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Pumpkin Carving

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Pumpkin Carving

Beca stood at the island in the kitchen of the Bella House.  She had covered it with paper towels to keep the inevitable mess contained.  In the middle of the island sat a big pumpkin.  She had cut a lid out of the squash and scooped out the innards.  The sloppy guts were piled up on either side of the work surface.  The small brunette angled the pumpkin shell up on the table so she could see it better.  Large chunks were missing after she had hacked out a rough version of the picture she had in her mind.  Now, she held a small serrated carving knife in her hand and slowly cut out an intricate design.  Her tongue peeked out from her mouth as she concentrated carefully, hoping to avoid any unfixable mistakes.  

 

The front door of the house flew open and Jesse strutted in.   “BECAWWW!”  

 

Beca startled at the noise and her hand slipped, slicing an unwanted mark into the pumpkin.   “Damn it,” she mumbled.  She frowned and furrowed her brow, looking at the spot and evaluating if she could fix it.  She didn’t acknowledge the man’s presence.  

 

Jesse advanced to the kitchen and stood next to the island, taking in the sight in front of him with a confused look on his face.   “Uh, Beca, whatcha doing?”

 

Huffing, Beca continued her detailed cutting and answered.   “What does it look like?  I'm carving a pumpkin.”  She sawed gently until a wedge of shell fell out.  She grinned and hopped lightly as she realized she had repaired the mistake. 

 

“Yeah, I see that.  But … you … hate carving pumpkins,” Jesse commented with a questioning tone.

 

Still not looking up, Beca bent her head down and moved to a different spot on the shell.   “Why do you say that?”

 

“Um, cause you said you don’t.”  An incredulous look had worked its way onto Jesse’s face.  

 

“Nope,” she answered, popping the “p” sound.  “Don’t recall saying that.”

 

“Yeah.  You did.  Several times.  I filed it under your weird quirks.  You don’t like movies; you don’t like carving pumpkins”

 

Beca continued working.  She slowly sawed along a curve, widening the hole and smoothing the jagged slices out.   “That doesn’t sound like me,” she finally responded.   “Knives.  Cutting things up.  Making awesome designs.  That sounds like my wheelhouse.”

 

Jesse squinted and stared at his girlfriend, wondering if she had been replaced by a pod person or something.   “I. Know.  That’s why I was so surprised when you didn’t want to do it.” 

 

The small woman finally looked up, using the back of her hand to wipe a strand of chocolate brown hair from her forehead.   “What the hell are you talking about, Jesse?”

 

“Are you serious?”  The look on Beca’s face indicated that, yes, she was serious.  Jesse started ticking things off on his fingers.   “You said you didn’t want to carve pumpkins in Freshman year when I told you about the school wide carving contest.  We were at the radio station?  I suggested going after we got off work that day?  You said you didn’t want to go?”  Beca threw an impatient look at him, indicating he should move it along.   “You didn’t want to in Sophomore year when I tried to get you to join me for the Trebles carving party.  Then you didn’t want to again with just me on a date after that.  Then I asked you last week, and you said you were busy.”  He stood with four fingers raised and a steely look on his face.  

 

“Do you ever forget anything?” Beca asked as she narrowed her eyes.

 

“Yes,” Jesse responded with a huff.   “I don’t, however, forget when my girlfriend tells me FOUR TIMES that she doesn’t like carving pumpkins.  Especially when I then see her carving one.”  He gestured at the work surface and set his jaw, as if he had proven his point. 

 

Sighing, Beca set the carving tool down and turned to go wash her hands in the kitchen.  She dried them off and returned to her position behind the island.   “I never said I don’t like carving pumpkins.  I said I didn’t want to carve pumpkins.”

 

Jesse’s mouth dropped open and his eyes bugged out a little.   “Do you think that is BETTER?!?”

 

“I don’t think it is worse. ”  Now Beca had the confused look on her face.  

 

“It’s worse!”  Jesse exclaimed, waving his arms.   “It is so… much… worse.”

 

“How exactly is it worse?!?”  

 

“What?  It’s worse because that meant you didn’t want to carve pumpkins … with ME!”  Jesse’s face was flushed.  He looked like an angry child.  His fists were clenched at his sides.  If he stamped his foot, he would have looked just like Beca’s youngest step-brother.  Who was four.

 

Sighing deeply, Beca picked up her carving tool and again tilted the pumpkin so the light hit where she was working.   “Do we really need to do this now?  Again?”

 

Jesse growled.   “Maybe we wouldn’t need to …   do this … if it didn’t feel like this happens so often.”  When there wasn’t a response to the statement, he took a deep breath and swallowed.  He shouldn’t ask… He knew he shouldn’t… He asked anyway and did so with an acerbic tone.   “Why are you carving a pumpkin anyway?”

 

The small knife scratched at a few rough patches.   “Chloe wants to put a bunch of pumpkins on the steps of the house.  For the university trick or treat thing on Halloween.”  

 

“Chloe wants to…”  If Jesse was a cartoon, steam would have been coming out of his ears.   Chloe wants to…’

 

“Yeah.  She thinks it will be a good idea to spruce up the house. Make it cute for the kids coming by. ”  Either Beca didn’t notice how Jesse was responding to the redhead’s name, or she just ignored it.   “I’m trying to get this done before she gets back from her study group.”

 

“Oh, why’s that?  You on a time crunch for the event that doesn’t happen for over a week?”  The sarcasm dripped from the question.  

 

Beca looked up at Jesse and furrowed her brow.   “No, I just wanted to get it out of the way.  We were going to run to the mall later and probably grab food while we were out.”  

 

“So that’s the something you had to do tonight?  When you told me you couldn’t go out because you had something to do?”  Jesse fumed and glared across the island.  

 

“Yes.  That was the something ,” Beca retorted.   “Chloe wanted to get some more decorations for the house, and she asked if I wanted to go.”

 

“So you’d rather go shopping with her than go out with me.”

 

“You and I didn’t have plans, Jesse.  I wasn’t going to just keep my weekend clear, just in case you wanted to do something.”

 

“Did you ever consider PLANNING something?  Like showing some initiative?”

 

“Damn it, Jesse!!!”  Beca slammed her hand down on the island, causing the carving tool to skitter across the paper.   “Is there a reason you came over?  Did you just come here to scream at me?  Good lord, it is like you keep a fucking diary of everything just so you can throw it in my face.”

 

“Forgive me for wanting to see my girlfriend on a weekend.  How dare I?  I should have known she would be with Chloe!”

 

“CHLOE! ISN’T! EVEN! HERE!”  

 

Jesse glared and his voice lowered.   “She’s always here; that’s the problem.  Even when she isn’t, she still is always the first person on your mind.”  

 

“Maybe that’s because she isn’t always trying to change me or demanding that I have a satisfactory reason for why I am doing something !”  

 

Jesse plowed forward. It was ground that had been traveled several times before. But it constantly ate at him, and he decided to just roll with it. “This always happens. You do things with her that you won't do with me!  You tell me you hate movies, but you watch them with her. You don't want me being too physical in public, but she hangs all over you.  You tell me you're busy, but you'll drop everything to be with her. You won't even carve a fucking pumpkin with me, but here you are!”

 

“Aaaaaggghh!  This?  Again?!?”  Beca glared across the island at the Treble; he met her glare with flared nostrils and clenched teeth. “You know?  You're right … about all of that. You know why I watch movies with her and not you?  Because she’s okay if I don't pay attention and just sit with her. You keep telling me that I need to pay attention here and listen closely there - or you argue with me about plot points.  And I didn't want to carve pumpkins with you because you probably would have made me use some stupid Star Wars template.”  Jesse’s face fell because she wasn’t wrong.  He totally did have a Star Wars template kit he planned on using.  “I carve pumpkins EVERY year. I LOVE carving pumpkins!  And I go places with Chloe because she likes being with me!  Regular me.  Not some idealized version of me. Not some version that has all of the things fixed you find annoying. It's like… it's like those movies that say ‘inspired by real events.’ But the real person is some ugly weirdo, and it is played by a hot actress. You like the movie adaptation of me. Not me. She likes me.”

 

Beca’s chest heaved and her heart raced.  She and Jesse had always squabbled.  She figured that was how things went in relationships.  Her parents always fought.  Until they quit talking and then quit on the marriage.  Beca always had a darker side and was hesitant to open up.  Jesse always tried to force her to open up.  That meant there was always friction.  Lately, though, Beca had begun to realize that the arguments seemed to focus on Jesse’s insecurity, jealousy, and selfishness.  He always worried Beca was messing around behind his back - usually pointing at Chloe.  He was insanely jealous of how much time Beca spent with the Bellas - especially Chloe.  And he wanted Beca to just be willing to do anything he wanted - even if she didn’t enjoy it.  She had found herself pulling away emotionally for a while.  It had actually been distressing to her.  She felt like she was becoming her father; that she separated herself when things got rough.  But she wasn’t married to Jesse.  Honestly, she couldn’t see herself ever marrying him.  He had played a very important role in her life, encouraging her to climb out of her self-imposed emotional exile.  To become vulnerable.  To allow someone to care about her.  Between Jesse, Chloe, and the rest of the Bellas, Beca had emerged from her shell.  She had grown a great deal and was more in tune with her emotions and feelings.  The Beca of Junior year and the Beca of Freshman year were two very different people.  Unfortunately, the Jesse of then and the Jesse of now seemed too similar.  And Beca was pretty sure she had outgrown him.  Plus, she was having a lot of feelings about Chloe that she was pretty sure went beyond just friendship.  Beca knew there was an expiration date on this relationship; she just didn’t realize it would be so soon.  Calming herself, “Look, Jesse, can we go out tomorrow, talk about things, when we aren’t so upset.”

 

Jesse crossed his arms.   “No.”  He shook his head and looked down at the floor.   “I’ve had enough of this.  I swear, it is like you are dating Chloe instead of me.  And you need to choose: her or me.”

 

Beca blinked at the ultimatum.  She stood still for several moments.  With and icy and level voice, she stated, “You’retelling me … that I have to choose … between YOU? … and Chloe?”

 

It was apparent that Jesse hadn’t throught this all the way through.  But he wasn’t backing down now.  He straightened his spine and pulled a haughty look on his face.   “Yes.  Me or Chloe.”

 

Beca stood still for a beat, then reached over and grabbed the carving tool, returning her attention to her pumpkin.  She tilted the gourd up to see her work, and spoke clearly, “I choose Chloe.”  Then she began smoothing out another curve.

 

Jesse’s mouth fell open.  He didn’t know what exactly to do.  Never in a million years did he picture things going that way.  He knew that things had been a little rough between him and Beca lately, but he figured it was just temporary.  She seemed distracted a lot, often by Chloe.  So he figured she maybe needed some tough love to help her realize it.  He stood stock still, staring at the brunette woman in front of him as she continued to cut into the pumpkin.  He tried to wrap his mind around what had just happened.  Finally his brain jerked back into gear, and he recognized that Beca had no plans to keep talking.  He scowled and huffed.  Then he spun on his heels and stomped towards the door, slamming it behind himself. 

 

As Jesse marched down the walkway from the Bella house, Chloe turned off the sidewalk and headed towards the front door.  They nearly collided, more because Jesse didn’t want to move than the fact they didn’t see each other.  Chloe was surprised at the rough interaction, but she still greeted Jesse brightly.   “Hey, Jesse.  Were you checking on your girl?”  

 

Jesse stopped and threw an ugly look at the redhead.  “Not my girl, not anymore.  Not sure if she ever was.  She’s all yours.  Good luck.”  Then he pushed past and moved off towards the Treble House.  Chloe turned back towards the house and raced up the stairs.  She expected to throw the door open and see a distraught Beca curled up on the couch.  Or maybe the smaller woman would be hiding in her bedroom under the covers, crying in solitude.  Chloe did not expect to see Beca carving a pumpkin on the kitchen counter as if nothing had just happened.  

 

The redhead slowly approached the scene.  Her heart leapt watching Beca concentrating on the orange gourd in front of her.  She tried to push down her unrequited crush and ignore the adorableness on display: Beca had her tongue out the side of her mouth and her brow scrunched up.  Her hair was up in a messy bun, but tendrils had fallen down.  One in particular had flopped in front of her face.  She was carefully etching on a detailed portion of her carving.  Chloe didn’t want to startle her, so she cleared her throat.   “Hey Becs.  Having fun?”

 

Beca nodded, but didn’t respond.  She sawed back and forth until a small sliver fell.  She grinned and looked up. “HeyChlo.  I’m almost done.”  She smiled brightly.

 

“What are you making?”  Chloe figured she should go with whatever track Beca was comfortable with, sure that there was some hurt being ignored by the younger woman.  

 

“No dice, Beale,” Beca grinned.  “You’ll see it when it’s done.  Which it almost is.”  She leaned back over and moved her attention to a spot near the top of the pumpkin. Chloe bit at her lip as she watched.  A focused and intense Beca was one of Chloe’s favorite versions.  The redhead was torn up inside.  She gathered that Jesse and Beca broke up, based on his comments outside.  That meant Beca would be fragile.  But Chloe was jumping for joy inside because Beca was single.  That meant that Chloe had a shot.  Maybe.  She didn’t know.  She stood in the same spot Jesse had stood just a few minutes earlier and wrestled in her brain.  She startled back to reality when she heard Beca ask, “How was study group?”

 

“Oh, uh,” Chloe forced herself to remember that she had just been at study group.  But so much had happened in the last ten minutes.   “It was good.  We made some good progress.  Thanks for asking.”  Beca nodded as she kept fiddling with her carving tool, hopping from point to point to refine different spots.  It reminded Chloe of when Beca was mixing.  Her delicate fingers would fly all over her keyboard and her mouse, making music through a well choreographed dance on screen.  Chloe felt a slight warmth inside as her mind veered to what other things Beca could do with those nimble fingers.  Clearly, ignoring the affection she felt for the younger woman wasn’t working.  The redhead shook her head to clear it and spoke gently.   “Uh, Becs?  I ran into Jesse on the way in.  He …. seemed upset?”

 

“Sounds about right,” Beca casually replied. 

 

“Did something … happen?”  Chloe sort of knew what happened, but she wanted Beca to talk about it willingly.  

 

“He got mad at me for carving a pumpkin.”

 

Chloe did a double take at the news.  It seemed slightly insane, but then again…  It hardly seemed like a reasonable cause to get angry, but this was Jesse.  He was one of the most dramatic people around.  And Chloe was in a female a cappella group, where drama was a regular item on the menu.   “That seems … petty.”  

 

“Well… that isn’t entirely true.  He got mad because I was carving a pumpkin for you , and not with him.

 

Now Chloe felt guilty.  Even though she appreciated how attentive Beca was, there were times where Chloe felt bad about being a divisive topic between the couple.  In her less noble moments, the redhead enjoyed knowing that Beca and Jesse were not one hundred percent in agreement about everything.  But as Beca’s friend, she never wanted to hurt the other woman.  She softened and quietly said, “Oh, I’m sorry…”

 

“I’m not,” Beca responded.  Her demeanor during the entire conversation surprised Chloe.  Beca wasn’t in mourning.  She wasn’t upset.  She seemed collected and determined.  The older woman didn’t know if Beca was hiding her feelings, but it seemed like Beca was perfectly content with what happened.  

 

“Soooo, is that why he left?  Because of the pumpkin?”  

 

Leaning over the pumpkin, Beca narrowed her eyes and sawed vigorously to fix one specific jagged point.   “Uh, no.  He gave me an ultimatum.”  Satisfied with the adjustment, Beca stood up and looked directly at Chloe.   “He told me I had to choose between him and you.  And I told him that I chose you.”  The brunette gazed across the island with an impassive look on her face.  After a few moments of the two women staring silently at each other, Beca turned the pumpkin upside down and tapped it lightly on the paper towel covered island.  Shards of orange fell out onto the surface.  

 

Meanwhile, Chloe stood in complete shock.  Her mind spun like a carnival ride gone amok.   Beca chose her over Jesse?  What the hell did that mean?  She had no idea what to do with this information, or even what the information meant .  

 

“What do you think?”  

 

Beca’s voice pulled Chloe back to earth.  She had no idea what she thought.  What was she supposed to think?  Think about what?  She needed more time.  Deciding to stall, Chloe replied, “Hmmm?”  

 

“The pumpkin.  What do you think about it?  I think it turned out well.”  Chloe looked at Beca and then at the pumpkin.  The brunette stood there with a proud grin on her face, her hand resting on the top of her offering.  An incredible rendering of a red panda peered out from the squash.  It was ridiculously detailed and adorable.  

 

“You did that?!?  By yourself?  Is that a red panda?”

 

“Yes, yes, and yes.”  Beca smirked.   “You said you wanted to make the steps cute for the kids.  What is cuter than a red panda?”

 

Chloe felt like her ovaries exploded.  She couldn’t believe all of this was happening.  Her crush of over two years was standing there with a hand carved masterpiece red panda pumpkin.  The same crush was no longer dating her boyfriend.  And apparently the same same crush also had chosen Chloe over said boyfriend.   “I gotta sit down.”  Chloe stumbled a little bit and dropped into the sofa.  She leaned over and placed her face in her hands.

 

“Chlo?  You okay?”  Beca wore a concerned look on her face as she moved from the kitchen to the living room and sat next to Chloe.  She began rubbing the redhead’s back.   “What’s wrong?”

 

“No no no no, this is wrong…”  Chloe looked up at Beca and shook her head.   “You just broke up with Jesse!  You are supposed to be the one upset, and I’m supposed to be comforting you.”

 

Beca frowned in response.   “But I’m not upset.  I mean, yes, there is some sadness in the official ending to my longest ever relationship.”  She pursed her lips and thought for a moment.   “But this has been a long time coming.  We haven’t connected for a while.  I’m not sure we ever should have been together, actually.”  

 

“And just like that … poof,”  Chloe made little explosions with her fingers.   “It’s over.  No biggie.”  

 

“He said I had to choose between you and him, Chlo,” Beca responded with an earnest look on her face.   “That made it easy.  I’ll always choose you.”

 

In an instant, tears sprang to Chloe’s eyes and a lump formed in her throat.  She croaked, “What?  Why?”

 

Beca pulled her head back as her eyebrows shot up in surprise.   “Why? Why would I choose you?”  Chloe nodded softly.   “Why would I choose the person who always has my back?  The person who encourages me to be the best version of myself?  The person who cares about me for who I am?  Who knows me better than anyone else?  Why would I choose that person over the person who loves a non-existent idealized version of me?  Over the person who is always afraid I will leave him in my shadow?  The person who only wants me to be happy if I’m happy the way he wants?”  Beca had never been this open, this vulnerable in the entire time that Chloe had known her.  Usually the little brunette stumbled over her words and blushed when Chloe was too open.  She usually clammed up when things got too emotional.  Now, here she was openly stating things that Chloe’s heart could only have dreamed of.  The two friends kept eye contact for a while before Beca softly continued.   “Chlo, how could I ever choose a life that you weren’t in?”

 

Chloe barely held onto her emotions at this point.  What Beca had said was the sweetest thing Chloe had ever heard, but there were still questions on the redhead’s mind.   “Becs, I need to know.  When he said you had to choose, was it between his being your boyfriend and me being your friend?  Or … “

 

“Or what, Chlo?” Beca looked genuinely confused.

 

“Nevermind…”  The redhead shook her head and stared at her feet.  She had misread the situation again.  Beca loved her … as a friend.  They were best friends, but that was all they would ever be.  Chloe felt her heart clench in pain.  She had hoped that maybe…

 

“Or what, Chloe?”  Looking back up at Beca, Chloe noticed the brunette had moved closer.  Her face was just mere inches away.  Her dark blue eyes darted around Chloe’s face, reading every movement.  She asked again softly, “Or what?”

 

Chloe swallowed deeply.  She wouldn’t be able to take it if she asked this question and Beca answered the wrong way.  She hoped that she was reading things right.  Oh God, she hoped she was.  But…   “Or was it between dating him or … dating me?”  As soon as the words left her mouth, Chloe heart stopped.  Everything froze as she waited to hear if her heart was going to explode with joy or crack with pain.

 

Beca had such a compassionate and caring look on her face.  She reached her hand up and softly brushed away a tear that had leaked out of Chloe’s eye.  Then she tucked a strand of red hair over Chloe’s ear.   “I kind of took it as the second one,” she began.   “But I need to make sure.  Did you want it to be the second one?”  

 

The redhead barely could contain the excitement boiling up inside of her.  Tears ran faster down her cheeks.  She nodded vigorously and choked out, “More than anything.”  

 

“Good,” Beca answered as she closed the small gap between their faces and placed a kiss on Chloe’s lips.  She kissed her again and again, and Chloe pushed back to return the kisses.  For several minutes, they were lost in their own bubble.  They embraced each other and rested their foreheads together.  

 

Both women breathed deeply, keeping their heads touching.  Beca closed her eyes and took in the feeling.  Chloe felt happier than she ever felt before.  She pulled the brunette closer and kissed along her cheek and jaw.  Her lips brushed against Beca’s ear, and she whispered, “You’re going to clean those pumpkin guts up right?”

 

Beca pulled away and gasped in mock horror.   “WHAT!?!  I express my deepest feelings and choose to be with you?  And all you can think of is me cleaning the kitchen?”  She pouted and slapped at Chloe’s arm.  

 

Sheepishly, Chloe answered, “Weeellllll, it is really gross.  And I can see it over your shoulder as we are sitting here…”  

 

Beca got a sultry look on her face and lowered her voice.   “Maybe you just need to have a different point of view…”  She pushed at Chloe’s shoulder to indicate the redhead should lay down on the couch.   “…Like from on your back.”

 

Chloe smiled and then grabbed Beca’s shoulders.   “Or … you could go clean that up really quick.  And then we can take this upstairs.”  

 

Beca huffed and dropped her shoulders.   “I can’t believe it.  I choose you; you choose a clean kitchen.”  

 

Chloe stood up and put her hand out for Beca to grab.   “C’mon.  It won’t take long at all.”  

 

“But it’s so groooossssss,” the younger woman whined.   “Can’t someone else do it?”

 

“You made the mess; you clean the mess,” the older woman countered.   “Besides, cleaning is sexy.”

 

“No, cleaning is NOT sexy,” Beca whined.

 

“What about those little French maid outfits?”  Chloe grinned a raised her eyebrows.  Beca tripped over her own feet as the picture of Chloe in one of those outfit popped into her mind.  

 

They walked into the kitchen together and started cleaning up.  Chloe moved the pumpkin onto the dining room table.  Beca tossed the carving tools into the sink and started to pull the paper towels into a pile, trying to keep the pumpkin innards contained within the paper.  Chloe helped her maneuver the mess to a trash can.  Then Chloe grabbed the cleaner and sprayed down the island while Beca brought a wad of paper towels to wipe it down.   “There.  See?  So much better.”  

 

Beca grumbled, “Yeah, but the mood is ruined.”  

 

“Nonsense,” Chloe cheerily replied.   “We can go on a date.  We can go shopping and then go to dinner.” 

 

Beca stopped and tilted her head.   “That’s not a date.  That’s what we were going to do anyways.”  She considered her statement.   “Huh.  Maybe Jesse had a point.  Maybe you and I have been dating for a while and didn’t realize it.” 

 

Chloe leaned over and planted a kiss on Beca’s mouth.   “C’mon, help me decide what to wear.”  She grabbed Beca’s hand and pulled her towards the stairs.  Chloe walked up first, her tight jeans hugging her butt.  She swayed her hips side to side in an exaggerated manner.  She looked back over her shoulder at Beca.   “You coming?  I may need to try on several options.  Get your feedback.”  She waggled her eyebrows and resumed her sultry walk up the stairs.  

 

“Oh, hell yeah,” Beca said as she took in the sight in front of her.  She ran up the stairs after the redhead.   “I made the right choice.”