AN: Hey! I'm back I guess after a year. I don't really know how to explain my absence. It was mix of laziness, school and other problems. My sister's had a really tough year and I decided that I wanted to be there for her first and foremost. Also this chapter was just a struggle for me to write. I know where I want to go from here, I've the end planned out since the beginning. But maybe it was just this chapter. I've struggled over three months to write this and this is the result. I've tried. I really have. Maybe it's because I wrote from Chloe's perspective for this chapter. She's always been harder for me to connect with.
But regardless. Please note that I was in a difficult place during the creation of this chapter and my writing reflects that. So don't be too harsh I guess. But I must thank you all for your overwhelming support despite my sudden and unexplained absence. I will try to keep updating regularly.
Chloe stood silently, watching Beca through a glass window. Beca sat in a rickety plastic chair, completely covered in sanitary scrubs. It was a formality of course. You didn't need to be an official doctor to know that the girl laying in the bed next to Beca didn't have much time left. There was just something about her, sure, her gaunt face and thin frame spoke volumes, but there was just this peaceful acceptance. You could sense it in the calm way she spoke, the unhurried way she moved, the content smile plastered on her face. Chloe wished that at the end of her own life, she could be blessed with that same acceptance, that same peace perhaps.
Beca leaned over in her chair, twisting her thumb ring around and around agitatedly. She was nervous, Chloe could tell. It was in the way her eyes never looked at something for more than a second, how they jumped from spot to spot on the room, completely avoiding the bed right in front of her. Few things made Beca Mitchell nervous, this seemed to be one of them.
A pale, frail hand came up and grabbed Beca's fidgeting ones, slowing them, calming them, forcing Beca to sit still, to turn and look down at the bed, down at her older sister. Rachel Marie Mitchell. If she didn't weigh ninety pounds soaking wet and her skin was a little darker, then she'd be a spitting image of Beca, even down to that defiant look. Rachel had given her father, Dr. Mitchell, one when he declared that maybe taking walks wasn't a good idea after all.
But it was on this walk that Chloe ended up learning a lot about Rachel and even more so about Beca. And strangely enough, she learned it from a woman that she never thought she'd get the opportunity to meet.
The return walk back to the hospital had a completely different feel to it. Dr. Mitchell walked briskly ahead, pushing Rachel in the wheel chair. Her coughing fit had long ago subsided but she said nothing now as the wheels moved smoothly over the well paved path. Beca kept up with her father and her sister. She was almost jogging to keep up with her father's long strides but said nothing of it. A light shade of pink dusted over her cheekbones, it was from the exertion of keeping up with the chair, but Chloe silently thought it was a good look on Beca. She looked healthy, human at least.
Chloe thought about going after them but decided that it'd probably be a better idea to give Beca some privacy. This was her family after all, it was the one subject that Chloe could never quite breach not intentionally anyways. So she hung back, walking at a casual pace, just watching and observing. That's when she noticed her, they had fallen into step with each other without quite realizing it.
Once the other woman noticed that Chloe had snapped out of her reverie did she smile and acknowledge the ginger. "Hello, I'm Josephine, Beca's mother. And you must be Chloe. Beca's told me lots about you over the phone," Chloe studied the woman with a smile. She could see where Beca's dark hair and steel blue eyes came from. The woman looked tired, strained, but underneath the layers of exhaustion you could see the shadow of some lively exuberance, the determination that kept her going.
"Oh, well I hope its nothing bad," Chloe replied absentmindedly, returning her gaze to the retreating forms of the other Mitchells.
"She's been spewing nothing short of the highest praise for you since day one," Josephine chuckled, her youngest daughter fondly.
"Oh. Beca thinks too highly of me, I think. I'm just another kid trying to get by, you know?" Chloe shook her head, embarrassed. She was curious to hear what Beca had said of her, but not enough to ask.
"Mhmm. But you're here when she needs someone, I think that's what counts. I think that's what stuck out the most for Beca. She's never met someone quite like you. Someone who stuck around even when times got tough," Josephine sighed and ran a hand through her short cropped hair, pushing her bangs out of her face."I'm sure you've heard the stories. But Warren and I, we tried. We really did. Even when we fell apart, we tried to keep it together for Rachel and Beca. It's not that we didn't want to be there. But we couldn't. Call it selfish, but I think we were tearing the family apart when we were together. So we split. It was still tough after we split. Rachel was in and out of the hospital all the time. Beca, well she's Beca, all reclusive and moody."
Chloe nodded but she stayed silent. She didn't know how to respond, or what to say. "Beca wasn't always like that. She was a happy child, but ever since Rachel- since Rachel contracted HIV, she's been different. Withdrawn, brooding. Rachel was Beca's everything. And for the longest time I was glad that Beca had Rachel. But Beca became so dependent on Rachel for well, everything," Josephine shrugged helplessly.
"She looked to Rachel for what to wear, what to eat, what to do. Her entire life revolved around her big sister. Her happiness revolved around her. But when Rachel got sick, she just didn't have the strength to keep up with Beca and that hit Beca, hard," Josephine gave Chloe a long hard look.
"Beca may never admit this to you. But you're important to Beca," Josephine held up a hand, already sensing Chloe's objections before she could make them. "I have never seen her talk about anything else except music the same way that she talks about you. You're different. Special even. So please, Beca already lost Rachel. I don't think she would ever recover if she lost you. Whatever you do, whatever your intentions are, please just remember, Beca's like a porcelain vase, shattered on the ground. She's put most of the pieces back into place, but that's all there is. Nothing is holding those pieces together." With that ominous warning, Josephine excused herself to go the bathroom.
It wasn't until around late in the afternoon that Beca finally returned to her own room wordlessly, looking more exhausted than ever. Whether it was because of the surgery or all these sudden new developments, Chloe didn't know. Chloe watched on silently as Beca sat down on her bed and then proceeded to flop backwards onto her pillows, eyes closed. It had been a couple of hours since Chloe left the window side, she felt like an intruder, just standing there, watching Beca share this intimate moment with her sister. So instead, she returned to Beca's now vacant room and sat down in her own little rickety plastic chair.
The breakfast tray from this morning had been cleared away already and a lunch tray sat in its place. This morning felt like such a long time ago, felt like a whole other world, one where Beca smirked and grinned. Now it was all furrowed brows and grim frowns. With a defeated sigh, Chloe had pulled out her laptop and started working on her papers. She had gotten through half of them when Beca had finally returned.
They stayed like that, Chloe observing Beca carefully over the top of her laptop screen while Beca lay there, eyes closed. The only movement that indicated that she was still alive was the slight rise and fall of her chest as she breathed. It was a good five minutes before Chloe finally spoke up, albeit timidly, "Becs?"
"Its back. And they didn't tell me. They didn't think it was important to let me know that oh, I don't know, Rachel's dying? That her illness is terminal now? She has weeks maybe days to live?" Beca's voice rose with each word and cracked with every other syllable. She was crying, Chloe couldn't see her face but she knew, that if Beca was this upset, there would definitely be some waterworks.
Gently, Chloe set her laptop on the table beside her and got out of her chair. Usually she was pretty good dealing with crying people, she had gone through many a breakdown with Aubrey, as the comforter and the comforted. But right now, she felt that no experience would or could ever prepare her for her present situation. "Oh Becs," she whispered as she sat down beside the brunette on the thin hospital sheets.
"There has to be a reason for all of this, Beca," Chloe sighed as Beca scoffed and rolled over on the bed, turning away from the redhead. "Look, I might not know your parents well. But I know parents. I have parents, I've met Bree's hardass parents, and I've spent time in a few clinics and I meet loads of worried parents. And they're all different people from all different walks of life. But they have a few things in common, Beca," Chloe rested her hand gently on the brunette's bandaged shoulder.
"They're all human. All of them are. Mine, Bree's, the ones that brought in the kid with the stomach flu a couple of weeks back. Even yours Beca, they're all human. We're all human. And we'll all make mistakes. Yeah I know right, parents? Make mistakes? And the moon must be made of cheese," Chloe chuckled. "The mistakes make us human, otherwise we might as well just be motorized robots, programmed just to do our duties. And that's not a life at all," Beca had cracked open one teary eye, squinting at her with a furrowed brow.
"You can blame them for putting baloney in your sandwiches when you wanted turkey, because all the cool kids ate turkey. Blame them for accidentally putting your favourite pair of skinny jeans in the dryer so now they're so tight that they cut off the circulation to your legs. Blame them for being two and a half hours late to pick you up from elementary so you had to sit with your smelly old teacher who ate nothing but dried prunes, in dead silence for almost three hours, because they forgot," Chloe smiled almost fondly as she recounted some of her childhood mishaps.
"But what's life without its ups and downs, Beca?" Chloe tucked a stray strand of hair back into place, behind Beca's ear. "A life that only has ups. Is only ever rising, that would never work. I know. It sounds like that could be the best thing ever. But think about it. What if I gave you a shot of adrenaline. Just one shot. So the adrenaline is coursing through you. Your heart's racing, you're breathing faster, you feel like you could run a mile. But after about ten minutes, maybe you feel the effects wear off. Who knows, maybe you don't. I mean, you're pretty tiny," Chloe jibed, smiling when she saw the corner of Beca's mouth tug upwards, only ever so slightly.
"So anyways, after the ten minutes, I give you another shot of adrenaline. And I get your blood pumping again and your heart beating. Until in ten minutes, I give you another shot and then after another ten minutes I gave you another one. And I just kept giving you shots of adrenaline every ten minutes. What do you think would happen?" There was an empty pause as Beca looked up at Chloe, both eyes wide open, engrossed in the analogy. But she was confused, that much Chloe could tell. Maybe a medical analogy wasn't such a great idea. "Okay, well the person would die. They wouldn't be able to function at elevated levels for such a long period of time, okay?" Beca still looked confused, maybe a different analogy then.
"Let's say you're composing a piece of music," there, Beca was nodding. That was a good sign, she always perked up a little whenever someone mentioned music, no matter what the music actually was.
"So you start out pretty low key, long held bass notes and a simple melody over on top. But then you start to build. You start adding thirds and fifths and those beautiful dissonant sevenths. Your melody gets more and more complicated, grace notes, passing notes, syncopated notes on the offbeat. You write variations on that melody, the melody jumps down to the lower register. But you never let the song fall. Your dynamic change but it's always crescendo-ing. You continue building and building and building and you never let it up. The song gets more and more complex, layers and layers of different notes, harmonies and melodies. How do you think that song will turn out?" Chloe was glad she actually paid attention to her basic music theory class that she took back in her first year. Who knew she'd actually use that stuff?
"It wouldn't," Beca said after a moment of contemplation. She looked like she had tried to compose said piece of music in her head. "It would just sound like a loud mess. You're building something that doesn't go anywhere."
"Exactly Beca. You have to have your ups and downs. The downs make you see how great the ups are and the ups remind you that the downs don't last forever. My mother once told me that life is like a piano. The black keys are times when you're sad and nothing is going your way. The white keys are times when you're happy and you feel like you're on the top of the world. But you need both to make beautiful music and that's life," it had always been one of Chloe's mom's favourite sayings. There was a framed picture of the saying, in simple embroidery, hanging over the fireplace back home.
Chloe paused for a moment, letting her words sink in to their full effect. "I know it feels like your life has been just this all time low but I promise Beca, it gets better. It always gets better. Even if its little by little, it'll get better. I promise you."
Beca squinted at her as if she was trying to decipher if Chloe could actually keep this promise. Hesitantly, Chloe offered up a sheepish smile, relieved to see a smirk in return. Some things would never change. "So, maybe that's one thing that parents have in common. What are the others?"
At least Beca was interested now. "Well. I know you're going to think I'm crazy. But just trust me on this. Parents, all parents love their kids. They love them no matter what. No matter what kind of a disappointing wreck their kids become," Chloe held up a hand to stop Beca from interrupting her. She had seen it coming, the disagreement that Beca would voice. "I know you're going to tell me that I haven't met your parents. But Beca, your parents do love you. They may have a weird way of showing it but they do. They really do. Everything they do and try is for you. They look out for you."
Chloe sighed, she could see that she was losing Beca. But Chloe knew, she understood. She knew too well and understood exactly how Beca felt. How could she not? She had been in those exact shoes many years ago. "Beca, I was a lot like you when I was younger, in ways more than one. I grew up in a big family. I had three brothers and three sisters and I was the middle child. Like smack dab in the middle. And believe it or not, I was an awkward child growing up. I wasn't the most athletic, or the smartest, or the funniest, or the prettiest, and I wasn't the twins. I was just plain old Chloe. And all my other siblings were so much more than I was."
There was a long pause. Beca opened and closed her mouth a few times like she was going to say something but couldn't quite come up with the appropriate words. Wisely, Chloe continued with the story. "So I acted out. I rebelled against everything my parents wanted. I-I hung out with the wrong crowd." She swallowed thickly, her mouth felt dry and her tongue felt like sandpaper. "I did a lot of things I'm not proud of. Things that, looking back, was the stupidest things I have ever done. I hated everyone, my parents didn't understand, my siblings left me alone, the kids that I associated myself with didn't care, I had nobody. I didn't want anybody... or well I did, but I never let anybody in. I had walls that would make the Berlin wall look like a white picket fence."
"I caused my parents a lot of trouble and grief. I gave them more grey hairs than all of my siblings combined. Nothing they did really seemed to get through to me. Not until I hit rock bottom. It was just an accumulation of horrible situations and then I just had one more, one more really terrible one and that pushed me over the edge that I had been teetering on for months. I had nobody else to turn to but my parents," Chloe smiled ruefully with a shudder. She could remember each depressing detail vividly. She could see the deep creases of worry that ran deep across her father's forehead and the perpetual furrowed brow that had made its home on her mother's face. Even the individual frowns and looks of concern from each of her siblings, from older and younger.
"They didn't come storming my walls like I had thought they would. I ended up opening a window and throwing a rope down to them. They helped me through everything that I was dealing with. They took me to get help, they held my hand through everything, they held me when I had nightmares. They might've not known what to do but they're trying. They're always trying, Beca," Chloe gazed at the shorter girl helplessly. She felt drained. More drained than she had ever been in a long, long time.
There was a very long moment of silence. Chloe sat there, ever so patient. She allowed herself to study Beca. Beca, who seemed to be lost in a world all to herself. Beca, who seemed to have trouble processing everything that Chloe said. Beca, little Beca, tossed by the raging seas of reality with no shore in sight. But maybe all she needed was to realize that she never belonged on that shore. That shore of expectations set so high that even if she grew wings, she wouldn't be able to reach. The shore with expectations cut out for somebody else entirely that she struggled so helplessly to get to. That shore that everybody else seemed to dance on. Perhaps Beca thrived in this other world. Perhaps these raging seas only battered her broken form because she was going in the wrong direction and the universe knew it. She wasn't her parent's child, she'd never be the powerful CEO, or brilliant surgeon, or sharp lawyer that every parent wanted.
But she'd be Beca, just Beca. Beca with the oversized headphones and ear monstrosities. Beca with the dark eyeliner and stormy blue eyes. Beca with the flannel shirts and Doc Martens. Beca who breathed and just lived music. Beca who had layers of wit and sarcasm hiding a gentle, terrified child on the inside. Beca, who Chloe loves.
Yes, as terrifying as that statement was, Chloe knew every word of it was true and is true. She would never be able to pinpoint exactly what it was that made her fall for the crumpled form on the bed known as Beca Mitchell. But maybe it was in the way that the corners of Beca's mouth would quirk upwards whenever Chloe approached her. Or that knowing smirk when Chloe was unabashedly jamming out to one of Beca's mixes on her phone. Or it was the way that Beca knew exactly when Chloe needed a quick pick me up. Just a can of Monster and a bag of Twizzlers, delivered to her in person. But Chloe wouldn't bother trying to find out, she didn't need to, she just knew.
There was a polite knock on the door that broke the moment. Chloe sat up straight. She'd know that knock from anywhere: Aubrey. She looked at Beca, who had looked up at the door for a brief moment before retreating into her thoughts again. Quietly, Chloe got up from the bed and went to the door. She opened it just a crack, enough for her to slip outside into the hallway.
"Bree? What are you doing here?" Chloe hugged her best friend tightly, it seemed like ages since she had last seen the blonde.
"I knew you haven't been home since Beca's surgery," at Chloe's questioning look, Aubrey rolled her eyes and explained herself. "I bought a new pack of strawberry Pop Tarts yesterday and its sitting on the kitchen counter untouched. If you had been home, the box would've been half empty. So I figured you'd want a few things," Aubrey held up a small tote bag with a smile.
"And this is why you're my best friend," Chloe grinned and accepted the bag gratefully. Inside was a change of clothes, the box of said Pop Tarts and her phone charger.
"So how is the midget?" Aubrey asked, peering through the window at Beca's still form.
"She'll be fine. She's just having some...uhm issues with her parents," Chloe was halfway into her first Pop Tart already. She swallowed the bite of sugary goodness hurriedly. Although Aubrey was her best friend, it just didn't seem right to tell Aubrey everything that had occurred to Beca. It already felt like Chloe was intruding on the whole situation, she was sure that Beca didn't need Aubrey in on it as well.
Aubrey raised a single eyebrow at her, she knew that she'd get the whole story out eventually. There was nothing that Chloe didn't tell her, at one point or another. But speaking of that, "Chloe. Don't tell me you tried to fix Beca and her 'issues with her parents'," Aubrey even made the quotation marks with her fingers for emphasis.
There was no reply, only a sheepish grin and Chloe's sudden interest in the shiny wrapper of the Pop Tart. "Oh my goodness, you did didn't you! Chloe! What have I said?" Aubrey pinched the bridge of her nose tiredly. This wasn't the first time that Chloe though she could solve everybody's problems. The first time had been Aubrey herself. Chloe had ended up taking on too much and burning herself out that time.
"You can't go helping every pity case you find on the street, Chloe! I know that you wish that you could go slap your younger self in the face and tell her to wake up," Aubrey gathered the trembling ginger in her arms. Her voice dropped down to a whisper, "I know you believe in what goes around comes around. I know you're trying to remember that you can still do some good in this world. That you're returning the favour that your parents gave you when they helped you. But please, just watch out for yourself. You've helped lots of people, but remember to help yourself too."
It was really astonishing how much Aubrey really understood about her. Although they had only met at the beginning of their college experience, Aubrey already knew everything there was to the ginger, and vice versa. It was probably because of the way Chloe was just so open about everything, Aubrey couldn't help but return that same openness.
"Got it captain. I'll look after myself as well," Chloe grinned cheekily and took a deep breath. She waved as the blonde left, watching the slim figure disappear down the hall. Once Aubrey was gone, Chloe took another breath to steady herself and reentered Beca's room.
Chloe slipped back into the room carefully, gently closing the door behind her so that she wouldn't disturb Beca. Quietly, she set her bag down on the floor, next to the bed. There was a moment of silence. "Don't." Chloe looked down at the girl quizzically, surprised that she had spoken.
"Don't look at me like that. I don't want your pity," Beca growled out from behind closed eyes, tears still falling freely. It wasn't that she had tried to eavesdrop on the conversation taking place between the two seniors outside of her door. But when Aubrey raised her voice, Beca instinctively perked up and listened. That's what you got for spending almost a year with the drill sergeant for almost four hours a day. But once what Aubrey was saying fully set in, and a terrifying realization came over her, Beca pulled the pillow over her head, muffling out all else.
"You don't know me. You don't understand what I've been through. Please don't!" With that Beca sat up, her eyes open. She refused to look at Chloe or even in her general direction. She sat there, straight-backed and stone-faced, staring at the tiled floor. "Go, please. Just go," she whispered, feeling weak.
"Becs," Chloe started, leaning over, arms already moving to give the younger girl a hug.
But Beca was moving too, becoming more and more of the old Beca with each movement. The old Beca before she came to Barden, the one who got in fights and walked, precariously balanced, on the fence between a life of crime and prison, and a life of happiness. The old Beca, who learned that nothing lasted forever, certainly not love and definitely not those that who really mattered. The old Beca, whose happiness was always a fleeting moment that she could never quite grasp, slipping through her fingertips and far away into the horizon. The old Beca, who learned that the safest part for her, for her life, for her heart and soul was cowering away inside four walls.
Four towering, hulking grey walls. Layers of sarcasm, bricks of wit, blocks of cold demeanours, boulders of death glares, slabs of smirks, all held together by her mortar: music. Four menacing, cacophonous ramparts with no doors and no windows. The only way in was to be in there in the first place when the entire fortress was built.
And so Beca shied away, she had never done so before, not to Chloe anyways. But she physically moved away from the redhead and brushed the incoming arms away. Had she looked up from the dead stare at the chair, she would've noticed the look of hurt on Chloe's face.
"Beca, please. Don't push me away. I don't understand all of it. But-"
"Just don't! You have your troubles and I have mine. We're not the same person. We never were, never will be. Stop trying to fix your past screw ups through me, alright? I'm not just some charity case. You don't have to fix me and you can't," Beca finally looked up at Chloe, meeting her gaze with cold fury in her eyes.
Beca watched with a steely visage as Chloe finally broke down and sprinted out of the room. Maybe that was a low blow, but she could care less at this point. With that, flopped back onto her bed, relishing in the lonely darkness. But nothing would stop her thoughts running wild in her head as Chloe's words echoed deafeningly.
So there's that chapter. Kinda angstyish. Uhm. I guess all I have to say here is thank you. Thanks for reading. And thanks for reviewing. I know its been a long time and I'm just trying to get back into the swing of things.
There's also a fair amount of advice that Chloe gives in this chapter to Beca that I have been struggling with for the past year. At the time of me writing this chapter, I would have not believed the bullshit that I was spewing here. But now I do. Looking back I do. I have struggled with parents and expectations for a long time and I've only recently come to terms with everything. So if you get anything out of this chapter, even if you hate it and you hate me for not updating, please at least remember that your parents are human too.
Uhm yeah. This got kinda weird and heartfelt really quickly. Well, if you ever need me, just to talk about things or something. (I'm no expert. But I'll be a listener.) Shoot me a PM or an ask over on tumblr. (Same username).