheeks burn.
Her boss never visits. And when it happens, it usually means bad news.
But today there’s only compliments on Chloe’s new project and the improvements she has been bringing the last few months. Of course her boss calls her attention for arriving late on a meeting day, but Chloe isn’t really worried about that. She knows it will never happen again.
Her boss leaves with a polite shake of head and Chloe turns to the clock on the wall only to find out her lunch time is over. She moves back to her chair, and checks her phone for new messages from her stranger, but there’s nothing there.
She sighs quietly, throwing the mess of papers and bags that contained the Japanese food into the trash and settling down comfortably in front of the computer, ready for another busy work day.
Chloe spends the rest of the day answering emails from clients and putting the missing pieces of her project together, so she can send the final version to her boss.
It is that kind of day when you’re so busy you don’t notice the hours as they fly by, until you look out the window to be faced with a dark sky.
After turning the computer off, Chloe spins her chair around so it’s facing the large window, and extends her arms and legs in a long stretch. She feels her body relax instantly, and stays still for a couple minutes, feeling thankful about how productive the day went.
Mondays are nice, Chloe likes them. They are new chances of bringing out the best of herself.
She gets home and takes a relaxing bath, changing into comfortable clothes so she can cook dinner while talking to Aubrey on the phone. Chloe invites her over on Friday night.
After doing the dishes, Chloe goes upstairs to her bedroom and opens the balcony door, pausing for a minute to leave the glass of water she has in hands on the nightstand and grabs the book beside it, going back to the balcony and sitting comfortably on a swing chair she has bought just a couple days ago.
It was impossible to read in the balcony back at the apartment. There was so much movement down the streets and Chloe was easily distracted. The house is located in a more intimate area, then it’s so easy to let herself go and she gets immersed in the story way too quickly.
That is, until her phone rings.
She hadn’t exchanged more texts with her stranger during the day, and they hadn’t answered her question until now.
Maybe they were busy with work, too.
Yeah, it’s just me.
I had dogs, but man when they get old they drop like flies so I let my ex have them when we divorced.
Chloe throws her head back in a loud, incredulous laugh.
Oh, my God! That’s so mean!
They’ll miss you :(
Oh no, he’s fine. It’s been years.
I... meant the dogs.
Closing the book she was reading, Chloe leaves it on the swing chair and enters her bedroom, closing the balcony door behind her and settling comfortably beneath the comforters.
This is way more interesting than the book anyway. Chloe bites on her lower lip while waiting for the upcoming texts.
I don’t think they’d like my apartment. They were used to large spaces and I just wouldn’t have the time to walk them.
Oh, so you’re a busy lady?, she sends without thinking, and just then stops to consider her words.
Although she now regrets sending it, there’s no way to delete the message, so she rushes to explain herself.
I mean, you used “he” when you talked about your ex so I assumed you’re a girl.
I’m sorry, it was dumb of me , Chloe adds, kind of panicking when the answer doesn’t come right away.
That’s okay, you’ve assumed correctly. I am a lady.
And I’m also busy.
Relief fills Chloe’s chest.
So, busy lady.
Were you born and raised in L.A?
Chloe reaches out to grab her glass of water and takes a few sips, as the texts arrive.
Born and raised in Seattle, moved here when I finished high school.
L.A. wasn’t as ‘easy’ as I’ve thought it would be so I considered moving to New York, but then I met my ex. Long distance is something I can’t do, so I ended up staying.
Everything kind of fell into place after that. We got married eventually, but after a few years, things weren’t working anymore.
So you left?
Not exactly? It was more of a consensual decision. We weren’t good for each other anymore after everything we went through.
The reply Chloe sends is more of a personal complain, but deep inside she wonders what “everything” means.
I’m sorry about that. I know there isn’t an easy way to go through a break up, and my experiences always made me feel like I’ve failed somehow.
Because I always leave.
It never feels right for you?
And Chloe doesn’t have an answer for that. She spends the next few minutes just staring at her phone screen, re-reading those words until they become meaningless. Her fingers are ready to type, but she doesn’t know what to say. Doesn’t have words for it.
Her longest relationship had been almost four years long, back in College with Tom. Before him, she was with Chad, her high school sweetheart. It lasted a couple years, but they broke up.
The rest of Chloe’s relationship list isn’t long at all, and never lasted more than six months. She never stopped to consider why. Because in every beginning, Chloe always felt like they were the right person for her. Especially with Chad and Tom. She did love them. A lot, in fact.
When no clear answer comes to her mind, Chloe types the only thing all of her failed relationships have in common.
It’s not like that. It feels like my relationships lacked something.
Patience, dedication, respect. Sometimes communication.
It just lacked.
Only after sending the texts that Chloe realizes she never actually failed her relationships. And they weren’t the wrong people, either. They happened at the wrong time, and were filled with flaws Chloe couldn’t find back then.
Oh, I can understand it.
But she just did.
People often tell me I’m a very closed person, and only with my ex husband I realized that sometimes you have to say aloud things you’ve never said before. Your feelings and insecurities, and your fears.
Not that I’m good at doing that lol, but I try when I care.
And you know, I don’t think every time people leave is because they don’t care, or because they didn’t love you.
Sometimes it just hurts.
Chloe blinks at the words on the screen. She doesn’t know what to reply to that, so she’s about to ask how long it’s been since the mysterious-busy-lady divorced her husband, when another text arrives before she can do so.
Wow, it got deep really quickly. I’m so not like this.
Then, Chloe’s question changes.
What are you like?
Like Anger, from Inside Out.
A laugh comes from somewhere inside Chloe and she doesn’t hesitate to let it out. It echoes back to her in the silence of her room.
Wow. With the fire and everything?
She wonders if the woman on the other side is smiling, too.
Yes. Just taller and less red.
Hm. Not sure sure if I believe you.
I really need to go, though. It’s getting late.
For the first time since she grabbed her book, Chloe checks the hours and surprise hits her when she realizes it’s past midnight.
God, I completely lost track of the time! I should go too.
Good night, Miss Anger.
The answer makes Chloe smile once more.
Why is it too funny? Lmao.
Good night, mysterious lady!
And it’s only when Chloe is a step away from falling asleep that she realizes she still has no idea why the number was written on the wall.
The following days are repetitive and too slow for her taste. There’s a newbie in her team—a short, shy girl, whose name she doesn’t remember now—and she spends most of the time making sure the girl is at their pace.
When Friday night finally arrives, Chloe is exhausted, but so ready for a lovely time drinking with her best friend. She opens the door to find not only Aubrey, but Amy and Stacie as well.
“Oh, hi guys!” She greets, surprised.
“We met in the elevator and I couldn’t get rid of them,” Aubrey whispers when she steps in for a hug.
A chuckle scapes Chloe’s lips. “That’s okay, Bree.” She steps aside, letting them in, and closes the door behind her.
Amy places two bottles of wine on the middle table, and turns to face Chloe. “Give us a tour around your palace, ginger.”
Something tells Chloe it’s going to be a very long night. She doesn’t mind, though. She’s missed the loud and messy.
She guides the girls to the large kitchen, and serves glasses of red wine so they can go on with their tour around the house.
It’s fun, to be honest. Stacie keeps making comments about specific places that would be perfect to have sex in, and every time Amy replies she’s already made it there; Chloe is sure the last time she laughed that much, was in similar circumstances: surrounded by the same people, but in a much smaller place.
Aubrey analyzes every single aspect of the house—the tiny holes on the walls, left behind by the people who lived there before and probably used to be filled with bolts to hang up framed photographs, the horrendous cracks on the glass of the balcony door, the misplaced rocks around the pool in the external area. She makes Chloe promise to fix them all as soon as possible, but these tiny details don’t bother her as much as they bother Aubrey.
When they reach the office, their glasses are already empty, and Amy takes them all to the kitchen so she can refill them. And of course Aubrey notices the numbers. She points a finger towards the wall. “What is that?”
Stacie quickly kneels down on the floor. “It looks like a phone number.” Then she turns to Chloe, eyes sparkling. “You should totally call it and start a mysterious love affair with the enchanting man on the other end.”
Chloe chuckles, and speaks before her mind can really register her words, “It’s not a man.”
Then... silence. It settles around them for a couple minutes, and it’s broken by Stacie, whose eyes grow in surprise, but it’s quickly replaced by a lifted eyebrow and teasing smirk. “Wow, I didn’t know you have it in you. Enchanting lady it is, then.”
“Chloe, are you crazy?” Aubrey crosses her arms over her stomach. “How do you know it’s a girl?”
“Because she told me?”
“Have you seen a picture of her?” Aubrey continues, a challenging expression on her face. Chloe shakes her head. “Then how do you know it’s true?”
“Well, when people tell me stuff, I usually believe them, you know.” Chloe shrugs.
Aubrey crosses the distance between them, placing her arms on Chloe’s shoulders. “Talking on the Internet with people you don’t know can be dangerous. I don’t want to keep you from... having fun or whatev—“
“Oh, so Chloe finally found a boy toy?” Amy interrupts, entering the room with four half-full glasses of wine.
“More like a girl toy.” Stacie whispers, but everyone hears her.
Chloe chuckles. It’s actually a funny situation—one that she definitely didn’t see coming. She never actually planned to tell Aubrey (or anyone) about her mysterious new friend. The texts they exchange are too personal, and she likes talking to her. Likes the mystery.
The four of them leave the room, but Aubrey holds Chloe by the door while the others follow to the kitchen. “I know you think there’s a reason why that number is there, and that your mysteries make you question everything around you. But, maybe it’s just, I don’t know, the phone number of the person who painted the room. Or just random numbers a child’s written on the wall. Please, don’t overthink it.”
“I won’t.” Chloe smiles faintly at her friend, and quickly glances at the number on the wall, before turning off the lights and going after the girls.
They end up at the backyard, sat around a cute wooden table Chloe’s found in a vintage store. There’s a huge wine stain covering the white tablecloth, and the way Amy keeps her eyes wide while looking around, tells Chloe she’s the guilty one.
But Chloe doesn’t mind a bit. There’s a lot more going on in her head.
Throughout the night—and between countless glasses of wine,—Chloe finds out the bananas guy is now watermelons guy, and that the porter (the guy Amy and Stacie used to fight over) was having an affair with another woman from the building. And that he’s married.
The hours fly by and they stay in the same place, until Chloe’s back starts to hurt. Aubrey is the first to get up, and almost pushes Amy and Stacie out of the door, while Stacie complains she didn’t even jumped into the pool, and Amy makes sure the whole neighborhood hears her yells on the silent street, alleging that she isn’t drunk enough to leave (she is).
And just like that, Chloe is left alone at way too late at night, in her too-big-house, with nothing but her drunken thoughts to keep her company.
Her drunken mind and her phone.
She hadn’t thought much about the mysterious busy lady on the days before, when they didn’t text. Chloe had been busy with work, and she assumes the other person was, too. But of course now, when the house that was filled with laugher just minutes ago is suddenly so quiet she can literally hear her own breathing, that’s all Chloe thinks about.
The phone screen lights up, and Chloe taps on the message app, swiping up until she finds the one she is looking for. Long minutes pass as she tries to decide what to say, and when Aubrey’s words come to her mind, warning Chloe that she shouldn’t overthink it, Chloe lifts the glass of wine she still has in hands, and takes a picture of it.
Lucky me I don’t have work tomorrow, she sends along with the picture, and goes outside to grab the bowls that contained some snacks, and comes back to the kitchen, just so she has something to do.
She quickly does the few dishes, while trying not to get too excited about getting an answer, for it may never come. But her phone rings with a new message just as Chloe is washing the last glass. She smiles, and closes her eyes for a heartbeat.
And there’s that weird feeling again. It floats in the breeze coming from the open door that leads to backyard, and whispers right on Chloe’s face as the gentle wind blows her hair. She opens her eyes, fills her glass with what’s left on the wine bottle and walks to the backyard, sitting on the grass.
Cheers to you, mysterious lady.
And there’s a picture, too. Chloe taps on it, and takes in what she can see.
Oh, I didn’t think you’d be up this late!
Delicate, slender fingers curling around a bottle of beer. There’s a tattoo on the wrist, but Chloe can’t tell what it is, can only see the black ink in contrast with the pale skin.
Yeah... I tried to go to bed earlier today, but woke up just a couple hours ago.
Something is coming up inside Chloe’s chest. Something warm and quick, but it’s just for a minute and then it’s gone. She has an idea of what happened.
Did you have another nightmare?
It shouldn’t be that easy with a woman Chloe barely knows.
Do you wanna talk about it?
A woman Chloe has no idea what she looks like.
I’m not sure? They are always variations of the same situation.
Always the bridge?
But somehow, it just is.
Always the bridge.
But it’s okay. I’m used to it.
For how long have you been having nightmares?
For a few years now. But it’s not as frequent as it used to be before I moved to the apartment I live now.
Chloe’s chest tightens.
There were times I didn’t want to go sleep. And other times I just wanted everything to stop.
She can’t imagine what it may feel like. Never went through anything remotely alike.
Eventually, I learned how to deal with it. I mean, I had to.
I write, sometimes.
What do you write about?
The nightmares. Feelings. The yearning to go back in time.
You wish you could go back in time?
Oh, definitely. Don’t you?
Chloe lifts her head at the question, staring at her surroundings. It’s probably the first time she’s enjoying the cool air of the night alone in her own backyard.
Only after moving into this house that Chloe realized there are places inside it that doesn’t feel like they’re hers. Like this backyard, or the dining room, or the third bedroom Chloe still has no idea what to do with.
But she isn’t unhappy. She was promoted at work a couple months ago, and renting a big house felt nice. Buying a better car felt nice. Chloe isn’t unsatisfied with how her life is going, nor wishes she could go back in time, she realizes. She likes the present too much, and waits for the future, not exactly excitedly, but wanting to know where life will take her, anyway.
No, I don’t think so , she finally answers.
Lifting her glass of wine from the ground, Chloe tilts her head to take a sip. There’s a single star in the star. It twinkles as she stares, as if saying, “I see you, too.”
Well, I do. Not because I regret anything, but I’d like to freeze time in a specific period of my life.
Chloe can’t imagine a life like that. Can’t imagine herself living the same days over and over again.
Wouldn’t you get bored?
Maybe? But I wouldn’t mind. I just wanted... time.
More of it.
Oh , it’s all she texts back. Because again, she can’t imagine that. Wishing for more time.
She has never been too attached to any specific period of her life. Or any person, except her parents, and maybe, Aubrey. Nothing has ever happened in Chloe’s life that ended up with the wish of more time.
But it’s interesting to interact with a person who did experienced something like that. And as she takes another sip of her wine, Chloe wonders what it might mean.
More time of what. And why.
I’ve wondered where you’ve been, you know.
On the days we didn’t text.
A smile plays on Chloe’s lips, and she lies on the ground, feeling the grass tickling her arms.
Yeah. Is it too weird?
Not as weird as the fact we’ve been sharing such personal things with each other without knowing each other’s names, I suppose , she adds a winking emoji, just to make sure the other woman knows she’s joking.
Oh, come on! You don’t know much about me.
Chloe presses her lips in a line and stares at the sky above her, as she tries to remember what she knows so far about her mysterious busy lady.
I know you’re divorced , she starts.
I know you struggle with nightmares, and that you wish to live in a specific period of your life.
That you want more time.
It’s actually surprising how easily all these facts come back to her mind.
And that you look like Anger. With the fire and everything.
Oh, wow. Are you keeping a list?
At that, Chloe laughs.
Something like that.
The next texts take a couple minutes longer to arrive and Chloe worries as she waits. She pulls a bunch of grass from the ground and smashes it between her fingers.
It’s not like knowing each other’s names will change anything, she thinks.
My name is Beca.
“Beca.” Chloe says out loud, and likes how the name sounds melodic falling from lips that quickly curl up in a smile.
I like talking to you, Beca.
That’s the text she receives. Just her name. And she imagines if Beca had just said Chloe’s name out loud, too, wherever she may be right now.
I like talking to you, too.
Chloe places the phone on her stomach as she waits for whatever Beca is about to say next.
She was wrong a couple minutes earlier, she realizes. Knowing her mysterious lady’s name does change everything. Brings a new kind of intimacy to it all, like she’s a little bit closer to unlock a box filled with secrets that will change everything once more.
The smile still paints Chloe’s face, although there’s no one there to see it, or smile back at her, just a gentle night breeze and a phone that vibrates twice with new texts. And she wants to read them, but her eyelids are getting heavier and the grass feels weirdly soft under her body that’s already floating towards a dreamless sleep.
Not long after that, the first hot rays of sunshine wake Chloe up. She blinks lazily, looking at her surroundings, and lets out an incredulous laugh when she realizes she fell asleep at the backyard.
The glass of wine Chloe had been drinking lies on the ground beside her, and she probably must have slapped it during her sleep at some point, because it’s empty now. She gets up in a long stretch and heads inside, leaving the glass in the sink and following to the bathroom for a much needed shower.
Even though she knows there are more messages from Beca, she doesn't check her phone before getting into the shower. The hot water slowly helps her to fully wake up, while every word they exchanged the night before comes and goes, like a ping pong game going on inside her head.
Chloe is not exactly familiar with nightmares. No more than anyone else, she imagines. Sometimes she dreams about plane crashes, or an absurd amount of waves that attack her from all sides in an infinite ocean. But Beca's nightmares seem to be much more than just weird situations her unconscious creates. Beca's nightmares seem to come from a place in her past that she cannot get rid of, and as a result, she lives haunted by it. Being aware of it makes Chloe's heart sink as she takes on the pain of this woman she doesn't even know. Makes Chloe want to hold her tight, and assure her that it will pass. That her nightmares won’t come true.
But Chloe doesn't know what happened. Doesn't know Beca's past, except for little fragments Beca shares bit by bit.
Because maybe, Beca's nightmares have already come true. Maybe they are memories that find their way back to her every night.
Going back to sleep isn’t an option now. Chloe gets out of the shower, puts on a shirt and sweatpants, and goes back to the kitchen, checking the messages as she waits for her coffee.
I’ve always had this fear of opening up. I don’t like to let people see me vulnerable, because I don’t want it to look like I’m weak.
But it’s so easy to talk to you.
I don’t know who you were supposed to text that night, but I’m glad your text found me instead.
Yes, Chloe thinks. How crazy it is that two people have found each other when they weren’t even looking. There’s beauty in it.
I’m sorry, I fell asleep.
I’m glad I found you, too. And being vulnerable doesn’t mean you’re weak, Beca. Just that you’re human , she sends the texts, although the reply doesn’t come until afternoon.
They quickly fall in a conversation about weird places they have fallen asleep at. Chloe laughs out loud when Beca tells her she once fell asleep on a giant sound box at a club. Unlike their previous deep talks, this time they chat about much lighter stuff. Chloe finds out Beca’s humor is sharp with sarcasm and likes it; the day ends up being all about relaxing and not realizing the hours as they pass, their texts coming and going.
A month flies by, and then two. Chloe expects her interactions with Beca to grow more spaced with each passing day, until an inevitable stop. And every time it crosses her mind that it might be the last time they’re texting, Chloe wishes tomorrow to never come. But it aways does, and in every one of the tomorrows, Beca’s texts are there again. They never grow more spaced. Instead, they grow more constant.
Chloe learns that Beca doesn’t sleep in the dark (she doesn’t like the shadows), that she likes music, can’t keep up with her diet, hates to go to the gym and that her parents’ divorce opened up a wound inside her heart that never fully healed. She learns about past things that made her hurt and left scars, recent frustrations and more nightmares.
She learns to miss Beca’s texts.
They exchange Spotify playlists, favorite cereal brands, comfort words and confessions. Many confessions.
Before the sun sets, Chloe confesses she only had two serious relationships in her life. Beca confesses she hasn’t been with anyone since her divorce (apart from one night stands); when it’s fully dark outside, Chloe confesses she feels lonely at night. Beca confesses she’s afraid of the nightmares.
And amongst it all, Chloe wonders how it’s possible to yearn to hold someone she has never seen.
They know everything about each other, and yet, they don’t know each other . Have no idea what the other looks like, or each other’s jobs. Chloe has mentioned the new girl in her team and a couple times her boss was making her day impossible, but it feels like her chats with Beca are much deeper than that. It’s always a “how did you feel today?” instead of a “how was your day?” Maybe because she knows Chloe will send the same questions back at her, and maybe Beca doesn’t have anyone else who asks her that.
And it doesn’t bother Chloe at all, but it makes her look at every women around her, wondering if one of them could be Beca. Whether she is taller or shorter than Chloe, what is the color of her hair, if her eyes twinkle when she smiles. It’s a fun game, sometimes, but she gets tired of it easily. Isn’t sure she wants to keep the mystery forever.
June arrives, beautifully painting the world with vibrant summer colors. Chloe’s birthday comes and goes, she gets wasted at a club with her friends and ends her day texting Beca. It’s perfect. And somehow, in the middle of rushed days and shared confessions, the fact Chloe had found Beca’s number on the wall of her office slips to that place of mind which isn’t frequently visited. That little piece of information settles there without Chloe noticing, just waiting to be found again.
Which takes a few months.
At night is when they text the most. The loneliness Chloe runs away from is nowhere at sight, and she thinks Beca’s mind isn’t focused on her nightmares either. It’s just amazing to Chloe how they have shared so much already, but there’s still so much to say. They always lose track of time, but never like this.
Chloe looks up from her phone to see what was the first Friday night of July, turning into a misty Saturday morning that lazily stretches itself over her backyard.
Beca!, she texts. I can’t believe it’s almost 6am!
Well, you did get a bit carried away with that whole story of a dangerous adventure with your friends and a priest.
Chloe laughs again at the memory of that crazy weekend she spent with Aubrey, Amy and Stacie.
It was a Mormon! And we just stayed at the church because we had no other place apart from that crazy lady’s house and her room filled with blood.
I’m sure you’d rather stay at the church.
You and your friends clearly don’t fear for your lives.
Maybe. But it was a fun weekend!
Chloe should be going to sleep, but she isn’t ready just yet. So instead of heading inside, she gets more comfortable in her chair and takes a deep breath, smelling the morning air.
A few birds sing in the distance, although Chloe can’t see them. The sky is a kind of purple-ish blue, not fully day but still no longer night. It’s peaceful, and Chloe can’t remember the last time she had been awake this early.
I think this blue hour is just as magical as golden hour, she texts Beca, and is so happy when the three dots appear to tell her Beca hasn’t fallen asleep yet.
Sometimes, when I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep, I leave my apartment just to watch Aurora rising.
Beca said “when I wake up in the middle of the night,” but Chloe reads it as “when I’m too scared to fall asleep again,” because that’s just how well they know each other now.
Chloe doesn’t mention it, of course. Just feels in her heart once more how much she would like to hug Beca.
Aurora? , she answers instead.
Yeah. The dawn.
Where do you go?
The quickness of the reply tells Chloe that Beca didn’t even have to think about it. That she does it frequently.
Griffith Park. I’ve found a little hiding spot a couple years ago, away from the people who hike in the mornings.
Oh, that sounds so lovely! I think I’ve never really stopped to watch a sunrise.
You should come with me someday!
Everything stops, and there’s only the rapid pace of Chloe’s heartbeat, strong in her chest and loud in her ears.
It’s the very first time Beca suggests they should meet. Chloe has thought about it before, of course, but never brought it up, for fear that Beca might not want to.
Fear that they might not feel as comfortable around each other in person, as they do while texting.
But now that Chloe knows it’s a mutual wish, she pushes her insecurities away, needing to know when .
How about tomorrow?
And she doesn’t care if she sounds desperate. Beca suggested something, so she’s suggesting back.
Tomorrow is perfect.
The smile surges in Chloe’s face as fast as night becomes day around her, and she waits as Beca explains exactly where they should meet at the top of a hill at Griffith Park.
For the first time, their goodbyes are not a “good night!”, they are a “see you tomorrow!” and Chloe finds herself climbing into bed with heavy lids that refuse to stay open for one more second. Her room is already being filled with sunlight, but Chloe doesn’t bother to open her eyes to watch the sun slowly making its way towards the sky, because she will watch it tomorrow.
Tomorrow, with Beca.
When Chloe wakes up—just past nine, although she went to sleep at six—the day seems to extend itself to infinity. It always happens whenever she is too excited about something, and it feels like there aren’t enough things to do to kill the time.
She goes grocery shopping, watches a few Schitt’s Creek episodes, FaceTimes Aubrey, then her parents, and tries to get some work done, although it’s her day off. She cooks lunch, dances around the kitchen to her favorite songs and takes s very long shower; when evening comes, Chloe is sitting on her couch, laptop on her lap and a glass of wine next to her, as the clock goes from 8:32 to 8:33. And she wants so badly for the hours to pass quicker, and decides there’s no way she’s gonna be able to focus on anything work-related now.
It takes another good forty minutes of turning on the bed from one side to the other until sleep comes. It happens slowly, and Chloe can feel her consciousness shutting off bit by bit.
She wakes up in a rush of anxiety to a text sent by Beca the night before.
See you tomorrow! , it says simply.
Hello! See you in a bit! , she answers and goes straight to the shower so she can get ready for the day.
Her phone says it’ll be around 82ºF today, but the air coming from the balcony’s open door is cold due to how early it still is, so Chloe puts on a slim jeans, a black long sleeved shirt, and sneakers.
The drive to Griffith Park is short, and the morning breeze has Chloe shivering as soon as she leaves her car. She is halfway up the hill when she realizes it isn’t just the cold. She is nervous . In a way she hasn’t felt in so long.
She shouldn’t feel nervous. It’s Beca . The person she has been opening her heart to for two whole months, and who told her secrets in return. But there are so many questions going through Chloe’s mind.
What if she doesn’t like me? What if our connection is different in real life?
Who is she?
But this last question doesn’t last long, because Chloe turns to the right almost at top of the hill, just like Beca told her to, and she’s right there, for the very first time, before Chloe’s eyes.
A girl sitting in what it seems like the top of the world, or at least, L.A.’s small world. Brunette curls fall on her back, there’s a backpack on the floor next to her, and she has her head down to the buildings and the whole universe in front of her, legs curled up towards her chest, like she belongs right there.
Like there’s no other place made for her.
“Bec?” Chloe says, voice barely above a whisper.
And once more, everything stops, because Beca is looking back at her.
But also, her boss is looking back at her.
Chloe feels as if the whole world is facing her. Those eyes that have looked at her so many times at the label when she was doing her work, now seem to have a tiny sparkle within. Barely there, but enough to make Chloe’s legs take the few steps that separate them.
“Shh,” Beca whispers, “You’re gonna scare them away.”
Chloe slows down, although she has no idea what Beca is talking about. She sits down beside her, looking at all the buildings that are too far away from her, and still, they feel so close.
The night slowly bleeds into day, but there’s no sight of the sun. Just the pale shade of blue in the sky, and the clouds that seem to go away too quickly. Chloe keeps her gaze on the world in front of her, until Beca pocks her side with a finger, motioning to her hand.
There’s a tiny shining dot on Beca’s left hand, as if a shooting star had decided to land just there, and Chloe is confused for a while. The shining thing moves between Beca’s fingers, and Chloe realizes there are more of them. One shining on Beca’s knee and on her foot, and when Chloe looks down, there’s so many of them shining close to where she’s sitting.
Beca carefully takes her hand and places it on Chloe’s palm. Tiny wings shake in her hand, and Chloe gasps in surprise when she realizes it’s a firefly. She has never seen a firefly in real life before. Hasn’t prepared herself for how magical it would feel to hold her own light, though only for a few seconds, before it flies away.
“Hi,” Beca says. For the first time in front of her.
Only that it isn’t the first time. They see each other almost every day at work. Chloe’s eyes wide when she realizes all those secrets belong to Beca, who is her boss, and it all sounds so unrealistic she ends up throwing her head backwards in a laugh that scares all the fireflies away.
But it doesn’t matter, because Beca is laughing just as hard as she is, like it isn’t important that one of her employees know so much about her personal life, personal insecurities and fears. About her personal self.
“So I make your days impossible, huh?” Beca says the words Chloe once texted her.
“Oh, my god,” Chloe blushes, still trying to put it into her mind that her boss and her Beca are the same person. “Okay, you can be a little... salty sometimes.”
“Yeah, sorry about that,” Beca shrugs, “It’s just that the label is the only place I feel like I can hold the edges of my life together.” She doesn’t look at Chloe while she speaks, her body is turned towards the backpack, as she unzips it, looking for something. “But I step out, and everything falls apart.”
There it is. The vulnerable person Chloe has been talking to. Her heart shrinks once more as she remembers everything Beca has told her. “That’s understandable,” Chloe says, voice low, as if Beca is just as fragile as the fireflies that surrounded them.
Beca turns to face her, a thermos in one of her hands and two plastic mugs in the other. “I brought coffee!”
She gives Chloe one of the mugs and pours the coffee, placing the thermos on the floor so she can add cream from another bottle, although Beca doesn’t like cream, but was thoughtful enough to buy it because she knows that’s how Chloe likes her coffee.
There’s something so sweet about buying something you don’t like just to make someone else happy. And it’s such a simple act, which may not make any difference to many people, but Chloe is all about details, and it means everything to her. It makes her think this is the most special coffee she’s ever drank.
She wraps her hands against the mug, savoring the welcome heat against her palms, and tries to thank Beca for the coffee, but when she looks up, the world looks like a painting and it’s so overwhelming in how beautiful it is, the words die in Chloe’s throat.
The dawn casts a golden light everywhere it touches, but the sky is filled with different shades of purple, pink and orange, that mend together in a degrade like watercolor paint.
Beside her, Beca has one arm supporting her weight, the other lies on her lap, holding the mug of black coffee, and her eyes are closed. Chloe watches as Beca’s chest moves as she calmly breathes, the picture of grace itself, the look of belonging somewhere. The sun slowly rises, painting Beca’s body in gold. Her waist, her neck, her chin.
She opens her eyes when the light reaches just past her nose, and Chloe doesn’t look away, though she was caught staring. Beca smiles at her, but there is something melancholic in there, as if sadness had altered the color of her eyes.
Chloe has seen that shade before. In the look of her dad’s eyes, just after he lost his beloved brother.
The words come up her throat again, and Chloe doesn’t bother pushing them away. “Thank you.”
Beca rises her mug towards her mouth, and doesn’t look at Chloe as she asks, “For the coffee?”
For sharing your life with me for the past couple months. “Yeah... for the coffee,” Chloe sips the drink then, that’s already losing its warmth. “And for bringing me here,” she adds, searching Beca’s eyes. “It feels like the very first time I’m watching a sunrise.”
Beca opens her mouth to answer, but seems to change her mind. “If you were given the opportunity to discover everything again, what would be the first thing you’d want to live?”
The question caught Chloe off guard. She is genuinely surprised by how deep it is, although she shouldn’t be, because her chats with Beca have always been deep in some way.
She turns to face the sunrise again, the vibrant colors slowly fading away from the sky, leaving behind an infinity of blue and golden. And what flashes through Chloe’s mind are simple moments.
A sunblock she had found on her purse after leaving for a hike, that was put in there by her father. Her mother’s fingers caressing her forehead long ago, when she thought Chloe was finally asleep, after crying the whole night due to breaking up with Chad. The book Tom had given her once, with no apparent reason, just because he heard Chloe mentioning she wanted to have it. Aubrey, Amy and Stacie planning a surprise birthday party for her last year.
All these moments have nothing in common, and yet, they have made Chloe feel the same way.
“Love,” she finally answers. “But not the I love you’s people say just because. Small actions that show you they care. That you matter.” She lifts the mug in her hand towards Beca. “Like you bringing cream, though I remember you saying you don’t like it.”
Beca lowers her head in a shy laugh. “That was just... sitting around my kitchen. It’s probably past its expiry date, by the way, so I’m sorry if you get sick.”
Chloe laughs at Beca’s words before throwing her own question back at her. Beca is facing the dawn when she answers, “Aurora.”
And Chloe thinks it is a cute answer, but when Beca turns to face her again, the sadness is back. It probably never left. And like many times before, when Beca was telling Chloe about her nightmares, a wave of desire to hug her rises in Chloe’s chest.
But unlike the previous times, Beca is right here in front of her now. And still, Chloe can’t bring her limbs to move. She places the empty mug on the floor beside her, and hesitantly brings one of her arms towards Beca’s body. “Bec, can I—“ But she doesn’t need to finish.
Beca’s arms find her neck before Chloe touches her waist. The angle of the hug is weird, but it doesn’t matter, and Chloe holds Beca tightly against her body, savoring how it feels like to finally live something she had spent the last few weeks dying to.
Time stops as Chloe feels Beca’s arms around her, as if only this hug is enough to dissolve whatever Beca has been going through that Chloe doesn’t know of yet. And when they part, they are both a little unsettled by how intimate it felt.
All the words that were silently spoken between a single hug.
Beca says they should go, and Chloe agrees with a nod. She helps Beca put the mugs into a plastic bag, and Beca throws them inside her backpack. They stand to leave, and the first steps down the hill are taken in complete silence, until Chloe finally breaks it.
“Did you know it was me?” She can’t help but ask, curiosity pulsing through her.
“No, of course not,” Beca shakes her head. “I just knew you could be literally anyone. And well, I can’t take back the words I’ve said to you. So why make it weird now?”
Because you’re my boss, Chloe thinks, but she just laughs.
They are quiet through the rest of the way, but it isn’t a heavy silence. It’s the kind of silence shared by two people who feel comfortable around each other. People who know each other, though it’s the first time they meet after sharing secrets.
It isn’t really, but Chloe lets her mind go back to the label, wondering how different she will look at Beca there, now that Chloe knows she is the person on the other end.
They leave the park, and realize they have parked in opposite streets. There’s a small moment of awkwardness where they face each other, not sure whether they should settle for a kiss on the cheek, or a hug.
Beca cleans her throat and speaks, “So I took care of the morning. Where should we go tonight?”
And Chloe’s heart misses a beat. Because Beca is suggesting they should hang out again, and she didn’t see it coming. “I’ll text you,” she says in the end. They share a smile and turn to follow their opposite ways, until Chloe remembers something, and can’t hold back the urge to tease. “Beca!” She stops to wait as Beca turns around. “You lied about something, you know.”
Chloe brings her lips in a thin line, trying to keep the teasing smile in, but failing miserably. “You’re just as small as Anger.”
She turns to follow her way again, hearing Beca’s cursing behind her, but laughing all the way.
The day goes by unexpectedly fast. The discoveries from earlier come and go in Chloe's head, as she tries to piece together the label Beca—successful, grumpy, her boss, who doesn't let anyone close—and the text Beca—insecure, funny, her Beca, who shared secrets with Chloe since day one.
It's surprisingly easy to see the mask now. The one Beca wears at work, which makes everyone who looks at her see nothing more than someone who is in control of everything. Which is no lie, but Chloe knows the other side now. The one that is fragile and broken by the past, and carries smiles that don't quite reach her eyes but are dimly lit by the glow of fireflies.
It’s even easier to decide where to take Beca at night. Chloe worries about it for a minute or two, her brain fogged with pressure of impressing Beca, until she send it all away with a shake of head and everything is clear again. Because the woman Chloe has gotten to know within the last weeks will love anything she plans.
Beca took Chloe to watch the sky, Chloe takes her to watch the sea. Beca brought coffee, Chloe brings wine, though they can’t drink it right away.
She should have known better, because the Santa Monica Pier isn’t exactly quiet in a Sunday night of July, but Beca assures her it doesn’t matter. “It’s perfect,” she says.
They lie over a blanket on the sand, a bit away from the crowd, but still able to listen to the loud people at the pier. And there, surrounded by the colorful lights of the amusement park that flash on the ocean in front of them, Chloe and Beca talk about a time that no longer belongs to them. A time when they were younger, the days easier and the nights longer. Back when life was simpler, and just the gentle touch of fingers lacing together was enough to let them know they were not alone.
The ocean breeze is cold against Chloe’s body, and she brings her jacket tighter against her belly as Beca tells her a story about her grandparents farm.
“My grandad built me a swing when I was little,” she starts, voice louder than the sound of the waves. “It was too high for me, and I knew I shouldn’t go in there by myself, but I did anyway. The seat was too large for my body, I couldn’t hold both the chains properly, so I slipped. I hit my head on the floor, but I didn’t really care. It hurt like hell, but I wanted to show my parents that I was okay. I only started crying after I touched my head and my fingers came back filled with blood.”
“What a brave little girl you were,” Chloe comments, and Beca briefly smiles at her before continuing.
“I wish I could be as brave as I was. For so long I kept wishing to grow up, but I had no idea that life is messy and unfair. It gives you countless wounds you don’t even realize until you’re drowning in blood.”
There is something more in there. Something Beca didn’t mention—now, nor ever before—and Chloe wants so badly to ask her what it is that keeps coming back to haunt her nightmares every night. Wants to tell her she will be right beside her every step of the way. That even though everyone wonders what is behind the look in her deep blue eyes, Chloe sees the fear of her undying past, and of what lies ahead of her. But the words never come. So Chloe reaches out to hold Beca’s hand, squeezing it.
Her grip is tight enough to feel Beca’s heartbeat pulsing through their laced fingers. And probably because Beca had mentioned it in on of their talks, but this is the first time she recalls wanting to freeze time. And a couple months later, Chloe will look back to this moment and really wish she had the power to make it all stop right here, so the dawn would never come, new discoveries would never be made, and things would never fall apart.
But right now, she feels young and free, though there’s nothing wild about tonight. There is trust and heartbreak, old dreams and new ones. There are smiles, feelings, and a single firefly that lands right on Beca’s open palm.
“I think you’re a firefly whisperer,” Chloe says, contently.
Beca smiles, and passes the glowing bug from her hand to Chloe’s, just like earlier today. She never easies her hold on Chloe’s hand.
And it’s enough.
It really is.
The next day is their monthly meeting at the label, which happens every first Monday of each month. Chloe arrives twenty minutes earlier, grabs a coffee from the coffee machine, and has enough time to make small talk with her partners. The clock says it’s time to start, but Beca isn’t there yet. They can’t start it without her, because she is the one who decides everything that happens at the label.
Half an hour later, Beca arrives in a rush, throwing away countless apologies for being late. And when they are all sat around the table, ready to start, Chloe has to force herself not to laugh, because she is the one who was talking to Beca on the phone until two in the morning.
She resists the temptation through the whole meeting, but as soon as they leave for lunch, Chloe follows to Beca’s office instead of hers. She tells herself it’s just to tease Beca a little bit, but ends up eating her lunch right there.
And that’s pretty much how it all begins.
On Thursday, Beca shows up at Chloe’s office with a small package in hands, saying she has it since Chloe’s birthday, but had forgotten to give it to her. When Chloe opens it, after Beca is gone, she realizes it’s a tiny customized music box. It’s made of light wooden, and contains the words “I’ll sing you the songs of the rainbow”, beautifully carved inside. Chloe needs to pull a little chain so the music starts, and warmth fills her chest when the chorus of John Denver’s “For Baby” fills the silence of her office.
Another sign that, in some way, she matters to Beca. That Beca really pays attention to what Chloe tells her, even small things like songs that remind her of home.
On Saturday, Chloe takes Beca out to dinner, as a thank you for the gift. They stay at the restaurant until it closes, time passing way too quickly, just as it always happens whenever they are together, sharing stories.
That is something Chloe realizes, too. Beca tells a lot of stories. At the restaurant, she tells Chloe about her unsupportive father, and how their relationship changed after Beca defied him by moving to L.A. on her own. She tells Chloe about people who walked away from her life and others Beca had met along the way, about times she had suffered, and when she wanted to have fun.
There is something floating in the air between them. Something fun, that carries joy, hope, and celebrates the pleasure of talking with no fear. And Chloe almost lets herself be guided by it, when they are saying their goodbyes in her car, parked in front of Beca’s apartment. Almost lets herself slide just a little closer, although Chloe has never felt anything like that for a woman before, but is a firm believer in metamorphosis, because life is all about changes and unexpected plot twists.
She settles for a long hug, though, and again tells herself that it’s enough.
And it is for a while, but as days turn into weeks, July gives in to August, and eventually September arrives, Chloe gives up fighting the feeling that had settled in her chest and won’t go anywhere. She gentle approaches Beca when they are back in her office from lunch break, and pecks her lips once, but pulls away when Beca freezes in her arms. Chloe looks into her eyes, searching for something, anything. But Beca shyly smiles, arms reaching up to lock between Chloe’s curls, and their mouths come together once more.
Their lips push and pull, slowly at first, but growing bolder. The hem of Beca’s shirt slides higher after Chloe pulls her closer, and she sighs into Chloe’s mouth when Chloe touches the exposed bit of her skin.
She pulls away then, happiness all over her body when Beca flashes her the most beautiful smile.
“I’ve been wanting to do that for a while,” Beca whispers, eyes closed as if she is not brave enough to face Chloe right now.
But Chloe wants her to, and locks her arms around Beca’s body, holding her loosely, their hips swaying gently from side to side, like they’re dancing to an imaginary song. And it’s only when they’re looking at each other’s eyes that Chloe says, loud and clear, “me too.”
Things barely change after that. They still text every day, still have lunch together, Chloe keeps with her teasing and Beca keeps blushing. Beca keeps telling her stories, and Chloe keeps listening. But there is something else now, not because they exchange sweet kisses or hold hands when crossing the street to the restaurant across the label. Something quiet, that grows a little more with each passing day, and lives in the way Beca looks at Chloe from the other side of the table in a meeting room full of people. Her lips curve up in a small smile, almost sheepish, and she blinks once with a nod only Chloe catches. As if Beca is silently telling her, “I am glad you are here.”
September is definitely Beca’s month, Chloe thinks autumn suits her so well. The deep shades that fall over the city are quite mysterious, quite melancholic, the weather as unpredictable as the different waves of Beca’s moods that Chloe has learned how to identify. Whether Beca needs comforting words, kisses and hugs, or just her own space.
Today it is cold, and Beca’s eyes are filled with that edgeless sadness as they sit at the top of their hill, waiting for a pale sun to show up.
Will you go to the hill and watch Aurora with me tomorrow?, Beca had texted last night, and of course Chloe couldn’t deny her that.
It’s her birthday.
So, just like the first time, both women sit at the top of their small world. Just like the first time, fireflies land on Beca’s hand and glow around them, before going to sleep as their work is done when night slowly becomes day.
There is just a few different details—no coffee today, because Chloe will spend the day at Beca’s apartment, and they are much closer to each other now.
Beca’s back is pressed snuggly against Chloe’s chest, and Chloe isn’t paying attention to the dawn. Instead, she has her head on Beca’s shoulder, eyes closed as she feels the sun warming up her legs first, then her fingers laced with Beca’s, and then the side of her face.
She opens her eyes to gaze at Beca’s profile. There isn’t much to see from this angle, just her nose and the edge of a watery eye.
“I could get used to this,” Beca says, voice airy. “Having you around.” She turns her head a little, so her left cheek touches Chloe’s forehead. “I like being with you.”
And Chloe laughs at that, but doesn’t say anything. Instead, she lifts her head and pecks the corner of Beca’s mouth, smiling wider when Beca turns her head to kiss her more properly, as Aurora rises around them.
She could get used to it, too.
They go back to Beca’s apartment shortly after seven. Although Chloe has dropped Beca outside countless times, she had never entered. The living room is wide and clear, with windows from ground to ceiling. Chloe smiles at the thought of Beca sitting comfortably in her couch, a mug of black coffee in hands, watching the Auroras she loves so much. She wonders if the fireflies somehow find their way to Beca up here.
Everything is minimalistic decorated, but welcoming, very Beca-like. Chloe distractedly comments how much she loves it.
“You do?” Beca asks, genuinely surprised, as she hands Chloe a mug of coffee with cream. “Jesse hated how I tend to choose neutral colors when it comes to decorating. I let him style our bathroom in our old place, and it ended up in a horrendous mix of blue and yellow tiles.”
Chloe laughs as Beca grimaces, but there is a little bell ringing distantly in her mind, trying to warn her this is important news, but she doesn’t pay any attention to it.
Not right now, anyway.
She knows Beca is still close with her ex-husband, and likes that she feels comfortable to share little bits of their journey together. Jesse never stopped being an important part of Beca’s life, and sometimes Chloe wishes she had more to say of Tom instead of just “he was my College boyfriend.” Wishes they had kept in touch forever, but it only took a few months until it started feeling weird to ask about his day.
“Well, I like it,” Chloe says, stopping to take a bite of the french toast in her plate. “I can tell you were the one behind it.”
“Oh yeah?” Beca asks, brows knitted together in a frown. “And why is that?”
“I’m not sure?” Chloe looks around the living room from the kitchen island, trying to put her thoughts into words. “It’s comforting, but it’s like this place doesn’t want to call attention. It’s beautiful in its own unique way, and a little mysterious. Like you don’t really notice it at first, but once you do, you can’t take your eyes off it. You’re like that,” Chloe says, distractedly finishing her toast and coffee, and only realizing Beca has gone silent when she looks up to find her staring. “What?” She questions.
“I...” Beca starts, and stops, head lowering in a nervous laugh, as if the words just ran away from her. Chloe holds her breath, heart fastening in expectation of what is coming, what Beca is about to say. But Beca is walking around the island, stopping only when she reaches Chloe’s chair. There are delicate hands cradling her face, gentle pale fingers stroking her cheekbones. “Nobody’s ever told me anything like that before,” Beca lowers her head to kiss Chloe in a way that leaves her whole body awakened. “I’m really glad you’re here, Chlo.”
And she is smiling, but there are tears in her eyes, and Chloe can’t do more than stand and bring Beca’s body to hers in a tight embrace, “so am I, Bec,” her words muffled by Beca’s hair. “So am I.”
Chloe had wanted to take Beca out to celebrate, or to cook her lunch, but Beca didn’t let her do any of these things. “I want you all for myself the whole day,” Beca said.
It is a pleasantly slow day. Chloe makes Beca watch Moulin Rouge! with her, although Beca hates movies, but she does agree in the end. They play uno for a couple hours, Beca showing off the very competitive side of herself that has Chloe laughing every time her face reddens with anger whenever she loses a round.
Around six in the afternoon, Jesse calls. Beca excuses herself to talk to him, and Chloe takes the time she is gone to start baking a key lime pie. It is one of the few recipes Chloe has mastered in the past years, because it’s her absolute favorite, and really simple to bake.
There is music coming from the speaker, and Chloe shakes her hips distractedly to W. Darling’s “ Learn to Love ,” as her lips murmur random parts of the lyrics. She is fully concentrated in pouring the key lime filling into the prepared graham cracker crust, and when Chloe is done, she takes it to the fridge to chill for a while.
“I love your voice,” Beca’s voice sound behind her, and Chloe jumps.
“God! How long have you been there?”
Beca chuckles, lowering herself to sit on a chair. “Long enough,” she smirks, “I love your moves, too.”
“Shut up,” Chloe feels her cheeks warming up. “I was in an a Cappella group back in College. So was Aubrey.”
“Oh boy. You are such a dork!” Beca laughs, “You went to Barden, didn’t you?” Chloe presses her lips in a thin line so she doesn’t laugh, and shakes her head. Beca’s eyes narrow. “Hm, I think I do recall you saying you went to Barden...” She says, typing down on her phone.
And well, Beca obviously find The Video. The one in which Aubrey throws up mid-performance, and she is horrified by it. “You do look cute in your flight attendant outfit, though,” Beca winks at her.
“It was such fun times, you know?” Chloe sits in front of Beca. “When I look to who I was back then, I almost laugh at the way I used to think I knew everything. I wish I could have kept that feeling somehow, because it feels like that part of my life is dead and buried.”
“The past doesn’t die,” Beca says, but she isn’t looking at Chloe. She is looking down at her hands that lie on the table, fingers playing with the rings she has there. “It never will. I think it will always find its way back to us, somehow.” Beca does lift her head to face Chloe now, and smiles faintly. “You still have that young-Chloe inside you. But now she is mixed with the woman you’ve become and the experiences you’ve lived.”
This time, Chloe is the one who looks down at her hands. She doesn’t know what to say to that, so she changes the subject. “How was your talk with Jesse?”
“It was fine,” Beca stands and moves around the kitchen, grabbing two glasses from a cupboard beside the fridge. “He invited me to have dinner with him and his wife next week.” She comes back with the glasses filled with wine, and hands one to Chloe.
“Oh, that’s nice!” Chloe comments, sipping the wine before continuing, “are you going?”
Beca shakes her head. “Jesse lives in New York, and there’s too much work to do with the label projects. So many clients to take care of.”
“Come on, Becs,” Chloe complains, “I don’t recall you taking a break since I first entered the label, three years ago. You are always there. I think it would be good for you to go to that dinner and take some time for yourself.”
“My job is the only thing I have to keep me from getting lost inside my head. I never know what I’m gonna find in there.” Tell me, Chloe wants to say. Please, just tell me. “And well, now I have you, too.” Beca smiles, “you were such a pleasant surprise.”
“So were you, Bec,” Chloe stands and walks around the table so she can kiss Beca. “I think,” she whispers against Beca’s lips, “that it’s time to make your birthday wish!” She walks away then, going to the fridge to grab the key lime pie, and placing it on the island.
Chloe takes a few candles she has bought yesterday on her way home, and places them atop the pie after they are lit. She sings happy birthday in the most excited way she can, and Beca rolls her eyes but there is a smile on her lips.
“Did you make your wish?” Chloe asks.
“Oh! I forgot to,” Beca admits.
“Beca!” Chloe adverts, lightning the candles up all over again as Beca laughs at her. “Birthday wishes are the most important ones, come on!”
She steps back and watches as Beca closes her eyes for a few heartbeats, and blows the candles for the second time. “Happy?” Beca challenges.
Chloe smiles big at her, “yes!”
Their glasses of wine are refilled as they share a piece of pie, Chloe falling into the stories Beca is telling her. Childhood stories, old birthday ones, the first time she got feelings for a girl, back when Beca was still in high school.
Chloe treasures Beca’s stories. She could listen to Beca’s voice for hours without getting bored, but she can’t help feeling like there is one main story missing. The one that will bring sense to the sad shade in Beca’s gaze.
It isn’t even nine o’clock when both women silently agree it’s time to go to bed. It has been a long day, and they are exhausted. Chloe takes a quick shower, changing into her pajamas after she is done, and feeling butterflies in her belly as she leaves the bathroom to find Beca sitting on her bed. Beca stands, her own pajamas in hands, and stops midway to the bathroom to peck Chloe’s lips, “I’ll be quick,” she promises.
There is a song playing from somewhere in the room, but Chloe can’t find the speaker. She moves to sit on the edge of Beca’s bed, and takes the time to check her phone. Four songs go by until Beca finally leaves the bathroom. Chloe doesn’t know the one playing now, but its rhythm is soothing and makes her want to dance. So she stands and takes Beca by the hand, pulling her towards her body as Chloe moves her hands to rest on Beca’s waist.
Their foreheads touch as they dance to the rhythm, Beca whispering the lyrics with a sheepish smile.
And I know that your skin is as warm and as real
As that smile in your eyes,
But I have to keep touching, and smelling,
And tasting, for fear it’s all lies.
Yes, Chloe thinks. We are real, and alive and warm in each other’s embrace.
And she wouldn’t have it any other way. So she lifts Beca from the ground, just a little bit, and twirls her between her arms, hearing Beca’s laugh in her ear that sounds more beautiful than any song she’s ever heard.
“I’m dizzy,” Beca says breathless, but she is laughing like she can’t believe it. She is looking up at Chloe like she is genuinely happy, and Chloe takes a moment to just stare back.
And that’s when realization hits her. She loves Beca. Has loved Beca when she first heard of her nightmares and had desperately wanted to mend her soul, although Chloe never mastered needles. She has loved Beca when they hugged tightly as Aurora shone in their bodies, and when they first kissed.
She loves Beca now, with all simplicity of the moment—both in their pajamas, no make up, Beca’s brown waves falling around her face as they dance in her dimly lit bedroom.
But Chloe doesn’t voice it. Just embraces the feeling inside her chest. Accepts it. She gently brushes their noses together and steps away after a quick peck to Beca’s lips, moving around the bedroom to grab Beca’s birthday gift in her bag.
Chloe sits on Beca’s bed, calling for her with an extended arm. “Happy birthday, Bec,” she says lowly, and waits as Beca opens the package to find a framed painting and quote.
To pick birthday gifts is one of Chloe’s favorite things in the world. She likes to think of the person, and what they would like, instead of just picking random stuff in a store.
For Beca, she went for something simple, but meaningful. It’s a sunset painting, in the colors of purple, pink and oranges—the ones that filled the sky when they met at the top of the hill for the first time. On the bottom of the painting, there are words written in fancy cursive letters, a quote Chloe had picked because she knows it would mean something to Beca.
“Aurora had but newly chased the night, and purpled o’er the sky with blushing light.” — John Dryden.
And Chloe wouldn’t understand Beca’s reaction until much later. Right now, she watches, a little worried, as Beca’s eyes glisten with tears that she apparently tries her hardest not to shed, and a sad, faint smile plays on the corner of her lips.
“Thank you,” Beca says, still staring at the gift. She stands, carefully placing the painting on her nightstand. Then she turns off the lights, and Chloe can’t do anything other than accept the deep kiss Beca plants on her lips.
Chloe didn’t say she loves Beca, but perhaps she can show her. She tries not to think as her tongue meets Beca’s again and again. Tries not to think when Beca takes Chloe’s shirt off and pulls at her body so she is hovering over Beca. Tries not to think as she touches Beca in ways she has never touched another woman before, letting her hand map Beca’s body, leaving trails for her mouth to follow from her neck down to her breast, back up to her mouth.
Their movements are tentative and slow, as they grope in the dark for a blinding light that opens itself to the two of them, asking them to to decipher it without getting burned. To touch without any guilt.
Chloe doesn’t look away from Beca’s eyes, even when there isn’t a piece of clothing between them. She wants Beca to know she is safe with her.
That they are safe with each other.
Later, when Beca is asleep against one side of Chloe’s body, Chloe feels peaceful. She runs her fingers through Beca’s forearm, and feels Beca’s breath ghosting in her neck. She lets herself be guided by it, closing heavy lids, ready to give in to sleep. But Beca’s arm suddenly tenses around her middle. Chloe reopens her eyes to look at the woman beside her.
Beca frowns in her sleep, fingers twisting almost rhythmically. Her body shakes slightly, and her breathing quickens, leaving her gasping.
Chloe turns so she can place a hand against Beca’s waist. “It’s okay, Bec.” She moves closer, pressing her lips to Beca’s head, “I’m here. It’s okay.” She repeats the words as a mantra, until Beca’s breathing is even again.
The arm against her middle is still tense, but Chloe manages to untangle herself from Beca’s body so she can walk to the kitchen to have a glass of water.
Chloe hates to imagine Beca going through it by herself—being disturbed by her nightmares and waking up to a dark, empty bedroom, feeling scared and alone. She knows Beca is afraid of them, but tries to ignore the way her heart squeezes in her chest as she makes her way back to Beca’s bedroom, stopping briefly when she spots three frames in the hallway.
There isn’t any framed personal pictures anywhere in sight. In the living room there is a big a black and white shot of Times Square seen from the top of a skyscraper hanging above the couch, and a few smaller frames of abstract art. Chloe hadn’t noticed these ones in the way to Beca’s bedroom.
The three frames are arranged symmetrically side by side on the wall. The ones in the corners are identical—a pale shade of blue in the background, and a heart made of real tiny white flowers. The one in the middle has the same background color, but there are six words filling the space.
“I will love you for AGES.”
It feels like this is something personal. Chloe gently touches the word “AGES,” each one of the capital letters, as if doing so, the story behind the frame will suddenly show up against the glass.
She wants Beca’s past. Wishes things could be as simple as carrying a lit candle through all of the stories behind Beca’s eyes, so she could understand why they look like crying even though she is smiling. It feels like there is a rock in there, that slowly closes her up, and needs to be removed so Beca can enjoy life again.
A rock of pain.
But Chloe wouldn’t understand how deep that pain is until next Friday.
Beca calls her as soon as she goes home the next night. It was supposed to be work-related, but they end up talking about how unexpectedly they found each other.
“ There’s a word for it, ” Beca says. “when something good happens without you looking for it.”
Chloe smiles. “Serendipity.”
“Oh yeah, I couldn’t rememb— ouch!” Chloe hears a loud crackling sound, and is about to ask what happened when Beca goes on, “God I’m so clumsy! I just stumbled upon the middle table and my glass of water fell.”
“Are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine,” Chloe hears Beca moving around her apartment. “I gave the balcony glass door of my old place three cracks when I stumbled on it once. It was half open and I didn’t see it.”
Chloe laughs, but when the bell rings in her mind once more, she stands from where she was lying on her bed and walks towards her balcony door, heart thumping in her chest. She moves the curtain aside to find three huge cracks, the ones Aubrey went crazy that she never bothered to get fixed.
There is a moment where Chloe just stands there, facing the broken glass and trying to put it together with what Beca just told her. It feels like huge equations had been being built on top of each other inside Chloe’s mind, and she hadn’t payed any attention to them until they became one those huge problems that cover an entire wall.
Exhaling slowly, she asks , “Bec, what color did you say Jesse chose for your bathroom?” She walks to the bathroom, already knowing the answer but needing to make sure.
“Oh, it was some terrible pastel shades of blue and yellow.”
Chloe closes her eyes and counts to ten. Because she is standing in a bathroom with blue and yellow tiles. The bathroom of her house. But if the equations in her head are correct, then it means...
She can’t think properly right now, not with Beca on the other side of the phone. So Chloe says her goodnights, tells Beca she is going to take a shower and prays her voice didn’t show how nervous she feels.
It takes a lot to fall asleep. Chloe’s mind won’t stop working on the equation, changing numbers and symbols, wondering if she’s somehow added instead of multiplied.
With the new discovery, Chloe can’t feel at home anymore. Through the whole week, she looks around the house with eyes filled with uncertainty. She touches the wall in which Beca’s number was written on, wishing it could tell her everything it has seen, all the stories that was lived there before Chloe even considered moving in. She wonders if Beca’s nightmares have impregnated the place, if she somehow lives with the ghosts of Beca’s past.
There isn’t a delicate way to bring the subject in, and if there is, Chloe doesn’t find it. So she invites Beca over on Friday night.
A small part of her body hopes Beca to find the situation hilarious, but the minute she enters the street, she knows it won’t be the case.
Beca’s fingers grasp at the seat beneath her, body tense. She looks around anxiously, and Chloe hates herself for putting Beca through it, wishes she could find a way out the situation she created herself.
But there is no turning back now, so she parks in front of the house.
“Is this your house?” Beca asks, and Chloe doesn’t trust her voice to answer, so she nods. “Did you—um, did you know-“
“I only realized after you mentioned the balcony door.”
“Okay,” Beca murmurs, more to herself than to Chloe. One of her legs shakes like she is nervous.
“Are you okay?” Chloe reaches out, touches Beca’s arm, laces their fingers together. “Beca?”
Chloe had never seen the face of brokenness before. But it’s painted on Beca’s features now, and Chloe hearts breaks in million pieces. Beca takes a deep breath, and it seems like she is about to speak, to tell Chloe it is okay and they follow their normal, happy night. But then she shakes her head, opening the door and turning to look at Chloe, “I’m sorry, Chlo,” she steps out of the car, “I can’t do this.”
Chloe follows her out, yelling in the silent street, “Beca, wait!” She quickens her steps, trying to reach Beca.
“Please, I just need some time,” Beca says as she walks away. “I’ll text you, I promise.” Her voice waves, and Chloe feels like crying.
There isn’t a point on keep walking anymore. Beca asked for space, and Chloe will give it to her. So Chloe stops, gasping, looking at the end of the street as Beca disappears in the dark.
She hadn’t expected it. None of it—getting so close to the stranger on the phone, meeting Beca in person, falling in love with her. Now, all of it is touched by the fact Chloe doesn’t know what happened. Still has no idea why Beca’s number was on the wall, or who wrote it there.
Chloe wants Beca’s past. Not because of her curiosity, but because she believes words have power. She wants Beca to speak out the thorns of her past so the wound can finally heal. And if she falls apart, Chloe will catch the pieces. Help her to stand again.
Because when Beca had told her she could get used to having Chloe around, Chloe laughed, but believed her. She chose to let her expectations carry her so high in the sky, but not for once considered how hard it would be to have to settle for having her feet glued to the ground again.