Chloe crosses Ella off her list almost immediately after the girl walks in the door. She’s nice enough, but she keeps giving Beca far too appreciative glances. Chloe can’t bring a date that would be very obviously checking out other women there.
The next one, a woman named Alayna, actually has Beca retreating into the bathroom to escape her crude propositions for a threesome. It’s hilarious, really, but Chloe sees her out quickly anyways. She calls Stacie after and they have a good laugh about it. Beca hides in her room for two hours.
And when the next interviewee turns up at the door and curls his lip at Beca with a “Where the hell’s the hot chick from the picture?” Chloe doesn’t feel bad at all letting her slam the door in his face.
She sighs, flipping through the notecards she’d prepared for the interviews--if they made it past the introduction phase and were invited back--as Beca collapses beside her on the couch. Her legs sling up onto the coffee table and she snatches a card from the pile.
“‘Do you have any tattoos?’” Beca reads, eyebrow cocked up. “Who the hell is gonna ask about that?”
“Well,” Chloe takes the card back, smacking Beca’s arm with it. “You know my family is close to Aubrey’s. And now Jesse’s. Which means Tom. So it won’t just be him I’ll need to convince it’s real.” She shrugs. “And who knows with my family, honestly? I thought it best to be thorough. Aubrey actually sent me the questions.”
Beca blinks up at her, wrapping her arms around a throw pillow--one of the floral ones she’d spent a week complaining about when Chloe brought them home. “Aubrey knows?”
“Of course.” Chloe leans forward, grabbing her drink from the coffee table. “She’s laying the groundwork for me now.”
“What does that mean?”
“You know. Dropping vague hints about me having a significant other and being excited to meet them. So that nobody is completely surprised when I get there. I mean, it has to seem like it’s a semi-serious thing that’s been happening for a while, if I’m bringing them to my best friend’s wedding. For a month.” She laughs, lips pressed against the rim of her cup so it echoes inside. “My mom has been calling ever since Aubrey started, demanding to know who I’m with. I told her it’s a surprise.”
The coffee table rocks on its one short leg as Beca shifts her feet. “Aubrey knows, but your mom doesn’t?” Beca had met her once, when they were moving in together and Chloe’s mom had flown up to see the place. Chloe isn’t sure Beca’s fully recovered from all the hugs and cheek pats she’d gotten that weekend.
“My mother can’t keep a secret to save my life. And she loves me, like, a lot.”
“Okay, so you and Aubrey will know. And Stacie, I assume? She’s going, huh?”
Chloe smiles at the mention of her other best friend as she sets her drink down. They’d met in college and, by pure coincidence, they’d ended up in the same city, Stacie volunteering at the shelter Chloe worked at. “Of course. She’ll be helping me keep up appearances.”
“Great. You’ve got an entire team working undercover for you.” Beca rolls her eyes. “You would.”
Chloe laughs, flipping through her notecards. She holds one up, flicking the corner of it. “Miss Mitchell. Did you have any pets growing up?”
Beca’s head rolls to the side so she can peer up at Chloe through narrowed eyes. “This is dumb. I’m not doing it.”
“Oh, come on. I mean, I know a lot about you, but I don't know this one.” She pokes the card into Beca’s cheek and Beca bats it away, teeth bared. “Humor me.”
“I do. Constantly.” Beca huffs, but wraps her arms back around the throw pillow, idly fingering the lacy edge. “Okay, well. No. I used to catch rollie pollies and keep them in a shoebox under my bed, if that counts. They died.”
Chloe laughs, wrapping her fingers into the strap of Beca’s tanktop and tugging gently. “Oh my god, of course you did. A dog or a cat is too lame for Beca Mitchell.”
“I wanted a dog,” Beca says, shrugging. “Life’s a bitch.”
The cards slide in her lap as she turns and pulls her legs up onto the couch, shoving her feet under Beca’s thigh. “Okay.” She picks up another one. “Oh, this one again. Do you have any tattoos?”
Beca’s eyeroll almost hurts Chloe’s eyes. “You know I do. You can see them.” She holds out her arms, the throw pillow sliding into her lap. Chloe eyes the headphones and the grasshopper etched into Beca’s skin.
“Do you have any I haven’t seen?”
Chloe gasps. “Oh my god, you totally do! Where? Are they scandalous? Can I see them?”
“Dude, no!” Beca crosses her arms, leaning away. “They’re just...not in plain sight.”
“Beca. Mitchell. Do you have an ass tattoo?”
“Okay, no.” Beca pushes the pillow off her lap and launches herself across the couch, grabbing a handful of cards. “We’re not talking about that anymore. It’s your turn.” She settles back on her haunches, riffling through them. Her knees are bracketing Chloe’s shin and she resists the urge to bend her foot back and kick Beca right where she's totes sure there's a tattoo now.
She frowns, head tilting. “My turn?”
Beca holds up a card. “Miss Beale,” she says, copying Chloe’s tone. Chloe presses her lips together to keep from smiling. “What is your--oh wait, I know this one. Favorite movie. Hang on.” She drops the card back into Chloe’s lap, digging through the others she’d taken.
Chloe blinks at her. “Wait, I don’t even know that one off the top of my head. There’s so many good movies!”
“It’s Mamma Mia, Chlo.” Beca throws aside another card, not looking up. “You have three copies of the DVD because you ‘lost’ it twice and couldn’t live without it, then found the first two again after you bought the third. Despite the fact that it’s on Netflix. And probably easy to find anywhere else online.” She glares over the cards, her eyes too narrow for the look to be real. “And you quote the movie. All the time. For no reason. You sing ‘Honey, Honey’ in the shower at least four times a week.”
Unable to stop her head from bobbing along to the song that’s suddenly filled her brain, Chloe shrugs. “Okay, that’s fair. My turn again.”
“Ah, I haven’t asked one.”
“You did too. You just answered it as well.” Chloe grabs a card that’s slipped off her lap and lodged between the couch cushions. “Oh, your favorite color.”
“Black,” Beca says at the same time Chloe says, “Purple.”
“Liar.” Chloe frisbees the card at Beca’s head, landing it on her shoulder as Beca blinks rapidly and jerks away from the attack. “It’s purple.”
Beca’s eyebrows furrow and her mouth drops open. “You can’t tell me what my favorite color is. It’s black.”
“Your three favorite articles of clothing are purple. Your laptop case has purple lining. You paint your nails purple more often than black. You got that purple water bottle to carry to work. Your Christmas stocking is purple.”
“You bought that for me!”
“Because your favorite color is purple!”
There’s a knock on the door and Beca pushes the cards back into her hands, hopping up. “Put those away. None of these weirdos have made it past the ‘Are you a psycho?’ round, so.”
Chloe gathers the cards and shoves them into the back of the notebook she’s been using for the interviews.
“Here we go again,” Beca mutters and pulls the door open, sliding around it and disappearing from Chloe’s view. “Sup?” Chloe hears her say and rolls her eyes, lips turning up.
“Um, hi. I’m Shay. I was here to see Chloe?” It’s a soft voice, deep and pleasant.
“Few questions first, bud. You a creep?”
“Not--not that I know of.”
“Where do you work?”
“Uh, the cafe on fourth and Chester. I’ve served you before. With Chloe. Beca, right?”
Beca hums for a second, probably pretending she can’t remember him. But Chloe remembers the tall man behind the counter that always gave her a smile with her coffee and blushed the one time she’d told him she liked his new haircut. He’d once written “Rebecca” on Beca’s cup and she’s never quite forgiven him for it.
She hops up, moving over behind Beca.
Shay is standing on the steps, hands tucked into his pockets and coat zipped nearly to his chin. He’s a good-looking guy, she thinks, eyeing his somewhat shaggy brown hair and his hazel eyes behind his horn-rimmed glasses. Native American. She can tell by his high cheekbones and the soft curve at the corner of his eyes. Tanned and broad-shouldered. Nice.
“Hi, Shay,” she says, smiling. Beca doesn’t look away from him.
Shay’s eyes slip over Beca’s shoulder and he grins, his one front tooth slightly crooked. “Hi. Hey, Chloe.”
“Come on in.” She tugs at the back of Beca’s tank top lightly and the girl backs away from the door, eyes still on Shay. “I thought your name was familiar in your email.”
“Oh, you remembered.” Shay steps in, shutting the door behind him and glancing around the space. “I didn’t realize you two…lived together.”
Something about the way he says it makes her think it’s not what he meant to say at first. But she shrugs it off, motioning for him to take a seat on the recliner--a somewhat newly acquired piece that Beca had “saved” from the backroom of a tiny furniture store uptown. She’d fallen asleep in it while Chloe was looking for a new coffee table and they’d left with the recliner instead.
She sees Beca bristle as Shay lowers himself into her precious chair, but she says nothing, sitting in her other favorite spot--the far end of the couch. Chloe sits at the end closest to Shay, smiling as he rubs his hands together and wets his lips.
“I was a little surprised to hear back from you, actually,” he says. “I mean, you’re just--I just. Was surprised.” He laughs, chin tucking down to his chest for a moment. “Sorry, I’m a little nervous.”
“It’s okay,” Chloe says, smiling. “We’re just going to do a basic couple of questions today and if I think it will work out, I’ll call you at the end of the week. That sound okay?”
“Sounds great.” He sits up straighter, long legs pushing the recliner into a gentle swing back and forth.
“Okay. So. I know what you do for a living.” Chloe ticks off the question in her notebook, feeling so much like Aubrey for a second that she laughs quietly. “I know you’re not likely to be a serial killer.” Beca goes “hmph”, but Chloe presses on. “So, first question. Why would you be willing to do this?”
Shay seems like he expected this question. His face brightens and he quickly says, “I want to help. I mean, I kinda know you. You come in all the time. You, uh, both do.” He glances at Beca and whatever he sees there makes his eyes widen. Chloe bets herself a small tub of ice cream that it’s the should-be-patented Beca glare before she turns her head to look at her roommate.
Sure enough, narrowed eyes, one cocked eyebrow, slightly curled lip. Arms crossed and fingers rolling back and forth, rings tinkling softly against each other.
“Well,” Shay says, pulling her attention back. “I just… You seem really nice. And I don’t really know the full story here, but it’s gotta be pretty bad if you’re looking for a fake date, you know?” He grimaces apologetically. “I thought maybe I could...offer some help. And I would be a complete gentleman.” His hands lift, palms toward her, and he shakes them back and forth for a second. “Just you know, whatever you need.”
Chloe smiles, watching his shoulders relax. “Thank you, Shay. That’s sweet. Now.” She glances down. Ah, one of the questions Aubrey had sent her. “What kind of things do you expect to do in your role as ‘fake boyfriend’?”
His brow furrows a bit and he blinks rapidly behind his glasses. “You mean, like?”
“Between us,” she says, nodding.
“Oh.” His cheeks turn red. “I guess, talk to your family and friends? Be nice to you. Um. This feels like a strange question.” He chuckles, adjusting his glasses on his nose.
She’d thought so too and had to clarify what Aubrey had meant, so she smiles at his answer and glances down at the list of questions. “Would you be okay with hand-holding?”
“Oh,” he says again, eyes round. “Yes. Definitely.”
He makes a strange, strangled sound just as Beca sits forward from her end of the couch, glaring over Chloe’s shoulder at the questions in the notebook. When she doesn’t find the one Chloe just asked, she turns the glare on Chloe, both eyebrows going up.
“I--” Shay says, face burning red. “I. Yes, that would be. Great. Not--not great, uh. Good. I can do that.”
She holds his gaze for a moment, but he looks away quickly, wetting his lips. Beca’s closer now. She can almost feel her warmth against her back and she turns a bit, letting Beca follow along in the notebook. “Would you be able to remember a made up backstory about us?”
“Yeah, I did drama club,” he says, sounding much more confident with this answer. “I wasn’t exactly Broadway, but I can remember lines pretty well.”
“You’d have to sell them too,” she says. “They need to believe you really like me.”
“No problem there, then.” He turns red again, but doesn’t look away, his smile close-lipped and kinda tilted.
Beside her, Beca’s eyes narrow even further.
“Well, he’s definitely top of the list so far.” Chloe happily circles his name in bright pink in her notebook. She’s pretty sure he’ll be the winner, but who knows. There’s still fifteen names on her list.
“Eh,” Beca says, going straight for the fridge. She emerges a second later with one of Chloe’s Capri Suns. She rips the plastic off the straw with her teeth and Chloe watches her try to get it off her tongue for a few moments, angrily scraping at it with her fingers.
“You didn’t like him?”
“Eh,” she says again, finally managing to spit out the bit of plastic. She shakes it off her fingers into the trash. “Don’t know. Something was off.”
Chloe drops her notebook on the table, stretching her arms up over her head. “I didn’t get anything weird from him.”
“Hey, good judge of character, remember?” Beca points to herself. “I say he seemed off. Like maybe he was just in this in the hopes of hooking up with you.”
“Possibly.” Chloe rises from the couch, moving around behind Beca and opening the fridge. “But I kinda figured that would happen with some of them.”
She practically hears Beca’s head snap around to her. “You’re okay with them just being in this to get in your pants?”
There’s no more of her teas, so Chloe grabs a Capri Sun too and turns around to find Beca staring at her, eyes wide, upper lip tugged up on one side in her “I’m super offended” way. “I mean, not if that’s the only reason. Which, with Shay, he kinda seemed to mean it when he said he wanted to help. But yes, I knew that could be a reason people replied to the ad.” She cocks a hip out, motioning up and down her frame. “I’m pretty confident about all this.”
“Ugh,” Beca rolls her eyes, catching her straw between her teeth. “You should be.”
Delighted, Chloe throws her arm around Beca’s waist and gives her a half hug. “You’re so sweet.”
“Shut the hell up, I am not.” Beca rolls her shoulders, knocking Chloe off, and stalks off to her bedroom.
“Thank you again, Becs! Love you! First interview tomorrow is at noon!”
Beca’s door slams shut and Chloe smiles.