“No way. I know that guy. He almost ran me over the other day on my way to work. I’ll never forget his stupid face.”
“Where are you going?”
“To kill him? Wha--Let me go!”
“Well, she was a keeper. Think you got your fake girlfriend, Chlo.”
“God, is she gone?”
“Yeah, I escorted her all the way into her cab.”
“I can’t believe! ‘It’s like I’ve always known you.’ Jeez, she seemed fine through email!”
“You can’t see crazy eyes through email. Oh, can I keep this papier mache of your face?”
“He seemed nice.”
“Where’d your weird little plant by the door go?”
“It was here before I let him in. Dude, I think that guy stole your plant.”
“Beca! Get him!”
“She was gorgeous.”
“She was dumber than the plant that other guy stole.”
“Charles was very intelligent for a succulent, God rest his soul.”
“He’s not dead, Chlo. I will find him and the bastard that took him.”
Beca collapses across the couch, slinging her feet up into Chloe’s lap. “God, no more. I’m done. I can’t take one more day.”
“It’s only been a week,” Chloe says, gripping her ankles and squeezing lightly.
“A week of morons and weirdos and freaks coming to the door, trying to be your not-boyfriend or girlfriend.” She watches Chloe’s fingers tap a rhythm on her ankle bone. “Don’t you have to make a decision today? That was the last one, right?”
Chloe nods, picking up her notebook. “Yep, now just gotta decide. We’ll need a little time to get to know each other and practice stuff. So. Here’s the list.” She holds it up so Beca can see the three circles on the entire page of crossed out names. “Shay, Donna, and Elise. We each get one veto.”
“I don’t like Shay.” It’s kind of a lie. She had liked Shay, before he’d shown up here. He’d always been nice to her at the cafe and never got her order wrong, despite the one time he’d written “Rebecca” on her cup. But something about that overeager energy he’d given off while sitting in her armchair had rubbed her wrong. She doesn’t trust him.
Chloe seems surprised, but she crosses the name off. “Okay. That’s your veto then. Weird, I really thought you’d pick him to be my date.”
Beca shrugs, not feeling like explaining the hot feeling in her gut when he’d stared at Chloe’s profile while she was turned to do something or the way he’d lit up when Chloe appeared at the door.
“I’m gonna cut...Donna. She was very nice and definitely seemed like she could act the part, but maybe too well? Does that make sense?”
“Little shady, mhmm. Yeah, I got that too.”
“Which leaves us with…” Chloe crosses out Donna’s name. “Elise! We liked her.”
“You liked her because she brought you flowers.” Beca wrinkles up her nose. “You definitely can’t go with her.” The way Chloe’s curls flip back as she tosses her head catches Beca’s eye for a moment and she doesn’t see the pen jabbing for her thigh. “Ow! Dude!”
“You already got your veto, Beca Mitchell.”
“Yeah, well, I want another. She was grilling me on fitness regimes as I walked her out. You can’t bring someone annoying as your date. It defeats the purpose.”
“Good thing I’m not bringing you then,” Chloe says, jabbing her again and turning back to her notebook.
Beca rolls off the couch and heads for the pantry. She’s been craving some raviolis since that last interviewee had walked in. As she reaches up for a bowl, arms wrap around her waist and she jumps. “Jesus! I’m putting a bell on you.”
“Becaaaaaa,” Chloe drawls in her ear with that very particular lilt she uses when she wants something.
“Dude, back off. This is my last can.”
“No, Becs.” Chloe tightens her hold for a moment. “What are you doing, say...from next week until mid-November?”
“Sitting by the phone, preparing myself to hear about your horrible, gruesome murder?”
Chloe laughs, the sound pressed into Beca’s shoulder. Wow, she is really taking up all of her “touching Beca” allowance today. “Or.”
Beca stops, fingers underneath the pull-tab of her raviolis. “Or?”
“Or. You could be my date?”
She turns, forcing Chloe back a step. “What?”
But Chloe isn’t really listening now, hands on her hips and head shaking. “God, I don’t know why I didn’t think of that in the first place. Of course I should have just asked you.”
“I mean, you work from home mostly anyways, so you could easily come. You’re the boss! They can’t tell you no to some time off. And I know you’re not a psycho. And my mother loves you--”
“And we wouldn’t even have to lie about things like how we met! You’re already all over my Instagram. Oh, I’m so stupid!”
Chloe’s hands leap from her hips to Beca’s cheeks with a resounding smack. She ignores Beca’s pained grunt. “Beca Mitchell, will you be my fake girlfriend?”
Beca just stares at her, still holding the can of raviolis between them. Then she blinks. “What? Dude, no. You said no wedding stuff. I hate weddings.”
“You don’t hate weddings!”
“No, I really do.” Beca shakes her head, knocking Chloe’s hands from her cheeks to her shoulders. “I actively try not to get invited to weddings. Really. And-and-and we just spent a week interviewing strangers for this.”
“And all along, you were here!” Chloe’s fingers trail over Beca’s earrings, which is something Beca wishes she wouldn’t do right now, because it kinda tingles and it’s distracting. “Come on, Becs. It’s a free vacay for you! And all you’ll have to do is dress up for the wedding and talk really nice about me to everyone. Not a hardship, right?” Chloe bats her eyelashes, shoulders lifting crookedly. “And I get to tell everyone I’m dating an amazing music producer!”
“Dude. I don’t do dressing up. Or wedding stuff.” Beca finally pulls the top off the raviolis and backs out of Chloe’s grip. She turns to find a bowl.
Chloe’s sigh is so heavy she feels it flutter her hair. “Well, fine. Then I’m calling Shay.”
“Wait--what?” Beca spins. “I vetoed him!”
“You changed your veto to Elise. You only get one.”
“And that leaves me with only one choice. Unless…” Chloe is walking backwards toward the living room, hands clasped behind her back. She stops at the edge of the couch, where her phone is perched and reaches for it slowly. Slowly enough that Beca knows that Chloe knows the outcome of this conversation already.
And Beca remembers again the weird vibe she’d gotten when Shay had smiled at Chloe, when he’d blushed and his eyes had lit up when she’d said there was a good chance she’d be calling him. Too eager. And Beca didn’t like that at all. She has a quick vision of Chloe in the airport bathroom, pleading for her life while Shay stands over her with a knife and--okay, Chloe was right about her needing to cut down on watching the ID channel when Chloe was at work and she was bored.
Chloe’s fingers brush over the phone screen. And she’s smiling. That stained glass, lavender-painted walls, “We can be roommates!” smile.
“God, fuck, FINE!” Beca slaps her hands over her face.
A moment later, Chloe barrels into her, wrapping her up in her arms. “Ah! Beca, thank you so so so much! I promise you won’t regret it! It’s going to be so much fun!” Chloe squeals, rocking them back and forth while Beca just groans into her hands.