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right where you left me

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i could feel the mascara run; you told me that you met someone.

glass shattered on the white cloth, everybody moved on.

 


 

The news of Beca Mitchell, hit pop star and talented songwriter, being engaged is leaked skillfully through a few undercover accounts on various social medias. They excite the public decently while Beca is sent on a ‘vacation’ with Jesse in the Galapagos, paparazzi booked in advance to follow them around. The buzz buzzes even louder, and her team picks a sweltering hot day in the middle on July for them to announce it officially.

Beca’s Instagram has now a picture of Jesse on the top of its feed, cooking pasta and the caption ‘husband material’. The comments blow up and Chloe turns off her phone, placing it on her kitchen counter. She turns her head towards the unsent Bellas flyer, laying crumpled on the coffee table.

Just the one last poem she wrote ages ago. Only three words, she spent countless seasons writing over and over again.

Just for the few seconds Beca spends reading what she’s sent her, she would be thinking of Chloe. Just for the few seconds Beca spends reading her crazy scribbles, she belongs to Chloe.

Beca sends back a thin stack of papers in the mail a few days later. Chloe knows that it’s easier if she would have just typed the words out in an email or scanned them out, but the scratchy sheets in her hands are the closest thing to holding Beca lately, and she is grateful.

Three sheets of dollar store paper, so thin that they could tear any moment. The handwriting of the three pages of a song’s draft is so distinctly Beca’s; thin, slanted, and neat. The words, however, makes Chloe’s breath stick in her throat. Little parts of the nonsensical thoughts that took over Chloe’s life for awhile, that she had sent out to Beca barely a month ago. They are now a song called “Fast Friends”, with a post-it note on the back, saying “thank you, Chlo, for co-writing this song”.

Chloe rereads those three pages many times in the following weeks. They crumple and tear at the edges, and she bites her lip guiltily every time it happens. She reads it so much, and thinks about all the things they’ve never told each other at parties, on stages, and side by side in tents. Chloe reads it so much, and she thinks that she understands that telling love to the fullest could also be a kind of burden.  

 

Beca calls her again on a rainy Monday morning from Los Angeles. They’ve stayed in touch recently, never really letting go after Beca left last time. Chloe thinks they’ve wordlessly fallen into another kind of torture, much sweeter, much lighter.

(Maybe it wasn’t really torture at all.)

(Chloe isn’t really sure how to call it anything else.)

Chloe answers while curling her hair and humming to herself, and Beca’s smoothly shy voice fills her like it has never before. Beca asks her what she thought of her song, and Chloe is overwhelmed all at once with words overflowing from her tongue, trying to find the right ones to describe how the song makes her lose sleep at night.

She wants Beca to know that she writes like she speaks; gently, quietly, and taking over Chloe with every word. She wants Beca to know that her music is still the kind of unwavering belief it was when she was nineteen; innocent, beautiful, and ringing in Chloe’s head years later. But she tells Beca that she’s loved it, that she’s so, so, talented, and that she has never been prouder.

When Beca asks her to be the maid of honor just for the show, she accepts without the resounding pang of pain that she expects to find.

 

Beca flies back out again, before Chloe could properly ask her if this much flying across the country could possibly okay for her health. Beca assures her anyway that she is used to it at this point, even though she does it most times only for different publicity jobs. Still stuck in that whirling spiral stuck on her one top hit, all of Beca’s relevancy is kept with magazine drama and relationship statuses, and Chloe can hear how much it bothers her in the way she talks.

They go to a beach together, Beca waking up one morning under Chloe’s covers, head resting on her shoulder, and mumbling about it. Chloe smiles, turning them gently over to curl her arm surely around Beca’s middle and pressing her cold nose into the back of Beca’s neck. She doesn’t know where to even begin on describing how the absence of Beca feels like the absence of herself.

(How does she feel everyone else’s feelings but her’s?)

Beca hums a muffled little noise like they do not have the whole world weighing down in their shoulders, lazily slotting her fingers in between Chloe’s, and Chloe is reminded of all the nights where it felt right. Just like right now.       

The beach has amazing carousels and arcade games, and Chloe laughs like she is young again. She catches Beca’s dumb grin from the corner of her eye, and she feels like she is a young schoolgirl, stomach flipping with the careless attention of a crush. It’s invigorating and exciting, and Chloe thinks she could fly. Above the city skyline of Brooklyn and the golden sand of their beach, the whole world sounds like Beca. Chloe watches Beca miss popping a balloon in the arcade stand while a five-year-old girl pops them perfectly, and she thinks she could spend her life like this.

She takes Beca dress shopping like a good bridesmaid a few days later, and she thinks it may be one of the most sacred moments of her life. Amy, Stacie, and Emily fly out and all cram into Beca’s car, and for a day, it’s like nothing has ever changed. For all of Beca’s shy uncertainty after this long, their raucous excitement makes up for, and the conversation doesn’t stop the whole ride there. It isn’t truly dress shopping even, more of a warehouse-type place where Beca’s team had picked out ones they think would work with the whole theme, but they have a good, long, time vetoing out each dress. The bridesmaid’s dresses are all floor-length and elegantly white, lacy and flowy. A tailor with a mustache takes all of their measurements and allows them to try on a few that might be fitting.

It’s when Chloe argues with Fat Amy on whether or not she should wear a bra that Beca comes out of her own fitting room, the tips of her ears bleeding red.

It is around that time that Chloe has all the air knocked out of her lungs and the past decade falls heavily onto her crumbling chest.

Fat Amy howls in delight and Stacie laughs, rushing over to her with Emily. Beca’s eyes bore into Chloe behind Stacie’s shoulders, and then she looks away, a smile on her face. Light falls onto her face, adorable as usual. Chloe relearns how to breathe.

“Hey, Chloe!”

Chloe’s head whips to her right where Stacie is two inches from her face and snapping very loudly. “What?”

“I’ve been asking what you thought about the dress, but you were too busy making gooey eyes at Beca.”

Chloe rolls her eyes, and makes a face. “So what if I am?”

She is startled by another loud cry from the other side of the room. She turns to see Fat Amy wiping away genuine tears, close to sobbing.

“My Bloe is still as strong as ever.” She wipes her nose with a piece of random hanging fabric behind her, much to the tailor’s dismay. “It’s so touching.” Emily nods with overdramatic tears in her eyes.

(Though it is that dramatic, after all.)

Chloe laughs, catching Beca’s eyes, as she is laughing as well. Someone pushes her playfully from behind, and she stumbles towards Beca. Beca catches her with two cold hands on her forearms, a huge grin on her face. It’s pure and almost childish, and Chloe could just drown herself in the curves of Beca’s eyes when she smiles.

Out of nowhere, Stacie and Emily start a low beat, and hum out a slow song. Beca giggles, and whispers, “Do you know what song this is?”

Chloe shakes her head, too focused on looking down to her smiling face. Beca’s slight quirk of an eyebrow indicates that she, however, knows exactly which song it is.

Amy clears her throat and materialises by the two of them.

“Chloe Beale, do you promise you are Dixie Chicks serious about Beca Mitchell?”

Emily’s clear voice rings out with the song’s chorus, and Chloe bursts in a fit of giggles. Titanium fills the dusty warehouse room, and under the fluorescent lights, the tailor looks very uncomfortable. Chloe can only nod, clutching onto Beca’s waist.

“And Beca Mitchell, do you swear that you are, as well, Dixie Chicks serious about Chloe Beale?”

Beca’s face is red and scrunched up. “Yeah,” she wheezes. “This is such a terrible song for a fake-wedding”, she adds.

Fat Amy glares at her. “Do not interrupt my wedding officiating, bride number two. And it isn’t fake, since I am actually a properly certificated as a wedding officiator, according to the five-dollar website I visited when I was twelve. I’m actually the most popular wedding officiator in Tasmania with both feet, I’ll have you know.”

Before Beca can really take in her words, she continues on. “And now, by the power vested in me by an incredibly sketchy website, I declare you aca-wives!”

  Chloe is laughing, and Beca as well, while Stacie wolf-whistles. They’re only getting older, it’s ringing around Chloe’s head, and the years change so fast. She leans down and kisses Beca on the corner of her mouth before anyone could truly notice.

“So…” the tailor mumbles awkwardly, wringing his hands, “should I take this as you ladies liked the dresses?”

Chloe thinks someone answers, but she can’t be sure. She feels like this moment could be forever if she tried.

 

Amy takes a taxi back to her hotel when it starts raining later, and Stacie and Emily walk back to their own places after the rain stops. The streetlights shine right back at them on the sidewalk after it just rained, and the entire city glows the softest yellow. The shops are closed but the signs are bright, and birds chirp quietly somewhere in the trees they’d just walked by.

When the excitement wears off, all that is left is still themselves, every time. Beca has her arms around her, hugging herself tight and is watching every step fall on the pavement. She looks lost and unsure, and she looks so small and fragile, and Chloe just wants to wrap her up with herself and never leave.

She steps closer as they walk past the café they caught up in when Chloe asked Beca to come home with her for Christmas, and even that feels so far away. In this freshly rained road, everything is years away, a thin layer of gullibility and hope shielding them from what isn’t the gentle tension vacillating between their bodies. She steps closer, wrapped an arm around Beca’s shoulders and pulling her into herself. Beca is pliant and smells like the fresh air around them, pressing her head deeper into the fabric of Chloe’s shirt. Her hands reach for Chloe’s free hand, and cradles it gently between her fingers, tracing the callouses and lines in her palm.

The action makes Chloe’s breath catch for no apparent reason, and she presses a light kiss on Beca’s forehead.

“It’s such a nice night,” Beca says.

“It is.”

Beca lets out a shaky breath, stopping her light paths on Chloe’s hand and slowly laces their fingers together with the utmost care. “I could write a song about this. I could cry just thinking about it.”

Chloe understands.

Chloe understands.

Chloe wants to cry as well; she wants to sit down on that very street, humid pavement and cool night air, and cry with Beca sitting cross-legged, facing her. Chloe wants to cry at the loveliness of it all, at the sight of Beca in a white dress. Chloe wants to cry at Beca practically curling into her side, at her fingers squeezing Chloe’s so tight, and no other sadness in the world would do.

Chloe could also cry just thinking about it.

Chloe would always cry for Beca.

 

The wedding itself is tasteful if not a little too formal, with a little too many professional cameras. The music starts as Benji takes a deep breath and puts his hands on the white keys of the piano. It is a piano mash-up that all the Bellas participated in, and Benji translated into flowing keys with skill. Chloe’s legs are numb, standing at the head of the aisle behind her other girls, a single flower in hand.

Jesse is waiting impatiently at the end of the small path, bowtie neatly on his neck and his good grin stuck diligently on his face. Chloe stares at him as he stares at a faraway line in the horizon until she almost bores a hole in his well-pressed tuxedo.

The words maid of honor rings in Chloe’s ears, even as her long lacy dress matches the intricately planned themes of the plastic wedding. Everything is meticulously matched and designed by Beca’s team, down to the forks and napkins, and the invite Chloe received by mail wasn’t in Beca’s writing.

(But the tears Beca cried into Chloe’s shoulder the day before bled with the very intimate bits that were all Beca.)

Chloe walks down the aisle with yellow acacias clipped in her braids and two scarlet gardenias in her hands. She sweeps her eyes over all the guests gazing in her direction, she sweeps her eyes over the silky drapes over the tables and everything else that should be there for love.

When Amy hears her queue and starts the rest of the walk down the aisle, the bouquet in her hands is snow white. She does a pirouette halfway down and almost falls on a guest, singing an impromptu ballad with the music that makes a vein pulse on Aubrey’s forehead. Then it’s Stacie, walking down with the same bouquet and flower in her hair, Unicycle with her. Then it’s Cynthia Rose, and Emily, and everyone else that flew to New York with no hesitance when Beca sent invitations.

Beneath the stain of time, Chloe’s painful feelings that have been boiling for the last month (or the last decade) disappear. Beca walks down the aisle with the prettiest dress and the nicest hair. Chloe stands right next to Jessie onstage while Beca is everything she’s ever dreamed her to become. She walks very slowly, her arm intercrossed with her father’s, and her eyes are searing into Chloe’s face. She walks very slowly, looking at Chloe like she’s the one at the destination.

Beca smiles suddenly, tears in her eyes that were not there before, a radiance so pure and exciting pouring out from her as she walks down the aisle and towards Chloe. She is filled with such tenderness and nostalgia that it is catastrophically unbearable; Chloe almost combusts with love.

And then Beca gets close enough and stares at Jesse, a soft look in her eyes. Beca exchanges vows with him in the same polite and graceful voice she has on television, the boiling feelings behind her eyes moments ago absent now. Beneath the stain of time and their similar white dresses, Chloe’s feelings disappear.

Beca is someone else, but she is still right there.

 

Beca’s third album does better than her previous one. She never again reaches the success that she had on her very first hit single, and Chloe watches her slowly come to terms with that. Her songs are well-liked, although a bit hard to decode, and Chloe prides herself in knowing that her name is printed neatly on every single one as ‘co-writer’. Only she knows the exact sweater Beca talks about in ‘Yellow Bandanas’, and only she understands the underlying melody that appear in the bridge of ‘White Wedding’.

 

Beca settles down in her vinyl chair in front of another faceless interviewer. It is a big interview, with Beca dressed up casually but with utmost elegance. It is the ten-year anniversary for when Beca first got catapulted into the view of the public, and her fans have been screaming about it since September of last year.

Chloe would know with the amount of undercover sleuthing in Twitter and the way she mixes in right with all the other fans on social media. 

Neon lights beat down on her meticulously decorated face and Chloe stands behind the camera, not even sure how Beca managed to get her in. She takes in the swarming people and fancy equipment around with wonder.

When Beca’s gaze keeps on flickering to behind the cameras during the recording, only Chloe knows that it’s only searching for her. That satisfies her.

A lot of people praise you for staying so kind and gentle after everything you’ve been through in your career, Beca. How do you do that?

Beca picks at her forearm and shrugs good-naturedly.

“Yeah, I’ve heard that a lot. I’m not absolutely nice and godly to everyone, you guys.” Beca pauses, blinking in Chloe’s direction and then directing her eyes to the floor by the interviewer’s leather shoes.

“I think…that these things that people call kindness or tenderness are just a direct ricochet from all the shitty things that fuck me over, you know?” Beca nods to herself. “It just…gets clearer when life throws more shit at you.”

You were originally only vying to become a producer, a kind of behind-the-scenes genius, right? Did you ever plan on this career as a celebrity singer?

“No, no, not at all. But music is the love of my life, so I should have known since the beginning that I would get absolutely sucked into its entirety, really. And I’m so glad it did.”

And the songs you write! They have this feeling of warmth and tenderness that I have not ever seen another artist achieve. Care to spill some of your secrets?

“Oh, there isn’t really any,” Beca says, chuckling, “Just talent and my co-writer Chloe.” She lifts her head and sends a cocky wink to the cameras, and looks Chloe dead in the eyes with a beautiful grin. “Shout-out to you, Beale, you’re the fucking tits.”

The interviewer laughs with her.

Chloe marvels at the place Beca holds within a room.

No other top-secret ingredient to inspire up-and-coming new artists?

“Well no, not really anything concrete. You have to get dead drunk before knowing how strong liquor is, and you have to fall in love before knowing how thrilling it feels. Song writing is a little like that; you have to put love in the words before it goes from good to great.”

Wow, deep.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans and everyone listening to wrap things up with?

 Beca blinks owlishly and grins again, turning to the camera.

“You guys gotta keep being who you are; don’t let that go. Turn the whole world over with what is unapologetically yours and make it ours. You know I’m terrible at emotional bullshit, but I’m glad, like someone special once told me, that we all became such fast friends.”

That part is, from the very next day, edited into screen-caps and videos and quotes that fly around the internet. Chloe still hears the echoes of what Beca believes in, finally put out into the world with her own hands.

My songs are not love songs, but love is there. My songs are telling you they love you, because you are love.

(Beca shivers after she says that. God, that’s corny. I’m getting old.)

And Chloe loves them back, because there is nothing better than knowing there are pieces of her love in them too.

 


 

Behind the thin curtains of Chloe’s room’s window, Beca sits with her back pressed into a rocking chair. She drove all the way here and only when she sat down did she realise she forgot to bring a letter. She runs a hand over her face and pushed back her hair. The years are unforgiving.

Chloe isn’t really there today, and it tears Beca apart, seeing her with that empty look in her eyes. They are blue, but they are a blue that don’t mean anything. Occasionally, Chloe says something and Beca answers the best she can without crumbling apart.

Beca stares out the window, absentmindedly scratching her arm. She takes a stray piece of paper and starts writing, because she isn’t going to disappoint Chloe. Or let her forget about anything.

Dear Chlo,

Beca scratches her arm.

The seasons are great and so is the coffee. Stars are bright and night and the moon shines just for us. But I’ve never felt beauty with my own hands until I saw you.

Beca scrunches her nose, evaluating the badass-ness of the sentence, then shrugs.

What else can I say at these times if not for romantic pleasantries that I’ve never gotten the chances to say? The world is wide, too wide to understand. Nothing compares to you. But everything is about you.

For the most time, Chloe sits on her bed and does nothing. Beca sits with her, pencil scratching on paper. Her writing is getting sloppy and she furrows her brows, trying to keep it in a straight line.

I love music down to its bones. You are the one thing that has come the closest to music than anything else I’ve known. People work nine-to-fives while I write songs and line up drum beats. I might die of hunger, but romance wouldn’t.

And we might not be anything great, and we might not be written down in history, but I’ve translated every single way you’ve ever told me that you loved me into four-notes and sheet music. It might not be enough to touch the hearts of thousands on top of charts or play non-stop on the radios, but it was always enough for me to keep believing.

It was times like these that Beca wasn’t sure who she was anymore. She had believed her whole life that music was her first love, that music lived and beat in her heart the same way it flowed beneath her fingers. The rhythmic eight counts that taps against her ribcage since she was fourteen has been her friend longer than she could remember. For music, she had dealt her entire life into a gamble for the industry. For music. For her oldest, kindest, friend.

I might not even have a bit of talent, really. Only enough luck to meet you, and then this broody teenager wrote ridiculous amounts of song with nothing at all. You know that I write you into every universe I create, and every time, you are bursting with light.

But when Barden tore it all down with the Bellas—with Chloe—Beca had not been prepared. She had friends that were not lingering full notes or changing octaves. People that cared for her, that stood by her, and people she wanted. Their rhythmic dancing and their flowing laughter made her happy. And she thinks that she made them happy, too. She was splitting things in half and taking the smaller part and texting them when she got home at night.

Please don’t forget about me just yet. I love you too.

Beca.

Beca picks at the scar on her arm and thinks that maybe soulmates are real and that they are found. Not in headphones but maybe in sullen midnight kidnappings and cult-like rituals. And maybe they were her friends.

And maybe, just maybe, love does not look exactly like music, after. Maybe love looks more like bandanas and fluorescent lights and blue eyes. Maybe love resembles music a lot, but is flows better in the form of Chloe.

“Stop picking at that goddamn arm, Beca.”

Beca’s eyes shoot open and she stares at Chloe’s ridiculously concerned expression.

“That’s the first coherent sentence that’s made absolute sense in an hour, Chloe.”

Chloe glares at her. “Does definitely not change the fact that the only reason that scar doesn’t go away is because you always pick at it.”

Beca could almost cry from relief, seeing Chloe’s eyes clear up and hear her scold her.

That night, when it gets late enough that Beca has to leave Chloe’s room again, she gets up silently and leaves her short letter on the nightstand. Chloe has been asleep for half an hour already, and she doesn’t want to wake her. Walking slowly past the desk at the other side of the room, Beca catches sight of a bright yellow post-it.

Chloe’s handwriting isn’t as neatly loopy as it once was, and they all slant downwards into a crushed corner, but it is perfectly readable.

I have forgotten about a lot of things, but I have never forgotten how wonderful you are.

It almost glows in the dark, floating on the yellow post-it.