Beca Mitchell looked up from her desk towards the voice coming from the lobby. The office was closed for lunch, so the receptionist had run out to grab food. As office manager, Beca usually didn’t have to deal with patients very often. But on those rare occasions when someone did wander in when Desirae was gone, Beca had to emerge from her cave to handle the situation. She pushed herself up from her rolling chair and walked toward the front window.
“Yes, can I help …” Beca pulled up short as she noticed the woman standing on the other side of the window. She was beautiful. Red hair. Bright blue eyes. Beaming smile. It was a face that Beca hadn’t expected to see again, and it threw her for a loop. “…you?”
“Beca Mitchell?!?” The woman almost squealed with excitement at the sight of the brunette approaching. “O M Aca Gee! It has been too long!”
Bashfully, Beca replied, “Hi Chloe. What are you doing here?”
“Oh,” Chloe answered and held up a large envelope. “I was dropping this off for my dad.” The redhead was bouncing on her feet. “Are you busy? Can we catch up for a minute?”
Beca looked around, but there really wasn’t any good reason to reply in the negative. “Uhh, sure. Come on back.” She opened up the door to the right of the window and found herself smothered in a massive embrace.
“I’ve missed you! We didn’t know what you were up to,” Chloe announced.
“Well, you found me!” Beca nervously laughed as she led the way back to her desk. She pulled a chair over for Chloe and then plopped into her own chair. “I don’t have a lot of time. Dr. Gwen isn’t a big fan of us having a lot of personal conversations at work.” Chloe nodded in understanding. “So, what have you been up to?”
“Well, I’m starting my senior year at Barden. It’s pretty crazy, between school and our a cappella group. The Bellas have been to Nationals for the last three years! Remember Aubrey and Stacie and CR? They all are in the group too.”
“That’s … exciting,” Beca said. “I’m not surprised you kept doing music.”
“Yup! I love it. I know you do too!” Chloe commented with a smile. “What have you been doing?”
Beca raised her arms and pointed at the office and got a smirk on her face. “All of this. I’m the office manager here. Jealous?”
“Oh, definitely,” Chloe agreed as she looked around and smiled. Her smile dropped, though, as she said, “We kind of lost track of you there after high school. I thought you were going to Barden with all of us.” She genuinely seemed down about the fact.
Beca rubbed at the back of her neck nervously. “Yeah, things didn’t quite go the way that I thought it would.” She left it at that, hoping that Chloe wouldn’t push. The redhead dropped the issue. They chatted a little bit about their parents, the other kids from high school, and some of Chloe’s adventures at Barden.
“Well well well,” a joyful voice called from the hallway. A tall regal black woman strolled into the office area, smiling as she looked at the two young ladies sitting at Beca’s desk. “Do my eyes deceive me? Beca, do you have a visitor here?” Beca blushed ferociously. The woman extended her hand to Chloe. “I’m Dr. Gwen - Beca’s boss.”
“Oh,” Chloe replied brightly. “I’m Chloe Beale. I’m sorry that I was taking Beca’s time. I dropped off an envelope for your from my dad, Philip Beale. Beca and I went to high school together, and I just had to catch up for a bit.”
“Oh, no problem, Chloe,” Dr. Gwen waved off the apology. “I’m just happy to see Beca talking to ANYONE from outside the office. I think this may be the first time I’ve ever seen her with a visitor. All work, this one.” She gestured with her thumb to the small brunette who was shrinking down in her seat.
Chloe briefly let confusion wash over her face, but then the smile was back. “I was definitely glad to see her again. I’ve missed her.” She then stood up. “Well, I’ll let you get back to work, Beca. Nice to meet you, Dr. Gwen.”
Gwen waved. “Thanks for bringing the x-rays by. Come back any time!”
She started towards the door out of the office. “Beca, I hope that we can maybe meet up soon? My number is the same.” She waved her phone at Beca and then bounced out of the office.
“Hmmmm,” Dr. Gwen observed with a grin. “I didn’t realize you had friends.” She looked down at her red-faced employee. “Certainly not ones that make you all shy and blushing”
“I didn’t ask her to come by,” Beca grumbled.
“I know,” Gwen stated. “But I wouldn’t care if you had. You know that. We are really casual here.”
“Yeah,” Beca answered, hoping that the ground would open up and eat her.
“I worry about you, Beca. You’re a great worker, but you don’t seem to really allow yourself much room to be a person. You leave right at the end of the day. You don’t go out with the girls. I never see you taking breaks. I’ve never seen you even CLOSE to as animated as you were with that Chloe Beale person.” Beca’s face turned a deeper red. “Are you feeling fevered? Do you need me to take your temp?”
“Shut it, Gwen,” Beca mumbled under her breath. The doctor cackled and walked back to her office. Soon the rest of the staff returned from lunch break, and the day proceeded as usual. Beca mostly kept her mind on her work. She sent out invoices, took phone calls about billing questions, approved schedule requests, ordered supplies. But from time to time, she caught herself staring into space thinking about her interaction with Chloe. She hadn’t expected to run into the redhead again, and it certainly had thrown her for a loop. She jerked herself back from yet another bout of distraction to see that the workday was almost done. She closed up her files and shut down her computer. Making sure that everything was finished, she locked up her office and dashed out to her car.
Fifteen minutes after leaving work, Beca pulled into the parking lot at Dayspring Daycare. She turned off her car and hustled into the building, heading down a couple of hallways to a room full of toddlers. She peeked over the half door at the squirming kids inside. There were several adults interacting with the kids, while one stood at the door to help with parents picking up their children. Ms Ashley greeted Beca at the door. “Hey Beca! Right on time as always.”
“Well, I missed my sweet girl,” she said with a smile.
“I don’t blame you,” Ms Ashley agreed. “She’s a sweet pea.” She focused on a small girl with two curly brown pigtails who was barefoot and wearing a Beatles t-shirt and a denim skirt and called out in a cheerful voice. “Joy, looks who’s here!”
The little girl turned away from the blocks she was stacking to look up at the teacher. When she saw the other face at the door, she brightened and jumped up. “Momma!”
“Hey baby girl,” Beca excitedly greeted the child. “I missed you so much!” The girl toddled over to the door and made grabby hands. Ms Ashley lifted her up and over the barrier to her waiting mother, who peppered kisses all over the giggling child’s face. “I love you, Joy.”
The girl placed her chubby little hands on her mother’s cheeks and pushed her lips against her mouth. “Wuv you momma.” Tears welled up in Beca’s eyes at the sweetness being displayed.
“Awww, you two are adorable,” Ashley observed.
Observing the bare feet dangling down, Beca tickled the bottom of one and asked, “Where are your shoes, Joy Bear?”
The girl scowled and shook her head. “No soos.”
Beca rolled her eyes. “I can’t keep her in her shoes no matter what I try,” she mentioned to Ashley.
“Nope,” the teacher laughed. “We gave up trying unless we are going outside. They are in her bag.” She handed Joy’s bag over to Beca, who slid it onto her shoulder. “So, just letting you know, the interns from Barden will be starting next week. Just in case you hear some new names from this little one.” The teacher tickled Joy’s ribs, causing her to squirm and laugh in her mother’s arms.
“Okey dokey,” Beca replied with a smile. “More hands to help you out.”
“Yep,” Ashley said. “These kiddos are definitely a handful at this stage.” Then she looked at Joy and grinned. “But we love them! Don’t we little one?” She again tickled Joy’s side with the same results. “I’ll see you tomorrow, sweetie.”
“Tell Ms Ashley bye?” Beca prompted.
“Bye Asswey,” Joy sweetly said while waving her hand.
“Bye Joy! Bye Beca!” Mother and daughter headed out to the car and back home.
Beca flopped down onto the couch in her tiny living room and exhaled. She closed her eyes for a moment as she rested in the silence that only permeated the apartment when the little bundle of energy was finally asleep in her bed. Beca wore the exhausted look that only comes from being a single parent. This was her daily weekday routine. She woke up early to get ready for work, hoping to get a shower in before Little Miss woke up. Then she put Joy in her high chair with some breakfast while she finished making herself presentable. She would fix a quick travel cup of coffee and grab some highly nutritious breakfast like Pop Tarts to wolf down in the car. Get Joy into her carseat and head to the day care. After dropping her precious girl off, she would race to work and put in a full day. Race back to pick up Joy. Head home to change, make dinner, and spend a little bit of time playing with her daughter. Give the girl a bath, do the bedtime routine, flop onto the couch. Then she would finally have a couple of hours to watch stupid shows on television, play on her phone, or read before passing out herself on the couch. Then stagger off to bed and do it all again the next day. She looked forward to weekends because she then got all day to hang with her favorite person in the world. They would try to make up for all of the hours they missed during the week: go to the park, to the zoo, to the children’s museum, to the aquarium. They would build together, watch movies, snuggle. Those two days always seemed too short of a time for Beca, but she was glad she had a job that only required her during the day on weekdays. Some of the other single parents she knew about were not so lucky.
Now that she had some alone time, the unexpected visit by Chloe Beale earlier popped back into Beca’s head. The routine that she had developed over the last two and a half years kept her from dwelling too much on what could have been. This was certainly NOT what she had expected to be doing right now. Like Chloe said, Beca was poised to join several of her classmates at Barden University after high school graduation. Like them, she would have been entering her senior year. She had planned on being a music major - she had already auditioned and been accepted to the music school. She had picked a roommate. Everything was in place.
Then one stupid night happened. Prom. She had agreed to go with one of her fellow choir members - Jesse Swanson. She really didn’t want to go, didn’t see the need to participate in the ridiculous tradition. But her mother had told her she needed to experience all of the big high school moments because they never come back around. So she got all dressed up, stood around the hotel ballroom with her classmates, danced awkwardly to cheesy pop songs, and tried to enjoy herself. Jesse was a nice guy. He had always treated her well. She knew that he had a crush on her and had for years. She didn’t feel that way about him. She wasn’t sure what she identified as, but she more and more doubted that she was into guys. Truth be told, most of her attention was diverted to the redhead across the dance floor. Chloe and Beca had been school acquaintances for most of their educational history. They never were super close, but they got along. They ran in the same circles, sat in the same classes, sang in the same chorus groups. Chloe usually hung around Aubrey Posen and Stacie Conrad, though. They were the most beautiful and desired girls on campus. For some unexplained reason, Aubrey never liked Beca. It may have been due to Beca pushing Aubrey off the swings in third grade. Or the time Beca spilled bright red paint on Aubrey’s dress and hair in seventh grade. Or maybe when Beca backed into Aubrey’s brand new Tesla in eleventh grade. Whatever the reason, Aubrey’s coldness to Beca kept Chloe and Stacie at arm’s length as well. So Beca just observed and dreamed from a distance. She sympathized with Jesse, actually. They were both destined to want but never have the girl of their dreams. That was probably why Beca agreed to go to prom. And why Beca allowed Jesse to kiss her in the car afterwards. Her own loneliness and sadness definitely contributed to her agreeing to have sex with him too. One stupid night.
Even though the night wrecked all of her plans, Beca couldn’t let herself regret it. She may not be taking the music world by storm, but she had the most wonderful little girl. She never even knew if she wanted to have children. She damn sure didn’t want to have one at 19 years old. Or to raise a child alone. Jesse had offered to “do the right thing” and marry Beca, to help raise the kid. She refused. Watching her parents’ marriage implode while she was in middle school had convinced her that things wouldn’t be made better by marrying someone she didn’t love. Her parents actually HAD loved each other, and they still didn’t make it. What chance would she and Jesse have? So he went off to Los Angeles to attend USC, and Beca withdrew from Barden before she ever started. Her mom was invaluable during her pregnancy and after Joy was born. She helped her find the job at the physician’s office. Beca worked hard and moved up from working the front desk to managing the office. She earned enough to be able to move out - something that she and her mom both needed to keep them mentally healthy. And Beca discovered something unexpected: she was a really good mom. She loved Joy more than anything. She was wiling to sacrifice everything for that little girl. And she loved their time together. Joy was a sweet pleasant child. She loved her grand mommy and grandpa, her teachers, and definitely her momma. This may not have been what Beca had expected or planned, but it was her life. And she was happy. And she rarely let herself think about what could have been.
“You’ll never guess who I ran into today,” Chloe excitedly shared once her friends all were seated at the table.
“Joe Jonas,” Stacie guessed.
“What? No!” Chloe exclaimed with a scowl.
“I was just trying to guess,” Stacie explained with a smirk. The other two ladies laughed in response. Chloe, Stacie, Aubrey, and Cynthia Rose tried to meet up weekly. They saw each other just about every day, but this was time for just the four of them. They all were in The Bellas - an all female a cappella group on campus. But the four of them had all come from Barden High together. CR was never really part of the original trio, but once they all ended up in the same singing group, she was pulled into their circle. Now in their fourth year together, the quartet was as tight as could be - even with their pronounced differences. Cynthia Rose was a curvy black woman who was out and proud, and who always spoke her mind. She was a force of nature who was fiercely devoted to her friends. Stacie was a tall, leggy super smart brunette with a voracious sexual appetite. People constantly underestimated her brains due to her body and her laid back approach to life. She was fine with that; if they underestimated her, they would never see her coming. Aubrey was a tall blonde who always was a bit on edge. She was very detail oriented and naturally gravitated to leadership positions. Chloe kept her level-headed. The redhead had a naturally positive outlook and kind disposition. She loved deeply and quickly - something her friends appreciated, but something that had hurt her in relationships in the past. They made for an interesting group, but a very tight one.
“I ran into Beca Mitchell!” Chloe announced with a giant smile. Aubrey grimaced at the name, but Stacie and CR both showed interest and surprise.
“Really?” CR asked. “Where has she been? What is she doing?”
“She’s the office manager for Barden Heights Family Medicine,” Chloe explained. “I had to run some stuff over there for my dad for a patient that he shares with a doctor in that practice. And, lo and behold, there was Beca.”
“Do you know what happened to her?” Stacie probed. “I thought she was going to go here to Barden. She just … kind of … dropped off the face of the earth after graduation.”
Chloe shook her head. “No, she kind of clammed up when that came up. I didn’t want to push. You know she was always a little skittish.” The ladies nodded.
“Well, I’m not too disappointed she didn’t end up here,” Aubrey said with a scowl. “The little hobbit would probably have wrecked everything. Maybe literally!”
“I never understood why you disliked her so much,” Chloe replied. “She was really sweet - she was just quiet. And a little clumsy and awkward.”
“A little?” Aubrey gasped. “TWO WEEKS! I had that car for TWO WEEKS before she backed into it.” Stacie and CR had to fight down a grin at the outburst. Aubrey continued grumbling, “It never ran the same after.”
“That was what? Six years ago?” Chloe protested. “Time to forgive, I say.”
“Whatever,” Aubrey groused. “Plus, I think she always kind of had a thing for you.”
Chloe looked up in surprise. “No she didn’t, did she?”
“Oh yeah,” Stacie agreed. “Totally.”
“Trust me,” CR added. “She had it bad for you for yeeears.”
“Why didn’t anyone tell me that?” Chloe huffed.
Aubrey recoiled in shock. “Would it have mattered if we had?!?”
“I don’t know,” Chloe shrugged. “Maybe.” Looking at the stunned faces around her, she explained softly. “What? She was cute. Still is. I wouldn’t have been opposed to it.”
Shaking her head, Aubrey groaned. “I can’t believe this. Please don’t tell me you plan on pursuing her.” When Chloe didn’t respond, only biting her lip, Aubrey whined, “Whyyyyy, Chloeeeee? There are tons of great guys and girls here at Barden. Ones that didn’t wreck my car, ruin my favorite dress, and push me into the dirt.”
“You really need to let it go, girl,” CR responded.
“Two weeks!” Aubrey whimpered, pleading with the group for understanding. “I had only had it for two weeks.” The other ladies laughed at the silliness of it all.
A couple of uneventful weeks followed Beca’s initial encounter with Chloe, and things were pretty normal with the Mitchell girls. Joy was growing up too quickly for Beca’s liking. She seemed to be learning new words and skills every day. Beca was extremely glad she had requested the convertible crib when her father asked what he could contribute. Joy’s small size had bought Beca some extra time using the crib itself. She had dropped the crib down to its lowest setting, but Joy still managed to escape. So now it had been turned into a “big girl” toddler bed. Joy was starting to resist naps, which made her extra crabby in the evening. And it felt like Beca couldn’t ever feed her daughter enough - a sure sign a growth spurt was coming. Even though the changes made life more challenging, Beca enjoyed seeing her girl growing up.
She arrived at the daycare to pick up Joy, only to find her daughter bawling on the ground. “Oh no, sweet pea!” Beca exclaimed. “What’s wrong?”
The little girl didn’t hop up to run to her momma. Instead she kept making grabby hands towards a door in the classroom. “Koh-weeeee! Koh-weeee!” She kept wailing this. new unfamiliar word.
Beca looked questioningly at Ms Jessica, who was working the door today. “What’s a Koh-weeee?”
“Who,” Jessica announced as she handed Beca Joy’s bag. “One of our interns. Joy has taken a VERY STRONG liking to her. She gets very upset whenever she leaves.”
“Oh, that’s sweet,” Beca commented. “I’m glad that she didn’t mind the change.”
“No, definitely not,” Jessica agreed. “Joy only minds it when she leaves.”
“I’m guessing the intern is gone for the day then?” Beca asked. “I would love to meet this person who my daughter is in love with,” she added with a laugh.
“Ummm,” Jessica leaned back and looked around the classroom. “No I think she is just helping one of the little ones go potty.” She reached down and picked up Joy and handed her to Beca. The little girl buried her sobbing face into her mother’s shirt. “Ash,” Jessica called across the room. “Is Chloe still here?”
“Yep!” Ashley replied as she oversaw kids putting blocks back into the right bins. “I think she just finished with Olivia.”
“Did you say … Chloe?” Beca asked with wide eyes.
At the sound of the name, Joy started crying again, “Koh-eeeee! Koh-eeee!”
“Yeah, Chloe is amazing. The kids all love her - not as much as Joy, though.” Jessica explained. “I think I'm going to try to hire her once she graduates, honestly.”
Just then, the bathroom door in the classroom opened up and a little black haired girl raced out. She was followed by a pretty red-haired woman. “Oh, no, I think I hear my friend Joy crying! I’m right here, honey…” She came in sight of the pickup door and gasped. “Oh my God, Beca!”
“Chloe!” Beca exclaimed at the same time.
“Koh-eeee!” Joy squealed as she grabbed for the redhead.
“I’m guessing you know each other already,” Jessica commented with a smile.
“Yeah,” Chloe said, still in shock. “We went to high school together.”
Beca’s face was bright red. She didn’t know exactly what to feel. Partly she felt embarrassed that someone from her younger years had discovered her secret - not like she was keeping Joy a secret. It just was the fact that her life could be broken down into “Pre-Joy” and “Post-Joy.” And people from “Pre-Joy” didn’t really know “Post-Joy” Beca at all. But there was also a very large part of her that still felt like that quiet teenager crushing on the most popular girl in the school from the shadows. She didn’t know how to handle the fact that her daughter had also become quite attached to this person. She finally managed to eke out, “Yep. Seems like you have a fan.” She handed Joy back through the window to Chloe.
The little girl squeezed the redhead tightly. “Wuv Koh-eeee.”
“OMG…” Chloe whispered with tears in her eyes. “I love you too, Miss Joy.” She then handed her back to her mom. “I’ll see you next week, Joy.”
“Kay,” Joy said. Then she turned to Beca and pushed their lips together. “Wuv Momma.”
Beca pulled herself back to the present and kissed Joy. “I love you too, Joy Bear.” They turned to head to the car.
“See you next week, Beca!” A cheerful voice called from the classroom door. Beca turned back to see Chloe waving with a smile on her face.
“Yup,” Beca choked out.
Mother and daughter got situated in the car. As they were driving away from the school, Joy was humming to herself. Then she chirped, “Wuv Koh-eeeee.”
“Yeah, kiddo. I know how you feel,” Beca mumbled to herself.
“I’m not sure the best route to take, honestly,” Stacie explained as she set the table for dinner. “On the one hand, the internship at the Roxxon Chemicals is a pretty big deal. Buuuut, I am pretty sure that I only got offered it because I wore that super sexy pantsuit to the interview. On the other hand, doing research with Dr. Palmer isn’t as illustrious, but I know I earned that spot. What do you think, Chloe?”
The redhead mindlessly stirred the vegetables and noodles in the pan, not really hearing her friend’s question. Realizing that there was silence, probably indicating she should talk, Chloe said, “Yeah, that’s tough.”
Stacie raised her eyebrow at the response, picking up on Chloe’s being distracted. “Of course, the other option is to sleep with both Dr. Palmer AND the guy at Roxxon. You know, to see which is better.”
“Right,” Chloe replied.
“I mean, Dr. Palmer is like 95 years old, and it would probably kill him. But, at least he would die with a smile on his face.”
“CHLOE MARIE BEALE! You aren’t even listening to me,” Stacie shouted as she stomped her foot.
“Huh?” Chloe spluttered at the noise. She lowered her head shamefully. “I’m sorry Stacie. My mind is somewhere else.”
“Clearly!” Stacie agreed. “What’s got you so distracted?”
Chloe moved the pan to the table and scooped out servings for herself and Stacie. Then the both sat down to eat. “Youremember that adorable little girl at the daycare I told you about? You’ll never guess whose kid it is.”
“Would you drop the Joe Jonas obsession?” Chloe snapped. “No! It’s Beca’s.”
Stacie’s eyes flew open. “Whaaaaa? Beca has a kid? Is she married?”
“You are supposed to be the science whiz here, Stace,” Chloe pointed out. “You don’t have to be married to have a kid.”
“Well, duh, yeah I know that,” the tall brunette said. “I was just wondering if she WAS married.”
“I don’t know,” Chloe answered. “I don’t think so. Her daughter’s last name is Mitchell, like Beca’s. And Beca doesn’t wear a wedding ring. And the nameplate at her desk was still ‘Beca Mitchell.’ I know she doesn’t have to take her spouse’s name, but still…”
“How old is the kid?”
“The girl’s name is Joy,” Chloe explained. “I think she’s like two and a half? That’s the age of the kids in that room.” She took a bite of dinner and chewed as she thought about the situation. “Stacie, she is soooo sweet. And now that I know who she is, I realize she looks just like a little Beca. And she said she loved me today!” The sparkle in the redhead’s eyes as she related the story couldn’t be denied.
“Chloe, honey. You need to think about this,” Stacie cautioned. “This isn’t just trying to start things up with someone you had a crush on during high school…”
“Hey!” Chloe protested. “You aren't supposed to say that out loud. That was a secret.”
“Fine,” Stacie groaned. “This isn’t just trying to start things up with someone you had a SECRET crush on during high school - even though you just found out she also had a crush on you. She has a KID. She may be involved with the father. You don’t know anything about their situation. And, you are still a college student. Do you really want to get involved with someone who has a child at this point?”
“I don’t know,” Chloe said softly. “It’s just … I always felt like there was something between me and Beca. We just never found the right … situation? Circumstances? When I saw her the other day, it was like … I had another chance. And the way that Joy responds to me… I know I’m young, but I’m good with kids…”
“Being good with kids and becoming an instant mother are two different things,” Stacie commented. Seeing the disappointed look on Chloe’s face, the brunette took her hand. “Look, I know that Beca means a lot to you. And I’m going to support you no matter what you decide. I just want you to think about everything before you get yourself too attached.”
“Yeah,” Chloe mumbled. “I appreciate that.”
“Of course Bree will flip her lid,” Stacie added. “Which will be fun to see. Maybe that vein will pop out in her forehead.”
Chloe laughed, but inside she wasn’t ready to put the matter to rest yet.
Beca found herself in her usual spot after putting Joy to bed. Tonight, though, she wasn’t turning off her brain and watching television or playing on her phone. Her brain was FAR from turned off. It was running a mile a minute as she tried to come to grips with what had happened today. She never intentionally tried to distance herself from her high school friends; it just happened. When they were getting ready to head to college, Beca was entering her second trimester. When they were studying for tests, Beca was taking lamaze classes. When they were heading off for Spring Break, she was nursing her daughter. Priorities shifted. They didn’t have the same lifestyle any more. While she may not have been proud of HOW things happened, she was beyond proud of Joy. She was the best thing that Beca had ever done.
Beca had imagined what she would say when she inevitably ran into one of her old classmates. The fact that it hadn’t happened yet was a testimony to just how boring her life was. She hadn’t been out for an evening alone in over three years. The only people she regularly saw were her coworkers, her parents, and the teachers at Joy’s daycare. She never met up with people. Nobody really ever pursued her to join them on playdates or for kid’s parties. She wasn’t even sure if the people at work knew she had a child. There wasn’t anything on her workstation to indicate that - all of the pictures of Joy were on her phone and at the house.
It may not have been so startling if the person who first discovered everything hadn’t been CHLOE. Beca always had carried a torch for the redhead, even though they never were very close. Running into her at work had already disrupted Beca’s normal routine. The fact that Chloe now would be at Joy’s school regularly definitely made things even more unstable in Beca’s world. She also couldn’t get over how Joy had responded to Chloe. The little girl was just about the sweetest thing in the world, and Beca was NOT biased in that opinion. She was good-spirited and warmed up to people quickly. But she had NEVER bonded so rapidly to anyone like she had to Chloe. She still needed Beca to prompt her to say things like “love Grandmommy” or “love grandpa” - and Joy really did love those people. The fact that she kept saying she loved Chloe … unprompted? That she cried when the redhead walked away? Beca thought it was silly, but it almost felt like her daughter shared Beca’s own feelings for Chloe. She didn’t want to read into anything, but the whole experience was very hard to process.
With Chloe interning at the daycare, Beca knew that she couldn’t avoid her. And she didn’t want to, either. She kind of hoped that maybe there would be a second chance for the two of them to forge some kind of friendship at least. After wrestling with what to do for an hour, Beca took a deep breath and unlocked her phone.
Me (8:45pm): Hi. This is Beca Mitchell
Koh-eee (8:46pm): OMG! HI!
Koh-eee (8:47pm): Joy is sooooo cute! I can’t even… <3
Me (8:48pm): Yeah. She is the best.
Me (8:50pm): She, apparently, really “Wuv Koh-eee”
Koh-eee (8:50pm): We had a lot of fun today. <3 <3 <3 <3
Me (8:55pm): Soooo, I feel like I may owe you an explanation for some things.
Koh-eee (8:56pm): No, Becs. You don’t owe me anything.
Koh-eee (8:57pm): I’m just happy to have you back around. (And Joy)
Me (8:59pm): Ok, then let me rephrase. I WANT to tell you.
Me (9:01pm): If you want to know.
Koh-eee (9:02pm): YES! I would love to hear about anything you want to share.
Me (9:04pm): Ok. Cool.
Koh-eee (9:05pm): Cool
Me (9:10pm): Would you maybe want to meet up? If you have time, that is.
Me (9:11pm): Not tonight. I meant at some point. When you’re free.
Koh-eee (9:12pm): I would love that.
Me (9:15pm): What do your weekends look like?
Koh-eee (9:17pm): Two days long. :P
Me (9:18pm): Har har.
Koh-eee (9:20pm): Glad you liked it.
Koh-eee (9:21pm): I am pretty free right now on weekends. The Bellas haven’t started up practice yet. And I don’t have a job since I have the internship.
Me (9:24pm): Would you maybe want to come over on Saturday? For lunch or dinner? It isn’t a big place, but Joy would probably be easier to control here. And we could go to the park if she gets antsy.
Koh-eee (9:26pm): That sounds great. Want to do lunch? Or would that bump up against nap time.
Me (9:28pm): No, Little Miss has decided to boycott naps lately.
Koh-eee (9:30pm): Man, I LOVE naps. I wish that we still had nap time.
Me (9:32pm): I totally agree. I miss sleep.
Koh-eee (9:34pm): :(
Me (9:35pm): She is actually a pretty good sleeper. I just never sleep in. She is up early.
Koh-eee (9:36pm): Booooo. I’ll tell her to stop that. Haha.
Me (9:37pm): Maybe she’ll listen to you.
Me (9:38pm): So Saturday. Want to aim for Noon?
Koh-eee (9:40pm): Sounds great.
Koh-eee (9:42pm): Looking forward to it.
Me (9:44pm): Me too.
Me (9:48pm): You probably need the address
Koh-eee (9:50pm): That would help. :) Unless you want me to root through Joy’s files. J/k
Me (9:51pm): Nah, I’ll send it. Then I’m heading to bed. Morning comes early.
Koh-eee (9:53pm): Ok. Thanks Becs. Have a good sleep.
Me (9:55pm): You too, Koh-eee.
Saturday arrived with bright sunshine and much anxiety. Beca had done her best to get her small apartment cleaned up and straightened - well as straightened as much as possible for the home of a two and a half year old. She had gotten a variety of sandwich fixings, along with a bag of chicken nuggets for Joy, and hoped that there was something Chloe would like. Speaking of Joy, the little fink had already had an extra bath thanks to getting into some markers. She now was sitting in her special chair and playing with her Elmo toy, singing to a playlist of ridiculous kids songs from Beca’s laptop.
Chloe also was a bundle of nerves and excitement. She hadn’t told Aubrey much about what had happened. Thankfully she had been busy with some school projects, so she had spent most of her time in the library. The redhead knew that Aubrey was just looking out for her, but her built-in dislike of Beca would probably influence her advice. Chloe was already nervous enough without having to get berated by Aubrey. Stacie had been very supportive, encouraging Chloe to not hang too much onto the get together. It was a nice first step, but it was the first time they had hung out. She tried to get her mind under control as she drove to Beca’s apartment. Soon she was standing at the door and knocking.
Beca jumped at the knocking sounds even though she knew it was coming. Joy looked up from her toys to see what was happening. “Joy,” Beca sang. “I think there is someone here to see you.”
Joy looked confused, but she toddled over to the door to see what was happening. When Beca opened the door and the girl saw who was there, she squealed in glee. “Koh-eee!” She ran and grabbed the redhead around her legs.
“Wow! That’s the way to be greeted at the door!” Chloe exclaimed with a huge smile. “Joy, can I give your mommy a hug now?”
Joy turned and hugged Beca’s legs next. “Hug momma.” Chloe chuckled and then followed behind and hugged Beca as well.
“Hi momma,” Chloe said quietly with a grin.
Beca blushed at the greeting, but hugged Chloe back. “Hey.”
Joy immediately wanted to show Chloe everything: her Elmo, her Anna and Elsa dolls, her blocks, her bag, her bed, Beca’s bed, Beca’s closet, the bathroom, the kitchen. While the redhead kindly followed along on the magical toddler tour, Beca put together lunch - talking over Joy’s incessant babbling when necessary. Soon the three girls were seated at the table. Joy insisted on having her high chair in between both Momma and Koh-eee. The conversation at the table was pretty superficial, since it was punctuated by Joy’s noises and requests for attention. Once they all finished eating, they moved to the living room. Beca figured the best chance that she would have to actually talk with Chloe was to set up a movie for Little Miss to watch. She had to be careful, though, or the afternoon would be dominated by requests to sing along with what was on TV. So Frozen, Frozen 2, Encanto, and Coco were off the table. Beca turned on Lady and the Tramp, one of her childhood favorites that she had exposed Joy to early on. It was quite calm compared to most modern children’s programs. Beca and Chloe sat on the couch, where Joy promptly clambered up onto her teacher’s lap. She held her blanket in one hand and popped her thumb into her mouth. Soon she was peacefully watching the “goggies" on screen.
“She is so precious, Beca,” Chloe gushed once Joy had chilled out. “And she looks so much like you from when you were young!”
“I forget that you’ve known me forever,” Beca laughed. “She does look a lot like me. She has her dad’s brown eyes, but her small size and hair and personality are all me.”
“Not a bad person to take after,” Chloe stated with a smile. Beca blushed at the compliment. “You’re a great mom.”
Beca tried to brush off the comment. “You have a very small sample size on which to grade this, you know.”
“No, really,” Chloe insisted. “I’ve been with her at school. I think part of the reason she is so well-adjusted and sweet is because she feels safe and loved. She adores you.”
“Well, she adores YOU too,” Beca added. “I swear, I think her favorite word is ‘Koh-eee’ now.”
“I’m honored that she feels that way,” Chloe said as it was her turn to blush.
The friends sat silent, watching the show for a bit before Beca spoke up. “So, I wanted to kind of fill in the blanks of the last three plus years.”
“Of course,” Chloe responded. “No pressure, you know. If you want to wait, that’s fine too. It is nice to just hang out with you.”
Blush. “I want to tell you. I feel it is … important to know … just to know who I am now.” Chloe nodded and waited for the brunette to continue. “So, I was supposed to go to Barden like you and the others. But, I found out that I was pregnant right after graduation. Do you remember Jesse Swanson?”
“Yeah!” Chloe answered, nodding her head. “He was in chorus too, right? You went to prom with him?”
“Yup,” Beca said, popping the “p” in the word. “Prom. That’s where everything kind of … went on a different track.” Chloe tilted her head, waiting for the explanation. “Jesse and I went to prom. My mom made me go to get the ‘highschool experience.’ Well, I kind of got some other high school experiences that night too. It was a rough stretch for me that Spring. I was nervous about graduating and starting college. I was kind of struggling with … who I really was. Trying to work through how I saw myself. Jesse was a good guy and a friend. I knew he had a crush on me, and I kind of wanted him to have the prom experience. It was probably a dumb idea, looking back on it. It was asking for trouble. Jesse had all these feelings for me, and he wasn’t really going to stop anything that might have happened. We ended up getting carried away. I just went with it. I couldn’t go with who I wanted to go with, so I figured I could at least try to be happy with someone who wanted me…” Beca sat thoughtfully for a moment before continuing. “It wasn't well thought out, obviously. That was my first and only time with anyone, aaaaand…. there you go. So I had to change my plans. I stayed with my mom during the pregnancy and until Joy was about six months old. Then we got this place. I started working at the doctor’s office when Joy was … three months old, I think. Now I’m the office manager there. And that’s where we are.”
Chloe offered up a small smile, “Thanks for telling me all of that.” Beca nodded. “You’re a very strong woman, you know. To sacrifice what you had planned for your child. Not everyone would do that.” Beca nodded at the comment. “Where is Jesse now, if you don’t mind me asking? Is he involved?”
“Uh, no, he’s in LA going to USC,” Beca explained. “He offered to marry me or help me out, but… it wasn’t a good idea.” She picked at her fingernails as she thought about how to word things. “I was never going to love him, and I don’t know if he ever would have loved her. You know? It was more of an obligation to him. Joy deserved to be in a family where she was loved, where love was present. I didn’t want her starting off in a place where the people HAD to be together. So I told him to go do his own thing, which he was happy to do.” When Beca finished talking, she looked up at the beauty sitting next to her. Chloe had tears in her bright blue eyes, making them shimmer even more than usual. And in her lap, Joy was cuddled up sound asleep. “Wow, she is zonked out,” Beca quietly mentioned. “She hasn’t napped much lately. I’m kind of surprised that she fell asleep with how hyper she was.” Chloe kissed the head of curly brown hair resting on her chest and then beamed at Beca. “Do you want to see if I can get her in her bed?”
“Only if you want to,” Chloe answered. “I’m fine holding her, let her get some rest. But if you think she’ll do better in her bed, I can take her in there.”
“Let’s see if she will stay asleep if we lay her down,” Beca said, getting up from the sofa. Chloe deftly pushed herself up one-handed and followed the brunette mom into her room, carrying the brunette daughter tightly. She leaned over and placed the sleeping bundle onto her mattress. Joy sighed deeply and clutched her blanket before rolling onto her stomach. She stayed asleep, and the women quietly moved out of the bedroom. Beca wasn’t sure if Chloe wanted to stick around now that Joy was napping, so she said, “I don’t know what you had planned today. If you have other things to do, feel free to do that. Or you can stay if you want. Either way.”
“Oh, I’m not leaving now that Little Miss is asleep,” Chloe laughed. The sound made Beca’s heart leap. The redhead’s laugh always had that effect on her. “This is prime grown up time!” She moved back over to the couch and sat back down. Then she patted the cushion next to her. “Come on, Becs. We have three years to catch up on.” Once Beca had situated herself on the sofa, Chloe asked, “So do you think you’ll want to go back to school?”
“I’m not sure,” Beca shrugged. “I mean, the most important thing is that Joy has what she needs. I could probably make more money with a degree, but I wouldn't go back to do music. That isn’t a field for a single mom. If I went back, it would probably be for … business or accounting. I don’t know, something that would give me more options for jobs. I love working with Dr. Gwen, but I know expenses are going to grow as Joy gets older. I want her to be able to do camps and sports if she wants. To learn an instrument. Have clothes that she will feel good in. I don’t think that I can do all of that where I am right now. But I’m not going to start unless I know that it won’t make things too hard for her.”
Chloe nodded in understanding. “I hope that you can find a way to still include music in your future. You are so talented. I miss hearing you sing. You would have fit right in with The Bellas.”
“Maybe,” Beca replied. “Aubrey may not agree with that,” she added with a smirk.
“Ahhh, she’s all bark,” Chloe replied.
“So, what about you?” Beca asked, changing the subject. “What are your plans after graduation? You’re done in May, right?”
Chloe nodded. “Yup. Just this semester and then my full internship next semester. We work full time at a school for that one. I’m only at the daycare for two days a week. When I’m done, I hope to get my own classroom. Preschool or Kindergarten, hopefully. I want to stick around the area. There is just … a lot that I still want to be close to here.”
“I think they would hire you at the daycare in a heartbeat,” Beca mentioned. “At least that’s what Jessica said the other day.”
“That would be fun,” Chloe replied with a smile. “I like them. I want to see what age group I’m most drawn to after my next internship. I love the little boogers like Joy, but I want to see how the four and five year olds are too.”
The two women continued chatting for about an hour. Chloe shared stories about The Bellas and their competitions. She talked about Aubrey, Stacie, and CR and how they were doing. Beca told cute stories about Joy. They discovered they both enjoyed some of the same shows and books, so they chatted about those as well. Beca looked at the clock on the wall and was surprised how long they had been talking. “Wow. I just realized how long Little Miss has been asleep! She’s been down for over an hour.”
“She must have been tired,” Chloe offered. “It was nice to be able to talk uninterrupted, though.”
Beca nodded with a wry smile on her face. “That is probably the longest conversation I’ve had with someone in three years. I almost forgot what it was like to be a real person.”
Chloe had her arm resting on the back of the couch. At the comment, she reached over and put her hand on Beca’s shoulder. A zing shot through the brunette’s body, but she pushed it down. “Beca, you ARE a real person. And you deserve to have a life too. Kids are resilient. Joy will be okay if you make room for yourself once in a while.” Beca bit her lip and nodded. “And, if you want to, I would love to be a part of that.” She squeezed the shoulder so Beca would look at her. “I really missed you. I’m not just saying that.”
“You barely knew me,” Beca replied softly.
“I knew you better than you think,” Chloe corrected. “I’ve always known you are awesome, and I’m glad we’ve reconnected.”
“Thanks,” Beca answered, sure that she was as red as a tomato. She heard a rustling coming from her bedroom. “And I think that’s my cue to get my girl up.”
The women both stood up. Chloe said, “I think I’ll head out before she sees me. It may make it hard if I wait to leave.”
“That’s probably a good idea,” Beca agreed. Chloe opened her arms and pulled Beca into a hug. They held each other for a while before pulling away.
Beca walked Chloe to the door. As she was leaving, Chloe turned back and said, “Oh, one other thing. You said that you didn’t get to go to prom with who you wanted to?” Beca nodded. She had hoped that Chloe may not have picked up on that slip. “I didn’t either.” They locked eyes for beat, and then Chloe winked. “I’ll see you soon, Becs.”
“See ya, Chlo.”
Over the next few weeks, Chloe started hanging out more with Beca and Joy. She came over for dinner a couple of nights a week after Bellas practice. And she would often spend at least one weekend day with the two brunettes who were quickly becoming two of her favorite people. Joy loved having Koh-eee around more. And Beca would be lying if she said she wasn’t excited to have the redhead in her world. Even when they weren’t hanging out, they would text regularly throughout the day. One day, Dr. Gwen even walked into Beca’s office area to see the manager … gasp … on her phone. “Do my eyes deceive me? Is Beca Mitchell on her phone during work hours?” Beca dropped the phone out of embarrassment. Gwen laughed and tried to reassure her employee that she was just kidding, and that she was actually very happy to see Beca interacting with someone.
After about a month, Chloe brought up the idea of Beca and Joy meeting up with Aubrey, Stacie, and CR. The thought of it definitely made Beca anxious, but she also was excited about being more integrated into Chloe’s life. As long as all of their interactions just took place at Beca’s, it felt like it was more “Chloe being a part of Beca’s world” than “both of them being parts of each other’s worlds.” So Beca agreed to get together with everyone. The weather had improved from summer’s brutal heat, so they agreed to have a picnic lunch at the park near Beca’s apartment. That way Joy would have things to do. Chloe came over early to help Beca put together what she would need for the excursion. The other ladies would meet them at the park.
“Man,” Chloe exclaimed in amazement. “I never realized how much prep goes into taking a kid out!”
“Yup,” Beca answered with a laugh as she stuffed two cups into the giant bag. “It takes time to master the art. It’s almost like packing for a vacation each time I leave the house. I have to be prepared for so many potential situations: if she’s hungry, bored, or tired; if she has an accident; if she gets dirty; if she hurts herself.” She wiped hair from her forehead and looked up at Chloe. “That’s why I suggested the park. It isn’t so easy to just meet up at as restaurant. She will get bored and want to run around. They tend to frown on that at most places.”
“I’m so excited for today,” Chloe squealed. “I can’t wait for the girls to meet Joy.”
“Are you sure they are okay with this?” Beca asked with hesitation in her voice. “I know bringing a kid into the mix can make people awkward.”
“Yes, Becs,” Chloe reassured her. “They are looking forward to it.”
“Even Aubrey?” Doubt was written across Beca’s face.
Chloe laughed. “Yes, even Aubrey.”
“Well, I think I have everything. You ready?” Beca asked after she stuffed one bag in the bottom of the stroller, hung one over the handle, and slid one on her shoulder.
“I think you forgot something,” Chloe bemusedly pointed out.
“Ha!” Beca snickered. “Yeah, right. I feel like I have the whole apartment in here.”
“You forgot Joy,” Chloe said.
“Oh, crap,” Beca replied, her eyes flying open. “Where is she?” She looked around the living room and didn’t spot her. “Joy Marie Mitchell! You better not be messing with my makeup!!!” The brunette tore into her bedroom to find her daughter.
After changing Joy’s outfit due to mascara and lipstick markings, Beca and Chloe finally made their way to the park. As they approached the pavilion near the playground, they could see three women waiting at a table. Chloe called out a hello to her friends, who then stood up to greet the new arrivals. Stacie, CR, and even Aubrey all hugged Beca. And they all completely lost their minds when they saw Joy. “OMG, she is the cutest thing ever!” “Look at those pigtails!” “She’s a mini Beca!” “What a sweetie!” “I want to eat her up!” “Beca, she is adorable!” They decided to eat first before letting Joy loose on the playground. As Stacie and CR set up the food, Chloe helped Beca situate Joy at the table. Beca hooked up her booster seat, put down a plastic mat on the table, got Joy into the seat, set a couple of toys on the table, poured water into the kid’s cup. Meanwhile, Chloe went about cutting up some grapes, cheese, and nuggets and set them on the plastic mat. She also got a yogurt out and put a straw in it. Aubrey stood off to the side, watching the production in amazement. She was surprised at how much went into just feeding a kid outside of their normal environment. But she also was impressed at how well Beca and Chloe worked together in getting everything done.
The ladies and Joy ate their lunches and chatted. As per usual, Joy insisted on Chloe sitting next to her and helping her. She also wanted some of what Beca and Chloe were eating. “She always thinks my food is better,” Beca explained. “Truthbe told, I would usually rather have her nuggets than my TV dinner.”
“Of course,” Stacie agreed with a smile. “Nuggets rule!”
Beca and Chloe took turns tending to Joy’s eating needs, which gave the other the opportunity to eat their food and contribute to the conversation. Aubrey again watched as the two worked as a pair. This time, Stacie also observed the way they worked together and exchanged meaningful glances with Aubrey. After Joy had enough food, she started to squirm in her seat, wanting to go play on the playground. Chloe cleaned the girl’s hands and face and got her out of her seat. “I’lltake her over there,” she said as Beca protested. “You stay and chat for a while.” She smiled brightly and set Joy down. The girl took off towards the slides with the redhead in hot pursuit. Beca watched the duo go with a smile on her face.
“They seem to get along well,” Aubrey commented.
Beca kept watching as Joy climbed the steps on the small slide (with Chloe’s help) and slid down (also with Chloe’s help).“Yeah, Joy loves her.”
Aubrey added, “Seems like she’s not the only one.”
Her words pulled Beca’s attention back to the table. “Ummm, what… What do you mean?”
“C’mon, Beca,” the blonde said. “We can all see it. You are falling for her.”
“What?” Stacie asked.
“Fell,” Beca repeated. “Falling indicates that I am in the process. I fell for her a long time ago.” She picked at the remnants of her sandwich.
“If it makes you feel any better,” Stacie offered. “I think the falling was mutual.”
Beca’s head popped up, hope sparkling in her eyes.
“You seriously can’t see it?” CR asked with a laugh.
Beca peeked back at the playground. Chloe had grabbed Joy and was tickling her as the little girl squealed in glee. “Ihoped that I was reading it right. It’s just hard to be sure. I’ve been doing this alone for years. I didn’t want to misread things and scare her off.”
“I don’t think that’s possible,” Stacie replied. “She is completely taken with BOTH of you.”
Beca sighed. “Yeah. I just … But I have to take Joy into consideration. I can’t get into something that might not last … that would devastate my kid. And I can’t do that.”
“Beca,” Aubrey said. The small brunette looked up at the blonde, expecting words she didn’t want to hear. “Everybodyknows that you haven’t been my favorite person.”
Beca nodded. “Thanks for reinforcing that.”
“Stop,” the blonde kindly breathed. “We had our issues over the years. And when Chloe first told us that she had reconnected with you … and that you had a kid … well I was the most vocal in warning her about getting involved.” Beca hung her head, mindlessly flicking crumbs off the table. “But, I see something … something that all of us want … that people look for their whole lives. You two just … belong together. Chloe is happier, more alive than I can remember. You two work so beautifully together.”
Beca was stunned at the words, but she was nervous to believe them. “But, Chloe hasn’t even graduated college… She still has so much to do … She doesn’t need saddled with us.”
“Don’t you think SHE should be the one to decide that?” Stacie asked. “Aubrey’s right. We’ve known both of you for a really long time. This just makes sense.”
“Short stack,” CR spoke up, using her old nickname for Beca - which brought a scowl to the brunette’s face. “We think you should give this a chance. And trust me, we would say if we didn’t. Especially Aubrey.”
“Totes,” Aubrey agreed. “I have no problem delivering hard truths.” The four ladies smiled.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Beca said. “But thanks for the encouragement. I needed it.” She then stood up and smiled, “I’mgoing to relieve Ms Koh-eee.” She started to walk away, but she turned back. “Can I ask you guys a question? Who did Chloe want to take to prom?”
CR and Aubrey exchanged confused glances, but Stacie looked at Beca and replied, “Who do you think?” Then she winked.
“That was fun…” Chloe commented as she helped Beca unload in her apartment. Unsurprisingly, Joy had fallen asleep as soon as she got into her stroller after her park adventure. She now napped in her bed, giving the two adults a much needed break.
“It was,” Beca agreed with a smile. “It was nice to catch up with them.”
“Did Aubrey give you a hard time?”
Pausing her washing of cups, Beca tilted her head and thought. “No, not really. She gave me lots to think about, but not in a bad way.”
“That’s good,” Chloe replied with a smile. “I always thought you two would get along if you just took the time to talk.” Chloe yawned and said, “It is TIRING taking a two year old to the park.”
“No joke,” Beca laughed. “She is so busy right now. If she isn’t sleeping, she’s moving. Weekends wear me out.” She looked over at her weary friend. “You can leave that for me to do. Why don’t you go get a nap?”
“You sure?” Chloe asked. “I don’t want to leave you with all this to clean up.”
“Eh,” Beca shrugged. “It comes with the package.”
“Ok,” Chloe agreed. “I’ll head home then. I have some studying I’ve been putting off.” She slid her shoes on and grabbed her purse. “Text me if you want to talk or meet up or whatever.”
Beca came out from behind the sink. She made a decision as she went to open the door. “Hey, Chlo.” The redhead looked at her. “Um … would you maybe … want to … go out next Friday night?”
“Go out?” Chloe asked, raising her eyebrows.
“Yeah, go out … with me … like on a date,” Beca clarified, trying to ignore the blush racing up her face. “My mom has been offering to watch Joy, if I wanted to … go do something… I was going to take her up on it.”
A sneaky smirk crossed Chloe’s face. “So you’ve been talking to your mom about me?!?”
“Maybe … I mentioned you … and how much Joy likes you.” Beca stared at the ground, twisting her toes into the carpet.
“How much JOY likes me?” Chloe pushed.
“And, maybe how much … I liked having you around,” Beca added, looking up bashfully.
Chloe reached her fingers up to Beca’s chin and lifted it. She then softly said, “I would love to go out with you.” Then she leaned forward and kissed Beca on the cheek. “We’ll talk soon, Becs.”
“Okay,” Beca squeaked. She watched the redhead go down the stairs and then lifted her hand to touch the spot where Chloe’s lips had been.
“This is a pretty nice place, Beca,” Chloe observed as she looked around the restaurant. “I’ve never been here before.”
“Yeah, my mom told me about it,” Beca replied. She was jittery and couldn’t calm down. Her heart was pounding, she was sweating, and her deodorant gave out about twenty minutes ago. Her leg bounced up and down, and her hands grasped together tightly under the table.
“What are you thinking of getting?” Chloe asked. She looked up to see panic in Beca’s eyes. “Hey, what’s going on Beca? Are you okay?”
Beca shook her head. “No …. uh …. I don’t know.” She took some deep breaths. “I’m just … VERY anxious.”
Chloe looked at her softly. “Hey, it’s just me.”
Beca scoffed. “Right. That’s the point. It’s you.”
“What do you mean?” Chloe inquired.
“It’s just … “ Beca chewed the inside of her cheek and tried to compose herself. “I’ve wanted this for so long. I feel like a creeper even saying this, but I had a crush on you all through school. I just … “
“I know, Beca,” Chloe reassured. “I had a crush on you too.”
“Yeah, but…,” the brunette felt hot all over. “This is different…”
“Why?” Chloe asked. “We both felt the same thing.”
“It wasn’t the same,” Beca protested.
“Her middle name is Marie,” Beca blurted. She looked up with watery eyes. “Joy’s middle name is Marie.”
“I know,” Chloe said softly with a small smile.
“Do you know why?” Beca asked.
“I have a feeling.”
“Doesn’t that bother you? Don’t you think that’s weird?” Beca argued. “That I named my daughter after you - someone I barely knew. Because that way I kept a part of you around.”
“No, it isn’t weird,” Chloe earnestly said. She reached her hand out for Beca to take. The brunette hesitated. “Take my hand, Beca.” Reluctantly, she did. “I am honored that you included a part of me in Joy’s name. I think that … something … the universe or something … was trying to pull us together for a long time. And there were these bits and pieces, these tiny moments, that drew us together - just not completely. We had things to do first. Like you needed to have Joy. And I needed to learn how to work with kids. And when the time was right … it happened.”
Beca stared in wonderment into Chloe’s eyes. “Do you really believe that?” she breathed.
“I do,” the redhead answered, nodding. “I always knew our story wasn’t over.”
“This whole time, I felt like it was this one-sided thing. Just an infatuation with someone who didn’t know me,” Beca said softly.
“You keep saying that. That we don’t know each other, or that I don’t know you.” Chloe frowned as she said it. “I want you to listen to me. I. KNOW. YOU.” When Beca started to protest, Chloe lifted up her hand. “I know you. I know that you eat Skittles in a specific order, which changed after they switched lime for green apple. Which I assume has switched back now that lime is back. Red, Purple, Green, Yellow, Orange. When it was green apple, you would just toss the greens - or give them to somebody else. I know that you only eat Peanut M&Ms, but no other kind. I know that you have one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard. You love tiny dogs, but not big dogs. You think cats are funny, but you don’t want one. You always take your Oreos apart to eat them - the dry side first and then the side with cream on it. You didn’t really push Aubrey off the swing; you were swatted a bee away and she came backwards too fast. You only backed into her car because you were avoiding a squirrel that ran into the parking lot. You hum when you do dishes. You don’t like movies because they are predictable. You love music because it gave you an escape when your parents split up. And you’re the most amazing mom to the most wonderful kid.” Beca sat wide-eyed at the confession. “I know you, Beca. And I love you, I have for a long time.”
Silence descended on the table as Beca processed everything she just heard. “But what about Joy? What if things don’t work out? It would destroy her.”
“Why would things not work out?” Chloe asked. “If the universe went to such lengths to bring us together, who are we to fight the universe.” She grinned at Beca. “Plus, I love that little girl like she was my own. I would never do anything to hurt her.”
“I’m scared,” Beca whispered.
“Me too,” Chloe whispered back. “We both are on the verge of getting everything we wanted. That’s scary. But it is pretty great, too.”
Beca studied the face of the woman across from her - a face she had watched thousands of times. It was honest and loving and genuine. “I just need you to be patient with me. I’m new to all of this.”
“I’ve waited this long; I don’t mind taking things slow,” Chloe shrugged.
“Ok,” Beca said to herself. “Ok, I can do this. Sorry for the panic attack.”
“Not a problem, my dear,” Chloe laughed. “So you’re good?” Beca nodded. “Good. We should probably at least look at the menu. I think our waiter has been keeping his distance - which is a pretty unusual thing for a waiter to do. Bodes well for his tip.”
“Yes it does,” Beca said with a smile. She looked down at the menu, but then looked up suddenly, “Oh, one other thing.” Chloe looked back up at her. “I love you too.”