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Chloe's Pops

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It was late October and still balls-hot in Austin, Texas. It had already been a stifling summer, and the weather didn’t get the calendar notification that it was supposed to be Autumn. The sun beat down on Zilker Park, even though it was barely 9:00am. Large crowds already milled around the large open space in preparation for the Austin City Limits Festival. In the area designated the Food Court, workers swarmed around food trucks and booths so they could open up and sell their delicious options.

A large bright green food truck sat near the end of the food area. It had been wrapped with new new advertising to catch the eye in the sweltering heat. A giant popsicle glistened on the signage, tempting concert goers to drift over and find cool relief from the sun. “CHLOE’S POPS” was emblazoned on each side of the truck. Setup for this truck was pretty easy. Make sure the freezer is working, put the awning up, open the window. So the two women inside now were merely waiting for people to filter through and stop at the truck. One, Flo Florenza, was technically owner of the truck itself. It usually was used for her smoothie business in New York. However, her college friend, Chloe Beale, had talked her into bringing the truck to the music festival to sell Chloe’s amazing popsicles. It was a pretty brilliant idea. Chloe knew she would sell gobs of popsicles. There was very little work involved, other than pulling them out of the freezer and handing them over. And, once they sold out each day, they could go watch the concerts. So Flo, Chloe, and their friends Aubrey and Stacie headed to Texas.

The four women had gone to college together at Barden University outside of Atlanta, Georgia. They were part of a close group of friends who participated in an a cappella group on campus: the Barden Bellas. It was the preeminent all-female a cappella group in the country. They had competed at and won Nationals, the first ever all-female group to do so. After years together, the women all stayed tight even as they dispersed around the country to chase their own dreams. Flo hailed from Guatemala. Depending on which story she told you, she either fought her way out of a human trafficking ring or smuggled herself into the United States in a shipment of coffee or left her small village after it was overrun with bandits. No one was really sure. Aubrey Posen was Chloe’s best friend. They had roomed together all through college and led the Barden Bellas a cappella group. She was very uptight, but she cared deeply for her friends. Her dad was a big shot Army General and - when he was home - ran his family like a military unit. Aubrey struggled to break out from her father’s shadow. She was a lawyer now, but was still learning to loosen up. One of the big reasons she was learning to loosen up was Stacie Conrad - a tall, leggy sex bomb brunette. In college, she loved to party and to experiment with as many people as possible. Her reputation hid the fact that she was a crazy smart chemistry major. Stacie and Aubrey eventually gravitated towards each other. Stacie helped Aubrey loosen up; Aubrey helped Stacie settle down.

Then there was Chloe Beale. Flowing ginger hair, bright blue eyes, tan fit body. Everybody loved her. Chloe was a lovely and lovable person. She was one of those people who just brought sunshine and joy everywhere she went. She wasn’t someone who refused to recognize negativity or was blind to sadness. She just chose to try to make her world a better place. The fact that she ended up making popsicles for a living was kind of perfect. She was beautiful, but didn’t act like that made her better than anyone. She was smart, but never lorded it over anybody. She was generous and caring. During college, she toyed with being a vet, a doctor, a teacher, an exotic dancer (that was a weird phase). But she ended up making popsicles. She had come up with a few recipes that she would make for parties that everyone loved. Then she used them for fundraisers. She almost singlehandedly paid for the Bellas’ trip to Nationals one year. Before she knew it, she was selling her offerings all around the city. Then the state. Then the Southeast. Then the country. Everyone had been working so hard, so Chloe had come up with the idea of taking some time off from their usual jobs to travel to Austin for music festival. The popsicle sales would go towards covering costs for everyone.

Chloe and Flo rested in the truck. Flo was sitting in a chair, scrolling through social media on her phone. Chloe leaned against the counter and watched people as they wandered past. It was early in the day, so there wouldn't be a lot of customers yet. As Chloe studied the people, she spotted a tiny brunette determinedly walking towards the food trucks. She looked frustrated … and hot. Chloe smirked, realizing that description worked on two levels. The woman was hot from the sticky humid weather. But she also was hot! Skinny jeans cling to her shapely legs. A purple plaid flannel shirt flapped, unbuttoned to reveal a low cut tank top. The tank exposed impressive cleavage that bounced as she walked. A trucker cap completely the outfit. As she drew nearer, Chloe noticed heavy eye makeup and several dark chunky earrings. The redhead was intrigued. As the woman passed in front of the truck, Chloe called out to her. “Hey! You look like you're having a rough morning.” The redhead ducked out of the truck and approached the now stopped woman.

Scoffing, the brunette answered. “You could say that.”

“I'm sorry to hear it. Anything I can do?”

The brunette looked at Chloe quizzically. “I don't think soooo. The idiot intern forgot to download the whole set list. So I have to grab a flash drive from the car.”

“That sucks.” Chloe offered a sad sympathetic smile. “Do you need some coffee?”

Now the brunette was more confused. “Dude. I would love some. But it's a million degrees.”

Chloe gave her a once over. “You should lose the flannel.” Then she waggled her eyes and smiled. The brunette blushed. “Seriously though, hang on a second.” With that, the redhead skipped back into the truck. Moments later she emerged with a tan popsicle. “Here. Cold Brew popsicle. Same caffeine as a half cup of coffee.”

The brunette’s eyes flew open. “No shit?” She took the icy treat and eagerly took a bite. “Oh my gosh. That is awesome. How much is it?” She started to reach into her pocket.

“Don't worry about it,” Chloe replied as she waved off the cost. “It's just my way to make your day better.” She grinned at the other woman.

“Wow. Thanks!” The woman smiled back. “I guess I should go get the drive.” She stood in place for a moment and then resumed her trek, less frustrated than before.

The redhead smiled and bounced on her heels as she watched the woman walk away. I hope I see her again.

 

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Chloe didn't have to wait long. About fifteen minutes later, the brunette passed along again going the other way. As she approached the truck, Chloe poked her head out of the door. (She may have been looking out every couple of minutes hoping to catch the brunette.) The smaller woman caught the redhead’s eyes and smiled. She raised the flash drive in acknowledgment. Chloe tossed her another coffee popsicle, which she deftly caught. She hollered another thanks as she headed back to the festival grounds.

Business picked up quickly and Flo and Chloe found themselves busy the rest of the morning. There was a slight lull during the traditional lunch hour, as most people were searching for more substantial fare. It was during this window that Chloe spotted the brunette with a almost visible thundercloud over her head. She was again heading to the parking area with an angry look. She also looked like a drowning rat, drenched in sweat. It was pathetic … and attractive. Chloe noticed how the tank clung to the woman’s torso. The redhead turned and asked Flo to hold down things and she hopped out of the truck. “What now? You look miserable.”

The other woman looked up at the statement and then smiled when she recognized the redhead. She rolled her eyes dramatically. “Dumbass artist wants to change his playlist! We've only been working on this for weeks.”

“You look like you're melting,” Chloe observed. “Seriously. Ditch the flannel.”

“I'm going to at the truck,” the other woman agreed. She gestured towards her destination and started to walk.

“Wait!” Chloe blurted before jumping into the truck. She came out with two popsicles. “Lime? Or Orange?”

“You don't have to do that…”

Chloe let a small scowl climb onto her face. “C’’mon. Lime or orange?” She shook the packages.

“Uh … lime,” the other woman answered with a grateful look.

Chloe handed her the green frozen pop and smiled. “You can have the orange on the way back.”

The brunette smiled back. “Thank you. You’ve made this shitty day so much better.”

Just like in the morning, Chloe watched for the woman to return from her journey. This time her patience was rewarded when she saw the brunette trudging back without her flannel. Her ivory skin shimmered with sweat. The tank still acted as a second skin, highlighting her cleavage and chest. Chloe tried to keep her mouth from dropping open, so she grabbed an orange popsicle and jumped back out of the truck.

“As promised!” She handed the treat over.

The brunette flashed an appreciative but weary look. “Again, you’re too kind. Can I please pay you for…”

“Nope!” Chloe responded, popping the “p” sound at the end of the word. “I’m glad you enjoy them.”

The other woman smiled and then sighed. “Back to the salt mines…” Then she traipsed off towards the stages.

When Chloe returned to the truck, Flo raised an eyebrow at her. “Wow. Four free popsicles. You have it bad, Rojo.” Chloe offered a toothy grin in return. “Did you at least get her name or number?”

“Not...” Chloe pursed her lips and shrugged. “The festival isn’t over yet.”

 

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The next morning, Aubrey and Stacie got the truck ready for business. They were dragging. Even though the women sold out of popsicles by 4pm, they didn’t spend the rest of the day relaxing. Instead, they took in performances and partied far later than non-college students should. This was why they had alternating morning shifts. Aubrey and Stacie were paying for their late night shenanigans now, but Flo and Chloe would suffer the next morning.

Just a few minutes after the awning went up, Aubrey looked out the window to see a small brunette woman looking into the truck through the opening. “Can I help you?”

“Uh … yes? I was looking for a redhead? She worked here yesterday morning?” The woman nervously picked at her fingernails.

The blonde took in the sight of the brunette in front of her. Heavy eye makeup. Monstrous ear spike. Too revealing tank top and cut off jean shorts. Ugh, Chloe. Aim higher. “She isn’t here this morning. She’s coming later today.”

The woman’s face fell. She fidgeted with something in her hands. “Oh…”

Aubrey rolled her eyes. “Let me guess. She gave you a free popsicle yesterday and you were hoping to score another one this morning?”

The brunette’s eyebrows furrowed and she scowled at the question. Stacie looked out the window at the woman once she noticed Aubrey’s abrasive comments. “Oh, hey! I heard about you.” She slapped at Aubrey’s arm. “It wasn’t one popsicle. It was FOUR.” Aubrey turned and gave a confused look to her friend. Stacie shrugged. “What? Flo told me.”

With disgust, Aubrey turned back to look out the window. “Four? She gave you FOUR? And you’re back to get more freebies?” She shot an incredulous look at the woman.

A hand slapped down onto the metal shelf under the window with a twenty dollar bill in it. “I was coming to give her THAT for the four popsicles. I felt bad that she kept giving them to me.” She glared at the blonde. “And also I wanted to leave her my card. Can I trust you to give it to her?”

Before Aubrey could respond, Stacie’s hand shot out and grabbed the money and the card. “I’ll make sure Chloe gets it. Sorry about my friend here - she was out too late.” She shot a winning smile at the woman.

“Wait, Chloe as in Chloe’s Pops?” The shorter brunette raised her eyebrows.

“Yeppers!” Stacie answered with a smile. “Bet she’s even cooler now?” She waggled her eyebrows.

“Whatever,” the brunette grumbled before turning and walking back towards the stages.

“Chloe and her strays,” Aubrey groaned as she leaned against the freeze and crossed her arms. “Why are you encouraging this?”

Stacie looked at the business card and raised her eyebrows before replying. “Looks like it wasn’t a stray this time.” She flashed the card at Aubrey.

BECA MITCHELL
Producer, Artist, DJ
Residual Heat Records

 

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Flo and Chloe arrived for their turn in the truck giggling. “Why are you so happy?” Aubrey grumbled.

“Awww, Bree, didn’t you have fun this morning?” Chloe pinched the blonde’s cheek and then leaned forward and planted a sloppy kiss on it.

Stacie was sitting on one of the freezers, swinging her long legs with her ankles crossed. “She’s angry that you guys are going to have such a short shift today.”

Flo perked up. “Why’s that?”

“Cause we’re down to just that freezer,” Stacie replied, pointing at the icebox next to her.

“WOW!” Chloe responded. “You two are amazing!”

“Maybe it’s because we don’t give them away,” Aubrey mumbled.

“Would you give it a rest?” Stacie retorted, furrowing her brow.

“What’s that now?” Chloe asked.

Stacie rolled her eyes. “Bree’s been bitching all day about you giving away popsicles yesterday to your eye candy.”

Chloe took a step back. “Aca-scuse me?” She glanced at Stacie before turning to face her blonde friend. “I didn’t give away a ton of popsicles.”

“You gave some little alt girl FOUR!” Aubrey answered.

Chloe glared before asking over her shoulder. “Flo, how many popsicles did I give away yesterday?”

“Four,” the woman replied. “All to the same chica.”

“See?” Stacie asked as she slapped at Aubrey’s arm. “Plus the girl gave us $20 to pay for them.”

Chloe spun around to face the tall brunette. “What?!? She came by?”

A wicked grin climbed onto Stacie’s face. “Yup! She sure did.” She nudged Chloe’s shoulder. “Nice work, Red. She’s a hottie.” Chloe blushed and grinned. “Oh, she left this for you.” Stacie handed the business card over to the redhead.

Chloe studied the card. Beca Mitchell. Producer/Artist/DJ. She had known the woman worked with the performers, but not that she was a performer or a producer. She felt a flutter in her chest. This woman got better and better.

“You should call her,” Stacie encouraged her as she jumped off the freezer. “You guys should be done here in a couple of hours. You’ll have a free evening to see her.”

 

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“Ok, rojo,” Flo said to her friend. “The truck is ready. We can open for business.”

Chloe nodded excitedly and lifted the awning. She hoped that Beca would come by the truck this morning. She had tried calling the number on the card a few times, but she never got through. There was a good chance that the brunette was tied up with something, but Chloe was disappointed that she had missed out on a chance to meet up. Today was the last day of the festival, and the redhead really wanted to have a good conversation with the other woman.

Unlike the first two days, the weather today was overcast and breezy. The forecast said that the sun was supposed to come out relatively early. Chloe hoped to sell the rest of their inventory today. They had shipped all of the popsicles they planned on selling and stored them in a large refrigerated storage unit. Each day they brought out their allotted quantity. Chloe had aimed high the first two days, so today was already starting from a smaller inventory point. If things stayed on the cooler side, they could have problems selling out. Somehow, though, the redhead had a feeling that Texas would deliver on the heat soon enough.

Chloe tried to focus on the tasks at hand, but she was clearly distracted looking for Beca. There was only a measly trickle of customers early in the morning, so Flo was handling things fine. About an hour after the truck opened for business, a small woman approached. Chloe broke into a smile when she recognized the figure. She hopped out of the truck and stood to wait for Beca to arrive. Today, the producer was wearing a flannel shirt, but still sported a low cut tank with it. She had on short denim cutoffs and low rise Chuck Taylors. Her hair today was pulled back in two long braids. Chloe bounced on her heels. “Hey! Still rocking the flannel?”

Beca smirked. “I didn’t have it on yesterday. You missed out.”

Chloe pouted. “Pity.” She brightened up and said, “I tried calling yesterday, but didn’t get through.”

“Yeah, sorry about that,” Beca replied. “The DJ on Stage 3 we had lined up got sick, and I had to fill in.”

“That was you?!?” Chloe’s eyes popped open. “You were awesome! We danced over there all night!”

The smaller woman's face lit up. “I'm glad you enjoyed it.”

“You didn't tell me you were a big shot music star,” Chloe teased.

“You didn't tell me you were a popsicle magnate,” Beca jokingly responded.

“Are you heading to the lot again? Can I walk with you?” Chloe ventured, hoping to extend her time with Beca.

The brunette raised her eyebrows at the suggestion. “It won't be very interesting.”

“Yes, but you are,” Chloe grinned. She wrapped her arms around Beca’s arm.

“Okay weirdo.” Beca scowled, but the started walking with the redhead.

As they made the trek to the parking lots, they talked about the festival. They talked about how they got into their jobs. It was an easy conversation; it felt like they were long time friends. Too soon, they had reached Beca’s truck. She hopped inside and grabbed a messenger bag. “I swear I work with idiots.” Chloe giggled at the comment. Her laughter stopped when Beca stripped off her flannel and tossed it onto the seat and hopped out.

The redhead hissed out a breath. “Oh you're not playing fair now.”

Beca smirked as she took in the flustered woman. “How is this not fair? It's starting to warm up. I'm just getting comfortable.” The look on her face showed that she knew exactly what she was doing to Chloe.

The two women began to walk back to the food trucks and stages. Chloe asked, “So you're mostly in L.A.?”

The small brunette nodded. “Yup. I mean I travel around too, but the main place is L.A.” She looked at the redhead and saw a frustrated look on her face. “What about you?”

“Atlanta. I went to college at a small college there. Barden. Most of my friends stayed there, so I did too.” Chloe halted when she realized that Beca had stopped walking and was staring with disbelief on her face. “What's wrong?”

“You're in Atlanta? You went to Barden?!?” The redhead nodded. “My dad lives there. He's a lit professor there.”

Chloe gasped and clutched her chest. “That was my major! Wait… Dr Mitchell?!? He's your dad?” The brunette nodded excitedly. “I had him for three classes!” The two women stood in place, absorbing the information.

They began walking and Beca spoke up. “Maybe we … can meet up next time I'm in Atlanta? To see my dad? I think I'm coming for the holidays…” She knew it was a slim glimmer of hope to develop something with this bubbly redhead who had captured her attention. But slim was something.

The redhead smiled and nodded. “I would like that. I wish we had some time here, too. But we can totally meet up next time you're there.”

Beca agreed. “Yeah. Me too. But now I've got performances tonight and fly out in the morning.”

“We head back in the morning too,” Chloe added.

The two women approached the food truck. They stopped for a minute, but Beca needed to head back soon. “I have to head back or they'll send one of the morons to find me. Then I'll have to track him down.” She offered a sad smile.

Chloe smiled back. “I get it. It was nice meeting you!” She reached out and pulled the other woman into a tight hug. She pulled a business card out of her pocket and slid it into Beca’s pant pocket, winking as she did. “I hope we can see each other again.”

 

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Chloe was having a crappy day. Those didn't happen often. Most of the time, her job was pretty enjoyable. But running a company did require her to attend some boring or frustrating meetings. She missed the days of creating flavors and making popsicles. To make the volume of treats necessary for shipping nationwide, the process was automated. Now she had to sit through meetings about expansion and corporate partnerships. She was bored.

She was also frustrated. The trip to Austin has been fun. She and her friends had a great time. But Chloe still wished she had been able to spend time with Beca. The redhead couldn't put her finger on what kept her from being able to move on from the brunette musician. Chloe couldn't get her mind off of her, though. The two had chatted a few times in the week since the festival. The conversations had been flirty and fun, but they were poor substitutes for actual in person interactions. Chloe knew that the brunette had mentioned visiting over the upcoming holidays, but the redhead wasn't deluded about the possibility of anything substantial coming out of a meetup. Chloe had partaken of a few short physical hookups here and there. But she didn't want that with Beca. Something in her said the other woman deserved better.

Staring out the window of her office, Chloe actually felt down. Most people pictured the redhead as a perpetual ball of sunshine and happiness. And she definitely did aim to be a positive person. But there were some days that things weighed on her, and she just couldn't keep smiling. It was a cold and rainy day in Atlanta. The dark clouds out the window brought a feeling of gloom. Chloe watched as rain pelted against the glass. She ruminated on her life. She had so much. Her business was more successful than she ever imagined it could be. Her closest friends lived in the area, so she was never completely alone. Her bank account allowed her to travel and experience anything she desired. But she was lonely. Chloe was a person who loved love. She loved having someone special in her life. She had her friends, and she loved them dearly. But there was a big difference between those ladies and having a special someone. Chloe hadn't been in a serious relationship for at least five years. She was tired of having no one to celebrate holidays with or go on dates with or cuddle on the couch with. She sighed heavily, feeling overwhelmed by the melancholy. Looking at her watch, she decided she would go out and grab some lunch. She needed to get out of the office and try to shake off the malaise.

After taking the elevator down to the ground floor, Chloe walked towards the front door. She pulled her overcoat on and got her umbrella ready to open. A few people milled around in the lobby. Chloe didn't pay much attention. She thought she saw a flash of flannel out of the corner of her eye and at the same time heard someone say “Chloe?”

The redhead turned her head in response. “Beca?!?”

The small brunette stood in front of her with a wide smile on her face. She held a folded umbrella that dripped onto the floor. Her chocolate brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail. She wore a yellow and black flannel that was unbuttoned, revealing a tight black t-shirt. Her black skinny jeans dipped into her ankle boots. Chloe sucked in a breath; she couldn't remember seeing anything more beautiful. The musician noticed Chloe’s outfit and a look of concern fell on her face. “Oh you're heading out? I don't want to keep you.”

“No! No I was just heading to lunch,” Chloe quickly answered. She looked at the other woman for a moment and allowed a smile to emerge on her face. “What are you doing here?” Realizing that question could sound bad, she added, “Not that I'm not glad to see you!”

“Did you say you were heading to lunch?” Beca asked. “Could I possibly join you?”

Chloe beamed. “Of course!” Both women opened their umbrellas and headed out into the rain. They walked silently but with purpose until Chloe directed Beca into a deli. After ordering, getting their food, and sitting, the two women began to eat. Chloe looked up at Beca and asked, “So, back to my earlier question. What are you doing here?”

Beca chewed the bite of sandwich in her mouth and swallowed. “Uh … so when you asked if I worked mostly in L.A., that has been true. But our label has studios in various places. New York, London. They just opened one in Atlanta.” Chloe choked on a chip when Beca said that. She coughed a bit and then took a drink. “You okay there?” Beca looked at the redhead with concern in her eyes.

“I’m good,” Chloe wheezed. “Went down the wrong pipe. Continue…”

“Okaaaay,” Beca smirked. “Anyway, the big bosses have asked some of the producers to do some work here … to build the credibility of the location.” She hesitated and glanced over at the redhead, looking for any sign of discomfort. Chloe sat still, staring at Beca. The brunette wasn’t sure what to make of that, so she just continued. “I didn’t tell you that in Austin … I didn’t want to freak you out … and I hadn’t decided anything.”

Chloe broke out of her daze and nodded. “Have you … decided … now?”

“Weeeelllll, I figured I haven’t seen my dad for a while…” Beca shyly looked at the table and picked at her fries. “And I’m sure he would like it for me to be around for a bit…”

Chloe grinned. “Yes, I’m sure he would love that. You’re quite the considerate daughter, to uproot your life for your dad.”

“Yeah, well my life there wasn’t all that wonderful,” Beca acknowledged. “Plus, I mean, I also heard that Atlanta had a really awesome popsicle scene…”

“Totes!” Chloe laughed. “It’s the best. I would be glad to show you around.”

Beca smiled and look in a deep breath. “The truth is, I haven’t been able to get you out of my mind since the first popsicle. After the festival, I went back home and went back to work. And I’d sit there at night and ask myself, ‘What the hell are you doing all of this for?’ And if there was even a chance that there could be something between us, I needed to try.”

The bright blue eyes across the table watered as Chloe grabbed Beca’s hand. “You made my day. I’ve felt a lot of the same things. I think it is worth giving us a shot.”

Beca nodded and grinned. “Awesome.” She kept her hand laced with Chloe’s. “Now, I do need to know some ground rules. Do I always get free popsicles?”

The redhead rolled her eyes. “Aubrey warned me you were just after free pops.”

“Can you blame me?” Beca asked in disbelief. “They’re really good!”