This is my second ChRave fanfic – please be gentle with me. Please leave reviews. I'd like to hear back on how I'm doing. No flames, though. Constructive criticism good. Flames bad. Since this fic is set when the characters are twenty-six or so, they might seem OOC, but I figure they would have matured and changed since high school.
"Chelsea Daniels, is this not the best day of our lives?" Raven Baxter beamed as flashes from several cameras went off. The bright blue of her gown was matched by the hundreds of other students around her, and for once Raven didn't mind that someone else was wearing the same outfit as her.
Chelsea smiled brightly, waving slightly to her parents, "Yeah! I mean, it came so fast. Graduating high school."
Eddie approached from the side, cap in his hands, "Hey girls. What up?"
Raven pushed him slightly, jokingly, "So, Mr. Graduate, how does it feel?"
He dusted his shoulders off with a casual flick of his wrist, "Not bad, not bad at all."
Chelsea's smile faded slightly, "It's a bummer, though… This is the end of the Three Amigos. We're all going to different colleges in different states…"
"We've got all summer to say good bye, Chels. Relax." Raven hugged her best friend tightly around the shoulders, "And we'll always be the Three Amigos, no matter how far apart we are."
Eddie briefly rested his hands on their backs, "Well, I gotta go. The 'rents want to take me to dinner."
As he left, Raven returned her gaze to Chelsea's slightly down-trodden expression. It hurt to see her best friend saddened on what was supposed to be the happiest day of their young lives. It didn't help that she'd been nursing an attraction to the goofy girl for almost a year.
"Come on, Chels, let's go see our parents. We'll hang out over the summer so much that you'll be happy to be rid of me in the fall."
Chelsea shook her head, "I'll never be sick of you."
"Well, just know that if you ever need my help, ever, give me a call." Raven stuck out her pinky, "Pinky promise me you'll call."
Chelsea's smile returned. Childish things always made her happy, "Pinky promise."
Their fingers locked briefly.
Summer couldn't last long enough for Raven, Chelsea, or Eddie. When fall came, they were disappointed, yet excited for the next step in their lives. Thoughts of college overrode thoughts of missing each other, and they sent e-mails constantly, along with the occasional phone call.
But it wasn't the same, and each knew they were slowly but surely drifting apart.
Eight Years Later – New York
Raven ran her fingers along the smooth wooden surface of her desk. The office hummed around and she couldn't help but smile. After four years of design school and many summers spent interning with all the right people, she was running a business of her own and had even designed her own fashion line – a line that was turning out to be very popular.
She had a few interns of her own, along with four or five designers working under her. Her lifestyle was laidback and she had enough money to live comfortably and support herself. Hell, she had enough money to support a few other people as well. She'd had a few relationships since graduating college, but nothing serious. Nobody could hold her interest for more than a week.
Her nails began tapping out little morse-code messages as her eyes fell on an old picture she had sitting on the edge of her desk. In the picture she had her arms wrapped around the shoulders of Chelsea and Eddie; they were standing in front of the Chill Grill with wide grins plastered on their faces. The picture was taken the day before going off to college for their freshman year.
The glass doors that separated the work area from the lobby swung open and Raven's secretary hustled in, looking harassed. Raven stared at the other woman, slightly confused. Lauren, the secretary, tugged on a loose strand of hair, a mannerism Raven knew meant the younger woman was nervous about something.
"Ms. Raven… there's a woman in the lobby who demands to see you."
"Does she have an appointment?" Raven questioned. She didn't recall an eleven o'clock appointment.
"No… but she won't leave until you talk to her. I normally wouldn't disturb you, but she looks like a wreck." Lauren glanced back towards the lobby, "She said you'd see her no matter what."
"Did you get her name?"
"Chelsea Scott." Lauren reported with another tug to her lock of hair.
"I don't think I know a Chelsea Scott."
"She said that if you didn't recognize that, you'd probably recognize her maiden name. Daniels."
Raven's eyebrows popped up, "Daniels? Chelsea Daniels? Lauren, I'm going out to lunch."
Lauren nodded, "Okay, I'll… just go back to answering phones…"
Raven pat her shoulder, "Relax. I know Chels from way back. You did the right thing."
Out in the lobby, Chelsea wrapped her jean jacket closely about her shoulders, wishing she'd thought to clean up somewhere before bursting in on Raven. She didn't know where else to go, though. Her hand went to rest on her enlarged stomach, eyes closing anxiously.
"Chelsea… is that really you?" Raven entered the lobby. It didn't seem possible.
"Rae…" Chelsea bit into her lower lip, knowing she must look terrible. Her jeans were muddy at the bottoms, matching her ripped and dusty sneakers. Her shirt was too small for her pregnant belly and her jacket barely covered her. She had a black eye and messy hair.
"Lauren, scratch my message, I'm leaving for the day. Move my appointments, please, with an apology. Thank you." Raven didn't wait for a response before grabbing Chelsea's arm and pulling her out of the office space. She didn't miss the slight wince that shuddered through Chelsea as she latched onto the limb.
Out on the street Raven paused long enough to eye her old friend and she found herself in a state of outrage. Something was obviously wrong; the Chelsea she knew would never leave the house looking like a homeless woman unless there was a very bad reason.
"Chelsea, first we're going back to my apartment to get you cleaned up, and then we're going to get a good meal in you. You can talk whenever you want, okay?" Raven gazed at her, knowing that if she pushed any line of questions, Chelsea might scare and run.
Chelsea's eyes were red-rimmed but she looked truly relieved to be with Raven. "Thanks, Raven… you have no idea how much I appreciate this."
Raven smiled, mind racing. What could have happened in the brief years between graduating from college and this point? It was true – she hadn't kept up with her friends when her career started taking off, and now she was regretting it.
"Don't sweat it, girl."
"I was just hoping… your promise still stood." Chelsea rubbed her stomach, eyes trained on the sidewalk.
"High school graduation… That I could always come to you if I had a problem…"
Realization dawned on Raven, and her smile broadened, "Of course! Come on, just a few more blocks."
In Raven's apartment, Chelsea was hustled into the shower and given a set of clean clothes; black sweatpants and a light blue sweatshirt to accommodate for Chelsea's stomach. Raven waited patiently on her couch as Chelsea washed up and got comfortable.
Chelsea stared around the apartment with wide eyes. She knew Raven was well-off these days, but she hadn't imagined that one cozy apartment could be so lavishly decorated. Every wall had at least one tasteful painting or knickknack on it; the ground in each room was hardwood, though there was a colorful rug matched to the color scheme. Even the furniture looked expensive.
Raven chuckled when she noticed Chelsea's examination, "What can I say? Would you rather I kept all the money in the bank doing nothing? I can afford to buy silly things."
Chelsea nodded mutely and took a seat; she seemed afraid to ruin anything with her touch, though, and sat rigidly.
"Would you rather I ordered some pizza? We don't have to go out to lunch?" Raven offered, "And please, Chels, relax. You're not going to sully anything. I mean, I have a dog and he gets his fur on everything."
Chelsea raised her eyebrows, "You have a dog? Where is he?"
"Out with the dog walker, I expect." Raven ran her hand along the couch and pulled up a tuft of black fur, "He's a pretty big dog."
"What kind?" Chelsea asked, her eyes finally lighting up. Raven knew she'd found safe ground.
"He's some sort of mutt. I found him at the pound about half a year ago. He got me with his large brown eyes." Raven cooed, happy to gush, "His name is Ralph."
"Ralph…" Chelsea smile faded, "I have a dog, too…"
Raven scooted closer, setting her hand on Chelsea's shoulder. The buzz under her skin from merely touching the other girl was still there and only served to remind Raven of what she couldn't have.
"The reason I'm here… I left my husband." A few tears spilled from Chelsea's eyes unbidden. "I bet you didn't know I was married…" She laughed hoarsely.
"No, Chels, I didn't get that memo."
"It was kind of sudden, a few years ago… He came off like a really nice guy. We dated for a few months and he really had me thinking I loved him. And when he proposed after half a year, I said yes… I mean, I was seriously thinking he was The One…"
Raven had a feeling of foreboding flood over her, "What happened?"
"The first few weeks we were married were great. I mean, he treated me well, made me breakfast in bed, y'know, good husband stuff. But then he started getting so angry. I had asked him to take out the trash one night and he hit me…" Chelsea touched her cheek, thinking about it and shivering. "He apologized afterwards, told me he didn't know what came over him. Heck, he even went overboard trying to make it up to me. That's when we got Pepper, our dog."
"Did you tell anyone?" Raven asked, concerned. She'd heard stories like this and they all turned out the same way it seemed.
"No. He promised it would never happen again and I believed him." Chelsea pulled the sleeves up on the sweatshirt, revealing that her arms were covered in dull blue bruises. "As you can see, he lied."
Raven's breath hitched and her eyes narrowed. How dare that man do that to her girl?
"I put up with it, though. I knew it was my fault." Chelsea murmured. Every time he had hit her, it was over something she had done. "After I got pregnant, eight months ago, I was walking on eggshells. I didn't want him hurting the baby."
Raven nodded slowly, "You do know it wasn't your fault, right? It was never your fault."
"Don't worry about it, Raven. I accepted it. I'll live with my mistakes." Chelsea unconsciously pet her stomach, "But a week ago he threatened to divorce me and take the baby. I couldn't risk losing my little girl. So I ran…"
"You've been on the street for a week? With an eight months pregnant body?" Raven nearly yelled.
Chelsea shrugged, "It took me a while to decide where to go. I mean, my family is still in San Francisco and I couldn't go to his family. But I saw your clothes in a display case and hoped you'd help."
"It's official," Raven proclaimed, "You're staying here."
Chelsea blushed slightly, "I hate to impose… I was hoping you could spot me some money for a hotel."
"No way, girl! You are staying here and that's final!"
Chelsea clung to Raven almost desperately as the two hugged and Raven resolved to do everything in her power to provide for her fallen friend and unborn child. Maybe this time she would be able to admit her feelings. That would come with time, though. First she had to let Chelsea recover and move on.
"Chelsea, I want you to know that you and your daughter are welcome in my home until you want to leave," Raven whispered. "Pinky promise."