You try and act normal after it happens. You pretend that everything is still the same- that nothing changed.
Sean continues to be sweet and romantic and everything you could ever want. But when you have too much time to yourself, there's a thought that lingers in your head, or a hope deep inside your chest, that there's someone else who fits you perfectly.
You want him to be perfect, so you can let her go.
He tries, and you love him so much for everything, but you still keep holding onto nothing.
Because that nothing could turn into something, and that something is everything.
She texts you more often now. She asks you how you are, if you're ok, if you want to talk.
You never reply. You read the texts and see her worry, but you never know what to say.
But today you think you do. You're on your way home from the grocery store where all you did was think of her as you walked up and down the aisles. You've decided that you can't hide from her forever.
When you get home and unpack the food, you find her name in your contacts list and press her number. Her contact photo pops up on the screen as the dial tone rings.
You lean against your kitchen counter and wait, trying to think of what you're going to say. You don't even know where to start and that scares you, but you can't have courage without fear.
But she doesn't pick up, and your heartbeat doesn't steady because now you have to leave a message.
It's like improv acting, except this isn't comedy, this is real life- your life- and you hope and pray that you say the right things.
"Hey, Heather..." you start off slowly, timidly, because even if this is just a voicemail, you're still nervous.
"I know you've texted me a few times- a lot, actually- and I'm sorry I haven't replied. I just- I never really know what to say I guess." You say honestly, your voice shaking.
"Everything that's happened has been really, really confusing and- and complicated and I don't really know want to do... I mean, you're one of my best friends- but we're like, broken. Or something about us is broken- or bent, or just not... working." You say it with honesty and with pain; because now you've admitted something is wrong instead of staying ignorant. But you can't turn away when it gets hard anymore.
"But I still want you in my life- I still want to buy you gifts and go to the gym together and eat too much microwave popcorn with you on my couch. I wanna spend too much time with your little girl... I want you, and anything you'll give me."
You barely register what you say, like your mind was disconnected from your mouth.
Because now the girl you had a silly crush on, and then liked, and then loved, knows what you want.
And all you can do is wait.
Days pass, and there's songs to sing and lines to memorize, but even if you're busy with the show, it still feels strange- knowing she won't be there.
You always looked forward to seeing her, and now you won't. You won't be bringing her coffee at five in the morning or filming with her all day or eating lunch with her and Kevin and Meg and Telly.
It's so different, and you're still adjusting to the feeling, even though you knew this would be happening. Maybe you weren't as prepared as you thought.
You still have your best friends to make you laugh and mess around with in the makeup trailer and gossip together about the new kids.
But you miss her. You miss the feeling she gave you by just being here. This show was your dream job, and then she showed up one day, and made it absolutely perfect. Because of her, you could never have a bad day.
She just made you feel... good. Constantly.
And now she's gone, and you're left with this ache in your chest.
You miss her.
She has her baby on September 14th.
Brittany texted you while you were out to breakfast with your brother. She told you Heather's sister texted a few of Heather's close friends, letting them know Heather went into labor.
You're not angry or insulted that you weren't told sooner. It's ok. Really. You understand that your relationship with Heather isn't what it was, and apparently other people have noticed as well.
You tell your brother you need to go to the restroom, but instead you go out a side exit and lean against the wall.
You take deep breaths- in through your nose, out through your mouth.
You try and calm down, because that's what you need right now.
You start to pray, and have faith that everything goes well. You need her to get through this as smoothly as possible. You don't know if you could handle hearing about any complications or-
You can't think like that.
You squeeze your eyes shut, because all you can imagine is being in that delivery room with her. And you clench your fists, because your hands tingle with the thought of holding her hand through all of it.
But you aren't there. This experience isn't meant for you, no matter how much you want it to be.
You take one final breath and go back inside.
She tells you she loves you on September 16th. Two days after her baby is born.
It's the middle of the night. You're in bed, you're about to fall asleep, you're relaxed.
Your phone rings.
It's startles you. Your heart starts racing and now you're almost completely awake.
You see her name and her photo and a part of you begins to assume the worst, because why else would she be calling you in the middle of the night, a day after she had her first child?
But the fear and anxiety can't compare to the possibility that it really is her-
You slide your finger across the screen and answer the call.
"Hi..." she says it so quietly and so breathlessly that if it weren't the middle of the night, you don't think you would've heard her.
"Hey mama," you say sweetly and with a small, tired smile.
When she pauses for a few seconds, you think you made her smile as well.
The adrenaline pumping through your veins- through your heart- turns into fluttering.
"How are the two of you doing?" You ask, because even though she's talking to you right now, that part of your head that thought the worst still wants to know how she is.
"I'm good... I'm really good. And she's- Nay, she's perfect..." The way she says it, with such awe and disbelief, makes your chest feel overwhelmed with happiness.
You wish you were there. You wish you could see her right now.
You wish you could see both of them.
You feel the happiness culminating into tears and sniffles and a knot in your throat. She finally did it- she finally got what she always wanted.
"I'm so happy for you Heather," you say with a watery smile and a crack in your voice.
The tears roll down your cheeks and your neck, absorbing into the seam of your tank top.
You inhale quickly to get rid of your sniffles and take a deep breath, trying to settle the emotions flowing through you.
It's an overwhelming experience to be having at 2 in the morning.
"Thank you. I just- I can't stop staring at her. I feel kinda creepy actually," she says with a quiet giggle.
You smile even more, and imagine her lying in her hospital bed, staring at her new baby, all swaddled up in blankets and love.
"I don't think your baby girl will mind if you look at her, Heather. She's sleeping, right?"
You like this- talking and exchanging jokes freely and easily.
You miss it.
She doesn't say anything for a few minutes, and you know she's still looking at the little person she just brought into this world.
"I wish you could see her, I'm pretty sure you'll fall in love." The way she says it- like it's the most obvious thing in the world.
She's probably right though- you know a part of you fell for her the moment the two of you met, so her little girl wouldn't be any different.
"Yea, I bet." You say with a smile and a little laugh, but you hope she knows that you're actually telling the truth.
"I wish I was there to see her too..." You say, even though it's not exactly what you want to say, but it's close, and that's all you could ask for.
But then she surprises you and says with a sigh-
"Me too, Naya..."
A little piece of your heart breaks because you can hear it- you can hear that she isn't saying that as a friend, she's saying that as-
"Heather..." you say quietly, gently.
She doesn't respond until at least a few minutes have passed. You wonder what she's doing, what she's thinking...
But then you hear labored, unsteady breathing and-
"I wanted you here Nay, I wanted you- I want-" she's crying; quiet sobs, and your own tears start again.
You want to be there too, especially now.
"Shhh, I know. I know honey... It's ok..." You say, willing as much strength into your voice as possible, even though you're clenching your comforter into your fist.
You hear her continue to cry quietly, and you continue to tell her that she'll be ok.
"I love y-you. I love you so mu-much. I'm sorry, G-God I'm so sorry-"
"Heather, shhhhh. I love you too, ok? I love you. Calm down, you gotta breathe honey. Just breathe, I'm right here. I'm right here..."
You keep reassuring her quietly until her breathing goes back to normal, and you can no longer hear her sniffle.
"Get some sleep, ok? It's been a long day."
You hear her sigh and you know that this is over for now.
"I'll call you when I can. Goodnight Naya, sweet dreams." You can hear the sleepiness start to settle into her voice. This conversation took a lot out of her- from you too.
"Ok... And goodnight to you too, and your little girl." You imagine her again- this little baby who you have yet to see but already love.
"Audrey says goodnight too." You can hear the smile in her voice.
You smile yourself, and your heart flutters out of control.
You get to see her a week later.
Both of them.
Heathers texts you telling you that they're having a little get together so friends and family can meet Audrey.
You smile so big when you read it, excitement and nerves and anxiety running through your whole body.
She has sent you a few pictures of the baby, and every time you look at Audrey's light blonde hair and chubby cheeks, you feel you heart warm and your stomach flutter.
(The pictures make up for the excuses and disappointment and guilt and-)
But now you're going to actually meet this little girl, and you can't believe it.
You can't wait.
You pull up in front of Heather's house and take a deep breath, trying to ignore the memories of the last time you saw her. Today is a happy day, an exciting day, and you're not going to ruin it with your sadness and guilt.
"You ok babe?" Sean asks you.
You look over at him and see the genuine worry in his eyes. He makes you feel protected and loved.
"Yea, I'm good. Just nervous to finally see the baby." You say, and it's partly the truth.
He smiles and nods his head before he gets out and starts walking around the car to get to your door. You rustle in your purse while you wait, looking for your lip-gloss.
You're doing it because you're nervous, but you'll tell yourself it's because your image is important.
(But it's not- not with these people. Not with her.)
You take Sean's hand and lock your car as you two walk across the street. You see a handful of cars that you recognize- Vanessa's, Dianna's, Kevin's. That makes you a little less nervous.
The door has a pink sign on it saying "welcome!" in cute swirly writing.
You open the door and almost immediately see your friends. You catch Kevin's eye and he acknowledges you, telling you to go over to him.
You drop Sean's hand and hug Kevin. Brittany and Hannah are there too. You hug and tell them you miss them.
You catch up with them for a while, and they ask Sean questions and at one point he puts his arm around your waist.
He's telling a story about you, so you guess the arm around you is warranted. You look at him talking, with his charming smile and even more charming personality, and wonder again, why he can't be it.
You know what your heart wants, but your head is telling you that he's enough, that he's perfect for you, that he's it.
But it's like trying to force a puzzle piece into an empty space in the puzzle. It looks like its going to fit, and it almost does, but in the end it doesn't settle right, and you have to wait until you find the right piece.
But he's still a part of your puzzle, he still belongs somewhere, he just doesn't fit where you're trying to put him. He's not the matching piece you're looking for.
You left Sean to go talk to Dianna in the kitchen when Heather's mother walks in, carrying an empty tray.
When she sees the two of you, she smiles politely and you smile back. It's not forced, you genuinely like the woman- she's been nothing but nice to you whenever you saw her- but it's just awkward, with the way you feel and the situation.
Heather never explicitly told her mother what was going on between the two of you, but she mentioned you enough hoping Mama Morris would get the idea.
Maybe she did and she hid it well, or maybe she didn't. You'll never know.
"How are you ladies?" Jeannie says while she loads the tray with more snacks.
Dianna answers, "I'm great, I'm taking a little break from some movie promotion stuff. I just had to come back to see the baby."
Jeannie responds in kind, congratulating Dianna on the new film. She then directs her attention to you and asks-
"What about you Naya? What have you been up to?"
She sounds interested, and not just making idle small talk until she leaves the kitchen. So you tell her about filming for the show and how your music is coming around. She listens intently and congratulates you on your career so far.
You get that all too familiar sense of pride whenever someone speaks highly of what you've done so far. It's something you hope never goes away.
When Jeannie leaves, Dianna goes to make herself a drink at the counter a few feet away. You start to walk over to do the same when you hear hushed, frustrated cursing coming into the kitchen.
"Shit, shit, shit- ugh!"
You just stare, speechless as Heather comes speeding into the kitchen, grabbing a kitchen towel and putting it under the water in the sink.
Dianna speaks up for the both of your confusion.
"Heather, is everything ok?"
Since Heather came into the kitchen with her head down, she didn't see that there were other people in the space.
"Yea, yea I'm fine. It's just, I got this on my shirt and I wanna get it off." She finishes, sounding rushed.
She looks up when she finishes and sees you first. You avert your eyes a few seconds later to look at the wet, beige colored stain on her collarbone.
"Sorry," you mumble.
Heather gives you a patronizing look and you feel stupid. Stupid brain. Stupid mouth.
She uses the towel to wipe at the stain, but it's not doing much.
"Here, let me help." You say gently.
She immediately stops rubbing at her shirt and looks at you. You walk the few steps over to her and hold out your hand, silently asking for the towel. She watches your face even as she places the towel in your hand.
You step into her side, and move in close enough that you can smell her perfume and her hair and her. You try and ignore it.
She watches you as you start to scrub the stain out, but even though you're at a better angle, it's still not working.
"I think you need a new shirt Heather." You say it apologetically. You really like this shirt too. It brings out her eyes.
She sighs and says, "I knew that was gonna happen."
She turns to place the towel on the counter behind her and when she faces you again, she asks-
"Do you wanna help me?"
You look at her and think of how wrong it would be to be alone with her. You think about Sean in the other room. You think about how much you've missed her...
"Yea, sure." you say calmly, nonchalant, like you're not beyond excited to have a few minutes alone with her.
You turn to Dianna to tell her that you're leaving, but she's already looking at you like she knows what you're thinking. You could try and come up with an excuse or explanation, but it'd be pointless.
You turn back to Heather and smile, letting her know you're ready.
You follow her out of the kitchen and into the living room, where people are talking. You see Sean, but his back is to you, and for that you're thankful.
But you hear someone say Heather's name, and you look to see that it's her sister.
Her sister and the baby.
You stand back and watch April talk to her, then the baby is being placed into Heather's arms and you are so nervous because if she has the baby then-
"Come on Naya." she ushers you, cradling her baby against her body.
You follow, still in awe.
You just got a lot more than you ever thought.
She leads you up the stairs and into her bedroom. She stops by the door and turns to you, silently telling you to come in.
You keep walking forward and sit on the bed, watching as she shuts the door and turns back to you.
"Hi," she says with the cutest, littlest smile you've ever seen.
You smile and shake your head; beyond happy with the time you're about to spend with her.
"Hello Heather," you say with a giggle.
She smiles and then looks down at the baby in her arms. She takes a few steps towards you, still looking down.
"And this- is Audrey..." the pride and love in her voice is stunning.
You see her look up at you, but you're no longer looking at her. You're looking at the little person in the pink and yellow striped blanket.
And then she starts coming closer.
Before your mind can process what's happening, Heather is already kneeling in front of you, and adjusting her hands until she's supporting the baby's head and bottom.
Then she lifts her towards you.
"You wanna say hi?" she says quietly.
You're still staring at the little baby, and now that you can see her face, you don't think you can look away.
But you heard what she said, and you nod slowly, still focused on the baby's face.
"Hold out your arms Nay..." she tells you gently.
You finally look at her face making sure it's ok, or that this isn't a dream.
(Or maybe it is a dream- one that's finally coming true.)
You do as you're told and hold out your arms. Heather sits up a little, getting a better angle to put Audrey in your arms. She puts her bottom in your right hand, and you make sure your hand is correct, safe.
Then your eyes follow her as she shifts her hand that's on Audrey's head until you feel the weight in the crook of your left arm, and immediately you make sure the baby's head is secure.
Your left hand rubs gently, slowly, against the baby's back. Heather was right- you're in love.
Heather is still kneeling right in front of you, her face tortuously close, as she looks at her baby girl.
You're looking at her too- her chubby cheeks and tiny nose. Her little pink lips and tiny eyelashes.
"-beautiful." You say, barely above a whisper. But she hears you, and looks up at you and says-
"Yea, she is."
And then she lifts her hand and rests it on your cheek.
It's all so overwhelming- baby, Heather. You don't know what you did to deserve this moment that you're in, but you thank God for giving you this.
You close your eyes and take it all in- the soft blanket and even softer body within it, the hand against your face, a thumb stroking your cheek gently.
When you open your eyes, you're not surprised when your eyes are watery, and a tear slides down your cheek.
She catches it with her thumb, and shifts even higher to press her lips to your forehead.
You sniffle and let out a little laugh- you feel ridiculous for getting so emotional.
But all she does is smile, and she's so close you can feel it. She bends her head down slightly and places a kiss next to your mouth.
Your chest feels so warm and fluttery and good. You're so happy.
"Can you hold her while I change?" she asks you gently. She's pulled back a bit, but she's still only inches away.
You look her in the eyes, so close to yours. They calm you down, and allow you to take a deep breath and nod.
She smiles at you and strokes your cheek one more time before standing and walking to her closet.
Audrey starts to wiggle her body slightly and when you look down at her, she lets out a little whine. Gently you pull her closer to your chest, hoping your cuddles will calm her down. She immediately turns into you and snuggles into the blanket, lets out a breath, and relaxes in your arms.
You laugh a little, unable to contain your happiness over the little bundle of adorable that you're holding.
You sit like that, staring at Audrey, stroking her little back softly, watching her eyelids flutter and her lips twitch. It's fascinating and addicting- you could do this all day.
Then Audrey makes another baby sigh and-
Yep, you could do this forever.
You hold her more firmly in your left arm so you can move your right arm from under her bottom. You wait for her to settle into you again, and when you're sure she's still sound asleep, you lift your right hand next the her head and brush your fingers through the fine, baby hairs on top of her tiny head.
She seems to like it too, because her head turns faintly towards your palm. It's a strange feeling- doing something to make this tiny person happy. She's never even seen you- and yet here you are, with her snuggling against you.
You wished she knew who you were. You wish you could cuddle with her whenever you wanted.
"How are my two favorite people doing?" Heather says, coming out of her closet wearing a light green tank top.
You quickly put your right hand under Audrey's body again and look up at Heather. You're acting as if you got caught doing something wrong- worried that she's going to punish you.
"Uhh- yea, we're good. Audrey's still asleep; I didn't drop her- everything looks to be in order." You say, jokingly examining the area around you.
When you look back up at Heather, she's got an amused smile on her face, and when you flash her an exaggerated smile right back, she laughs and shakes her head.
She comes and sits next to you on the bed and looks down at Audrey. It's interesting seeing this Heather- the mother. Someone who now has incredible responsibilities and endless amounts of worrying ahead of her. You're in awe of this woman you're lucky enough to call your friend- your love.
"Why 'Audrey?'" You ask, looking at Heather with pride flowing through you as you think of all that she's done.
"Huh?" Your question must've snapped her out of her baby-trance and she looks up at you curiously.
"Why did you name her Audrey?" You repeat.
She looks down at her little girl again and you can tell she's thinking. You are so anxious to find out what it is that's flowing through her mind…
"I wanted something that meant strength… I just- I wanted her to represent an ability- or like, a trait that someone should be proud to have. Like my dad, I wanted her to represent what he went through-" she stops suddenly, and you cannot imagine what it would be like. To have a child without one of your parents being able to see it…
You want to take her mind off of her father for now and say-
"Well, how about her middle name? It's not another superpower is it? Because if her first name means 'strength,' I wouldn't be surprised if her middle name was 'X-Ray vision' or something." You finish with a smile and a little laugh, hoping it'll coax the same from her.
It works, and she smiles and wipes away the single tear that fell.
"No, it's not 'X-Ray vision.'" She says, mocking you.
You smile at her and look down so you can re-adjust your left arm and-
"It's Marie, actually…"
You stop. You stop moving and stop breathing. You sit, stunned, and wait for your heartbeat to settle into its normal beat.
"W-what?" You ask, your voice shaking so badly.
"Whenever I say her name, I want it to mean something. So I used names that are important to me- that remind me of people who are important to me…" Her voice sounds so confident, and you remember moments ago when you first asked her why you she picked the name Audrey. Now you know what was going through her head.
When you finally look at her again, you know the look on your face shows your surprise and confusion and curiosity. But all she does is smile and wrap her left arm around your waist, pulling herself into you so that the side of her shoulder rests against yours. Then she drops her head onto your shoulder and lifts her other hand to stroke Audrey's legs.
You picked the greatest person to love.
The two of you are getting ready to go back downstairs, and you didn't think you'd be this sad, but you are. The 10 minutes that you've spent in this room have been everything you never knew you wanted.
"Thank you," you say, because you are. You know she didn't have to do any of this- she didn't even need you to come up here with her. But she did it anyways, and she gave you a moment you will remember forever. You'll never be able to thank her enough.
She's holding Audrey again, and when she looks up at you, you can see it in her eyes- she knows what you're thanking her for.
"You're welcome..." She says gently.
She tells you that the two of you should head back down now, and you agree. You know that the moment the two of you walk down those stairs, you won't see each other. You won't be able to talk or have any more time together. This was it, but it was enough. More than enough.
You go down first, and when you're only a few steps down the stairs, you turn around suddenly and go back up a few steps until you're on the step right below her.
You stretch up on your toes and kiss her quickly on the lips, and then immediately afterwards, you press a gentle kiss to Audrey's forehead. Then you make your way down the rest of the stairs, and when you look back up at Heather, she's smiling right at you.
You give a little laugh and a wink, and go back to find your friends.
You spend the rest of the evening catching up with the people you haven't seen recently.
You find Ashley and talk about the films she's working on and your own experience shooting a movie. She tells you all these stories, and the way she's talking to you and making you laugh- almost like it hasn't been over a year since you last saw each other.
At one point you even talk to April, even though you've only met her a few times, she's sweet and polite and easy to talk to. You ask about her husband and their wedding, remembering when Heather told you that she was going to be a bridesmaid. She asks about Sean and how that's going, and you tell her that's it's really good, and he's incredible, and you're happy.
And you are. He makes you happy, but April doesn't know that her sister would make you happiest.
You ask Hannah about her tour with Beyoncé, and she goes on and on about all the places she's been and how amazing Beyoncé is. You're a little jealous, and you tell her that, but then Hannah says, "I'm sure when you're making number one hits, you could do a little Beyoncé/Nay-Nay collaboration!"
It plants a seed of hope in your head, and excitement runs throughout your body because she could be right- and that's an amazing boost of confidence.
You find Sean surrounded by Kevin and Taylor and April's husband, Steven. It's strange seeing all these guys together, but when you see Kevin holding Audrey, dancing with her in his arms, and Sean freestyle rapping about the baby, you can't help but laugh.
Audrey seems to be enjoying herself too; with her baby smile and the way she's watching Sean in front of her. Taylor and Steven are smiling and when they all see you, they all start laughing and Sean stops rapping and begins laughing as well.
It's such a strange moment, seeing as you've never met Steven, and Taylor is- well, Taylor. But it's funny, and adorable, and definitely not something you would think a bunch of grown men would enjoy.
You decide it's time to go when you remember Mychal is going back to San Francisco tonight and you want to go spend time with him before he leaves.
Sean says ok, and you go around saying goodbye to your friends. Heather is near the door, next to her mother and Taylor, and they're all just talking quietly.
Jeannie sees you first, and she notices that you're carrying your purse, so she says-
"Aww, are you two leaving already?"
Heather and Taylor were facing away from you, but when her mother speaks, Heather turns quickly and makes eye contact. You don't look back at her, and instead respond to Jeannie.
"Yea, my brother is leaving town and I wanted to see him before he left. But thank you so much for today, it was great." You say honestly.
You notice Heather's still watching at you, so you quickly say-
"And it was an honor to meet your little girl. She's adorable. Thank you for inviting us, and I hope you all have a great rest of your night." You finish with a smile.
You make eye contact with Heather quickly and hope that the silent communication makes sense. You hope that she understands what you're trying to say.
I love you.
You and Sean leave moments afterwards, and when he asks you if you had a good time, your answer is easy.
"It was amazing..."