There are few human experiences in life that can’t be captured by music, and nobody is more devoted to music than Beca.
It stands to reason then that Beca is something of an expert in the artistry of emotion, even if it is only in that broad, impressionistic, metaphorical kind of way.
She moves through the world in music—multi-faceted waves upon layers and layers, each track a symphony of harmony and dissonance. From the discomfort, anger, and melancholy in the minor scale, to the joy and wonder of sweeping crescendos and quick staccatos. Throw in the freedom of a trumpet solo, the romance of Spanish guitars, or the reverence of a Gospel choir—there’s nothing that can’t be felt with the right arrangement.
And love—well, love is just a tapestry woven by all of the above.
Love is music, and music is all that Beca lives for.
So, in a roundabout way, Beca lives for love.
Even if nobody else seemed to agree when Beca declared this over dinner after a few too many glasses of wine with her friends. Instead, they’d burst into laughter, doubling over into their steak dinners with tears in their eyes. Fuming and indignant, Beca’s ego fought back. By the end of the meal, to Beca’s dismay, she’d somehow managed to volunteer herself for a non-profit gig just to prove a point.
Worse, it wasn’t just any gig.
Emily, her intern, friend, and premier protégé, helps her mother run the Love of Music Foundation, an organization promoting music and literacy across America, and she was relentless once the opportunity to get Beca on board presented itself. The rest of Beca’s friends piled on, and Beca couldn’t back down. And so, before Beca understood what she’d promised, she found herself booked on a cross-country PR tour talking to kids about music.
Beca lives for music.
But children? Public speaking? It’s a nightmare come true.
Beca lives for love—theoretically—but her patience is tested at every turn. The first few stops are shaky, even with Emily’s boundless enthusiasm beside her. With a little bit of practice, the job becomes almost bearable, though she would never admit it out loud. Still, she’s sure that as soon as she gets back to Los Angeles, she’s going to kill her friends for goading her into this in the first place. This tour is the worst idea of her life. Nobody can convince her otherwise.
That is, until they arrive in Atlanta toward the end of their first week.
Specifically, Barden Middle School, where Beca is currently restlessly wringing her hands in the parking lot. Here, little does she know, the true test of love is set to begin.
“Ready, Beca?” Emily asks, excitedly jumping out of the van. “I heard there’s a really good vegan place down the street—we should go after this!”
For the duration of this tour, Emily has been promoted to manager for the good image of her mother’s foundation, but Beca has yet to feel the difference when Emily’s never-ending zest for life seems unchanging no matter what her responsibilities are.
“Are you sure I can’t just play my music and get out?” Beca sighs for what feels like the millionth time since this tour began a week ago. “I hate speaking.”
“You’ll be fine,” Emily giggles. “It’s one music teacher and a couple of classes. We’ll be done by noon! So about that vegan place?”
Beca clutches her stomach. “Ugh, I can’t even think about food right now. Why the hell did I let you guys talk me into this?”
“Oh, c’mon,” Emily says, pulling a large backpack from the back of the van, “I’ve seen you wrangle all kinds of divalicious superstars, and you’re scared of a few kids?”
“I don’t think twenty-five is classified as a few,” Beca grumbles as she takes the backpack from Emily. “And kids are mean.”
“Seriously?” Emily laughs. “You got invited to a dinner party with the Obamas, and you’re worried about what twelve-year-olds think?”
Beca frowns as she climbs up the steps to the pair of large, teal doors of the front entrance. “Dude, kids cut deep, okay? I’m still not over that kid saying my vest looks like a dead chicken. It’s fucking vintage French designer shit, man. CR picked it out for me!”
“Omigod, Beca, you can’t swear here,” Emily whispers harshly. She reaches out and grabs Beca’s wrist before she can open the door. “Please tell me you won’t swear anymore while we’re here. My mom will be so mad at me if this gets back to her.”
Beca rolls her eyes. “I’ll try, Em,” she sighs. She attempts to tug away, but Emily’s grip tightens.
“Okay, okay, I won’t. But I’m pretty sure kids swear a lot more these days,” she mutters when Emily finally relents, her lower lip jutting out dejectedly. “Oh, stop looking at me like that. Don’t worry, I’m not going to make Catherine mad.”
Emily cracks a satisfied grin. “Okay.”
By the time they approach the school’s music room, a cacophony of shrill children’s voices is already going at full swing. Somewhere in the background is a piano, but all Beca hears is head-splintering chaos. “God, this is awful,” she mutters.
Emily elbows her with a quick shush, and she glares back.
“Actually, I kind of agree.” Their guide, a friendly blonde who’d intercepted them while they were wandering the hallways looking exceptionally lost and out of place, is an English teacher in a nearby classroom. She turns to them with a smile. “I don’t know how Chloe does it. I can’t even think straight when my door’s not closed.”
“Are these kids even being…supervised?” Beca asks, cringing.
“Beca! Don’t be rude,” Emily whispers. She offers an apologetic smile to their guide. “Sorry, Jessica. Beca’s just nervous about everything.”
Jessica just laughs. “Oh, it’s totally okay.” She thinks for a moment, pausing just before the music room’s closed doors. “We get all kinds of kids at this school, and for some…well, we’re just lucky if they show up. They’re good kids, and Chloe’s amazing with them. It’s just…I guess music is a very different form of expression for them. It’s more about the community than it is about being ‘good’, you know?”
Beca looks past Jessica and at the door behind her, wincing at the embarrassment creeping up her neck. “Sorry, I—uh, that was rude, and I…” She shuts her eyes and takes a deep breath before meeting Jessica’s gaze with a small smile. “I get it. Thank you. For bringing us here and everything.”
Jessica returns the smile. “No problem at all. You’ll be in good hands. Chloe’s awesome. And if you need anything, I’ll be right over there in 106,” she says, gesturing in the direction of a hallway to their left.
“Thanks again!” Emily chirps.
As they walk into the music room, the first thing Beca notices is that the room is far bigger than it looks from the outside. Most of the students are scattered along a set of risers, singing a song led by a confident young girl with unruly, red hair. A few students are standing by a piano, where a boy seems to be playing a completely different song in a completely different genre from the choir. A few students, one of which stands when Beca and Emily walked into the room, are huddled on the floor next to a set of acoustic guitars.
“Uh, Miss Beale?” The student calls, stumbling into a hidden back room behind the risers.
“So they are unsupervised,” Beca murmurs to Emily.
“I’m sure there’s a reason,” Emily replies with an uneasy smile. “I just hope we didn’t get the date wrong. Everyone else has been so prepared for us...”
“Okay, stop!” the girl conducting the choir exclaims suddenly. “Sopranos, you sound like dying cats. What the hell, Margot? Like, are you trying to throw everyone else off?”
An Asian girl at the front with cat-eye glasses and a bob, presumably Margot, scoffs.
“Terry isn’t even playing the right song, and you think I’m the one messing up? Just because you like him, it doesn’t mean you have to be such an asshole to everyone else, Alyssa,” she spits back.
A wave of “oooh’s” from the other students fill the room, just as an auburn-haired woman steps out from behind the riser. “Margot! Alyssa! That is not how we talk to each other in this classroom! Everyone else, take a seat. Terry—it’s Jose’s turn on the piano today.” Terry opens his mouth, but the woman holds up a hand. “I don’t want to hear it right now. We are all going to have a little talk about respect after class today, and you can bet we’re going to cut into lunch. You’re all better than this.”
A collective groan fills the room, and it’s only then that the woman turns to Beca and Emily standing awkwardly by the door. “Oh!” She says, turning the bluest eyes Beca has ever seen in their direction. Beca swallows a sudden ball of nerves. “So sorry you had to see all that. I’m usually a lot more prepared but there was a bit of an emergency,” she says, extending a hand as she approaches, cupping her mouth with a hand in a whisper, “boy problems, as you can imagine.” A shy, androgynous student with messy black hair steps out from behind the riser and takes a seat on the floor. Beca glances toward them to avoid the intensity of this woman’s clear blue eyes as she gives her hand a firm shake. “I’m Chloe Beale.”
“Beca Mitchell,” Beca replies with a nod. “And this is Emily Junk.”
“Hi! We talked on the phone a while back. Thanks for having us,” Emily greets with a sunny smile.
“Beca…now, why does your name sound so familiar?” Chloe says, tapping her chin in thought.
Beca, still in the process of fighting back the roiling discomfort in her stomach, simply attempts a smile. “I’ve been around the industry a bit, I guess.”
Emily chuckles. “Beca’s just being modest.”
“I-it’s not important,” Beca cuts in. “So, uh, I guess Emily will help me set up while I…introduce myself to the kids?”
Chloe’s eyes seem to flicker across every detail of Beca’s face before finally, mercifully, offering Emily her smile. “Sure, I’ll help you out after I get the kids settled.”
Chloe turns back to the class, who had been quietly watching and whispering in their seats, and sweeps her arms across the air. “Everybody, on the risers, please.” She pauses, waits and stares at every student until they squirm under the pressure of her gaze while they scramble over to an empty seat on the risers. “As you can see, we have two guests today,” she says once the students hush into a curious silence. “They’re from the Love of Music Foundation, and they’re here to talk to you guys about making music. If you guys behave—Dominic, Alendro, stop that, please—I’ll consider postponing that super important respect talk for next class. Sound fair?”
The class murmurs and nods.
“Good. I am expecting you all to be on your best behaviour.”
Beca feels everything inside twist into a knot, a decidedly less pleasant feeling than earlier, when Chloe’s eyes sent different kinds of butterflies fluttering. She takes a deep breath. As she has done for the past week, she takes a moment to close her eyes and curse her ego alongside all of her friends for pushing her into this damn gig.
Then, she clears her throat. “Hey, everyone, I’m Beca. I’m a music producer.”
The class rumbles with voices. “Is that why you wear so many earrings?” A girl asks at the same time as her hand shoots into the air.
“Uh, no?” Beca furrows her brows.
“Are you famous? How come we don’t know you?” A boy asks with crossed arms.
“Are you, like, not good at your job?” The girl previously identified as Alyssa says, squinting down at her from the top row of the choir risers.
“Hey!” Emily calls from the back, knocking over something with a clang. “Oops. Sorry.”
“It’s okay,” Chloe says quietly over her students’ giggling.
Beca rubs her eyes with a thumb and forefinger.
What a mess.
And she’d barely spoken two sentences.
“Eighth graders, this is your first warning,” Chloe says. Beca glances behind her to see her arms akimbo, her expression dark and thoroughly unimpressed. “I understand you’re all very excited, but if you can’t be respectful to our guests and let them speak, then I will have to apologize and let them go. Then, we’ll have to go back to doing our scales and vocal exercises.”
“Ugh, scales suck,” someone says from the group.
“That’s what I thought,” Chloe says, cracking a smile as she shakes her head. “Can we be nice and listen to Beca?”
The class demurs, and Beca gives Chloe a grateful smile.
“Uh, so yeah, we’re not gonna do scales today,” she tells the class as she stands next to the laptop Emily has set up on top of a table piled with neat stacks of sheet music. “I’m going to show you guys today how to mix music with just a computer and your voices. Rather than explaining everything, it’s easier just to show you. So, we’re going to start with a couple of soloists who aren’t afraid to show me what you’ve got.”
She assumed Alyssa, the fearless choir director she’d seen earlier, would take the chance to show off her own skills, but she simply cowers a little beside Margot, the girl she’d previously been arguing with, as the rest of the students are simultaneously glancing around at each other and trying to make themselves look as small as possible.
“Oh, c’mon, guys, I thought you love singing!” Chloe says from the side of the room. She sighs when several students shake their heads while others simply stare back blankly. “Okay, I’ll go first then.”
“Sure,” Beca encourages with a smile. “Give me any song you’d like, and Emily will follow up with the beats and the melody. Keep singing until I tap you on the shoulder, okay?”
It’s dead quiet in the room as the kids stare intently at their teacher, now standing at the front of the room with a microphone that Beca handed her. “Any song?” She asks.
“Ooh, ooh! Sing ‘Montero’, Ms. Beale!” Someone says.
“Call me by your name,” someone sings in response.
“What about Ariana Grande?”
The voices pile on excitedly as everyone throws in their requests, until Chloe raises her hand and folds it into a fist. Like a well-trained orchestra, the students fall back into silence.
Chloe glances at Beca beside her shyly, then begins to sing: “Oh, her eyes, her eyes, make the stars look like they’re not shining. Her hair, her hair, falls perfectly without her trying. She’s so beautiful…and I tell her every day.”
Beca’s mouth falls open as the students glance between them in anticipation. Luckily, Emily is on the hardware, following with a simple beat and a few accompanying notes. Chloe is right on the cusp of the chorus when Beca returns to her senses, rewiring quickly to layer a different song against the backdrop of Chloe’s voice: “I was thinking ‘bout her, thinking ‘bout me, thinking ‘bout us, what we gonna be”—Chloe keeps singing, despite the shock in her wide-eyed expression when she meets Beca’s eyes—“opened my eyes, yeah, it was only just a dream.”
“When I see your face…”
“I travel back, down that road…”
“There’s not a thing that I would change…”
“Will she come back? No one knows…”
“’Cause you’re amazing…”
“I realize, yeah…”
“Just the way you are.”
“It was only just a dream.”
Reluctantly, Beca reaches out to tap Chloe on the shoulder, though she’s already lowering her microphone, her smile wide as the students cheer and clap. “Oh my god,” she whispers as she catches Beca’s hand with her own, “that was amazing.”
“Yeah,” Beca replies breathlessly. “It really was.”
Beca and Emily are seated on the patio of a swanky vegan burger bar, sipping cocktails and discussing their itinerary as they wait for their food, when Beca’s attention begins to drift.
The rest of the lesson went by in a blur as the students clamour to be the next volunteer for their mini mash-up lesson. Really, all she remembers are Chloe’s blue eyes and her sweet voice, and a short duet that feels, funny enough, like it was just a dream.
She wonders if she’ll ever get to see her again.
God, she wants to see her again.
“Beca, are you listening?” Emily sighs. “I really am going to run off and join the circus, you know.”
Beca shifts her cheek in the palm of her hand. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“I told you I was going to murder everyone I love and run off and join the circus, and you just said, ‘Okay,’” Emily replies with a shake of her head. “Seriously, what’s on your mind?”
“Oh, nothing,” Beca lies. She has no recollection of saying “okay” to anything, but she keeps that to herself. “Just thinking about how Stacie’s going to live here if she gets her tenure at Georgia Tech. It's so crazy.”
Emily furrows her brow. “Okay…but, I kinda feel like you’re lying?”
Beca doesn’t respond.
Emily leans forward against her elbows on the table, quietly studying Beca with a frown. “Are you thinking about something…weird?”
“What? No. What do you mean ‘weird’?”
“Well,” Emily sucks the inside of her cheek, “I don’t wanna sound too much like Fat Amy, but…you kinda look like you’re thinking dirty thoughts.”
The heat flooding Beca’s face is instant.
“Oh my god, Beca!” Emily whispers, grinning so hard that Beca amps up the scowl just to keep her own cheeks from burning.
“I’m not!” She huffs, taking a long sip of her drink.
Emily bounces slightly in her seat, undeterred. “Okay, not dirty, but like super dreamy and adorable thoughts? Omigod, have you been secretly dating someone? Who is it? Do I know this person?”
“No, as in I don’t know this person?”
“I’m not dating, Em. You see me literally every day,” Beca says, rolling her eyes. “How would I hide that from you?”
“Okay…okay…” Emily’s head bobs. “But you’re definitely thinking about someone. You’ve been acting kinda weird since…”
Emily’s hands fly to her mouth.
“What?” She sighs.
“Do you…have a thing…for Ms. Beale?”
Beca runs a hand down her warm face, briefly considering the consequences of throwing the rest of her drink at Emily and running away. She doesn’t—Emily’s feelings would never survive that, of course, so she reluctantly pulls out her answer from between her teeth. “Maybe.”
“She’s so pretty,” Emily says, pressing her palms against her face with a dreamy smile. “Such a good singer too. And a good teacher! The kids seem to really love her.”
“Right,” Beca grumbles in spite of the way her heart sighs at the image of Chloe her mind conjures up once more. “Super pretty.”
“You two would be so cute together,” Emily adds excitedly. “You should ask her out! We have one more day in Atlanta before we move on. You can get dinner together tonight!”
“Uh, no, that’s so weird, dude. I’m not gonna go back to that school to ask her out. We don’t even know anything about her! She could be—I don’t know—married! Or, like, not even into women!”
“We were both there when we heard her sing that song right? She didn’t even change the pronouns!” Emily says, furrowing her brows. “C’mon, Beca—worst thing she’ll say is no and we never have to see her again!”
“Dude, no! You know how bad I am at talking to women,” Beca groans as she pretends to watch the passing traffic. “I can barely think around her, much less talk.”
“Then, you’d better practice,” Emily says with a mischievous grin, “because I’m not letting us leave until you do. I’ll cancel the tour and sic my mom’s wrath on you if I have to.”
And so, at ten to three, Beca found herself back at the school parking lot, all alone as she taps her fingers against the steering wheel of the black van. With each ticking second, the nerves return with a vengeance. Her hands feel clammy as she stares out the window, silently rehearsing every way she can talk to her again without coming off as a total creep.
She can’t believe Emily went back to the hotel and left her out here to fend for herself.
“This is a dumbass idea,” Beca grumbles to herself.
The ringing bell jostles her out of the fog she sinks herself into, her hand slipping at the wheel to accidentally slam against the horn. Several confused parents and students look her way, and she slumps into her seat to avoid the disapproving looks. Through her windshield, she watches the students pour out of the building in droves, and cringes at the cacophony of noise that follows them.
She’s biting her lip, still thinking about whether she should just leave, when someone knocks at her window.
She yelps, her eyes wide as she recognizes two girls from Chloe’s class.
Fumbling, she lowers the window halfway. “Hi,” she says slowly.
“You’re the lady from this morning!” The taller, bossier, red-headed one says.
Beca furrows her brow, but she can’t remember their names for the life of her. “Uh huh,” she replies.
“Why are you still here?”
“Oh my god, Alyssa, what are we doing?” The girl’s friend says, tugging her back by the arm.
“Chill, Margot, I’m just saying hi!” Alyssa turns back to Beca. “Are you here to see Miss Beale?”
“Uh, no?” Beca replies with a frown.
Alyssa raises a brow. “Are you sure? Well, whatever. Can I ask you something?”
Margot sighs. “Seriously, Alyssa, don’t.”
“Everyone wants to know!” She insists.
“It’s none of our business!”
“You wanted to know!”
Beca stares blankly at the two kids. She feels the beginning of a pounding headache—how the hell did she allow Emily to talk her into coming back here?
Finally, Alyssa leans a little closer to the window with a whisper. “You’re friends with Miss Beale, right?”
Beca frowns. “What gave you that impression?”
“Oh, c’mon, we’re thirteen, but we’re not stupid,” Alyssa huffs, standing back with her hands on her hips. “Margot thinks you guys are friends, but I think she’s wrong. I’ve seen my older sister and her girlfriend, and, like, I’m pretty sure I know what’s actually going on.”
“Oh my god, Alyssa,” Margot groans behind her, “why are you like this?”
“You can tell us, you know,” Alyssa insists with a grin. “Miss Beale is super pretty and nice and awesome, and you, like, know famous people. It’s so woke that you’re Miss Beale’s secret girlfriend.”
“Woke—what? That’s not—Nevermind. Just—yeah, no,” Beca replies, pinching the bridge of her nose. “We aren’t dating.”
“I told you!” Margot whispers loudly as she gives Alyssa a shove.
Alyssa shoves her back lightly, her grin sliding into confusion. “Seriously? No way, I don’t believe you.”
“I met her this morning,” Beca replies with a shrug. “We don’t even know each other.”
This gets the attention of both girls. They exchange a look. Alyssa throws up her hands. “You’ve got to be freaking kidding me! That’s sus as hell!”
Beca doesn’t even know what to say to that.
“Then who are you waiting for?” Margot asks, hiding behind Alyssa slightly as she studies Beca.
“Uh, that’s…none of your business.”
That appeases the two students for about a second before Alyssa begins nodding slowly. “Right, right…I get it. I gotchu,” she says with an exaggerated wink. Margot glances at her, mirroring Beca’s confusion. “In that case, you probably won’t find this interesting or whatever, but Miss Beale doesn’t have class in the last period, so she’s usually hanging out with Miss Smith in her classroom.”
With that, Alyssa whips around and takes off, giggling as she tugs Margot after her.
Kids are so fucking weird, Beca thinks as she watches them disappear around the corner.
Maybe she should just leave.
No, Emily will kill her.
She’s come this far. She’s even overcome a baffling conversation with two nosy middle-schoolers—what could be worse? She swallows and retracts that—let’s not tempt fate, she decides as she finally finds the courage to step out of her car.
Beca finds the hallways are mostly empty save for a handful of students lingering around their lockers. She’d never imagined she’d ever return to any middle school, much less a full-on cross-country tour visiting so many. This experience has been the most she’s thought about children at all in the entirety of her adult life, and she can’t remember now if anyone in her class was as loud and bold as Alyssa when she was in middle school. That girl’s going to grow up to be a real handful, she muses as she retraces her steps back to the music room. At least she seems to have friends who aren’t afraid to put her in her place.
It’s eerily quiet in this wing when she knocks on the music room door. All she hears, however, are her echoes. She cracks open the door and peers inside. The risers have been neatly folded and piled on the floor, offering a full view of the empty room.
Alyssa was right.
106, she recalls Jessica telling her suddenly. Jessica Smith—hopefully, she’s the same Ms. Smith Alyssa mentioned. It’s a miracle she remembers even that much. “Omigod, it’s a push from the universe!” she can practically hear Emily squeal. She shakes her head—she spends way too much time with that girl.
She’s steps away from room 106 when she stops. A barrage of questions suddenly threatening to drown the little confidence she’d built up until this point.
What the hell id she doing?
What is she supposed to say when she sees her?
Is this creepy? Is she being creepy?
Then pivots again.
One more step.
When did her palms start getting so sweaty?
“Hey, Jess, is someone at the door?”
Beca freezes once more. She starts to turn, starts gearing herself for a mad dash down the hallway when—
Her heart plummets to her stomach.
“What are you doing here? You’re not lost, are you?”
Beca’s shoes squeak against the linoleum floor, and she cringes as she pivots one last time. “Hey…Chloe, uh…what’s up?” She says, lifting a hand up to offer a flimsy wave and a sheepish smile.
Chloe’s lips tug into a grin, her blue eyes sparkling with amusement as she relaxes against the open door behind her. “I should be asking you that,” she says lightly.
Beca inhales, nervously punching into her open palm with a fist. “Right, right…I, uh…I was just thinking, um…it’s a pretty nice day out.”
Chloe blinks back. “Yeah, it’s pretty nice out.” She giggles. “You didn’t come all the way back to talk about the weather, did you?”
“Uh, no, but…” Beca swallows, more nervous now than she ever remembers feeling. Her gaze drops as she rubs her neck. “Well, actually, I—”
“Hey, Chlo, is something wrong?” A new voice interrupts. Beca looks up from her shoes to see Jessica, the teacher who had given them the tour that morning, peering out at her from inside her room. “Oh, did I interrupt something?” She says, awkwardly inching back into her room. “Whoops.”
Chloe laughs. “Actually, Jess, let me just get my stuff. I have to catch the next bus if I’m going to get to my appointment on time.” She turns to Beca and tilts her head, pinning her down with an unexpectedly shy smile. “You’re not here for Jess, are you?”
Beca shakes her head.
“Okay, sweet. Walk out with me? We can talk on the way.”
“Actually, um, I can…give you a ride? If you want?” Beca cringes a little at the spike in her pitch, but relief washes everything away when Chloe beams.
“That would be…really sweet,” she says, tucking her hair behind her ear. “Thank you.”
“N-no problem,” Beca stutters.
As soon as Chloe disappears back into Jessica’s classroom, Beca clutches onto her racing heart. She did it. Kind of. She can hear the blood rush from her fingertips to her head, and it reminds her of riffing guitars and blisteringly fast drum beats.
Chloe taps her on the shoulder, smiling, as she pulls on a pink backpack. “Ready to go?”
And yet, Chloe herself was as inimitable as birdsong in a six-string quartet. Who she is and how she makes her feel is a paradox of sound Beca can’t figure out.
She has a suspicion, when Chloe brushes her fingers on her arm as she passes by, sparking the goosebumps of stunning, complex sonata. She can’t figure it out, but for once, she doesn’t feel compelled to.
“So, what does a cool music producer like you listen to?” Chloe says as she scrolls through the van’s touchscreen display connected to Beca’s phone.
“Bit of everything, I guess,” Beca replies. She’s watching Chloe’s long, slender fingers poke through the her many playlists—the innermost depths of her soul—and she’s trying not to panic as she straps on her seatbelt.
Chloe’s eyes scan through the “Beyoncé” playlist with a frown. “That’s weird. How come there isn’t a single Beyoncé song in your Beyoncé playlist?”
Beca exhales. “That one’s for work,” she explains with a sheepish laugh. “I can’t really talk about it, but we were looking for ideas, I guess you can say.”
“Hold on, don’t start the car,” Chloe says, stilling Beca entirely with a hand on her wrist. “Are you saying…you worked with Beyoncé? Like, you met her?”
“I…have…met a lot of people over the years,” Beca says slowly.
Chloe retracts her hand, taking the warmth with her with a pout. “You’re a tease.”
Beca flushes. “Sorry?”
“Omigod!” Chloe cries suddenly. “That’s why your name sounds familiar! I saw—I saw a video about you! ‘The Most Influential People in Music Most People Don’t Know’ or some super long title like that! So you have worked with Beyoncé.”
“I…can’t comment on that, unfortunately,” Beca chuckles. “Sorry.”
“It’s fine,” Chloe says with a playful pout before turning her attention back to the touch screen display. She pushes play on a list Beca simply calls “Chill,” and the slow beats of a lofi remix of a Sia song starts to drift around them. Chloe turns to her with a satisfied grin, leaning back in her seat when she adds, “It’s a good thing you’re cute.”
Beca nearly runs them into traffic as she pulls out of the parking lot.
“Um…you too…I guess?” She mutters. It takes all her strength to keep her eyes on the road, though she barely sees a thing when the rest of her suddenly spikes with heat.
“You guess, huh?” Chloe giggles. “So, why did you come back to the school? Did you know I needed a ride to the dentist?”
Beca prickles. Of course, she was going to ask.
And of course, she didn’t have the foresight to prepare an answer.
In the silence, Beca attempts a laugh, but it comes out breathy and awkward and possibly more incriminating than not saying anything at all. “Where are we going, by the way? I don’t really know Atlanta…at all,” she says quickly, clearing her throat.
She feels Chloe’s eyes on her.
Luckily, she doesn’t pry.
“Just keep going straight for a bit,” Chloe replies with no shortage of amusement in her tone. “We’re gonna turn left after the light.”
They arrive at the dentist’s office with half an hour to spare. The drive eventually smoothed out into small talk, mostly around music and whatever they could legally talk about in their jobs. As soon as Beca puts the van into park, however, Chloe turns and catches her eyes with a shy smile. “So, you completely dodged my question earlier,” she says slowly.
“What question?” Beca replies, her fingers tapping a restless rhythm on the steering wheel once more.
“Boy, you really don’t want to tell me why you came looking for me, do you?”
Beca sighs and runs a hand through her hair to do something with the nervous energy. “It’s…kind of embarrassing,” she mutters under her breath.
“Wanna swap embarrassing stories then?” Chloe asks, her eyes flickering to the steering wheel to watch Beca’s fidgeting hands. “I can go first.”
Beca swallows and nods.
“Earlier,” Chloe says slowly, “I was just telling Jessica about our duet this morning. It was so beautiful, and if I’m honest, I’m still not over it. I kind of wish we did the whole song, you know? I told Jess that I…really wanted to see you again, even though I knew—I thought—you’d be halfway across the country by now, and we’d probably never run into each other again. But then you showed up out of nowhere, and it’s like the universe was listening.”
A push from the universe, mind-Emily repeats.
Beca’s heart hammers.
“Your turn,” Chloe says, her smile wavering as she tucks her hair behind her ear.
Beca exhales, flounders a little for the right words, but eventually musters the courage to meet Chloe’s eyes with a weak smile. “I…wanted to ask…if you’d want to grab dinner with me tonight.” The courage crumbles when a barrage of insecurity hits her, and she quickly follows up with a nervous, “I totally understand if you’re busy, or—or you don’t want to. I-it’s cool. It was just an idea I had over lunch, and uh—”
Chloe grins, a beautiful shade of pink colouring her cheeks under the sunlight streaming through the window. Beca clamps her mouth shut, stunned by Chloe’s beauty once more.
“You came back to ask me out?”
Beca drops her hands into her lap, scowling at the steering wheel as she replayed the mess of words that’d come out of her mouth seconds ago. “Maybe…I guess…yes,” she admits with a sigh. “Yeah…I…didn’t want to leave Atlanta without seeing you again.”
“Oh,” Chloe whispers.
Beca sneaks a glance at the barely suppressed excitement in Chloe’s smile and feels her own lips tug. “So…do you…want to get dinner?” she asks. “With me?”
Beca’s stomach plummets. “Oh. That’s—that’s cool.”
“I’m kidding,” Chloe laughs, touching Beca’s elbow lightly. “I’d love to.”
As if she hasn’t rattled Beca enough, she then leans over and presses a quick kiss on her cheek, followed by a shy, half-smile that sends Beca’s unprepared heart flying loops inside her rib cage. “Meet you back here in an hour?”
“Y-yeah,” Beca whispers, absently touching her cheek. “See you later…I guess?”
Chloe steps out of the car and throws one last grin at her through the window with a wave. “Can’t wait.”
Alone once more, Beca sinks into her seat, exhaling deeply.
Then, she grins, the giddiness inside her bubbling like she’s in middle school all over again.
She doesn’t understand what happened, nor does she question how she managed to successfully secure a date with the most captivating woman she’s ever met—when the universe gives you a gift, you take it.
That’s what Emily would say, she muses, chuckling to herself.
God, she must look like a fool, but she just can’t stop grinning.
A notification pops up on her phone just as she’s pondering what to do for the next hour.
“Speak of the devil,” she murmurs. It’s Emily. She opens the message and raises a brow when she sees a shortlist of the most romantic restaurants in Atlanta.
She doesn’t question her uncanny timing.
For once, it feels like the universe is on her side and she’s on cloud nine.
When Chloe arrives back at the spot where she’d been dropped off almost an hour ago, the first thing that catches her eye is a bouquet of colourful flowers in the passenger seat. She then sees Beca scramble out of the car, blushing in that way she’s really starting to adore as she hurries around to open her door for her.
“You’re early,” she says with a sheepish smile. “I, um…wanted to surprise you.”
Chloe is speechless. When she first laid her eyes on Beca, she recognized the spark of attraction immediately. It was the kind that happens frequently when she passes by a particularly attractive person on the street, and mostly innocent, if not irrelevant to the grand scheme of her life. When they sang that song, things shifted ever so slightly—the way their voices melded together was unforgettable. She was only going to obsess over that moment for a few days—a week tops—that’s what she’d told Jessica.
But then Beca came back. Red-faced, her beautiful, deep blue eyes wide as she stood in the middle of the empty hallway, half-turned as if ready to escape at any moment.
Then, the drive to the dentist’s office.
The sheer vulnerability in her voice when she admitted she’d wanted to see her again.
And now, this sweet, old-school, nearly-extinct gesture of romance precisely designed to sweep her right off her feet.
With each surprise, she finds herself falling fast, and it’s as dangerous as it is intoxicating.
“I…hope you’re not allergic?” Beca says, frowning a little as she lowers the bouquet now in her hands. “Dammit, sorry, I guess I didn’t think things through. I wanted to get you something pretty, and uh, I…really liked the colours. The blue ones—poppies, I think?—they reminded me of you…your eyes…I guess.” She cringes. “Sorry, I’m rambling.”
The defeated expression on her face makes Chloe melt, and she takes the flowers and bites down on her lower lip to hold back the instinct to kiss her right then and there.
“These are beautiful,” she says, blushing. “I just…I don’t know what to say. No one has bought me flowers…ever? It’s really sweet. I love them.”
Beca exhales, visibly relieved as she responds with a crooked smile. “I’m glad,” she says, sighing against the open door slightly. “Oh, uh,” she straightens suddenly, “anywhere else you need to be now?”
“Nope,” Chloe replies. “I’m all yours for the rest of the day.” She adds a wink because she adores how easy it is to fluster Beca.
And Beca doesn’t disappoint. She doesn’t seem to know how to, and it’s starting to drive Chloe a little crazy—she’s making it far too easy to get attached.
“Okay, cool,” Beca mumbles. She gestures Chloe inside and closes the door after her before making her way back to the driver’s seat.
“I did a bit of research while I was waiting,” Beca says, pulling out her phone. “I…don’t know the area at all, but the florist told me there’s a nice tea room nearby. He said their high tea menu is pretty good.”
For a moment, Chloe thought she misheard. Did Beca Mitchell—with her earrings and her boots and her alternative, edgy flair—just suggest drinking tea and eating tiny sandwiches? There has to be a limit to how endearing this woman can be.
Beca looks up at her, and she realizes that she hasn’t said anything. “I-if you have other ideas, I’m totally open to anything,” she says with a sheepish smile.
“Honestly, that sounds really nice,” Chloe confesses. “I guess, I was just surprised.”
“Do I not look like I’d enjoy tea and scones?” Beca chuckles, and Chloe finds her fluttering heart absently leaning toward the sound.
“Oh, no, that’s not it—I mean, what kind of person doesn’t like a nice, fluffy scone? I guess I just had you pegged as more of the, like, cool underground music and sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll type.”
“Because I work in the music industry?”
“You give off that badass vibe,” Chloe says with a shrug.
Beca looks surprised. Then, she blushes. “Uh…have we not been in the same conversations this whole time? I’ve been such a nervous idiot.” As she mutters this, she shakes her head, eyes closed as if in disbelief.
“Not at all,” Chloe says gently. “You’ve been honest, and—really, you’ve been so sweet”—she raises the bouquet in her hands slightly to prove her point—"it’s the most badass thing I’ve seen in my life.”
Beca leans back in her seat and meets her eyes. Her lips draw back into a lazy smile, and her deep blue eyes shine softly in the sun—she’s beautiful, and Chloe can’t believe she’s allowed to exist within this space in this exact moment. She feels like she’s the luckiest girl in the world.
“You’re such a weirdo,” she laughs, and it's just for her.
Yep, she’s definitely the luckiest girl in the world.
They end up spending three hours in the tea room that day, eventually chatting through dinner time, and ending up on the patio of a bustling bar to continue the conversation over a few drinks. Despite the awkward fumbling of that early afternoon, conversation flowed easily between them, and neither wanted the night to end.
Under the moonlight, Beca wanted nothing more than to find the courage to kiss Chloe goodbye. But in spite of how much she felt herself yearning, in spite of the uncertainty of when she’ll see her again, she couldn’t find it. That night, she texted Chloe good night, and grinned when she received an instantaneous reply, littered with colourful heart emojis. A part of her regretted not being a little braver, but when she laid in bed that night, she found herself mostly awake with excitement as she played back memories of the day.
It wasn’t until the next morning, as she’s going through the motions of her day, and later, when she’s taking off for D.C., that she wished she had more time.
“Is it weird that I miss her already?” Beca sighs as she stares up at the domed, plastic ceiling of the plane.
Emily tugs open a bag of chips and pops one into her mouth as she’s craning around, looking for a flight attendant. “I don’t know,” she replies distractedly.
“Should I tell her?”
Emily beams when she finally gets the attention of a young woman in a neatly pressed navy uniform. She quickly asks for two glasses of water, then turns back to Beca. “What?” she says, holding out her bag of chips for Beca, who simply shakes her head.
“Should I tell her?”
“Tell her what?” Emily asks, furrowing her brow.
Beca groans. “You weren’t even listening, were you?”
“Sorry, I was thirsty,” Emily replies with a blush. “That flight attendant was super pretty.”
“Thirsty. Right. I asked if I should tell Chloe I miss her.”
Emily, who was in the middle of chewing on a mouthful of chips, yelps as she bits down on the inside of her cheek in shock. “I bit myself,” she pouts.
The flight attendant returns then with two cups of water. “Are you okay?” she asks Emily as she hands her a napkin.
Emily swallows, cringing a little as she wipes her mouth, coughing when the crispy potatoes catch in her throat.
“Dude, drink some water,” Beca tells her.
“I’m fine, I’m fine,” Emily says, pink-faced and decidedly not fine as she presses a hand to her chest. Several deep breaths later, she flashes the flight attendant a sheepish grin. “Sorry, I’m just a disaster today.”
“You’re sure you’re okay?” she replies, relinquishing a small, amused smile. Before Emily can reply, however, someone else waves her down. Her gaze flickers between Emily and the person down the aisle, eventually meeting Emily’s eyes. “I’ll be back to check on you later, alright?”
Once the flight attendant was out of earshot, Emily hurriedly hands Beca a glass of water. “Drink this so I can ask for more.”
Beca smirks. “You should just ask for her number while you’re at it.”
“What? No! That’s so weird—I mean, I don’t know anything about her, and—and she probably—”
“Wow,” Beca says drily with a roll of her eyes. “I wonder why that sounds so familiar.”
“Omigod, no, this is totally different—”
“No. It’s not.”
“Uh uh,” Beca says with a shake of her head. “You don’t get to chicken out after you made me go through all that with Chloe.”
“Dude, I will make a scene if you don’t get her number.”
Emily gasps. “You wouldn’t dare.”
Beca stands, kneels on her seat as she grabs her headrest with one hand and points a finger at the other. “Hey, you!” She yells.
“Oh my god!” Emily cries, mortified. She grabs at Beca to pull her down, but Beca brushes her away.
“Not you,” Beca says, rolling her eyes as she waves off a middle-aged man pointing to himself. “The pretty stewardess—yes, you. My friend—”
“Okay, okay!” Emily whispers harshly as she tugs Beca back down by the collar of her jacket. “I’ll do it, just—you’re embarrassing me!”
Beca laughs, gives the flight attendant a two-fingered salute, and sits back down with a triumphant grin. “Good. That’s all I want. For you to not be a hypocrite.”
“I can’t believe you did that,” Emily grumbles, chomping down angrily on a potato chip. “That was, like, Stacie of Amy levels of embarrassing!”
“I know, I’m kind of proud of myself,” Beca says, reaching over to snag a chip. “I’ll have to tell them when we land. They’re gonna think it’s hilarious.”
“Does Chloe know you’re such a jerk?” Emily huffs.
Beca laughs. “Probably,” she says, puffing her chest slightly. She said I have badass vibes.”
Emily coughs and chokes. “Oh my god,” she says, laughing as pounds her chest with a fist. “That’s too funny.”
Beca punches her in the shoulder. “Now who’s being a jerk?”
Emily wipes a tear with the back of her finger. “I love you two already.”
In the weeks to come, Beca and Chloe text often. Beca tucked away her many “I miss yous” into the folds within her heart, but she doesn’t feel it any less. She finds herself inexplicably aching to be closer, to breathe the same air once more. There’s still so much of Chloe she wants to figure out, and so little of which can be done over nightly phone calls and daily texts.
She knows Chloe likes honey in her Earl Grey, but what does she like in her coffee? Does she sing in the shower? Does she like to wear socks to bed? What kind of music bring her the most joy? Which places has she been? What are her friends like? Would they like her if she meets them?
She’s sitting in her studio in Los Angeles, daydreaming about the kind of dog Chloe would have, when someone shoves her hard against her shoulder. “Oi, wake up, Romeo! Or should I say Gnomeo?”
Beca scowls at Fat Amy, who is all too pleased with herself as she smirks down at her with her hand on her hips. “You can’t just say hi like a normal person?” Beca snaps, annoyed that the interruption had completely shattered the image she was constructing of Chloe and a chocolate lab. “And Gnomeo is so not a thing. You’re just making words up now.”
“I did! You’re the one who isn’t acting like a normal person these days,” Amy says, crossing her arms. “And Gnomeo is a real thing—it’s a cinematic masterpiece.”
“Yeah, yeah, what do you want? I have a meeting in ten minutes,” Beca grumbles, pointing at her watch for emphasis. And she wants as many as those ten minutes in her head with Chloe as possible.
“Relax, shortstack, I’ll let you get back to your mooning. Just thought you should know that some sexy agent just got in touch with me. He liked what you did with Snoop, and wants to know if you’d like to work with him.”
“I think his name is Darryl, and I’m pretty sure he was trying to talk all kinds of business, if you know what I mean. Like, sexy business?” Amy says, thrusting her hips a little for emphasis.
Beca’s palm splays open. “Who the fuck is Darryl?”
“I just told you! Listen with your earholes, bitch.”
“I mean, why the hell does this dude named Darryl want to work with me? I don’t know him—what did you say?”
“Darryl’s the agent, Becs. You really need to stop day dreaming and listen to Fat Amy for once in your life.”
Beca throws up her hands. “Dude! You didn’t say that! I asked you who the agent represents, and you told me Darryl! What the hell, Amy?”
Fat Amy furrows her brow. “I really worry you we’re dropped as a baby sometimes, you know.”
“What—okay, whatever, just tell me who. You know my schedule’s stacked and I’m still recovering from Emily’s godforsaken tour.”
“Oh, it’s just some rapper with a weird name and only two Grammys or something. Junior league stuff. The more important thing is—they want to fly you out to Atlanta next week.”
Fat Amy doesn’t hold back her laugh when Beca shoots out of her chair. “Yes—tell him yes. Right now.”
“God, you’ve got it so bad it's gross, Becs,” Fat Amy teases with a shake of her head. “But don't worry, I've already said yes and went ahead and arranged a business meeting with Darryl, so...be back in two hours.”
“Wait, dude, it's like two in the afternoon! You can’t just—” Beca sits down with a shake of her head, knowing full well the futility of telling Amy what to do.
It doesn’t matter anyway, she thinks as she leans back in her chair with a grin. She’ll be back in Atlanta soon.
Beca’s heart is pounding as she steps out of her rented car. She’d arrived the night before, but work commitments kept her busy all morning. Chloe had sent her a photo that morning, and it took every ounce of self-control for Beca to keep herself from opening the message. With L.A. being three hours behind, it would’ve been difficult to lie to Chloe about why she was up at three in the morning when Chloe knows how much Beca loves to sleep.
Beca grins now as she recalls the photo—it was a selfie of Chloe brushing her teeth and striking a pose. And while she loves the sporadic photo exchanges and the phone calls and the text messages, she really can’t wait to see her again.
At half past three, Beca returns to the middle-school that changed her life. She glances warily at the few curious eyes directed her way, and she knows her red rose, wrapped snugly in pink tissue paper, isn’t exactly inconspicuous, though she’d hoped there would be fewer students lingering.
She makes it to the music room and takes a deep breath.
She pushes open the door.
“Hey, it’s you again!”
Oh god, no.
Beca frowns at the sight of two familiar students. Margot is sitting on the top step of the riser while Alyssa is standing on the bottom step with her arms at her side. They exchange a look before turning their curious, probing gazes back to Beca.
“Hi,” Beca sighs.
“You’re looking for your girlfriend, aren’t you?” Alyssa asks, grinning.
“I’m looking for Miss Beale.”
“So…your girlfriend,” Alyssa drawls.
Beca resists the urge to roll her eyes when she says, “Mind your own business, kids.”
Her friend, Margot, looks up from her phone and points a finger in her direction, matter-of-fact and disarmingly disinterested when she says, “You’re literally holding a red flower. That’s, like, old people lovey-dovey stuff.”
Beca blushes and scowls—these kids. “Just tell me where she is,” she says, taking a deep breath to dispel the rising annoyance.
“What’s in it for us?” Alyssa asks, tilting her head.
“I’ll go ask someone else,” Beca grumbles, turning on her heel. The other teacher—Chloe’s friend—would know.
As she does, however, the door creaks open.
And there’s Chloe—dressed in a soft, white cardigan and a sapphire blouse, more beautiful than what Beca’s memory so frequently conjured. Her blue eyes shone, first in surprise, then in understanding as they glance at the rose in her hand. “Beca?” she whispers as her lips tug into a wide grin. “What are you doing here? Why didn’t you tell me you were coming back to Atlanta?”
Beca offers a sheepish grin. She’s hyper-aware of the nosy stares directed their way, yet entirely, dizzyingly elated by Chloe’s presence alone. “I wanted to surprise you,” she says with a small shrug.
Chloe seems to notice Beca’s discomfort, luckily, and casts her attention to the two girls behind her. “Girls, shouldn’t you two be heading home now?”
“We’re waiting for my sister to pick us up,” Alyssa replies with a grin.
“Do you need me to give her a call?” Chloe brushes by Beca to stand in front of her students, giving her a quick squeeze on the elbow as she does so.
“Oh, no, we’re okay just waiting here. Right, Margot?” Margot nods emphatically, her big, brown eyes still bouncing between Beca and Chloe.
Chloe chuckles. “Well, you’re welcome to wait, but I have to go, so I need to lock up. You’ll have to wait in the office or Ms. Jones’s room.”
“Are you guys going on a date?” Alyssa blurts.
Beca’s eyes widen when they meet Chloe’s from across the room. “I’m afraid that’s private business.”
Alyssa crosses her arms and huffs, “But I tell you about my dates!”
“And I like hearing about them when you share them with me,” Chloe says gently, “but everyone has the right to choose when they would like to share or not. You wouldn’t like it if someone made you share your secrets before you’re ready to tell them, right?”
“I guess,” Alyssa grumbles. She crosses her arms. “But it’s so obvious.”
Chloe shoots her a look.
“Okay, fine,” Alyssa sighs dramatically.
Margot gets up and tugs her friend by the sleeve. “Let’s go to Ms. Jones’s room.”
Chloe grins. “She and Ms. Smith got a new kitten,” she tells the girls as they shoulder on their backpacks. They beam, and everything else seems immediately forgotten. “You girls should ask her about him. He’s really cute.”
“Okay! See you on Monday, Ms. Beale,” Alyssa says distractedly. She grabs Margot’s arm as they leave, giggling when they pass Beca. “What do you think they named it?” Beca hears her ask as they leave. “I bet it’s something super weird and something only boomers understand, like Taxes or something.”
Beca snorts a laugh when the doors close behind them. Her eyes meet Chloe’s, and she can’t suppress the grin. “Those girls are pretty interesting.”
“Uh huh,” Chloe says, mirroring her grin as she approaches.
A beat of silence passes as the air changes around them. Chloe fidgets a little with her long sleeves, while Beca glances down at the flower in her hand. Alone, everything feels different, weightier than their daily messages and infinitely more thrilling than a periodic selfie.
“So…hi,” Chloe says, biting her lip.
In spite of her nerves, Beca flashed a lop-sided grin. “Hi.”
“I still can’t believe you’re here.”
Beca shrugs, though her cheeks burned hot. “I missed you, so…I took the first job that sent me to Atlanta,” she admits. She extends the flower in her hand, and studies the blue in Chloe’s eyes expectantly. “I hope that’s okay.”
As Chloe steps closer to accept the rose, she leans forward to plant a brief kiss on Beca’s cheek. “More than okay,” she says with a shy smile. “I missed you too.”
Beca had it all planned on her flight to Atlanta: the dinner date, the roller rink, something fun, something to make her seem more spontaneous than she really is, and maybe a stroll in the starlight before she drops Chloe off at home. She’d spent all night putting names to her itinerary in her hotel room, and standing in front of the mirror, gathering her courage, practicing and rehearsing her speech, in the off-chance that she could maybe, possibly, hopefully, ask for a kiss goodnight. And if all of this went according to plan, Beca would ask if she could see Chloe one more time before she went back to Los Angeles at the end of the week.
After that, Beca would sigh and daydream until she could be in her presence once more.
She had it all planned in her phone and on the scrawls of the hotel memo pad. She’d prepared herself for all the ways the entire trip could’ve gone wrong, down to the bizarre and anxiety-driven scenario of Chloe getting kidnapped by a group of elite thugs at the roller rink for ransom.
Beca, being generally fuelled by pessimism and sarcasm in most situations—especially situations in which things appear too good to be true—did not plan for any moment in which things can go right.
So, of course, nothing in the limits of Beca’s rampant imagination could have prepared her to be sitting atop Chloe’s kitchen counter, head empty and heart hammering as Chloe’s hands roam beneath her shirt while she thoroughly explores every corner of her mouth.
She can’t recall her own name, much less how they got here.
She’d agreed to drop Chloe off at home to change. The plan was to wait in the car while she anxiously ran through the game plan in her head for the millionth time. Reality played out a little differently. Chloe had unexpectedly invited her inside to grab a glass of wine and relax, and in the wave of Chloe’s excitement, Beca agreed, crumpling the notes she’d written on a hotel memo paid and stuffing it inside the pockets of her jeans as soon as Chloe’s back was turned.
She remembers the disappointment of learning that Chloe does not, in fact, have a dog. She remembers pastel yellow walls, and then very little else when Chloe reached behind her—to drop her keys on the sideboard, perhaps—and she’d felt the wood dig into her back. She’d placed her hands on Chloe’s hips for balance, and the next thing she knows, she’s here. Shivering like a leaf and melting at the core simultaneously beneath Chloe’s touch.
From the kitchen, they stumble into Chloe’s bedroom. The sky is dark by the time they decide to order take-out and eat in bed. All of Beca’s fancy plans are out the window by the time Chloe finds the crumpled sheet sticking out of Beca’s discarded jeans and teases her for it.
“Isn’t this so much better than a five-star restaurant?” Chloe giggles as the cheesy, stringy mozzarella dangles between the slice of pizza in her hand and Chloe’s lips. Beca drops her slice back into the box as she watches, mesmerized. Chloe is still naked, so yes, Beca can’t imagine anything better.
“I have a feeling you didn’t mean to say that out loud,” Chloe says, blushing in spite of her growing smile, “but thank you. You’re not so bad yourself.”
Beca blinks—she was so entranced, she didn’t realized she’d given voice to her thoughts. She cringes a little, embarrassed but relieved to hear her feelings reflected back. Not knowing what to say, she leans over the pizza box and kisses the corner of her mouth gently.
Chloe kisses her back, and it’s in this moment—naked in bed, sharing a pizza on their second date—that Beca realizes her feelings for Chloe are extraordinary. It’s a melody she has never heard, an orchestral masterpiece that can’t be condensed, simplified, and fractured into words. She wonders if Chloe can hear it.
When Beca wakes up in Chloe’s arms the next morning, the song gets louder. The morning after that, she can’t hear anything else. The sound of love is deafening.
And she doesn’t ever want to leave.
Los Angeles feels different when Beca returns. Or perhaps she feels different. She and Chloe talked about everything under the sun in the safety of Chloe’s bed over the course of Beca’s week in Atlanta, but they don’t put words to their feelings or labels to their connection. Between the kisses and the lovemaking, it feels obvious, bold, and inevitable.
Back in Los Angeles, the memories glow through the slog of her routines, but as the days wear on, thousands of miles apart, it shifts like sand and it feels less obvious, less bold, and less inevitable by the minute. She wonders every night—despite the photos and the phone calls, and the promise permeating their conversations—if it were all a dream.
If so, she certainly doesn’t want to wake up.
“You can’t just spend your whole life counting down the seconds to the next moment you see her again,” Stacie sighs as she pulls a bottle of beer from Beca’s fridge. “What are you going to do with all these extra time, Bec?”
“They’re dead to me,” Beca says, staring out the window of her loft dreamily.
“Jesus,” Stacie chuckles. She drops herself onto the couch opposite Beca and stretches out as she props her long legs up on the coffee table. “Well, I’m going to Atlanta to check out the campus next month, she continues, “you wanna come?”
Beca whips around, eyes wide when she meets Stacie’s. She pauses thoughtfully, then sinks her cheek into the palm of her hand. “I can’t,” she grumbles. “I’m busy all through the month.”
“It’s just work, Bec,” Stacie says with a shrug. “If she’s that important, just make space in your schedule.”
Beca glares. “You know I can’t do that. People are counting on me.”
“Okay, then just see her next month,” Stacie says with a flick of her wrist.
Beca sighs loudly. “Yeah, but...that’s so far away.”
“Not to me,” she replies, taking a swig of beer. “Been waiting for someone to light up that little heart of yours since you tried to beat me up in fifth grade.”
Beca makes a face. “My heart prefers the darkness.”
Stacie rolls her eyes. “2005 called and wants their My Chemical Romance t-shirt slogans back.”
“Dude, you’re an asshole and just for that lameass joke, I’m digging up photos of you in your MCR days and tagging you on every platform.”
Stacie chokes on her beer and sits up. “Don’t you dare,” she wheezes out between coughs. She slams a fist into her chest while Beca bursts into a fit of laughter. Once she catches her breath, she glares and leaps over the coffee table to throw herself onto Beca, grabbing her in a headlock and ruffling her hair until Beca cries for mercy between the giggles.
“Do your endless lovers know you’re such a bully?” Beca huffs as she combs her fingers through her hair.
“Does Chloe know you like to casually blackmail your friends?” Stacie says, sticking out her tongue. “Just ‘cause you can’t win a fight to save your life.”
Beca crosses her arms. “I won the fight in fifth grade.”
“Debatable,” Stacie returns with a raise of her brow. She softens then and gives Beca’s hair one last tousle. “Honestly, I’m so proud of you for coming this far with Chloe. Just relax. Trust and be patient.”
“It’s hard,” Beca frowns. "I hate it."
Stacie laughs. “Yeah, but I love it. It's hilarious and adorable.”
Beca presses a hand to her face when she tries to give her a hug. "You're so annoying."
Stacie slaps away her hand, her grin unwavering. "Just for you, dude. I can't wait to meet this girl one day."
Halfway through the month, long after the afterglow of that week in Atlanta has faded, whatever they’re doing no longer feels like enough. She misses her and misses her but left three hours behind and alone, all she hears is silence.
Her inner world, quieted by the chaos of so many things outside of her control.
Work is demanding. Overwhelming. Wrenching her dry of every last drop of creative energy.
Chloe is increasingly absent in the days leading up to report cards.
Neither has the space to breathe, much less carve time for another person in their lives. But it’s just work, she reminds herself. Beca has done this before, been doing this her whole life, and though she welcomes the distraction, she doesn’t understand the guilt and shame that stabs her each time she misses a call or takes far too long to reply to a message—it’s easier, after all, than admitting how important Chloe is quickly becoming.
Work is a familiar, safe dance. Chloe is not.
All of these things that she feels for Chloe—is not.
Because it would be easy to build a life around Chloe, to put her before everything else. Including music. So easy that it scares Beca to death. Who is she once she gives away her heart, her hopes and dreams, and the things she loves the most?
To trade the infinite potential of music for a single song—it shouldn’t be so easy.
It can’t be.
It has to be.
Because she can’t stand the silence anymore.
She had to do something.
But what? There were two and a half more weeks left on this contract.
Beca arrives at her penthouse apartment to the warm glow of her kitchen lights. As she toes off her shoes, she makes a mental note to write Stacie a strongly worded message about leaving her lights on when she drops by to raid her fridge as she’s been known to do. Once she drops her keys onto a nearby side table however, she smells it. Something deliciously savoury.
Her stomach sinks when fresh biscuits bring her back to a morning in Atlanta, when she’d snuck out of bed to surprise Chloe with breakfast from a nearby diner.
“Stacie?” She calls out.
Wait, Stacie doesn’t cook.
But why would Emily break into her apartment?
Beca stutters to a stop with a soft gasp when she enters the kitchen to see Chloe, standing at the stove with her back to her in a cornflower blue vintage dress and her seldom-used apron tied around her neck.
Beca rubs her tired eyes to check if she’s dreaming.
Chloe turns and fells her with her gaze all over again. The piercing eyes and the gentle smile—Beca reaches for her heart without thinking.
“You’re home,” Chloe replies softly.
“What…what are you doing here? How did you get in?”
“I’m making dinner,” she says, gesturing to the pot she’s stirring with a blush.
Beca sidles up beside her and peers in at the bubbling stew. “I see that,” she murmurs. “It smells delicious. But how did you get in here?”
“Stacie,” Chloe says. “She found me at school and asked if I wanted to take a return flight with her. I said yes. It was…one of the strangest introductions I’ve had in a long while, if I’m honest.”
“God, I told her not to--ugh,” Beca groans. “I’m really sorry if she said anything weird or uncomfortable or whatever.”
Chloe laughs. “You warned me that your friends don’t really understand boundaries. I think I understand now. It’s kind of refreshing.” She pauses for a moment as she turns off the stove and ladles the stew into two nearby bowls. “Stacie should meet Aubrey. They can learn a thing or two from each other.”
“From what you told me about Aubrey, they’d probably kill each other first. Here, I can take those.” Beca grabs the two bowls and carries them over to the bar top behind the stove.
Chloe thanks her with a smile, adding, “the biscuits should be about done too.”
Eventually, they settle beside each other, a fresh plate of biscuits between them. It’s silent at first, save for the well-deserved compliments murmured in awe between bites. “I still can’t believe you’re in my house right now,” Beca says as she scoops up the last bit of soup at the bottom of her bowl.
“Me neither,” Chloe confesses. “I can’t believe—I mean, Stacie offered, and I just jumped without thinking. You’ve been so busy, and I just kind of crashed—your place is amazing by the way—so, like, I still don’t know.” She stirs the remainder of her stew with her spoon, watching the circular motions intently. “I just…I missed you, Beca. I didn’t really think about anything beyond that. And...I know I’ve said it before, but…it’s not really the same over text.”
Chloe drops her spoon into her bowl with a clang, turning the surprised Beca in her chair just as her lips close around the last bite of her soup. She slides her hand from the edge of the stool to Beca knee and allows the warmth of her palms to permeate through the fabric of her jeans. Her eyes pierce Beca’s, so intensely that Beca swallows in spite of the spoon frozen in her mouth. “Tell me I didn’t dream up that week in Atlanta? It’s been driving me crazy. I keep thinking you feel the same way about me, but…then…I don’t know…I can’t help but overthink, and—and I don’t want to make you uncomfortable if I’m going too fast, but I—I’m…I just…”
Slowly, Beca pulls her spoon out of her mouth. “I’m crazy about you, Chloe,” she says, surprising herself with how easily those words tumbled out.
“You are?” Chloe says incredulously.
Beca nods. “I would’ve been on a plane the next second I got if I could.”
Chloe gives up a small smile. “But…you were busy. We were both busy, I guess.”
“I was but….I also started thinking that…maybe…that week didn’t mean as much to you as it did to me,” she says slowly. Her free hand curls atop her thigh when she felt the nerves perspire through her palms, and Chloe’s smile widens as she takes it into her own hand.
“Be my girlfriend, Beca,” she says softly. “I’m crazy about you too.”
Beca’s eyes widen momentarily.
Beca doesn’t realize she’s biting her lip until Chloe cradles her face, running her thumb lightly over the shape of her lip to ease away the tension. “You don’t want to?” She tilts her head, confused.
“No… it’s not that,” Beca whispers, leaning into her palm. “It’s… the distance. And—and time—the time zones and we’re both so busy, and this is”—she takes a breath and gazes into Chloe’s eyes—“are you sure?”
Chloe laughs. “More than anything, Beca. I know the distance isn’t ideal, but…I really want to try. We can take it slow, if you want to date other people, I guess...”
“I don’t,” Beca jumps in immediately. She shakes her head vigorously. “Not in the slightest.”
Chloe melts a little. “Okay. Good. Then...maybe…if you’re not sick of me then, I can come spend spring break with you.”
“And I’ll come see you whenever I can?” Beca adds hopefully. Chloe nods, emboldening the shy smile on her lips. “I think we can also video call a little more often. I like seeing your face.”
“I like seeing your face too,” Chloe replies with a grin. She leans forward then and presses a light kiss to Beca’s lips. “And when we’re together again, I’m going to get as many of these as I can. Gotta savour it.”
Beca throws her spoon into her bowl and slides off her chair, inching between Chloe’s knees to kiss her back, gently at first, then growing in hunger. She’s seeing stars by the time she has to catch her breath, but her smile only widens. “Yeah, I like this idea even better,” she sighs. “God, I missed you, Chlo.”
Chloe wraps her arms around her middle and buried her face in her shoulder. “I missed you too,” she sighs.
“Everything is going to be okay,” Beca says, running her fingers gingerly through Chloe’s hair. She puffs out her chest slightly with a grin. “I’m Ms. Beale’s girlfriend now.”
Chloe laughs and squeezes her closer. “Yes, you are.”
“Maybe your kids will stop bugging you about your love life.”
Chloe snorts. “Never. They keep telling me to play Among Us with you while you’re away. They’re catching onto all my sighing and daydreaming, and it’s just awful.”
“Intergalactic space murder seems like a pretty romantic way to spend more time with you,” Beca chuckles as she plants a kiss against her jaw. “But while you’re here…”
Chloe giggles and cranes her neck slightly to meet her halfway.
“I like the way you think, Ms. Mitchell.”