Chloe had never travelled much growing up. Her father worked a lot, often heading out of state for weeks at a time. Between that and the long school terms, the opportunities for holidays were scare.
Sure, the occasional school trip had arisen, but none of those had ever taken her outside of Oregon.
And yet here she was, in California, six-hundred miles from home.
By the time the sun had begun to set, Chloe’s feet were dragging and she was starting to wonder if someone had in fact slipped bricks into her bag.
So when the brunette brought them to a pause outside a patchy looking motel, and folded up the map they had snagged from a tourist stand, she made no complaint.
“We should stop for today.” The girl said, unzipping her bag and stuffing the paper inside. “We can figure out the rest of our route tomorrow.”
“Thank god.” Chloe laughed, pulling the brunette into a hug.
“Don’t thank me yet.” The girl cleared her throat, awkwardly extracting herself from Chloe’s grasp. “This place looks fucking dodgy.”
Thankfully, the inside was a lot better than the graffitied exterior, but the price of their room certainly made a dent in Chloe's savings. Although none of that really mattered the moment Chloe kicked off her shoes and flopped onto the double bed.
“I think my feet are gonna drop off.” She whined, her head hitting the pillow with a soft thud. “How are you still standing?”
Chloe could practically feel the girl roll her eyes from across the room. “We weren’t walking for that long.”
“Five hours is a very long time.”
“Okay one, it was three hours and two, you’re the one who insisted on running around with that dog in the park.”
“God,” She groaned. “Don’t even talk to me about running right now.”
Chloe heard the girl’s chuckle from across the room. “I did tell you it was a bad idea.”
Chloe huffed. “I’m glad you find my suffering amusing.”
“Well, what if I said there was a way to make your ‘suffering’ go away?”
Chloe lifted her head off the bed, arching an eyebrow at the brunette. “I’m listening.”
“Everyone knows that alcohol’s the best pain relief, right?” The girl said, a smile tugging at her lips.
“Yeah, and?” Chloe asked, eyeing her skeptically.
“And we have a mini fridge filled with it.” The brunette smirked, moving towards the small cooler in the corner of the room. “Come on.” She said, crouching down and beginning to pull out the various bottles of different sizes.
Chloe groaned before hauling herself off the bed and joining the brunette on the floor. She shot the girl a quizzical look as she reached into the cooler, bringing out an icepack. “For your arm,” She clarified, noticing Chloe’s confusion.
“Oh.” Chloe said. “You don’t have to…” Her words trailed off as the brunette tentatively began to roll up her sleeve, revealing the light purple splotches starting to form on the skin.
The pain in Chloe’s arm had decreased considerably but she couldn’t deny the immediate satisfaction that washed through her as the girl wrapped the ice over the developing bruises.
“Much.” Chloe smiled. “Thanks.”
“No problem.” The brunette replied, a grin making its way onto her face as she held up one of the smaller bottles, “Now for the real treatment.”
An hour later, Chloe had settled back onto the bed, crosslegged. She was cradling a beer in her hands and her gaze was zoned in on the brunette sitting on the chair opposite her.
“You’re a bit of a closed book.” Chloe pursed her lips, taking a sip from the bottle. “I hardly know anything about you except that you make mashups and smoke.”
The girl hummed. “That pretty much sums me up.”
Chloe shook her head slightly. “No, there’s more than that, you just don’t want to tell me.”
“Fine, you got me.” The brunette chuckled. “So what do you want to know?”
If Chloe was surprised by her response, she didn’t show it.
“What’s your favourite colour?”
“Nope, you’ve crossed a line Red.”
“Har har.” Chloe said with a roll of her eyes. “Seriously though, what is it?”
“Blue." She said, before adding, "What’s yours?”
“Yellow.” Chloe replied easily, quickly moving to her next question. "Do you have any siblings?"
"Two brothers and a sister."
"Wow." The brunette raised her eyebrows. "Big family."
"I guess." Chloe shrugged. “Where did you grow up?”
The brunette laughed. “What is this, twenty questions?”
Chloe bit her lip, holding back a smile, “Maybe.”
The girl rolled her eyes. “I was born in Seattle, but me and my mum moved to San Fransisco when I was 11. Then after…” She sighed, looking down. “After she died, I went back to Washington with my dad.”
Chloe frowned, not missing the way the girl’s grip had tightened on her bottle. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be, it’s in the past now.” The brunette glanced up at Chloe, leaning forward in her seat. “So what’s your story? Where does a girl like you come from?”
“A girl like me?” Chloe grinned, accepting the brunette’s attempt towards changing the subject. “Is that your way of flirting?” She asked, causing the other girl to choke on her drink.
“What? No I-”
“Portland.” Chloe cut in, smirking at the brunette’s flushed cheeks. “Just outside the city centre.” She paused, a thoughtful expression making its way onto her face. “You know, I’ve never been away from home before. I miss it less than I thought I would.”
By the time Chloe had finished speaking, the brunette had composed herself enough to speak again. “So why’d you run away?”
“What?” This time it was Chloe’s turn to look flustered. “How did you know I...”
“You’re travelling alone, you have like no possessions and you definitely don’t know where you’re going.” She said with a shrug. “This trip doesn’t seem like something you planned.”
“Funny.” Chloe spoke up after a minute. “You just described yourself.”
“Nope.” The brunette shook her head, taking a drink from her beer. “I know exactly where I’m going.”
“Oh yeah?” Chloe asked. “And where would that be?”
“LA.” A frown suddenly appeared on the girl’s face and she downed the last of her bottle. “I would’ve been there tomorrow if it wasn’t for that fucking bus driver.”
Chloe looked down, biting her lip. “Sorry.”
“Why?” The girl asked. “It’s not your fault he was a dick.”
“If I hadn’t lost my ticket…”
She shrugged. “Then we would’ve been stuck with that asshole for another day. You did us a favour.”
“I guess.” Chloe sighed. “So…LA, huh? Is that still the plan?”
“Yeah.” The brunette nodded, starting to pick at the label on her bottle. She opened her mouth to speak, but quickly closed it.
Chloe tilted her head. “What?”
“No it’s…” She sighed, shaking her head. “It’s stupid.”
The brunette exhaled slowly. “I was just going to ask if you wanted to come with me? To LA that is.”
Chloe blinked. “Wait really?”
“I mean we’ve already come this far.” She said, picking off another piece of the sticker on her beer bottle. “Besides you can’t keep aimlessly travelling around the country, and at least if we’re together, the chance of us getting murdered decreases marginally.” She laughed. “Not to mention it’s cheaper to spilt the costs of everything.”
Chloe bit her lip, mulling it over.
The girl was right, she couldn’t keep running. And maybe giving herself a destination, would ease the tenseness that had been present since the moment she left her house back in Portland.
“Okay.” She finally said. “On one condition.”
The brunette arched an eyebrow at her, unscrewing the cap of the new bottle she had just grabbed.
“You tell me your name.”
The girl stilled her movements, a small smile settling on her face as she met Chloe’s gaze. “Beca.”
Just like that, something clicked into place for her. “Beca.” She echoed, a smile of her own playing at her lips.
The weight she had been carrying around all week suddenly didn’t seem so heavy.
“Okay then.” Chloe said at last. LA it is.”
It was nearing midnight and they still hadn’t stopped drinking. At some point in the conversation they had made their way onto the floor, sitting with their backs pressed against the bed as they each cradled a beer.
It hadn’t taken long for the alcohol to quickly work its way through Chloe’s system, encasing her body in a warm, fuzzy blanket.
She turned her head to the side, smiling as her eyes met darker blues. “It might be the vodka and double shot of bourbon talking but I think we’re going to be really fast friends.” She said quietly.
“Oh yeah?” The brunette mused, her eyes not leaving Chloe’s.
“Mhm,” Chloe nodded lazily, her eyes tracing Beca’s features before she spoke again. “You’re like really pretty.” She said without thinking, already feeling the blush rise to her cheeks.
The brunette’s mirth filled gaze met hers “And you’re like really drunk.” She chuckled, breaking their eye-contact as she started to stand. “Look, I’m gonna go shower. Will you be okay on your own, or do I have to babysit?” Beca said once she had successfully gotten onto her feet.
“I’ll be fine.” Chloe huffed as she struggled to stand.
“Okay, well I won’t be long.” Beca eyed her wearily. “Just…try not to break anything.”
Chloe gave the brunette a small salute then flopped backwards onto the bed.
She waited for Beca to be out of the room before sitting up properly again, her eyes zeroing in on the telephone perched on the bedside table.
She stared at it for a while, until she heard the shower start to run and gingerly picked it up, slowly dialling the only number she knew.
“Hello, Aubrey Posen speaking.” The unmistakable voice of her best friend rung out from the phone. “Hello?” She asked again, and Chloe could almost picture the frown creasing the blonde’s forehead.
Just as Chloe was about to hang up, Aubrey spoke again, sobering her up considerably. “Chloe? Is that you?” Chloe blinked, her mouth moving to say something, but no words coming out. “It is, isn’t it?”
Chloe swallowed, her throat dry all of a sudden. “I just wanted to hear your voice.” She said at last.
“Chloe.” Aubrey said thickly. “Where are you?”
“I can’t tell you.” Chloe’s voice wavered. “I’m sorry.”
“This is serious Chlo. I need to know you’re okay.”
Chloe nodded, before remembering Aubrey couldn’t see her. “I am.” She said.
A crackling noise sounded, as if the phone’s speaker had been covered up, and then muffled voices. Chloe frowned.
“Please just…you need to come home.” Aubrey continued, her voice sounding strained. “I don’t know what you were thinking, but everyone’s been so worried. Your dad-”
“Doesn’t care.” Chloe said, cutting her off. “He never has.”
“That’s not true.” Aubrey replied calmly. “Your dad loves you very much.”
Chloe scoffed. “He has a funny way of showing it.”
“Look just,” Aubrey sighed. “Think about Sarah. She needs you.”
Chloe had lost count of how many times she had been told that in the last six months. That she had to stay strong for her family, for her sister.
But who was staying strong for her?
Chloe blinked back the tears that had begun to gather in her eyes. “No, she doesn’t.” She said quietly. “She needs her mum.”
There was a long silence on the other end of the phone.
“I know how hard this year has been for you,” Aubrey eventually said, “but running away won’t solve your problems.”
“Why…” Chloe sighed, “Why are you even talking to me right now? You hate me.”
“I hate what you did.” Aubrey corrected. “But no matter what I said the other night Chlo, you’re still my best friend. I was just mad and upset and I shouldn't have spoken to you like that. So please,” She sounded desperate then. “Please come home.”
“I’m sorry.” Chloe said again. “But that’s not my home anymore.”
“Chloe you don’t mean-”
“Red?” Chloe didn’t hear the rest of Aubrey’s sentence as her head snapped up to be met with Beca standing directly in front of her. “Who’re you talking to?”
Fuck fuck fu-
“Who was that?” Aubrey’s concerned tone jolted Chloe back to reality and she squeezed her eyes shut, fighting the stinging sensation behind her eyelids.
“I’ve gotta go, Bree.” She said quickly.
She hung up before Aubrey could say anything to change her mind and put the phone down heavily. She leant forwards and pressed her hand into her forehead, grinding the heel of her palm against her skin.
Chloe startled slightly as she felt the bed dip beside her, and turned her head to the side, locking onto Beca’s concerned eyes.
“Are you okay?”
It wasn’t the question Chloe was anticipating.
“Yeah, just kinda overwhelmed.” She replied. “I didn’t think she’d actually pick up.”
Beca nodded, drumming her fingers on her leg. “So, I’m guessing that was the best friend you were talking about?”
“Aubrey.” Chloe breathed out shakily. “Fuck she was right, I don’t know what I was thinking.” She said, starting to wave her hands around. “I have no place to stay, no money and no idea where I am. I shouldn’t have ever left Portland.”
“Hey stop that.” Beca said, grabbing Chloe’s flailing arms. “I don’t know why you left, but I’m guessing it was for good reason, right?”
Chloe looked down, nodding jerkily.
“And do you actually want to go back?”
Chloe shook her head ‘no.’
“Okay.” Beca said, releasing Chloe’s hands. “Then that’s all that matters. We can figure out the rest when we get there. But for now let’s go to bed, alright? It’s been a long day and you’re overwhelmed, not to mention a little tipsy.”
A watery laugh escaped Chloe’s lips.
Beca smiled. “Do you want to go change into something comfier to sleep in?”
“I didn’t bring pyjamas.” Chloe said with a frown.
“Hold on.” Beca got up and crossed to the other side of the room, crouching down to rummage through her bag. “Here.” She said, pulling out a shirt and pair of shorts and tossing them to Chloe. “Try those on.”
“Thanks.” Chloe said and started to pull her shirt over her head, only to be stopped by the brunette’s squeak of protest.
“What?” Chloe laughed silently, pausing her motions. “You’ve literally seen me naked.”
The brunette’s eyes were planted on the ceiling, a slight flush adorning her face. “Still.” She muttered, shaking her head, “Boundaries.”
“You can look if you want, it doesn’t bother me.” Chloe shrugged. “I’m pretty confident about all this.”
“God you’re so...weird.”
“And you’re cute when you’re flustered.” Chloe countered.
“I’m not…” Beca let out a huff of air, folding her arms across her chest. “Whatever. Just…go change in the bathroom like a normal person.”
“Anything you want Becs.” Chloe winked, getting up from the bed.
“Are you just gonna stand there or…?”
Fuck it. Chloe thought to herself as she crossed the room.
They’d slept in a bed together before and it had been fine. More than fine actually.
For the first time in six months, Chloe had slept through the night. Gone was the disorientated panic clawing at her chest when she found herself trapped in a nightmare. There had been no fit of tears as she woke with a start.
For the first time in six moths, she had slept in peace.
And that was enough to ease her concerns as she took the other side of the bed to the brunette, not quite touching the other girl, but not quite staying as far away as she could.
When morning came, Chloe awoke to find an unfamiliar pressure across her waist and behind her back.
She relaxed into the embrace, unable to recall the last time someone had held her like the girl behind her was at that moment. Like Beca was holding her.
Her eyes popped open and she suddenly became extremely aware of the body pressed up against hers. She slowly tried to extract herself from the girl's hold but stopped as she felt her start to stir. Closing her eyes quickly, she tried to even out her breathing.
The warmth behind her back soon disappeared as the brunette hastily made to untangle herself.
Chloe missed the contact as soon as it was gone.
“That will be $110.50,”
Chloe felt her jaw drop as the man at the motel’s reception spoke curtly, looking at them in obvious disdain.
It was Beca who spoke up first. “What?!” She exclaimed loudly, her eyes going wide. “You said 70 last night!”
“Yes.” He said shortly. “That was before you took over forty dollars worth of product from the fridge in your room.”
“You mean we have to pay for that shit?!” Beca exclaimed.
“Yes, ma’am.” He nodded, folding his hands on the counter. “Is that going to be a problem?”
“Of course it’s going to be-”
“No problem.” Beca cut Chloe off, stepping on her foot for good measure. “It’s going to be no problem.” She said. “Can you just give us a minute?”
He nodded reluctantly. “Take all the time you need.”
Chloe stumbled slightly as the brunette dragged her to the corner of the room. “What was that?!” She whispered incredulously. “You know we can’t afford it!”
“Duh.” Beca rolled her eyes. “Don’t worry, I’m not wasting my money on this place.”
Chloe blinked. “What’re we supposed to do then?”
“I may or may not have an idea.”
Chloe looked at her expectantly.
Beca smirked. “We make a runner.”
“What?! No! That’s…” Chloe gaped at the girl, lowering her voice to a whisper. “That’s illegal!”
Beca shrugged. “So is hitchhiking.”
Chloe pursed her lips. “That’s different and you know it.”
“Just follow my lead.”
“What?!” Chloe squeaked, “No!”
Beca ignored her remarks and calmly walked back to the front desk, saying something to the receptionist to make him turn and vanish into the back room. The moment he was out of sight Beca turned on her heel and begun to speed towards Chloe.
“Let’s go.” She hissed. “We don’t have much time.”
“No.” Chloe said, her eyes growing wide. “Oh, no no no no no.”
“Come on.” Beca said, grabbing Chloe’s hand and starting to drag her to the exit.
Oh my god, oh my god. Chloe panicked. This is not fucking happening.
They had almost reached the door when they heard a voice sound from behind them. “Hey! Where are you going?”
“Fuck.” The brunette cursed from beside her and suddenly Chloe was being tugged through the exit onto the streets. “Run!”
More footsteps sounded from behind them, but Chloe didn’t dare look back as she blindly followed the brunette, holding onto her hand tightly.
“Someone stop them!” One of the security guards shouted in vein.
It was rush hour and obviously everyone had better things to do than worry about chasing after two kids. But by the time the men figured that out, the girls were already gone, their path obscured within the busy crowds.
“Holy shit!” Chloe panted five minutes later as they turned the corner into a deserted street, slowing to a stop. “That was…”
“Irresponsible? Stupid? Reckless?” The brunette laughed, looking as out as breath as Chloe felt. “You can thank me later when we have enough money for food.”
“Actually,” Chloe paused, a wide smile splitting her face as she leant against the nearest lamppost. “I was going to say amazing.”
“What?” Beca blinked, eyeing Chloe up and down.
“I’ve never felt that alive before.” She responded breathily, her chest still rising and falling rapidly.
Beca grinned. “I’m starting to think I’m a bad influence on you, red.”
“No way.” Chloe snorted. “I’m older. That definitely makes me the influencer.”
Beca scoffed. “What, with your naivety and lack of common sense? Fat chance.”
“Fine.” Chloe said. “If you’re so wise, then how are we going to get to San Fransisco from here?” She sighed as a smirk settled itself on the brunette’s features.
“You’re not going to like it.”
Chloe frowned, before following the brunette’s gaze, her eyes landing on an old fashioned truck parked in front of them. “No.” She said immediately, her eyes snapping back to where Beca was already stepping towards the vehicle.
“Yes.” Beca replied, already moving to the side of the car. “I mean what choice do we have?”
“We could always-”
“We are not fucking hitchhiking.”
“Oh come on, it’s not that-”
“No.” Beca stated firmly. “No way are we doing that again. You’re lucky we’re still alive.” She said as she started to unzip her duffel bag. “Now get over here and help.”
“But…” Chloe objected weakly.
“Red, no one’s gonna miss this piece of crap. We’re honestly doing them a favour.”
She does have a point...
Chloe bit her lip, before finally nodding. “Fine.” She groaned, walking towards the brunette. “So how do we do this?”