Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Having a window cracked open in New York City in February is never advisable, but sometimes it is necessary.
Sure, Chloe’s hands are tingling with the cold and she can see her breath, but at least the room she is standing in no longer suffocates her. There is something incredibly noxious about the combination of industrial-strength cleaning fluid, recently-applied emulsion and the lingering stench left behind by the sixteen hamsters their old roommate had been housing underneath her bed.
“Wow. Okay, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think I actually miss Stoner Stephanie. At least I could pretend that the weed smell was incense or something. This is disgusting!” Chloe’s roommate appears with her sleeve-covered hand over her nose and mouth.
After having spent the last two days trying to do some damage control in the fourth bedroom in their apartment, Chloe agrees wholeheartedly with her roommate. In fact, she has reached the point where she would welcome Stoner Steph and her collection of experimental techno records back with open arms. After what they had been through with their last roommate, anything would be an improvement.
“How long do you think we should leave it before we put an ad out?”
Chloe stands back to admire her handiwork, re-tying her auburn curls into a messy bun as she waits for her roommate to respond. Aubrey is one of Chloe’s oldest friends; a sensible, strait-laced young woman with a sharp mind and a sharp tongue. As different as they are, Chloe knows she certainly could never have made it through college without her. She certainly would never have ended up in the middle of New York if it hadn’t been for Aubrey offering her a job at her father’s company while she worked out what to do with her shiny new degree and her limitless, untold future.
“I think we could put an ad out now if we wanted. I mean, all we need to say is that the room won’t be available for a couple days so the paint has time to dry.” Aubrey’s perfectly manicured nails tap against the edge of the door as she thinks. “Maybe, when Amy gets home, we should all sit down and work out what we want? I don’t know about you, but I can’t deal with another weird roommate. We need to vet this one properly and we need criteria.”
Chloe couldn’t agree more. As much as they need the money- holding graduate-level jobs whilst living in one of the biggest cities in the world means they aren’t exactly swimming in spare cash- the last few months have been hell. On paper, Lilly had been a great roommate. She had a steady job in the city, she was able to pay a security deposit in advance and the credit checks Aubrey had done through her father’s business had come back clean, albeit under a different first name. She had been so incredibly quiet, so shy, that they had expected she would be a wallflower and that, over time, she might speak up a little and come out of her shell. They could not have been more wrong.
When Chloe and Aubrey had come back from work one evening to find her bedroom door closed, the sounds of muffled quacking and beating the only clue that Lilly was even home, they had paused for a moment to listen. Amy, their third roommate, had appeared behind them and had suggested the theory that Lilly might have some very specific fetishes.
Chloe can remember her sensible suggestion, that possibly Lilly was beatboxing. They had all agreed that was most likely and had carried on with their lives until, after an hour or so, the door opened to reveal Lilly, dressed head-to-toe in a beekeeping suit with a live goose under one arm.
“I think I was closer with the fetish thing”, Amy had murmured under her breath as she watched the slim, dark-haired woman slip out of the front door. “I wonder how much she charges.”
After that day, things had gone downhill rapidly.
Goldfish in the bathtub had prompted a discussion about experimental photography and whether Lilly’s job was more artsy than they had envisioned.
Her extensive collection of wigs had left Amy wondering aloud if she was a secret agent.
It was only when Aubrey had walked into the house to find the woman chanting in front of the mirror, her face and naked body covered in the same spray paint that now coated her bedroom walls, that they had called time.
(And an ambulance.)
As Chloe stares at the freshly-coated wall, Lilly’s sprayed markings (a message to the twin who still lived inside her, she had claimed in a voice far louder than they had ever heard her use before) hidden from view by two solid layers of white emulsion, she thinks about what kind of roommate she would like.
Someone with a sense of humour.
Someone who isn’t going to keep her up at night worrying about the penalties for keeping exotic animals in the middle of Manhattan.
“Alright, I’m going to go shower off this paint and get changed and then shall we sit down and work out what we’re looking for?”
Aubrey nods at Chloe’s suggestion. “Perfect. I’ll get Amy.”
By the time Chloe gets out of the shower and has towelled her hair until it is fairly dry, she has a clearer idea of the kind of person she could see them all living with. Music is, naturally, at the top of her priority list. Not least since the three of them- Chloe, Aubrey and Amy- had met in college through their acapella group. They all love music. It is a way of life, a way of communication. Living with someone who doesn’t understand that is never going to be a long-term solution to their roommate problem.
“I think we need to say females only.” Aubrey is already sat at the kitchen table, her laptop open, when Chloe walks down the small set of stairs that separate the living space from the rest of the apartment. “I don’t think any of us want some skeezy guy living here. I wouldn’t feel safe.”
“But, ah, what about if- say, for example- it was a not-skeezy guy? How would you feel about that? Because some of us might actually quite enjoy some on-tap male company on these cold winter nights.”
“Amy, no. Actually, if we end up offering this room to a guy, I’m going to add that to the roommate rules. No fraternisation. It’s inappropriate.”
Chloe simply nods along. It is far too much effort to get into an argument with Aubrey Posen before dinner time. “I agree with the no men thing, but I don’t think we can say females only unless we stipulate that we’d also be welcoming of trans or non-binary roommates? I guess the thing we’re actually not looking for is a cisgendered, heterosexual guy.”
“I think you’ll find that’s exactly what some of us are looking for” Amy interjects.
“But that’s also sexist and discriminatory”, Chloe concludes. “So, maybe, we leave gender out of the equation and just vet it on personality?”
Aubrey pauses for a moment, the tip of the pen she definitely didn’t need to be holding caught between her teeth. “Fine. Alright. So we’ll leave it open to any and all genders. What criteria do we actually need to put down?”
“No pets. Not even hamsters. Or goldfish.”
“Must have a steady income? We can say we’re professionals now, so maybe we frame it like we’re looking for a professional?”
Aubrey smiles across at Chloe. “True. I mean, you write job descriptions for a living Chloe. Any insights?”
Chloe takes a moment to understand that, effectively, Aubrey is passing her the responsibility. Slowly, she takes a breath and thinks about the mental list she had made whilst in the shower. “I mean, the important thing is that we find a roommate who fits in with us and who is going to be respectful of the way we do things.”
“I think our initial ideas about having someone who can dance in heels and match pitch went out the window a long time ago, but I agree. They’ve got to fit in. Nobody too alternative. Just, I don’t know, normal.” Aubrey’s tone gives away her biases more often than she realises.
Chloe decides against digging into what exactly Aubrey thinks is ‘normal’ about any of them, and instead adds her own thoughts. “Someone who gets the music thing would be nice, though. I don’t think they necessarily have to sing, but I think it’s important to put it in the criteria. Just so we have something in common.”
“Sounds good to me, ginger. Alright, you girls can get that written up. I’ve got to go see a guy about my investment portfolio.”
Aubrey’s brow furrows in Chloe’s direction the minute Amy got up from the table and left the room. “Do you think she means that literally?”
Chloe simply shrugs. “After this long, Aubs, I have learned it’s best not to ask.” Picking up her chair, Chloe moved closer to her roommate. “Anyway, let’s see what we can write. We’re all off work this weekend, so we might as well post it today. That way, we can meet them and make a decision together.”
“Excellent. Alright, here we go.”
Part-furnished room available in 4 bed/1.5 bath brownstone apartment in South Harlem. $950/month (utilities and internet included).
Room comes with double bed, desk, chair, bedside table and built-in closet. Apartment is situated close to amenities, within walking distance of Columbia University and Central Park. 5 minute walk to subway station.
We are 3 20-something females looking for a fourth roommate. Must be professional, considerate and a non-smoker. No pets, no matter how small.
Please email for further information or to arrange a tour.
The ad has only been up for an hour, but Chloe can’t help but keep refreshing her emails. Part of her is terrified that their run of bad luck with roommates isn’t quite over. The other part of her, however, is excited at the prospect of someone new. A new friend.
“Oh!” Her phone lights up with a notification. “Girls, we have an email!”
Chloe swipes her screen, opening the new message.
“Alright, she says she works for a record label so that’s the job and the music thing taken care of. She doesn’t smoke, doesn’t have any pets and is also in her 20s.”
Aubrey watches on as Chloe taps at her phone. “You’ve already replied, haven’t you?”
Chloe shrugs. “Maybe.” Pulling herself up off the couch and adjusting her shirt, she smiles sweetly at her two roommates. “Anyway, she’ll be here in half an hour.”
Amy groans. Aubrey shakes her head. They are used to this by now; four years of college has been enough to grow accustomed, even fond, of Chloe’s tendency to overstep the boundaries and social conventions most people would respect. It was impossible not to find it at least a little endearing, which Aubrey knows she puts down to the power of Chloe’s wide blue eyes.
“Do we even get to know her name before you invite this stranger to move in with us?”
“Yeah, of course.” Chloe brushes her hair back off her face as she smiles. “Her name is Beca.”
Beca Mitchell stands outside the door for apartment 201 and knocks gently. She isn’t entirely sure how she has ended up there, dressed in a passably professional outfit and nervously revising all the things her mom taught her about making a good first impression. The girl she had been emailing with had been friendly and open and, when she had asked if she was available to come and see the apartment that evening, the word ‘no’ hadn’t even crossed her mind.
Besides, it wasn’t like Beca had any other plans.
“Hi.” The door opens to reveal one of the most attractive women Beca has ever seen. She is objectively pretty, with high cheekbones and a button nose and enticingly bright blue eyes. Her red hair falls in gentle waves, brushing against her shoulders, contrasting against the stone-coloured sweater she is wearing. “You must be Beca. I’m Chloe. Come in.”
It makes sense that the girl behind the emails would be this cheerful in person. The woman is like actual sunshine.
“So, this is Aubrey and Amy. Do… do you want us to show you around?”
“Sure. Do you want me to take my shoes off or anything?”
Chloe shakes her head. “No, you’re good. Alright, so this is the kitchen. We all have cupboards for our own food but we share plates and bowls. And, well, to be honest we tend to cook together a lot but that’s up to you. There’s a shelf each in the fridge and a drawer each in the freezer. Ah, what else to tell you?” Chloe’s eyes keep being drawn back to Beca. “There’s a microwave, toaster, oven, gas stove and- oh- we got a coffee machine on Black Friday last year. We all pay in a little each month and buy the pods in bulk because it’s cheaper. Actually, we have a fund which covers a lot of universal items like cleaning products, laundry powder and toilet paper. Once a month or so we just do a Costco run in an Uber.”
Beca suddenly feels herself being pushed into the space beside the kitchen by one of the other girls.
“And this is the living room. I won’t go into as much detail as Chloe because it’s fairly obvious that you’ve got two working eyes and a rudimentary understanding of how houses work.”
She realises in that moment that she has barely paid any attention to either of the blonde women. The girl speaking to her has a twang to her voice. It takes a second for Beca to realise she is Australian.
“Cable’s included in the utilities. Which is covered by the rent.” The other blonde seems a little more snippy. ‘Fun’ isn’t exactly the word that comes into Beca’s mind when she looks at her. “Do you have any references?”
Beca pauses. The ad hadn’t mentioned references. “I, ah, I didn’t know you’d need any. But I can get you something in writing if you need it? Or I can give you the contact details for my boss if you think it’s necessary?”
It is hard to pretend not to notice the silent, eyes-only conversation going on behind her. Beca spots the pleading expression on the redhead’s face and the way her lips fall into a slight frown when the sharp blonde glares back. At least Beca appreciates the way the Australian girl seems to be glancing between them both as if to say, “she’s right there, guys.”
“Do… would you mind showing me the room? That’s kind of the biggest thing I need to see.”
“Oh!” Chloe seems to come to her senses. “Of course. Follow me.”
The redhead leads Beca up a set of wooden steps and down a corridor. “This is Amy’s room here, and this opposite is the main bathroom. There is also a half bath- just a toilet and a sink- behind the kitchen.” Chloe pushes open the door to the bathroom. “We try and take it in turns to clean but the general agreement is that we just clean up our own mess as we go. There isn’t, like, a rota or anything.”
“Cool.” Beca is surprised. She can’t help but imagine that the snippy blonde is just the type to love a chore chart of some kind. One which she could use to boss people around. As she follows Chloe around the corner, she spots the open door.
“So, this is the room. Sorry about the smell of paint. I only finished it this morning. I… I don’t think it will be ready to move into for at least a few more days. Just in case it needs another coat or whatever. Anyway, I, ah, I’ll leave you to look around. We’ll be in the living room. Come find us when you’re done.”
Beca looks around the room. It is a fairly good size, definitely bigger than the room she lives in at the moment. The first thing she does is work out where the power outlets are. That is one of her main issues with her current place; the desk is in entirely the wrong place and her floor is littered with extension cables to get her equipment to work. This room would work for her. The closet is a nice addition. Beca doesn’t have too many clothes, but there would be space for everything.
For the price, it is a steal. A nice apartment in a good area of Manhattan, three good roommates and one of them had even gone to the trouble to paint the walls.
She can’t help but wonder if there is a catch. Her curiosity piques as she walks back towards the living room, where the three girls are talking in muted whispers.
“Look, I don’t disagree, I just… she might be a little too alternative for me.”
“Because she has a tattoo? Aubrey, I have three.”
“Hi.” It feel incredibly uncomfortable to be the one to break the silence, but Beca doesn’t have a choice. “I… I really like the room, but I do have a couple questions.”
“So do we.”
“Go ahead Beca.” There is something really intriguing about the redhead taking charge of the conversation. There is something about the way it makes her feel. Beca tries her best to push it down as she thinks back to the questions she had wanted to ask.
“The first is a practical one I guess. I… I have a mini fridge that I keep in my room. I just wanted to check that would be ok? I’m happy to pay more towards utilities if it costs too much to run, but it’s kind of a necessity.”
“We could certainly get that written into a contract. I don’t see a problem. Anyone else?”
Chloe and Amy shake their heads at Aubrey.
Beca scrunches her nose slightly. “It’s just, I guess in the spirit of openness and honesty since you guys know a little about me already, I was wondering if you could tell me why the room is available and what happened to the wall?”
Amy sits up and opens her mouth, but is pushed back by Chloe. Beca is disappointed. She kind of wanted to hear Amy’s version. It would probably be the most truthful. “The girl we lived with before was, ah, going through some stuff. She’s alright now, though. She’s just…”
“She had a psychotic break. She painted the walls with messages to her unborn twin. Or was it her undead twin? Actually, maybe she said she ate her?” Amy waves her hand in dismissal. “It was always very difficult to understand her. But it was definitely something to do with a twin.”
“Jesus. Is she alright?”
“She’s in the hospital. Her parents sent for her stuff and we donated all the hamsters she was keeping to the ASPCA. She’ll be fine.”
“So, Beca. Can I ask where you live now and why you’re looking for a new place?”
Beca nods and brushes her mousy hair behind her ear. “Yeah. I mean, I moved to the city for work about 6 months ago. I’d been in LA for about 3 years and I got promoted on the condition I moved to our partner label. It’s more my speed out here so I agreed. Anyway, I didn’t know if I’d want to say long term, so I took short-term leases every couple months. I’m currently sharing a tiny apartment with a girl called Kimmy Jin. It’s fine but we have absolutely nothing in common and there just isn’t any space or privacy. And, well, I decided I’d start looking for something more long-term today and I saw your ad.”
“And you work in music?”
“Yeah. I’m a producer.” It is hard not to smile. The new title, the real job without the word ‘associate’ in front of it, is everything Beca has been working towards since she skipped Washington for California when she finished high school.
“Wow. I mean, I knew you worked for a label, but that’s so cool. Have you worked with anyone we’d know?” Chloe’s enthusiasm feels infectious.
“Well, in LA I worked on a few projects. It was mainly new artists, but I did get studio time with Snoop Dogg. Oh, and last week I got to sit in on Katy Perry’s session while she was in town. The sound engineer let me work at the desk which was cool.”
“Serious? Katy Perry?” Amy turns to the other girls. “Can we just give her a key now please?”
“I mean, I’m happy to… to agree to that. If we’re all happy?” It is impossible to miss the way Chloe’s eyes fix on Aubrey.
“Sure. Subject to references of course. From two trusted sources. And you’ll need to sign a formal contract. And pay a security deposit and first month’s rent in advance.”
Before she knows it, Beca is wrapped in a firm hug by a bouncing redhead. “Welcome, roomie!”
Thank you so much for all of your comments so far.
I'm hoping to keep to a fairly solid schedule of posting twice a week- Mondays and Thursdays.
Also, this chapter introduces a couple more familiar faces (obviously in a very AU way) and gives a little more insight into Beca. Please let me know what you think!
“This is a lot of equipment, my friend.” Chloe insists on helping Beca carry at least some of her belongings from the truck she had hired into the apartment. Beca has two friends- Luke and Jesse- helping her out, but Chloe can’t help but feel like it is her job as a new roommate to lend a hand. She had picked up a box of fancy music gadgets because it looked interesting.
“Yeah. I don’t use it as much anymore now I have better stuff at work, but it’s still fun and I guess it’s still my hobby. It, ah, it goes on the desk. Just leave it and I’ll set it up later.”
Chloe nods and watches as a guy with a stunning English accent carries in a small refrigerator and plugs it in underneath the desk. From inside it, he pulls out a cool box, holding it up in Beca’s direction before putting it back inside and closing the door. As he stands back up and stretches, Chloe can’t help but admire the chiselled abs on display. Beca has some attractive friends. Chloe makes a mental note to warn her about Stacie before their next house party, just in case Luke happens to be there.
“Yo, Becky,” Luke hovers in the doorway and looks at Beca, “have you had anything to eat or drink since we arrived?” Beca shakes her head. “Where’s all your shit? Got any cookies? Or juice?”
“In the truck. I’ll come down.”
Luke seems to nod his approval, but looks pointedly in her direction. “You come down, but you wait until you’ve had something before you come back up, okay?”
Chloe feels as if the exchange is something she shouldn’t have been a part of, something personal and private. Quietly, she makes her way out of the room and back down the corridor towards the kitchen where Amy is sat at the table, clearly the best spot to watch the guys carry Beca’s stuff through the house.
“You good?” Amy asks.
“Do you happen to know if the hot guy is single?”
“Luke? No idea. I didn’t think to ask for some reason.”
Amy shakes her head and takes a sip of her coffee. “Amateur. No wonder it’s been months since you got laid. Where’s your game gone?”
“My game? I’ve still got game. I just…. I choose not to play as often. I’ve got more important things to be doing.”
Amy scoffs. “Yeah, like giving googly eyes to the hot new alt girl who’s just moved in?”
“I am…” Chloe’s mouth opens and closes several times as she tries to find the right words. Amy simply stares on, waiting for her to dig herself out of the hole she is slowly slipping into. “Is it wrong to be curious?”
Amy’s comment earns her a kick under the table. “Shut up. Anyway, where is Aubrey? I thought she would be here by now.”
“Her dad called her about something to do with work. She’s been in her room for an hour.”
Chloe sighs. She is so grateful to have landed on her feet in being offered a job with Aubrey’s father’s business. It has so many benefits, chief among them being the opportunity to work alongside her best friend, but she knows how hard Aubrey had worked in college, how desperate she had been to find her own way in life. Graduate jobs were hard to come by and most were low-paying, entry-level positions. Knowing the lifestyle Aubrey was used to, and knowing how tenacious and ambitious she was, her dad had offered her a position on the board at the family’s holding company. The job came with a salary he would have known no other business in the country could rival, especially for a communications graduate fresh out of college. Aubrey hadn’t been able to say no, and the changes in her as soon as she donned that suit and stepped into the headquarters of a company that had seen her grow from a baby, were immediate.
She was different from then on.
Harsh. Angry. Tired.
Chloe can only hope that, one day soon, she will find a way to use her skills outside of the family business or that her dad will loosen the reins and give her the freedom to do what she does best.
In the meantime, she does her best to cheer Aubrey up each and every day.
“Maybe we should get takeout tonight to celebrate? Just, I don’t know, as a little get together? We could order from that place Aubrey likes.”
“Sounds good. Let’s check with Beca first, though. And make sure Aubrey doesn’t have other plans.”
Both Aubrey and Beca seem to appear in the room as soon as Amy mentions their names. Beca speaks first. “I, ah, I’m just going to go and say goodbye to the guys. Back in two minutes.”
Aubrey watches Beca leave before turning to Chloe and Amy. “So, anything happen while I was gone?”
Amy nods and sits up straight in her chair. “Well, first off, Beca has hot guy friends. So that’s a bonus we didn’t even know we were getting. And second, Chloe just suggested ordering in for dinner all together? Maybe from that Korean place you went to. KoBa?”
Chloe knows from the look on Aubrey’s face that the idea of Korean BBQ might just be enough to save her mood from turning sour. “I could definitely go for some KoBa. That kimchi fried rice I had last time was incredible.”
By the time Beca has made it back up the stairs, the three girls are already sat around the table.
“Can I get you a drink, Beca? Coffee? Tea?”
Chloe watches on as Beca pauses for a moment. “Actually, yeah that would be great. Coffee, please.”
“How do you take it?”
“Just black, thanks.”
Aubrey’s lips twist into a slight smile at Chloe’s face. It is a look of vindication. “See, Chlo. That’s because adult women don’t need a full ounce of corn syrup in their caffeine, or a swirl of cream on top.”
“Oh, I’m all for a swirl of cream every now and again,” Beca says gently, “but generally if it’s plain, it takes less time which means I can get it into my veins quicker. I had to teach myself to like it, though. I’m still a sucker for a pumpkin spice latte every now and again.”
When Chloe catches Beca’s eye, she could swear she sees her wink.
Maybe, she thinks, it is just a trick of the light.
“Alright, I’ve got Chloe’s tofu kimchi fried rice and side of veggies. Aubrey that’s your kimchi fried rice with bbq beef and a fancy egg. Mine’s the seafood noodles, Beca here’s your veggie noodles and… wait, did we both get fried chicken? Cool.”
“Does anyone want a beer?” Chloe pauses in front of the fridge and smiles across at Beca. “I feel like we should have got Champagne or something. The fanciest thing I can offer right now is a Brooklyn IPA or a Heineken.”
“I’ll take either, thanks.”
Chloe pulls two bottles from the fridge, uncapping them and handing one to Beca. Holding it up, she smiles. “So, here’s to having a full house. We hope you feel at home here, Beca.”
As the bottles clink together, Aubrey takes a sip of her wine. “So, while we’re all together, I thought it might be a good idea to at least go over the roommate rules so that Beca knows what they are?”
“Don’t worry, it’s nothing crazy” Chloe whispers, ending her sentence with a wink that Beca clearly doesn’t know what to do with.
“Yeah, and most of them are just veiled attempts to quash my brilliance” Amy adds, “which, in case you were wondering, is impossible.”
Beca smiles, her lips almost touching the top of her beer bottle. “Yeah, I got that.” Chloe watches on, feeling warm at the idea that Beca and Amy have already hit on some kind of dynamic.
“Yes, well, most of them relate to Amy because Amy gives us reason to have rules written down in the first place. But they are important. And there are consequences for breaking them. The biggest of all, of course, being eviction. But I’m sure it won’t come to that.” Aubrey’s eyes seem to flash as she smiles falsely. “Anyway, the full list will come with your contract, but the headlines are these: no drugs in the apartment, no loud music after 9pm on week nights and 10.30 on weekends, don’t open anyone else’s mail, don’t keep hamsters under your bed and if you bring a guy home, be respectful and keep the noise down. Also, don’t have sex on the couch, in the kitchen or in anyone else’s room.”
Amy leans in to Beca, staring at Aubrey as she whispers theatrically in her ear. “The shower is still fair game, though. It isn’t on the list.”
“Good to know.” Beca whispers back.
Aubrey shakes her head in Amy’s direction before looking back at Beca. “So, Beca, I don’t think we ever asked if you were dating anyone? Were either of those guys earlier your boyfriend?”
Chloe’s eyes are drawn to the way Beca lifts her hand gently to her lips to stifle a laugh. Slowly she seems to take a breath and look up at Aubrey. “Nope. Absolutely not. They… they’re my friends. Jesse works for the same label as me and Luke and I go way back. But, no. I’m definitely not dating either of them.”
Amy leans back in her chair, pushing up her boobs comically and adjusting her bra. “Good to know, my little friend. That is very good to know.”
“Well, regardless of whether you’re dating or sleeping together or whatever, the rules are the same. No bare bodies on the couch or the table or the kitchen surfaces” the glare at Amy is white hot, “and keep all activities with potential boyfriends to a respectful volume.”
It is impossible to ignore the snigger that Beca lets out as she tries to keep a straight face and look Aubrey in the eye. “I can promise you now, Aubrey, that you will never have to worry about potential boyfriends of mine sullying your couch.”
“That’s a very bold claim to be…”
The way Beca rolls her eyes is impressive. It is also brave, Chloe decides, to pull out the eye-roll so soon. In front of Aubrey, no less. “Believe me. It won’t be an issue.”
“Well, as long as you’re sure… Alright, I need more wine”.
As soon as Aubrey gets up from the table to refill her glass, Amy leans closer to Chloe, speaking out of the corner of her mouth. “Is it me, or does she really not get what this chick is getting at?”
Chloe shrugs. “You want to argue with her?” Amy shakes her head and turns her attention back to her noodles. “Exactly. She’ll work it out eventually.”
“And when she does, there will be a whole new host of rules about lez-be-friends” Amy says with her mouth full.
“You… you guys do know I can hear you, right?” Beca questions, one eyebrow raised. “Like I’m literally right here.”
As Aubrey walks back towards her seat, Amy leans closer to Beca. “If I were you, I’d find every single loophole in that stupid list while you can and make the most of your freedom before she quarantines your lady-loving to your room and puts a curfew on your vagina.”
“Jesus.” Beca takes a swig of her drink. “Can’t say I’m up to the challenge, but thanks.”
Chloe, sat across the table, can’t ignore the growing list of curiosities about the dark-haired woman who now lives in their apartment. She wants to get to know her, wants to find out more about her. There is one sure-fire way she knows that will at least give her some insight into the mysterious brunette. “Do you, ah, want to connect your phone up to the bluetooth speaker, Beca? You can put on whatever you want. I’d love to hear what you like to listen to.”
Beca connects her phone up and Chloe watches as she scrolls through an endless collection of playlists. “This one is just songs for dinner. There’s a few favourites on here, but it’s mellow enough to have a conversation over.” A gentle, female voice sings out through the speaker.
“Do you sing, Beca?” Chloe is surprised that it is Aubrey who asks the question.
Something seems to flash across Beca’s eyes before she answers. “Sorry, I don’t.” Chloe has a feeling it isn’t quite the whole truth, but one thing is certain. Beca Mitchell has her intrigued.
The living room is a hive of activity when Beca walks in on Monday morning.
“Morning” Chloe calls from a yoga mat on the floor where she and Aubrey are doing some kind of ridiculous-looking stretches.
“Do… do you guys not have work today?”
Chloe pulls herself to her feet and brushes down her knees. “We work a staggered day on a Monday. Start late, finish late. It’s all part of our wellness campaign. Mental Health Mondays to start the week off right.”
Beca can’t imagine anything worse for her mental health than being forced to contort her body at this hour of the day. It certainly wouldn’t start her week off right at all. Still, Chloe makes it look effortless. She makes it look attractive, even. Beca knows that it’s mainly down to the tight running leggings and sports bra she happens to be wearing. Still, the sight of a toned lady first thing in the morning is probably the only thing about this whole situation she could see herself getting on board with.
“Cool”. It takes a moment for Beca to remember what she’s even doing standing there. She grabs her to-go coffee mug from her bag and begins to walk towards the kitchen. “Do you guys mind if I use the coffee machine? I know I haven’t paid for any pods yet, but…”
“Sure, go ahead” Chloe says with a wave as she twists her arms around her body. “Have a good day at work.”
“See you later.”
Once her coffee is ready, Beca screws the lid onto her cup and throws her bag over her shoulder. Walking out the door, she puts her headphones into her ears and presses ‘play’ on the playlist she has made specifically for the morning commute. She listens carefully to the lyrics, trying to force herself to forget the sight of Chloe- who is her roommate, for goodness sake, have some respect- in those leggings.
“So, how is the new place?” It is the first thing Jesse asks her when he walks into the large, open-plan meeting space that morning. “How are the roommates?”
Beca shrugs. “Better than Kimmy Jin. Although, I mean, I guess pretty much anything would be better than being entirely ignored for 2 months.”
Jesse grabs a pre-packaged croissant from snack box in the middle of the table and begins to pull pieces of it off and throw them into his mouth.
“Dude, it’s like pastry dandruff. Can you, like, take a step back? Or learn to eat like a human?”
Beca has known Jesse for far too long at this point. All of the habits she had found endearing early on were infuriating now. She has a sneaking suspicion, too, that he had been on his best behaviour, trying to pretend to be a normal, attractive guy, until she had let slip that she wasn’t interested in him as anything more than a colleague and occasional drinking partner. Then, he had shown his true, pastry-destroying colours with full force.
“Wa’ so’?” It is barely English, but Beca gets the cue from the way the half-eaten croissant is thrust towards her face.
“You have eaten this morning though, right?”
It takes everything in Beca’s power not to roll her eyes. “I have had coffee and water and there is a pot of yogurt in the fridge with my name on it.”
Jesse reaches out to pat her head, but Beca ducks away before she is showered with yet more crumbs. “I’m just looking out for my number one gal. We need to keep you nice and healthy so that you can keep on making that sweet, sweet music of yours.”
If he hadn’t finished it already, Beca would have shoved the rest of Jesse’s croissant down his throat.
“Leave me alone.”
“Guys, can you all come over this way?” A flock of people seem to emerge into the room and sit down at the large table as the head of the studio loads up a presentation on the big screen.
Jesse smiles smugly and pulls out the seat next to Beca. “Sorry, sweet cheeks. Big boss man says no can do.”
Under her breath, Beca growls. “I hate you so much.”
“I know. That’s what makes this so much fun.”
It turns out that ‘big boss man’ has pulled them all in to talk about the plans to coordinate a three-day music and arts festival in the summer. Alongside some of their key artists headlining the main stage, there would be a newcomer tent and each night would have a DJ event with a different theme. Beca’s job, as part of her team, would be to put forward a portfolio of their new talent for the event organisers, with the aim that as many of the label’s artists as possible would be showcased. It is a portfolio that needs finished demos. Demos that make their artists sound the best they possibly can. Beca knows she is going to have her work cut out for the next six weeks as she works her way through a list of artists as long as her arm.
By the time she has given up for the day and headed home, it is completely dark. As she walks into the brownstone building and up the stairs towards the front door of the place she calls home, it strikes her that- for the first time in a long time- she is actually looking forward to walking into her apartment. Not because she wants to go to bed, or because she is hungry, but because she genuinely enjoys the company of her roommates.
Well, two of them.
One she is still not entirely sold on.
“Oh, hey. I was about to text to ask when you’d be back. It’s just me and you for dinner- can I interest you in a taste of Amy’s Special Spaghetti?”
Beca looks at her roommate hesitantly. The kitchen smells good- strong, but good- and she is dressed in a long apron with the Australian flag on it. “I mean, possibly but you’re going to have to tell me what’s in it first.”
“You’ll love it. It’s Chloe’s favourite. I’ll save the girls some for later. Anyway, it’s spaghetti, obviously, with mushrooms, cream, garlic and maybe a glass of white wine. Ah, probably less than a glass because I definitely drank some of it.”
“Sounds good.” Beca makes a mental list of the ingredients, hoisting her bag back up onto her shoulder. Pasta always has always made her anxious because of the amount of carbs in it. “Can you give me, like, five minutes to change?” Five minutes might not be enough time, but the food is ready and she isn’t about to make Amy wait longer for her. Beca makes a mental note to work out in her room after dinner.
“Go ahead. It’ll stay warm. Do you want some wine?”
Beca turns back towards Amy and shakes her head. “No thanks. Water would be great, though.”
Amy, it turns out, is quite the chef.
“Amy, this is so good” Beca says with a smile, twirling some more spaghetti around on her fork. “Where did you learn to cook like this?”
“My nan taught me. When I was back in Tasmania, we used to cook dinner together most nights. Mum worked away a lot and my dad is a dick, so it was just me and her most of the time.”
“Nice. My dad is a dick, too.”
“Speaking of dicks,” Beca scrunches her nose slightly, already having spent enough time around Amy to know not to anticipate what may come out of her mouth in any given moment, “I just wanted to apologise about Aubrey. She’s happy you’re here, she’s just… having a hard time.”
Beca shrugs. It doesn’t feel right for one grown woman to have to apologise on behalf of another. Still, she appreciates how Amy seems to recognise that there is a little residual tension between them.
“She’s very protective of Chloe and, ah, the whole Lilly situation hit her hardest so she’s a little cautious. But she’s a good person. And she can be fun once you get to know her.” Amy scoops up a forkful of mushrooms, hovering the utensil over her plate. “It took me basically a full year before she admitted that she thought I was funny.”
“Really?” Beca can’t help her curiosity. “How long have you guys known one another?”
They hadn’t really ever had the conversation, but Beca has seen photographs and has heard snippets of stories which suggest these girls go way back.
“Oh, we all met in college. Aubrey and Chloe were backing singers for this, like, a cappella troupe. They were looking for someone hot and talented to take the lead on all of their songs and they were just to give up when, boom. The complete package” Amy’s shaking jazz hands run up and down the outside of her body. “And then, after that, we won basically every competition going until we graduated.”
“So you all sing. Like, actually on-stage sing?” The whole idea is something that makes Beca nervous, even when she’s not the one who has to do it.
“We do. I mean, those two twig bitches have real jobs now but I’m still using my talents to pay the bills. As of last month, you are looking at the only Australian Amy Winehouse impersonator in the state. Well, the only good one anyway.”
Beca is unsure if she can laugh. She still hadn’t quite worked out whether Amy is joking or being serious with her stories.
“Do you want to see a video?”
Amy presses play before Beca has time to respond.
Yep, Beca thinks to herself as she watches Amy busk her way through ‘Valerie’, she is serious.
This girl really is something else.
Beca is alone in the kitchen, washing up the bowls and pans from dinner, when Aubrey and Chloe walk through the door.
Aubrey grunts as she shrugs off her coat. “As passable as any day can be when your father is your boss.”
Chloe, somehow looking like she’s stepped off a runway instead of the C train, brushes her fingers across Beca’s back as she walks towards the fridge. Beca isn’t sure whether to react, whether Chloe’s giving her an ‘I’m behind you’ warning or whether it’s even deliberate. Instead, she focuses on clearing the stuck-on pasta from the bottom of the pan.
“Oh, did Amy make her famous pasta?” Chloe seems to notice the bowl waiting for her. “Man, that girl is too good to me. Did you have some?”
It takes a moment for Beca to remember her words. “Ah, yeah. Yeah, she did. Make it. For you, I mean. Well, and me. It was good. She said it was your favourite.”
Chloe doesn’t seem to notice how badly Beca stumbles through her sentence. Her focus is fully on peeling the saran wrap off the bowl and placing it into the microwave. “Honestly, some days Amy’s only redeeming feature is that she can cook this well.” As the appliance begins to whir, she leans back against the surface and smiles gently in Beca’s direction. Beca can’t help but smile back. “So, how was your day?”
“It was good.” Beca knows she needs to keep her hands busy. She picks up a towel and begins to dry the bowls she has just washed. “Actually, the label we’re attached to is launching a music festival in the summer. Big headliners, DJs… it’s going to be good. I, ah, I should be able to get free tickets for you guys.”
“See?” Amy seems to appear out of nowhere. “I knew you were going to be a good roommate from the moment I met you.” Chloe’s eyes meet Beca’s. It’s a look of warning, Beca realises, of what is to come. “Is, ah, is there any kind of tribute act stage at this festival? Or is your label in the market for some jelly wrestlers? I happen to know a girl.”
Beca shakes her head and catches Chloe’s eye once more. She can see she’s trying not to laugh as she mouths “sorry” in her direction.
“You know what, Amy? I don’t think we’ve actually got a full list of what we want yet. If my boss mentions either of those things, I’ll put your name forward.” It seems to be enough for Amy, who bounds back towards the living room.
Chloe is just about to open her mouth to speak when Amy’s head re-appears from behind the kitchen wall. “Oh, I also break dance.”
Once they are left alone, Beca takes at seat at the table as Chloe retrieves her food and puts it down. “So,” the redhead probes gently, “any regrets about moving in?”
There is only one way for Beca to answer. Fortunately, in this case, she’s telling the truth. “You know what? I actually don’t. Not one.” She can’t help but hope it stays that way.
Thank you so much to everyone who has read, reblogged, liked, commented or left kudos! I'm honestly so pleased that this is getting a good reception from you all.
We're back with Chloe for this next part. I hope it leaves you with questions!
The working week feels never-ending. At least, Chloe thinks as she watches the subway carriage doors close, every day she works is one day closer to leaving and getting her dream job. What that dream job is exactly, Chloe hasn’t quite worked out, but sometimes just knowing that there is something on the horizon is enough to pull her through. As long as she knows she isn’t destined to spend the rest of her life in corporate recruitment, she will be fine.
“What are you thinking about? You look lost.”
Aubrey’s voice pulls Chloe back into the present.
“Just… stuff. Life stuff.”
“Ah, the old ‘what do I do with myself now I’ve graduated’ question again?” Aubrey has been party to Chloe’s indecisive nature since college. She doesn’t claim to understand her, but she supports Chloe and her meandering path through life regardless. “Any insights yet?”
Chloe told herself that she would spend a year in New York working for J. Posen Holdings before moving onto something more her speed. She had told herself that she would use the year to answer two questions. The first was whether she could live in New York City as a working adult or whether she wanted to go back to Florida to be closer to her family. The second was- is- bigger. It’s the question of what she wants to do with her life. What her calling is.
“I mean, I guess I have narrowed it down a little. I definitely think I want to be around people all day. Like, interacting with them and working together, not just sat next to each other in an office. I’d like to know I’m making a difference to someone, you know? Not just making them money. I want to be able to look back and feel as if I’ve done something worthwhile.”
Her aspirations probably sit at complete odds with Aubrey’s. Aubrey was raised in the business world. She understands its language and its culture; it is familiar to her. For Chloe, walking into the office each day feels pointless. She is a cog in a multi-million dollar machine, a nameless cog who is entirely and completely replaceable.
“I want to start looking, you know? Like, properly. I want a plan but…” Chloe can feel herself getting frustrated. Part of it is the long day she’s just spent in front of a computer, but underneath that is a deep annoyance within herself that she is now over a year into her post-grad life and she’s no further on from when she first moved into the city. “I get so jealous of people like Amy sometimes. You know, people who can just turn their hand to anything and make money. And then there’s people like Beca who have always known what they want to do and they just go out and do it. I mean, she’s doing her dream job and she’s younger than me. And I’m just wasting my time in a stuffy office surrounded by suits because I don’t know what else to do.”
Aubrey’s calming hand presses on her shoulder as she turns to face her. “So, first off, don’t copy anything Amy does. Ever. And second? Not everyone knows what they want to do, Chlo. And people change their minds. I… I know exactly how you feel, but you don’t have to do anything reckless.”
Chloe pauses, considering Aubrey’s words. “Maybe I do, though. Maybe I do.”
The first thing Chloe notices when they walk into the apartment is that it is quiet.
“Amy’s just texted to say she’s gone to the movies with Stacie.”
“Nice of them to invite us.”
Aubrey swipes on her phone screen, not making eye contact. “Well, Stacie’s just posted on her insta story that she’s at the gym so either they’re doing cardio barre whilst watching a movie or she’s lying.”
“I’m going to go with option B.” Chloe hears a shuffling sound coming from the corridor. “Is… is Beca home?”
“I hope so. I mean, unless there’s a hamster still lurking that we somehow missed.” Aubrey gestures across to the men’s jacket draped across the back of the couch. “I’m guessing she has… company.” It is impossible to miss the look that flashes across Aubrey’s face. “Anyway, tea?”
Even before they moved to New York, Chloe and Aubrey had their little rituals. Moving to a new city where they knew nobody else, working together and living together has only brought them closer. They do yoga together on a Monday, ‘family dinner’ on a Tuesday, grocery shopping or the farmer’s market on a Saturday and a 10k in Central Park on a Sunday. Each evening after work, they get in and take it in turns to make a tea. For an hour or so between arriving home and cooking dinner, they can simply sip away and talk about anything and everything.
It almost makes the horrific day in the office worth it.
“So, I was thinking about inviting Beca out with us this weekend.” Chloe breaks the silence once Aubrey hands her a steaming tea in her favourite mug. “I thought it might be good to introduce her to people in one go, you know? Plus it would give you a chance to get to know her better since you don’t seem to have spent any time with her here.”
Aubrey almost scoffs at Chloe’s suggestion. Chloe can’t help the way it hurts, just a little. “You know I don’t have to be friends with her, right? Like, we can live in the same house and be civil. There isn’t a clause in the contract that we have to go out together every weekend and make friendship bracelets while talking about our first periods. I… I am allowed to want to keep my distance. You of all people should respect that, especially after the last one turned out so well.”
Deep down, Chloe knows how much Lilly’s breakdown affected Aubrey. She had been the one to find her, the one to call the ambulance and the one to call her parents. Of course, it’s fair to want to protect herself, but Chloe can’t help the urge within her to bring everyone together. To want everyone to just… be friends.
“Do you actually have a problem with Beca or are you just projecting?”
Aubrey doesn’t get chance to answer before footsteps thunder down the corridor. When Luke appears, sweating slightly and looking weirdly panicked, Chloe sits up.
“Hey, sorry” he says, eyes darting between them, “do you guys have, like, any juice?”
Aubrey is about to open her mouth when Chloe leaps off the couch and leads Luke to the kitchen, entirely sure that whatever her roommate was about to say would not be helpful. “I have apple or cranberry.”
“Apple. Please. Thank you.” He quickly takes the bottle and a mug and bolts back down towards Beca’s room.
“So that’s Luke?”
Aubrey looks puzzled. “I… I don’t know why, but from the way you and Amy described him, I didn’t expect him to look so frazzled.”
Chloe’s mind is on Beca. On Luke. On his wide eyes and panicked expression.
“He wasn’t last time. I don’t know, maybe they’re just busy.”
It is only when Aubrey makes an “mhmm” sound and takes a sip of her tea that Chloe remembers that she and Amy have quite forgotten to tell her that- whatever Beca is doing in her room- it certainly isn’t Luke.
“I’m heading out. See you.” Luke announces his departure as he pulls on his jacket. “Oh. Sorry.”
Amy stares at him as she stands in the entryway, holding the door open just enough that he has no choice but to brush past her as he tries to get through it.
“Leaving so soon? Shame.” Chloe can’t help but notice the way Amy’s eyes narrow in Luke’s direction. As soon as he is gone, she closes the door and looks around the space. “Where’s Beca?”
“In her room. We haven’t seen her since we got back.”
Amy nods, pursing her lips in deep thought. “Figures.”
Amy checks the corridor for any sign of life before shuffling between Aubrey and Chloe on the couch, pushing them both out of the way with her hips as she sits down. “So, while I was here earlier, I did some snooping. You know, trying to put our minds at ease that we’re not living with another psychopath. And I went into Beca’s room.”
Chloe can barely contain her frustration. “Amy that is a huge violation of privacy and you know it.”
“Well, sometimes snooping is worth it. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I have deduced with my extensive detective skills that Luke is Beca’s dealer.”
“As in… drugs?”
“Well, we know he’s not her boyfriend. And anyway, I found…”
Chloe cuts Amy off. Her anger is bubbling now. “So the next logical conclusion is, what, that because she’s gay she’s automatically an addict? That’s not how any of this works, Amy.”
“Wait, Beca’s gay?” Aubrey looks between Chloe and Amy. “Why didn’t either of you tell me?”
“I mean, I didn’t think we’d have to because Beca basically told you. You just weren’t listening. You’d already made up your mind about her. And now you” Chloe can see that her hand is beginning to shake as she points at Amy, “are doing exactly the same thing. What happened to innocent until proven guilty? What happened to letting people have some privacy?” She huffs loudly and stands. “You know what? I’m going to go and check that Beca is okay, because clearly I’m the only person here who cares.”
Chloe knows it’s ridiculous to stomp off like a child, but it feels cathartic to let some of her anger out. Maybe anger is too strong a word, but her frustrations are piling up within her. She’s frustrated about her job, about her future and now she’s frustrated on behalf of Beca. Frustrated because she seems like a really good person and Chloe already knows she likes having her around and Aubrey and Amy seem- for no logical reason- hellbent on ruining one of the only good things that has happened in her life in the past month.
“Beca?” Chloe tries her best to steady her breath as she knocks on the door. “Can I come in?”
As she pushes the door open, Chloe realises that she hasn’t been inside this room since Beca moved in. She has already put her stamp on it, with framed pictures on the walls and an impressive vinyl collection on a bookshelf in the corner. Her desk, where Beca is sitting, is covered in the complicated-looking equipment Chloe had carried up from the back of the truck.
“I was just about to make dinner and wondered if you were hungry?”
Beca shakes her head as she rests her headphones around her neck. “No thanks, I… I think I’m good for now.”
“Sure? Even if you’re not hungry, you know you’re welcome to come down and hang out, right?”
“I know” Beca doesn’t even make eye contact, her gaze firmly on her computer. In her fragile state, it is enough to break the dam on Chloe’s filter.
“Beca, have we done something wrong? If there’s anything we’ve done to make you feel less than welcome, you can tell me. I… I just… I don’t want you to feel like you have to spend all your time in here.”
It is than that Beca looks at her, her stormy blue eyes suddenly softer than Chloe has ever seen them. “You’re good, honestly. I just… I’m just stressing about work stuff. I’ve got a track I need to finish and it’s not quite coming together. That was why Luke was here earlier. He’s helping.”
“Oh.” Chloe suddenly feels even worse about the conversation she is sure Amy and Aubrey are still having in the living room. About the wild conclusions they seem determined to jump to.“Well, if you change your mind or you get hungry, you know where we are.”
Beca is about to go back to her work when Chloe speaks again. “Why don’t you come out with us on Friday? A few of us are heading to The Junk Yard for cocktails and then probably to Fusion. They have good music. I think you’d approve.”
“Yeah, I know Fusion.”
“You could bring Luke if you wanted? Or Jesse? Although, I have to warn you that our friend Stacie will be there and the girl has zero boundaries around attractive men. Like, zero.”
The rush of dismay Chloe feels when Beca shakes her head is unexpectedly heavy. “Sorry, dude” she says, her eyes already flitting back towards her screen, “I actually already have plans on Friday. Maybe next time, though?”
Chloe nods. “Sure.” She tries her best to hide her disappointment. “Maybe next time.” She closes the door gently behind her and makes her way back down to the living room, telling herself that- surely- Beca will make an appearance before the end of the night.
Beca’s explanation of being busy with work doesn’t wash with Amy. Chloe ignores the way she keeps trying to turn the conversation back around to her suspicions and tries to keep the subject on other things. Despite not wanting to bring up Beca to her roommates, she can’t help but take note of how long it has been since she came back down from the brunette’s bedroom.
“It’s 8.30. Do you think I should check on her?”
Aubrey’s eye roll is so strong it is almost palpable. “Chloe, she’s a grown woman. If she’s hungry, she’ll feed herself. Besides, maybe that’s what the fridge in her room is for. She doesn’t need to come down here to eat.”
“Plus, junkies don’t get hungry. I mean, I haven’t seen her eat that much since she’s been here.”
Chloe’s brow furrows. “Amy, she literally ate pasta with you the other night.”
“Only because I asked her to. And because I’d cooked. Anyway, that was just one time. It doesn’t prove anything.”
“And neither does your stupid hunch about Luke.” It takes everything in Chloe’s power to keep her voice down. “Anyway, I’m going to go and make her something to eat and leave it for her since clearly I’m the only one who cares.”
“We care, Chloe, of course we do. But she’s an adult.”
Aubrey is trying to be reasonable but Chloe is just about beyond reason. She sighs, looking into Aubrey’s eyes as she tries to find the words to explain her feelings. “But what if she’s super depressed and we’re just ignoring her and making it worse? What if… what if us sitting here talking about your suspicions and your ridiculous theories makes her not want to use the kitchen at all? Maybe she knows you don’t trust her and maybe that’s why she’s in her room and maybe she doesn’t have any shady secrets at all, but now she won’t share even a tiny bit of herself with us because why would she when you two bitches keep trying to catch her out?”
Both Amy and Aubrey sit, wide-eyed, on the couch. As the air settles after Chloe’s tirade, they exchange a single look.
“I’m going to go and make Beca some toast and some tea and I’m going to leave it outside her door and then I’m going to bed. Goodnight.”
“Chloe, I…” Surprisingly, it is Amy who breaks first. Chloe stops her before she has the chance to say anything else.
“I am not the person you need to be apologising to. Just… can you at least stop your stupid theory and trust her?”
All Amy does is nod her head. It is enough for Chloe, who walks slowly and carefully across the floor to the kitchen. As she pulls a plate from the cupboard and puts two slices of bread into the toaster, she wonders whether or not her outburst was necessary. She knows she’s frustrated, not at all because of Beca, but she also knows that she’s had enough of being told what to think by other people. Her workplace is full of gossip-mongering and shady whispers and it feels like Chloe is back in middle school. She can’t bear to feel like that in her own home, too.
Maybe that’s why she’s become so attached to Beca. Because Beca is different. She’s fresh and new and has the ability to prove to Chloe that there is more to life than the C train and recruitment tracking systems and eating the same soup from the same Panera Bread every single day.
Or, maybe, like always, the amount of innocent trust she puts in other people will come back to bite her firmly on the ass.
With a small tray laden with buttered toast, a banana, a mug of peppermint tea and a glass of water, Chloe walks silently through the living room and down the corridor until she reaches Beca’s door. She knocks gently and walks away.
She doesn’t even know if Beca has opened the door until later that night when her phone lights up with a notification.
All it says is ‘thanks’.
Thanks for all of your continued support.
This is a short chapter but for good reason!
Friday comes around too quickly for Beca’s liking.
Friday is deadline day. There is always a track to be submitted, always a window of time in the afternoon for her anxiety to peak as she watches her boss listen to her work through his ridiculously expensive headphones. Even if there are no more edits to be done, the day doesn’t end.
In fact, Beca’s Friday is only just beginning as she leaves the studio and heads home.
The apartment is quiet when she gets in. She only has a limited amount of time to get ready and so she throws together a quick burrito bowl to eat in her room. Luckily, she’d had the forethought to at least buy basic ingredients on her way home; brown rice, bean salad, tomatoes, avocado, chicken. The rice is in a packet she can throw in the microwave and, while it heats up, she takes a moment to work out how much of it she actually wants to eat and how much it weighs. When the microwave makes a ‘ding’, she pulls out the bag and- ignoring the way it scorches at her fingers- reads the nutritional information and does a quick calculation in her head.
Beca almost drops the packet, but manages to catch it just in time.
“Hey” she says as casually as she can as her roommate walks into the kitchen. “Good day?”
Chloe nods her head, brushing her loose hair behind her ear. “It was fine. I’m just glad it’s the weekend.”
Beca wishes more than anything that her working week was over. Her churning stomach is a reminder that she still has more to do before the night is out.
“What time are you heading out?” Chloe pauses and looks at Beca as she waits for her to answer. “You… you did say you had plans, right?”
“Oh, yeah… I… I need to work out how long it’s going to take me from here. I’ll be gone by around 9? What time are you meeting your friends? Did you say you were heading to The Junk Yard?”
Chloe’s smile makes her eyes brighter, which Beca hadn’t thought would be possible. “Yeah we are. We said 8pm but Aubrey takes a super long time to get ready so we’re always fashionably late.”
“Cool.” Beca can’t help the way she is mentally counting down until she has to leave. The list of things she needs to do before then is getting longer and longer in her head. “Well, if I don’t see you before, I hope you have a good night. I… I should go and eat this and get ready.”
“Enjoy. And, ah, I hope you have a good night too, Beca.”
As Beca changes her top for the fourth time, she curses herself for agreeing to this stupid idea of Luke’s in the first place.
“What kind of person,” she mutters to herself under her breath as she wrestles herself out of a shirt that makes her look like a golfer, “agrees to DJ,” the crumpled garment is thrown to the floor, “in Manhattan”, she files through her closet for something else, “on a Friday night,” her fingers brush over a ripped band tee she has had for years, “as a favour?”
The t-shirt comes off its hanger and Beca pulls it over her head. It’s small, smaller than she remembers, and the way it exposes a slither of her stomach would be enough to make her want to put it back if it weren’t for the comfort she gets from wearing it. Plus, in the dark of the club, nobody is going to be able to see the marks on her skin, she reassures herself. Nobody is going to care.
In the mirror, Beca can see the faint outline of the pattern of scarred, raised bumps across her abdomen. She knows they aren’t obvious to other people, but her self-conscious state is enough that she decides, this time, that injecting herself in her arm is the better choice.
But only just.
“Beca?” The knock at the door causes Beca to jump. She manages to pull the needle back out of her skin, but the way she knocks it is enough for her to know that she’s going to bruise.
“Two seconds!” She knows she sounds flustered. Pulling on her leather jacket, she opens the door. “You good?”
Amy eyes her suspiciously, tracing her gaze up and down her body. When she lingers on the line of bare skin above her jeans, Beca wants nothing more than to stretch her top down as far as it will go.
“We’re just about to head out. Just wondered if you were still here.”
“Yep” Beca’s nervous laugh comes out to play, “still here. Have a good night.”
It is impossible to miss Amy’s narrowing eyes. “Yeah. You too.”
Beca still can’t quite get her head around Amy. Every time she thinks she has worked her out, she does something strange. Maybe, Beca thinks, it’s just her anxiety making her see things in a weird way. Or, maybe, Amy is just weird.
The door closes and Beca throws everything she needs into her bag. The most important thing, of course, is the USB which contains her new track list. Her new mixes. Tonight, she knows, is an important night for her music. Luke asked her to DJ as a favour, covering him while he heads home for his sister’s wedding, but the underlying message was that he was giving her an opportunity to get her tracks out into the world. To get her name out into the New York music scene as an artist in her own right. It’s a step in the right direction, Beca keeps telling herself. It’s nothing to be scared of. After all, Luke knows her. He was the one who first heard her DJ in LA when she was trying to make ends meet. He was the one who had offered her a slot on the radio every once in a while. He was the one who had listened to her mixes and had told her she was talented. He was the one who had pushed her to take the plunge and move to New York City.
Luke’s influence, it seems, always leads to bigger and better things.
Bigger, better, scarier things.
The burrito bowl suddenly doesn’t look at all appetising. Sighing, Beca forces herself to eat. After all, it’s going to be a long night and she needs all the energy she can get.
Iridium is a basement club that sits on the edge of Hell’s Kitchen. It is always busy and, only minutes after Beca is set up on the raised stage at the edge of the dance floor, the bar is bustling.
She has seen Luke DJ here a handful of times before. She has known him long enough to know how he likes to do things and how he manages to keep a crowd like this going all night. The playlist she has been working on has just the right balance to keep everyone happy. On Luke’s request, she has even thrown in a handful of her newer mixes. “Just let them get the flavour” he had said to her, “enough for them to want to know who you are and where to find you.” Tonight, though, there is no Luke. There is no guru to guide her through. Beca, or DJ Bace as she reluctantly agrees to call herself on stage, is on her own.
It takes a few tracks for her to get comfortable. She keeps an eye on the crowd, watching for their reaction and seeing what they like. She knows, realistically, that not many people come out of the music. They come out for a good time with their friends and to drink watered-down vodka for triple the price. Still, Beca has a job to do and she wants to do it well.
She is about an hour into her shift when she sees a familiar face in the crowd.
“Ay yo!” Jesse’s voice carries across the floor. A few people turn around and Beca wants the ground to swallow her up. “Drink?”
“I’m only on diet coke tonight, dude. Wanna stay sober so I don’t let Luke down.” It’s hard to make herself heard from behind the speakers.
“Alright. Come find me when you get a break. The boys are here, too. Anyway, good luck. It sounds good so far.”
Sometimes, Beca has to remind herself that she has amazing friends. Having spent so much of her life alone, it still shocks her to have people who care. The fact that Jesse is here, the fact that he has encouraged some of his team from the studio to join him, is incredible.
Beca really is lucky.
The crowd seem to be loving her sound. It sounds ridiculous in her head, but Beca doesn’t have enough words to articulate it any better. After all, it is 11.30pm and she has been awake for too long, but people are dancing and jumping around and listening as the beat drops. They’re responding to everything she does on the decks and even cheer at the way she has mixed a sample of We Will Rock You into the crescendo of a Daft Punk track. It feels validating.
It feels good.
As the night goes on, Beca begins to scan the crowd a little more. She’s comfortable now that she knows people are enjoying her music and she’s trying to work out the best time to move into one of her own tracks. Luke has encouraged her to introduce it, to turn on the mic in front of her and say her name. She’s almost ready, almost reaching out for the switch, when she looks out onto the dance floor and sees it.
She selects a different track and fades it in, looking back up into the crowd just in time to feel two blue eyes latch onto hers.
Chloe loves her friends, adores them, but sometimes she can’t help but worry about the amount of trouble they get into.
Stacie is at the level of buzzed where she thinks she can take over the world. She has flirted her way into free drinks for the entire table and is on a mission to make the most of her time with the guy she met at the bar. She’s all over him, hands overtly on his thighs, when she is pushed out of the man’s lap by a furious-looking woman.
Before Chloe knows what is going on, they are back outside the doors of the Fusion Lounge. Aubrey is trying to calm Stacie down, Amy is still threatening to wrestle the woman who- it turns out- is his fiancée’s best friend, and Flo has only just recovered enough from her Spanish tirade to construct a full sentence in English.
“Well, what happens now?” Chloe looks across at Flo. She is one of Chloe’s favourite people in the entire world. She loves fun and music and dancing just as much as Chloe does and she knows she can rely on her to find somewhere else for them to continue their night.
“What about Iridium? It isn’t far from here.”
“Lead the way, chica!” Chloe knows Aubrey is definitely wasted by the way she shouts. “Mama needs more vodka!”
“She just straight-up referred to herself as ‘mama’, didn’t she?” Amy speaks out of the corner of her mouth, but at a volume everyone can hear. “Well, I’m going to need to either find a handsome man to spend the night with or I’m going to match her drink for drink. No way am I being the sober-est.” She hiccups over her nonsense word, her Australian accent even more pronounced when she tries to speak again. “She who drinks least, suffers most.” It would almost be poignant if she wasn’t swaying slightly. “By which I mean, holding back blondie’s hair at 3am. No thank you. Not again.”
By some miracle, they get into the club quickly. Chloe has half a mind to follow Aubrey to the bar, to check what she’s drinking and take a better reading on how drunk she actually is, but Stacie’s hand is in hers and- before she knows it- she’s on the dance floor.
The music is good and Chloe can feel herself moving to the beat. It’s almost subconscious, the way the rhythm comes out through her hips. She lifts her arms above her head and smiles at Stacie who is equally as lost. As the track fades into something even brighter, even louder, she can sense how her mood lifts. The entire place feels alive. The crowd, packed tight with swaying, pulsing bodies, feels electric. As the track ramps up, there is a buzz in the atmosphere. When the beat drops, it is as if it explodes.
Chloe is still dancing when she feels a tap on her shoulder. Aubrey passes her a drink while half-swaying, her eyes giving away just how wasted she is. Chloe is clumsy enough when she’s sober. Right now, she still has the mental capacity to know that spilling anything on her outfit, or on the floor, would be a bad move. Slowly, she calms her body to a standstill and takes a long sip of whatever concoction Aubrey has given her.
As she drinks, she looks across the crowd and out into the room. Her eyes trace the neon lights on the walls and the graffiti mural that acts as a backdrop for the raised DJ booth.
It takes her a second to work out why she recognises the girl at the decks.
It has only been a few weeks, but she would know those eyes anywhere.
“Beca?” She gets a smile and a nod from the DJ, but nothing more. Turning, Chloe nudges Aubrey. “Look. Beca is the DJ!”
Chloe hates having to shout in places like this. Leaning close, she pulls Aubrey’s ear to her lips. “Look at the DJ. It’s Beca!”
Chloe’s theory is that Aubrey is too drunk to notice. She can’t find the rest of the girls to tell them or to point Beca out, and she is suddenly struck by the notion that she doesn’t want to.
She doesn’t want to move.
She can’t walk away.
Not when Beca doing her thing on the decks, manipulating a pulsing rhythm that rushes through Chloe’s body, is all she can focus on.
It takes an entire song for Chloe to finish her drink. As she drains her glass, Chloe’s eyes don’t leave the stage. She watches, swaying her body and mouthing the lyrics to the tunes she knows, directly towards Beca.
For a moment, it is as if nobody else is in the room. Their eyes are on one another, Beca’s command of the music pulling at Chloe’s strings as if she were a marionette. She feels the urge to move closer, to go over and put herself on display. Her drunken mind wants nothing more than to dance for Beca. To know, to feel, that her eyes are only on her.
She is just about to push through the crowd when Beca slips off her headphones and hands them to some guy. She steps down from the stage and walks towards the bar.
Suddenly, Chloe decides she needs another drink.
“What can I get you?”
The bartender smiles at Chloe. She shrugs, half watching for Beca to appear beside her, hoping to buy her a drink, too.
Beca begins to walk closer, but before Chloe can ask her if she wants anything, a girl with purple hair and a pierced lip pulls the DJ into a tight hug.
Chloe shakes her head. “Sorry. I… just a vodka tonic please. Double.” Her drink is handed to her in record time and she pays quickly, suddenly very aware of just how friendly Beca seems with the girl with the purple hair. She tries not to listen to their conversation, but the alcohol is washing away her control more and more with every sip.
“… blow if you want some? I’ll share.”
It’s enough to prick Chloe’s ears to attention. Suddenly, her memories of Amy and her suspicions are at the forefront of her mind. She turns her head just in time to see Beca pat the girl on the shoulder.
“Nah. I’m good.” She seems to catch Chloe’s eye. A flicker of shame passes through her. “Not my thing.” The girl with the purple hair walks away, leaving Beca alone.
Relief. Chloe thinks that’s what the feeling is that runs over her body. Before she knows what she is doing, she is making her way along the bar to where Beca stands. With her drink in hand, she pulls her close.
“You know, I’m so glad I met you. I’m so glad you live with us.”
“Yeah.” Beca’s eyes seem to dance over Chloe’s face. “Me too.”
“I think,” she takes a short breath, “I think I’m going to like getting to know you, Beca.”
Beca’s head tilts to the side as she speaks. “Yeah? Well, you seem to be finding out all my secrets. I thought you said you were going to Fusion tonight?”
Chloe takes another sip of her drink. “Got kicked out. Stacie started a fight. Amy finished it.”
“Talking about me?” Stacie appears beside Chloe, resting her hand on her shoulder. “Hi. You must be Beca. Nice to meet you.”
“Bec.” Beca turns her head at the sound. Chloe knows the person who calls Beca’s name. She remembers him from the day Beca moved in. “You ready?”
Chloe is far too drunk to be able to navigate two conversations at once. As much as she tries to focus on Beca, Amy and Stacie are whispering loudly behind her and it pulls her attention in their direction. “I’m telling you, girl’s a junkie or some shit. So much shady stuff going on in that room…”
As she blinks, Chloe tries to drown them out.
“You ready? You… have you eaten? Do you have your shit with you? Do you need to take anything?” Chloe wishes she knew what Jesse’s words mean. In her head, she thinks about Beca and begins to piece things together, glued in place with drunken logic.
“… be fine. Just tell them. What about Chloe?”
Her name pulls her even closer into the conversation.
“Yeah, maybe.” Beca’s hands are twitching by her side. Chloe can’t help but stare. “Dude, why am I so nervous?”
“Stop. You’ll be fine.”
Before she knows what is happening, Beca is walking back up onto the stage. Jesse, smiling, holds his hands up and cups them around his mouth. “Nothing’s gonna stop my girl!”
All he gets in response from Beca is a middle finger. Smiling, he pulls out his phone and opens the camera.
“Just you wait.” It takes a moment for Chloe to realise that Jesse is talking to her. “This is the start of something huge.” Beca, back in the booth, slips her headphones on. “She’s a special girl, you know.”
Chloe’s answer is immediate. “I know.”
“How’s everyone doing tonight?” It is strange to hear Beca’s voice over the mic. Still, Chloe can’t help but scream in response along with everyone else in the now-bustling crowd. “I’m DJ Bace. I’m guesting here tonight. This is one of my own tracks. It’s called ‘Underground’. Here we go!”
Once again, Chloe is completely entranced by Beca’s music. She bounces and sways and, by the end of the song, finds herself in the middle of the dance floor surrounded by people. The music continues and Chloe lets herself loose, enjoying the sensation of being carried by the beat.
It isn’t until later, when she’s walking to the subway station still singing the tune Beca had played, that she wonders why the voice sounded so familiar.
As usual, their night is ends in dramatic fashion. Stacie announces she’s heading home with a hot guy just as Amy inexplicably emerges from the dance floor with an Australian flag around her and no top on. Rather than ask questions, Chloe simply catches Flo’s eye, giving the signal that it is time to gather the troops and head home.
Within minutes of them getting in, both Amy and Aubrey are asleep in Aubrey’s bed. Aubrey has a fake eyelash stuck to her cheek and a completely unexplained smudge of ketchup on her hand. Amy is using her flag as a blanket. All in all, it’s a standard end to the night.
Chloe walks back from shutting Aubrey’s door, already out of her clothes and dressed in a loose t-shirt and sweatpants. “Flo? You want some water, babe? Amy and Aubrey are both passed out in her bed, so you can take Amy’s room if you want to stay?”
“No thank you. I called an Uber already.”
Chloe fills a glass with water before walking back over to the couch and sitting next to her friend.
“So, that was Beca? The DJ?”
“Amy and Stacie seem… well, I don’t know. Suspicious? Is that harsh?”
Chloe thinks it is, or at least she did. She can remember most of the night and, as the water begins to settle in her stomach, she thinks back to the weird snippets of conversation she caught at the bar. “I don’t know. I mean, I think there’s something going on that we don’t know, but I literally saw her turn down a line of coke from someone earlier so I don’t think it’s drugs. I… I think maybe she’s sick? Or has been? People seem to care a lot about whether she’s eating.”
Flo has known Chloe for a long time. She has been there through her struggles, her ups and her downs. She was by her side when she dealt with Aubrey’s worst moments and was there for all of the highlights, too. It doesn’t take much for her to understand what Chloe is thinking.
“Do you think it’s another Aubrey sitch?”
Chloe shrugs. “Maybe. I… I don’t know. I… I won’t ask her tonight but maybe tomorrow I’ll talk to her.” Leaning into Flo, she closes her eyes and yawns loudly. “I think we’re gonna be really fast friends.” She smacks her lips together, already half-asleep. “Her music made me all fizzy inside.”
The living room lights are still on when Beca walks through the door, but it is quiet. She holds the door as she closes it, trying not to make a sound.
“Shit. Fuck. Oh my God.” Beca’s hand flies to her chest. “Dude.”
The girl in front of her, a brunette who actually seems to be shorter than her, laughs gently. “Sorry for scaring you. I’m Flo. I… I’m one of Chloe’s friends.” Her voice, lightly coloured by her accent, comes out in a whisper.
“I know. I… I saw you tonight. You were great.”
Beca’s mind hasn’t moved from the fact that Chloe and the others had been at Iridium. She can’t decide whether or not she regrets not telling them the whole truth about where she was going and why. She can’t decide whether she’s happy enough with her performance for it to have been the first time they saw her at the decks. “Thanks.”
“Chlo… Chloe’s asleep on the couch, by the way. Just so you know.”
Beca’s mind floods with the memories of her dancing, front and centre of the floor, eyes on hers song after song.
“Thanks. Are… are you staying here tonight?”
Flo shakes her head. “No, my ride is just about to arrive. I should go downstairs. I’ll see you, though?”
“Sure. Hope you get home safe.”
As soon as Flo is gone, Beca takes stock of the situation. She’s tired, but she knows she probably needs something before bed if she wants to sleep. Chloe is asleep in the living room, but she hasn’t stirred and so Beca decides it’s safe enough to reach into her bag and grab all of the stuff she carries with her.
As she arranges it out on the kitchen table, Beca’s mind takes her back to her conversation with Jesse. He had been drunk, but maybe he had a point. She’s never had a group of friends like this before, a group of people who would look out for her. She’s never lived with roommates who ever really acknowledged her existence. She’s been so used to doing everything for herself, even when it put her at risk, but maybe… maybe now she doesn’t have to.
A quick click later and Beca squeezes her finger until it bleeds. Holding it out, she plugs the tiny gadget in her hand into her phone and waits.
Yeah, she definitely needs something before bed.
Taking a banana from the fruit bowl and measuring out a small cup of cranberry juice, she makes a mental note to replace it in the morning. Or the afternoon. Whatever time she surfaces.
A quiet rustling pulls Beca’s attention back to the living room. Packing her stuff away, she quietly hoists her bag onto her shoulder and tiptoes into the living room.
Chloe is fast asleep. Her red hair seems even brighter in the dim light, splayed out over the throw cushion she is holding with both arms. Beca waits for a moment and, when she doesn’t stir again, she pulls the blanket from the back of the couch and gently lays it over her.
Shutting off the lights, she makes her way down to her own room. She peels off her clothes and quickly wipes off as much of her makeup as she can be bothered to remove. Her phone is still lighting up every few minutes with a message or a notification from someone, probably Luke, but she’s too tired to respond. Quickly, she finds her phone charger and plugs it in before rolling into bed and closing her eyes.
It isn’t a complete surprise to her that the only thought swimming around in her mind as she drifts off is Chloe dancing to her song.
It is probably earlier than Beca expects it to be. That’s her first thought when she wakes up. When she checks her phone and sees a time beginning with ‘8’ reflecting back at her, she knows she is right.
Still, there is something nice about being the sober one when everyone else is hungover.
Beca decides maybe today is the day to take advantage of the quiet.
Her morning routine has been the same since she left her mom’s house for LA when she was 18. She wakes up, stretches, checks her phone and then checks her levels. After all this time, it is habit. It no longer hurts to prick her fingers, no longer bothers her that she has to do a mental calculation before her first coffee.
As usual, her first thought is insulin.
She keeps it in the mini fridge in her room so that it is close by. The cartridges come in a pack that lasts her months, but it has to be cold until it’s ready to use. She has two pens next to her bed, in the makeup case that doubles as a medication bag, one for her daily injection and one to top herself up with. It’s arduous and frustrating that she is still having to do things the old-fashioned way, but moving across the country has delayed her chance to move onto an insulin pump. So, as usual, she grabs at the fattier part of her belly, finds a good spot and holds the pen close to her body.
There are bruises and scars on her skin from injecting herself. They aren’t normal, but she’s pale and her skin is sensitive. It’s yet another reason why she can’t wait for the time when she doesn’t have to do this every morning. She can’t wait to wake up, quickly check her levels, and get a machine to do all the hard work for her while she throws on a hoodie and makes herself a coffee.
Beca’s loud yawn gives away just how much she needs caffeine.
The house is just as quiet as it was the night before as she makes her way to the kitchen. The coffee machine, thankfully, isn’t particularly loud and so she places a mug underneath it and throws in a pod to make an espresso. She wanders around the kitchen as it does its thing, trying to work out what she wants to eat. She settles on yoghurt and fruit; simple enough and not too carb-heavy.
“Hey”. She’s just sitting down, bowl in one hand and mug in the other, when Chloe walks into the kitchen rubbing at her eyes. She seems to look at Beca, then down at her bowl, before meeting her eye. “You’re eating.”
“Yeah… is that okay?” Beca swallows her mouthful as she watches Chloe’s nose twitch slightly. “You… are you alright?”
Chloe shrugs. “Yeah I’m fine. I was going to go out and grab something for breakfast, actually. Those bitches won’t be up for a while and it’s a nice morning. I was going to ask if you wanted to join me but you beat me to it.”
Beca puts her spoon down in her bowl. She isn’t used to being invited anywhere, especially not by roommates. But this weekend has already been so much of a departure from her normal life that one more new experience doesn’t faze her.
“Just, ah, let me finish this and I’ll join you. I could do with another coffee and, yeah, it is a nice morning.”
It feels ridiculous to get into a conversation about the weather. Beca focuses on her breakfast and scoops the last few spoonfuls of yoghurt into her mouth. As soon as she is done, she stands and brushes herself down. “Do I… Do I need to get changed? Are we going far?”
Despite having slept on the couch while drunk, Chloe’s morning look is the ‘after’ photo to Beca’s ‘before’. She doesn’t have bags under her eyes, her hair still looks good and the effortless combination of raglan tee and sweatpants makes her look more like an Abercrombie model than a hungover 20-something.
“No, we’re good. It’s only on the next street.” Chloe pulls on a hoodie she finds hanging on the back of the door. “Anyway, what are you talking about? You look amazing. I can tell you were the one who didn’t drink last night.”
Beca absorbs the compliment as she pulls on her Vans and follows Chloe out of the door.
“Oh, I meant to ask, by the way… is it your cranberry juice in the fridge?”
They are barely ten steps out of the building when Beca remembers what she drank the night before.
“No, the apple is mine. The cranberry is Aubrey’s. Why?”
“Oh, I… I drank some last night. I’ll jump into the bodega on the way back to replace it.” Beca’s hand combs her loose hair off her face as she laughs nervously. “Don’t want to give her another reason to hate me.”
Chloe shakes her head. “She doesn’t hate you. She… she’s just adapting.”
Beca stews on that for a while, on the idea of Aubrey having to adapt to living with her like she’s some kind of exotic creature and not just another run-of-the-mill human being like everyone else.
“Why… why does she have to adapt to me? Did I do something?” They are in the line for coffee and bagels when Beca finds her voice. “I know I’m snarky and shit but, like, you and Amy took it okay.”
Chloe’s shrug does nothing to help. “I think it just takes her longer to trust people. Plus, compared to me and Amy there’s a lot to learn about you. You’re not exactly an open book.”
There is a coffee in her hand and Chloe has a bag full of bagels to carry back before Beca speaks again. “If… If it would help, I can be a more open book. What do you want to know?”
Beca is curious about what they think of her, especially Amy and Aubrey. It was hard to ignore the whispers in the bar, the strange looks Amy has been shooting her. She can’t help but wonder if there is something she has done that has left them all with suspicions about her.
“Where did you grow up?”
It isn’t the question Beca is anticipating. It’s easy enough to answer. “Seattle. Well, just outside. My mom still lives there.” She pauses before deciding she wants to make this a two-way deal. “What about you?”
“Born in Portland, Oregon, but we moved to Florida when I was 4. Started off in Tampa, then moved to Pensacola and then I went to high school in Jacksonville.”
“Oh, you moved around a lot.”
Chloe nods. “Yeah. Five different schools in nine years. It wasn’t fun, but I found my place easy enough.”
“I’m sure you did.” It comes out much more flirtatiously than Beca anticipates. She panics for a moment, knowing she doesn’t have the skills to follow through. Clearing her throat, she shakes her head. “Anyway, that was an easy one. What else?”
“Oh, so you can like, guess my banking password or whatever?” Beca doesn’t miss the way Chloe smirks at her. “Nope, no pets. I wanted a turtle but my dad said no. I was never responsible enough to look after anything bigger, plus my step mom is allergic to basically anything with fur.”
“Shame. I love animals.” Figures, Beca thinks to herself as Chloe answers a question she hasn’t been asked. “I grew up with dogs. And I had a horse for a bit, too.”
“Of course you did.”
Chloe’s eyes seem to widen. “What does that mean?”
“Nothing I…” Beca takes stock of where they are, the bodega sign practically above their heads. “I need to grab that cranberry juice for Aubrey. Do you need anything?”
“Alright. Well, wait out here and think of a better question. I… I’ll be quick.”
Beca grabs some cranberry juice and, remembering the drink Luke had come in with when her levels had dropped the other day, some apple for Chloe. She pays quickly and walks back out the door to where Chloe is waiting, a determined look on her face.
“Next question?” Beca prompts as they begin to walk.
It is hard not to notice the way Chloe’s hands seem to twist nervously around one another. “How… how did you know you wanted to produce music? Like, when did that come into your head?”
It isn’t the question Beca was expecting. She had figured Chloe would be the sort of person to leap over her boundaries and ask about girlfriends or sex or her first training bra or something. No, instead, Chloe asks a question with meaning. It just makes Beca even more intrigued.
“I think I always knew I wanted to work in music. It was the only thing that ever made sense to me. I… I found out what it was a producer actually did and that was it. I’ve been working towards it ever since.”
“That must be nice” Chloe swings the bag of bagels in her hand. “I mean, knowing. I… I’m a year out of college and I have no clue. I mean, I know it’s not working in the city like I do now. It’s just… I’m a little stuck.”
Beca nods her head. She knows how it feels. She has been there, has been in the dead-end jobs as an assistant, making music for two-cent rappers who didn’t understand why their own sound wasn’t the best thing she’d ever heard. She can see it, too, in Chloe. The need to escape. To branch out. To self-actualise.
“You won’t be stuck forever. It’ll come to you. Just… give it time. You’ll find your path eventually. You can’t force it.” It is impossible to miss the way Chloe’s fingers brush against hers as they both reach for the door. “Sorry,” Beca clears her throat, “after you.”
I hope this chapter answers some of your questions.
Thank you so much for your continued support and feedback.
Amy and Aubrey are both awake and sat at the kitchen table when Chloe and Beca walk back into the apartment. Chloe puts the bag of bagels down and pulls one out for herself.
“Oh, couldn’t wait for me to get back with the goods, Ames?”
Amy pulls the granola bar back from her mouth with a smirk. “Just a little pre-breakfast appetiser.”
“Amy, did you get that from my room?” Chloe’s head is pulled towards Beca the moment she speaks. She looks confused, maybe a little angry. It seems to be matched by Amy’s expression. Her eyes narrow and her head tilts like she’s welcoming a fight. A fight that Chloe certainly doesn’t need before 10am when she’s still recovering from her hangover.
“Yeah.” Amy licks her lips. “I got it from the box next to your fridge. You know, the box where you keep your… stash.” The word comes out dripping with accusation. Chloe’s eyes flicker between Amy and Beca. “Yeah, that’s right.” Amy is moments away from walking around the room, delivering her final blow like she’s Hercule Poirot. “I know what’s in there. And the girls do too.”
“Do you?” Beca, the only one not battling the effects of an evening of alcohol, raises her voice slightly. Chloe can’t help but worry what she’s going to say. She’s sick of Amy’s scheming, sick of the way they have been treating her, but the anticipation, the evidence she’s heard and the way Amy seems to lay it all out, makes her panic. She can hear her heartbeat quickening as she waits for Beca’s response. “Or are you just jumping to conclusions because you don’t trust me? Because, for some reason, you’ve decided that not knowing me is enough of a reason to not like me?”
Amy opens her mouth to retaliate, but Beca is there first. Chloe can’t help but watch Aubrey’s expression as Beca lets loose. “You have absolutely no right to go through my stuff. I moved in here because I trusted you guys. I… I thought this was going to finally be somewhere I could stay, but clearly not. Clearly… clearly…” She lets out a growl. Chloe’s eyes latch onto her face, watching the way a redness seems to grow from her neck to her cheeks. “Whatever you think my stash is, you’re wrong. I… I have diabetes, Amy. Type 1 diabetes. The needles you obviously found? They’re for my insulin. That’s what I keep in my fridge. And… and the granola bar that you stole? I keep a box by my bed in case my blood sugar goes low. If I don’t have sugar close by and it’s dangerously low, I could die.”
There is complete silence in the room. Chloe hardly dares to breathe.
“Please don’t touch my stuff.”
Chloe had expected more of a sense of vindication when she finally saw Aubrey and Amy’s shocked faces. She had expected Beca to have a reason, to be able to untie the knots they had tangled around her in one fell swoop, but she hadn’t expected this. She hadn’t anticipated Beca having a medical condition. She hadn’t anticipated the realisation that comes with the idea that Beca could die. She hadn’t expected to feel the sudden wave of anguish that she feels when Beca finally speaks again.
“I really thought we…” she laughs. It’s tinged with sadness. Chloe isn’t entirely sure, but she thinks there might even be tears in Beca’s eyes. “I was naive enough to think that, maybe, we could be friends.” It is when she sighs and begins to walk away that Chloe feels the urge to chase her. Beca turns on her heel, facing them for a final time. “I guess it’s guilty until proven innocent in this house. It’s fucking bullshit. I’m out of here.”
Aubrey, surprisingly, is the first to stand. She makes to move towards Beca, towards the corridor she has disappeared down, but Chloe’s hand on her chest stops her in her tracks.
“No. You… you can’t go in there now. You” Chloe turns to Amy, “and you. Sit. You need to stay here and figure your shit out. Work out how you’re going to apologise for making someone feel so unwelcome in our home, in her home, that she’s probably already packing her stuff.” With a deep breath, Chloe stares at them both. “I’m going to go and do some damage control.” It takes all of her energy to keep her words from spilling out of her mouth. “By the time I get back, you need to have worked out how to say sorry. You need to list all the shit you did wrong to her and plan how you’ll make amends. I am going to go and talk to Beca and then I’m going to bring her down here and we’re going to talk about this like adults.” She can’t help but glare at the two blondes as she speaks. Her eyes zone in on Amy, who visibly swallows. “I swear to God if there is anything else you have taken from her room, from her bag, from her freaking friend’s jacket, even from her shelf in the fridge, it had better be back where it belongs by the time I’m done.”
“Sure thing, chief.”
Chloe walks away before she loses her cool.
The door is closed and Chloe can hear the sounds of drawers being opened and closed.
“Beca, can I come in?”
When the door finally opens, it is clear to see that Beca has been crying. Her eyes are rimmed with red and she has a flush to her cheeks that hadn’t been there before. “I’m just… I can get the subway and walk to Luke’s. I can stay on his couch or something until I…”
It’s the first word that comes out of Chloe’s mouth. It’s loud and desperate and it echoes off the walls.
“Don’t go. Don’t… I shouted at them. I… I told them they were being assholes when they first started to come up with this stuff.” It sounds ridiculous now, Chloe thinks, that she didn’t just ask Beca about it before. “I can’t make excuses for them because what they did, what they’ve been saying, it isn’t fair. None of it is fair. But, ah, I think- now they know- I think there’s a way to build bridges.” Beca shoves a t-shirt into her backpack. “You don’t have to leave. Not like this.” Chloe reaches out and puts her hand on top of Beca’s. Immediately, dark blue eyes find hers. “Just… sit and talk to me for a bit. Don’t make any rash decisions.”
It surprises Chloe that Beca nods her head and sits down.
It surprises her even more that she pats the space on the bed next to her, gesturing to Chloe to join her.
It surprises her most that Beca breaks the silence with an apology of her own.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before.” Chloe wants to jump in, wants to tell her she doesn’t need to say anything like that, but she realises it’s better just to let Beca talk. “I… I’m never quite sure when to say it. It changes the way people look at you, you know? It changes how they think about you and I… I just wanted you guys to think I was normal.” She shakes her head, letting out a nervous titter of a laugh. “I guess I couldn’t even do that.”
“I don’t know if any of us are normal, to be honest.” Chloe’s voice is gentle as she speaks.
“Yeah, but there’s being a bit quirky or being in an acapella troupe,” it comes out almost like a question, as if Beca isn’t sure if she’s got the right word. When Chloe nods her head, she continues. “There’s being that kind of not normal, and then there’s having to inject yourself with insulin eight times a day just to stay alive.”
“Is… is that why you’re always checking packaging when you make food?” It is clear from Beca’s eyes that she hadn’t realised anyone had noticed. “I… I thought you were calorie counting. I… I keep an eye out for that kind of thing because…” She’s about to explain, about to delve into the story, when she remembers why they are in this situation in the first place. Chloe closes her mouth, choosing to respect the privacy of her friends and keep secrets secret.
“Carbs. I… I have to count carbs. Carbs make sugar and I have to know how much sugar I’m having to work out how much insulin to take. I’m used to it now but there’s a lot of math involved.”
“Sounds it.” Chloe can’t help her curiosity. She has never been able to hold herself back from asking questions. “How long have you had it?”
Beca leans back on her bed, pulling a cushion to put behind her back. “I was diagnosed at 16. So it’s been a while, but there’s always something new to learn.” It doesn’t escape Chloe’s notice that Beca’s backpack has been pushed to the edge of the bed out of the way. She hopes it’s a sign.
“Can… is it ok if I ask? Tell me if it’s too much or if you don’t want to talk about it.” Chloe takes a deep breath, her hand naturally tracing along the edge of Beca’s bedspread. “I’m sure you’ve realised already that I don’t really do boundaries.”
“Never.” The sarcasm is enough to convince Chloe that Beca, the Beca she has been getting to know, is back in the room. “But, yeah. Ask away. Like I said earlier, I’ll be more of an open book if it helps.” Beca’s sigh, deep and heavy, makes Chloe want to reach out for her. “I… I mean, if you’re ok with me staying put?”
That’s the final straw for Chloe. Leaning across the bed, she pulls Beca in for a tight hug. It’s essentially a squeeze, since Beca barely moves, but it’s enough for Chloe.
“Of course we’re ok with that. I… I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure you’re comfortable here, Beca.”
From the way she blinks, Chloe decides that Beca has no idea what to say next. They sit in silence for a moment, far closer than they had been before Chloe had leapt across to embrace her. Chloe clears her throat to catch Beca’s attention.
“Do you mind if I ask what to do?”
“If…” Chloe’s fingers dance along the edge of the bed, pinching at the patterned stitching on the sheets. “If your sugar goes low? You said… you said out there that you could die. How would I know how to help?”
Beca nods her head slowly. “Alright. Well, it feels like I’m drunk when my levels go super low. The danger sign is if I’m swaying or slurring my words or if I can’t remember where I am. That’s, like, call an ambulance levels of danger. I need sugar straight away. Juice is easiest because I can get it into my body quicker, but anything sweet is good. I… I get hot, too, so I need to cool down.”
“So I don’t need to, like, inject you with anything?”
Beca’s eyes go wide. That’s Chloe’s first clue. “Absolutely not. The insulin would probably kill me at that point.” She pulls her knees up to her body. “I need sugar. Like, immediately. There are always glucose tablets in my bag. They’re in a little orange tube. And there is always… well, usually there’s juice in the fridge. I forgot to get any when I moved in. That… that’s why Luke had to come and get apple juice.”
Chloe can’t help the way her jaw drops. “That’s why he was running so fast! Were you alright?”
“I was once I’d got some sugar in my system. My levels had just dipped a little because I’d been working. Stress, ah, stress makes it worse. So does no sleep. So working on a new track and doing a DJ set at a club in the same week probably contributed. But, yeah, I was fine.”
Beca pulls herself up from the bed and Chloe notices the space immediately. Slowly, she unzips her backpack, the one filled with her clothes, and pulls out a small makeup bag. “I check my levels a lot, but if you ever need to because I’m, I don’t know, asleep or whatever, the shit I need is in here.”
The device in Beca’s hand looks nothing like a syringe. In her head, Chloe curses Amy and her way of jumping to the loftiest of conclusions.
“This is what I use to prick my finger. Then, either, I have a fancy machine that plugs into my phone or, if you need to test it for me, there’s a pack of strips in here. You put the blood on the strip”, Chloe hadn’t expected Beca to do a demonstration. It shocks her slightly when she hears a click followed by the sight of a small droplet of blood. “Strip goes in the machine like this.” She wishes she was taking notes. “And then a number comes up on here.”
“It’s green. Is that good? Is that number good?”
Beca glances down and nods her head. Chloe feels instant relief. “Yeah. Basically anywhere between 90 and 130 is great for me. Much higher than that and I need insulin, any lower and I need sugar.” She pauses and picks up a separate box, an orange oblong with a syringe inside of it. “If my levels are ever below 50 and I’m unconscious, I’m having a full hypo and sugar might not be enough. This is glucagon. It’s for emergencies only and, to be honest, I’d prefer if the paramedics administered it, but just in case, it’s there. It… it needs to either go in my thigh or in the top of my arm. There are instructions on the box and, ah, I keep it with me at all times. In this bag with everything else. Just… just so you know.”
As Beca packs away the machine, the glucagon in its box and everything else, Chloe is struck by how much trust Beca must have to have shown her, to have talked to her. Her words are on her lips before she can truly work out what exactly she wants to say.
“For what?” Beca’s expression gives away that she is genuinely bemused.
“For talking to me. For trusting me. I… I hope I never have to help you out, but I’m glad I know how.”
Beca’s eyes soften as she smiles at Chloe. “Me too.”
“So,” Chloe realises in that moment that she has left Aubrey and Amy waiting for them, “do you think you could spare a few minutes for Tweedle Judgemental and Tweedle Dumbass to apologise? I basically put them in time out before I came down here. You know, to think about their actions.”
Chloe tries to hide her smile as she watches Beca shove her backpack into her closet before she follows her out of the room.
The change in the apartment is almost immediate. Beca can sense it in the way she no longer second-guesses herself when she walks through the door after a day at work. Amy, it seems, is back to her usual version of weird and no longer stares at her like she can see through her clothing. Even Aubrey talks to her more. It’s not as if they’re friends, not quite, but she’s at the point of asking about her day. It’s nice, Beca thinks, to no longer feel invisible. To feel seen.
Unsurprisingly, it is Chloe who changes the most. Chloe who is always there to greet her with a smile on her face. Chloe who asks about her levels and checks if she needs a snack when they’re sat on the couch half-watching whatever old episode of 90210 happens to be on the screen. Chloe who makes sure she is included, makes sure she is listened to.
Beca decides that, if anyone else was this attentive, she’d find it annoying. Claustrophobic, even.
But on Chloe? On Chloe it’s endearing.
“Hey”. The door to Beca’s room opens moments after she hears a light knock. Red hair, swept back into a loose ponytail, is the first thing she sees. “Amy and Aubrey are about to watch the newest episode of Masterchef. Didn’t know if you wanted to join?”
“No thanks. I… I’m kinda busy.” It’s a lame excuse but a valid one. Beca’s laptop fan whirs loudly, as if to back up her claim, her screen filled with bass lines and lyrics and her awful first attempt at mixing these two songs together.
“Oh, is this for work?” Chloe is already walking her way into Beca’s room before she finishes her question.
Beca shakes her head. “No. It… it’s for fun. Well, it’s supposed to be fun anyway.” Chloe tilts her head. It’s a gentle invitation to explain more. Beca can’t help but follow her lead. “I’m trying to get these two tracks to fit together. In my head, they sounded amazing but I can’t seem to make it work in reality. I think I got the key wrong on one of them, but when I transpose it, it sounds like an army of wasps have invaded my ears.”
Chloe’s laugh is a melody all of its own. For a moment, Beca lets herself imagine her singing voice. “I don’t envy you. I’m glad my arranging days are behind me. Not that it was ever really my job in the first place.”
“Oh, is this from the acapella group?” Chloe nods her head. “Amy told me all about it.” Before Beca knows what is happening, Chloe has made herself comfortable on her bed. Spinning her chair around, she smiles at her roommate. “Well, she told me the Amy version. I… I guess you probably weren’t just her backing singers?”
The way Chloe scoffs is enough to make Beca’s lips tilt into a smile. “What an aca-accusation.”
“Don’t ever do that again, please.” It comes out softly, but Beca’s nose twitches at the horrific wordplay.
“Sorry. Old habits. Anyway,” the way Chloe grabs a cushion and holds it on her lap is a sign to Beca that she’s in for a story. “The real deal is that we were all in the group together. Me, Amy, Aubrey, Flo… you met her, right?” Beca nods her head but doesn’t stop Chloe from talking. “Stacie who you met at the bar, CR, Emily… The captain graduated and left me and Aubrey in charge. We recruited the others over the years we were there and we… we tried. Actually, in our final year we managed to get to the World Championships in Copenhagen. Emily can write songs so we went with an original in our set. It was cool but the German group were incredible. They actually do what you do, I think. Mix songs together. It was amazing to watch, or it would have been if they hadn’t been our competition.” Chloe looks up at Beca, blue eyes sparkling. “We could have done with someone like you. I think we would have won if we’d had a legit producer on our team.”
Beca can’t help the way she shakes her head. Impostor syndrome still runs rife within her, especially when she can’t seem to mash together two fairly simple songs with the same beat. “I doubt it. I’m not that good.”
“Please.” Chloe’s glance across to the laptop is enough of a hint for Beca to begin to turn her chair back around. Over her shoulder she turns to Chloe.
“Do you want to hear something?” Chloe’s grin is suddenly half the size of her face. “What kind of artists do you like?”
“Basically everyone. Just… play me something you’re proud of. I want to hear it. If it’s anything like the track you played at the club last week, I know I’ll love it.”
Beca selects an old mix and hands her headphones to Chloe. It’s one of her favourites, one she worked on for a long time when she first moved to LA. She had actually played it to a couple of executives while she had been out there. They hadn’t been interested, but Luke had heard her slip it into her set at a dark bar in a shady part of LA where she DJ’d for basically no money. He had approached her at the end of the night and had offered her a spot to DJ on the radio once a month. That track had opened a door for her that Beca had never expected would open.
That track might just be the reason she’s sitting in this room.
As it plays out, Beca can’t help but observe Chloe’s expression. It’s clear from the way she taps her fingers that she understands the tempo, the way the songs fit together. She lifts her hand as the beat drops, grinning as she hears the way a third song enters the mix.
“It’s incredible. You’re… wow.” Chloe doesn’t realise she’s shouting until Beca signals to her ears. “Sorry,” she smiles as she takes off the headphones. “Beca this is great.” There is a pause before she speaks again. It’s sincere in a way that makes Beca think she’ll remember it for a long time. “I think you might be the most talented person I know. Even if you can’t sing.”
It isn’t conscious, but Beca is sure a blush is beginning to creep up her neck.
She tries her best to ignore the way Chloe’s eyes fix on her.
“What have you two been up to?”
Beca and Chloe both leave her room and head into the living room at the same time. Amy, laying on the couch with her head in Aubrey’s lap, raises her neck slightly to look at them.
“Nothing. Beca was just showing me some of her tracks. She’s super talented.”
“Pfft.” It’s a sound that Beca is beginning to learn is essentially Amy’s ego deflating, as if someone has stuck a pin into it. “You know there are other equally as talented people in this room, Chloe. Like, for example, people who might not show their skills in the same way but may also one day earn a Grammy for their contributions to music history as the best ever Tasmanian Amy Winehouse impersonator…”
“Believe me, Amy, we’ve all seen enough of your …. skills.” Aubrey pushes her off her lap and rolls her eyes. “I’m going to make dinner. Is everyone ok with Eggplant Parmigiana?”
Beca is about to thank Aubrey, to say yes, when Amy pulls herself up from the couch. “Hey, wait. Was that some kind of loosely veiled reference to my vagina?”
“Sorry, what?” Beca doesn’t think she’ll ever get used to these girls and their stories.
Aubrey shakes her head as she walks into the kitchen. “Oh, Amy. If your vagina had been veiled at all, we wouldn’t have been kicked out of the venue and you wouldn’t have had to do community service until your graduation.”
Beca stands back, watching Aubrey effortlessly pick at Amy as she arranges the ingredients for dinner.
“Well, as I said to the dean, I’m pretty sure the silk burn on my arse was enough of a punishment.”
“Amy, the community service was because you showed him.”
“I still think it was a harsh judgement on his part. I mean, nobody was harmed.”
“My retinas have certainly never recovered.”
It feels like Beca is living in a sitcom as she observes the back-and-forth. Slowly, she registers that Chloe is still standing next to her, waiting for her reaction. She turns slightly, just in time for Chloe to lean into her. All of a sudden, they’re close. Closer than they have ever been before.
Beca takes a step back, feeling Chloe’s hand land on her shoulder as she speaks.
“I have the DVDs. Maybe you should be the judge of whether or not Amy deserved the charges of public lewdness raised against her and whether or not she deserved the community service order she was issued.” Chloe’s glare is tinged with mischief. Beca can’t help but wish she had known these girls back then. She has a feeling it would have been a lot more fun than working three jobs in LA just to pay the bills.
“Sure. Be my guest. Let this perfect stranger give her verdict on my criminal record.”
Before Beca can think of what to say to that, the TV is on and the DVD is out of the case.
“Come on. Let me show you what a spectacle synchronised lady singing can be.”
“Yeah” Aubrey’s shout comes from the kitchen. “It’s definitely a spectacle, alright. Prepare yourself.”
Beca is fairly certain that, under her breath, she hears the words ‘vomit cannon’ come from Amy’s mouth. In that moment, she decides that it’s safest to give the TV her full and undivided attention.
When she sees Amy’s unitard tear from front to back on the screen in front of her, Beca realises she’s made a huge mistake.
For the sake of her retinas, she squeezes her eyes closed.
The entire apartment smells incredible. Beca suddenly registers how hungry she is when she hears Aubrey take the dish out of the oven. Pulling herself up from the couch, she walks into the kitchen.
“It needs to cool down before we can eat. Fifteen minutes and it should be ready.”
Beca nods her head. “Perfect. I need to, ah, load up on insulin before I can eat. Can I just check exactly what’s in it so I can work out what to dose?”
There’s a softness to the way Aubrey smiles. Beca can’t help but think it feels like progress. “Tomatoes, onion, garlic, oregano, basil, eggplants, olive oil, 6 ounces of mozzarella, 2 ounces of parmesan and a little salt and pepper. Oh, and there are dinner rolls to go with it if you want one. 310 calories without butter.”
It takes all of her energy for Beca to prevent her eyes from widening at Aubrey’s accuracy. “Th… thank you. It’s basically only the cheese I need to account for. I don’t think I’ll need any bread.” Before she can ask, Aubrey is reading the nutritional information off the back of the packaging out loud. “Cool. Thank you. I… I’ll go and sort that out.” Just as she is about to go to her room, Beca turns on her toes back to face Aubrey. “Actually, can I just check something? Did you use fresh tomatoes or canned?”
“Canned. Does it make that much of a difference?”
Beca nods sagely. “For me it does. Canned tomatoes have more sugar. I just have to make sure I account for it because, otherwise, in two hours my levels will go through the roof.”
“I’ll be back. It smells amazing, by the way.”
The entire insulin process is a fine art. Beca has it worked down to less than two minutes, even with having to balance out a lower blood sugar level and a meal she hasn’t made for herself. The alcohol wipe is in the trash, along with the stupid tiny cap for her insulin pen, before she has even pulled her top back down over her stomach.
“All good?” It doesn’t surprise Beca that Chloe is the first to greet her when she approaches the table.
Beca nods and takes a seat. “Starving.”
Aubrey approaches the table and puts a serving down in front of each of them. They are quick to pick up their silverware and, for a moment, it is quiet.
“Aubrey, you can make this again.” Amy speaks with her mouth full. Beca doesn’t care.
“Thanks Amy. It’s definitely a good one. Low carb for Beca, vegetarian for Chlo and, well, I don’t mean to perk up my own tits but it’s pretty tasty, right?”
“Understatement,” Chloe says with a smile. “You should have been a chef.”
“Hmm. Yeah I’m sure my dad would have approved.” Beca thinks Aubrey’s comment is supposed to be a joke, but there’s an air of anguish to it. “He had enough issue with me doing a communications degree. Imagine if I’d dropped on him that I wanted to go to culinary school? I can’t imagine his reaction to that.”
Beca looks across the table as she picks up her water and takes a sip. “It probably would have been very similar to my dad’s reaction when I told him I wasn’t going to college at all. Dude was not happy.”
“But you did it anyway? You… you left. You went to LA.” Aubrey’s eyes are searching Beca’s expression like she is looking for an answer; some kind of universal truth.
Beca smiles gently. “I did. I guess I realised that, since I’m the only person who has to live with me for my entire life, I should maybe prioritise my own happiness over the expectations of others.”
“Well, fuck.” Beca is hardly surprised that Amy is the first to respond. “I hate to be all ‘Daddy Mitchell might have had a point’ but, you know, if music doesn’t work out I think you’d have a great career in philosophy.”
The words reach Beca’s ears but she isn’t listening.
Not for the first time since she moved in, her eyes are fully focused on Chloe’s soft expression.
She feels a lurch in her stomach when she notices that Chloe is gazing at Aubrey and not at her.
Beca wishes she could blame it on the food.
She knows exactly what this feeling is.
Chloe has always had an excellent memory for sounds. It’s like that part of her brain is deeper, somehow, like there is space to store anything and everything she hears in perfect quality.
Maybe, she thinks, that’s the reason why she hears Beca’s words repeating in her head.
“I should maybe prioritise my own happiness over the expectations of others.”
It’s a profound statement, one that Chloe has absorbed. One that she can’t help but cling to. It means something to her, at this point in her life. It means more than just moving on with her career and finding a way out of the job she hates; it means moving on. Moving on from the life she has right now. The life she has built around Aubrey. Around being close to her.
Aubrey Posen has never been weak-willed. She has conviction, principles, and a fierce sense of loyalty. She is a leader, not a follower, and Chloe has always been comfortable walking in step with her. It didn’t take long for Chloe to notice just how different Aubrey is around her father. Everything she prides herself on, every quality that makes her who she is, seems to melt away the moment Jonathan Posen- General Jonathan Posen- walks into the room.
In college, Aubrey had space from her dad. She was miles away from him, miles away from the regimented way he ran his home and his family. She had flourished, then, in that green expanse in Georgia, surrounded by music and laughter and people who understood and liked her for who she was. The moment graduation had appeared on the horizon, things had changed. General Posen had taken over his father’s business in Aubrey’s sophomore year. He had outlined his expectations very clearly; Aubrey would work for him, would build her reputation on Wall Street and would earn the MBA she should have been working towards instead of the ‘useless’ communications degree she had just finished. She would make up for wasting four years at Barden University by becoming an NYU alumnus, just like her father and her grandfather.
Chloe has a good idea of who Aubrey could have become if she hadn’t followed her to New York, if she hadn’t taken a job at the same company and moved into the same apartment. She saw how desperately she tried to pull back control in other areas of her life. It was part of the reason Chloe had pushed for Mental Health Mondays to take off; it was one way to make sure that Aubrey at least took a little time for herself. A little time in the day that didn’t resolve around checking the clock, or anxiously trying to complete reports to please her father, or dressing for networking events or- as Chloe had witnessed too many times- counting out the calories in her food and obsessing over the numbers.
For the last year, Chloe has spent every moment thinking about how to keep Aubrey Posen from falling apart.
The problem is, she’s been so focused on her best friend, that she has failed to notice the cracks in her own armour.
Every day, Chloe waits by Aubrey’s office door for her to finish for lunch. They walk, together, out of the office, to the nearest Panera Bread. They get soup and, on Fridays, they split an everything bagel to celebrate the end of the week. For Chloe, it’s nice to get out of the office, but the most important thing is that she can make sure Aubrey eats something. That she has some time to deflate and re-charge.
Maybe that’s why Beca’s words continue to echo in her head, even as they sit at their usual table and eat together. Chloe has always put Aubrey first. In college and after, she has protected her in her own way. The idea of prioritising her happiness over her best friend? It is terrifyingly unfamiliar.
“So,” it’s nice to see Aubrey smiling when she speaks, “I take it you’re still thinking about what Beca said last night? I… I saw the way you looked at me when she talked about making yourself happy.” There is a silent admission in Aubrey’s words, Chloe thinks. The admission that- despite everything Chloe is trying to do- Aubrey is not happy.
“I wish I knew how to help you.”
“Yeah. Me too.” Aubrey reaches out across the small table and takes Chloe’s hand in her own. “But it’s not about you, okay? You don’t have to help me. I think… I think I’m the only one who can help myself.” She pauses to smile into Chloe’s eyes. “There is one way you can make me happy, though.”
“Yeah?” Chloe isn’t entirely sure what Aubrey is about to say. Her happiness usually revolves around the small things; manicures, white wine, long walks and Buffy re-runs. She can’t help but think that, this time, Aubrey’s going to ask for something bigger. Whatever it is, Chloe knows she’ll do it. She will do anything to make Aubrey happy. She’s spent five years proving that.
“Yeah, I…” the sincerity in Aubrey’s eyes gives away that, probably, she’s not about to ask her to host a Buffy and Angel marathon weekend. “I think you need to find a new career.” Chloe moves to protest but Aubrey shakes her head. “You took this job for me and I know that. It’s been incredible having you by my side but, sweetie, you can’t keep making yourself miserable. Not when there’s something out there that you should be doing.”
“I’m not miserable.” Aubrey’s head tilts to the side. “I’m not!” Chloe knows it comes out a little too enthusiastically to be the whole truth. “I mean, I’m not unhappy. I like the office and I like the people.”
It isn’t a Friday, but Chloe wishes she had an everything bagel in front of her. Picking off the toppings would at least give her nervous hands something to do while she ponders Aubrey’s sudden pushiness.
“How can I move on if I don’t know where I’m going?”
“Well, I had an idea. And, don’t be mad, but I did a little research. It’s… it’s just a suggestion.”
Aubrey pulls a brochure out of her bag and hands it over. When Chloe reads the words on the front page, she can’t help the way her breath catches in her throat. Somehow, it feels as if something clicks within her.
“You…. You really think I can do it?”
Aubrey’s smile is genuine. Kind. “I know you can. You’d be amazing at this, Chlo.”
There aren’t any words left in Chloe’s head. Rising from her seat, she leans forward and throws her arms around her best friend, squeezing her tightly.
“What about you?”
“I’ll be fine. Don’t worry about me.”
Chloe doesn’t know how to do that.
The brochure weighs heavy on Chloe’s mind for the rest of the day. On her walk home from the subway station, it’s as if her bag is suddenly pounds heavier than it had been that morning. There is a podcast blaring into her ears, but she can’t take in any of the words. Her only thought is on the future.
On taking a leap of blind faith.
As she navigates the residential streets that take her back to the apartment, she wonders just how comfortable she would be doing this every day. ‘This' being making the commute from the city, or from somewhere else, back to her home by herself. She is just so used to having people around her. Her people. People she has spent years building a bond with; people she moved to a new city in a new state with.
Chloe has never really done anything by herself. As a child, she had always had her brothers and her parents close by to help out. Every new school had been a difficult transition, but she had never been the only new kid. Even when she got a place at a college in the next state, her cousin had lived close enough to be there if she needed anything.
In all her life, Chloe has never decided to do something- something for herself- and then just… done it.
Maybe, she thinks as she reaches into her bag for her keys, trying to ignore the sensation of glossy paper against her fingertips, it is time to try.
Wednesdays are always a quiet night in the apartment. Amy always gives a mumbled, vague excuse, coming back when it is dark with ruffled hair and smudged makeup. Aubrey and Stacie do a double spin class at the gym, where they catch up and Aubrey gets all the gossip on Stacie’s latest exploits on Tinder. Chloe has no interest in the gym; she would much rather get her endorphins in the fresh air. Maybe that’s why she usually uses her Wednesday for a midweek run.
Or, maybe, she gets changed and immediately heads back out because the silence that fills the apartment when nobody else is home is suffocating.
Either way, Chloe has a routine. Wednesday evening means throwing on a pair of shorts and a hoodie and tackling a long, inclined route around the north of Central Park, usually still listening to the same podcast she had on when she got home. Her AirPods don’t come out of her ears. They help fill the silence.
She’s peeling a banana as a quick snack when Chloe realises that she has no idea where Beca is. The thought crosses her mind to invite her on a run, but she can imagine the response she would probably get. Pulling her AirPod out of her ear and pausing her podcast, she takes a moment to listen.
Deafening, dreadful silence.
Her sneaker laces are tied and she’s stretching out her quads when she spots Beca’s shoes by the door. The shoes she was certain she had been wearing when she left that morning.
Removing her AirPods completely, Chloe walks down the corridor, towards Beca’s room. Just to check if she is home. Just to say hi.
“I’m bulletproof, nothing to lose…”
Chloe’s whole head turns to the source of the noise. She hears the spluttering spray of the shower begin to echo off the tiles. She hears the curtain being pulled back from the bath tub.
She hears singing.
For someone who dwells for months on the possible consequences of her actions- of her decisions- when it comes to the bigger things in life, Chloe doesn’t hesitate with the small stuff.
It’s an immediate decision, one she comes to without conscious thought.
Suddenly, she’s opening the bathroom door and watching her very naked roommate step into the shower.
“You can sing!”
Beca grabs for the shower curtain to wrap around her.
The entire rail collapses to the ground.
It was all Jesse’s fault.
Jesse, who had thought it would be funny to open a package of salad dressing with his teeth.
Jesse who had flung the half-open packet in Beca’s direction.
Jesse who had offered no assistance in cleaning up and simply laughed until he cried.
Yeah, it was all Jesse’s fault.
It was Jesse’s fault that she had a bright yellow stain on her favourite shirt. It was Jesse’s fault that she had spent the entire afternoon sitting next to an open window to try and deal with the fact that she smelled like old mustard. In fact, Beca thinks as she tries desperately to ignore Chloe’s silhouette as she showers, she’s fairly certain she can blame this on Jesse, too.
Well, some of it.
The rest of the blame lies solely with Chloe.
Chloe who needs to learn how to knock.
Chloe who had barged into the bathroom like the apartment was on fire. She had given absolutely no warning to Beca, not even calling her name, before she had made her jump out of her (very visible) skin. Beca’s immediate reaction had been to cover as much of her body as she could with the shower curtain.
The shower curtain that Chloe is now attempting to hold up so that she can at least get clean without flooding the bathroom.
All because she heard her sing.
If anything, the disastrous consequences only go to prove further to Beca that singing live in front of anybody is a bad idea.
She shuts off the shower and wrings out her hair.
“Can you hand me a towel?”
Chloe’s arm reaches around the shower curtain, letting it fall on one side. Beca grasps the towel to her body and carefully unfolds it, tucking it in under her arms until she’s certain she’s covered up.
“Okay. I’ll leave you to get changed. I’ll go and find the tool box.” Chloe bites the corner of her lip as she looks at the shower curtain, now damp and crumpled on the floor. “Aubrey will kill me if she finds out.”
Beca can’t help but think that Aubrey’s reaction would probably be even worse if she knew why the rail had fallen off in the first place.
As soon as Chloe shuts the door, Beca scrambles to get dry and put her clothes on. She doesn’t want to risk Chloe catching her in another compromising position. Not if she can help it.
Chloe knocks before she comes back into the bathroom, this time holding a small carry-case in her hand.
“Little late for knocking, Chlo.”
Beca can’t help but shake her head. She knows that, if the roles were reversed (not that that would ever happen because Beca has boundaries and a heavy respect for personal space), she would still be blushing furiously.
Not Chloe. All Beca gets from her is a grin and a not-so-subtle wink.
Chloe sets the case on the floor and opens it. “Do you know how to use any of this?”
“Oh, because I’m gay? Is that the assumption here? Because, let me tell you, I’m not that good with my hands.”
“Somehow, I doubt that.” Chloe’s smirk is terrifyingly direct.
Beca gawps. “Uh… I…. Jesus.” She takes a breath and tries to regain her composure. “I guess, if I’m going to be living around here, I’m going to have to get used to the way you just… say shit like that.”
“Probably for the best” Chloe says with a shrug. “But neither of us will be living anywhere if we don’t get this rail back up before Aubrey sees.”
It takes a couple of minutes to work out the logistics. Beca finds screws and a screwdriver in the case while Chloe climbs up into the bath and holds the pole up above her head, the curtain hitting her in the face every time she moves.
Beca would laugh if she didn’t have to focus so hard on stretching up to reach the spot on the wall where the rail used to sit.
“You good?” She tightens the final screw and pulls back the curtain to smile at Chloe. “Need to switch?”
Chloe shakes her head and looks her up and down. “Do you think you could reach?”
It feels like a challenge, but Beca isn’t in the mood for a competition. Instead, she steps back onto the floor before working out where is best to stand on the other side of the bath tub. “Okay, three more screws and we’re done.”
“I bet you say that to all the girls.”
The screw Beca is about to put between her lips clatters into the tub. She turns to face her roommate, certain she is basically the same colour as a tomato. “If you don’t want to take me to the ER because I’ve swallowed one of these, can you please just… not?”
She tries her best to ignore Chloe’s quiet laughter until the rail is back in place.
“Alright. That should be secure as long as you don’t plan on barging into anyone else’s shower.”
“Cool. I guess I’ll just have to find other ways to hear you sing again, then, since you’re so averse to my methods.”
The idea of singing in front of Chloe, in front of anyone, is enough to drain all of the colour from Beca’s face.
By way of an apology, Chloe makes dinner. Beca hovers around her in the kitchen, watching her as she whips up a frittata and makes a salad.
“Can I ask something?” Chloe talks as she focuses on beating eggs in a bowl.
“Why did you say you didn’t sing? When… when Aubrey asked when you moved in. I… I just keep thinking back to it now I’ve heard you.”
Beca remembers her automatic reaction to Aubrey’s question, remembers Chloe’s doubtful gaze. “Look, I’m sorry I lied. I just… when Aubrey asked, I thought I was going to have to, like, audition for the room or something. And Amy has this air about her like she’d probably try and recruit me into something weird. It’s a reflex to just say no I don’t sing, or I can’t sing, rather than explain the full story.”
Chloe slides the skillet into the oven. “Well, we have twenty minutes to wait. Is that time enough for the full story?”
Beca knows there’s absolutely no escaping this. She pulls her insulin pen out of her pocket and sits down at the table as Chloe takes a seat opposite her. As she clicks the dial around to the right amount for her meal, she thinks about how best to answer. Where to start. When. She lifts her top, quickly pinching her skin and painlessly pressing the needle into place, barely even noticing Chloe is watching her.
“I guess,” the needle comes out and she puts the cap back on it, “I guess, because I always liked music, I was in choirs and stuff when I was little. Like, super little. And then, after a couple years, they offered me solos and stuff and I just… choked. I’d agree because I didn’t know how to say no, and I’d stand on stage and- honestly- nothing would come out of my mouth. I’d just freeze.”
The memories come flooding back. Beca’s mom in the audience smiling encouragingly as the bright lights shone on the tears in her eyes. Her music teacher clambering up onto the stage and kneeling by her side, whispering in her ear as the kids behind her started to chatter. The wailing cry that erupted from her as she dropped her microphone and bolted into the wings.
“I tried again in middle school. I couldn’t eat before, I was so nervous. I got on stage and the song started.”
Beca can’t look at Chloe as she says it. “I blacked out.”
“Yep. In front of the entire school. I… I got picked on for a long time after. That was when I decided that I could make music in other ways. Actually, that was when I got into mixing. I used to hide out in the computer lab at lunch. There was one old iMac with GarageBand on it. I used to bring in USBs with tracks I’d downloaded at home and I used to mash them together. I… I guess that’s where it began, really.”
Chloe takes a sip of water from her glass and tilts her head. The slight smile on her face feels misplaced to Beca. “You know, you and Aubrey have more in common than you realise.”
Chloe nods her head. “Get her drunk and ask her about what happened at Lincoln Center. It’ll make you feel better, I promise.”
“Do you miss singing?” The conversation, the idea, is still on Beca’s mind once their meal is ready. She looks across at Chloe, smiling at the way her face seems to say ‘who, me?’ despite her being the only other person in the room.
“I do, actually. Not so much the planning and the rehearsing, but being on stage with my best friends? Getting to work an audience and perform? I miss that part of it. Actually,” Chloe puts down her fork, “I guess I’m kind of jealous of Amy in that way. She.. she’s kept it going, you know? She’s still feeding that performing bug while I’m slaving away in corporate recruitment hating every second.”
In the back of her mind, Beca remembers Chloe talking about her job, about her future. She remembers their walk to get coffee and bagels, remembers the way Chloe had asked her how she knew she wanted to be a producer. Suddenly, an idea strikes her. “Would you consider singing as a career? Like, professionally?”
“I… I don’t think I’m as talented as you think I am.” Beca is certain it’s not true, but she lets the redhead speak. “It was only ever a hobby for me. I don’t think I could cope with working in the music industry to be honest. But, if there’s a way to have a little music in whatever I end up doing, I could be down with that. That could be fun.”
Beca smiles. “It could be. I just…. I’d hate to see that talent of yours go to waste.” From the way Chloe stares, Beca knows Chloe thinks the exact same thing about her.
“It’s not wasted. I’ll have you know that my karaoke performances have had some stellar reviews.” Beca quirks an eyebrow, wanting to know more, but Chloe cuts her off. “Actually, we’re going to see the new Bellas perform this weekend. They’re doing an appearance at the aquarium. If… if you want to, you’re welcome to come along. The other girls will be there.” It’s clear to Beca just how much Chloe loves her friends, how special these girls are to her. She can’t help the pang of jealousy that she’s never had anything like that in her life. “The night usually ends in karaoke so, who knows, you might even get to see what I’m capable of.”
“What is your go-to song?”
It takes Chloe far longer to respond than Beca had anticipated. It’s clear that she takes this kind of thing very seriously, that she has some kind of a mental list going on. “I mean, it changes. It depends on the season, the mood, you know?” Beca doesn’t but she nods her head anyway. “I usually go for some Celine Dion or maybe some old-school Madonna. Titanium is in my head right now, but that’s not suitable for karaoke.”
Chloe’s smile widens, if it’s even possible. “No, that song is my jam.” She winks at Beca. “My lady jam.”
Beca swallows, suddenly trying as hard as she can to prevent her imagination from conjuring up any images even closely related to that.
“The song really builds, you know?”
It’s an image Beca really doesn’t need. Definitely not right now.
“You’re coming, right?”
She looks up, eyes wide. “What?”
“To the aquarium? You’ll come?”
Beca knows there is only one answer. Smiling she nods her head. “Of course, dude. I’ll be there.”
The Bella legacy will always be important to Chloe Beale. For her, it has never really been about the competitions or the singing. The music is simply a soundtrack; a backdrop that adds extra colour to the most important and long-lasting bond she has ever experienced outside of her family. Being a Bella, to Chloe, has always been about belonging. Even now, a year on from graduating and moving away, she keeps her blue and yellow patterned scarf tied around the handle of her purse as a reminder.
A reminder that she will always be a Bella woman.
A reminder that, because of that, she can do whatever she sets her mind to.
“Excuse me? Why are you wearing that?” Aubrey’s eyes widen as Chloe walks into the living room adjusting her regulation white shirt and navy jacket, the proud uniform of a Bella alumnus.
The shame, the guilt, hits Chloe immediately when she sees the look on her best friend’s face. Usually, her impulsive decisions go right. When they do occasionally go wrong, they are laughed away. This, though, feels different. She swallows and brushes her hair off her face. “I… I just wanted to remember what it feels like.” Chloe can’t help the sigh that escapes her lips. “You know, to be special.”
“Yeah because it’s so easy to feel special when you’re in a group of ten girls who always wear the same thing.” Amy’s voice carries over from the couch, where she is sat brushing out one of her many Amy Winehouse wigs.
Aubrey rolls her eyes, clearly ignoring her roommate as she looks at Chloe. It’s a look of sympathy, but Chloe can sense that it’s laced with confusion. “I get it. I… I get that you want to remember but honestly the outfit is giving me a tension headache. Can you just, I don’t know, wear the scarf in your hair or something?”
As Chloe walks back to her bedroom to change, she can’t help but wonder why she had felt the need to put on the horrific polyester uniform of her old acapella group. Nostalgia doesn’t quite explain the weird feeling in her gut. Maybe, she thinks to herself as she roots around in her closet for a new outfit, it’s because she wants people in the crowd to know that she was once part of that group of people. Maybe she wants to stand out from the crowd, the public, who are simply there to watch the new Bellas perform. Or, she finally admits with a long sigh as she pulls on one of her many little black dresses, maybe it’s because she’s not sure who she is when she’s not a Bella.
It’s the foundation she built herself on in college.
Now it’s cracking and unstable and Chloe’s scared of what happens if it breaks.
At least she has her scarf to hold onto.
Travelling from Manhattan to Brooklyn is a multi-step process. There are plans, as always, to pick up the other girls en route as they join the same subway train. Of the eight Bellas who graduated in Chloe’s class, five of them wound up living in New York City.
“So, who exactly is coming tonight?”
Amy sits up in her seat and holds up her hand. “Let me give you a quick Bellas lesson.” Chloe can’t help but think that she or Aubrey will have to do some damage control. Amy has never been known for her accuracy. “So, there’s the OG Bellas. Well, not OG because it’s been a thing since, like, 1968 or something. Anyway, there’s me, Aubrey, Chloe” Amy pauses to think, “Stacie who you met at the club, Flo is the tiny Latina one…” Chloe watches as Beca tries to follow along. “I don’t know if any of the others are coming tonight. Captains?”
Both Chloe and Aubrey sit up when Amy addresses them.
“Are we expecting anyone else?”
“CR said she’d try to make it but I think she has work and Jessica and Ashley couldn’t get the time off to travel.”
Amy shrugs. “I don’t even know who they are.”
Chloe can’t help but tilt her head, staring sternly in Amy’s direction. “Just because they’re not here doesn’t mean they don’t exist.”
Chloe wishes she could turn off her attachment to these girls as easily as Amy seems to. When they had been packing to leave their student housing after graduation, the conversations had all been about how exited they were for their new adventures. There was talk of movie nights and going to fancy clubs and going to see shows on Broadway. The other girls had been jealous. They had pouted and joked about how much fun they would have without them. There were plans for city breaks and brunches and sightseeing. Work had got in the way almost as soon as they had moved, snatching away the time they had dreamily put aside to just ‘hang out’. Chloe has missed them all every day since they left Georgia.
“Do you miss it? Singing together?”
Chloe looks at Beca as she gives a heartfelt nod. “Definitely.”
“Well, karaoke is always on the cards. Who knows, we might even get Beca to join in.” Amy leans in close and Chloe can see just how much Beca wants to scramble away from the way she leans back. “How high does your belt go?”
There is a glint in Beca’s eye as she glances down to her jeans and back up to look at her roommate, her expression innocently bewildered. “I don’t know, man. Like, up to my waist I guess.”
There is a smug sense of warmth settling within her as Beca’s gaze meet hers, confirming what she had already known. She is the only one who knows that there is a real answer to that question.
The New York Aquarium is a fancier venue than anywhere Chloe can remember performing in college. She knows it is, in part, because Emily has pulled the Bellas into a new era. They have original songs and a YouTube channel and an impressive following across social media.
Jealousy sits at the back of Chloe’s throat as the young brunette, captaining the Bellas for the second year, walks towards them.
“Oh my stars. It’s so good to see you!”
There are hugs. So many hugs. Beca even gets pulled into one before Emily jumps back and realises she isn’t a Bella. “I… sorry! I was just hugging everyone and you were just there and I… I don’t know you.”
“Em, this is Beca. Our new roommate.”
Emily seems to recover from her faux-pas a lot quicker than she would have done in her freshman year. Aubrey had been dubious about leaving her in charge, but Chloe can see how much she’s grown.
It makes her feel proud.
It makes her feel old.
“Sorry,” Emily speaks to them all, “I kind of have to go and run warm-up but I’ll catch you after? I can’t wait to hear all about your news! I’m sure there’s loads to catch up on.”
If Emily notices the muted grunts and shrugs she gets in response, she doesn’t show it. Chloe can remember that excited feeling, when graduation had felt like the door opening into a new world rather than slamming closed on everything she knew and loved. She suspects they all feel the same. Stacie’s Master’s degree in Engineering at NYU would make life hard enough, but she’s working at least fifteen hours a week at the gym to pay the rent. Chloe knows that Flo desperately wants to use her Business Administration and Marketing degree, but there seems to be one job for every ten graduates and, so far, she hasn’t had any luck. Instead, she’s the friendly-on-the-outside server greeting customers every day at the Jamba Juice inside Penn Station.
They are all stuck. Nothing exciting seems to happen, certainly not as much as Emily’s pre-grad imagination seems to suggest. They work, they sleep, they work, they sleep, and it’s dull. Chloe is stuck in a cycle of going out to spend the day in an office doing the same six tasks she always does. She has the same conversations with the same people and answers the same questions on the same email system. Through all of the thoughtless monotony, the only significant thing occupying her mind for the last year has been Aubrey. Checking in on Aubrey, making sure she’s eating and coping and not completely losing her mind. Even that is repetitive.
In fact, aside from the excitement (if they can call it that) of Lilly’s psychotic break, Chloe can’t think of anything she has to report to Emily. She can’t think of a single thing that had added any colour to her life.
Well, except one.
As the lights dim, Chloe feels Beca’s eyes on her. Turning to face her, she gives her a gentle smile.
Beca’s forehead wrinkles. She looks worried.
Chloe tries her best not to think about it.
Now, she has a show to watch.
The New Bellas’ performance is a whirlwind of colour and music. It’s youthful and happy and the audience love it.
Chloe is sure she would, too, if it didn’t remind her of everything she was before; everything she left behind when she followed Aubrey and Amy to New York. Chloe had considered failing on purpose. Her Russian Lit final was make-or-break and ended up being the one course she needed to pass to ensure she graduated on time. Throwing the exam would have been enough to keep her in Barden for another year, to keep her as a Bella for one more round of pushing for a national title.
If it hadn’t been for Aubrey, for Aubrey needing her, Chloe thinks she probably would have stayed.
“Dude, they’re… they’re so good.”
Beca looks flustered after the performance. Chloe knows exactly how she feels. She nods. “I know. They’re just… so energetic. I don’t think we ever could have pulled off a dance routine like that.”
“Well, you clearly taught her well when you were her captain. She’s done you proud.”
It’s as if a light has turned on in Chloe’s head. She feels the doubt and the jealousy slip away and instead lets herself take Beca’s words as a compliment. “I-…”
“Does anyone else’s vagina suddenly feel not tight?” Amy cuts her off, sliding into the booth they have found themselves in, pushing Chloe closer to Beca until their legs are touching under the table.
“Never”. Stacie responds with a wink. “But I do miss college. I… I miss you guys.”
Chloe catches Aubrey’s eye and smiles. She’s checking in, Aubrey knows that, but she’s also just happy that in all of this they still have one another.
“So, what’s new?” The way Emily bounds over to the group is typical. She has never been good at reading the room. She’s still in her costume, with glitter glinting on her eyelids as she smiles expectantly.
“I mean, not much. We were just talking about how much we miss college.”
Emily pulls up a seat and throws herself down clumsily until her head lands in her hands. “Aw, well I think Barden misses you guys, too. I definitely do but, you know, I keep reminding myself that you’re all out here doing amazing things with your careers and becoming the people you want to be.” There’s a childlike innocence to the way her chocolate eyes soften. “I mean, I’m basically repeating what I said in my speech at your grad party but the sentiment still stands.”
It strikes Chloe, then, that the only one of them seated around the table actually becoming the person she wants to be is Beca.
Well, there’s a possibility that Amy is, too, but Chloe’s fairly certain she has had to take a part-time job somewhere and is simply too proud to admit it.
“You look like you could use another drink. What are you having?” Beca’s hand is on her knee as she speaks. Chloe tries to focus on the words and not the feeling as she finds herself looking directly into stormy blue eyes.
“…so I’ve put in an application. I know it’s not exactly what I planned, but anything has to be better than being stuck in that place all day, right?” Flo’s voice pushes Chloe back towards the conversation happening beside her. She tries to ignore it. She doesn’t need any more reminders of how much she doesn’t want to be where she is right now.
A drink sounds like the only way to get through this.
“Actually, I’ll take a vodka tonic if that’s ok?”
Beca smiles sweetly at her and grabs her wallet. “Double?”
Chloe has a feeling she’s going to need it.
Beca doesn’t think she has ever been on a night out with a group of girls like this before. In fact, she’s fairly certain she has never even met a group of girls like this before. Each one of them is so different, but they have a connection that goes far beyond just being friends from college. Beca knows she will never completely understand it, but it’s fun to observe. To enjoy their presence, their infectious sense of fun, from the sidelines.
Even Aubrey, who is usually uptight and just angry with the world, seems to let her hair down as soon as they are all together. Beca couldn’t hide her surprise when she was the one to buy the first round of shots, or when she was the person to loudly declare it was time find a karaoke bar. It’s clear to see that they all still respect her position as captain. Maybe, Beca thinks, that’s why she’s always been different with her. Beca is the only person in the apartment who has never had to do as Aubrey says. Although, from observing these girls, it’s fairly obvious that not all of them listen to their old commander-in-chief. Amy, for one, is carrying an inflatable shark under her arm as they walk through the streets towards the nearest karaoke bar.
Beca can’t even pretend to be shocked that she stole it from the aquarium.
She’s just grateful it isn’t a real one.
They get into the karaoke bar and hire out a booth. It becomes immediately clear to Beca that these girls take this shit seriously. Stacie goes first, picking up the mic and beginning a terrifyingly seductive rendition of Beyoncé’s Naughty Girl, complete with full choreography. As Beca looks around the rest of the girls, it strikes her that none of them seem shocked. In fact, a couple of them look bored. It makes her wonder how normal it is for Stacie to act like this. Part of her never wants to find out the answer.
It is when Flo takes to the stage that the feeling in the room seems to shift. She’s tiny, even smaller than Beca, and she smiles widely as the soft opening bars of her chosen track ring out into the room. “Turn around, give me your hand, darling…” Aubrey, sat on the edge of the row, is having a muted conversation with Amy, trying to convince her to switch the lighter she’s waving for the torch on her phone. Stacie is smiling at Flo, doing some kind of subtle choreography with her hands. It is only when Beca’s eyes land on Chloe that she understands that there’s a significance to Flo’s choice of ‘Eternal Flame’ that might go beyond it just being a nice song. When she watches Chloe drain her fourth drink of the night, Beca realises that, maybe, it isn’t a nice song at all.
At least, not anymore.
Beca could have predicted that Aubrey was a Taylor Swift fan the moment they met. It is absolutely not surprising to her that her karaoke song of choice is ‘Shake it Off’. What does surprise her, however, is that- almost as soon as the blonde hits the stage- Chloe pulls herself up from her seat and quietly, unsteadily, walks to the door of their private booth and pushes it open. Beca can see from the way she carries herself that, at the very least, she’s drunk. There is a worry, however, that there’s something more going on. Beca has been holding that suspicion since Chloe looked like she was about to cry when the lights went down back at the aquarium. After a few minutes, when it becomes clear that nobody else has noticed Chloe’s exit, she leaves and checks the bar area for red hair before walking into the restroom.
“Hey, Chlo?” Beca is used to talking to drunk people. She has DJ’d in plenty of places and has had more than her fair share of end-of-the-night, oversharing conversations in bathroom lines or in the smoking area during her breaks. “Chlo, it’s Beca. You good?”
When Chloe pushes the cubicle door open, Beca can see that the young redhead is decidedly not good. There are black lines running down her face from her tears and red patches on her chest. Her arms are pulled tightly around herself as she blinks her blue eyes in Beca’s direction and tries her best to smile.
“I’ll be all good in a minute. Just, you know, a little concealer and I’m good to go.”
“Dude, what happened? Did… did you get sick or something?”
Chloe shakes her head. Beca watches as she steadies herself and walks over to the mirror, grabbing a fistful of tissues and tried to dab at her mascara-streaked face. “No, not sick. Just… I’ll be good in a minute. Just need to make sure Aubrey doesn’t see.” When Chloe pulls out her lipstick and loses her footing, her heel wobbling underneath her, Beca reaches out and grabs hold of her roommate.
“Dude, no. You need to go home.”
Beca knows from Chloe’s pout that it is going to be difficult to argue with her. Drunk logic is rarely a good thing and Beca isn’t in the mood to have a battle. “Why?”
“Because you’re drunk and you’ve been crying and clearly Aubrey is going to notice something is wrong.” It isn’t exactly clear to her why Chloe would want to hide whatever is going on from Aubrey, but she is an expert in using people’s own arguments against them. “Just… I’ll tell them you got sick or something and we’ll get a cab.” When Chloe stumbles again, Beca tightens her grasp. “Sweetie, come on. There’s no way I’m leaving you like this. Let’s get you home.”
Chloe’s bedroom is exactly the way Beca had imagined it would be. There is a dresser in the corner which is covered in framed photographs and sentimental ornaments. Her closet, surprisingly not a built-in one like Beca has, is partially open and there are colourful items of clothing spilling out onto the floor. On the wall above her bed, there is a series of three framed movie posters, all with the same muted pink colour scheme: Mean Girls, Clueless and Dirty Dancing. Beca is fairly certain she saw Mean Girls in high school- she gets the references at least. The other two? Beca has no idea, but she isn’t at all surprised to find out they are Chloe’s favourites.
“I… I got you a drink.”
The moment they had got into the apartment, Chloe had pulled off her dress. Beca, trying to ensure the girl had at least a little dignity, had taken that opportunity to turn her back and head to the kitchen to fill a glass of water for her. She had gone to her own room to pull on some comfier clothes before making her way back down the corridor, silently hoping that her redheaded roommate would at least have some form of clothing on when she opened her door.
“Sip it slowly, dude.” Chloe nods her head as she takes a drink. Beca can tell from her eyes that she’s tired. It still worries her that she can sense a little sadness, too. “Do you want, like, a bowl or anything? Do you think you’re gonna throw up?”
Chloe shakes her head. “No. This ginger can handle her jiggle juice.” It is slurred but Beca gets the gist of it. “Besides, I told you already I didn’t get sick. I, ah,” she licks her lips, as if trying to find the right words, “I think I had a panic attack.”
It isn’t the explanation Beca had been expecting. She had just thought that Chloe missed her friends and the alcohol had made her sadness more pronounced. She hadn’t anticipated panic. “Do… do you get that a lot?”
Chloe’s shrug isn’t exactly reassuring. “Sometimes. I used to get them when I was in college. And high school. Haven’t had one for a while but everyone was talking about the future and all that shit and I…” Beca reaches out to take the glass of water back as Chloe tries to push her hair off her face with it still in her hand. “I don’t know what I want, you know? I mean, I know what I don’t want. I don’t want to be stuck in a shitty office for the rest of my life. Aubrey gave me these brochures for NYU and for a college in Jersey to do my teaching certificate but, like, I don’t know if I can. I don’t think I’m brave enough to leave.”
“What do you mean?” Beca realises she’s pushed herself up the bed so that she’s sat next to Chloe, leaning against her headboard. “Of course you can do it. If teaching is what you want to do with your life, there’s absolutely nothing stopping you. Except yourself.”
Chloe’s eyes widen at Beca’s words. As she turns to face her, Beca can see the way her eyes trace over her features before she speaks. “You know, I’m so glad I met you.”
Beca nods her head, unsure of how seriously to take the compliments of someone who is three sheets to the wind and moments away from falling asleep. “Yeah?”
“Yeah” Chloe nods her head slowly. “You just have this way, you know? This way of making everything seem… manageable. You put things in perspective in my head. Like… like you’re playing whack-a-mole with my anxiety.” Beca has no idea what to take from that, but she lets Chloe continue. “It’s like, ever since you moved in here, I’ve been able to see the world a little more clearly. I feel different around you. Like, with Aubrey, she’s my best friend and I love her and I care about her, but with you it’s like… I want to be around you because you make me feel good about being me. Like I don’t have to change or try or…”
Beca doesn’t register that Chloe is moving closer until she can feel her breath on her cheek. A hand reaches out to stroke through her hair as the brilliant blue eyes she has been looking at all night flutter closed.
“I really like you, Beca.”
Chloe’s fingers pull gently on the back of Beca’s neck as she leans in close, lips almost grazing against hers, before Beca puts a hand to her chest and pushes her lightly back.
Chloe’s eyes narrow slightly. “You… you don’t…”
It comes out as neither a statement nor a question, but Beca’s answer is the same. “Chloe, you’re drunk.”
It takes all of Beca’s strength to stand up and pull the covers over Chloe’s body, making her comfortable in her bed. “It’s fine. It’s all good. Sweet dreams.”
As she turns the light out, Beca hears Chloe mumble from her bed. “You know, I wish I’d done more experimenting in college.”
She sighs and shakes her head. “Go to sleep, Chloe. The sooner you sleep, the sooner you’ll wake up in the morning and remember that you’re straight and all of this will be a distant, drunken memory.” Beca closes the door, resting her hand on the glossed wood. “For you, at least.”
The room spins for a moment as Chloe opens her eyes. Her flimsy curtains do little to keep out the light, the brightness turning up the volume on her already intense headache. It takes several blinks before Chloe even registers exactly where she is, what she’s wearing and why her mouth feels like she’s been eating sand.
Sitting up takes more effort than she is used to, but Chloe is pleased to find a glass of water and a bottle of Advil next to her bed. Taking two of the pills and swallowing them down, she gives herself a moment to breathe deeply and try to put together the puzzle pieces of the night before.
She can remember feeling sad from the moment they arrived at the aquarium. She can remember not being able to push away the feeling that- from being a Bella woman- the fall from grace had left her bruised and a little bit broken. She remembers the constant conversation about jobs and careers and grown-up life playing out to a soundtrack of the songs that she sang when she was important and special. Chloe can recall the way her pulse had increased, beat by beat, until the room felt stiflingly hot and she couldn’t fight the need to get out.
Chloe hadn’t had a panic attack since the week of her Russian Lit final.
She can recall pushing her way, almost blindly, into the bathroom and pulling herself up onto the toilet seat. The ringing in her ears and the feeling of unsteadiness comes back as if to remind her of the way she had held onto herself, pulling at her arms as she hyperventilated, just to have some semblance of being present.
She remembers leaving; remembers Beca taking her by the arm and helping her down the stairs and out of the bar. She remembers the cab journey, remembers the feeling of unease at being in such a state around someone so new. She remembers being grateful, on some level, that it was Beca who followed her and not Aubrey.
“Chlo? You…. hey.” Chloe’s bedroom door is pushed open. Aubrey, unironically dressed in the pink Minnie Mouse onesie Amy had given her for her birthday, smiles sympathetically in her direction.
Aubrey doesn’t need an invitation to walk into Chloe’s room. Just like they used to in college, she peels back the covers on the left side of the bed and slides in next to her best friend.
“Coffee. Thought you might need it.” Chloe takes the mug Aubrey offers her and takes a long, slow sip. “Are you ok? Did Beca get you home safe?”
Chloe looks around the room. She can’t see any damage and she knows she managed to get herself dressed. Sure, she definitely still has makeup on her face, but for the morning after a drunken night out she’s in pretty good condition. “Yeah. I, ah, I guess I can’t handle my alcohol the way I used to.”
Aubrey’s response is a noncommittal hum.
“Are the others still asleep?” Chloe asks.
Aubrey shakes her head, taking the mug out of Chloe’s hands and helping herself to a sip. “Nope,” she hands the mug back, “they went out to get breakfast.”
“And you didn’t go?”
“No.” Chloe has always loved how affectionate Aubrey is in the mornings. She lowers herself slightly down the bed until her head is resting on Chloe’s shoulder and reaches out to hold her hand. “I wanted to stay in and wait for you to surface. You looked upset last night. I wanted to check you were ok.”
Slowly, more of the reasons for Chloe’s minor breakdown come to the forefront of her mind. With a long sigh, she twirls the ring Aubrey wears on her middle finger and thinks about how to explain everything going on in her head.
“I think the brochures you gave me have… I don’t know. I guess they got me thinking.”
“The future. A career. How…” Chloe’s head hurts as she tries to think clearly. “There’s just a lot to think about. And then I… I got into this whole spiral about being confident and brave enough to actually, you know, leave everything I know” to leave you, Chloe thinks.
“And did you tell Beca about it?”
Chloe is about to nod her head, about to explain how heard she had felt, when it comes back to her.
There had been an urge she hadn’t been able to fight. She had leaned close, holding Beca steady and had almost…
“Hey! We’re back!” The apartment door closes loudly.
The memory, the image, fills Chloe’s mind. Her eyes widen as she quickly concludes that she can’t face Beca. Not now. Not yet. Staring at Aubrey as she leaps out of bed, Chloe quickly fumbles in her vocabulary for an excuse. “I, ah… shower.”
She runs across the hall and locks the bathroom door.
Chloe realises fairly quickly that the shower is not a place she can escape from the idea of Beca.
Already, in just a few weeks, they have memories in this apartment. Memories in this room. Memories, Chloe admits, sparked from yet another of her impulsive decisions.
She can’t help but replay what she can remember of the night before, hoping that somewhere along the way she might recall it all in the right order. She knows she was upset and that Beca was there for her. She knows she put her to bed and, oh no, did she strip in front of her? No, Chloe thinks, Beca definitely walked away before the bra came off. Which is, if anything, the smallest of mercies.
Chloe knows she opened up to Beca. She doesn’t think she could have helped it. There is something about her, maybe her newness or her attitude or just the way she has kindness in her eyes, that leaves Chloe unable to shut herself off. While Aubrey and Amy are both so entangled in who she is, it is refreshing to have someone there who is just a little more neutral to the whole situation.
Beca had said she was capable. She had said that she- Chloe- was the only person holding her back.
Something had clicked within her, then. Something had clicked and, as she lets the shower spray directly onto her face, she recalls how she had reacted.
Chloe is used to kissing her friends. She was popular in high school and in college and has always had a positive relationship with her body and her sexuality. Kissing people is just another way to show affection.
It doesn’t have to mean anything.
Except, clearly, last night it did. For Chloe at least.
It is only when Chloe steps out of the shower and wraps herself in a towel that she remembers Beca’s parting words.
“The sooner you sleep, the sooner you’ll wake up in the morning and remember that you’re straight and all of this will be a distant, drunken memory.”
Within her, something stirs.
It feels a lot like determination.
Or, possibly, just hunger.
The day ebbs away slowly. Chloe fills most of the morning with coffee, toast, water and lazy re-runs of The Office on her laptop. She’s comfortable in her little nest, indulging in the quiet and calm of her own space, feeling her hangover slowly start to fade into simple tiredness as time wears on.
She knows she could go and hang out in the living room, where the others are probably all sat together. She knows she probably would in different circumstances, but part of her doesn’t want to face Beca- to address the elephant in the room- just yet.
If anything, she’d prefer to be a little more alert to deal with that particular issue. And, ideally, she’d like to have that conversation privately. Not with an audience of two of the nosiest women she has ever met.
Plus, she has no idea what to even say.
Chloe Beale isn’t the embarrassed type. Sure, she knows that her actions have consequences, but most of the time all it takes is a simple, bright smile and a giggle and she’s forgiven. She isn’t one to dwell on the past, not really. She doesn’t usually have the tendency to replay her most cringeworthy moments over and over in her head; each of those moments was a lesson or an important moment or- as her mom reminds her- sometimes, everyone else remembers it completely differently.
So, Chloe doesn’t dwell on the past.
The future, though? The future causes her a few more problems.
Just like with everything else in her life, the question of ‘what if?’ lingers in her mind.
What if she hadn’t tried to kiss Beca? What if Beca had kissed her back?
What if drunk Chloe wanted it to mean more than it usually would?
What if… Chloe sighs to herself. What if Beca had known the truth? Would it change anything?
Chloe smiles to herself as the thought enters her head.
Suddenly, she feels more like herself.
“Chloe? Chlo, are you in there? It’s Beca.”
Just in time.
Beca walks into Chloe’s room looking as nervous as Chloe thinks she should probably feel. She can barely look at her as she furrows her forehead. “Are you avoiding me? Because, like, that’s how I usually deal with things. I didn’t think it was your style.”
Chloe feels a surge of confidence. Suddenly, she knows exactly what needs to be said.
“Well, maybe you don’t know me that well.”
It’s an invitation. It’s flirtatious and daring and Chloe can tell from Beca’s expression that she’s unsure how to respond.
“Re…really?” A nervous hand brushes through wavy brown hair. “I thought I had a pretty good picture of you. You know, peppy and energetic and painfully cheerful. A little unhinged but, ah, not in a dangerous way because, you know, you have, like, morals and shit.”
Chloe raises an eyebrow at Beca’s comments. “Well, this is all true, but after last night I think you still have some things to learn about me. You know, to improve your judgement.”
It is impossible not to delight in Beca’s confusion. She opens and closes her mouth a few times before her words come out in a hushed ramble. “My judgement? Are you telling me that I was wrong to take you home last night? Because you were drunk out of your mind.” Beca’s eyes narrow slightly. “You can’t tell me I was mistaken when I said you were drunk?”
Chloe can see the open goal. Shrugging, trying to hide her smile, she looks at her roommate and tilts her head. “No, but you were mistaken when you said I was straight.”
Beca’s jaw drops momentarily before she collects herself.
“Good… good to know, dude.”
“I just thought you’d appreciate that little bit of extra knowledge. You know, for future reference.”
Beca’s blush is fierce and Chloe revels in it. “Noted.”
Beca is a woman with a very low tolerance for certain things. Glucose (obviously), jokes about her height, bigotry and tax evasion all sit pretty high on her list. However, placed firmly in the number one spot as the thing that irks her most is tone deaf, talentless people who have been told they can sing their whole lives, to the point where they feel entitled to a shot at a music career.
It isn’t the fact that these people have no talent that bothers Beca. She has access to any number of effects and programmes that have the power to make anyone sound passable. It’s the disregard, the disrespect, that she finds hurtful. To Beca, music is art. It has meaning and it should make people think. It takes more than just one creator to make a masterpiece; it takes a team of people who have invested hours into honing their craft. The fact that some people assume that, because their Mom convinced them they were the next Ariana Grande, they don’t need to listen to a producer, or a sound engineer, is the problem.
Stealing a British phrase from Luke that sums it up better than anything else, it really boils her piss.
Plus, it makes sifting through the ridiculous amount of demos on her computer to build a portfolio for the label’s music festival an incredibly painful task. Even from the whiny sound of some of the voices she hears, Beca knows she can’t work with these people.
There is just no way.
Not if the hideous noise she’s getting through her headphones is what they think good music sounds like.
“Eat, please.” Beca slides her headphones off her ears as a boxed salad- her usual lunch order- is placed on the desk in front of her, a scrawled message on the post-it note stuck to its lid.
Beca immediately turns, smiling as she sees Jesse watching from the door. Sometimes- only sometimes- she really likes that he cares.
Or, at least, she appreciates that he shows his affection through food.
Jesse’s eyes widen. “That… that was sincere. Are you alright? Sugar on a low or something?”
If Beca wasn’t so hungry, she would have used her fork to stab at him. Instead she pulls out her insulin pen and quickly injects herself before shrugging. “I’m on a ‘listening to demos all fucking morning’ low. I already shortlisted all the good ones. I only need, like, two more but it’s like panning for gold in a tray of kitty litter.”
Jesse has never known the pain of listening to hours of demos in one sitting. He only works with movie soundtracks. By the time the music gets to him, the hard work is already done.
Some days, Beca would do criminal things to swap places with Jesse.
Today is definitely one of those days.
“So, ah, is there any criteria for this newcomer portfolio? Do they have to be signed or have made a demo with us or is it an open house?”
Beca can’t help but raise an eyebrow in Jesse’s direction. “Open house I guess. Dani and Raya are still sending me new submissions from YouTube. Why? Are you thinking of a career change?”
When Jesse has a sincere look in his eye, it rarely ends well. It’s usually accompanied by a stupid, heartfelt, well-meaning suggestion that makes Beca feel sick to her stomach.
“Not for me. For you.”
Beca’s first instinct is to laugh. Her second is to stare in disbelief. “Me?”
“Yes, Rebecca. You. You with your vocal talent and your DJ skills. Why don’t you submit the track you played at Iridium? The one I know you sang on?”
“No way, man.”
Jesse’s pout never works on Beca, but he tries anyway. “Why not? Can’t you at least think about it?”
Beca indulges herself for a second and lets out as much frustration as she can by slamming the door in his stupid, still-pouting face.
Beca can feel the weight of her head on her shoulders as her day draws to a close. It feels heavy and cumbersome and the idea of going home doesn’t sit right. Not when, deep down, Beca knows Chloe is a reason for a least a little of the load.
She can’t just go back, carrying all of this in her mind, and expect to go on as normal.
She knows the moment someone asks her if she’s okay that it will all come spilling out, her thoughts about the demos, Jesse’s comments and her anxiety about singing. All topped off with the strange feeling that comes with the knowledge that Chloe is into girls and, maybe, into Beca.
She can’t take the risk.
It’s the main reason why she picks up her phone and makes an honest-to-God phone call before she leaves the office.
Luke is possibly the easiest person to find in a busy public place, especially if he happens to speak. All Beca has to do is follow the path of still-gawping women (and men) and listen out for the occasional muttering of “… and he was British!”.
Luke greets her the way he always does, with a hot takeout coffee and a fist bump.
“So, you called me which gives me a pretty good indication that all is not well in Becky land.”
Beca grimaces. She hates people calling her Becky. And Rebecca. Jesse and Luke both know it, and regularly use it to their advantage.
“Talk to me.”
It is hard to know where to begin. Beca can think of a handful of places she could begin to untangle the knots in her mind. She decides to start at the end of the story and work backwards. If it worked for her when she was in therapy after her parents got divorced when she was in middle school, it might just work for her now.
“I’m working on a portfolio at work. For a music festival. It’s a shortlist of new artists who could potentially play on the newcomer stage. So I’ve sifted my way through hours of shitty covers and even worse originals all morning and I’m still short by, like, two people.”
Beca follows Luke’s lead and sits down on the bench he has found, tucking her legs underneath her.
“And then Jesse said I should submit my own shit. Like, to the execs. Put myself forward.” Luke’s tilt of the head is far too nonchalant for Beca’s liking. Taking a deep breath, she looks at him. “But it’s a live act. They already have DJs down on a separate list. This… I got angry, man. Like, so angry.” She takes a sip of her coffee. “It’s ridiculous, I know, but I’m still a little residual pissed.”
“Alright, so what do you actually think? Are you pissed because you think Jesse’s suggestion is ridiculous and doesn’t help you get out of your predicament? Or are you pissed because what he’s saying is actually not that bad of an idea and you’re too scared to admit that and face the consequences of people finding out you can actually sing?”
Beca’s usual response is to bite back. Instead, this time, she swallows her immediate urge to argue, and processes Luke’s words.
If he is surprised, Luke’s face doesn’t show it. Instead, he pats her hand. “Maybe it is time to face the music.”
The concluding remark is far too on-the-nose for Beca’s liking. Shaking her head, she pulls her hand out of his reach. “You know, covering that advice section on your radio show has changed you, dude. I’m not sure if I like this whole new Dr Phil act you’ve got going on.”
Luke’s sigh is heavy and deep. Beca knows, in her heart, that he has been holding out hope for her music career since they first met all those years ago in LA. She knows that she has a tendency to keep herself safe, to keep her walls up. Walls that have huge signs on them that say things like “don’t fucking touch me” and “don’t you dare ask me to sing”. Luke has seen how much she’s grown as a person, as a professional, but he has never been able to break through her armour and reach her soul.
Beca isn’t sure if anybody can.
“Bec, just… just think about it. You said no so quickly the first time I approached you about working on the station and then, when you did it, you actually really enjoyed it. This might be just like that. You might, I don’t know, find that making your own tracks is much more satisfying.” He looks directly at her as he speaks. “Maybe the voice you’ve been looking for, that one breakthrough artist that makes your career as a producer, is yourself. Have you ever considered that?”
“Yes” Beca finally admits, “but I thought I was being stupid and selfish.”
The way Luke rolls his eyes is directly lifted from the Beca Mitchell playbook. His arm reaches out and, despite her squirming, he rests in on her shoulder and pulls her in close.
“Listen. You, DJ Bace, are many things. Tiny. Aggressive. Sometimes a little oblivious. But you are also smart and talented. Don’t play that down or push it away. I know producing was always the dream, but it feels like you want more than what you’ve got and this is a way to get it. Just… why not just try?”
“I mean, I don’t even know where to start, dude.”
Luke’s smile is reassuring as he turns to look Beca directly in the eye. “You start with the track you played at Iridium. Slip it into the portfolio and see what the execs think. You don’t even have to tell them it’s you unless they like it.” In a brotherly fashion, he reaches out and ruffles her mousy hair. “I guess that’s one of the benefits of having a stage name.”
Beca can’t help but wish she’d given her DJ name a little more thought.
Still, at least DJ Bace gives her a way to put her own track in the listings.
If she decided to follow Luke’s lead.
If she was certain it wouldn’t lead to her getting fired.
If she could even imagine singing that song- or any song- in front of a crowd.
Beca’s mind does not stop whirring as she travels back to the apartment. It is only when she gets to the door that she realises that, in all the drama of the talk about her career, she hasn’t given Chloe much thought.
Or, rather, what Chloe said.
The morning after she tried to kiss her.
Taking a deep breath, Beca unlocks the door and hopes that she’s the first one home.
“Hey! How was your day?”
Chloe’s chipper smile stares back at Beca from the kitchen table. Dropping her bags to the floor, Beca takes a moment to regroup before she greets her roommate. “It was okay. What about you? Are you still working?”
Chloe is surrounded by papers and pamphlets, a notebook containing her swirled handwriting directly in front of her sticker-covered laptop.
“Oh, this? No, this is… this is research. Or it would be if I knew where to even start.”
Beca pulls off her shoes and jacket and walks closer to the table, picking up one of the glossy pamphlets and reading its title. “Teaching Qualifications in New York State” she says out loud. “Nice. So is this what Aubrey suggested?”
Chloe nods her head, but it’s clear from the look on her face that she’s uncertain. “Yeah. And, well, I think it makes sense. I think… I think I’d love to teach, especially if I got to teach music in maybe an elementary school or something. But I had no idea how much extra work I’d have to do first. I mean, if I want to teach in Jersey I basically just need certification and there’s some coursework to do before I can enrol on a training program. But if I want to stay in New York, at least for the teacher preparation course at Columbia, I have to sit a full exam.”
Beca can’t think of anything worse than going back to school. She had pushed to graduate early from high school just to get a head start on getting out of Seattle. Chloe seems the type who would probably be super keen in the classroom, both as the teacher and as the student.
It crosses Beca’s mind that they would never have been friends in high school. Beca’s tolerance for happiness and sunshine was a lot lower then; Chloe’s brightness would have been overwhelming.
“Does the exam scare you?”
Chloe’s face changes when Beca speaks. Her eyes widen slightly and her lips turn downwards. She nods and Beca can feel the anxiety humming around her. “I, ah, I almost failed out of Russian Lit at the end of my senior year. The week before my final I couldn’t sleep. I was having panic attacks every day and, well, it’s a miracle I passed.”
“The fact that you even understood a Russian Lit elective tells me that you’ll ace whatever this exam is. Surely it can’t be that hard if the aim is to work out whether you can teach the ABCs? Plus, if you’re going to teach music, you only actually have to know up to G.”
It’s enough to make Chloe smile. It’s a relief. Sad Chloe scares Beca. It’s against the natural order, somehow. Even after only a few weeks, Beca feels as if she’s come to appreciate Chloe’s innate positivity. Possibly, she thinks, she could do with a little of it herself.
Chloe catches her eye and raises a curious eyebrow. “What are you thinking about?”
Beca shrugs. It is hard to explain everything going on in her head. At least, after her talk with Luke, she is no longer in danger of word-vomiting up every thought at once.
“I was just thinking that I wish sometimes I was more like you. I… I wish I could be more positive about myself.”
Chloe’s expression softens. “I feel the same about you. All I want is to be able to wake up and know what I want to do and just… do it.”
Beca’s immediate reaction is to laugh. Pulling out one of the chairs and sitting down, she shakes her head in Chloe’s direction. “I don’t think you’d be so certain about that if you’d seen me today, dude. I was totally not that person.” She finds herself twirling her bracelet around her wrist as she lowers her voice to make her admission. “I, ah, I have an opportunity- I think- to do something scary but also maybe really cool. But all I’ve done all day is find ways to talk myself out of it because I’m terrified.” It strikes Beca, then, just how similar their situations are. Slowly, she lifts her head to look across the table at Chloe. “I guess I know exactly where you’re coming from.”
“I can’t imagine you not being self-assured.” Chloe’s nose wrinkles as she finds the right words. “I’ve always seen you as someone with conviction, you know? Someone who knows what they want and just goes out and gets it.”
Beca chuckles lightly. “I… I think I am that person. I guess the problem comes when you have an opportunity, something completely and entirely new, and you don’t know for certain whether it is what you want. When you have to take a leap of faith just to find out.”
“Well shit” Chloe’s smile widens as she shakes her head, “I guess you do know how I feel.” It takes a moment before either of them speak again. Chloe’s face slowly changes, her eyes lifting and searching Beca’s as she pensively bites her lip. “If I was your fairy godmother and I could grant you one wish to get where you want to be, what would you ask for?”
“To not pass out on stage? To… to have the confidence to sing in front of a crowd?”
Beca can’t help but notice that her answer comes out sounding like a question. To avoid Chloe asking anything else, she turns the game on her. “What about you? One wish.”
“To get into a state teacher program so I don’t have to move to New Jersey.”
“Dude” Beca’s smile is genuine and soft. “That’s a waste of a perfectly good wish. You can do it. No magic needed.”
Chloe’s eyebrows raise. It’s a gentle challenge, but a challenge all the same. “So can you.” Beca watches Chloe’s face as she pauses, teeth once again worrying against her lip. When she looks back across at her, there is a determination in her eye. For a moment, Beca thinks she has seen it before. “Maybe… maybe we can help each other? You know, you can help me study and I… I can help you get over your stage fright.”
Beca swallows. Hard. She can’t decide if it is the best or the worst idea she’s ever heard.
Somehow, she thinks she’s about to find out.
As always, thank you so much for your continued support with this story.
This one might give a little more insight into Aubrey and Chloe's relationship...
Feedback is welcome!
It turns out, applying to even begin training to be a teacher in New York State is a complicated process. Having an undergraduate degree from out of state which isn’t in education only serves to make it even harder to understand. Still, after sending a handful of emails to the colleges which are based in Manhattan, Chloe at least has a better picture of what the requirements are. Now, she realises, the difficult bit is finally- after months of being entirely stuck on her plan- taking the first step towards making it a reality.
Part of Chloe’s path includes talking to Aubrey. She decides it’s best to broach the subject while they’re alone. Monday morning yoga feels like as good a time as any.
“So, ah” Chloe speaks over the instructor’s gentle tone, not really caring that she’s ruining the relaxed vibe of the video they’re following, “I did a little more research on teaching. On… on elementary teaching programs.”
Aubrey pulls herself slowly out of child’s pose to stretch her head and neck upwards, her back curving delicately. “Yeah? That’s good. So are you going to go for it?”
“I… I think so, yeah. I mean, I’ll at least apply for the program and sit the entrance exams.”
“And then you’d start in September?”
Chloe reaches out and down as she turns her body. “Yeah. I mean, if I pass the exams and get in.”
Aubrey is not particularly adept at hiding her feelings. Her face gives away her emotions and Chloe knows from the way she is being stared at expectantly that Aubrey is judging her.
“You’re going to pass. You’re going to get in.” Aubrey and Chloe both change positions and let out a long exhale. “I’ll even help you study if you like.”
Chloe can’t help but think about Beca, about the agreement they had made between them. “Thanks. I’ll… I’ll see how things go.” Her mind is firmly on Beca, on her side of the bargain, when Chloe realises that Aubrey may just be a good person to speak to. “Actually, though”, it’s enough to pique Aubrey’s interest, “I did want to ask you something. About nerves. About… about stage fright. How you got yourself back on stage after Lincoln Center.”
They don’t often talk about what happened at Lincoln Center. In fact, they never talk about it. They don’t need to; every so often someone will re-send the video around on Facebook. The Barden University Treblemakers, their rival group back in college, even have a series of gifs which depict the moments before, during and after Aubrey’s stress-induced, on-stage projectile vomiting episode from their junior year.
“I had a long, harsh talk with myself in the mirror. I knew I needed to redeem myself and so I trained myself to ignore the feeling and get through it. Conceal, don’t feel, just like Princess Elsa.” Aubrey’s arms reach above her head. “Plus, I just had to keep reminding myself that I’d been to rock bottom. Anything else could happen on stage but it would never be as bad as that. Well, for me anyway.”
Chloe thinks she understands. She thinks maybe she can remove some of the Aubrey-ness from her approach and find something that might help Beca. Even if it helps her take one step on stage, it will be worth it.
“Why do you ask?” Aubrey’s eyes are piercingly sharp.
Chloe takes a shaky breath, stumbling for an excuse. “I… I ah…. I just wondered if maybe it would help me.” She has never been the best liar in the world. “I mean, I didn’t know if there was something you did that could work for all types of nerves.” Aubrey’s eyes seem to soften a little and Chloe feels herself begin to relax. “I mean, I swore after my Russian lit final that I’d never sit another exam again. But here I am.”
The two girls lay on the floor, taking deep breaths and resting in silence.
Once the instructional video ends, it is Aubrey who speaks first.
“I know I don’t say it much, but I really do believe in you Chloe. I would never have given you those brochures if I didn’t know in my heart that you could do it.”
Chloe reaches out and takes her best friend’s hand in her own. “Thank you. I love you.”
“I love you too.” Aubrey sighs heavily. “I wish we could stay here all day but I’ve got a meeting at 12.”
J. Posen Holdings’ corporate head office occupies three floors in a high-rise building in Midtown. The commute from South Harlem is just enough time for Chloe to prepare herself for another day of sitting at a desk, a nameless body in a cubicle. At least now, she realises, there is a shaft of light at the end of the tunnel. She finally can see a way out.
“Is that really what my daughter deems appropriate for a meeting with the board of directors?”
Jonathan Posen is waiting for them- for Aubrey- outside the elevator when they arrive. Chloe’s heart sinks as she sees Aubrey’s entire body stiffen, anxious hands pulling at the brand new pink floral-print dress she had picked out, straightening out the hem which hovers above her knees. Her face blushes the same shade as the dress as she meets her father’s judging gaze.
It pains her to see her best friend, usually so confident and forthright, shrink like this, pulling her wool coat around her and folding in on herself.
“There’s no time now. People are waiting.”
As Aubrey follows her father towards the boardroom, Chloe realises she should have saved her wish.
Aubrey needs it more than her.
Chloe’s phone is never far from her hand while she’s working. There is only so long she can drown out the irritating telephone voice of her HR manager before she cracks and needs a break.
Social media is where she loses most of her time. Each site Chloe has a profile on has a different purpose. Facebook is mainly for keeping in contact with her aunts in Oregon and her high school acquaintances. It’s great for losing a couple hours to finding out exactly what Brad from her 11th grade biology class is doing with his life (and, you know, on really slow days Chloe might also have time to answer the question of what his girlfriend’s sister’s ex-boyfriend does for work).
Snapchat is where Chloe feels the most free. She sends an abundance of selfies every day. It’s silly and there are zero expectations. It’s where she and the Bellas girls keep in contact the most; narrating their days through a slow conveyer belt of time-limited videos and ridiculous filters.
Chloe prides herself on her instagram aesthetic. It’s bright and fun and representative of her. She doesn’t post much but, when she does, every single picture is curated to make sure it looks good on the grid. Instagram is where Chloe catches up on celebrity gossip, where she finds makeup tips and ideas on what to wear when she’s out in the city. It’s also where she finds restaurants and cafés, places to go with the girls. Places to go on dates.
Places she can’t help but imagine taking Beca.
It takes a moment for Chloe to realise exactly why she’s thinking suddenly about her roommate. Scrolling back up on her explore page, she smiles when she sees it again.
A very familiar face.
A familiar face at a set of very familiar decks.
Chloe isn’t particularly technically-minded. She doesn’t understand how the algorithms or whatever work. She’s fairly convinced that her phone is at least listening to her some of the time, but none of that matters. Not when Beca, it turns out, has an open instagram profile and way more posts than Chloe would have anticipated.
Not when every single one of those pictures has a snarky caption that means Chloe has to stifle her giggle behind her hand.
Not when her finger hits the ‘follow’ button and, mere seconds later, she gets a notification that @djbecabace has followed her back.
“I’m always smiling.”
“Okay.” Aubrey’s searching eyes give away how she questions Chloe’s excuse. “Anyway, how was your day?”
The walk back to the subway station is slightly more pleasant on a Monday. The later finish means they usually miss the rush and don’t have to fight quite as hard to be able to breathe in any of that sweet, sweet recycled air without it being filtered through someone else’s clothing.
“I mean, it was the same as every other day. Oh, but I noticed that the publicity director from the Cibo group is resigning. Well, by ‘notice’ I mean that Janette basically shouted it across the office.”
Aubrey nods her head. “Yeah. That was the main point of the meeting this morning. Obviously we need to recruit, but also there are talks about expanding Cibo and maybe creating a partnership with one of the hotel chains on our books…” After a deep breath, Aubrey’s delicate eyes meet Chloe’s. “Sorry. I, ah, I’m getting better at leaving work at the door. It’s just, you know, full on.”
Chloe can completely understand. She hears the kind of discussions Aubrey has over the phone with her uncle and her dad. She can only imagine how difficult it is to be a part of the team overseeing such a huge array of investments.
“It’s fine. Anyway, do you know where she is going?”
“Marianna? Apparently she’s setting up an independent PR firm with someone who used to work in publicity at GQ.”
Chloe can hear the jealousy seeping into Aubrey’s tone. Publicity, PR, was something Aubrey had focused on in her communications major. She had always enjoyed promoting the Bellas and had even done an internship in PR back in Georgia. It was her calling, Chloe was certain.
If only she could find a way out.
The apartment feels strangely full when Chloe and Aubrey walk through the door. Both Amy and Beca are in the living room and there is a soft, soulful melody playing through the Alexa in the corner of the room.
“Hey. Dinner will be ready in, like, five minutes. I hope you’re both hungry!”
It isn’t that Beca isn’t usually in a good mood, but she seems- to Chloe, at least- surprisingly chipper for having worked a full day.
Maybe, Chloe decides, it’s just the contrast with Aubrey that makes her seem so cheerful.
“Amazing. What are we having?”
Amy seems to appear by Chloe’s side, leading her to one of the four chairs placed around the rickety old dining table they picked up from a flea market. In a less-than-convincing French accent, with a dish towel hanging over her forearm, she explains.
“Well, Rebecca ere az prepared a feast of…ah…” Her accent breaks as she turns back to Beca. “What are you making?”
Chloe catches Beca’s eye and smiles. She’s already out of her work clothes, dressed in sweatpants and an old t-shirt, with her mousy hair pulled back into a ponytail. She lifts the lid on the pot and a delicious scent fills the air as she begins to serve up the meal onto four plates.
“I mean, the French accent is confusing because this is definitely not French food.” Beca appears shy, almost, as she passes a plate to Aubrey. “I made black bean chilli and spicy rice. Oh, and guacamole. Obviously. It’s basically the best meal I can make and, well, I knew you guys would be back late and… anyway, enjoy.”
Aubrey takes the plate and sits at the table. “Thank you, Beca.”
“Yeah, thanks Bec.” Chloe can’t help but notice the way Beca smiles as she hands her a bowl. She lets her gaze linger, just for a moment, before setting her meal down in front of her.
Amy is the first to rise from the table once everyone has eaten. “Well,” she speaks dramatically, as always, while stretching her arms, “as much as I would love to stay and help clean up, I’ve got places to be. Catch you bitches later.”
Before anyone can question what is happening, Amy has shrugged on a jacket, picked up her bag and is out the door. As it slams, Chloe notices Beca’s eyebrow furrow. “Is it just me or…” she begins.
Aubrey cuts her off. “It’s not just you. She’s… aloof might be too nice a word.” She piles up the plates as she speaks. “Chloe and I have a theory that she either has a job she’s too proud to admit to having or a boyfriend we wouldn’t approve of. Either way, we would be worried but I think we’ve been desensitised to Amy’s… Amy-isms after this long. Girl can look after herself.”
Chloe catches Aubreys eye and nods her head. “Yeah. I mean, she surely can’t be making that much out busking?”
“She pays the rent on time” Aubrey says with a shrug. “Until she gives me more cause for concern than her normal Amy-type shenanigans, I’ve decided not to pry. As long as she’s not letting strangers into the house or, you know, doing anything illegal, she’s not my problem.” The dishes are stacked by the sink as Aubrey begins to rise them. “Well, unless J. Posen Holdings decides to buy shares in Fat Amy Winehouse.”
There is something about the idea of Amy appearing on Jonathan Posen’s investment portfolio, of Fat Amy Winehouse sitting alongside a list of subsidiaries made up of hotels and fine dining restaurants, that Chloe can’t help but wish would come true, if only because investing in Amy would be a surefire way to get General Posen’s head out of his ass.
Beca tilts her head. “I mean, it would be a sound investment. Literally.”
Aubrey’s laughter, loud and pealing, is not a sound Chloe hears very often. She’s usually reserved and polite, giving a smile or a quiet giggle. This is different. It really isn’t that funny, but Beca’s joke has Aubrey bent double, tears pooling in her eyes as she tries to catch her breath.
“That… that was quick” she finally manages to say.
“Thanks”. Beca smiles. “It’s literally all I’ve got, though.”
It’s enough. Chloe thinks as she catches Aubrey’s genuine smile. It’s enough.
There is something missing on the track playing through Beca’s headphones. Something lacking. It was never intended to be for anything; just a silly project she had been working on in the background, but she thinks it could be something good. If only she could work out why it feels incomplete. If only she could work out why, when she looks past the fact that it’s her own voice she’s sampling, when the beats are stripped back, there is still something more she needs to find.
With the almost-complete version playing over and over in her ears, Beca picks up her phone. At first, it’s to google who sang the original ‘Cry Me a River’ to work out whether a sample could work underneath her lines. Very quickly, however, she gets distracted by a notification she hasn’t removed yet.
@chlo_beale is now following you.
Beca knew, in her mind, that- at some point- her new roommates would find her on instagram. What she hadn’t expected was that Chloe’s feed would be quite so beautiful. Well, she had expected it from Chloe as a person because, well, she’s gorgeous, but the insight she gets into her mind is hypnotic.
If anyone happens to ask why she’s spent the majority of her downtime dipping in and out of her roommate’s instagram, however, she might have to come up with a slightly less stalker-ish excuse for why she can’t look away.
Still, Beca can’t help her smile when she notices that Chloe has posted a picture of her dinner on her story. The dinner that Beca had cooked. She is about to message Chloe, about to call her out on not being tagged and properly recognised for her culinary skills, when a knock at the door leads her to smack her phone face-down on her desk.
Beca should have expected that it would be Chloe. It’s always Chloe.
“Hey. You good?”
Chloe’s smile is even more beautiful in person.
Beca can’t stop her mind from running away from her.
She remembers the way Luke used to tease her about lesbianism making her stupid.
He kind of has a point. Most of the time she’s an intelligent person, but a pretty girl can reduce her to a babbling, gawping mess. Which is probably what Chloe is looking at right now.
Beca closes her mouth and tries her best to smile like she’s not crazy.
At least, she thinks, she didn’t say it out loud this time.
At least Chloe is still smiling at her.
“I’m good. I just wanted to say thanks for dinner. And, actually, I wanted to thank you for something else, too.” Chloe shuts the door as if what she’s about to say is a secret. Beca can’t help the surge of anticipation that rushes through her body.
“Yeah. I… I guess I just… I’ve been thinking about something. About how you made Aubrey laugh earlier. I know it doesn’t seem like much but I’ve been thinking about it ever since dinner and I just needed to thank you. Or, like…” Beca has noticed before that Chloe’s hands twitch by her sides when she can’t find the right words to say. “I wasn’t joking when I said you make things feel different.” She smiles, gently, and lets out a sigh. “I guess it got me thinking. Is… is there anything you can’t do?”
Chloe rolls her eyes. “Come on.”
“Sing in public?”
Chloe’s expression changes, shifting from admiration to determination. “Well, I guess there is that.” There seems to be an unspoken agreement that Chloe is free to wander around Beca’s room. It strikes Beca that she doesn’t care about the redhead touching her stuff. She trusts her.
It’s a strange feeling, one she doesn’t have often.
It’s kind of nice.
“We could change that, you know. I mean, that was your wish.”
Beca groans. It’s a reflex action as much as anything, but clearly it catches Chloe’s attention. She takes a deep breath and looks across to where her roommate has made herself comfortable on her bed.
“I should have wished for a working pancreas. Or, actually, for a miracle so I can get this track finished.”
Chloe is on her feet before Beca can say anything else. She steps closer to the desk, so close that Beca is enveloped in the gentle floral scent that she is certain comes from Chloe’s shampoo. “Headphones?”
Beca hands them over without second thought.
As Chloe brushes her soft, auburn hair behind her ears and slips the headphones on, Beca reaches out and presses ‘play’ on the track that has been plaguing each and every one of her dreams for over a week.
If Beca didn’t know Chloe could dance already, she would have been able to tell from watching the way she listens to music. It’s as if the beat inhabits her body and she can’t help but move to it. Her hips wiggle, her shoulders move, her fingers tap.
It’s a huge compliment given that the song is intended to be danced to.
Although, Beca thinks Chloe would probably dance to anything. After all, she has seen visual evidence of a full, choreographed routine to ‘I Saw the Sign’.
“What does it need?” Beca asks the question as soon as Chloe takes off the headphones. “It needs something, but I can’t figure it out.”
“You would say that. Acapella nerd that you are.”
Chloe smiles but shoves Beca’s shoulder lightly. “No. I don’t mean a straightforward close harmony. I mean, like… ” Beca can feel the intensity of Chloe’s stare. It makes her feel warm. She can’t look away. “Play it again. No headphones, though. Play it through the speaker. I’ll show you what I mean.”
There is a moment of doubt in Beca’s mind as her hand hovers over her headphone jack. “Where’s Aubrey?”
“Taking a bath. You’re good. She won’t hear.”
The headphones are pulled free and Beca once again presses play on her track. As it rings out into the room, she watches Chloe intensely. She studies the way she counts on her fingers, the way she hums under her breath to find the right pitch, the right interval, to sing along with.
Their eyes are locked. Blue on blue. Beca can feel Chloe’s voice as much as hear it. She can feel it sparking something within her. Something new and exciting. She can feel it pushing, daring her closer and closer to the edge. She wants to sing, she wants to open her mouth and echo her own melody live in the room, to mix with Chloe’s sound.
Instead, she loses herself in how effortlessly Chloe weaves her voice around Beca’s. It isn’t perfect, but it’s a start. It’s an idea. For now, that’s more than enough.
The track ends and Beca finds herself stood still opposite her roommate, unsure of what to do. Part of her never wants to lose eye contact with Chloe. Part of her wants to throw her headphones on and work out how to replicate whatever the hell just happened. She wants to switch on the producer part of her brain and pick apart why it felt so good. So right.
She has a feeling she knows exactly why. It has very little to do with the song and everything to do with the singer. The singer who seems to have taken the lead, stepping even closer into Beca’s personal space.
“You have a beautiful voice.” Chloe’s features are almost too close for Beca to make them out individually. She focuses on her lips, on the way they move as she speaks.
“So do you.”
“We sound good together, Beca.”
Her mouth is dry. Beca’s tongue brushes against her lips before she speaks. “Yeah?”
Chloe’s teeth scrape against her bottom lip as she nods. “Do you get what I mean now? About harmony? About how good it feels?”
Feels. Not sounds.
Beca can only nod her head.
Chloe takes another step forward. Her eyes seem to narrow slightly, her lips turning up at the corners as she examines Beca’s expression inch by inch.
“Do you need me to do it again? In case you don’t remember?”
“I…” Beca can’t believe how quickly this girl has got her stumbling over her words, “I’m not about to forget that, dude.” Probably not ever, she reasons.
Beca’s eyes focus on Chloe’s shoulders as she takes a breath. She watches as they rise and then fall with her slow exhale.
Beca has no idea how she can be this relaxed.
Not when the air between them is warm and electric and palpably tense.
“I… I…” Words have never really been Beca’s forte. It’s the main reason why she doesn’t write her own songs. At least, not with any meaningful lyrics. “I guess I should work on recording it.”
“Yeah. I guess you should.” There’s a daring glint in Chloe’s eye. “I mean, if that’s what you want to do right now.”
The apartment door slams open. Beca jumps back with such force that the air feels cold around her.
“Whaddup bitches! I’m back!”
When Beca meets Chloe’s eyes again, it’s only for a fleeting moment. It’s too intense, too deep, outside of the bubble they had made. Instead, she looks past her as she speaks. “I guess I should probably…”
Chloe is already halfway to the door. “Sure. I’ll go say hi to Amy.” She pauses at the door and smiles. It’s friendly, but there is an air of something else.
Disappointment, Beca thinks. Or hopes. Just a little.
Music has always been like a magnet for Beca. Even as a kid, she would always be found close to the CD player or the radio. At parties, she would gravitate towards the room that had music playing.
Music, for Beca, is a language. It’s a way of feeling and expressing and making the world make sense.
At first, Beca couldn’t understand why she felt so drawn to Chloe; why she felt herself being pulled closer to her than the others. At first, she had put it down to aesthetics. After all, Chloe Beale is objectively one of the most beautiful people Beca has ever seen. But Beca has had crushes before- intense, all-encompassing crushes- but none of them have her thinking and feeling like this.
None of them have been able to pull Beca away from the music.
None of them have been attractive enough to leave her sat in silence with her headphones around her neck.
It is only when she hears Chloe’s laugh, bright and colourful, echoing down the corridor that something clicks.
Chloe Beale is simply a melody all of her own.
A melody that Beca needs to hear more of.
A melody around which she is desperate to weave her own harmony.
After all, she knows now how good they sound together. How good they feel together.
It is late by the time Beca is happy with her work. She has used her sampler a fair few times in her career, but never before has she attempted something like this. Never before has she stripped everything else back and built herself a backdrop of sounds using only her voice.
She’s proud of it.
She has to show Chloe.
It doesn’t surprise Beca that her first thought is her roommate. After all, she helped her. She deserves to listen to it. What surprises Beca is the force of the pull, the strength of the force that lifts her from her seat and has her walking towards Chloe’s bedroom before she can fully comprehend what is going on.
Chloe’s room is dark and Beca thinks she might have missed her opportunity.
Until she hears it.
Chloe’s beautiful, melodic laugh coming from the living room.
Quickly, Beca pushes open Chloe’s door and slips inside. Pulling out her phone, she simply writes ‘There is a surprise waiting for you in your room’.
With Chloe’s bedside lamp on, the room is bathed in warm light. Beca sits on the bed, knowing Chloe won’t mind, and waits.
“Girls, I’m going to head to bed. See you in the morning.”
Beca’s pulse begins to thunder as she hears the patter of Chloe’s bare feet heading down the corridor. Slowly, she takes in a breath and steels herself.
The door opens, letting in a shaft of bright light which creates a sort of golden halo around Chloe’s head. She takes in the sight before her, of Beca sat anxiously, her laptop beside her, on her floral bedsheets.
“You finished it, didn’t you?” Beca smiles as she nods, biting her lip lightly.
“I think so. I mean, it might not be…” She proffers the laptop to Chloe. “Anyway. Will you tell me what you think?”
The volume is low, but it’s enough for both of them to be able to hear the song. Chloe places Beca’s laptop carefully on her nightstand and sits down next to Beca as she listens, nodding her head to the beat and smiling each time a new vocal element weaves its way into the tune.
As soon as the track ends, Beca reaches out to stop it. To prevent it from repeating. A firm hand clutching her forearm is enough for her to turn her head, to find herself looking deep into soft, blue eyes.
“Leave it. Let it play.”
Beca’s eyes cast down for a moment as the tune she has been listening to for the last four hours once again rings out through her laptop speakers.
“Look at me.”
Beca does as she is told. Pleading eyes find hers.
“Beca, you’re incredible. You just… the music you made? It’s amazing. You’re… you’re amazing.”
The sincerity is almost too much. Beca feels the urge to turn away but she can’t. Not now.
Chloe’s chuckle escapes from her lips, light and airy, as she shakes her head. Beca can’t help but raise an eyebrow as she waits for an explanation.
“It’s no wonder I can’t stop thinking about you.”
“You… you… really?” Beca is so glad that she can communicate through music since it seems that the English language is failing her quite spectacularly. “But you’re… you’re Chloe.” As is her filter, apparently.
“Last time I checked.” It is impossible not to feel a pang of jealousy for how easily Chloe seems to manage this kind of interaction. “But you’re Beca and I…” They are inches away from one another now, Chloe’s hand still on Beca’s forearm. Chloe lets out a breath as she glances down to Beca’s lips. “I’m really fighting the urge to kiss you right now.”
“Why?” Beca blinks. “I mean, why are you fighting it?” She’s whispering since it’s late, but the intensity of her voice only serves to heat up the air between them even further.
“Because last time you pushed me away.”
“You were drunk. I didn’t want to take advantage of you.” The truth spills from Beca’s lips before she has a chance to put any of her words in the right order. “Plus, we’re roommates. I’ve only just moved in and I don’t want to make things awkward or ruin things. Just because I have this attraction to you, there’s no… there’s no…”
Beca feels her mind go silent. Chloe’s smirk is a challenge.
“So you’re attracted to me?”
Beca can’t help but roll her eyes. “Oh, as if you didn’t know. I’m sure you can see it from space.”
“Not really. You’re kind of hard to read.”
Beca lets out a quiet laugh. “Yeah, well in that case it’s a good thing that I seem to just spill whatever’s in my head out loud isn’t it? Saves you having to read anything at all. I mean, I…”
Chloe moves her hand from Beca’s forearm to her shoulder, pulling herself forwards and she looks into her eyes.
Beca can barely hear Chloe’s voice over the sound of her racing heart.
Suddenly, every single one of Beca’s senses is filled with Chloe Beale as she closes the gap between them and presses a determined kiss to her lips.
Harmony, true harmony, is electrifying.
Chloe has always found that, when the pitch and the tone fit perfectly together, the sound of intertwining voices leaves her with goosebumps; with an excitement running through her body.
Music has always been the way to Chloe’s soul, to her heart, but there is something about the sound of Beca’s music, Beca’s singing, that sparks a flame. Hearing Beca’s voice echoing her sounds, weaving around her melody to take it to the next level leaves Chloe breathless. Breathless and with no choice left but to act on the aching desire settling low in her gut.
Chloe wishes every decision in her life was as easy as it feels to step forward and capture Beca’s soft lips with her own.
It feels right.
It feels good.
It feels, she realises, like music.
“You have no idea how long I’ve been wanting to do that”. Chloe’s confession falls quietly from her lips as she rests her forehead against Beca’s, looking into her dark eyes.
Beca’s smile is even more enticing up close. She tilts her head to the side as her gaze roams over Chloe’s features. Her lips are almost brushing against hers, almost touching, as she whispers. “I think I do. I think, maybe, we’ve both been wanting to do that for a while now.”
It doesn’t take much to close the gap once more, to press lips against lips and let their minds go blank. Chloe’s hand reaches up to stroke through Beca’s hair as Beca’s fingers rest against her jaw.
Harmony, Chloe thinks to herself.
It feels so easy for Chloe to pull Beca closer, to lean into her until their chests are pressing together. It feels easy to walk her fingers down her arm until she finds Beca’s hand. It feels easy to take a swift breath and brush her tongue against the seam of Beca’s lips.
All of it feels easy.
“I… I take it that you liked the track, then?” Even as they pull apart, as Chloe opens her eyes to find deep blue staring back at her, it strikes her that nothing about any of what has happened- what is happening- feels uncomfortable.
She can’t help but appreciate that, already, their kiss isn’t some kind of elephant in the room. Part of Chloe had expected Beca to shy away from talking, to retreat or call it a mistake. She hadn’t expected Beca to be this confident.
Honestly, it’s kind of a turn on.
One that Chloe certainly doesn’t need to be thinking about right now.
Still, she can’t help herself as a thought enters her head.
“I mean, clearly I’m just a huge fan of everything that you do with your mouth.”
Beca simply stares for a moment before shoving at Chloe’s shoulder. It feels good to be able to laugh, to know that there is a balance between their friendship and the burgeoning something that sits between them.
“Dude. I… I literally have no comeback for that.”
Chloe can’t help the way she smiles at Beca. The urge to tease her reminds her of being back in middle school, of the way the boys would pick on the girls they liked. For the first time, Chloe can kind of understand it. It isn’t quite the same; she isn’t doing it to annoy Beca or to get her attention (she already has that), but she likes that she can make her squirm.
In all honesty, Chloe likes that she can see how Beca feels on her face.
For someone who is usually so guarded, it makes her a little proud that she has such an effect on her.
Maybe that’s why she tilts her head and locks eyes with her as she scrapes her teeth over her lip.
“Then don’t say anything.”
This time, it is Beca who pushes herself forwards to close the space between them.
Chloe isn’t sure she sleeps at all.
Beca had gone to her own room once they had both stopped fighting the urge to yawn. There had been a final, gentle kiss goodnight and the door had closed, leaving Chloe alone in her room with the sensation of Beca’s lips still lingering on hers.
The night seems to drag. Each time she closes her eyes, she remembers what happened. She remembers and smiles and thinks and feels and- all of a sudden- she’s wide awake all over again. Adrenaline definitely has a lot to do with it. So, she realises, does anxiety.
It’s adrenaline that has her pulling herself out of bed before the sun is fully up. It’s adrenaline that has her pulling on her running shorts and sneakers and pressing her AirPods into her ears. It’s adrenaline that has her pounding the pavements as she heads towards Central Park, setting a pace far quicker than her usual.
It’s anxiety, however, that keeps her legs moving. It’s anxiety that means that, as she pauses to re-tie her shoelace, she realises that Beca is going to wake up and wonder where she is. It’s anxiety that has her pushing her speed as she heads back to the apartment just in case Beca is looking for her.
There is a sense of disappointment that hits her when she realises that the apartment is quiet when she gets back. She gathers her clothes for work and wanders to the shower, grinning to herself as she pulls back the curtain.
Chloe can’t help her smile when she realises which song she’s gently singing as she rinses the conditioner from her hair.
Chloe’s smile doesn’t disappear. It’s as if it’s stuck, despite the ache in her cheeks and her jaw. It’s there as she gets dressed and dries her hair. It’s there as she pours herself a coffee. It’s there as she spoons a portion of bircher muesli into a bowl and it’s there as she scribbles Beca’s name on a post-it and sticks it to the lid of the box which contains the rest.
Aubrey seems to notice her expression as soon as she walks into the kitchen, already dressed and ready for a day at the office.
“You’re… chipper this morning.”
“Post-run endorphins I think. I couldn’t sleep so I went out for an early run.”
Aubrey’s eyebrows knit, eyeing her suspiciously. “I thought you went to bed early?”
“Bed. Not sleep”. It’s barely an excuse. It’s just semantics, but it gets Aubrey off her back for a moment while she puts her bowl in the dishwasher. “Anyway,” Chloe picks up the block of post-its and writes a second note, leaving it on the fridge door, “shall we get Tuesday out of the way?”
“If we have to.”
As soon as they get out of the subway, Chloe pulls her phone from her bag. When she sees that she hasn’t had a text from Beca, she sends her a message to wish her a good day and to remind her to eat breakfast. It isn’t dissimilar to the messages she sends every other morning, except that- this time- there is the added weight of exactly what happened the night before.
“Who are you messaging?”
“Beca.” It’s easy to tell the truth. “Just to say have a good day. Why?”
“No reason. You… you seem to be getting on well.”
There’s nothing accusatory about Aubrey’s tone but Chloe recalls that it has only been a few weeks since the blonde had essentially declared Beca as some kind of demonic hellbeast sent to ruin their lives. (Or, at least in Chloe’s head, that’s what she had been implying). It is hard not to rush to her defence.
“Yeah. I mean, her music is great. She’s really talented. And, well, she has an amazing ear.”
The sound Aubrey makes is nothing short of dismissive. “Yeah, she’s a good DJ.” It’s meaningless. Chloe can’t help but be slightly offended by the neutrality Aubrey seems to be showing. Following her line of sight, however, everything begins to make sense.
“Hey!” Aubrey’s eyes seem panicked as she turns to face Chloe. “Do you mind if I go and catch up with her? I’ll see you at lunch.”
Before Chloe has a chance to say ‘yes’, Aubrey is walking purposely towards the coffee shop where Marianna Knight, the publicity director of the Cibo restaurant group, is standing with two cups in her hand. She hands one to Aubrey who takes it with a gentle smile.
Chloe swallows down the strange feeling that washes over her body as she watches the two talk and heads into the office.
Chloe has never kept a secret from Aubrey. Among the Bellas group, she is known as the overly honest one; the person who has very few boundaries and will share almost anything. Aubrey is the person who knows the most. Chloe has never hidden the truth from her but she has hidden the truth for her on more than one occasion.
Maybe that’s why it hurts so much to hold the suspicion that Aubrey is keeping something from her.
Maybe that’s why Chloe reaches the decision that she doesn’t want Aubrey to know anything about what is going on with her and Beca.
At least, she reasons, not until she knows for herself.
The question, the ‘what are we doing?’, circles around in Chloe’s mind as she walk down the street and through the communal door into the building. It plagues her as she makes her way up the stairs and into the apartment.
It’s strong enough, compelling enough, for Chloe to forego her usual Wednesday afternoon run.
It’s powerful enough to have her walking straight down to Beca’s bedroom.
It’s forceful enough for her to push open her bedroom door without knocking.
Unfortunately for Chloe, that’s where it ends. With her gawping, wordless and aimless, as Beca basks smugly in the silence.
“So she does speak.”
Chloe hates how easy it is to tell how much Beca is enjoying this. She hates that there’s a feeling building within her that would suggest that she likes it, too- this new, teasing element to their relationship.
“She does.” It’s all Chloe has. They are quickly back to silence, back to staring at one another, back to space that is filled with nothing but electricity and anticipation. “Sorry. I… I wanted to come down here but I literally have no idea what I was going to say to you.”
If Chloe was surprised by Beca’s smugness, by the way it makes her feel, the sensation that runs through her body when the brunette pulls herself from her seat and takes the four steps towards her is downright shocking. Chloe can feel her hand shaking as Beca loops her arms around her neck, fingers tracing over her scalp.
“Pretty sure you didn’t come here to say anything.”
The part of Chloe that wants to argue that yes, actually, she did come down here to say something, she just got stuck because goddamn Beca is gorgeous, is quickly shut down when the realisation hits her. The realisation that Beca is close enough to kiss her. The realisation that Beca wants to kiss her. The realisation- finally- that a kiss at least partly answers the very question she had come down to pose.
Closing her eyes, Chloe lets Beca take the lead, sighing as she captures her lips and pushes her back until she’s flush against the white wall she had painted just a handful of weeks ago.
“Did you actually come down here to talk to me or just to make out with me?”
Beca pulls away, a curious glint in her eye, and waits for Chloe’s answer.
“I’m not sure. I… I just wanted to see you.”
“I wanted to see you too.” There is something about the way Beca softens as she speaks that makes Chloe’s heart soar. For someone who can appear so harsh and hard to the outside world, Chloe can’t help but think that, on the inside, Beca might just be the sweetest person she’s met.
“You know”, the thought falls out of her mouth before her brain has a chance to compute what is happening, “you’re like a Klondike bar.” Chloe doesn’t let Beca have a chance to respond before she expands on her ridiculous analogy. “You’ve got this exterior that is hard and maybe a little bit frosty, but once you get through it you’re just… soft and sweet. And kind of delicious.”
“Delicious? Really?” Beca smiles as she speaks. “I don’t know whether to be more worried about the fact that you straight up compared me to the only ice cream that sounds like a slur, or that you think Klondike bars are in any way delicious? Dude, they are disgusting.”
Chloe’s hand claps over her chest as she gasps. “What?!”
Beca’s eyebrow raises. “You can’t be serious. Come on.”
Taking stock of the situation, Chloe realises that Beca’s arms are no longer around her neck. Instead, one is holding her hand while the other strokes over her waist. Her own fingers are splayed against the small of Beca’s back, simply holding her in place.
“Actually, to be honest, I don’t have strong views either way. It was just the first thing that came into my head with a hard outside and a soft middle.”
Beca’s pout is adorable, Chloe thinks. She looks up and shrugs. “I don’t know dude. I mean, I’m still kind of offended. You could have gone for any candy bar, any ice cream bar, but you went for the worst one. And, well, if you’re going with that kind of metaphor, I feel like a Reese’s cup is much more appropriate because even when I’m soft I’m still a little salty.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Have you got some kind of a reputation to keep up?”
It is impossible to look away from Beca’s eyes as she smiles. “Obviously. I’m kind of a badass in case you hadn’t noticed.”
“Oh, believe me” Chloe lets herself scan up and down Beca’s petite body, “I’ve noticed.”
“Of course you have.”
Sometimes, when a thought enters Chloe’s head, it comes with such forceful enthusiasm that she can’t help but react. Unfortunately for anyone around her, her reaction tends to be far bigger and far more dramatic than the thought would suggest. It has happened too many times to count and Chloe can recall at least three occasions in which her sudden, yelping, wide-eyed reaction has caused her friends to swerve or brake in the car.
She will never forget the time her dad threw his entire coffee in the air when she remembered the name of the song that had been stuck in her head.
This time, Chloe yelps like some kind of small injured animal and Beca leaps backwards, clutching at her chest.
“In Australia, they have an ice cream called a Golden GayTime. I should have gone with that.”
“Seriously?” Beca is bent double, breathing heavily as she lifts her head to look at Chloe. “Come on, man. That wasn’t fair. And, by the way, totally not worth it.”
With a surge of confidence, Chloe steps forward and pulls Beca back to a standing position. “Come on. Let’s go and get some food. All of this ice cream chat is making me hungry.”
They are just about at the door, almost ready to let go of one another’s hand, when Chloe feels herself being pulled into Beca’s body. She is an inch away from her face, can feel Beca’s nose pressing against her cheek, when she hears her voice.
“One more kiss?”
“Anything for you, Klondike.”
Chloe’s fingers brush against Beca’s strong jaw. Whatever she was about to say in response is lost as their lips crash together.
From the moment she laid eyes on her, Chloe Beale had taken up residence in Beca’s head. At first, it had been out of curiosity, then out of sheer attraction, that the redhead was often front-and-center in her mind. Now, though? Now it might be a little more complicated.
Beca hates that, after striving to live differently and alternatively and be her own person, her entire life is now one massive cliché. It’s one massive, complicated, lesbian cliché and it’s making her question everything.
Beca has never been great with emotions. Even as a small child, she felt her feelings privately, only sharing them when she completely lost control. It had always taken a concerted effort to hold it in, but Beca had mastered the poker face long before she was legally allowed to gamble. The difficulty, she finds, is that keeping the overwhelming cocktail of emotions inside is uncomfortable.
Sometimes, they explode out.
Most of the time, someone gets hurt.
When feelings are involved, when the time comes for Beca to lower her defences and let people in, she runs. She runs instead of opening up because it’s safer; safer for her and safer for everyone else involved.
The problem this time, she realises, is that running is much more difficult when you live in the same house. It’s much more difficult when you actually really care about the other person; when you find yourself wanting them close. Wanting to let them in. Wanting to be vulnerable.
Beca knows she is teetering on a familiar precipice.
She knows how easy it would be to fall.
Something is stopping her.
It isn’t a huge question, not in the grand scheme of things, but it’s enough to anchor her in place for now. It’s a question of what they are doing and what it means; a question of whether they’re moving too fast and being irresponsible in doing this with each other when they live together. It’s a question of secrets and lies and honesty and openness and vulnerability and a question of exactly how much they could hurt one another if they wanted to.
It’s the answer to that question that Beca is the most scared to find out. Her walls are, in places, dangerously close to crumbling. Just the right amount of pressure would be enough.
Chloe Beale might just be the most terrifying person she has ever met. She’s a swinging wrecking ball of a person; an all-in, all-out sphere of vibrant gumption.
She has the power to change almost everything. To shake the foundations of Beca’s world.
If the last few weeks are anything to go by, she has already taken a few swings.
It is strange, Beca realises, that she has never really considered running away. Not from Chloe.
That might be the scariest part of all.
“Hey, how was work?”
Beca still can’t quite get her head around the idea that Aubrey is being friendly to her. It isn’t that she’s an awful person, but that she has strong views on things and seems to stick to them.
Clearly, whatever Chloe had said to her has worked.
“It was fine. I finished an album track and had a little time to work on the portfolio for the music festival. How about you?”
Aubrey’s long sigh tells Beca everything she needs to know. Reaching forwards, she takes a long sip of her tea before answering. “I mean, I guess it could have been worse. Nobody died.”
Chloe’s energy seems to arrive in the room before she does. Beca can feel it, and pulls herself up slightly on the couch as the redhead she has been thinking about all day bounds into the room. She spots that there is space next to Beca and jumps forward, landing on the cushion with a soft thud. Before Beca knows what is going on, she feels the scatter pillow being tugged from behind her and placed between them. Beneath it, Chloe’s hand finds hers and intertwines their fingers, ending with a soft squeeze. “That’s the spirit, Aubs” she says without missing a beat, “I’m glad you can find something positive. Oh! Who’s turn is it to cook tonight?”
“Amy.” Beca and Aubrey answer at the same time. Beca shakes her head lightly and gestures at her blonde roommate for her to continue.
“She’s just headed out for ingredients. Beca, she told me that she sent the recipe she’s following to you so that you could work out your carbs.”
“Woah” it strikes Beca in that moment just how little credit she gives Amy, sometimes, “that’s… really thoughtful.” She pulls her phone from her pocket and opens the- admittedly muted- chat she has with Amy. Scrolling through a handful of new videos Amy has sent her in the hope she will get her a record deal, she finds a link to what she assumes is the recipe Aubrey had meant.
“Lentil, tomato and black olive stuffed mushrooms and a spinach salad. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten this well.”
Chloe nods her head, her fingers still clasped in Beca’s behind the cushion. “We were as surprised as you are to find out how well she can cook. She never showed off these skills in college.”
“She was too busy with Bumper to cook. Remember that time they got caught on the lawn outside the frat house?”
“Nope. Let’s not go there. Not before dinner.”
Beca really doesn’t need to know any more. She’s incredibly grateful that Chloe stops Aubrey in her tracks before the story gets any more graphic (Beca has quickly learned that stories involving Amy usually are). Instead, she refocuses on the recipe as Aubrey takes her empty tea mug into the kitchen.
“Hey Chlo, why don’t we do some diabetic math practice? You know, just in case it comes up in your test.” Beca knows it probably won’t, but it’s an opportunity to begin repaying Chloe for all the help she has given her so far. Plus, it always helps to have someone check her calculations. Most of it is automatic at this point, but it gives her a chance to check she’s doing the right thing.
“You might want a calculator. The recipe says it has 18 grams of carbs per serving. Alright, so my ratio of insulin to carbs is 1:15. What do you think I need to do next to work out how many units to take on?”
It takes Chloe a moment. “Divide it by 15?”
“So, basically, I need 1.2 units of insulin in order to digest the carbs in the meal. Next step is to check my levels and see if I need anything else.”
Chloe turns to face Beca and pulls her hand away from under the cushion to tuck her hair behind her ear and scratch her nose. She doesn’t put it back, but rests her hand on the seat of the couch so that her fingertips are just brushing against Beca’s. “Finger prick?”
“Yep. All my shit is in my room.”
“How long do you have to leave between taking your insulin and having dinner?”
Beca shrugs at Chloe’s question as she pulls her bag of tricks out of her backpack. “15 minutes. Why?”
“It’s 6.30. We’re not eating until 7.15.”
Before Beca can fully comprehend what is happening, Chloe is in her space, hand reaching out for hers. It is easy to speak, to tease, when they are alone. She looks into bright blue eyes and smiles. “Whatever will we do with all that time?”
Chloe’s lips are ghosting against hers as she responds. “Mmm. I think I have an idea.”
Beca falls into Chloe’s kiss, letting herself relax as gentle lips capture hers. Chloe’s hand brushes over her back, up to her shoulder and then to her neck. Delicate fingers trace over her skin, over the bones of her jaw as they embrace. Beca finds herself pressing in closer, wanting the pressure of Chloe’s body against hers. She grasps at her t-shirt, holding her, as she lets her tongue graze along Chloe’s bottom lip, asking for entrance.
Their breathing deepens as they move together. Beca feels how securely Chloe is holding her, how much passion is in her kiss. When they break apart, it takes her a moment to come back down.
“You… you good?”
Beca’s first instinct is to nod. “You’re really good at that.”
Chloe’s words come out in a whisper, her lips barely touching Beca’s flushed cheek. “So are you. That’s why I haven’t stopped thinking about it all day.”
“Same”. The admission comes out quietly. It isn’t laced with shame or guilt, it’s just quiet. Beca’s mind takes her back to the ways in which her thoughts had been occupied by Chloe throughout the day. It isn’t like an all-encompassing crush usually feels. She can think about other things and managed to get a good amount of work done. No, with Chloe, it’s as if she’s just slotted into a spot and quietly filled some of the empty space in Beca’s head. As if she’s always been there.
As if she’s meant to be there.
Beca’s eyes fly to Chloe’s. Clearly, it’s enough to startle the redhead, who immediately looks concerned. “Bec? What is it?”
Usually, Beca is the type of person to shut her feelings down. She certainly isn’t the type to say what she’s thinking out loud.
Chloe is fast becoming the exception to every single one of her rules.
“I just… I really like this. I really like you.” Her fingers pick at the hem of her shirt as she talks, barely daring to meet Chloe’s gaze. “I guess I’m just a little confused about what it means.”
Chloe’s confidence is something Beca has come to admire. It borders on envy. She can’t help but feel jealous of the way she can comfortably take a step forward, hand moving around her waist, and tilt her head. Her tongue brushes against her lip teasingly as she leans in closer, just close enough for her warm breath to tickle against Beca’s skin.
“What do you want it to mean?”
“I don’t know.” It’s the truth. She has no idea. “I was kind of hoping you would come up with the answer if I’m honest.”
“Well,” there is something about Chloe’s stare that Beca can’t look away from. It’s the same power she thinks she remembers reading about when she did a project on poisonous animals. Even if you know the danger is coming, it’s impossible not to want to get closer to the pretty, hypnotic colour. In Chloe’s case, it isn’t danger Beca is afraid of. She’s scared of something, though. It just doesn’t have a name. Not yet. “I think we should maybe just… go with our instincts for a while. See what happens.”
It sounds like the worst idea Beca’s ever heard, save for the time her dad had suggested she apply to study at the college he worked at. Still, she finds herself nodding her head. “If it means I get to kiss you again, then sure.”
At the back of her mind, Beca recalls how many times Luke has pointed out her fatal flaw: lesbianism makes her stupid.
She kind of hopes that, this time, she’ll prove him wrong.
“Anyway, we did come down here to get insulin. So what do you need to do next?”
Beca’s mind takes a moment to compute Chloe’s words. She stands, unfocused and slack-jawed, for long enough that Chloe notices and shoves her shoulder. “Uh…”
Maybe she’ll prove Luke wrong tomorrow instead.
By the time Beca has got her brain back in working order, she has scribbled down a formula on a piece of paper.
“So I have the insulin I need for the meal which was 1.2 units, but I also then need to figure out if I need any extra. My blood sugar is a little high. It’s 280 and it should be at around 120. So to work out how much insulin I need to dose to correct that, you need to subtract my current blood glucose level from my target blood glucose level and then divide that by my insulin sensitivity factor. Which is 51. Just to save you having to do another calculation. Anyway, if you work that out, it’ll tell you how much insulin I need to correct my sugars.”
“Oh, woah. This is, like, actual math.”
Beca can’t help but smile at Chloe’s remark. “I know, right? It should be good study help. Plus if you get it wrong, there’s extra jeopardy because- well- I could die.”
Chloe’s gasp doesn’t quite match the playful tone Beca was going for. Turning her head slightly, she sees that the redhead’s eyes are wide and her hand is clamped across her chest.
“I was kidding. I wouldn’t do that to you. Hey… hey come here.” Beca wraps her arms around Chloe and pulls her close, reprimanding herself for her stupid joke. She feels Chloe tense against her, her shoulders pulsing. Beca rubs her hand over Chloe’s back, over her shoulders, over her hair, until she can move back slightly and check the damage on her roommate’s face.
No red eyes.
Just mirthful laughter.
“Bitch.” Beca shoves Chloe. “I thought you were sad.”
Chloe doesn’t let Beca pull away. She feels a firm hand wrap around hers as she yanks her arm back. Slowly, Chloe leans in and presses soft lips to her cheek. “You’re extra cute when you’re pissed off.”
Beca tries her best not to growl. “I’m pissed, hungry and my sugar is all off. So work it out, please. I need me some insulin and I can already smell dinner.”
In her head, Beca checks the math. It isn’t that she doesn’t trust Chloe- after all, only one of them has a college degree- but it’s her health at stake and this is a calculation she does several times a day. It’s instinctive, now, in the same way that she can work out the BPM of a song within a few seconds.
“Perfect. So 3.1 for the correction and 1.2 for the meal is?”
Beca pulls out her insulin pen and twists the dial to the right number. “Excellent.” She pulls up her top, smiling to herself at the way she notices Chloe trying not to stare. “Then it’s stabbing time.”
“You know,” Chloe rolls her eyes, a move Beca is certain she has adopted from her, “I really have no idea why I find you so attractive when you say things like that.”
It is hard to remain nonchalant around Chloe, the one person in the world who makes Beca want to be genuine and open and do strange things like tell the truth. Still, she shrugs and smiles as she injects herself and holds the pen to her skin. “Pretty sure it’s the dry-ass wit that got you interested in the first place.” She puts her cap on the pen and re-dresses herself with a playful smile on her lips.
She’s almost to the door, ready to head back down and finally get some food in her face when Chloe tilts her head.
“Nah. Pretty sure it wasn’t.” She opens the door and turns back to Beca, eyeing her almost hungrily. “Pretty sure it was your rack that got my attention first off.”
The redhead is already halfway down the corridor, giggling and running, as Beca calls her name. She turns on her heel, pausing in her tracks, and smiles back at her.
“You’re welcome. For the compliment.”
Beca stumbles over her words. “Yeah? Well… well you’re welcome, too. For… for the boobs.”
If a sink hole was ever to open in New York City, Beca kind of hopes it would be now.
Right beneath her feet.
Anything to save her from the furious blush quickly spreading across her cheeks.
Beca walks into the kitchen, where Chloe is already sat at the table, and notices the way Aubrey eyes her suspiciously.
“Are you alright Beca?”
Beca pulls a chair out and sits down. “I’m good. Why?”
“Oh, nothing. Just… you’re a little red.”
It takes every muscle in her face to keep her eyes off Chloe. “Am I? Oh, my sugar was a little high. That might be why. It should go away soon.”
“Don’t worry.” Chloe winks. “Red looks good on you.”
Beca has a feeling it’s going to be a long night.
For a bunch of twenty-something girls living in NYC on very little money, dinner feels incredibly formal. There is a candle burning in the middle of the table, Amy has once again pulled out all the stops with her culinary offering and Aubrey’s choice of music seems to be approved by Beca, who is happily tapping her fingers against the handle of her fork as she holds it in her hand.
Unsurprisingly, it is Beca that Chloe is focused on. It is Beca she can’t take her eyes off. The conversation, the chatter of the other girls, it all fades away the moment she catches sight of Beca across the table from her.
In the glow of the candlelight, it is possible to see the light flecks of gold through her otherwise dark hair. The blue of her eyes is deep and stormy. Her skin looks impossibly soft. Her hands, gently holding the silverware, are delicately placed.
It takes everything in Chloe’s power to stop herself from reaching out.
In her head, Chloe imagines what it would be like if this was a date. She fantasises about the restaurant, somewhere with the same ambiance and the same light and the same style of gentle, modern soul playing that is currently ringing out through the speaker of the Alexa in the corner. She thinks about the food, about whether Beca shares appetisers or desserts or whether she is the kind to fervently defend her plate from invasion. Chloe can’t help but wonder what they would talk about, how their conversation would go and what it would lead to.
She’s part-way through envisioning their walk home, hopefully hand in hand, when the soundtrack to her little fantasy is interrupted.
“Sorry…” Aubrey pushes herself up from the table and grabs her ringing phone, “Hi dad. No… No, I’m at home… Yeah, I remember. The files are on my desk…” Chloe feels the bubbling sense of dread rising in her stomach as Aubrey lets out a long sigh. “Sure. Don’t send Michael out at this time. I’ll get a cab.”
Aubrey doesn’t need to say anything else. The look on her face, her suddenly pallid complexion, the way she quickly twitches her fingers to touch the palm of her hand, it’s enough for Chloe to know.
She’s been here enough times.
“So,” Aubrey takes a long, deep breath to steel herself, “Dad needs me to do damage control with some of our clients in Shanghai. Over video link. In two hours.” Chloe listens, already making a mental list of everything she needs to do. “I… I don’t know if I’ll be back until late.” Her eyes are on Chloe’s as she speaks. “Don’t wait up.”
Chloe nods her head, but both of them know she won’t sleep. She can’t. It’s always been near impossible to rest when Aubrey is worked up. Pulling herself up from her seat as Aubrey goes to get changed back into her suit and straighten her hair, Chloe walks to the kitchen and grabs a granola bar and an apple, slipping them into Aubrey’s black leather bag before she gets back.
It’s a flurry of activity as the blonde leaves the house, pulling on her heels and buttoning her coat as she tracks her Uber to outside the doors of the building.
Without so much as a ‘goodbye’, Aubrey is gone.
Amy disappears, as usual, just as they start to clear the table. Her excuse is mumbled and hollow but Chloe’s attention is on Beca, on the way she delicately stacks the plates to carry them into the kitchen, on the way the ring she wears around her index finger glints in the light of the still-burning candle. She only realises as she follows Beca, grabbing a dish towel en route, that she has no idea if Amy will even be back that evening.
As Beca turns to face her and smiles, Chloe realises that she doesn’t care.
Not when they are finally alone together.
“I think it’s your turn to pick the music, by the way.” Beca’s voice is soft, since it’s only her who needs to hear and they are feet apart.
“Is… is this a test?” Chloe can’t help but ask her question flirtatiously. It’s natural for her to tease. Plus, she likes that it flusters Beca.
She shrugs, tucking dark hair behind her ear. “Maybe. I’ll be disappointed if it’s shit.”
Chloe pulls her phone from her pocket and opens her Spotify app. It probably doesn’t look like Beca’s, which she imagines is full of carefully-curated and creatively-named playlists for every possible mood associated with the human condition. Chloe’s is a little more eclectic. It’s just a collection of songs that she likes, all bundled together.
Aside from the Disney songs. They deserve their own list.
Chloe selects her ‘favourites’ folder and allows her phone to shuffle the songs.
The first song that comes on seems to grab Beca’s attention. Chloe can’t help but spot the wry smile on her face.
“I… I have to say, and don’t take this the wrong way,-” Beca blinks before resuming eye contact with Chloe, “I was not expecting Van Morrison.”
“I’m glad I can surprise you.”
Chloe’s words seem to flummox Beca. She steps back and watches as the brunette rinses a glass before passing it in her direction. They wash and dry without speaking for a few moments, listening side by side, until Chloe feels the natural urge to fill the silence taking over her. Quietly, she sings along.
‘Into the Mystic’ was one of the first songs Chloe ever sang. Her parents had refused to play kid’s music on long car journeys. Chloe had her own pink, sticker-covered walkman to use if she wanted to listen to any of her favourite CDs, but the sound of her parents’ collection of cassette tapes (and the noise of her brother practicing his drumming on his legs) was too much for her cheap headphones to block out. Eventually, after her complaining had ended with the walkman being confiscated and a lengthy ‘time out’, Chloe had learned to appreciate all kinds of artists, from Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon through to Fleetwood Mac, Garth Brooks and Elvis Presley.
As long as there was music playing, Chloe was happy.
From the look on Beca’s face as she gets to the chorus, she’s pretty sure they have that in common.
The dishes are clean by the time the song ends. Chloe looks at Beca, sees the glint in her eye, and lets the speaker play the next track. The way Beca’s expression changes as she registers what she’s hearing pulls a hearty laugh from Chloe’s throat.
“What kind of playlist,” Beca shakes her head as she rinses out the sink, “starts with Van Morrison and jumps straight to Christina Milian?”
“It’s not a playlist.” Chloe can’t help but love the way Beca’s jaw falls as if she’s made some kind of horrific revelation.
She drops the cloth in her hand as she turns to face her. “You… you just shuffle all your music? Like, together?”
“There is nothing wrong with that…”
Beca shakes her head fervently, pouting her lips in a way that Chloe imagines she has probably done her whole life. It’s childlike and petulant and it is hard not to laugh. “Chlo-… Chloe middle name Beale.”
Chloe smiles. “My middle name. Faith. Chloe Faith Beale. Anyway, continue…”
Beca clears her throat and tries her best to look serious. Chloe tries not to look her in the eye, knowing she will wind up laughing again. “Chloe Faith Beale. Putting all of your music together in one playlist is like putting all of your food into one huge stew. I mean, sure, if you’re in the mood for chocolate, great, you might get a taste, but you’ll have to wade through all of the carrots and beef first. Want pasta for dinner? I’m sure there’s some in there somewhere!” Beca’s brow furrows. “What kind of monster are you, exactly?”
From the way she stiffens and hunches her shoulders, Chloe is fairly certain that Beca wasn’t expecting to be hugged. Still, Chloe holds her close and squeezes her just a little. “You’re so cute when you rant. I think it might be my second favourite thing.”
Beca pulls away, a curious eyebrow raised in Chloe’s direction. “Dare I ask what the first is?”
Chloe sees the open goal and takes her shot. “I already told you.” Indulging herself, she lets her eyes flit downwards before she winks. “Boobs.”
It isn’t exactly a long walk from the kitchen to the area they call the living room. Beca makes herself comfortable on the couch, taking Aubrey’s usual spot and pulling the cushion around so that she can rest her neck against it. Chloe kind of loves how comfortable she is, how easily she fits in this space.
She wants, more than anything, to take advantage it; the quiet, the freedom. She wants to lean into Beca’s side and breathe in the scent of her perfume that Chloe now notices around the house and hold her hand and rest her head on her shoulder. She wants to relax, to breathe, but something is holding her back.
Or, rather, someone.
“Chlo?” Beca’s voice pulls her back into the room. Chloe blinks. “You good?”
Chloe could lie, or give a half-truth, but she likes Beca. She likes her enough to let her in. And so she spills what is in her head.
“Should I call Aubrey? Should… I feel like I should check in on her.” Her fingers are tapping at her thighs as she speaks. Her pulse is faster now that she’s letting herself think about her worries, bringing them to the surface. “I just… I know I shouldn’t. Or, well, I know I can’t. Not really.” It is only when Chloe lets herself look up, when she makes eye contact, that she sees genuine concern in Beca’s eyes. “Aubrey’s a grown woman, I know, but she… she’s not as strong as she comes across. Not when it comes to her dad. She says yes to all these things, and she gets herself through it, but then she breaks. She… she’ll come back tonight or tomorrow and she’ll be like she was before and, Jesus, I really don’t think either of us can do that again. Not when I thought things were finally starting to change. I just… I’m scared about who is going to come back to the apartment and I should be focusing on you because you’re here and we’re alone and really we should be taking advantage of that fact but…” Chloe’s final admission is whispered, eyes cast down. “She’s my best friend.”
“What can I do to help?” Beca is up on her feet the moment Chloe stops to breathe. The air around her shifts as the brunette steps closer, reaching out to put a hand around Chloe’s waist. It’s gentle, the way Beca touches her, as if she’s unsure, but it’s soft and comforting and Chloe doesn’t want it to stop. “Can I, like, make you a tea? Or we could watch your favourite movie or something? I… I just wish I could do something to help you.”
Chloe almost laughs. Most of the time, she just needs to ride out her anxiety. She needs to rant and panic and get over the hill and down the other side. Aubrey tends to leave her to it. Amy lets her shout. During the worst of Aubrey’s last ‘moment’, when her dad had started pushing her to apply for the MBA at NYU, Flo had tried her best to distract her by braiding her hair and talking about work to stop her fretting over how much Aubrey was (or wasn’t) eating and how to stop her waking up and leaving the apartment at 6.30 in the morning. Each of them, in their own way, gives her time.
There has only ever been one other thing that has helped Chloe to calm her anxious mind. Music.
“Will…. Will you sing to me?”
Chloe knows it’s a big question. She knows, at the back of her mind, that she’s pushing her luck by even asking. Beca doesn’t have to. She probably doesn’t want to. But she might… for Chloe.
Chloe shakes her head. “You choose.”
When Beca takes a deep breath, everything else seems to stop.
“All you have to do is touch my hand,
To show me you understand,
And something happens to me,
That's some kind of wonderful…”
For a moment, Chloe isn’t sure whether she’s falling or flying.
The only thing she can be sure of is that she’s moving. Reaching out. For Beca.
It feels natural to sway to the beat, to the pulse that Chloe knows she and Beca can both hear beneath the words of her song. Chloe’s hand rests gently on the small of Beca’s back as she leans in, letting out a short breath at the sensation of Beca’s fingers brushing calmingly up her arm, over her shoulder and up to her hair.
It feels natural to lean in close, to take a deep breath and fill her senses with Beca. Her sound, her feel, her scent. Chloe’s head comes to rest on Beca’s shoulder, her forehead filling the space she finds as she closes her eyes.
“I just know when I'm in your embrace
This world is a happy place
And something happens to me
That's some kind of wonderful…”
“You know,” Chloe’s words come out in a whisper, “I’m pretty sure I should be singing these lyrics to you.” She brushes her tongue over her lips as her thoughts materialise. “You make me feel so… safe.”
Beca’s lips press gently against her hairline. “Good” is all she whispers.
For a moment, there is silence. It’s just enough for the memory of the music to sink in; for the air to re-settle around them. Chloe pulls back first, lifting her head until she can look into Beca’s deep blue eyes. Part of her expects to see anxiety or worry, even a little regret.
She sees nothing but blue. Calm, ocean blue.
“Thank you. For… for singing to me.”
“Did it work? Did it take your mind off of…”
Chloe nods her head fervently before Beca has a chance to say Aubrey’s name out loud. “Yeah. I… I guess it’s difficult to-” It isn’t often that her brain stops her mid-sentence. Chloe is usually the type to let it out and deal with the consequences after. Instead, this time, she stands with her mouth open as Beca waits.
Leaning in close, Chloe’s words come out in a whisper. “It’s difficult to think about anything else when my brain is full of you.”
Beca’s laugh is just as melodic as her voice. She tilts her head to the side, chuckling tunefully and shaking her head.
“Dude. Believe me. I know exactly what you mean. I… it’s becoming a problem, man. You’re just… you’re in there, you know? Like, all the time.”
“And you’re okay with that?” Chloe has to check. “I, ah, I have been told I can be a little much sometimes. And, well, we’ve not known one another all that long and I’ve kind of, you know, done the typical Chloe thing of getting way too-…”
Beca’s lips press against hers in a bruising kiss. Hands pull at fistfuls of clothing as Chloe responds, desperately trying to get closer. Her tongue grazes against lips, parting them as she lets out a soft groan. Breath whistles against her cheek, bringing her attention to the pressure from the thumb resting against her jaw, to the way Beca is masterfully, confidently holding her close.
When they pull away, after catching their breath, it is Beca who speaks first. She smiles, eyes glinting like she’s about to get herself in trouble. “Does that answer your question?”
Chloe can’t even remember what it was she had asked. Still, she nods her head.
She thinks Beca is about to say more, or (she hopes) about to lean back in, when the door clatters open.
“Shit.” It comes out under her breath, but Chloe sees the way Beca nods her head in agreement. They step apart, silently sitting back down on the couch, just as Amy walks into the space.
“Amy, I don’t know how you want me to respond to that.”
Amy seems to eye the room curiously. It is only when her gaze settles on the TV in the corner that Chloe realises why.
“Did you switch that off just as I arrived? Were you guys watching something dirty? Without me?”
Chloe is about to make up an excuse, something basic and probably entirely transparent, when Beca clears her throat. As she gestures to Amy, she reaches out to take Chloe’s hand in hers, once again hiding it behind a cushion. “Dude, no. Just… no.”
“Shame.” Amy shrugs as she walks towards the corridor. “Anyway, goodnight.”
The moment Amy is out of earshot, Chloe lets out a long, frustrated sigh and leans back, squeezing Beca’s hand. “You know, as much as I love having them around, I would do pretty much anything for a little time without distractions.”
It is only then that Chloe remembers the way her mind had drifted over dinner. She recalls her blinkered vision, eyes trained only on Beca, and the questions she had about sharing dessert and walking home hand in hand.
“I… I guess there is a solution to that.”
“Yeah?” Beca’s smile is gentle; genuine. It gives Chloe the confidence to say what she’s thinking.
“Yeah. What are you doing on Saturday?”
Gonna casually up the rating to a T...
... just to be on the safe side.
The kitchen seems to be where everyone gathers in the morning. Aubrey and Chloe, efficient as they are, seem to find the time to sit and eat breakfast at the table like they live in some kind of sitcom. Beca is more of a grab-coffee-and-go type of girl, but, once she zones into her roommates’ conversation, it becomes more of a precisely-pour-coffee-and-meander-towards-the-door type of situation.
“So, what, he’s just handed the entire Shanghai caseload to you? With no warning? Aubrey that’s ridiculous. You’re not a stockbroker. Or an accountant.” Chloe’s eyes give away her shock.
The shrug Aubrey gives is nonchalant. Beca can see how much it fails to match the look in her eye. “Apparently it’s my chance to prove myself.”
As Beca screws the lid onto her mug, she notices the deep breath Chloe takes, watches the way she rolls her shoulders as she steels herself. “Well, whatever you need, you know I’m here.”
It is Chloe’s final words that follow Beca to the subway and down the street to the studio. It’s as if they haunt her somehow. Maybe it is the despondent tone she had used, or the way her eyes had cast down. Maybe it’s the way that, this morning, Chloe looked as if she was carrying far more weight on her shoulders than she had been the night before.
Beca can’t help but wonder, as she clicks through her email inbox marking everything as ‘read’, how Aubrey is going to cope if Chloe starts her teacher program. She can’t help but wonder whether this is why Chloe has spent so long holding back.
She can’t help but wonder why Aubrey had been the one to suggest it in the first place.
Aubrey, who seems to be tenacious to her own detriment. Aubrey who is softening around the edges but still scares the shit out of Beca. Aubrey who seems to clutch tightly to her beliefs and values, who knows what she wants and gets it.
Clearly, if there is anything she and her blonde roommate have in common, it is wanting the best for Chloe. It is the understanding that Chloe deserves the world. That the world deserves Chloe Beale. Everyone deserves to feel the way Beca feels when Chloe champions her, when she gives her a smile every time she finds the courage to sing.
With her mind firmly not on the list of tracks waiting for her notes, Beca opens a new web browser and begins a search. A search for what is on the New York State teaching program exam.
There are kids out there, in this city, who deserve to have Chloe Beale as their teacher.
If Beca can do anything to help her get there, she’s pretty sure she will do it.
One half of her is certain Aubrey feels the same way.
The other half? The other half isn’t so sure.
Beca has never had the best attention span in the world, but she finds herself drifting more than ever throughout the day.
The problem, she realises, is that Chloe has become synonymous with music.
There is no separation. It is impossible.
It makes focusing on work a little tricky.
“Hey,” Jesse pokes his head around her office door, smiling in his usual dopey way. “Can I get your producer ear to listen to something for me? I can’t figure out what this track needs.”
It isn’t often Jesse comes to Beca from advice. To be fair, it isn’t often that Jesse has any kind of issue that would require her to help him.
“Me? Su…sure.” Beca closes the program she had open, as if she had been paying it any attention. “What do you need?”
Before she knows what is happening, there is a USB stick plugged into her computer and a file called ‘Fire Red Fury’ playing through her headphones. It’s a vocal track, which in itself is unusual in Jesse’s line of work, and it’s a complete original. An original, she assumes, for a movie soundtrack.
“I like it. Who is the artist?”
“The main vocals were supposed to be Demi Lovato but there was some kind of issue with the contract and the studio. It’s going out for re-record but they’ve decided they want a whole new sound. Which is why I’m coming to you. It needs something, but I need a producer’s input. I don’t know why they even came to me in the first place.”
“How long do you have?”
Jesse’s noncommittal shrug forces a pang of jealousy from Beca. She kind of hates that the side of the label that works with the movie studios seems to have such an easy ride compared to the commercial team. She wishes her deadlines weren't so set in stone, weren’t made to seem so important. Still, she gets to be creative and produce music and she has never really wanted anything else so it’s pointless complaining. “I mean, how long do you need?”
Beca has projects waiting, but they can wait a little longer. Her mind is already whirring.
“I’ll have something for you by the end of the day.”
By the time Jesse is out the door, Beca is packing up her bag and checking if there is a recording studio available anywhere in the building. Her brain is running fast, conjuring up snippets and soundbites, all of which come entangled in memories of Chloe, memories of her sound and her voice and her style.
Sure, the idea of standing in front of a mic and actually recording her voice, of putting it out there on a track that other people might hear, is a terrifying prospect, but it isn’t enough to stop her.
Beca’s fairly certain she knows who to thank.
Contrary to popular belief, Beca isn’t always a raincloud of misery. Sure, she can come across that way and her standard resting face is fairly nonplussed, but she isn’t immune to joy. Usually, it comes in the form of the simple things: cute puppies, good weather, free food. They all have the power to raise more than gentle smile. The effect lingers.
This time, however, it’s bigger. Beca is full of bright light and she knows it’s radiating out of her. She knows as she walks home, bouncing in time to the beat of the song playing in her ears, that joy is painted all over her face.
She knows where it came from; she knows who started it. She knows when she sees her, sitting at the table, the same radiant smile on her own face, that the root of her mood, of the light within her, comes entirely from the human sunshine that is Chloe Beale.
Beca doesn’t stop moving. She kicks off her shoes at the door and then walks down to her bedroom, shedding her bag and her jacket onto her desk. She’s pulling her phone from her pocket and disconnecting her headphones when Chloe walks in, a curious glint in her bright blue eyes.
“Are you in a good mood or are you high?”
Beca’s mind is on one track and one track only. Nothing else matters right now but Chloe. But thanking Chloe. On instinct, she reaches out and pulls the redhead towards her, hugging her tightly as she smacks a loud kiss to her cheek.
“I did it.”
Chloe pulls back slightly. Beca can see the confusion on her face. “Did what?”
Beca can’t help but grin even more widely as she realises the gravity of what she is about to say. “I did it. I sang. I… I sang in a studio on a track. And it’s because of you, Chloe. You helped me and you… you gave me this, ugh, this confidence that I’d never had before and I just… I did it.”
The second hug is even tighter than the first. If Beca was stronger, she’s fairly certain she would have lifted Chloe off the ground.
She starts talking again, continuing her explanation, before Chloe has a chance to speak.
“So now it’s time for me to pay you back for your help. I… I’ve been researching the exam you need to take and I wanted to do whatever I could to hep you study.” She rifles through her bag until she finds the envelope filled with items she will deny having stolen from the supply closet in the office. Chloe looks borderline terrified as Beca holds it up with a determined smile. “I made flashcards.”
The room is quiet for a moment. Beca’s mood seems to deflate like a sad balloon when she realises that Chloe doesn’t quite share her enthusiasm.
“Bec, that’s amazing. But it’s a Friday night.”
Beca reaches back into her bag. “I know. And that’s why I thought I’d make it worth your while.” She pulls out a bottle and holds it out towards Chloe. “I got wine. I… I pre-ordered Vietnamese food. Oh, and Amy and Aubrey are going to the movies with Stacie and Flo.”
“Without me? What are they going to see?”
Beca shrugs and pouts a little, trying her hand at playing Chloe’s game her own way. “Does it matter?”
It doesn’t take much for Chloe to get the hint. Beca smiles the moment she registers blue eyes roaming over her body as it hits her roommate that, finally, they are alone in the apartment. “Guess not.”
It would be idiotic not to take full advantage of having the apartment to themselves. Chloe finds a blanket and lays it out on the living room floor, turning on the fairy lights that hang around the window to add a little more atmosphere. Beca hands her a bottle of wine and two glasses just as the food arrives.
“Perfect timing” Chloe says with a smile as Beca walks back in with the food, setting the containers out between them. “What did you order?”
“Pho, obviously. Summer rolls. Oh, and a fancy papaya salad with ginger dressing.” Beca reaches into the bag and hands Chloe a set of chopsticks and a spoon. “For you.”
They sit, just for a moment, with the food between them, before Chloe sits up slightly on her knees. Beca is about to pass one of the containers to her, to tell her to help herself, when she feels the redhead moving closer.
“Thank you. For… for dinner. For everything. Just… this is really nice.” Beca wonders what to say, how to respond, but then Chloe’s lips are on hers and everything else fades away.
“You’re welcome” she finally says, smiling as Chloe settles back onto the blanket and clicks her chopsticks in her hand.
It has always been easy, Beca realises, to talk to Chloe. Even when it’s just the two of them catching up on their days, time never drags. Smalltalk isn’t a thing Chloe does. She simply jumps in and asks questions, making the other person feel so at ease that they can’t help but meet her on her level of openness and honesty.
It’s just easy chatter over noodles and salad, but Beca is opening up about how it felt to stand in front of a microphone and sing. She’s recounting the entire thing to Chloe, from her conversation with Jesse through to her leaving the recording booth and rushing back to her desk to edit the file.
“I’m proud of you.” Chloe’s words seem to land gently. They float down through the air until they land in Beca’s lap, comfortingly warm. “Even if it doesn’t go further, even if it’s just one song, you… you did it, Beca.”
The smile that spreads across Beca’s face is so wide, so strong, that, for a moment, she wonders if she isn’t having some kind of episode. It isn’t that Beca never smiles, far from it, but it isn’t usually people who make her smile like this.
Yet again, Beca sees, Chloe Beale is the exception to the rule.
“You’re looking at me weird.”
Beca shakes her head and goes back to her dinner. “Sorry. I was just… actually, no. I’m not going to make an excuse.” She isn’t sure where this surge of confidence is coming from, but she’s not about to push it away. “I was thinking about you.” From the look on Chloe’s face, Beca knows she’s blushing. She doesn’t care. Not really. Not when Chloe is looking at her, blue eyes bright and piercing and roaming over her face.
Chloe’s chopsticks are resting against her bowl. She moves closer, her head tilted to the side, as she smiles in Beca’s direction.
Beca nods her head, gulping nervously.
“Anything in particular?”
Chloe is close enough to touch now. Close enough to reach out for.
Beca doesn’t need to fight her urges or push them down. Instead, she reaches out for Chloe’s hand and uses it to pull her close, to close the distance between them.
Her lips are almost on Chloe’s, almost touching, when she speaks.
“I’m just glad I met you.”
Beca isn’t sure which one of them leans in first.
She isn’t sure she cares.
“So, when did you find the time to make flashcards?”
The living room is clean and the blanket is back in Chloe’s room. Beca had only walked down to her own bedroom to find some warmer socks and hadn’t even realised Chloe had followed her until she spoke.
“I…” Beca finds a pair of fluffy socks in the bottom of her drawer and pulls them on. Her mom had sent them in a care package when she first moved to New York, knowing how much Beca suffered with what they had termed ‘diabetes feet’. “I guess the song for Jesse didn’t take that long. Plus, I was thinking about you because I had- you know- done the whole singing thing. So then I started looking up the programs in the state and the exams and, well, I took advantage of the supplies at my disposal.”
Chloe sits cross-legged on the bed, one of Beca’s cushions over her thighs. Beca echoes her position on the other side of the mattress, the pile of flashcards in between them.
“So,” Beca selects one from the top of the pile, “in a box of 40 pens, 12 of them are blue. What is the proportion of pens which are not blue? Give your answer as a decimal.”
“Woah. Wait a second.” Chloe’s eyes give away just how determined she is. “If you’re going to subject me to studying on a Friday night, you need to make it worth my while. I’m not answering questions for nothing.” Leaning back, Chloe raises a single eyebrow. Beca knows a challenge is coming. The rush of anticipation in her gut is, she realises, probably slightly too much for a simple study session. “What do I get?”
Beca takes a moment to think. Chloe, she knows, can do the whole flirtatious thing without having to put in any effort. Beca doesn’t possess that skill. Instead, she takes her time, going over her options until she lands on one.
“How about,” her voice comes out slightly more gravelly than she had been expecting, “you get a kiss for every correct answer?”
“Deal.” Chloe doesn’t hesitate. “Let’s start with the easy questions.”
Beca takes the cards and holds them close to her chest. “Hey. I’m the question master here. I decide. Anyway, 40 pens. 12 blue. What is the proportion as a decimal of non-blue pens in the box?”
“So, 40 is the whole. So 4 is 0.1. So 12 is 0.3. 1 - 0.3 is 0.7?”
Beca leans in and presses her lips to Chloe’s cheek. “Correct.”
Beca picks up another card. “What type of a word is ‘majestically’?”
Watching Chloe think is quite special. Beca loves the way her nose twitches, the way her fingers tap as she figures things out. It’s cute. “Adverb.”
This time, Beca’s lips land on Chloe’s forehead. “Well done. Okay, another grammar one. Is ‘which he found amusing’ a main clause, a relative clause or a prepositional clause?”
It doesn’t take long for Beca’s lips to land on Chloe’s. Each time Chloe gets a question right, the kisses get longer and longer.
“What is 440 minutes in hours and minutes?”
Chloe shrugs. Beca, for a moment, is taken aback. “Oh, are you done playing?”
“Maybe.” There is still a fire, a light, in Chloe’s eyes that cues Beca into the fact that she is certainly not done playing. Not at all. “Or maybe I want a different prize.”
There is a sensation rushing over Beca’s body that matches the rate of her heart. There’s an anticipation, sitting low in her gut, that has been building since they were left alone together in the apartment. Now, as Chloe’s brilliantly blue eyes dare her to lean towards what she imagines to be a cliff-edge, it is impossible to ignore.
Maybe that is why Beca finds herself licking her lips, trying to match Chloe’s expression with a subtle smile.
Maybe that is why Beca reaches for the hem of her shirt and runs her fingers along it, gaze never leaving her roommate’s now-flushed expression.
Maybe that is why she opens her mouth and speaks just above a whisper as she utters the words “I mean, I can definitely make things more interesting. Unless…” Beca looks up, glancing at Chloe just to make sure she’s on the right track, “unless I’m not the prize you were wanting?”
For a moment, the air feels thick.
Chloe’s fervent nod would look desperate on anybody else. On her, Beca finds it intoxicating.
“Well, in that case,” Beca has a choice to make. The power is in her hands. Her pulse races as she considers her options, “what is the capital of Spain?”
Chloe’s playful grin pulls Beca in like a magnet. Her eyes almost sparkle as she lets her gaze roam up and down Beca’s body, inching closer and closer on the bed.
“Close enough.” Beca lets Chloe push her back, determined knees now straddling her waist.
The last thing she sees before her vision is clouded by a curtain of red hair is the pile of flashcards falling to the floor.
“Why didn’t you come to the movies?”
Chloe’s heart practically leaps out of her chest when she hears Aubrey’s voice coming from the living room; a place she had assumed would be empty at just past 7.30 on a Saturday morning.
“I asked Beca to let you know where we were going. Did… did she not tell you?”
Chloe is certain there is a heavy blush rising from her cheeks. “Sorry.”
The apology falls flat but Chloe isn’t sure she cares; she isn’t certain what she’s apologising for or if it’s even her job to be sorry in the first place.
“It’s fine. Anyway, you can make it up to me later. Stacie’s invited us all to her spin instructor’s birthday. It’s drinks at the Junkyard and then karaoke. We’re leaving here at 7.”
Chloe can feel a familiar wave rushing over her. It’s a sensation she’s had since college, the wobbling insecurity of being pulled in two different directions. Aubrey, it seems, has always had hold of one of the ropes. This time, however, Chloe isn’t going to follow her lead.
“Sorry, Bree. I’d love to but I actually have plans. Maybe I could meet you after?”
“Yeah.” Chloe opens the mug cupboard and pulls out two coffee cups. Glancing across at Aubrey, she realises she isn’t about to move and so puts one of them back on the shelf. “But I could be with you for 9? Just let me know which karaoke bar it is.” The mug is hot in her hand as she begins to pad, barefooted, back towards the corridor. “Oh, I’ll invite Beca too.”
Aubrey’s shrug is as good as a ‘yes’ to Chloe, who checks her roommate isn’t looking before she tiptoes past her bedroom and pushes open Beca’s door.
Chloe slips into bed next to Beca, handing her the mug as she settles back into the still-warm spot she has occupied all night.
“Sorry”, she explains, “Aubrey was in the kitchen. She started interrogating me about how apparently you were supposed to tell me about the movies last night. She’s already stressed; I didn’t exactly want to add to that by making two coffees and then walking back down here. That’s too much for her to handle on a Saturday morning.”
Beca takes a slow sip of the coffee before handing the mug to Chloe. She’s close, Chloe realises, closer than Chloe had expected her to sit. She’s snuggled into her side, her bare skin warm against Chloe’s legs. Her hair is up in a loose ponytail, messily re-tied with the black band that spent most of its life circled around Beca’s slender wrist. This is a Beca Chloe has never seen before; morning-after Beca.
Chloe shrugs as if she’s not embarrassed at being caught out. Smiling, she takes a drink from her mug. “Of course I am. Have you seen you?”
As usual, it’s enough to pull a deep red blush from Beca’s cheeks. “Shut up.”
“Nope.” Chloe shakes her head. “Anyway, I thought you liked hearing how much I like you. How attractive you are.”
It’s a dangerous game at any time of day, but the peril is certainly increased before 8am. Chloe knows she’s toeing a line that is still freshly painted, a line they have barely discussed. A line Chloe is already desperate to cross in whatever way Beca will let her.
“Ssh.” Beca’s head tilts towards the door. “Aubrey.”
In that moment, Chloe’s bravado comes crashing down. She realises, then, exactly who the line is for. Who it is there to protect. In her head, Chloe makes a choice. This new something between her and Beca? It has to stay secret.
At least, for now.
It is a thought that taunts her through the whole day; the idea of sneaking around behind Aubrey’s back is equal parts thrilling and terrifying. Chloe knows it’s a fine line, one that she has always teetered on where her best friend is concerned.
It isn’t that she wants to hurt Aubrey, or even that she thinks she won’t like the idea of her and Beca becoming whatever they are. No, to Chloe, it is simply easier to hold it all away from Aubrey until her own messy circumstances are easier to handle. That way, she thinks, Aubrey will be able to actually take in what she’s got to say. That way, Aubrey has time to get to know Beca better before she makes a judgement.
Maybe, if she’s honest, it gives Chloe a little more time to get to know her better, too.
It isn’t that she doesn’t trust Beca, not at all, but Chloe has been caught out in the past. Aubrey had been there for each and every time she had trusted someone too quickly only to get her heart broken. Aubrey had been the one to pick up the pieces.
This time, with everything Aubrey has on her plate, with how heavy her load already is, Chloe can’t help but worry that she would be left to deal with her heartbreak alone.
Still, it’s Beca. In every sense of the word, Beca has been different since she arrived.
That’s what Chloe clutches onto as she watches her brunette roommate slip out of the apartment, dressed in a pair of tight-fitting black jeans, a black top cut in a deep V and a long, wine-coloured wool coat.
She’s not like the others.
She won’t hurt her.
Beca: Sneaking out to the radio station for a bit. See you later.
“Did we ever work out if Beca is dating anyone? Or, like, boning anyone?”
Chloe’s coffee seems to get caught in her throat at Amy’s words. The blonde slides herself onto the couch, taking the control and changing the channel as if Chloe and Aubrey weren’t sat there watching something already. The way she asks is causal, far too casual for her to know anything, and so Chloe simply shrugs.
“Oh, because I just saw her leave here with some punky-looking girl with purple hair and I didn’t know if they were, you know, having a little bumper-to-bumper action of a Saturday afternoon…”
Chloe hates that she knows exactly who Amy is talking about.
She hates that, immediately, her body is flooded with nervous energy.
She hates it because she has no reason not to trust Beca.
Beca: I can’t wait for later. I’ll meet you outside the restaurant at 7.30.
No reason at all.
“Amy,” Aubrey pulls herself up to face the Australian as she speaks, “you need to think of a different phrase. Number one, it’s gross. Number two, using the word ‘bumper’ in a sexual context just makes me feel ill. I mean, that guy was skeezy and sweaty and all kinds of weird and I’m so glad we have never seen him in the city since we moved here.”
Chloe remembers Bumper Allen better than she cares to. The guy was an asshole of the highest degree, always slightly on the wrong side of the line. He had plagued their college careers until, suddenly, he had upped and moved to New York in the middle of senior year, sacrificing his entire degree for a shot at fame which had- of course- backfired spectacularly.
“Yeah, me too…”
Before either Chloe or Aubrey can ask Amy any more about her strange response, she is gone.
“So,” Aubrey speaks again after a moment of silent recovery, “do you actually not know if Beca is dating anyone? You two are kind of close. I’d assumed you’d probably have talked about that sort of thing.”
“I mean, she’s a young woman in the city so I assume she’s dating, but we haven’t really talked about it.” Chloe can’t help but hope that her emphasis passes Aubrey by. “Anyway, did you see Amy’s face when you mentioned Bumper?”
Aubrey nods her head. “I know, right? Do you think that’s why she’s sneaking around? To see him?”
Chloe ponders it for a moment. “Possibly. Some of the time, at least.”
When Aubrey gets up from the couch, Chloe can see an old flame burning behind her eyes. “We may not be in Barden anymore, but we are still Bellas. As far as I’m concerned, treble-boning should still be punishable. Especially if the treble you’re boning is Bumper Allen.”
“But what if they’re in love? What if… what if she really likes him and she’s sneaking around because she knows we’d disapprove?”
Chloe watches Aubrey consider her question. She notes the way her nose twitches as she thinks, the way her tongue pokes out between her lips.
“Well, if she’s sneaking around it’s because she knows she’s doing something wrong. Which is basically already an admission of guilt.”
A determined Aubrey Posen has always been a terrifying notion. “Did you really never consider law school?” The question is out of Chloe’s mouth before she can temper her tone.
Aubrey shrugs. “Not really. Too much pressure. Plus, you know, the whole throwing up thing wouldn’t have been great in a court room.”
“I guess you’re right.” Chloe stands, untying her hair from its messy ponytail in preparation for her shower. “Oh well, law’s loss is my gain.”
It’s there, Chloe sees it. In Aubrey’s eyes. A glimpse, a glittering reminder of the best friend she has always loved.
She’s in there, Chloe reminds herself. Under everything else, her best friend is still in there.
Chloe knows she has made the right decision about their date location the moment she spots Beca’s expression. She’s walking towards her, towards the spot Chloe had told her to come to, and she’s beaming.
“How… how do you know about vinyl bars?”
Chloe shrugs her shoulders but she knows Beca can see the look in her eyes. She knows her research, her deep-dive into Beca’s social media has paid off. “You follow a lot of these places on Instagram, you know.”
If Beca is surprised by Chloe’s admission, she doesn’t show it. Instead, she holds open the door and gestures for Chloe to enter. “After you.”
The bar itself is small. Intimate, some might say. There are only six tables, all set for couples, and the walls are covered in shelves of vinyl records.
“Ladies, welcome to The Record Store. Have either of you been here before?” The waitress chats to them as they walk to their seats. Both Beca and Chloe shake their heads. Once they are sat down at the table in the furthest corner, she begins to explain. “So, tonight is what we call Couple’s Choice. We serve family-style and the menu for the evening is on your table. Also on your table, you will find an iPad with our entire collection of music on it. Throughout the evening, you will be given prompts. The idea is that you take it in turns to add songs to the playlist, which will then be shuffled with our own tracks.”
“So, ladies. Can I get you both a drink to start?”
They are barely halfway through their drinks (mojito for Chloe, espresso martini for Beca) when the screen of the iPad lights up with the first prompt. Beca is on it before Chloe can even open her mouth to speak.
“A song from your childhood. Do… do you want to take this one?”
“No, you go first. I asked you on this date, remember? So you can pick the first song.”
There is a moment, just as Chloe sees a flicker in Beca’s eyes, that she wonders whether she has unknowingly hit some kind of nerve. She can’t recall ever hearing Beca talk negatively about her childhood, but then maybe that’s because it isn’t a topic that has regularly come up. Aside from knowing a little about her parents, Chloe realises in that moment that she doesn’t know a whole lot about where Beca came from.
“Talk me through your choices, Mitchell.”
Beca looks up from the iPad, finger poised over the screen, and smiles. “I mean, I don’t want to go for something too cheesy, since this is supposed to be a super nice date night.” Chloe nods her head. “So I decided against the Spice Girls and the Backstreet Boys.”
“I totally would have gone with the Backstreet Boys.”
“Of course you would. Which one did you have posters of on your wall? I bet it was the cute blonde.”
Chloe can’t help but feel called out, but her smile gives her away. Beca simply rolls her eyes.
“It’s always the cute blonde. Anyway, my favourite movie as a kid was Matilda. And I guess this song was probably inadvertently played more than any other in my house when I was growing up.”
When Beca turns the iPad and Chloe reads ‘Send Me on my Way- Rusted Root’ she feels a rush of nostalgia wash over her. “I love that song. It’s one of those I forget exists sometimes. Good choice.”
There are some things about Beca Mitchell that would surprise people, but not Chloe. When Beca is completely and utterly gracious to their waitress, when she smiles and makes smalltalk, Chloe simply sits back and lets herself feel momentarily smug. When she tells stories of growing up in Seattle and alludes to the fact that she was a high-achieving student, it doesn’t come as a shock.
Chloe feels like she knew this. This person. This Beca.
She is simply glad that Beca is willing to share herself like this.
That she is happy- comfortable, even- to be here. With Chloe.
“Alright, next up. A song that reminds you of home.”
Chloe ponders for a moment before meeting Beca’s gaze. “Our home?”
“Sure, if that’s what you want it to mean. I guess it’s open to interpretation.”
It doesn’t take long for Chloe to find the track that immediately came to mind. Turning the iPad to Beca to reveal her choice, she gets an approving nod.
“Chelsea Morning? Chloe Beale, you continue to surprise me.”
“That’s the aim.”
It doesn’t escape Chloe just how right it feels to be sat across a candlelit table like this with Beca opposite her.
If anything, it’s made New York City feel even more like home.
Chloe is explaining the relationship between the Bellas and the Treblemakers to Beca when the iPad lights up again.
“Your karaoke song. Oh… oh, man, I don’t have one.”
Chloe sits up slightly in her seat and takes a bite of her meal before gesturing with her fork. “It doesn’t have to be a set-in-stone decision. Mine changes all the time. But, I guess, if you were to have to get up right now and sing something in front of all these lovely people, what would it be? First song that comes into your head.”
Beca closes her eyes as she thinks. Chloe has noticed it a couple of times before, but it seems even more apparent now that the bond between them is concentrated by their table for two. It’s nice, she thinks, that she’s taking this so seriously. That she is just humouring Chloe. She seems to genuinely be enjoying herself.
“If I had to sing, right now I think I’d have to go for Cheap Thrills by Sia.”
Chloe has to hold onto her seat to stop herself from reacting physically. In her head, she can see Beca at the mic, and it does things to her. She shifts slightly and takes another drink, hoping her blush isn’t too obvious in the dim light.
“So, what do you want to do after this? Another drink somewhere else?”
Chloe tilts her head as she takes in just how beautiful Beca looks in the outfit she had clearly picked out for her earlier that day. “Actually, I kind of have an idea. I mean, it does involve other people” it’s impossible not to notice the way Beca grimaces, “but people we know. The girls are out having drinks and I think we should join them.”
Beca raises a single eyebrow. “Really?” Chloe isn’t entirely sure what it means. It could be disappointment or confusion or just intrigue. Chloe goes with the latter and nods her head assuredly.
“Yeah. I’ve got one more surprise up my sleeve.”
I'm so sorry I missed an upload this week. I have been away with my family. Hopefully this makes up for it!
Beca’s head is a mess. The pre-date nerves, the butterflies she gets every time she catches Chloe’s eye and the alcohol swirling around in her system, it all adds to the confusion she has as they walk towards the next bar. It’s the confusion, she thinks, that is stopping her from reaching out and taking Chloe’s hand.
She thought it was a date. A real date.
But now they’re on their way to meet their roommates and probably other people that Beca isn’t comfortable with instead of sneaking back to the apartment that they know is empty.
Chloe isn’t stupid. Beca knows she knows that the apartment is empty. It makes her question, yet again, whether there is a reason they aren’t heading back there. Whether there is something about her that means Chloe doesn’t want to be with her in that way.
Beca’s thoughts race like a runaway train, hurtling around her mind and getting closer and closer to de-railing with every rapid twist and turn. It begins with small questions, building up to an inner monologue which attempts to convince her that Chloe only asked her out because she feels sorry for her. She won’t hold her hand because she’s disgusting. She is part of some elaborate scheme in which Beca is either being Punk’d or Catfished. Each panicked assumption builds on the last, until Beca can feel her breaths shortening and her pulse racing. Until she can feel how sticky her palms are. Until she can’t bring herself to look across at Chloe.
Until they stop. Outside a bar.
When Beca looks up and reads the sign above their heads, everything clicks into place.
Chloe’s eyes are as bright as ever as she nods her head. Slowly, the thoughts in Beca’s mind quieten to a low murmur, low enough that she can once again hear the sounds of the busy New York City streets around her.
“Are you up for the challenge?”
Beca can only imagine that it is the alcohol in her system which is to blame for her response, for her sudden burst of assured confidence.
“That depends. What do I get if I do it?”
The look Chloe gives her as her bright blue eyes roam over Beca’s body convinces her on some level that Chloe is perfectly aware that there is an empty apartment waiting for them after all.
“Epic bragging rights?”
Beca can’t help but roll her eyes as she follows Chloe through the door and into the dark, sound-filled bar.
It doesn’t take long for Beca to remember that she is surrounded by people who used to perform acapella music for fun. She recognises the two girls who are on the stage when they walk in, one tall girl with impossibly long legs and another shorter girl who she remembers from the last time they all went out together; the night they had watched her DJ set at Iridium.
They have drinks in their hand, still ice cold, when the opening chords of ‘Everlasting Love’ ring out and Beca realises just how painful this night could get (and just how grateful she is for the alcohol). Subconsciously, she leans closer into the space of the only person who makes it bearable to be here, sighing as she feels Chloe’s hand come to rest against her hip. It isn’t much, not after how close they have already been behind closed doors, but they’re in public and amongst people Chloe is close to. It’s a sign, Beca thinks, that Chloe wants this. Wants her.
Aubrey is in the corner of the bar, her eyes giving away that she’s already probably had more to drink than she should. When she glances over in their direction, there is something in her gaze that changes. It’s sudden, the iciness of her stare. Beca shivers and, for a moment, she thinks it’s all because of Aubrey’s coldness. It’s only when she hears Chloe’s voice that she realises her hand is no longer on her hip. The warmth, the comfort it provided, is gone.
“Amy already put me down for a song. I’m up next.” Chloe takes a few steps forward, towards the small stage at the end of the room, before turning back to Beca with a smile. “I hope you enjoy it.”
The girls, the other girls, all seem to share a knowing look the moment the song starts. Amy cups her hands around her mouth, unnecessarily amplifying her hollering as Chloe pulls the microphone from the stand. They all seem to look at Chloe, Beca realises, with the same expression. It’s one of knowing. One of comfortability.
Beca doesn’t share it. She can’t.
Not when the girl who she knows, under her bright and perky outer shell, listens to Van Morrison and Joni Mitchell. The girl Beca knows is one who can provide a counter-melody, who can count a syncopated beat.
It isn’t a comment on Amy’s choice of artist, not really. Beca has nothing against Taylor Swift and, even she has to admit, ‘Blank Space’ is a good song. It isn’t the choice necessarily that irks her, but more the idea that this is all they think of when they see Chloe.
Beca hates the idea that someone so special, someone with such a depth of character, could be reduced, pushed into a box, by the people who claim to know her best.
She knows it’s just a song, but as she watches Chloe masterfully perform, holding the attention of not only her close friends but the wider crowd, Beca can feel herself faltering. She can feel herself teetering on the edge, moving closer and closer towards the fall. The fall she knows is inevitable now, now that she has seen Chloe like this.
Still, it bothers her that some people, maybe even the people who Chloe would consider her closest friends, think that this is all she is.
Beca knows, already, that Chloe Faith Beale is so much more than her bright smile and blue eyes might suggest.
It’s the ‘more’, she thinks, that she might just be falling for.
It’s the ‘more’ that pushes her to walk over to the side, to where there is an iPad stuck on the wall with a selection of songs loaded into it.
It’s the ‘more’ that eradicates the fear little by little, scraping just enough off the top to uncover the confidence she needs to put her name down next to a song.
It’s the bright smile and the blue eyes, however, that Beca is thinking of when she finally picks something to sing and adds Chloe’s name next to her own.
Beca’s eyes must give her away when she turns back to face the room and there is no sign of Chloe.
“She’s outside with Aubrey. Stacie’s out there too.” Flo’s smile is genuine. Beca kind of likes her. She isn’t as brash, not quite as full-on as some of the other girls who were in the Bellas together, which makes her a little easier to get to know. “Are you going to sing?”
“Yeah”, she can’t help the way her eyes flit back and forth to the sliding doors, “sorry, I just…” Beca is making her way towards the outside of the bar before Flo can even wave her hand in acknowledgement.
The space outside the bar is coated in a low, thick cloud of cigarette smoke. As it clears, Beca feels some of the guys looking at her. With her trademark scowl firmly in place, she scans the area in search of Chloe.
She isn’t difficult to find. Not with the volume of her voice.
Beca, recognising quickly that the person Chloe is almost-shouting at is Aubrey, hangs back just far enough that she can hear without being seen.
“Aubrey, stop. You’re not being rational about any of this.”
It is impossible not to hear the desperation in Chloe’s tone.
“I’m not that drunk. I’m just pissed that you weren’t here. I needed my best friend and you were off with her instead of with me.”
Chloe scoffs. It isn’t a sound Beca is used to. The Chloe she knows, the Chloe she has seen so far, is able to hold her nerve. This Chloe sounds angry.
“Really? So I have one night away from you, one evening in which I finally do something just for me, and therefore it’s my fault that you’re having a shitty night and that you wound up with some creepy guy trying to buy you a drink?”
Beca can’t tell if Aubrey responds to Chloe’s question. She can’t hear much over the pounding of her heart as she registers just how angry she is once the guilt at having been the one to keep Chloe away subsides.
Suddenly, it makes sense that Chloe would want to keep things quiet; that she would prefer for Aubrey not to know what is going on until they are sure. The secretiveness, the sneaking around, the hiding in plain sight deal they seem to have started? Beca realises in that moment that it is yet another selfless act from Chloe towards her best friend. That, yet again, Chloe is protecting Aubrey in some way.
All Beca can do, she thinks, is be there for Chloe. To hold her up. To keep her safe. To remind her that she is more. More than enough. More than the person she is judged to be.
Chloe begins to make her way inside. She almost walks past Beca, but they catch eyes and, with a quick glance back to make sure Aubrey is out of sight, she leans close and wraps her toned arms around her waist, pressing her forehead against Beca’s as she lets out a long breath.
It’s all that needs to be asked. Beca nods her head, letting her eyes close as Chloe leans in and rests her head on her shoulder.
It takes everything in her power not to let Chloe’s apology annoy her. She shouldn’t have to say it, that’s why it irks her, but Beca knows better than to jump off the deep end when she’s supposed to be the one keeping them both on dry land. Instead, she holds her close and bumps her forehead slightly with her nose. “Well, I think I know what might take your mind off of it.”
Chloe stands back up straight, her eyes wide and dark. “Are you going to sing for me? Did… did you go with the Sia track?”
Beca shrugs her shoulders lightly, relieved that some of the tension appears to have disappeared. “Well, I did pick a Sia song. One I know you’ll definitely like.” It isn’t as suggestive as it could be, certainly nowhere near as suggestive as the same words would have been coming from Chloe’s lips, but it’s enough. “Oh, and there’s one more thing.” Beca had started to walk off but, pulling a trick from Chloe’s very own playbook, she turns and glances flirtatiously over her shoulder. “You’re going to sing it with me.”
As soon as the opening of Titanium plays out, Beca sees the look in Chloe’s eyes.
It’s a look she doesn’t think she will ever forget; a look that makes her wonder how she could have ever questioned whether or not this was a date.
Chloe’s knowing smile imprints itself in Beca’s memory in that moment. It keeps her going, gives her the confidence to sing out, to make herself heard. She can feel her heart thundering but, for once, it doesn’t feel like nerves. Not with Chloe next to her, weaving harmonies in and around Beca’s melody line. Instead, it feels like anticipation.
Chloe hadn’t been lying, Beca thinks, when she said the song really builds. By the time they reach the crescendo, Beca feels as if she’s flying. She has no awareness of anything except Chloe and the song they are singing. Everything else is small. It doesn’t matter.
Nothing matters as much as this.
Maybe not ever.
It is only when the song ends that Beca feels as if she finally opens her eyes and understands what has happened. Flo, Stacie and Amy are on their feet, applauding loudly. Some of the guys who seem to hover around Stacie are even whooping along with them.
The only person missing from the crowd is Aubrey. Chloe seems to automatically race off the stage to find her. Beca tries to follow, a few steps behind, but is caught in a tight hug before she can move.
“Bec, what can I get you to drink? I mean, you must be parched after that performance. It was hot chica! Super hot!” Flo has as little grasp on boundaries as Chloe, but Beca nods her head in acceptance. She’s nice, after all.
“Thanks. Ah… I’ll take a vodka tonic with lime if that’s ok? I’m just going to go to the restroom, but I’ll find you.”
Flo is already on her way to the bar as Beca pushes her way towards the bathroom.
“Stace, what the fuck is going on with her?”
Beca would recognise Chloe’s voice anywhere. She cringes at the fact that she’s witnessing this conversation through a cubicle door; the second conversation tonight she has overheard.
“I… I don’t know. I mean, she’s stressed about work and about her dad but this is just…” Beca can fill in the gaps, picturing Stacie’s silent physical gestures. “You know? I guess she’s just trying to hold it all together, she’s trying to pretend she’s fine and that everything is normal but I don’t think she realises just how obvious it is that it’s all an act. I mean, you should have seen her trying to flirt with Liam from the gym. It was like watching a robot. She… she’s not Aubrey, you know.”
Chloe’s sigh almost breaks Beca’s heart. “I just wish there was something I could do to help her.”
Beca wants to push the door open and dramatically declare that Chloe is doing more than enough for Aubrey. She wants to shout about how selfish her friend is being, how much she’s using Chloe’s goodwill to keep her afloat. She wants to, but she doesn’t.
It isn’t her place.
Plus, Stacie gets there first.
“Chloe, if you do any more for her you’re going to make yourself sick. I know you don’t need reminding of what it was like before, but I can’t bear to see either of you get into that kind of state ever again.” Beca nervously taps her thumb against her forefinger as she listens in. “Look, why don’t I let Aubrey stay with me tonight? A change of scene, a little TLC, it might do her some good. Plus, she always seems happier when she’s with Bella. Maybe tomorrow I can convince her to come to the playground with us? Just… take some time for yourself. I’ll take care of Bree for a little.”
From the sound, Beca is fairly certain Chloe ambushes Stacie with a tight hug.
“I’ll… I’ll go check on her now and order an Uber. You should probably check your eye makeup before you go back out there.”
Beca waits until Stacie closes the door before emerging. Chloe is pressed against the sink, leaning in close to the mirror to clean the black from under her eyes. Beca doesn’t want to startle her, so she clears her throat lightly.
Chloe, to her credit, simply lifts her gaze in the mirror. “You know, we really should work on your snooping.”
“This one was actually more of an accident than last time. As in, I was already here when you walked in. But, ah, sorry if it felt like I was snooping. I didn’t mean to.”
Chloe takes a careful swipe under her eye, wiping away some of the black residue that had ended up there. “I know.”
“But… are you okay?”
“I… I will be. I think maybe I just need a break. Stacie’s right. Sometimes, well, I get too involved in Aubrey’s life and it doesn’t end well. Last time was particularly shit. For both of us. I’d rather not go there again.”
“A break sounds like a good idea.” Beca thinks back to what she witnessed earlier, to the way Aubrey had spoken to Chloe, to the way it had made her feel; they way she imagines it makes Chloe feel. “But I think it’s also important for you to know that you have someone on your team. Someone who thinks you’re wonderful and brilliant and kind and supportive and…” Beca isn’t sure where she’s going; she’s just saying words at this point. Carefully, she takes a breath and gathers her thoughts. “Look, I think what my half-drunk brain is trying to get at is that you aren’t just the person Aubrey thinks you are. You… you’re more than that. I mean, dude. You got me to sing. On stage. That’s pretty special.”
“I just… I just think you need to know how great you are. How special.” Beca’s tone softens as she finds herself once again lost in pools of blue. “If other people are making you shitty, the least I can do is make you feel good again.”
There’s a lightness to Chloe’s eyes, now. Beca can see it. It’s playful and spirited, much more like the Chloe Beca has come to know. “Is that why you chose that song? To make me feel good?”
“I mean, did it work?”
Chloe takes the final step into Beca’s personal space with a confidence Beca could only ever wish to have. She is commanding as she wraps her arms around Beca’s neck, linking her hand and her wrist behind her head. Her eyes seem to dance over every feature on Beca’s face before settling on her lips.
“Stacie’s taking Aubrey for the night. Amy has already left with one of the gym rats from Stacie’s work. The apartment is empty.”
“Why don’t we head back there? Maybe you’ll get the chance to find out if your little karaoke session had the desired effect.”
Beca swallows, registering just how dry her mouth is and how much she longs for the drink that Flo had offered to get her. The drink she has probably finished herself since they have been in the bathroom for so long. “I mean, sure. If… if that’s going to help take your mind off things, I don’t see why not.”
It is obvious from Chloe’s expression that she can see directly through Beca’s attempts at nonchalance.
“I think that’s the best idea either of us have had all day. Come on, let’s get out of here.”
Each step Chloe takes on the walk back to the apartment is a step away from Aubrey and a step closer to something else entirely. She uses the walk, the dark, the cold winter air, to prompt her to focus on Beca, on making this night about the two of them and nobody else.
When they get to the apartment and the first thing Chloe senses is the lingering scent of Aubrey’s expensive perfume, she realises that it might be harder than she expected to push aside her thoughts. At least, she reasons, not without help.
“How about a glass of wine?”
Beca is shrugging off her jacket, brushing her hair over one shoulder as Chloe waits for her response. “Sure.”
Chloe knows she is usually the enthusiastic conversationalist between them, but it doesn’t change the fact that Beca’s short answer is out of character. She retreats to the kitchen, pulling out two wine glasses that actually match and pouring a measure of deep red liquid into each of them. As she puts the bottle on the side and begins to walk into the living room, a song begins to play.
“Of course you’re the kind of person to have a playlist for a time like this.” It’s a comment with a lot more connotation than Chloe cares to admit, at least not yet. Not until she’s finished her wine. Not until she’s more certain than she is right now that Beca feels the same way she does; that she wants this as much as Chloe does.
“Oh, for being alone in the apartment?” It’s the look in Beca’s eye, playful and light, that pulls Chloe in and makes her want to respond, to follow her lead down whichever path they are taking.
“Well… for being alone together in the apartment, I guess.” If Beca wants to play the flirtation game, Chloe is more than willing to be her opponent. She teases with her sultry tone, smirking slightly at the way she knows Beca can’t take her eyes off her. “Although, it’s a very specific situation. What were you thinking about when you picked these songs, I wonder?”
To her credit, Beca doesn’t blush. Chloe watches, waiting, as she takes a slow sip of her wine. “Jennifer Lawrence in the Hunger Games.”
Chloe’s laugh is laced with relief. The tension, the pressure that has been building through their odd flirtation, shatters the moment Beca smiles. After, Chloe feels as if she can breathe. She takes a deep, full breath and lets it out slowly. It is then, in the afterglow of laughter, that Chloe finds herself looking at Beca, really looking at her. She takes in her bright eyes, her dewy skin, the way wisps of her hair brush against her neck. Beca Mitchell is one of the most beautiful people Chloe has ever seen. One of the most beautiful people, inside and out, she has ever known.
“What are you smiling at?” Beca’s voice comes out barely louder than a whisper.
Chloe decides not to answer with words. Instead, she puts her glass down before taking Beca’s from her hand. She puts them on the coffee table and turns, resting her arm on the top of the couch as she lets her fingers brush over the ends of Beca’s mousy brown hair. She tucks it behind her ear, using her thumb to caress over her jaw. Slowly, her fingers curve until she’s stroking them along the soft skin of Beca’s neck, just behind her ear.
The kiss, when it finally comes, is softer than Chloe had imagined it would be. It’s gentle and slow, both of them seemingly holding back just enough. When they pull apart, her eyes meet Beca’s and she sees a flicker of something. Something that worries her.
“Are you ok?”
Beca shrugs her shoulders. It isn’t the best of signs, but Chloe finds herself relieved that it isn’t an outright ‘no’. “Is… is it bad if I admit that I’m nervous?”
“No. I mean, it might ruin your badass street cred but I won’t tell anyone.” Chloe takes a moment to truly think about Beca’s words. “Is it me? Am I making you nervous?”
Beca shrugs again. “I mean, it’s just that… well, you’re Chloe.”
“Last time I checked.”
“I don’t know. I guess I just, I… I really like you and I don’t want to fuck anything up. This just feels like… it’s a line. A line that changes everything when we cross it.”
Chloe understands completely. Slowly, she brings her eyes up to meet Beca’s gaze. “I’ll wait. If, if that’s what you want.”
Beca shakes her head as she laughs. “I think that’s the furthest thing from what I want. I mean, do you have any idea how I feel every time you kiss me? It’s… it’s crazy. My whole body just…” the sound that escapes Beca’s lips isn’t anything close to being a comprehensible word, but Chloe understands it all the same. When she looks back at her, Beca scrunches her eyes. “Can we pretend I didn’t just admit to that?”
Of all the things that people wouldn’t believe about Beca Mitchell, Chloe thinks the fact that she is cute might be at the top of the list. Still, when she blushes and attempts to cover her face, Chloe acts on her impulses and pulls her straight into a tight, inescapable hug.
“Beca Mitchell, you are so cute.”
“You’re just saying that to make me feel better.” Beca’s voice is muffled as she leans her head against Chloe’s bicep.
“Really? You don’t think I understand exactly how you feel? Beca, incase you have forgotten, you and I sang my freaking lady jam song earlier. In public. I… I watched you sing it, and well, my whole body felt like it was electricity running through my veins instead of blood.” Chloe pulls back, allowing Beca to lift her head up. “I’m nervous too. But the way you make me feel, Bec? I think I’m more nervous about making you feel good. You already make me feel amazing without even touching me.”
“Well, what a talented lady I am.” Chloe knows Beca is hiding behind her humour and sarcasm. She knows from the way her eyes keep flitting down to her lips, the way her fingers flex against her waist, that they’re both standing on a precipice now.
Chloe decides to be the one to take the plunge. She nods her head. “When you sang, when you stood there with me and sang that song, there wasn’t a part of me that didn’t feel it.”
Beca leans in close, close enough that Chloe’s breath hitches as she inhales. Lips, soft but assured, press against her forehead. “Did you feel it here?”
Chloe nods her head. “Of course I did. I was replaying that time I caught you in the shower. Thinking about how different it felt this time.”
Lips trail down her temple to her cheek. Beca’s lips brush against the skin. “What about here?”
Chloe can’t help but nod again. “I’ll admit you made me blush when the song started. I mean, do you know what it does to me?”
Beca glances up playfully before her fingers tap against Chloe’s chest. “What about here?”
“Here?” Beca traces over Chloe’s clavicle before leaning in to kiss her there.
“M-hmm.” Chloe is out of words for now.
“Here?” Beca’s kisses form a line on Chloe’s neck. All she can do is nod her head. “What about…” As soon as Beca moves back, clearly enjoying her teasing little game, Chloe leans in close and pulls her into a bruising kiss. Every feeling she had held back, every urge and spark triggered by Beca’s lips comes to the surface as she relaxes into the embrace. Everything else is forgotten. Everything except Beca.
As soon as they pull apart, Chloe’s words come back. She only needs a few, just enough to get across what she truly wants more than anything else.
“Beca.” The use of her name gets her attention. “Can I take you to bed?”
It feels formal, maybe too formal compared to her previous experiences, but Chloe watches as Beca nods her head, as she pulls herself to her feet and holds her hand out.
“I thought you’d never ask.”
They both know it’s a lie.
The moment the bedroom closes behind them, Chloe feels the air settle. Without their roommates, the house is quiet.
Silent but for the sound of two people trying to disguise their heavy breathing.
Silent but for the racing beat of Chloe’s heart thundering in her chest.
Until it breaks.
“Chloe.” Chloe’s eyes dart towards Beca the moment she speaks. Her voice is timid, gravelly. They don’t have to be quiet, they both know, but it feels odd not to whisper. “Come here.” The second time she speaks, Beca’s voice is laced with a tone Chloe isn’t sure she’s heard before. Her feet are moving before her mind catches up. Suddenly, she’s back to where she had been, body pressed to Beca’s as the smaller girl leads them backwards. Towards the bed.
“Are you sure?”
Chloe knows what Beca is asking. It- the unspoken- sits in the space, in the whispered quiet around them. It lingers in every crevice of their otherwise empty house; a secret shared between them and the walls.
She has never been more sure.
In every way possible, Beca Mitchell is music.
She is a composer, curiously listening to the sounds each caress, each brush of her fingers, pulls from Chloe’s lips. Some are staccato, some resonate into the night air. She plays, experimentally building layer upon layer of tones until she finds it. A melody. Once Beca finds it- the song- she plays. A virtuoso in her own way, Beca’s symphony amplifies to a crescendo Chloe knows she will never forget.
Not when she’s left with the hook, the best part of the song, playing over and over in her head.
“Beca, I…” Chloe’s words, once she finally finds them, are cut off. The animalistic part of her brain has been holding back for too long. Rather than finish her sentence, she lurches forwards until her lips are pressed to Beca’s. “Holy shit.”
Beca’s laugh is melodic in itself. Her voice, the way she sings, it’s all music to Chloe. As her hands begin to dance over Beca’s body, her mouth tracing a line over the bare skin of her clavicle, Chloe hears it.
“I like that sound” Chloe’s breath, she knows, is close enough to Beca’s skin to make her shiver. “Let me do it again.”
The moment her tongue brushes over Beca’s neck, down towards her collarbone, she whimpers once more.
Chloe quickly realises that that is her favourite sound of all.
Chloe’s words echo in her head as she lays in the dark, listening to Beca’s gentle breathing.
When you sang, there wasn’t a part of me that didn’t feel it.
Her body is still humming, still full of coursing electricity. Chloe imagines, when she closes her eyes, the way sparks dance around inside her, each one powered by a memory. A sound. A touch. A whimper.
Each step Chloe took tonight was a move towards Beca; towards this feeling, this elated electrified feeling, within her. Each step was a move away from Aubrey, a move away from the pain and the heaviness and ache that comes with carrying two people through life.
A move towards lightness in every sense of the word.
The lightness that comes from the way Beca looks at her. From the way she smiles. From the way she lets herself go, just a little, just enough, and sings. It comes from the way Beca touched her, from the masterful caress of her fingers against Chloe’s skin. It’s in the way they have ended up, curled together in Chloe’s bed, Beca’s bare chest pressed against Chloe’s back as her arms hold her close.
As she finally feels herself drifting towards sleep, Chloe wonders exactly how she is going to be able to keep any of this a secret. It certainly won’t be easy.
Not when Beca is still holding onto her and she already misses her.
Not when there are memories solidifying in her mind of darkened eyes and mussed hair and Beca’s clenched feet holding her close to her writhing body.
Not when Chloe knows she’s close to falling.
Or, she realises as her mind’s whirring finally slows, maybe she’s already taken the leap.
Well, obviously I want your feedback on this one!
I'd also be interested to know where you think it's going next. (FYI, we aren't even NEAR half way through!)
Beca knows something is wrong the moment she opens her eyes. At first, she puts the unsettled feeling down to the fact that she’s in Chloe’s bed, in Chloe’s room. The sheets are different, Chloe’s body is still slightly pressed against hers and the light coming from the window illuminates a completely different part of the space. Of course she’s unsettled, but it doesn’t explain why she feels so bad.
Quickly, Beca pulls herself up into a sitting position and feels the weight of her head almost throw her back onto the pillow.
With the forethought to grab the nearest items of clothing, Beca pulls on her t-shirt and a pair of Chloe’s running shorts before picking up her phone and running towards the kitchen. It’s hot, unbearably so, but Beca knows the fridge will cool her down. She blinks several times at the bright light as she opens the door and pulls out the closest bottle of juice. The lid is unscrewed and she sips at it slowly, focussing on nothing else but the sensation of the cool liquid.
Beca doesn’t mean to make such a loud sound as she puts the bottle back on the counter, but her arms are unsteady and her coordination means that she has no choice but to slam it. Slowly, she turns, licking the remnants of orange juice from her lips. “Hi.”
Aubrey’s piercing eyes study her for a moment before they soften. There is worry in her voice as she speaks. “What do you need?”
“Just…” Beca can’t think clearly. She knows the sugar is making its way into her system, but it isn’t working quickly enough. “I need to cool off.”
Low blood sugar- hypoglycaemia- is something Beca knows how to spot. She’s felt it enough times in her life to recognise the signs. She has seen herself in the mirror enough times to know why Aubrey looks as concerned as she does. Beca knows she is pale and sweating, with a drowsy look on her face. She feels weak, weaker than she has felt in months, and it sucks. All she wants right now is sugar and cold air. Thankfully, Aubrey is alert enough to get her to sit on the edge of the couch next to an open window while she goes to get her bag.
Beca’s fingers aren’t working right, but she manages to get her bag open and pull out her kit. Quickly, she pricks her finger and collects the blood before putting it into the device. “I… I can’t see well enough. What number does it say?” Beca hates having to ask for help at the best of times, but Aubrey is there and she seems to care.
“Is… is that bad?”
Beca can’t help but nod her head. “Yeah. I… I have a tube of, like, orange shit in that bag. Can I have it please?” When Aubrey hands her the glucose tablets, Beca tips one out and throws it into her mouth. “Just got to hope this does the job” she says once she majority of it has dissolved. “Thanks, by the way. You… you don’t have to stay with me. I know it’s cold.”
Aubrey, with a blanket from the couch wrapped around her shoulders, seems to soften slightly. “Beca, I’m not leaving you. Unless,” Aubrey glances towards the corridor, “unless you want me to go and get Chloe?”
For a moment, Beca wants nothing more. She wants Chloe’s arms around her and Chloe’s voice whispering reassurances in her ear and Chloe’s gentle hands pressing against her forehead to measure her temperature. She almost says yes, almost nods her head, when she remembers what Chloe’s room looks like. She recalls how the bed is crumpled and clearly looks like two people slept there. She remembers the discarded items of her own clothing, including her underwear, strewn across the floor. She remembers what they did last night and realises exactly how obvious it would be to someone like Aubrey.
Someone who, unless she is very much mistaken, seems to be the entire reason she and Chloe are keeping this thing a secret.
“No, I’m good. Let her sleep.” It takes Beca a moment to register that Aubrey must have come home at some point. Slowly, as she starts to feel more like herself, she begins to wonder exactly when Aubrey came back. “What… what’s the time?”
“A little after 7.30.”
Beca sits up slightly, grimacing at the way her t-shirt sticks to her back as she moves. “I thought you were at Stacie’s place last night? What time did you come back?”
“I was. Her kid woke me up at 5.30. Stacie offered for me to stay and go out with them for the day but I, well, I need to apologise to Chloe. I don’t think I’ll be able to focus on much else until then. So I left.”
When Beca tries to nod her head in agreement, a wave of nausea hits her. Leaning back, she breathes in and out as slowly as she can.
“What can I do?” Beca isn’t sure she’s ever heard Aubrey this gentle or sincere. “Tell me how to help.”
Beca, without opening her eyes or moving her head, begins to explain. “I mean, there isn’t a lot you can do. I… I kind of feel tipsy. It’s because I’m low and the sugar hasn’t quite hit me yet. I just need to wait it out but it’s frustrating as shit.” She lets out a small whine in frustration. “Just… distract me? Tell me about you. About college or where you grew up or whatever. Just… keep my head busy while I wait for this stupid sugar to actually go into my system so I don’t feel like a drunk ghost.”
Aubrey’s voice is surprisingly soft. She’s being quiet, Beca knows, so as not to disturb Chloe, but it also feels like she’s being gentle for her sake. It’s nice. Nice enough that Beca focusses on the words and listens, rather than simply letting the sound of someone else’s voice distract her from the weird sensations in her body.
“I could tell you about college. I’m sure you know that’s where we all met, where the Bellas began, but we all came to college for different reasons. In fact, the only one of us who actually went to Barden with the sole purpose of singing acapella was Emily because her mom was also a Bella.”
Beca opens one eye. “Did you say Barden? As in Barden, Georgia?”
“Yeah. Barden University.”
“Oh wow.” Beca tries her best to focus both of her eyes as she speaks. “My… my dad teaches there. Comparative Literature and something about criticising post-war something or other.”
“Nice. He might have even taught Chloe, you know. She took a lot of Literature classes. I avoided them like the plague. My thing was communications and PR. I was more about marketing and digital media. The only English classes I took were the mandatory ones.”
Beca can feel the glucose beginning to settle in her system. Slowly, she brushes her hair from her face and turns to face Aubrey. “I think it’s starting to work. Let me test it again.”
It is as soon as Beca removes the strip from the device in her hand, as the number ’84’ blinks back at her, that she hears Chloe’s bare feet padding down the hallway.
“Beca? What happened?” Chloe’s eyes dart between Beca and Aubrey. Beca can only imagine how strange it must look to see them sat so close together. “Are you alright?”
Aubrey pulls herself up from the couch and pats Beca’s leg. “I’m going to go and shower. You know where I am if you need me.” Just as she prepares to leave, she turns back with a smile. “I’m glad you’re looking a little better.”
“Me too” Beca says, her light smile for once matching her mood. “Thank you.”
The moment Aubrey is out of sight, Beca feels Chloe pull her in for a tight hug. It only lasts a second before she steps back, a sad look in her blue eyes as she scans Beca’s form.
“Why didn’t you wake me?”
Beca knows she shouldn’t, but she feels bashful admitting that- in reality- she’s grown so used to dealing with things on her own that it didn’t even occur to her to wake Chloe. Instead, she lets out a sigh. “I just… I woke up and knew I needed to get sugar as soon as possible. I didn’t exactly expect Aubrey to be here, but I’m glad she was.”
Chloe’s sigh gives away exactly how she feels. She leans in close to Beca and rests her head on her shoulder. “Same.” It takes a moment, but Beca feels the tension increase slightly. Chloe’s hold on her tightens as she turns slowly to face her. “I… I’m glad you’re okay.” There is a moment, a brief second, in which blue eyes meet blue, before Beca’s eyes close and she feels Chloe’s lips press gently against hers. “I just want to do whatever I can to make you feel better.”
There is a smile on Beca’s face. A thousand mushy, horribly romantic and sweet thoughts fill her mind. One of them escapes her lips before she can hold it in.
“You make me feel better.”
If she didn’t feel sick before, that might just have tipped her over the edge. At least, until she sees the sad, faraway look in Chloe’s eyes.
“I thought you might have had second thoughts after last night. I thought you might have left because you regretted…”
Beca shakes her head. Whatever Chloe is about to say, she doesn’t need to. Without a moment’s hesitation, Beca leans in to capture her lips in a sweet kiss. “Not one bit. I just… I think I may not have accounted for the amount of alcohol or, ah, exercise, I did last night.”
It feels like victory to Beca the moment she notices that Chloe is blushing.
Neither Chloe or Aubrey will let Beca move far. She understands why. Her parents were both the same the first time they witnessed her blood sugar drop low like it had that morning. Still, it’s frustrating to be left to sit on the couch and relax (whatever that means) when there are tracks on her laptop waiting to be edited or pieced together.
Beca can’t help but guess that is the exact reason why it feels like she has been penned in with scatter cushions.
“Chloe?” Beca has a good vantage point of the dining table from her spot on the couch. She sits back and pretends to watch the re-run of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives she has found on the TV as she watches Chloe put her notes from studying into a neat pile and look up at her best friend.
“I just… I need to apologise for last night. For my behaviour. I know I was out of line.” Aubrey sounds sincere, but Beca can see from the way her teeth worry against her lips that Chloe isn’t readily accepting her apology. “I shouldn’t have said what I said.”
“You shouldn’t have thought it, either. I just… I know you’re stressed and I know I’ve always been there for you, Bree, but I am a person too. I have feelings.”
“I know.” Aubrey lets out a long sigh. “I’m sorry.”
Once Chloe releases her blonde roommate from the tight hug she pulls her into, Beca notices Aubrey looking her way. She sits up slightly, wondering for a moment if she has been caught out. Aubrey smiles and flicks her hair over her shoulder. “I’m going to go to the Farmer’s Market. Amy and Flo are there; Amy’s singing- no idea if she’s got a license or anything- and Flo’s truck is there. I’ll bring you both back a juice.”
Beca pulls herself up and clears her throat. “Chlo, why don’t you go with Aubrey? You’ve been studying all morning and I’m sure you need a break. Plus, some fresh air would probably be good too.”
When Chloe turns around, Beca tries her best to convey the hidden, silent reasons why she thinks she should go and spend time with Aubrey. It isn’t exactly like she can say “we both know you won’t get any studying done if you stay here”, so she settles for a quiet “I’ll help you study later.”
“Are you sure you’ll be ok?”
Beca nods her head. “I’ll be fine. Honestly, go. Have fun.”
Chloe nods her head gently and glances back at Aubrey. “I’ll… I’ll just go and get changed.”
It surprises Beca the most that, the moment Chloe begins to walk towards her bedroom, Aubrey catches her eye and mouths ‘thank you’ in her direction.