Chapter 1: 01. Birth
When the judges eliminate her from boot camp, Camila wants nothing more than to go straight to bed and hope to god that when she wakes up, it's all some kind of sick dream. While she's happy for her fellow contestants – the ones who made it through, anyway – she can't help but feel that little green monster inside her, filling her brain with words of envy and hatred, because she really wishes that I'd been her who'd gotten through.
As she runs into her mother's arms and sobs into her shoulder, she almost doesn't hear one of the producers calling her back to the stage. Unsure, she leaves her mom's arms and follows the others who'd been called back, falling into step besides a girl named Lauren, who she'd really hit it off with during boot camp. She figures it's because they're both Cuban and from Miami, because she's one hundred percent sure that if she was in a school setting, Lauren wouldn't look twice at her. The older Cuban girl is a social butterfly, unlike Camila, who is generally pretty awkward and can never think of ways to start a conversation.
(Seriously, her way of getting Lauren's attention in the first place was complimenting her shirt.)
Lauren's raspy voice takes her off guard. "What do you think they want us for?"
Camila looks up in surprise, because she hadn't expected to be talked to, but she was thinking the exact same thing.
She can tell that Lauren's been crying, because her usually bright and vibrant green eyes are dull and grey. "I don't know. Maybe they want us to sing again?"
Lauren hums in thought. "Yeah. Maybe."
(When Camila is put into a girl group with three other girls and a certain Latina, she finds herself thinking about how glad she is that Lauren isn't going to be someone she has to compete against anymore.)
Chapter 2: 02. Affection
As they go through the competition, Camila gets incredibly close with the other girls. Ally, Normani and Dinah become like sisters to her, and while Lauren also refers to her as a little sister, Camila isn't sure that's how she'd describe their relationship.
She feels differently towards Lauren than she does to the other girls – at first, she thinks it's just admiration, and maybe at a push a little bit of jealousy. Lauren is a year older but she seems so much more mature and experienced, and Camila has to admit that she's kind of jealous of how easily she seems to find making friends. By the first live show, Lauren seems to have made friends with every single one of the contestants, and Camila generally keeps to herself, only really making a few close friendships with her bandmates.
It's the night after the first live show and Camila knows that the other girls are kind of down, because their performance wasn't exactly the best. So, she does what she does best – she's overly affectionate and cuddly to make her bandmates feel better. Dinah and Normani brush her off and opt for an early night, and Ally decides to head out and get some baking supplies to take her mind off things.
Camila finds Lauren sat on the couch, the TV on but her thoughts clearly somewhere else.
The younger Latina instantly curls up on the couch next to her and sends her a small smile. "Hey. Are you feeling okay?"
"I'm whatever, I guess," Lauren shrugs and wraps an arm around Camila's shoulder, and the two fit together perfectly. Camila feels a pang of that odd feeling in her chest as Lauren rests her head on her shoulder. "I guess we'll just have to... practice harder next time. We still have a lot to figure out and it's just- all of the other groups seem to have it all together, you know?"
Camila tangles her fingers with her friend's and nods. "Yeah. I get what you mean. Is there anything I can do right now to make you feel better?"
Lauren sends her a small smile and pulls her even closer. "This is perfect. You're such a good hugger, Camila."
Camila's not sure how to react when her stomach flutters at Lauren's words, but she knows she's definitely not supposed to feel that about one of her figurative sisters.
Chapter 3: 03. Horror
She should've never let the girls put a horror movie on. No, that was a horrible idea. And she definitely should've left the room with Ally to help her friend make cookies. That'd definitely be a lot better than watching a horror movie, because horror movies and Karla Camila Cabello don't mix.
"Do you really enjoy this stuff?" Camila whispers to Lauren, making sure to cover her eyes. "I'm not even watching and it's going to give me nightmares."
Lauren laughs. "It's not real, Camz. You know that."
"It's still scary," Camila burrows under the blanket they're sharing, aware of the odd look Dinah sends her. "I don't like it."
"Camz," Lauren smiles, awing at her, "Come here. I'll protect you from the monsters."
Camila doesn't even let Lauren finish her sentence, because she's already cuddled up next to her friend and burying her face into her neck, taking in Lauren's comforting scent of vanilla. "Thanks, Lolo."
"No problem." Lauren grins and absentmindedly traces patterns across Camila's arm. "Anything for you."
Camila decides that maybe she'll watch more horror movies with the girls. Only if cuddling Lauren is a definite.
Chapter 4: 04. Confusion
So, Camila's fairly certain she likes Lauren, but she's also fairly certain that she's not supposed to like Lauren. Because Lauren is her bandmate, her friend, and most notably a girl.
She doesn't know how to feel about it, because Camila is supposed to like boys. Camila has always liked boys, and that's what makes it even more confusing, because she'd always thought that when she hit her teenage years and had a real crush, it'd be on a cute boy that she'd meet somewhere. Definitely not a cute girl who happens to be her bandmate.
"You okay there, Walz?" Dinah asks her, probably noticing how spaced out Camila had been during their rehearsal for the next live show. "You like kind of... out of it."
"Uh, yeah, fine," Camila distractedly replies, her gaze landing on Lauren who is laughing about something with Normani. "How are you?"
"Cut the crap," Dinah rolls her eyes, "Something's up. Tell me what's wrong. You've been out of it all day."
Camila sighs and bites down on her bottom lip, not wanting to reveal the fact that she might actually like girls to Dinah when she's not sure about it herself. "I'm just kind of confused about things. Um... love life trouble and all that."
Dinah snorts. "Love life trouble? You? Mila, you haven't even had your first kiss yet."
Camila blushes. "Shut up. Maybe I like someone, okay?"
"Ooh, now this is my kind of gossip," Dinah sends her a teasing grin, "who is he? I'll help hook you two up if you want."
Camila's heart sinks at the pronoun, because it's definitely not a he that she might be crushing on. "Do you think that any of the other girls like anyone?"
Dinah shrugs. "I know that Lauren is into Keaton and Mani likes Arin. Why?"
"Oh," Camila doesn't miss the way her heart seems to sink even further when Dinah practically confirms that yeah, Lauren's straight and she likes Keaton. "No reason. We should probably get back to rehearsing, anyway."
After a moment's hesitation, Dinah nods. "Yeah. We should."
Chapter 5: 05. Soft
They'd just finished performing Anything Could Happen and they're all on such a high that even Camila decides to join them at a little party that the remaining contestants are throwing, because she's fairly certain that nothing could ever ruin her mood.
At least until she returns from getting another can of soda and sees Lauren and Keaton kissing.
Even though she knows that she's supposed to bury her feelings for Lauren as deep down as possible, even though she knows that she has no right to be upset, because Lauren isn't hers and she never will be, she still can't stop herself from running out of the room in the hotel that the party is being held in and up to her room, collapsing on her bed in a mess of tears.
"You like her, don't you?"
Camila jumps up at the sound of the voice and her gaze meets Dinah's, not sure how her friend had figured it out. "How do you know?"
Dinah shrugs. "You ran out of the room faster than Usain Bolt when you saw her kissing Keaton."
Camila practically collapses into her best friend's arms. "I don't want to like her. I just- I want to forget about her. At least for tonight."
"Do you want me to get you a drink?" Dinah asks. "I know that there's some beer downstairs. It's not exactly the nicest, though."
Camila lets out a bitter laugh. "I don't care."
So, Dinah leads her back downstairs and gets her a drink, and Camila downs it, regardless of how bad it tastes. Eventually, she's drunk for the first time in her life and she's thrown all of her inhibitions to the wind, which becomes incredibly apparent when she sees Lauren getting herself a glass of water and practically throws herself on the older girl.
"Lolo," Camila wraps her arms around Lauren's waist and smiles. "I missed you."
"Hey, Camz," Lauren sends her a warm smile, "didn't think you'd be the type to get drunk at a party."
"See? I can surprise you," Camila sends her a flirty wink, but she knows it's probably awkward coming from her.
Lauren smiles. "I guess you can."
Camila plays with Lauren's fingers and smiles to herself, and when her brain comes up with possibly the stupidest idea in existence, Camila goes through with it anyway, because she wants to show Lauren how she can be just as good as some boy.
So, she leans in and kisses her. It's only a little peck, but she lingers long enough to show that it's not platonic. "See? Surprise! I think you're beautiful, Lolo. Will you marry me? We can have kittens."
Lauren lets out an awkward laugh and pushes her away slightly, and Camila just pouts. "Um... I'll have to pass, Camz."
Camila frowns even more. "But why? That's dumb. Let's go to Vegas and – what's the word? – elope or something, right? Let's do that. We can get married and have kittens and you'll be my wife and my bandmate and the mother to my kittens."
"Well, one, you're incredibly drunk and you probably mean none of this," Lauren says, frowning when Camila shakes her head and kisses her again. "Also- um, I don't like girls. I'm not- I'm straight. I don't like girls."
Camila feels that stinging pain in her chest, but she's too drunk to care. "Your lips are really soft. Can I kiss you again?"
"Um, no," Lauren shakes her head and quickly moves away from her. "I have to go."
Camila watches after her, fairly certain that she's just had her first heartbreak.
Chapter 6: 06. Empty
When Camila wakes up, the first thing she feels is a pounding in her head. She can barely remember anything from the night before, aside from talking to Dinah about how she likes Lauren.
Hoping to god that her friend hasn’t said anything, Camila heads to Dinah’s room, a little shocked when she knocks on the door and Lauren answers.
“Oh. Hey, Camz,” Lauren sends her a smile, but it’s a little forced, and that’s enough to make Camila worried. “Are you feeling okay? You were pretty drunk last night.”
“I, uh, my head hurts,” Camila says, “why do you look so… awkward? You seem kind of uncomfortable.”
“It’s- uh,” Lauren pulls her aside before she can go into Dinah’s room. “You kissed me last night.”
While Camila doesn’t remember that at all, she realises that she’s effectively ruined her and Lauren’s friendship. “Oh.”
“Don’t worry about it, though,” Lauren says, “I figured it was just the alcohol taking over. I was honestly more worried about your inevitable hangover.”
Camila lets out a laugh, but it’s more awkward than anything. “Oh. Uh, yeah, I am pretty hungover. Sorry for, uh… it didn’t mean anything. I was just being dumb.”
Lauren smiles at her and gives her a quick hug. “I know, Camz. Anyway, I’ll catch you later. I said I’d meet Keaton.”
As Lauren walks out of the room, the second thing Camila feels that day is emptiness.
Chapter 7: 07. Enough
Lauren and Keaton have officially become an item, and while Camila loves the way Lauren’s face lights up when she sees him, she hates it’s not because of her. She hates that she can’t make Lauren that happy.
She hates that she’s not enough.
Lauren still smiles when she sees her, but it’s not like she hugs her as tight as she hugs Keaton. It’s not like she greets Camila with a kiss and snuggles up to her, counting on her to keep her warm and safe. No, Camila has to watch her do all of that with Keaton, and while Camila loves seeing Lauren happy, she wishes it was her.
There’s nothing she can do about that, though. Even if Camila admitted that the drunken kiss was more than what Lauren thought, even if she told Lauren that she likes her and it’s killing her to see the way she is with Keaton, it’s not like Camila would get what she wanted.
Because Lauren doesn’t like girls, and Camila isn’t enough.
Chapter 8: 08. Light
Camila is absolutely devastated when they’re voted off The X Factor and come third, but at the same time, she feels light, because the second they go off the stage for the last time, Lauren pulls her in for a bone crushing hug and gives her the news that Simon is going to sign them to his record label with a five album contract.
All she hears is ‘we’ll be working together for years, Camz!’
Camila wraps her arms around Lauren’s waist and buries her face into her bandmate’s shoulder. “Yeah. We’ll be together for years.”
Lauren pulls away from the hug and leaves Camila feeling cold, but the smile she sends her practically radiates warmth and happiness. “I have to go and call my family. And Keaton, I bet he’ll be so happy for us.”
At the mention of Lauren’s boyfriend, Camila’s face falls. “Yeah. I should talk to my family too. I’ll see you later.”
“Yeah, later,” Lauren distractedly replies, and Camila can see her typing out a text to Keaton as quickly as she can.
That light she felt fades into darkness the second Lauren is out of her sight.
Chapter 9: 09. Thankful
Lauren and Keaton break up, and Camila kind of hates herself when the first thing she feels is thankful.
She’s been home in Miami for a week, and when she gets a weird text from Lauren telling her that she’s coming over, she doesn’t hesitate to get out of her pyjamas and make herself look as presentable as she can in the twenty minutes it takes for Lauren to get to her house.
When the older Latina gets to Camila’s room, she flops down on the bed next to her with a sigh. “Keaton broke up with me.”
Camila almost laughs, because what kind of dumbass would break up with Lauren Jauregui? “His loss, then.”
Lauren shuffles over on Camila’s single bed to look at her, and their noses touch. Camila aches to close the gap between them, to show Lauren that she doesn’t need Keaton, but she refrains from it, because she’d lose her friend if she did that.
Because Lauren doesn’t like girls.
“He said it was because of distance.” Lauren replies. “I agree, in a way. I just… really liked him. I know you probably won’t get it because you’ve never had a breakup, but I feel like he’s just died.”
“He didn’t deserve you.” Camila blurts out, clamping her teeth down on her bottom lip and wanting to slap herself when Lauren’s bushy eyebrows dip into a frown. “I’m sorry.”
“No…” Lauren shakes her head. “Don’t be. Why do you think that?”
Because I’m the one who deserves you, Camila thinks. “No reason. He’s just… not good enough for someone as amazing as you. You’re so kind-hearted and talented and beautiful and he was just… him.”
Lauren sends her a small smile. “You think I’m beautiful?”
“The most beautiful.” Camila nods, reaching over and squeezing Lauren’s hand. “And you don’t need a boy to prove that to you.”
“Yeah,” Lauren smiles. “Thanks, Camz. You’re a really good friend.”
The word friend makes Camila’s stomach drop and her face fall, but she quickly composes herself. “You’re welcome. Do you want to… watch some TV to take your mind off things?”
Lauren nods. “Sure.”
Camila watches Lauren a lot more than she watches the TV.
Camila gets up and immediately walks over to Lauren, fully aware of the look Dinah gives her, and sits down across from her friend. “What’s up?”
“Have you ever noticed all of these people,” Lauren holds up her phone, “that ship Camren?”
Camila feels her stomach turn to stone, because she’s definitely noticed those people. It was those people who helped her realise that her feelings for Lauren aren’t as platonic as she originally thought.
“Um… yeah,” Camila nods, “I mostly just ignore them, though.”
“They’re really enthusiastic about it all,” Lauren says, frowning down at her phone screen, “they think we’re secretly together or something.”
Camila shrugs. “Well, it’s not like… it’s just some kids having fun. Let them get on with it. I was in their position at one point.”
“It’s just kind of weird.” Lauren continues, and Camila wants nothing more than to be swallowed up into the earth right now. “We’re both straight. I’m not dating right now and you’re… do you like anyone?”
Camila’s eyes widen and she shakes her head as quickly as she can. “No, of course not, there’s nobody for me to like.”
Lauren frowns at her. “You can tell me anything, Camz. You know that, right?”
Camila wants to scream at her, no, I can’t tell you everything, because you’d hate me if you knew. “Yeah. I know. But I don’t like anyone.”
“I don’t believe you,” Lauren smirks at her, “but I won’t push you to tell. I’d hate it if someone did that to me. But- uh, do you think we should tell these ‘shippers’ to back off?”
“Let them have their fun.” Camila waves her off. “Like I said, I was like them once. They’re not hurting anybody.”
Lauren frowns down at her phone. “Yeah… okay.”
Camila tells herself that her fangirl days were the main reason for her letting the Camren shippers keep on shipping. Definitely not because it’s comforting to her to know that other people think that she’d be a good match with Lauren.
No. It’s definitely not that.
This will update every Saturday with five new chapters if you're wondering about a schedule.
Chapter 11: 11. Acceptance
The first time Camila feels well and truly accepted is when she comes out to Normani and Ally. They’ve just finished off recording vocals for what’s definitely going to be their first single, Miss Movin’ On, and Camila feels like if she’s going to be in a group with them for the foreseeable future, she wants to be open and herself.
Dinah offers to stay with her, which she appreciates, and she holds her best friend’s hand as she blurts out the words, “I think I might be gay.”
Ally doesn’t seem too shocked, and Normani pulls her in for the biggest bear hug she can muster, and all Camila feels is completely and totally accepted. Even though she still isn’t certain about how she identifies, she knows her girls will accept her no matter what.
“So… you only think you might be gay?” Ally asks her when Normani finally lets her go. “What do you mean by that?”
“Well, I know I like girls,” Camila says, “I just don’t know if I like boys or not.”
“How’d you figure it out?” Normani asks, and Dinah sends her a look that reads, don’t ask.
But, Camila trusts them. Ally and Normani are like sisters to her, and she knows they won’t tell anyone anything. “I like Lauren. A lot.”
Again, Ally doesn’t look all that surprised. Camila figures she’s probably not as subtle as she’d like to be with all the staring at Lauren that she does.
Normani asks the question that’s on both her and Ally’s mind. “How long have you liked her?”
“Well… I think since I met her, really.” Camila shrugs and she realises she probably looks a little sad when she feels Dinah squeeze her hand. “She doesn’t know. About me liking girls, I mean. I think with the whole Camren thing she might… pull away from me.”
“She wouldn’t do that, Walz,” Dinah assures her, “Lauser’s one of your best friends, and at the end of the day, she probably doesn’t give a fuck about whatever the fans think.”
Camila really wishes that was true.
Chapter 12: 12. Shame
They’re in the middle of a livestream for their fans – Camila is still a little shocked that they actually have fans – when Camren is brought up again. She feels the usual warmth in her chest, because people actually think that she and Lauren would be good together, and that will never fail to make her happy.
Lauren, on the other hand, acts as if she hadn’t heard the question is Camren real, but she subtly moves away from Camila and the younger Latina feels her heart break.
When their livestream finally finishes, Camila gets up the courage to talk to Lauren and follows her to somewhere quiet. “Why are you so weird about it?”
Lauren turns around, as if she hadn’t realised Camila was following her. “About what?”
“About Camren,” Camila notes how Lauren visibly flinches. “You really hate it, don’t you?”
“I don’t hate it. Like you said, it’s just the fans and their harmless fun,” Lauren sits down on the couch and shrugs. “It’s just... I don’t like girls. And I’m not- I’m not homophobic, but I just... don’t like the idea of that. With me, I mean. It’s just weird.”
As Camila excuses herself to the bathroom, all she feels in the pit of her stomach is shame, and she hates herself for feeling the way she does.
Chapter 13: 13. Tender
Camila is curled up in bed, sniffling into her pillow, because she can’t get Lauren’s words out of her head. It’s just weird. I don’t like girls. She can’t make the older girl’s words stop and it’s slowly driving her insane.
She hasn’t spoken to Lauren properly in three days. Obviously Lauren tries to talk to her, but Camila doesn’t let her. She always thinks of a decent excuse to leave, because distancing herself will help her get rid of her crush, and that’s her goal.
When her bedroom door opens, she thinks nothing of it. It’s probably just Dinah checking to see if she’s still awake. Not wanting to be disturbed, Camila keeps her eyes shut and hopes that whoever it is will go away, because she’d much rather be alone right now.
Naturally, footsteps come closer, and she hears a little shuffling around, and then the bed sinks under added weight. Arms wrap around her waist, and she feels a tender touch against her cheek.
“Wake up,” When she hears the familiar raspy voice, she nearly has a heart attack, “Camz. Wake up.”
Pretending as though she’d just woken up, Camila opens her eyes and yawns, before realising that Lauren’s effectively got her trapped.
“Hey,” the younger Latina murmurs, “what’re you doing here?”
“Milking a cow.” Lauren replies. “What does it look like? I’m cuddling you.”
She should push her away. Camila knows that this is incredibly had for her plan. Cuddling with your crush is definitely on the list of do not do under any circumstances. But she can’t help herself.
“Why are you cuddling me?”
“Because I miss you,” Lauren says, “you’ve been avoiding me and I want to know why. Did I do something to upset you?”
Camila shrugs. “Not intentionally.”
“So that’s a yes,” Lauren is quick to reply. “Come on. Tell me how I can fix it. What did I do?”
“You- um... I get that you don’t like it.” Camila starts. “The Camren thing, I mean. But… I, well I don’t like it, but it makes me feel… it makes me feel accepted.”
Lauren frowns. “I can’t say I get what you mean.”
“I just-” Camila bites back the fear in the pit of her stomach, because this is going to come out sooner or later, “I like girls. Romantically. I’m not sure if I like boys too. But I definitely like girls.”
“Oh,” Camila feels her heart soar when Lauren seems to pull her closer. “I didn’t- why didn’t you tell me? You know I’d never- Camz, I love you. You’re one of my best friends. Why didn’t you feel like you could tell me about this?”
“Because you always seemed so put off by everything,” Camila says, “like… the Camren thing. You’d act really weird about it and… I didn’t want to make you hate me.”
“You can’t help who you like,” Lauren easily replies, “love is love, Camz. I didn’t- I wasn’t upset by the whole Camren thing because of that. It was more like… I don’t like girls. And I don’t like it when people try to force labels onto others.”
While the reiteration of Lauren’s heterosexuality is kind of a downer, Camila feels a lot better than she has all week. “Yeah. Thanks for getting it, Lo.”
“No worries, Camzi,” Lauren smiles, “you know you can always talk to me, right?”
“Yeah,” Camila smiles, and for the first time in forever, she feels happy and confident, “I know.”
Chapter 14: 14. Jealousy
Their first single comes out, and along with a single, they need a music video. And when Lauren is put with a guy in it, Camila can’t help but feel her blood boil.
Why did it have to be Lauren? Why couldn’t it have been one of the other girls?
Especially since she’s supposed to cheer her on.
When they’re finished filming, she overhears Normani talking to Lauren. “So, did you like him?”
“No,” Lauren’s words make Camila breathe a sigh of relief, “not really. There are better guys out there. Did you know that Camila isn’t-”
“Straight?” Normani finishes for her. “Yes. We’ve known for a while. Didn’t know she’d told you, though.”
Lauren hums in thought. “Do you think she likes anyone? I want to get her a girlfriend.”
While the thought is sweet, unless Lauren’s about to offer herself up, Camila highly doubts that Lauren will find her a suitable candidate for a girlfriend any time soon.
“I know she likes someone,” Normani says, “and before you ask, no. I don’t know who it is.”
“I’ll find out,” Lauren replies, and Camila nearly laughs because there’s no way she’s letting that happen. “I want her to be happy.”
At Lauren’s words, Camila’s stomach does about ten thousand backflips, because that’s the sweetest thing she’s ever heard and it’s doing absolutely nothing to help her crush. But whatever. If Lauren is going to say nice things about her, she’s going to pack that away in her memory.
Chapter 15: 15. Hope
When Lauren’s friend Lucy comes on tour with them, at first, Camila has to admit she’s a little jealous, because Lauren is generally absent from their movie nights to hang out with her friend. But she gets used to it, and she knows she’d be more focused on one of her friends if they came to visit.
They’re in the middle of one of their movie nights on the Harmonize America Tour, and Camila is hiding her face in Dinah’s neck, because the girls decided on a horror movie, and Camila still isn’t a fan of them.
When it gets to a particularly loud jump scare, Camila shoots off the couch and shakes her head. “Nope, I can’t do this. I’m going to bed or something.”
Dinah laughs. “Alright. Night, Mila.”
Camila settles down in her bunk, but she can still hear the screams from the characters in the movie and the other girls watching it, so she thinks screw it and heads out of her bunk and into the back lounge.
What she doesn’t expect to see is Lauren with her hand up Lucy’s shirt and her lips attached to her neck.
“Lo,” Lucy starts pushing her away, and Camila can barely get a word out, because this has to be some sort of dream. “Lauren.”
Lauren pulls away from her friend and follows her gaze, her eyes landing on Camila in a look of pure horror. “Camz-”
“Okay, sorry to interrupt, it’s my bedtime now,” Camila loudly announces, turning on her heel and sprinting towards the door. “Goodnight!”
As Camila climbs back into her bunk and buries her face in her pillow, she can’t help but hope that maybe Lauren does like girls after all.
Chapter 16: 16. Pessimism
Camila doesn’t know why she expects Lauren to talk to her. She figures it’s because if someone walked in on her kissing a girl, she’d want to explain to them right away. But the curtain on her bunk stays closed, and she doesn’t heat Lauren’s voice anymore, so clearly she’s not been followed.
She feels nothing short of pessimistic about it, because she’d hoped that maybe Lauren would talk to her, tell her that yes, she does like girls, that her and Lucy were experimenting and that Lauren feels the same way about Camila.
She knows that’s not going to happen, but a girl can dream.
When she goes through the night undisturbed, she thinks that maybe Lauren was just giving herself time to cool off and they’ll talk when they have breakfast together, but almost as soon as Camila leaves her bunk and goes to get a bowl of cereal, Lauren practically inhales her Cheerios and darts out of Camila’s sight.
Camila sighs to herself, watching her go, and decides to let Lauren have her space.
Distance makes the heart grow fonder, right?
Chapter 17: 17. Nothing
“Okay,” Dinah pulls her ahead of the girls and into the tour bus, “why is Lauser being all weird around you?”
“It’s nothing.” Camila says; she’s sure the last thing Lauren wants is for someone else to know about her kissing Lucy. “She’s probably just tired.”
“Did you two have a fight or something?” Dinah asks, before her eyes widen in worry, “Did you come out to her? Was she a bitch about it? I swear if she-”
“It’s nothing like that, China,” Camila reaches out and squeezes her best friend’s hand. “I promise. I really appreciate your concern, but it’s fine.”
Dinah frowns, “Are you sure?”
As much as Camila really wants to talk to someone about this, she knows that she can’t spill Lauren’s secret. If it was her, she’d hate for it to get out. “Positive. Lauren’s probably just tired or in a bad mood or something. We haven’t fought, Cheechee. Promise.”
When she hears the tour bus door open, she quietens down, her heart soaring when Lauren walks in and then dropping what feels like fifty feet when the older Latina doesn’t even look at her as she disappears to her bunk.
Dinah looks at her as if to say are you kidding me? “That didn’t seem like nothing.”
“It’s… I’m fine,” Camila bites back any admissions from the tip of her tongue, because telling people about what she’d walked in on would definitely make things worse. “Just drop it, please.”
“Alright,” Dinah sends her an odd look, “if you say so.”
Chapter 18: 18. Awkwardness
They haven’t spoken properly in two weeks.
Lauren is avoiding Camila at every possible opportunity, and Camila is sort of heartbroken because of it. She misses her interactions with Lauren, no matter how platonic they were. She misses cuddling up to her on the couch as they watch some Disney movies with the other girls.
She misses their friendship.
So, when she’s in the back room in the bus, sat in the same spot she saw Lauren kissing Lucy in, she’s more than a little shocked when Lauren walks in and closes the door behind her.
For a moment, they stare at each other, Lauren trying to find words and Camila filled with anticipation and worry and the tiniest sliver of hope.
Then, something seems to click with Lauren, and the older Latina lets out a long sigh, running a hand through her hair; one of her known nervous ticks. “I miss you.”
“I miss you too,” Camila quietly replies, “but that’s kind of your fault in the first place. You’re the one who’s avoiding me.”
“I’m not avoiding you,” Lauren catches the sarcastic response on the tip of Camila’s tongue before it comes out. “Okay, fine, maybe I’m avoiding you. But I’m not anymore.”
Camila raises an eyebrow. “Aren’t we going to talk about what-”
“There’s nothing to talk about,” Lauren cuts in, “I just want things to go back to how they were. With us being best friends. Sisters.”
Camila wants to scoff, because the last thing she sees Lauren as is a sister. But, the last thing she wants to do is lose Lauren completely. “Okay.”
The relieved smile on Lauren’s face almost makes Camila feel okay about giving in that easily. “Thank you.”
“It’s… it’s okay,” Camila says, biting down on her bottom lip nervously. She has no idea how to keep talking to her and everything is a little too awkward for Camila’s liking.
After a moment of silence, Lauren speaks up again. “The girls and I were thinking about watching a movie. There’s half a Disney princess blanket and my shoulder with your name on it if you want to join.”
Finally, Camila cracks a real smile, because cuddling with Lauren is her favourite pastime. “I’m in.”
“Awesome,” Lauren holds out a hand and pulls her up from the couch in the back room, pulling her through the bunks and towards the other girls at the front of the bus. “I really did miss you, Camz.”
“Should’ve talked to me sooner, then,” Camila mutters, and she knows Lauren hears it. “I’m not mad at you. Promise.”
“Good,” Lauren pulls her onto the couch next to Dinah and puts the blanket over the two of them. Camila nearly has a heart attack when the older Latina links their fingers together under the blanket. “I love you, Camz. It’d suck if you were mad.”
Camila can’t help but wish those words were said in a different context, but she knows that’s never going to happen. With Lauren, the most she’ll ever get is friendship, and slowly but surely, she can make herself okay with that.
Chapter 19: 19. Embarrassment
She knows from her One Direction fangirl days that when you have fans, they ask invasive questions. She just didn’t think she’d feel so embarrassed about it when an overly curious fan asks when all of their first kisses were.
Camila turns bright red at the question, watching as all of the other girls answer, and when the microphone is passed to her, slowly mumbles, “Um, it hasn’t happened yet.”
She’s pretty sure that all of the other girls know that by now, but it doesn’t make it any less embarrassing since the interview will be posted on YouTube in a matter of days.
(She really hopes that someone will edit that out, just to give her some security, but she highly doubts that’ll happen.)
Her cheeks are still burning red when they finish the interview and head back to the tour bus, and she heads straight to her bunk under the guise of having a nap; really, she just wants some alone time.
She doesn’t at all expect Lauren to crawl into her bunk next to her and take hold of her hand. “Hey. Are you alright? You seemed super quiet during the interview.”
“I’m just…” Camila sighs, “promise you won’t laugh?”
Lauren squeezes her hand. “Promise.”
Camila looks anywhere but Lauren, “I’m embarrassed that I haven’t had my first kiss yet.”
“Hey, look at me,” At Lauren’s words, Camila looks up, “You’re only sixteen; there’s no age limit on when you’re supposed to experience your first kiss or your first relationship or even your first time having sex. It’s not embarrassing at all.”
“Have you-” Camila turns bright red again and mutters out, “have you had sex yet?”
“No,” Lauren shakes her head, “Keaton and I definitely didn’t do that. It didn’t feel right with him, no matter how much I liked him.”
Camila wants to ask what about Lucy but she holds it back, because she knows that Lauren would flip out at her. “At least you’ve been kissed. I know it sounds stupid, but I feel like there’s something wrong with me because other people don’t seem to find me attractive. The person I like doesn’t like me back and they never will, and it makes me feel so bad about myself.”
“There’s nothing wrong with you,” Lauren assures her, “I think you’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.”
Camila scoffs. “Even when mirrors exist?”
“Smooth, Cabello,” Lauren laughs at her words, but it’s not even a joke. “But, yes. Even with the existence of mirrors, I think you’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever had the pleasure to lay eyes on.”
“I don’t believe you,” Camila mumbles, sighing into her pillow. “Not with three people like Mani, Ally and Dinah out there. Not with you laid right there next to me.”
Lauren hums. “I guess I’ll have to make you believe me.”
Camila is about to retort, but before she can speak, there’s a soft pair of lips on hers and Lauren’s hand is resting against her jaw, pulling her closer. At first, Camila is too stunned to react, because Lauren fucking Jauregui is kissing her and that’s the last thing she expected to happen. Camila’s heart stops and then decides to overcompensate when Lauren’s tongue traces her bottom lip, and Camila opens her mouth slightly, a moan reverberating in the back of her throat when Lauren’s skilled tongue grazes her unexperienced one.
That seems to snap Lauren out of whatever had possessed her to do that in the first place, and she pulls away, albeit slowly. Then, she sends Camila a small smile and squeezes her hand again. “You’re beautiful, Camila. Don’t ever forget that.”
With that, she climbs out of Camila’s bunk and disappears, leaving the younger girl in complete and utter shock.
Chapter 20: 20. Beautiful
Ally had convinced the girls to go on an impromptu Waffle House trip with her, but Camila decides to hang back, because her head is still spinning from last night. Lauren had kissed her. Lauren Michelle Jauregui, possibly the most attractive and enthralling girl in the world, had kissed her.
She’s so never getting over that.
After a little while of lying in her bunk, reading her favourite John Green book, Camila decides to get a snack, so she crawls out of her bunk and walks towards the kitchen. The last thing she expects is to see Lauren rifling through the cereal cupboard.
“Hey,” Camila announces her presence. “Didn’t you go to Waffle House with the girls?”
“No,” Lauren shakes her head as she grabs the box of honey nut Cheerios. “I was in the mood for pyjamas, cereal and a movie. Care to join me?”
“I…” Camila can’t believe how easy conversation is coming with the knowledge that Lauren’s tongue had been in her mouth last night. “Sure. I was just going to hide out in my bunk like a hermit. I guess spending time with you is as good a pastime as any.”
Lauren pours herself a bowl of cereal – passing on the milk – and flops down on the couch, patting the spot next to her. Camila sits and Lauren presses play on the remote; apparently she’s already put a movie on.
“How are you feeling today?” Lauren asks, and Camila nearly jumps out of her skin; she hadn’t expected the other girl to talk much. “Jumpy, I take it.”
“No- I mean, mood wise, I’m a lot better,” Camila says, looking down at her feet, “I’m just a little confused. Why’d you kiss me?”
Lauren stares at her for a moment. “You’d never had your first kiss.”
“So it was some kind of pity thing?” Camila raises an eyebrow. “You kissed me because you felt sorry for me. That’s it, isn’t it?”
“No,” Lauren shakes her head, “I kissed you because you were talking about how nobody found you beautiful enough to kiss you. But I do.”
Camila blinks in shock, and her stomach does about ten somersaults in a row. “You… what?”
“I think you’re beautiful, Camila,” Lauren squeezes her hand, “and it upsets me that you don’t see it yourself.”
“But…” Camila frowns, “you don’t like girls.”
“You’re right. I don’t.” Lauren agrees with her, and Camila feels her heart sink. “But maybe you’re an exception to the rule.”
The words have barely sunk in before Lauren’s soft lips are on Camila’s again, and the younger girl has no idea what she’s doing, but she follows Lauren’s lead because the raven haired girl is kind of like, an expert at kissing. Lauren’s the one to pull away first, and Camila stares at her in shock.
“Was that okay?” Lauren sends her a shy smile and Camila tries not to faint. “You’ve gone a little quiet.”
“No, no,” Camila shakes her head and cups Lauren’s face with her hands. “Kiss me again.”
Lauren happily obliges.
Chapter 21: Verbalise
Camila doesn’t expect it to happen again. She figures that making out on the couch with Lauren is just a one-time thing, and that they’ll forget it ever happened and things will go back to the way they were before; Camila pining over Lauren, and the older girl being both painfully oblivious and painfully straight.
Things go back to normal for a few days, but then they’re told that they’re staying in a hotel for the night. Camila’s thankful for that – tour buses don’t come equipped with place to take a nice bubble bath – and she’s not even really paying attention when she’s told that she’ll be rooming with Lauren.
She’s still thinking about the relaxing bath she’s going to take later on the way up to the hotel room, but the thought is knocked out of her mind when their hotel room door closes behind them and Lauren practically pins her to it, and kisses her roughly.
It’s different from the first time. That’d been simple curiosity.
This time, she can practically feel the lust radiating from Lauren, and she knows that this is moving way too fast.
As much as it aches her to do it, she pulls away. “That- I’m not ready for anything drastic, Lo. I- I know it’s not a secret that I’m inexperienced, but it’s not like-”
“Shut up,” Lauren kisses her again, but this time it’s a lot softer. “I don’t want that from you. You deserve a perfect first time and I can’t give you that. I just want to kiss you.”
Camila frowns. “Why?”
Lauren shakes her head. “Do I need a reason?”
Camila wants to say yes. She wants to verbalise her thoughts, bear her soul, tell Lauren how much she likes her, and how much this all means to her. Kissing might not mean a lot to Lauren, but it means a lot to Camila.
But it’s like she’s already addicted to the sweet taste of Lauren’s soft, plump lips. And she knows telling Lauren she has feelings for her will put a stop to whatever this is. So, she silently shakes her head and lets Lauren kiss her again.
Chapter 22: Hold
They don’t tell anyone else. As far as the other girls know, they’re just friends. Camila knows that’s all they are, just friends. But they’re friends who kiss, and that’s got to mean something.
Camila doesn’t kiss anyone else. Mostly because she doesn’t have somebody else to kiss, but she also feels like this thing with Lauren is something.
So, yeah, they’re just friends. But they’re also more than that.
Camila wants a label on their… whatever they have, but she knows it’d scare Lauren off. Lauren’s way more sensitive than she lets on, and whenever Camila tries to talk to her about how they make out whenever they’re alone, she starts to close herself off, and the last thing she wants Lauren to do is run away.
She makes herself sick thinking about it, and even playing video games with Dinah and Normani doesn’t cheer her up. She heads to the back room for some quiet and space, but when she opens the door, she finds Lauren in there, scrolling through Tumblr.
Lauren sees her before she can duck out of the room and hide in her bunk. “Hey, Camz. You look down.”
“I’ve just been overthinking,” Camila says, not wanting to give Lauren the real reason. “I’ll- uh, just leave you alone-”
“No, come here,” Lauren orders, and unable to resist, Camila complies. She sits down on the couch next to Lauren and keeps a good amount of space between them. Noticing this, Lauren rolls her eyes. “Camila. I mean it. Come here.”
Camila shifts a little closer. “There.”
“You’re ridiculous,” Lauren grabs her before she can say anything, and pulls her close, but she doesn’t kiss her. She doesn’t initiate anything.
She just holds her.
And somehow, that makes everything feel a little better.
Chapter 23: Confessions
“Look, you’ve been acting weird, Walz. And I don’t know what it is, but I need you to tell me.”
“I can’t, Dinah,” Camila tells her friend for what feels like the millionth time. “I’m fine. It doesn’t matter, anyway.”
“You’re always moping around.” Dinah points out. “Please, just tell me what’s wrong. You know I wouldn’t tell anyone.”
Camila has to admit, Dinah has a point. “Fine. Lauren and I… have been kissing. But that’s it. We’re just friends who kiss. And it’s so weird, DJ. I like her, and if she kisses me, then obviously she has some kinds of feelings for me, right? But she refuses to talk about it. If I start mentioning it, then she starts to close herself off.”
After a few moments of silence, Dinah shrugs. “Do something about it, then. Either put a stop to whatever you’re doing, or ask her how she feels and don’t give up until you get an answer.
Camila turns Dinah’s advice over in her head all day. She’s still thinking about it when Lauren crawls into her bunk later that night. When she opens her mouth to speak, Lauren kisses her.
Camila decides she’ll talk to her tomorrow.
Chapter 24: Cheated
When Lucy comes to visit again, Camila feels like she’s been punched in the gut.
She can’t do anything about it, obviously. Lucy’s really nice to her, and she’s one of Lauren’s best friends, so it’s not like she can say no, she’s not allowed to come. She has no reason to.
She makes sure that Lauren and Lucy are never alone together, but they don’t make an effort to do that either. They’re perfectly happy to hang out with her and the other girls, and join Ally on an impromptu Waffle House trip after their show that night.
They don’t sneak off in all the time Lucy visits, and Camila thinks that maybe what she and Lauren have is actually an exclusive thing. Maybe it was just unspoken that they don’t kiss anyone else.
She’s wrong, because on Lucy’s last night, Camila realises she’s left her phone charger in the back room – she’d taken it in there to charge her phone while they all watched a movie – so she goes to collect it.
She finds Lucy on top of Lauren, their shirts thrown across the room and Lauren’s bra on the floor.
They don’t see her, so she runs away as fast as she can and ducks back into her bunk, crying herself to sleep and feeling absolutely cheated and betrayed.
Chapter 25: Claim
She knows she has no claim on Lauren. She knows crying over her and Lucy is irrational and stupid, because it’s not like Lauren’s her girlfriend.
But that’s going to change.
Tour finishes, and they’re back in Miami for Christmas, and Camila knows that Christmas is the perfect time for her to do it.
She begs her mom to drive her to a florist, and purchases a bouquet of peach coloured roses – according to the florist they mean proposal and sincerity, and she really needs Lauren to know she’s being sincere – and then she makes her way to Lauren’s house.
She knocks on the door and greets Taylor, who opens it, and asks if Lauren’s home. She waits, butterflies swarming in her stomach as Taylor goes to get Lauren for her, and when the green eyed goddess comes to the door, Camila produces the roses from behind her back.
“Lauren Michelle Jauregui,” Camila sucks in a deep breath, “will you go on a proper date with me?”
“I- Camz, I don’t-” Lauren shakes her head, “I don’t like girls, Camila. I- I’m sorry if you thought… god, Camz, I’m so sorry.”
Her world comes crashing down at Lauren’s words, and she turns tail and runs.
She doesn’t realise that she’d dropped the roses until she gets home.