Author's Note: I tried copying and pasting this story, but the format was all crazy. I think I fixed it, but I apologize in advance if things still look weird.
Regardless, this is just a little piece based on a song that will be revealed at the end (otherwise it won't have the affect it should). It's three parts only because the first part is Rachel's POV, the second is Puck's POV, and the third part is both of theirs. The parts are super short, thought, so the plan is to update this twice today and finish it tomorrow.
I'd love to know what you think of it, though, so let me know! Thanks in advance!
Rachel turned the key in the last lock on her apartment door, shoving the heavy piece of metal open and using far too much energy to close it. A long, relieved sigh left her lungs the second she toed off her high-heeled shoes and she barely had enough mind to move them away from the entrance to the apartment. Her steps through the apartment were exaggerated, indicating just how tired she was after a full day of rehearsals followed by a closing shift at the restaurant nearby where she worked. As she made her way to the bedroom and smiled at just the sight of her bed, exhausted was clearly an understatement. Slipping into a clean pair of underwear and a shirt that was twice her size, Rachel stuffed the discarded pieces of her uniform into her hamper. She had tomorrow off and much of it would need to be spent doing laundry; her entire wardrobe was starting to absorb the scent of Italian food that somehow clung to the fibers of her clothes even though she was only the hostess. Outside of that she only had a few other remedial tasks that wouldn't nearly take up as much of her day as today, which she realized was an issue as she crawled into bed and felt the pang of emptiness she'd been avoiding all day.
Reluctantly, her eyes shifted to her left, noting the empty side with another long sigh. Today had been long and she should be able to just close her eyes and pass out, but Rachel knew it wouldn't be that easy. She'd tossed and turned all last night, just trying to get comfortable without the feel of his body next to her. Although, even if she could manage to push aside the uneasiness of him not being in bed with her, Rachel knew better than to assume her mind would let her forget why he wasn't there.
Being busy allowed her to ignore the conversation they'd had yesterday. She'd been forced to focus on the dance moves or her dialogue or table seven and not on the way he'd segued into some excuse about working late and a big project and how he'd call her later (which he hadn't). She hadn't even thought about how she'd stupidly let those three words slip clearly too soon to a man who had never uttered them himself outside of a night months ago that involved way too much alcohol - and even that was to his male best friend who just so happened to be dragging said drunken man out of a bar and into a cab.
Alone in bed, however, with nothing but the sounds of the city filtering up through the partially open window, all Rachel could do was think. Think about how miserable she'd been all day, think about how she wondered if he'd ever come back - they lived together, but she dramatically considered whether he'd buy all new stuff just to avoid her - and think about how, no matter what, she refused to regret it. They'd been together for a year, friends (and roommates) for longer, and she was sick of beating around the bush. She was one phenomenal review away from making it on Broadway and twenty-five years old in just a few months. She had every right to say what she felt, especially when it was something that had been (somewhat unknowingly) building inside her since they were kids.
But still, when she turned to her side and stared at the clock that painfully reminded her that it would be morning in just a few short hours and he obviously wasn't coming home, Rachel couldn't help but replay the pivotal moment in the conversation from yesterday afternoon.
"I'm not you, babe. This is like, the only decent job in the city I could get and I ain't gonna fuck that up by trying to tell anyone what to do."
"I'm not asking you to tell them what to do," Rachel insisted. "You said they've painted themselves into a corner and are asking your team to get them out of it. You could get them out of it. You have so much talent and if you just …"
"It doesn't matter. Don't you get it? I'm just a backup guitarist for some second-rate studio. I can't just go up to a bunch of guys way better off than I'll ever be and show them my shitty tattered notebook of lyrics." Noah groaned. "You should see the shit real songwriters do … full out presentations and portfolios and …" He sighed. "Once a Lima Loser, always one."
"Don't ever say that!" Rachel stomped her foot. "You're not a Lima Loser. You never have been, and I'm tired of you continuing to use that hideous label as an excuse to hold yourself back! Your talent and charisma has landed you a position that is merely a stepping stone to everything that you can do … things I know you want to do. You're a beautiful lyricist, Noah. Your writing is so diverse, spanning so many musical genres that I just know you're going to be so successful the moment you allow yourself to believe. And I don't care if I have to remind you every single day until you do. I'll do it because I love you and believe in you enough for the both of us."
Rachel woke with a jolt, the sound of the door slamming echoing in her scattered brain. She blinked her eyes repeatedly in an effort to wake just a bit quicker, though she wasn't sure when she'd fallen asleep or for how long. At that moment, however, she didn't care. Instead, Rachel was solely focused on her surroundings, waiting to hear the other telltale signs of his arrival. Keys falling to the small table kept by the door where they intended to keep the mail (but was often used as the first flat surface when stumbling passionately into their apartment), the opening of the refrigerator, footsteps drawing nearer … anything.
Unfortunately, as her focus grew clearer, Rachel noticed a heap of clothes by the closet (but never in the hamper) and could smell the faint aroma of his soap lingering in the air. The sound of the door was not his entrance, but rather his exit. He'd snuck in and out, refusing to face her like the man she'd foolishly admitted to loving.
With a huff, Rachel scooted out of bed, kicking at the pile of his worn clothes as she made her way out of the bedroom and toward the kitchen. She rummaged around for an adequate breakfast, but her appetite was nonexistent the second she noticed he'd downed nearly the entire jug of orange juice (leaving just a sip so he could put it back in the fridge instead of writing it down on the grocery list). Bracing her hands on the counter, Rachel breathed in deep. She held the calming breath for a full minute, then released it slowly. Stretching her neck to the left and then to the right, her gaze happened upon a new stack of papers that she knew weren't hers (those were organized neatly in the office).
Biting her lip and trying to decipher the ethics of the situation (it was her apartment, after all, so anything was fair game, right?), she slowly meandered closer and closer until, whether she wanted to or not, Rachel could read the top piece of paper. His characteristic messy scrawl covered the once white paper, now more black and faded gray in areas where the scribbled out words were re-written too soon and had smudged. The only color on the paper was a bright red, scattered throughout what she guessed were lyrics that had been edited and, where her eyes had fallen, the title.
I Do Not Love You
Her breath caught in her throat, tears instantly clinging to the corners of her eyes. There it was, for all intents and purposes, in black and white. Even after everything - no returned sentiment, two nights spent alone, no phone calls - Rachel hadn't expected it. He usually needed time alone to process things of similar magnitude; she'd called him emotionally retarded once as a joke, but it'd caught on. Often it just led to an awkward (on his part) conversation where he'd admit to feeling the same way or explain why he'd reacted a certain way.
Apparently this time, there was going to be no such conversation.