right when I felt the moment stop, glass shattered on the white cloth;
everybody moved on, I stayed there.
That very first step back into their stupid, cramped, little apartment, Amy claims the one real bed with a resolute flourish of her arms and Beca doesn’t even have the energy to argue. She just leans back on Chloe who is standing behind her, carrying their bags and mumbles, “Guess we’re sharing a not-really-a-bed-bed, Beale.”
And that night, as Chloe finally settled down all their boxes and duffel bags with Beca in a bad arm and Fat Amy pretending to be asleep somewhere in the bathtub, she wonders if they will ever find anywhere else that will feel so much like home than this room that is basically the apartment equivalent of Beca’s height. Chloe dusts off the banner at the top of her duffel bag, and hangs it just beside the windows over Amy’s self-proclaimed bed. 2014 ICCA champions, it read, and she just stares at it for a few seconds.
It is a sore and steady reminder that she is and will be able to become someone.
She walks across the empty room (it takes two steps, literally) to sit down on the pull-out. She looks beside her, at the hair splayed in every way on the pillow, belonging to a girl she’s broken down enough over the years to snore comfortably beside her on the small bed they will share.
The emptiness of the small room they call an apartment unsettles Chloe more than she would like to admit. Without the vulgar banter and flying insults that decorates it during the day, it’s just unfamiliarly hollow and cold. Chloe misses the familiarity of the Barden house and the distant talking she always hears when she falls asleep.
Chloe wiggles her fingers, wanting to feel her world, just to make sure it is still there. She moves both hands and reaches for Beca.
As her palm skims over the loose shirt on Beca’s shoulders, Beca scrunches her nose and shifts. “Chloe.”
Chloe hums in response.
Beca always has a supple care beneath her hardened glare, and Chloe can physically see Beca reading her worries. And then, scarily like a replay of their tent at the Lodge of Fallen Leaves, Beca turns over, gently grasping her hands. Chloe feels a slight squeeze, and the comforting scowl on Beca’s face.
“C’mon. Go to sleep, Chlo.”
Chloe settles down and takes a deep breath. The hollow still rings inside her chest with an ache, but she closes her eyes. It isn’t much, but it’s Beca. And Fat Amy, and their ICCA banner and the bunch of clutter they’ve dragged along.
Chloe has thought about how stupid and cowardly her choices thousands of times since agreeing to come to New York with Beca. She’s mulled them over on the plane ride, in her bed staring at the ceiling and as she watched the girls she loves more than music itself throw their graduation caps into the air.
She’s told herself following Beca is just a way of postponing the inevitable someday, that they might get tired of each other and move away, find jobs, find a family. She’s gone over the possibilities of herself planting both feet on the ground and falling in love with someone new, exciting and clean.
But she still goes wherever Beca goes, because she can’t think of anything else kinder to her years and better to live with. It isn’t hopeless romance and it isn’t cowardice (she hopes, she tells herself over and over), because Chloe knows how hard it is to ever even to be able to find something so entirely whole and good to love.
Since she was five and could never remember her parents sharing a kiss, since she was seventeen and watching her older brother call home apologizing for not being able to come back for Christmas because the job he doesn’t even like requires him to stay on post, Chloe has known the preciousness of love. She’s got lots of love to give, and she’s never held back on handing it out.
Life itself is pointless, hopeless, wandering, but when she stands beside Beca, it feels like something with solid weight; something worth remembering.
Beca shifts on the bed again and scoots on over closer to her, not initiating, but close enough to let their arms press together and Chloe knows Beca is letting herself be hugged. So Chloe hugs her and feels Beca smile into her side.
It isn’t much, but Chloe knows it’s Beca way of phrasing love.
Chloe blinks and she is surrounded by strange people, strange city sidewalks, and a strange way home from the metro. In this enormous city that towers over Chloe, she is no one at all. She wonders what the price she has to pay to grow up; maybe it’s only a battle of who can let go of things the fastest.
There is ominous edge that jabs and yips at her ankles as she walks briskly around a trash bag in the middle of the road, an edge that had never caught up to her before, when she was still protected within the walls of school and friends. Dozens of people pass her by, and she is no one at all, and no one would notice if she had gone missing, or will but only as a sub-article on a newspaper as they skim over the usual little dramatics that are so far away from the reader’s own conscience.
She misses the stability of small towns, the security of attachment and home. But she also yearns for the possibilities that she is just close enough to graze in New York, all the success and goals just close enough to work for. Chloe sighs and pulls her keys out of her pocket, balancing a clock she grabbed in a Goodwill on her way home in the crook of her elbow.
At this age, she aches for constancy but is still unwilling to resign to mediocrity in this world that offers so much.
Chloe blinks away the sleep in her eyes and foggily makes out the ceiling of a room that isn’t her’s. From all the places she’s lived in throughout her life, she doesn’t think this one will ever start bringing a sense that is close to comfort.
At this age, she aches for constancy, but that is hard when everything is running so late, and the pain of old age pressed against her sore back.
Slowly, Chloe pushes herself up into a sitting position, leaning against the headboard. In the dark, she fumbles for the string that turns on the bedside lamp and reaches for the piece of notebook paper folded into quarters under her pillow. Beca keeps her promises, and she gave Chloe this one two days ago, in a floral dress Chloe would’ve never imagined Beca could one day wear.
Stacie came to visit her the day after, still in such astoundingly good shape for someone their age, Chloe is almost jealous. But before she could let the envy even register, she was hit by Stacie plopping down beside her on the other side of the coffee table in leather high heels and a V-neck that Chloe cannot even fathom how she managed to pull off. Chloe wanted to shake her head at how some things just never change. Like Stacie still caring enormously under all that, still asking her about her life with the utmost sincerity, and Chloe still having the impulse to say ‘I’ll probably always have a thing for that idiot’ when asked, before swallowing it down into something that sounds more mature.
And when Stacie asked about Beca being in the same city as her, finally, for the first time since they were young and just venturing out to New York, Chloe just shook her head. There were no words that could describe things like that.
We’re still not quite dead yet, Beale. As long as we’re not gone and buried, there’s still time for anything.
There was always something, Stace. Beca is always something.
It’s too late. Our whole lives have gone by.
Chloe forcibly tries to stop the feeling of slipping away and clutches the piece of paper in her hands, trying to stop the trembling in them that happens so much more often these few days.
She’s just so tired.
Jesse and I dated throughout college, and I treated it like I thought I should have, you know?
I didn’t believe someone could genuinely love me, I thought it was just that kind of half-hearted relationship in school that we would grow out of. But three years later, his romance wasn’t quite drained up yet, and I made up some other kind of theory that maybe he was only with me because he got something out of it. Reputation, maybe, just to look good, two nerdy acapella leaders together like it was meant to be. Do you see where I’m getting at, Chloe?
You’ve mentioned to me you’ve been thinking and messing up the things of graduation and New York. So I’ve decided to be weird and sappy and write you more things; you know I’m a bit selfish, I just want to not lose you.
From the moment when I was ten and crying into my white desk while my dad yelled at my mom in the next to be a better wife, and her clawing at the locked windows two floors up, I was just a messed-up kid trying to teach myself how to live. From the moment you told me about your absent parents and quiet childhood, I knew that you did too.
I’ve always been alone, but so have you.
Do you see where I’m getting at now?
Jesse and I didn’t break up until three months after we moved to New York, Chloe, I wish you remembered that. But then again, I guess there are worse things you can mix up. I was a disaster most of college, I won’t lie. I grew out of things too slow and I was the biggest asshole I knew. All love ever did was hurt me, and I so desperately wanted to hurt it back. It was just like another song about broken couples, except that it’s never so poetic when it crashes into your own life.
I’m talking about the Worlds, Chlo. Jesse flew in from Atlanta to cheer us on with a USA flag draped so dorkily around his shoulders and I just couldn’t take anymore goodness. You walked into our hotel room after I’ve been sitting there awhile wondering where all the time went off to. You came and stood there looking like you were about to kiss me. And I let you (or maybe you let me). No one was ever able to knock the wind out of me like that afterwards, not quite like you did.
You are older and prettier and wiser, and I’ve always seen you in a golden light, that’s something you didn’t know. I notice everything you do, you know? I’ve analysed all the people you’ve once loved; they are all like you, good and solid and bursting into song. I’ve tried everything you’ve once mentioned liking; learning the guitar and baking and almost burning the kitchen down. I didn’t understand feelings when I first crashed into those that were for you. It’s just plain unfortunate we were always time zones away in our heads.
We laid on the bed in such painful silence after you fucked me straight into the mattress; I’m so sorry you were dragged into my mess, that’s what I wanted to say, people like you don’t deserve people like me. Typical college-me things to say, aren’t they? Our time zones finally aligned in all the wrongs ways. But you spoke up first, finding my hand under the sheets in the aftermath of ruining a lot of things.
It’s just you and me in the wreckage of the world, isn’t it, you told the ceiling and I listened.
Do you see what I’m trying to say?
It wasn’t right, the things we did in the name of whatever we always had. But we were something so great, don’t you think so? I’ve known a long time coming that you would haunt all my what-ifs.
Do you see what I mean, now, Chlo?
What I’m trying to say is that I do still love you. Through every mess you’ve pulled me through and every catastrophe I’ve roped you into. I’m trying to tell you to please don’t forget that just yet.
Chloe blinks and she is worrying about Beca as she picks at the sleeve of her worn out sweater, sitting cross-legged on their couch as she watches her grab her bag and throw her blazer on.
“Do you have your keys?”
Beca huffs as the button on her sleeve gets caught in another button on her pocket. “Yes, got them right here.”
Chloe regards her, still worriedly. “Do you have your lunch?”
“Yes, in my bag,” Beca says with a brief grin, “thanks again for making it.”
“Earphones for keeping that grumpy mysterious vibe going on the subway?”
Beca glares and her but chuckles. “Yeah, they’re here. I’ll be fine, Chlo.”
Chloe stands and follows Beca to the front door, feeling more nervous than Beca is on her first day at the studio. “Amy and I will beat up whoever dares to be mean to you.”
Beca laughs, slipping her shoes on. “I don’t doubt it.” Before opening the door, though, Chloe sees her dig her fingernails into her palm and taking a shallow breath.
She rests a hand on her shoulder and smoothens out the inexistent creases on the sleeve of Beca’s blazer and allows herself a moment of weakness in this stressful morning and tucks an errand strand of hair behind Beca’s ear. “You’ll be great.”
“Yeah,” Beca breathes out quietly and takes Chloe’s hand away from her arm, giving it a small squeeze. Chloe knows it’s Beca thanking her.
But she doesn’t expect it at all when Beca shifts her shoulder with her bag and leans in to press her lips to Chloe’s cheek in a final ‘good luck’.
“Alright. I’ll see you tonight, Beale.”
“Yeah,” she mutters, “I’ll see you tonight.”
Chloe stands bare feet and watches the closed door with a soft smile. The kiss that Beca willingly pressed onto her cheek burns in her skin and settles the unnerving flipping in her insides a little. What can she even think more?
She’s worried Beca won’t do well, worried her boss is rude, worried she’ll make new friends that are so much cooler and worried she’ll broodily eat her lunch all alone all at once.
She’s worried she wouldn’t ever find a job or any more direction for the months coming up and she’s worried that if she does, it would lead to another fork in the road.
Chloe blinks and she’s on their old couch from the Bellas house Fat Amy somehow got the ways to get delivered to their apartment.
She’s found a part-time job as a waitress in a big enough café with kind Italian bosses and a few classes at the University only a bus and metro ride away.
Sometimes, just sometimes, she still gets that dizzying suffocation that makes her want to stay in bed all day and rewatch Grey’s Anatomy for the thirteenth time. And she tries so hard to will it away, because they are all in this shitty post-grad life together, and everyone is tired, and no one really has time to pull someone else back at the seams.
On those days, Chloe gets home and doesn’t make dinner, just sending Beca a quick text telling her to get something to eat at the quick-stop fast food shop two blocks down. She doesn’t change out of her loose slacks and button-up shirt and just lays on her bed, staring at the ceiling thinking over all the same things she used to think at graduation.
Chloe mulls over about how stupid and cowardly her choices about agreeing to come to New York with Beca. She thinks maybe following Beca is just a way of postponing the inevitable someday, that they might get tired of each other and move away, find jobs, find a family. She goes over the possibilities of herself planting both feet on the ground and falling in love with someone new, exciting and clean.
But Chloe hears keys jingling at the front door and a muffled ‘fuck’ accompanied by the sure sound of keys falling to the ground and she supposed there are far worse ways to cope. She knows about the cigarettes Beca sneak in sometimes on the stairs leading up to the apartment’s front doors before coming in and Amy always trying to break up with Bumper when her Fat Amy Winehouse show isn’t going so well. Chloe just indulges herself in being good to Beca without reason and keeps on loving everyone she comes across with a burning passion, without regret.
There is a certain satisfaction that comes with destruction, of watching everything falling down around themselves, and Chloe knows it’s the same satisfaction that filled her lungs on that night faraway, in the hotel room in Denmark, after she held Beca’s hand as the girl trembled in a post-sex haze. It’s the same satisfaction that she grasped onto when she dragged Aubrey back to her feet every time she crumbled to the floor as she lost control on something she shouldn’t have wanted to control anyway, and the same one she yelled out at Beca right before she stepped into a bear trap.
There are a million ways to bleed, and Beca is by far her favourite.
Beca huffs as she kicks away her shoes and pads across the floor, flopping down promptly on the carpeted floor by Amy’s big bed. Holding out an arm, she wiggles the white plastic bag hanging from it.
“Here, I got dinner.”
Chloe pushes herself up from the bed and smiles at Beca (she didn’t even have to try hard). “Great. I’ll go change,” she says as she drags herself from the bed with much more effort than it took to smile. “You can start without me if you want, I know you didn’t eat lunch.”
But when she comes back out after much longer (because she took around five minutes to gather enough determination to undo all the ten million buttons on her shirt) around the clothes rack, Beca is still just sitting there, hands folded neatly in her lap, good and waiting, scrolling aimlessly through her phone. The plastic forks and spoons laying nicely on their napkins, and all the take-out containers laid on their respective covers on the carpet.
Beca just grins tiredly, tossing her phone back onto the bed without watching where it landed and replies, “I wanted to wait for you.”
So they eat on, sitting cross-legged on the floor at the foot of their bed when they have a perfectly functionable table five steps away and complain endlessly about their respective days.
Chloe grumbles, “Helping out with washing the dishes at the job is making my hands crack in places as the fall in New York gets gradually colder and colder.”
“That ass-crack of a rapper will not stop talking about butts in his most recent demo,” is what Beca replies with.
Chloe continues, “And wanting to get both a degree in English and photography is so much easier said than done.”
“And my boss tells me to just put up with it, but how can I even when my name is going to be on that damn song?” Beca says, scowling. “Also, what’s up with the lady that lives below us that asks me about my day in excruciating detail every time we see other?”
Chloe sighs deeply, rolling a bunch of noodles onto her fork. “Life here is so much more boring than we thought. Why can’t something cute and movie-like happen in a place where half of movies take place in anyway?”
“I dunno, like someone bringing me flowers in the snow or a flash-mob or something.”
Beca laughs, “That’s so cheesy, it sounds like something Jesse would say. Flowers are useless anyway. They die like, two days later.”
Chloe also glares at her playfully. “Don’t compare me to Jesse. I’m so much prettier.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Beca says, indulging her, “Totally.”
So Chloe knows that they are chasing after completely different futures, but as Beca keeps grinning and almost choking to death on her own noodles, she also knows she wouldn’t really mind following Beca wherever she goes. She’s stubborn in a way she rarely is; she just has to walk by her side for at least another few years in the road. Chloe thinks, maybe, just maybe, like this, walking side by side for a year, two years, three years, it would just eventually turn into the rest of her life.
Chloe blinks and she is laying on the couch on a blissful Wednesday off of work with only one class she finished two hours ago. She wants to go out and have fun, but this couch is just too comfortable.
Beca stumbles through the door in the evening, and Chloe jumps in the kitchen at the noise, letting go of her spatula that falls just narrowly into her pan.
“Jesus Christ, Chlo,” she hears Beca calling out from the door, along with a giant amount of rustling, “Did you know the temperatures were dropping outta nowhere today? I was about to freeze to death on the sidewalk.”
Chloe calls out some mumbled answer and quickly closes off the stove, cursing a bit to herself for using the wrong pan for salmon and the residue is probably going to be a bitch to scrub off without damaging the metal—but hey, she made dinner.
When she turns around though, she is met with the most brutally warm sight of Beca scowling, pink in the face and ears from the cold and a handful of flowers wrapped in brown paper, trying desperately to stuff her keys back into her pocket.
Chloe lets her mouth hang slightly open and squeal.
“Jesus,” Beca murmurs as she jumps at the sudden noise.
“Flowers, Becs?! I thought you said they were useless and cheesy!”
Beca just stuffs them into Chloe’s hands and shrugs, giving her a little grin. “Yeah, well, they are useless, but I’ll buy them.” She clears her throat. “For you.”
The pink carnations and white baby’s-breaths topple slightly in Chloe’s hand as she uses the other to pull Beca into a hug and plant a kiss on her forehead.
Chloe fully forgives her own hidden stubbornness of overdue love, in that moment.
Chloe knows, quietly, when someone is special, even the end of the fucking world is just right on the way back from work.
And so what if Chloe is just always afraid to know the definitive answer when the feelings are just swimming around in the stuffy apartment air? So what if she’s just a little scared all the time, even when they’re only clearly stated words away from love, if she’s reluctant to let go of all the good things that are perfectly good without anything more?
Chloe blinks and she is suddenly resorting to writing scribbles of undecipherable words as a way to pass the time. Between feeling so tired she can’t even lift herself off the incredibly tiny bed to rushing between waitressing and getting her degree, she sits in the bathtub with coffee mixed with a can of Red Bull after midnight and writes obsessively on the back of draft sheet of paper when she can’t stop thinking.
On the first day of November, Beca gives her another kiss on the cheek even when she is in a horribly sour mood after another bad day at the studio, and Chloe stays awake and writes instead. Beca is the one person she doesn’t want to brush off with perfunctory comments even when she is at her lowest.
i am sure you and be both can hear my chest bursting open
as you told me i am your favourite person
in a city that doesn’t know us
in a place where i am not allowed
to ache for girls like you.
On the first fall of snow, Beca tells her under a blanket fort Amy built from the night before, Mean Girls playing in the back, that ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ is her favourite book that she coincidentally also dislikes with a passion because she reads it every Christmas. She tells Chloe that the way her boss yells at her reminds her of her mother sometimes.
Chloe writes as her hand cramps, furiously, crazed, on the back of a takeout menu.
you define love the way you lived it
take your time, i say
you cup my face like a soaring soul
and suddenly, everything isn’t so bad
On their rare night out in strappy heels and cheap dresses, Chloe leans on the bar and watches the clear drink in her glass swirl dangerously close to the edges. The sight of Beca dancing, pressed into the front of a stupidly tall blonde, makes Chloe’s fingers itch. But Beca sways back as the latest Taylor Swift song about a girl named Dorothea plays at some college student’s request, swaying all the way to Chloe, she is satisfied. Beca always wanders back to her, and she is the one with her arm around Beca’s waist as they squeeze into the cab Amy called, and she is the one pressing a kiss on the top of Beca’s head as Beca giggles into the hot air of the car, stripped of sense by alcohol, “how else would I get your attention?”.
The lyrics of the song they left in the background were sad and slow, and Chloe thinks that it was so close, but so far that the sadness in the words would never have anything to do with them.
She wakes up with a hangover, a pill Beca leaves for her on the nightstand, and a notebook page from long ago covered in sloppy letters.
paint my skin in fresh pomegranate,
they stain just the same.
your fingers are cold and my hands are warm,
please, don’t find someone new.
When December comes, Chloe could afford to pay her part of the rent without worrying, and it is a sparkling happiness that comes with it. She observes the side of Beca’s face as the girl turns half-way around to not let Chloe see her wrapping whatever she wants to give to Chloe on Christmas, and Chloe doesn’t mind sitting here and watching forever. She wants to watch Beca and she wants Beca to see her too. Sometimes, even when her whole world is falling down into catastrophe, she still wants Beca to see, just to have the moment together.
Beca gives her an almost fully black watch, dainty and elegant, the black hands ticking calmy in a repetitive beat. “We’ll always be in tune and in time, even when you get all professional with your photography degree, travelling around in the future, you see?” Beca tells her with a big smile. Fat Amy gives them both blankets with her own face printed on them and almost sets fire to their tiny Christmas tree.
Chloe listens to the ticking of her watch and watches her stub of a pencil scratch over a page of her notebook.
you laugh and my chest tumbles apart
this is the only kind of heaven i can tolerate
let’s stand too close
and let the ground swallow us whole
The show on the television has bright fireworks and crowds of people, and the few friends in their apartment are surrounding the screen with champagne in their hands. Jesse jumps on their couch as Stacie dances alone by the floor lamp. Chloe doesn’t miss the lingering gaze Jesse lays on the back of Beca’s head when he finishes half a bottle alone.
Chloe cries silently in the corner of the kitchen after her parents give her a New Year’s call that turns into a lecture about her pointless lifestyle when Beca finds her. Beca cries with her, her face pressing into the fabric of Chloe’s shirt, when her mother forgets to even call. They go back out into the living room at eleven, laughing again, and Chloe feels something settling in her chest.
The house that overflows with Chloe and Beca’s stories overflows now with cheers as the countdown starts. The expectance for excitement starts to feel scarily like love, and Chloe wants to forgive both herself and Beca for the sore affection they always share. The avoidance from anticipation turning into addiction when it is entertained, morphing into different looks on either of them.
Chloe doesn’t know how to sort out this morbid tenderness that ties them together.
Chloe kisses Beca deeply, briefly, as the ball drops and turns the champagne that stains both their lips bitter. When she pulls back, Beca is also stained pink, a heavy look in her eyes.
i can feel your laugh down to the crooks of my neck
we do not get to keep those we meet this young
we can’t chase things we’ll never keep
only you see my darkness like it’s your own
A mad scribble covers a page of Chloe’s notebook the first day of the new year.
Chloe’s nerves burn and sizzle, reaching to the direction of Beca laying sound asleep in their shared bed, unable to comprehend how such a small being wrapped in dark clothes could make her feel so much.
She is frustrated by Beca keeping up her broody thing even when they are in their mid-twenties; she is enamoured by the frown crease between Beca’s brows, and she is bursting with words she wants Beca to understand down to her bones.
Chloe lets her pen filled with less ink than good tear across the lines of her paper. How can she go to sleep when she finished two Monsters in the afternoon? How can she go to sleep when she can still write about Beca?
i wonder if you see people and think the same things i do
that they are not you, that they are not you
in case you ever want to look back
i still carry the words that were meant for you
The morbid closeness they share slithers to Chloe’s head and messes with her heart. Chloe believes that her and Beca both know better (but maybe they don’t). Because Chloe does offer her love up to anyone who crosses her path, but seeing someone trip over or cry alone in a bathroom stall still makes her want to hide away and not come back. There is something so terrifying about intimacy. There is also something so alluring about intimacy.
Chloe doesn’t deal well with vulnerability. She does well with teasing winks and light brushes on the arm—she’s even fine with loud sobbing and elevator breakdowns, but it feels like a crime when she is close enough to touch the stripped apart, naked being of another.
There is something fundamentally captivating about Beca’s thick scowls and impenetrable sarcasm. But when Chloe does feel something teetering and wobbling over to unease in Beca’s way of acting, she can’t help but try to stop her self from crumbling too.
And when Beca keeps coming home with moody comments and flopping onto the bed right away, something else bubbles up under Chloe’s frustration and spews out in Beca’s direction.
When they start arguing, it’s harder to stop sometimes, when Chloe feels entirely too much for everything that is Beca.
“Are we?” Chloe all but shouts into their living room filled with clutter, “Are we? Beca? Are we just friends?”
About to shout something back, Chloe sees her words slamming into Beca’s stony front and create a dent, making the girl’s arms drop back to her sides, suddenly not knowing where to put them. “What? What do you mean?”
“Don’t fucking ‘what’ me, you should know very well what I’m talking about,” Chloe snaps. She would smile over how unsure and flustered Beca has suddenly retreated to, but her frustration squeezes all that down when Beca just manages to shrug, not even looking at her.
“For Christ’s sake,” Chloe murmurs.
Beca shakes her head. Then frowns to herself, and nods. Then shakes her head again.
Chloe almosts bursts at the words piling up at the bottom of her throat, all aiming towards Beca’s once endearing but now plain annoying tendance of obliviousness.
“Are we just friends if I make lunch for you to take to work?” Chloe barks. “Are we just friends if I’m the only one you let hug you whenever? Are we just friends if it’s your breath that’s on my neck at night?” Chloe sighs violently into the space between them. “I can’t believe you’re actually so full of yourself and your own problems that you can’t see anything else. How much fucking longer do we drag this on before you admit it’s too far?”
“What?” Beca spits back, visibly hurt by the last few words, her eyes going wide and red-rimmed. Chloe can’t help but have what she says in this bout of anger only aim to hurt, and she regrets that right away. “Chloe.”
Chloe flails an arm to her side, gesturing at nothing in particular. “Is your unfulfilling job really the only thing you can acknowledge right now? Really, Beca? Do you not notice Amy doing the laundry every Saturday because we’re both busy with work? Do you not know that it’s the two guys downstairs that shovel the front door every time it snows? Do you not see how much I care about you?”
“Chloe-” Beca huffs in anger, “Chloe, you can’t say that, you know that things are tough but I-”
“NO!” Chloe yells, stepping even closer, and that makes Beca’s face go blank again. “Things are tough for everyone, Beca, not just you! I call my parents every Thursday night but they never have more than ten minutes to spare me to talk to me, and I can’t find any job I actually want to apply to because I don’t want to leave the rent on just you and Amy but I also just can’t bring myself to resign to a mediocre job that I probably won’t like-” she pushes her hair back roughly, “The lady that lives on the second floor asks us so many questions because her own children haven’t visited her in three years, and Amy is away all the time ‘cause she actually has the courage to do something she actually loves but staying out all the time is the only way it’ll make enough money to get by with!”
Chloe lets her arm fall back to her side and her wrist stings from where it hits her hipbone.
Without warning, as she catches sight of Beca’s guilty red eyes, she feels tears streaming down her own cheeks. And even though it’s definitely not the best thing to do, she closes the distance between them with quick steps and falls onto Beca, wrapping her arms around her familiar waist.
Her voice is muffled from where her face buries itself in Beca’s shoulder. “Sorry,” she rasps, “I…I’ll stop yelling.
Beca’s arms come up without hesitation to clasp onto the cloth of the sweater on Chloe’s back and she feels Beca shaking in her arms the very same way. “I’m sorry, Chloe. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
Chloe shakes her head. “No, I…I just- I can’t control my own feelings right now, my head isn’t working. Just-” she muffles a cut-up breath into the fabric that smells like Beca’s shampoo. “-just stay here.”
Beca stifles a sob in Chloe’s hair as well.
“Please,” Chloe adds to the tail of her feeble sentence.
She shakes to the same pace Beca cries into her sweater, and she knows this will take time, undoing Beca from her bones, and she’s not it will ever even happen.
Beca takes a long shuddering breath, and whispers again, “I’m so sorry, Chloe, I love you.”
“I know,” Chloe whispers back into her shoulder.
Chloe sprawls out on their carpet, her back leaning on the foot of their bed while Amy sings loudly in behind the kitchen counter, clanging pans and cups around, trying to make scrambled eggs for everyone. Beca lays with her head on Chloe’s shoulder, playing with the edge of her sweater and Amy doesn’t even bat an eye. She just keeps singing into the sizzling oil, an Adele song that she’s definitely gotten the lyrics wrong.
There is a childlike innocence that unfurls around Chloe’s chest as Beca traces the patterns on the hem of her sweatshirt; the endearing crinkle of Beca’s tired smile hitting Chloe square in the heart.
“I really like this sweater,” Beca says quietly over Amy switching to ‘Set Fire to The Rain’.
“You can have it.”
Beca blinks slowly and smiles wider. Her face nuzzles closer to Chloe’s neck, still largely discombobulated by the early morning fatigue. “It looks good on you. Every time you wear it, I feel like hugging you.”
Chloe can see Beca phrasing love differently, and there is a persistent tug in her that hopes she was the one who taught this grumpy ball of eyeliner how to love.
Chloe doesn’t think she knows how much it means to her, watching Beca calling her pretty in a language she knows Beca can’t speak.
“Do you know everything I do is for you?” Chloe asks in a whisper into Beca’s ear one night on a whim of adrenaline. Amy snores in the bed on the other side of their clothes rack, and Beca shivers into her front. “And stop picking at your scar,” she adds, knowing Beca has developed a terrible habit of picking at her forearm ever since they went to get the stitches off a year and a half ago.
“Do you know what we are?” Beca mumbles back, even though Chloe thinks they both knew, even when they’ve never said it out loud.
Instead, she smiles into Beca’s damp hair, smelling like clean soap. “A lover and a built-in best friend,” she whispers, “it sounds pretty great, doesn’t it?”
Chloe blinks and stands blankly in front of the standing mirror in the corner of the apartment, seemingly back right there where it started. The yellow cloth tied around her neck in a way that ensures she can’t quite breathe comfortably, the flight attending uniform buttoned around her body the exact way it did when she was nineteen.
Reunions are supposed to be happy things, right?
The elegance seems awkward and clumsy now, and Chloe tries desperately to comb her hair into a way that would look more like a responsible adult.
Chloe blinks, and the yellow clothes tied around the wrists of a team that used to be her’s flash bright in the dim lights of the aquarium, and Chloe feels old. The feeling the same cloth around Chloe’s wrist still brings her back to the night she was recruited by a scowling Alice, alongside a young and scared Aubrey. It takes her back to the afternoon she caught sight of Beca’s intriguing frown across the activities fair. It means all the songs she’s sang and all the practices she believed were going to last forever.
Chloe blinks, reminding herself that no matter how long the Bellas have been her home, it does not belong to her. Sometimes, on a stage in sparkling costumes, singing Cheap Thrills with Beca’s voice ringing in daring clarity, she forgets that it will not always stay the same way, either.
Back in the hotel room they shared without question at night, they lay, hot skin pressed together. Chloe’s limbs feel like lead and her scalp still hurts from the tight ponytail. She holds Beca’s hand tight underneath the covers, and hopes they will always be good people, always have bright tomorrows.
“Stop thinking,” she grumbles, “I can hear your brain turning from here.”
Beca huffs into her pillow. “Sorry. I’m just worried.”
“About what? Us?”
“A little bit. That, and everything else.”
Chloe squeezes her hand. “Don’t. We’re not people without sure futures. When have we ever not been together?” She passes her thumb in the soft palm of Beca’s hand. “Everything is gonna be fine.”
And then to Italy, Chloe isn’t so sure as words form in her mouth with enticing and refreshing men named after cities in Illinois. The night she sees Khaled eyeing Beca from across the room, she sneaks away from everyone for awhile with Aubrey, sitting at a bar they don’t know with their heads low.
“It’s ending,” Chloe says into her hands, her head spinning slightly.
“It’s ending,” Chloe repeats.
“Yeah. It is.”
And there is a dull pull in her chest that stems from love that remains unnamed still, but Chicago has brown hair and a deep voice, a next-door neighbor type demeanor and a refreshing newness. Chloe leaves an eye out for Beca, entranced on the couch of the salon by her laptop and new loops she is working on. The music courses through Beca, and Chloe knows that the music pulsing through Beca was something she saw first too. Music is Beca’s first love.
Turtle-boy understands computer programs and headphones in ways Chloe does not, and Chicago is steady and new in a way that Beca isn’t. Chloe doesn’t enjoy Chicago’s blatant winks, and she still holds Beca’s hand under the covers at night.
Greece is sunny and polished. Chloe hugs Beca a bit tighter when she sees Theo and Khaled talking in hushed voices in the distance. One more night, and it is Beca that pulls her up and smuggles drinks into their room. Chloe pops open bottle cap after bottle cap, clinking glasses with Beca with a smile that she thinks might just make Beca want to stay.
But the music that feeds Beca’s blood sucks Chloe in, and she loves it so much she loses herself as well.
The heaviness of which Beca’s head lays on her shoulder terrifies her. Chloe doesn’t want to ever move again, and it almost makes her crumbles completely. Beca holds her hand this time, and traces patterns in her palm. Chloe knows, Beca feels it too. There is a distinct path the soft pads of her finger follows, tracing a word over and over, and Chloe knows that it means goodbye. Everyone grows older around her, yet she stays there, on that bed as Beca leaps to her feet, yelling about a song.
With an empty bottle in her hand, she stands on top of the crumpled sheets of the hotel bed and serenades Chloe with the song that brought them their first taste of glory. With her head resting uncomfortably on the headboard, Chloe looks up at Beca swaying at the foot of the bed, the only thing that isn’t fuzzy.
Love's strange, so real in the dark, think of the tender things that we were working on.
Chloe mumbles out a backing bass dizzily, and Beca’s grin and never-ending laughs rushes straight to her head.
Slow change may pull us apart, when the light gets into your heart, baby.
Chloe knows that they’ve got it all wrong, and she tries to reach out to touch Beca’s voice. There is still something forbidden that swirls around their room, and Chloe still feels incriminated when she stares too long at Beca.
Don’t you forget about me. Don’t you forget about me. Don’t you forget about me.
The black watch on Chloe’s wrist hasn’t been dialed to the right time zone after their hectic travels, still stuck at New York time, living in their shared apartment. It doesn’t register all the illicit affairs that transpire in a silence that Chloe doesn’t ever want to forget.
Don’t you forget about me. Will you recognize me? Don’t you forget about me.
This time, at least, Chloe assures all the pounding in her head, she is the only one for whom Beca sings that song. She pulls Beca in when she falls onto her knees and kisses her messily. Chloe doesn’t know why Beca is crying; she barely notices it.
Beca cries, and Chloe thinks it’s fitting as she gently cups her face. A basket case and a criminal. They were always each other’s assured presence.
Beca clears her throat softly after singing. The small loveseat in Chloe’s room is softer than she would have thought, and her back isn’t hurting when she stays slumped there. Chloe has a faraway look across from her, a shawl around her shoulders, her face relaxed and eyes droopy, wrinkles adorning her lost smile.
Beca has always wanted to sing that song for Chloe. For no one else but Chloe.
She keeps repeating the last line, but it seems although Chloe isn’t having one of her better days.
She sighs and pushes herself up. She slips another folded sheet of piece of paper into Chloe’s loose fingers that doesn’t quite register the movement, apart from a slight twitch and tightening. It is only after a moment of hesitation that she presses a lingering kiss on Chloe’s forehead and gives into the late time and walks out slowly.
We were something so great for awhile back there, don’t you think so?
So we both didn’t know back then when I first spilled out just how much I cared onto the carpet that we weren’t really made to last, because I would go out to LA and you’d stay in New York, eventually getting a professional photography degree and travelling to so many states taking pictures of everything you thought was worth keeping. But oh, it was so fucking great while it lasted.
Because for awhile, everything worked out, right? You took me on dates saying it’s dinner to celebrate finally getting rid of that dumb rapper and his stupid demos. I bought you presents with money I saved for two months under the cover of friendship. When it shifted into love that was spoken out loud, and we just went along with it.
I’ve given a lot of people presents because I don’t really know how to speak in words. Shoes, songs, headphones, jewelry; there is a whole bunch. I’ve only ever given you flowers, and flowers are the one thing that don’t last.
That military tour was full of grappling onto our past voices. Theo always chose music over life, just like me, and Chicago always wanted white picket fences, like the girl you once were. I’m terrified that I’m the one that messed you up, that made you find romance in ugly things, like purple eye-bags and undefined love. Stupid of me to give myself to much importance, right?
You’re so good to everyone; who would ever have the luck to become someone special to you? You made me believe I was special when you looked at me and smiled at me and talked to me in a way that made me feel like the only person alive.
I held onto you like a fish to breathable water. It went on for so much longer than it should have. I think these things are so much more complicated than simple labels of ‘toxic’ or ‘true love’. But who am I say? I didn’t know how to love until you taught me with lingering notes and patient company. When I couldn’t wash away the remaining stains of my father, it was you that told me it was okay. No matter how far I ran, I still have his eyes and his tendency for bad emotions. No matter how much you gave, you still had your parent’s absent affections and penchant for care.
We lived in our apartment with loud increments from Amy. We lived like we were the only things that ever mattered.
You know I am painfully dull and cold; I don’t know how to care without hurting and I don’t know how to love without being loved back. I used to force myself to be alive and passionate without any success. But then you come smacking into my hopeless and unchangeable nature, waving at everything, talking to everyone, and you made my sarcastic ass your whole world. You didn’t care; you just smiled it off and roved the world with me without any desire. You were satisfied with only that—with only me.
Seeing all the other bands onstage in front of crows that were not formed by nerdy students was like a slap to the face. I used to believe riding a wave of talent and passion was enough, before I saw the girl from Evermoist following Khaled everywhere to win his favour.
I used to think I was so tough, so full of it all. Until I peeked through to the rest of the world and I was only a kid trying to sing while no one listened. Until you came along and I was only a thin craving for stability and kindness, unable to give you all the things I wanted to.
Then, I had to work and strive for other things that might make me better, you know?