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right where you left me

Chapter Text

 

 

they expected me to find somewhere, some perspective,

but I sat and stared right where you left me

 


 

Chloe still sleeps on the pull-out couch in their apartment a few times even though there is a perfectly good bed a few feet away. It is worn down magically nicely and nostalgic in an extremely present way. Her mind runs miles when she lays down on the soft sheet thrown over, the grey fabric smelling like familiar soap.

She closes her eyes and thinks of Beca’s recent interview, another new and amusing way of questioning tired celebrities with strict guidelines and ridiculous games.

Alright, Beca, only short words, no full sentences!

Uh, what?

Yes, you got it, exactly like that! First thing that comes to mind!

Beca shifts on the neon plastic in front of a completely white screen and gives a chuckle. The interviewer’s voice is distorted and peppy.

Okay, she answers.

Chloe got two pictures texted to her from Montreal five days ago. A very pretty street lined with orange cones, shops with wooden neon signs and an emerald mountain in the back. A another under a clear night sky and a queue of streetlamps continuing until very far off.

How does the world of fame feel like?

Meeting, leaving, symmetrical faces and dinner parties.

Can you be more specific?

You and me, knowing, liking, never close enough to be touching.

Chloe frowns at every online magazine’s bold-typed title that doubts Beca’s sudden success. She purses her lip at every intruding paparazzi picture of Beca crossing the street or at a bar with someone that is a stranger to Chloe. Only she knows how Beca likes Gatorade out of everything to chase her vodka, through and into those photos.

How does success feel like?

Never-ending cities, crowds, long lists of charts.

Can you be more specific?

Late nights, endless work, looming critics.

Can you be even more specific?

Never being where you want to be.

Chloe tosses and turns; she should go to sleep soon. She has a plane booked for tomorrow, taking her to Seattle for some city shoots.

How does excitement and heartbeat feel like?

Singing, headphones, wide highways and loud stages.

Can you be more specific?

Beca pauses and smiles a little.

An old dance routine, bandanas tied so tightly you can’t breathe and college radio stations.

Can you be even more specific?

Blue you can’t unsee, red that incinerates and the song Titanium.

Chloe still craves energy drinks like Beca used to crave coffee when she is so tired that she couldn’t see straight. Chloe still craves the smell of cigarettes, but she means the one she had five years ago.

The interviewer doesn’t retort for a split second, but a split second in a ten-minute long YouTube video is like eternity.

What is your favourite color, then?

The sudden, persistent, dynamism drives a loud bark of laughter out of Beca.

Easy. Purple. It’s color theory.

Chloe knows a lot, but she doesn’t say. She understands Beca’s first love being music, she understands how impossible it is to find even one love in one lifetime. She knows that what is loved is mentioned.

Chloe sleeps restlessly.

(Before she took likings to sarcasm and eyeliner, she did also have peaceful sleep.)

 

 

Theo Harper Takes a Stand on Feminism” coats at least two online articles that pop up on Chloe’s phone and she raises an eyebrow, but doesn’t really think about it anymore.

Beca rings her up on a Saturday afternoon, her words slurring together and her voice cracking every two words.

He’s being praised on the fucking internet when all he said was like two words about rape being bad, Beca grunts through the line, seeming unable to stop. As if he didn’t start that shit on accident, getting caught on tape while he said those things just trying to piss another douche off because he quit their collaboration.

Chloe hums in understanding, just entertaining Beca’s rant, because she’s gotten enough of these. It does concern her a little bit, that every single time, Beca is slurring her words, sometimes messy bar voices in the back, sometimes the dead silence of her apartment surrounding the words.

When asked about it, Beca just sighs and replies, sometimes I want to drink just to forget all the people following me everywhere and shouting at me wherever I go. And then I drink a little too much and I’m, like, aware they’re looking, so I drink more to ignore that.

Theo kind of steps out of the backdrop of a producer and does a couple interviews where he fully embraces the feminist thing he’s got going on and using big words.

But it’s like he didn’t just fucking yell at a woman last week because she refused to give him her phone number, you know? It’s as if most of the men I know haven’t already harassed an actress.

It’s fucking bullshit, Chlo.

He’s, like, my boss so I can’t run my mouth, and I hate that.

A couple of days later, someone tweets a video of Beca Mitchell snapping at Theo Harper outside of a restaurant.

Two hours later, a few thousand comments sweep in, saying they’ve had enough of Beca’s rude personality, that it’s plain unpleasant. They attribute Beca’s sudden rush to stardom to luck and backstage forces, and Chloe knows that Beca is agreeing with them right now.

They range from casual to downright terrifying, and Chloe winces reading them and shuts off her phone.

A day later, old cases of Theo sexual harassing a female co-worker gets dug up and makes it little stroll around the internet.

She’s the one who calls Beca this time, and Beca returns the call four hours later.

It’s like it’s always a life-or-death situation here every single fucking day, Beca says.

And I got unlucky, with that getting caught on camera. Theo told me get another producer.

And this town loves assholes like them, and there’s nothing we can do. People are going to forget about it in six months and he’ll still get jobs handed to him.

Chloe picks up the phone again and again. And one time, Beca is so drunk out of her head, giggling and yelling into the phone in nonsensical sentences, and it makes Chloe laugh.

I miss you, Chloe. I miss you, I miss you, I miss you! You’re my one good thing. I love you.

Chloe grins and shakes her head.

“I love you too. You know,” Chloe pauses, her grin softening to a quiet smile, “You’re going to marry me someday, if things always went the way I wanted them to. And I’m nothing great, but I’ll make enough money for two nice rings and a bigger apartment. We’re nearing that age, anyway, right?” She laughs quietly to herself. “We’ve gotta surrender to the age sometime, right?”

Beca’s end is silent for a few seconds, then a clear chuckle comes through and sneaks its way from Chloe’s ear to her heart.

“Yeah, Chlo. If everything goes to shit, I’ve still got you.”

 

Chloe lets the days go by without a fight, just letting them carry her in the direction they want. Most times, Chloe gets by without trouble, enough money to pay bills and enough enthusiasm to keep on travelling to places and taking pictures of things she finds pretty.

With every new interview about Beca that pops up on the internet, Chloe knows she is finding some more footing in the life without her. She doesn’t acknowledge the same song on repeat for two months or the words she slurs when she’s drunk, and all the vowels sounding like Beca’s name.

Chloe reads an article about a lighthouse online and it goes something like this: “when you love someone, that person becomes the lighthouse of your universe.” It goes on and on about how it is the lighthouse that shines over everything that can even be perceived in the dead of the night. How everything that is beautiful is only beautiful when the lighthouse lights it up. How beauty can be recognized, but is only breathtaking with that person.

How they illuminate.

How they make everything more.

And Chloe spends months trying to undo her lighthouse from her blood. She spends months concentrating on separating the individual seconds of her day to make them seem longer and more complete, putting each one into her fist and counting the jagged edges, trying to find good things in their cracks. She ignores the ghosts that live in her closet that disapprove of her willing forgetfulness; she calls everyone she misses but stays happy.

Her pictures are starting to feel beautiful again, and she sees the excitement in songs that talk about things other than love again. In the sweltering heat of Arizona and the unforgiving snow of New York, under the rain in Seattle and by the beach in Vancouver—she really believes that she is better off.

 

And when Chloe’s flight touches down in LA once more after months and months, it is Beca who reaches out first after their long silence. They haven’t properly spoken in so long, yet Chloe still thinks of her on her birthday.

And they lounge around everywhere, Beca splitting her life apart again to fit Chloe in it. Slouching in a wooden chair in Beca’s recording studio, Chloe revels in the unblemished thrill that comes with it, knowing Beca still comes back to her.

At night, on Beca’s living room floor, in between plastic plates full of sushi and soy sauce, she tilts her head and breathes in and out.

“I think…” Chloe blinks and watches Beca’s face carefully, “I think that I know how to be with myself now.”

Beca laughs, not patronizing, just rather delighted, like she knows exactly what Chloe is talking about. “I’m glad.”

Chloe sees a different kind of light as she watches Beca struggle to open her bottle of iced tea, one that is not dependant and overbearing. It lets her breathe beside it, a safeness that envelopes her.

And they talk about everything, from the new coffee table to theories of alternate universes, but never find a chance to get closer; a chance to hug or kiss or touch each other. For a split moment, Chloe’s heart runs away and explodes into Beca’s hands, all over her iced tea. But she reels it back instead and keeps laughing at Beca’s terrible pun.  

 

A bit later, Beca sits with her back against the headboard of her bed, a bottle of water clutched in her hand and her knees pulled up against her chest. The excitement wearing off, she stares at a spot of sauce on her sweatpants while Chloe taps out a beat against the sheets, spread wide across the covers.

A long time ago, Chloe could see it in her head, clearer than anything else she remembers, they were just like this as well. Sitting in Beca’s bed, a bottle of whatever in their hands and talking about the future like they had any idea what it would be like.

And they had their dreams, about music, about love, about travelling, about starting families that would be happy forevermore. Tonight, they still drink the same stuff from bottles from whatever, and when their glasses touch, it’s the sound of dreams falling apart.

“Do you think I’m a good person, Chloe?”

Chloe’s beat falters and she turns her head to rest her cheek, squished, on the back of her right hand. She hums in sleep confusion, but nods without hesitation.

Beca smiles the tiniest bit, sadly. “You really think so? Even when I’m this successful?”

“Why would I deem you a bad person for being successful? That’s dumb.”

“I’m in LA, Chlo,” Beca laughs, and Chloe starts to notice the dark circles under her eyes and the crease that is beginning to take place permanently between her brows. “No one kind and good and perfect gets famous.”

Chloe purses her lips, squinting her eyes and trying to figure out Beca in her haze. She always thought she was good at that; at reading Beca’s frown, at understanding her retorts, at decoding her cold words. But Beca rests her head against the headboard, looking down at her with an almost empty look in her eyes, and Chloe doubts she really ever learned to read her properly.

“But you’re Beca,” Chloe says with finality, “I believe you won’t become a huge asshole.”

“But even my beginning was wrong. I got pushed over the people trying so hard just because I impressed one person with status. I didn’t work for it.”

Chloe snorts unattractively into the sheets. “That’s bullshit, Becs.” She rolls off her stomach and flops onto her back, untangling her hair from under her back and pats Beca’s knee with a dazed smile. “You worked your ass of every second for the Bellas and you made awesome mashups for every competition. If that isn’t dedication and talent, then what is? The final sprint to that finish line was just a little different, that’s all.”

“I’ve fucked people over too, you know,” Beca says quietly. “Most times, I don’t even have the option. Either the management I’ve signed a contract with decides for me, or I’d get fucked over if I don’t do something about it first.” She tightens her grip on the poor water bottle in her hands. “I hate it. I wish I could do something about it.”

Chloe looks up at her and wants to wrap her up and take her back to New York, back when all they had was each other. “Why don’t you just come back?” she asks, “you know I’m here. You know Amy is there, you know the Bellas are going to have your back, still.”

Beca’s face is a mixture between crying and laughing. “Really? Because I know I don’t deserve it. I disappear for weeks at a time and I don’t even call you often, and I’m in weird places most times and can’t keep in touch.”

“I mean it. If it gets too tiring, we still have our apartment and I have a job.” Chloe breaks into a goofy smile, her jet lag messing with her head and she can’t help but smile a lot when she’s laying here with Beca. “I’ll take care of you, babe.”

Beca laughs shakily. “Thanks, Beale.”

“Of course.”

Chloe has heard all about the warpath Beca left behind her as she fought for her place in LA, through the phone calls and skype sessions and texts that swam between them a few months ago, back when they still talked so often. And she isn’t blind, she does check up on news and articles, and sometimes they link together and Chloe can figure out how things went down.

She’s been there so many times, looking on in the distance as Beca lost her mind trying to toe the line between career and morality. She understands that they are different people. She understands that Beca is just the kind of person that puts so much effort into honesty and righteousness, and she hurts for someone like Beca to be put in these sorts of situations, and she understands that she would never fully understand that.

“It’ll be alright, just wait and see,” Chloe says after a moment of silence, “it’s okay for now. Just breathe, Beca. We’ve all messed up and done questionable things, you know.”

Beca looks like she’s about to cry. “You’re the only one who still treats me like I’m brand new.”

“Because you are.”

Because every time Chloe has the privilege to see her again, she’s like a new person all over. Because Chloe is convinced she’s still the only one to see Beca as everything as she is, and not only a superstar, or a lover, or a musician, or a businesswoman.

Because Chloe is so endlessly enthralled each and every time Beca splits her life apart just to fit her in it again.

And then Beca is crying, clutching at that water bottle like her life depends on it, and Chloe wonders how they cry so easily these days.

“I miss the days when we were in college, Chlo,” Beca chokes out, “I miss them so much. I miss the way I’d wake up with a house full of people who I knew loved me back, and I miss the boring ass lectures, and the window that doesn’t closes fully and the cat that always stays on our doorstep. I miss knowing that you were just a knock on a door away, back when everything was just out of reach enough to still be able to dream about. I miss having a place feel like home, and I miss being able to tell you I love you to your face any day, and I know that never said it enough.”

Beca’s breath catches in her throat in an ugly sob and her face is splotched in spots of red, and it still makes Chloe lose her train of thought. She looks back with a helpless sniff of her own, her vision blurring as well.

“And I’m always thinking about the people I’ve left along the way all the time, the people I should’ve talked to more, cared about more, the people I wish I had more time with, but I was too caught up in my own problems and emotions to see, and now they’re just weights I carry with me for longer and longer, and it’s so hard grieving for the living, Chloe—” Beca sucks in a deep and shuddering breath, her lips trembling, “—and I don’t know how I can carry on this way for any longer, it’s so exhausting, you know? And I keep wondering if I am a monster or if this is what it means to be a person, and I get drunk but it’s not enough, because I wake up and I’m still worse off than I was before—”

Chloe puts a hand on Beca arm and squeezes. “Beca. Beca. Beca, stop.”

Beca stutters to a stop and stares at her with big red eyes, bloodshot and not pretty at all.

“Come on,” Chloe says, pulling her closer and laying them back down, “breathe.”

“I’m not too gone, right?” Beca whispers hoarsely, “I’m not too gone to be good again, am I?”

Chloe squeezes Beca tighter and doesn’t speak, because truthfully, she doesn’t know. She gazes at the ceiling and listens to Beca’s breathing slowly calm down and even out. She hates feeling this helpless and not being to help Beca, or just stand in front and block everything out for her.

They lay there, following each other’s breathing. Chloe wants Beca to stop treating herself like a tragedy, but she loves the way she is the one to pick up her pieces when she cries. She thinks of the selfish things Beca has admitted she’s done to make her own career a bit easier through drunken hazes of conversation. She thinks of the kindest things she’s seen Beca throw her money into to make the world a better place.

She is not sure if there is a deep down, if they are not just everything their actions are.

She doesn’t know how they can be so old, yet still know so little.

It’s spring again, and the days are so slow, but the years pass so fast.

All they have left Chloe are deeper questions about where they are going. She can afford hot water at all times, organic fruit to feel fancier, and all that other pretty crap.

And still, the only things she knows for sure is Beca’s hot skin against her’s and the trust she’s left in Chloe’s hands as she plays with the edge of her shirt.

 

“How ‘bout happier subjects,” Chloe suddenly says, sitting up in one swoop and Beca jumping a little. “I think I’m gonna apply to be an English teacher somewhere, settle down and stuff. Any fancy resume recommendation ideas you can give me?”

Chloe stabilizes herself with a hand on Beca’s arm and almost falls over again with the look Beca is pushing her way. She smiles tentatively and is returned with an even softer smile, and Beca looks so much better than she was moments ago.

“You’re Chloe Beale,” Beca says, loosening her grip on the water bottle and letting it topple over. "You're a three-time super-senior, you got two degrees at the same time, and you’ve always seen the good in me somehow.”

 


 

Dear Chlo,

You have been thinking of things that are a couple years closer to us, these times. They are more accurate than I thought they would be, it’s surprising.

You are everything that was still good with me when I was at my worst. I never wanted to the thrusted into the spotlight, and for a sheer moment, when Khaled offered me all that, I fell for it. But I always wanted to be a producer, nothing else, nothing more.

Everyone was on my ass all the time; my first hit EP was all I ever had. It is so frustrating when I learn and create new ones that I think are so much better, but no one listens to them. That EP was all that I was known for. And they started saying I was a one-hit wonder, and I mean, even if I was, why was I still relevant enough for every little action to be dramatized into huge statements? I was so young when I sang them, just out of that USO tour and believing that talent and hard work would take me anywhere. I should have known that everything life wraps up and gifts me has been already priced with more to give up in my future days.

Thirty-two was a long way from eighteen, and an even longer way away from now. All I wanted to ask you, every time I picked up the phone, was for you to come to my shows. Music is love, and I wanted you to hear that. I knew that I was slowly fading away in songs, and slowly only being known for the articles and eyeliner. I hated that.

But with you it was so simple. With you, music is so simple. You understand that the good and the bad all end up in the song.

When the crowd beneath the height of the stage claps and cheers, it’s sweltering and deafening. It was like a trembling wave of blessing from the world. No one knew we were together, but they’ve all seen the way we were together.

Please don’t forget me just yet.

Yours,

Beca.

 


 

When everything comes crashing down in a spectacular and sudden mess, Chloe is too far away from Beca to catch her when she falls.

The entire internet and tabloid articles explode with a few screenshots that Theo publishes of his and Beca’s text thread, and a couple of paparazzi videos of her snapping at people on the street just pushes it further.

When Chloe tries to channel her comfort into texts on her phone just as the insults start on the bottom of twitter feeds, they feel minuscule compared to what Beca was aimed at with. She thinks of how easily scared and easily hurt Beca was when they first met. She thinks of how Beca was so delicately tough, how she cried to Toy Story and how she flipped off Aubrey. She thinks of how undeniably good Beca is underneath all that, of her late nights and her shy laugh, how she messes up but apologizes afterwards.  

Then, the days pass only with crosses off calendars and for a supposed ‘one hit wonder’, the whole world turns against Beca. There are insults and careless comments thrown for good measure on the internet, and there are near death-threats and unforgiving paparazzi pictures crawling everywhere for the extremes.

Chloe wants to cry at how someone so immorally important to her could be treated like garbage in other hands.

Chloe blinks hard to fight off the tears that have no place being there at all, and behind her eyelids, scenes flash by in succession. The sunlight of Barden, loud parties, movie midnights. Innocence, out of reach, yellow cups and girls swearing the basement in their house is haunted.

She thinks of how no one has ever been able to evoke the same feelings in her ever again, after Beca. She wonders if that is a blessing or a curse. If that is something to hold on to or if she should try to let go.

But before everything, they are friends. Before everything, friendship lasts and lingers for so long.  

 

Chloe wants to get away from her mobile job in photography and move on to something that wouldn’t make her heart beat out of her chest every time LA popped up on the screen as a next destination. She puts her degree to use and aims for a teaching job.

She focuses on herself and is moving on. She was, until she picks up the phone on a morning and is greeted with a voicemail from Beca, voice soft and scared.

She focuses on herself and moving on until Beca needs her again.

 

She calls Beca back with fumbling fingers when she hears Beca sobbing through the message, scared out of her wits by paparazzi and fans.

“No, no. Don’t cry, Becs, don’t cry, please, I’m coming right away.”

And she books a flight to Los Angeles on a cloudy Tuesday afternoon.

 

Chloe always saw an unearthly stubbornness in Beca, from the very first glance of that dark-eyed frown across patches of grass, there was an almost otherworldly clash with everything else. She has never seen it clearer than in this moment, Beca standing in front of her in a crumpled long-sleeve that was once white, but used to a cream color, hair messy and eyes tired.

The ends of her hair are still a muddy blonde from a dye that her team obligated for a music video a couple of weeks ago, and the sharper angles of her face with the all at once neat but hopelessly careless clothes have never looked less like Beca. But that obstinacy still seeps out of her clenched fists, her imploring gaze up at Chloe.

“Take me home, Chlo,” she slowly whispers, “If you want to.”

“I want to. You know I’ll always want to.”

Beca is somewhere very deep in her world, now surrounded by plastic smiles and knives in backs, all grappling towards the top of fame and success in the city of angles. She isn’t the rough but sincere girl Chloe had found walking in the activities fair anymore.

“But you also know I’ll still have to leave. I…” Beca bites her lip, so tightly Chloe is afraid she is going to draw blood, “I’m so sorry, Chlo. I don’t know why I chose this line of work,” she struggles, and Chloe reaches out to one of her clenched fists, gently prying it loose and threading her own fingers through, “but at the same time…I just can’t fucking let it go. It’s all I am now.”

Chloe shakes her head. The frustration that is almost hand in hand with every mention of Beca is worthless when Beca is tilting her head down, trying to keep Chloe from seeing her eyes turn red. She curses this train of days taking Beca’s once sparkling dreams into the muddy stages and newspapers headlines to dirty.

She winds an arm around Beca’s waist. “Let’s go home.”

 

Home is the apartment Chloe still keeps in New York; her job able to afford it anyway. She books a flight for the both of them back to New York city without knowing where things would lead them this time, and the entire trip back is a haze. Home is a place they haven’t been to in months, but still warm and cramped, the familiarity overwhelming and painful as soon as the door rattles open. An empty mug sits on the small dining table, just where Chloe left it in February, just before leaving for Montreal.

She pulls Beca in through the narrow hallway, stepping over shorts of which the owner remains anonymous.

She hears Beca murmur into her shoulder again, “how did we end up here?”.

They fall onto bed sheets, Beca squeezing her eyes shut and Chloe’s wide open, helplessly taking in the woman by her side. She undresses Beca gently, peeling off the long-sleeve and the black trousers, letting them fall onto the carpet. She discards her own sweater and slacks; she keeps her eye on Beca and her red eyes. She pulls Beca in closer under the covers and whispers into her shoulder, smoothing her hand over her side. In all the mess that they are in now, Chloe is still craving to be someone that is there for Beca, and she blinks in rapid succession, images overlapping in her head and passing like short films.

Painful politeness in well-pressed blouses, as if in another life. Children running and laughing, Beca’s mixing equipment, new tattoos and old songs, and falling in love, no one being surprised but for them. Handsome men, pretty women, estranged calls.

In all of them, Chloe is dazed and confused and still overwhelmed by what she feels, reaching out and curling around back into the pits of her chest, in the crevices between her ribs. Some craving so past sexual that it is almost innocent.

Innocence, in Beca’s lash line, in her own freckles, battling to their death against the slew of speculations and reputations that are knocking on their door.

 

Beca stays with Chloe for two months. She keeps an almost scary friendly attitude after the first day out of habit, and it pains Chloe down to the core. It makes Chloe sure that she is the only one in the entire world that can see when Beca is trying to deceive, and bits of Beca’s frown find themselves in Chloe morning coffee and the creases of her shower curtains. Bits of Beca’s damaged pieces surface and make themselves at home in Chloe’s bed, and Beca hands them over in a way that definitely isn’t supposed to thrill Chloe.

The media speculates about the whereabouts of Beca Mitchell, not really caring about accuracy, just the drama. Chloe pats Beca on the arm and tells her that she wouldn’t listen to them, she’s just going to believe the story that Beca tells her.

Beca tells her that’s not fair, and Chloe replies that she’s not here to be the judge of things; that she’s only here to be on Beca’s side.

(That’s what I’m here for, Becs.)

(You did nothing wrong. It’s the rest of the world that’s wrong.)

But anything that Beca hands to her and not anyone else thrills her endlessly. Without reason.

 

It’s my fucking pride that ruins things, Beca mumbles on the third night as they fall asleep on the couch, Beca half on top of her and nodding off to Mean Girls. Chloe nods and rests an arm around her shoulders.

I can’t cry. If I start, I’m scared that I’ll never stop, Beca says on the first Tuesday afternoon when Chloe asks her about it. She kisses her on the forehead and orders pizza and beer.

Maybe it’s just every artist’s dream to be remembered somehow, Beca declares to the bedroom wall after her shower, and Chloe hears it through the closed bathroom door. She pretends she doesn’t and sings The Sign as if carelessly as she dries herself off until she hears a banging on the bathroom door and Beca yelling desperately for her to stop. She opens it to find Beca glaring, but brighter, lighter, and more similar to the one she remembers.

I never just leave good enough alone, Beca grumbles sleepily into her shoulder after a night spent screaming out Chloe’s name. The purple marks sparkle on her neck, and Chloe pulls Beca tighter against her front.

I’m betting on an unreachable success and the rest of my life is the wager, Beca says as they finally talk about it over the only dish Chloe knows how to cook. Beca stuffs more mac and cheese into her mouth and Chloe laughs as Beca splutters.

I’m betting on an unreachable success and the rest of my life is the wager, Beca repeats and repeats, and I feel like I’m hurting everyone in the process.

 

 

Chloe takes Beca back to Atlanta in the sweltering heat of August, at the start of a brand-new school year. They sit on the concrete steps of the ice-cream shop facing Barden and watch cabs and cars and trucks stop and go, students hauling suitcases and exchanging hugs and crying and laughing. She grips Beca’s hand tight as they watch the place that used to be everything that they ever knew not recognise them anymore.

Look, Beca, this is the people we used to be.

Look, Beca, please don’t forget about this.

The bus stop where they stumbled out to on dreary nights back from a day in town has new graffiti tags on its glass walls, and the sidewalk where Amy once chipped a bit off with a truck she got from god-knows-where is repaired. Neither of them really talks about the weight that has been sitting on their shoulders since they last saw each other, and they don’t sit too close. But Beca reaches out for Chloe’s hand as they walk by the empty pool and Chloe squeezes back.

“Can we go to the convenience store down the road again?”

Chloe nods and smiles and tugs Beca into a hug under the shade of a tree. “Yeah. Yeah, of course.” But she desperately wants to pull Beca back to their old dorms and old classrooms and the old corner of the unused bathroom on the third floor to go back to what they used to be.

(Spinning, taunting, improvising out a love that they hadn’t experienced yet.)

Everything has changed, Chloe thinks, but herself.

She is something that world forgot to bring along as it keeps getting older.

The road to the Seven-Eleven is so familiar, Chloe can still retrace every step she used to take on the Wednesday afternoons before Bellas practice. Beca still buys a white Gatorade and lollipops and Chloe still buys the same ketchup chips and tic-tac’s.

“I want to stay in these Barden days if I ever get old and slobbery,” Chloe says as they sit on the benches back by the ice-cream shop.

Beca snorts. “I’d have so much fun seeing you slobbery.”

Chloe rolls her eyes and steals a gulp of Beca’s Gatorade. Beca doesn’t give her another smart remark or sarcastic jab, just closes her eyes and leans back into the wood, taking a few breaths. Chloe doesn’t know where they are going, but they are still together after all this time so it must mean something.

And she thinks that maybe the girls were right when they said that the basement of the Bella house was haunted.

Because they walk by the trees and see the white tile house in the distance, and Chloe swears she hears Just A Dream again. And even when Chloe reaches out and holds Beca's hand, intertwining their fingers, she is haunted by the ghosts of how happy they used to be. 

“I’ve been wishing we could start over a lot lately,” Beca whispers into the boiling hot air between them. “But I’m not even sure it would finish better.”

 


 

Hey Chlo,

The days where my entire career blew up in my face were some of the worst in my life. Because what do you do when the one thing that saved you becomes the things that destroys you?

Whatever I touch, crumbles. I didn’t want that to happen to you.

You already know that you would let you ruin me if you asked me to. You already know I’m reckless and absolutely insane, and I can’t bear the thought of you suffering from it. Anyone else, (and there’s already been so many) but not you. Oh god, not you.

There are so many things that kindness and justice can’t help but watch burn in flames. And that night, when you watched me with that hopeless look in your eyes, I wasn’t sure either that I could say that I’ve always been a good person.

 

We hadn’t seen each other or had a proper conversation in so long, yet you were still my weak spot; my Achille’s heel. I am sure there are things about you that I have forgotten as well, and that thought disgusts me. What you said on a morning on the first of April in 2012, I cannot come up with, but I know we were in the Bella house together. I am so vehemently furious at the act of forgetting any little thing at all, but I am old as well and I can’t even remember lyric to my own songs most days.

But I found the picture of a tattoo I wanted to get on my back when I was thirty-three, a long string of ivy that would go up my back and wrap the tiniest amount around my left shoulder.

I found that idea a night I was hanging out with a strange woman behind the noisiest bar, both of us running away from the crowds and dealing with our own stuff. She had red hair and a soft voice, and you can already see where this is going.

She was smoking when I found her, stumbling in my heels and mascara smudged. She asked if I wanted to hear a story, and I said yes. I had nothing better to do and no one better to talk with.

I killed a stray cat in my car today, she told me, I was crying when I left the house and kept crying when I got to the car, and a fucking Justin Bieber song was paying on the radio and it somehow made me cry harder.

She stuck a joint into my mouth and flicked her lighter, looking me dead in the eyes. I didn’t do anything, and she lit it.

I felt worse about that then when I cheated on my husband, she said. Her eyes were bloodshot and she sat a bit to close, and the stank of weed made my head turn. Why do we do the things we do?

We sat there for hours, sometimes talking sometimes not, and she rolled with surprising speed and knew how to fold the filter into a heart. It was sickeningly romantic in the most terrible way, and it was the first time I felt cared for in a year. I watched the stars spinning in the sky, barely even there. She asked me if I was happy, and for a split second, I could have sworn it was you that whispered to me, voice soft and hair tickling my neck in the gentlest way. Your voice the exact way I remembered it to be when I was only twenty, and I told her that I was.

And I was, in that moment.

You know that when we’re at rock bottom, everyone that crosses our path looks like light. But I’m trying, I swear I am. I’m trying so hard to be good enough.

We forget the memories sometimes, but the memories don’t forget us.

I have loved you since I was eighteen, because there are never strict lines that love should be forced to follow in order to count. We never used the term ‘girlfriend’ or ‘couple’ or whatever else, but I’d like to think that I’ve loved you my whole life; that we were and are something. I love you, Chloe, please remember me.

Yours,

Beca.

 


 

Beca always refuses to comply, she still refuses to give in, even as her career falls out right underneath her feet, and Chloe swears to her bedroom ceiling as they lay there together again, that it would be her that takes care of Beca once she gets tired and wants to go home.

She watches Beca hold onto her talent given to her by her parents and nights spent hunched over her desk in college to slash back at the people doubting her. And still, she refuses to give in.

The world has not heard from Beca Mitchell in months, and they slowly start cooling down. Like always, the town finds some other relevant star to bash on without proof, without good reason and keep on loving assholes Beca stays with Chloe, back in their tiny apartment in New York, and starts writing music again.

Chloe feels like she’s in some kind of twisted paradise, back in the morbid sense of intimacy she’s shared with Beca since forever. She watches Beca sit in front of a keyboard and stab at keys, humming under her breath, and she is fulfilled.

“I can’t wait for you get out this funk, Beca, and be happy. I can’t wait for you to get better.”

Beca looks up with a smile. “Really?”

“You’re the biggest idiot I know and the only thing that makes sense to me,” Chloe replies.

And Chloe thinks she’s found something that was missing from her long journey of trying to be better as well. She finds a nice school near the upper west side and wonders why she thought life was so hard before. She tries to mend things with her parents, because this is their first time being parents too, and she gets how hard things get sometimes. She buys donuts on her way home for Beca, and watches her make dinner while dancing in the kitchen. She watches Beca build herself back up and sleeping in until it gets easier. And she doesn’t intervene, because she knows she is there to love Beca, and not to save her.

She tells Beca that, that wherever justice and kindness doesn’t reach, she will still have her.

It is everything Chloe has ever looked for in the few hopeful dates she’s ventured into, but she doesn’t point that out, and neither does Beca. But Beca greets at the apartment door every night without fail with a smile or tired eyes, and gives her a hug and helps her with the grocery bags. And before bed, they move around each other, humming the same song, brushing their teeth and washing their face.

Beca loops her arms around Chloe neck at the door of the bathroom and sways with a small grin and a light in her eyes that Chloe has missed so much. Chloe asks her what they would do after all this is over, because honestly, Chloe wants to be the one to kneel on the floor with a shiny ring and pick out her white dress and forget to buy tomatoes at the farmer’s market together in twenty years.

She knows she’s told Beca that before, but she knows she couldn’t give Beca everything they want either. She wants to make her all her’s, but she’s also afraid that Beca is going to be at that farmer’s market, arguing over a wrongly priced watermelon with the seller; she’s afraid Beca is going to see a dress she likes and hesitate about buying it.

“What are we going to do, Becs?”

Beca’s arms are warm, resting on Chloe’s shoulders. “We’ll do all the good stuff, okay?” She sways lightly against Chloe again. “We’ll make breakfast at noon and trash talk all the reality TV contestants and hold hands. Then I’ll move out and you’ll leave to find better things to waste your time on, because that’s what always happens.”

Chloe brushes a hair from Beca’s eyes and lets her touch linger for a bit. “Okay. I love you, you know?”

“I know, Chlo.”

 

So Chloe turns the apartment upside down when Beca gets a call from her team, out of nowhere. She looks for the errant scraps of paper on which she’s poured her soul and unsaid love onto. The place is a mess after she’s stacked most of then into a relatively neat pile on the coffee table.

She hears Beca in the hallway, talking furiously to someone on the other side of the line, and Chloe knows that she’s going away soon, that it was inevitable.

Most of the papers are torn and blotched, the edges curling and crumpled into sad pieces of garbage. Chloe swallows harshly, suddenly unable to move properly as she sees the words that were once overflowing with importance seem like useless things thrown up into sentences. Some of them, as she picks each one up and smoothens it out carefully, still punches her in the guts. Others are stupid, nonsensical and nearing hysteria.

 

Beca tells her that her team has picked themselves up and organised a plan for the future. She says that they want her to marry someone to settle down the press and just focus on pushing out good songs. Beca says that it’s good that being with Chloe has given her inspiration for music.

How wonderfully strange is it to be a muse, she seems to be telling Chloe in between the lines.

It’s good as long as it’s you, Chloe answers in the form of a tight hug.

She’s known from the first drunken phone call that she wouldn’t be completely sheltered from Beca’s fame either. She’s been prepared to be stabbed by it somewhere, sometime. She knows that maybe Beca marrying famous film composer, Jesse Swanson as a college-to-adult love story would be exactly the thing the media needs.

Where do you think I can stop? Beca asks, tears in her eyes that she refuses to acknowledge as she packs her suitcase.

When you’re with me, Chloe answers. She drives Beca to the airport and cries in her car until she can’t breathe.

 

Chloe climbs the never-ending stairs back to her apartment alone, without Beca, and wraps all her old letters in a big yellow envelope. She throws a coat and a hat to run down to the post office before she regrets it. She prints Beca’s address in LA carefully and slides it over the counter, only hesitating the smallest bit.

For your song writing, I hope it helps, she writes, from Chloe.

A week later, after two demos that Beca has already sent her with bits of her writing in her cracks of the melody, Chloe decides to clean out her apartment and rent it out. She is vacuuming when she finds a folded flyer beneath her bed. When she undoes the creased edges, it is a Bellas flyer, with the faded blue border and a bold ‘B’ that pricks at her eyes. Her own handwriting stares back at her.

She doesn’t even remember writing this one, the letters scrawled with such reckless abandon that they scare her with their ferocity.

You are so deeply intwined with every concept of love I’ve ever had. I love you, because you are love.

Chloe doesn’t send that one to Beca.