Chapter 1: It’s Probably A Bad Idea
Frankie was about to kill her sister and it wasn’t even noon yet. The dark-haired roommate of hers had been nagging and playing a victim for hours. It started before the sun was up. Before Frankie was up. Said nagging woman, June, ran into her room — dramatic swing of the door included — and started yelling hysterically about a shirt that came out of the dryer ruined. It was only after Frankie informed the drama queen she had laundry duty last night that the room became silent again. Frankie was left with the urge to kill her.
Her sister. One of many. There are three, you see. At times, Frankie wishes she had a brother. Or her parents had given her up for adoption. The girls got dressed after the early awakening, they went out for lunch at a new bistro around the corner and did some shopping to pass time. They hardly talked about anything else but work, because that’s how it works. June’s the dominant sister, Frankie’s uninterested and easygoing. Whenever June talks, Frankie listens. Whenever Frankie talks, June can’t wait to take over the conversation again.
June had been counting down the days until a concert tonight. Since nobody else was interested in listening to some relatively unknown rapper yelling some inaudible words through a mic, she bought her little sister a ticket as well. It wasn’t a request, it was more like a ‘you still owe me one’ thing. Frankie couldn’t come up with an excuse fast enough, and now she’s forced to tag along. After hours of passive aggressiveness toward each other, they are at this massive complex where thousands of people have gathered. It makes the athletic blonde dream big — dream of finally making it up on that same stage one day. As a singer? No, Frankie doesn’t think much of herself as a singer. She’s a dancer. She was born dancing. She danced her way through kindergarten and all the other years of school. And she was marvelous at it. Ballet, modern, ballroom — she can do it all. People stop and stare at her whenever she starts moving. They don’t blink until she stops. The feeling that enlightens inside of her whenever she listens to the music is indescribable. It might feel better than love. Frankie wouldn’t know, of course — she’d never been in love. At least, she’s not sure. Maybe once. Maybe almost.
“You go get us some drinks, I’ll save our seats,” June orders her little sibling.
Annoyed eyes are pointed at her. Of course she’d put it that way. June is the big brat of the family. Their parents have always treated her like a princess. Now that she’s grown up, she considers herself a self-elected queen. And Frankie’s the nobel servant.
“These seats are numbered,” Frankie informs her.
June ignores the comment. She just shrugs and scoffs at the same time. Classic move.
“Like you care about Boo Tay at all.”
The name alone makes Frankie rolls her eyes dramatically. Seriously, which self-respecting artist calls himself Boo Tay? She gets up from her seat, softly mumbles diet coke and leaves by excusing herself to pass the line of the fans seated next to her.
“Diet coke!” June shouts form a distance.
The voice causes shivers to run up and down Frankie’s spine. That woman can drive her insane. And she’s not even trying to be annoying right now.
“I swear to God, one day I’ll kill you and I’ll be proud of it,” Frankie sighs with closed eyes.
The line in front of her is short, but after the day she’s had, waiting for two more seconds even takes too long. But, on the bright side, she wont have to spend those two seconds next to June.
“I certainly hope you’re not talking about me,” a mysterious voice suddenly reverberates next to her, sounding clearly amused.
Someone seemed to have joined the line of people that crave some cool beverages or snacks. After opening her eyes, the startled Frankie finds a young woman, too pretty to even exist, starting at her. Her cheeks turn red instantly and it takes her a second to utter an apology.
“I’m sorry. I was talking to my sister.”
The gorgeous woman runs her sight over Frankie’s shoulder, but finds nobody else. Frankie chuckles — yeah, it’s awkward. She chuckles nervously and clenches her teeth.
“She’s not here. She’s waiting at our seats,” she explains before pausing. “She’s kind of annoying.”
The woman seems intrigued and clacks her tongue.
“I heard sisters can be annoying.”
Obviously, the girl has none. Or she’d confirm it in a heartbeat. The large hat she was wearing is now in her hands. Some sunglasses dangle from the hem of her shirt. The way she’s inspecting the person in front of her is different to Frankie. There’s mystery surrounding this girl. And yet, she seems so recognizable. Like they’ve met before. Or at least passed each other. Maybe on the streets, maybe at the mall.
It takes exactly one and a half minute before someone comes running toward her newfound friend. A random girl interrupts their casual conversation by cupping her mouth with both hands. Frankie frowns all confused.
“You are Noor!” the intruder shrieks enthusiastically.
Frankie’s eyes widen at the insanely loud noise near her ears and she quickly faces the mysterious woman again. Ashamed of the sudden recognition, the dark-haired beauty softly smiles before putting the hat back on and asking the fan to keep her voice down a little. Noor, Frankie thinks. Noor.
She suddenly gasps: she’s a singer. Like, a great singer. A famous singer. Nerves take control of her body — it’s shaking. She has never actually met a famous person, let alone a person that fills a stadium with thousands and thousands of fans. The fan leaves after receiving an autograph on her arm and that’s when Noor glances at Frankie again.
“I’m sorry,” she apologizes. “I put on my hat and sunglasses to avoid that, but it was a bit too warm and dark in here to keep them on constantly.”
The thing is, Frankie is more of a down to earth girl. She has worked at bars and restaurants from a very young age and hangs out around theaters and dance studios. Never has she ever had a civilized conversation with a superstar. Therefor, she’s struggling to let out any word that doesn’t involve a hyper-volumed vowel. She’s trying hard, though.
“You didn’t recognize me?” Noor suddenly wonders out loud, sounding almost pleased and offended about it.
Frankie shakes her head and starts blushing. How could she not, though? This woman is, like, world famous. Is June even capable of temporary wiping her memory after annoying her?
“That’s okay,” Noor assures her. “I’m glad someone doesn’t. It’s bad enough my husband dragged me to this terrible rapper in the first place. At least there’s one person that won’t ask me for a picture.”
But Noor quickly notices the dramatic change of Frankie’s expression and raises a curious eyebrow.
“Oh, you were going to ask me for one, weren’t you?” she smirks.
Charming as ever, the blonde starts talking before thinking: “I think I was going to ask for a picture way before I knew who you were.”
She closes her eyes immediately after the words escape her mouth. Way to be subtle, Frankie. Instead of being freaked out, Noor just repositions herself on one leg and crosses both arms. She seems intrigued.
“You’re funny. I like you. What’s your name?”
Frankie can’t believe this is happening. Are they seriously having small talk right now?
“Frankie. Frankie Morris.”
Noor bites her lower lip and shifts toward the counter. Still one person in front of them.
“You have seats, you said. Why don’t you come hang out with me and my hubby at the VIP section. Better view, I promise.”
Frankie has no idea why this woman took an interest in her. Look at her, waiting in line to get a diet coke and a regular one, wearing nothing but a baggy jeans and a loose shirt. It even has an owl on it. Her blond hair’s a mess, due to the hot temperature in the arena. And forget about makeup — she hardly ever wears any.
“I’m here with my sister. It’s probably a bad idea,” she softly tells her.
Truth is, she’s scared to find out who she’ll find standing next to this superstar. Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift, Oprah? Okay, maybe not Oprah.
“Because she’s annoying?” Noor smiles.
“Tell her to come meet us there. She won’t regret it. Come on, you won’t regret it.”
Her hand reaches out and Frankie just stares at it in wonder. Is this person actually begging her to be her companion for the rest of the night?
“Give me your phone.”
For a second, the blonde wonders if she’s finally getting that picture or not. But when she hands it over, Noor asks for her sister’s name.
“What is it stored under? Sister? Sis? Sibling?”
Frankie can’t get over the cute dimples and crunchy nose she’s witnessing. Is the one and only Noor actually having fun with her right now? Is she dreaming? Did she fall from the stairs on her way to get some drinks and pass out? Is this a hallucination? It wouldn’t surprise her.
“It’s June,” she informs her. “I have a few sisters. I’d have to number them if I stored them under sis.”
Lean fingers runs over her screen for a couple of seconds and after an expression of contentment takes over Noor’s entire face, she hands the device back to her new friend. Frankie will never sell this phone. She’ll cherish it forever.
“There. Your sister is meeting us in a couple of minutes,” Noor explains. “Now, what would you like? Coke? A beer?”
Frankie looks up and realizes the person in front of her has disappeared. There’s only an obese employee staring at them all annoyed. Like he has better things to do than wait for two girls to finish talking. They order drinks and a slice of pizza for Noor, and head to the section where all the important people supposedly gather. Too dazzled about her current experience, Frankie numbly follows the person in front of her, who just can’t seem to stop talking. Even after having a bite of her slice, she remains talking. She’s telling her about her short stay in the city and how she has exactly four days off before returning to her world tour. All Frankie ever does is nod and smile. Because if she’ll open her mouth, something stupid is bound to come out.
When they approach the fence where a security guard scares off curious people on the regular, they find June waiting all confused. It seems to be a family thing.
“Frankie, why the hell are you dragging me down here? What makes you think we’d ever —”
But her annoying, shrill voice immediately stops complaining the second her eyes recognize the person standing next to her little sister. It’s Noor. The singer.
“Oh my God,” she utters too flabbergasted. “You’re her. I can’t believe I am meeting you.”
Frankie clenches her teeth and immediately feels a lot better about her own initial reaction. June reaches out her hand, but the second Noor accepts it, the girl gets dragged into an intense hug. Frankie rolls her eyes and pushes June back. Awkward much.
“Calm down,” the blonde pleads with expressive eyes. “Noor invited us here, so please don’t get us kicked out before we even get in.”
June’s killer face appears. It always scares her a little.
“Don’t be silly,” Noor smiles. “It’s okay.”
She turns her head toward her favorite person right now and winks without any sense of shame: “I would never kick you out.”
Frankie is painfully aware how her heart skips a beat. The sisters are guided into the private section and their jaws drop. Their cokes seem so cheap right now.
“Where do you know her from?” June asks, whispering in Frankie’s ear.
They are looking around the place, recognizing a ton of important people. This is surreal. There are thousands of fans for this Boo Tay and yet, they all seem to be chanting Noor’s name while the concert hasn’t started yet. Upbeat music drives the crowd insane. It’s something special to witness. Though she’d never admit it, Frankie actually loves attending concerts — even if she doesn’t like the performer, she could listen to the fans’ hysterical shouting for hours, or watch the dancers until the sweat drips down their foreheads. Without noticing, she has started to dance a little herself. Blame it on the music. Blame it on her passion. It’s there. It’s always there.
Noor pokes her side and for a second Frankie’s not sure if she dropped her drink or not. A touch of this amazing woman freezes her mind, as it seems.
Frankie shrugs: “I am now, but I guess that’ll be over the second this Boo Tay starts singing.”
She emphasizes the word singing so much it makes Noor giggle. June is watching them from her side, uncertain how all of this is happening. Did all of this start because of her diet coke? Was she the reason?
“Not a fan either, I see,” Noor notices before shifting her entire attitude instantly. “But I guess I should be supportive of my colleagues.”
An offensive scoff escapes Frankie’s mouth before she thinks about it.
“Colleague? This guy is horrible. Sexist, untalented, commercialized and shallow. He could try, but he’ll never be your colleague.”
Her words raise a spark in Noor’s eyes. Even in the darkness of the changing lights, Frankie can see it. Her body starts to feel warm and fuzzy. She never expected Noor to be this freaking charming.
The people around them are dancing. There must have been some pre-partying before this event, that much is sure. Some big label producer is even dancing with June right now. Frankie just shakes her head in a disapproving way. Of course she’d go there.
“Not that close, I see?” Noor notices.
Frankie keeps her eyes on her sister and heaves an exhausted sigh.
“We live together. Sometimes it’s fine. Sometimes it …”
She stops herself from talking this time around. Noor is intrigued — once again. Something tells her she should lighten up the mood.
“Let me introduce you to my husband. I’m sure he’s around somewhere,” she suggests to get Frankie’s mind off her sibling.
Her eyes linger over the people surrounding her and a curious smile captivates her entire face. Frankie can’t do anything but stare at her in wonder. God, she’s pretty. And so down to earth. And skinny. And did she think pretty yet? Again, how is this possible? She could stretch her hand and feel the soft touch of that perfect skin in a second. Noor would probably let her. But out of nowhere, Frankie notices a twitch in Noor’s behavior. Her captivating smile falters and her eyes turn unexplainably dark. The grip of her fingers around the cup she’s holding grows tighter. Frankie follows her stare and ends up witnessing a man kissing a young woman a couple of feet away from them. A dozen of people had been blocking the view, but all of a sudden, they seemed to have split like Mozes split the sea in half. One second. Two seconds. Three seconds. That’s how long it takes until Frankie realizes what she’s witnessing. It’s Noor’s husband: Aiden Stonewell, actor and producer. He’s kissing someone who isn’t his wife. Judging by the movement of his legs, the guy is heavily intoxicated. Her jaw drops by the sight of it. This entire night has been a candid camera prank, right? It must be. Who would ever dare to cheat on Noor? In public?
When she turns her head back the other way, her new favorite person is anxiously staring around the place. There are people with phones. Phones with cameras. They are shooting all of this, right this second. Aiden’s behavior, Noor’s reaction, Frankie standing next to her all confused. When one of Aiden’s friends taps him on the shoulder, he looks up with an enjoying smile. One that fades the second he notices his wife’s presence. His eyes are blurry, must be from drinking. The girl next to him still thinks it’s appropriate to kiss the side of his neck. Strangely, he doesn’t stop her. Even June has stopped dancing with her enchanting partner by now. All there’s left is some awkward interaction between the spouses and the deafening introduction music that reverberates through the arena. Boo Tay is about to hit the stage.
Frankie shifts into caring mode and reaches for Noor’s arm to distract her briefly.
“Are you okay?” she wonders.
Stupid question, obviously, but what else should she be asking? She has no idea why she does it, though. She and Noor only just met.
“Can we get out of here?” the superstar begs her, like they have been friends for years.
Frankie turns her head to June, who’s staring at a surprised Aiden in wonder, and faces Noor a second later. She nods. Of course they can. The superstar grabs her hand, a sensation that makes Frankie’s skin shiver, and she leads them out of the VIP section. Aiden runs some fingers through his short, brown hairs and hesitates briefly before starting the chase. Except June stops him abruptly, by putting out her foot so he’d stumble. She’s rather proud of herself.
They run through the crowd, while one or two people stop and point at them every couple of yards. They chant Noor’s name, tell her they love her, sing along to one of her songs to make a point. Noor doesn’t listen. Her rage trumps all of her emotions as they flee toward the exit. Frankie’s still too overcome with confusion to try and stop her. She even forgets about her sister for a solid minute.
“Where are we going?” Frankie pants after taking a seat behind the wheels of one of the most awesome cars she has ever seen.
Noor tossed her the keys just seconds ago, after explaining she was too furious to drive herself. And now she’s in a car that costs more than she has ever earned, following directions from a famous singer. Noor’s eyes are sparkling, but not in a good way. She’s about to cry from anger, from disappointment, from embarrassment.
“Just … just follow the GPS,” Noor instructs her, while clearing her throat.
She pushes some buttons and closes her eyes. Frankie nods and focusses on the road. She can’t help but feel exhilarated by the sound of the engine. The leather under het butt feels amazing. The sound system sounds fantastic. The way this baby floats over the roads is ecstatic. It’s getting dark, still she feels like putting on some shades. However, the second she turns her eyes briefly at her new friend, her heart sinks. This must be the worst day of her life and she’sactually enjoying it.
“Are you okay?”
Noor refuses to answer again. The girl stares out of the window, trying to focus on her breathing. A lost tear finally dares to trace a wet trail down her cheek. It’s the most painful thing Frankie has ever witnessed.
“Where the hell are we?”
Noor softly smiles: “I didn’t take you for the swearing type.”
At last, she smiled. Frankie heaves a relieved sigh and turns her sight at her hands tightly holding onto the steering wheel. They are in the middle of the woods, after hours and hours of driving. It’s dark right now and Frankie must admit this is weird. Neither one of them said a lot during the unexpected trip. The only constant noise that was there, was the GPS’. The second the radio station played one of Noor’s big hits, the singer turned it off. Too bad, Franky secretly loves her songs.
Noor gets out and shuts the door with a soft slam. She doesn’t seem as angry anymore. Not that Frankie knows anything about her angry moods … Following her friend’s example, Frankie soon finds herself next to her, staring at the building in front of them. It’s barely lit. The woods are whispering words to her she can’t understand.
“It bet he won’t come looking for me. But that’s okay,” Noor sighs before walking toward the door.
Frankie, unsure why she’s even at this place, chases her. Being alone in the dark scares her. They walk into the big, wooden house, located in the middle of nowhere. Fingers turn on the lights and the enormous size of the building suddenly overwhelms the innocent, little dancer. She swallows deeply and widens her eyes. This isn’t a bungalow. This is a castle.
“He hasn’t called you?” she asks, trying to keep herself from saying something stupid and materialistic.
The dark-haired beauty heaves an exhausted sigh and shrugs: “I turned off my phone the second we got into the car. I like it that way.”
It’s obvious she’s hurt. She’s more than hurt, she’s confused and angry and ashamed, all at once. Turning her phone back on would only make it worse. There’ll be gossip sites publishing the footage, there’ll be managers and publicists tracking her down. Twitter will have exploded. Maybe Aiden even tried to call. She walks toward the kitchen and takes a bottle of water out of the fridge. If this were Frankie, she’d grab a bottle of wine. Who is she kidding, she’d down a bottle of vodka!
“Do you want to watch some TV? Or take a walk?” the blonde asks.
She has no idea why she suggested the last one. Going out for a walk in this woods would probably get her killed somewhere along the way. Maybe by a bear. Maybe by just clumsily tripping over her own feet and falling off a cliff. Maybe from utter fear when an owl would fly over her head.
“I’m going to bed,” Noor tells her. “Maybe in the morning. Will you stay with me? Tonight?”
“Where else would I go?” the enchanted Frankie mocks her.
Her mysterious companion shrugs and puts the bottle of water down on the counter.
“You can take the car if you like. You are free to go home. You never really signed up for this, did you?”
Frankie shakes her head but doesn’t seem too worried about it.
“Apart from all of this being incredibly painful for you, the least I can do is stay for the night after you saved me from that Boo Tay concert.”
Noor smiles. Again. Second time after all that happened. Second time because of her. Her skinny fingers reach for a hand to hold.
“Come on. I’ll show you around. You even have your own bathroom.”
“And here I thought I was going to take a shower under a waterfall in the morning,” Frankie teases her.
Two intrigued eyes roll up and down her body. They stop the second they are staring into the crystal blue diamonds directed at her.
Frankie fell asleep in a strange bed, staring at the ceiling. She knew Noor was sleeping down the hall, wrapping herself in mystery as she closed the door behind her. The house was big and beautiful. It felt peaceful and adventurous. It smelt like nature and made her entire body relax. Even the mattress underneath her felt perfect. That didn’t change the fact that Frankie had no idea what the hell she was thinking when she accepted to flee the concert. June had left thirteen messages already. All she dared to respond was ‘I’ll explain tomorrow’. Seriously, calling her back was too terrifying. June was capable of literally dragging her through the phone to smack the living shit out of her. One does not simply abandon June, you see. There will be revenge.
Now she’s waking up with the sunlight glowing over her face. It takes a while before she realizes where she is exactly. Memories invade her consciousness again. The concert. The famous singer. The cheating husband. The road trip. When she gets up from the bed, the perfectly fitted pajamas make her smile. They are Noor’s — too cute to handle. It has baby pigs on it. You would expect designer brands from a superstar.
Frankie finds her in the kitchen, passionately putting together breakfast. Apparently, Noor’s been out to get some groceries. It smells like coffee.
“What time is it?” Frankie wonders out loud, totally skipping saying good morning.
When Noor looks up, she immediately smiles. Guess that late night depressing feeling faded.
“It’s one p.m.,” she tells her. “Do you always sleep in that long?”
Frankie shakes her head and sits down at a bar stool next to the kitchen counter. This feels familiar. Way too familiar to be real.
“I can sleep for days and still wake up all tired,” she explains. “My friends always tell me to warn them before I do, so they won’t call an ambulance on me. So I usually set my alarm.”
Noor giggles, not sure whether or not it’s a joke. She has no idea what kind of humor her new friend prefers. Maybe this is it. She likes it, though.
“Do you always cook for strangers you bring to your secret cabin in the woods?” Frankie teases, only to shift the focus of the conversation back to Noor.
The singer shakes her head and raises an eyebrow.
“You don’t —”
But she stops herself. That’s enough to make Frankie curious.
“You’re not like anyone I’ve ever met.”
“That’s a good thing?”
“A very good thing. You are a nice change from all the fake people in my life right now.”
“What does that mean?”
Noor shrugs. She walks over to Frankie and puts down a bowl of muesli with fresh strawberries and raspberries. Her other hand reveals a spoon. Frankie accepts the nice meal with a thankful expression. There’s even a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice to stop the thirsty feeling.
“Everyone around me likes Noor the singer. You had no idea who I was and you still seemed to like me.”
After having a delicious taste of the food, Frankie spoils the secret: “I like everyone until they prove me wrong.”
She notices that Noor isn’t eating. This little breakfast is a one-man’s occasion. Well, one-woman.
“Aren’t you hungry?”
Noor shakes her head: “I don’t do breakfast. I just make it. I love to cook.”
“Coffee kind of girl?” Frankie guesses after noticing the empty cup near the sink.
Noor nods amusingly. Her eyes linger over Frankie’s muscled shoulders and her straight back.
“What do you do?” her curious voice demands to know.
“What do I do?”
“What do you do for a living?”
Frankie chuckles and waits a solid ten seconds before she answers that question.
“I’m a dancer. I love to dance. I tour with whoever wants to have me and when I don’t have a job, I wait tables and teach the kids at the dance studio in town.”
Noor bends over the counter and observes the movements of the spoon in Frankie’s long fingers.
“So you’re an artist, like me?”
Frankie disagrees: “I’m a dancer. I dance because it’s the only thing I want to do in live. Even though my mom and dad urge to get a decent job, I still prefer uncertainty and financial problems because I wouldn’t want it any other way. You sell millions of records and earn thousands of dollars just by waking up every day. We’re not exactly the same.”
“So you’re telling me you’re a poor girl?” Noor mocks her choice of words.
A mischievous face stares back at her: “No. I’m just saying that I don’t know how much money there’ll be on my bank account next month. And I don’t care. As long as I can dance, it’s okay.”
“That’s amazing. I used to be like that,” Noor admits.
“Sure. I didn’t wake up one day and randomly sold thousands of records. No, I worked hard for it.”
She immediately notices her reliability doesn’t come natural. It’s the way Frankie stopped chewing and ended up throwing a shady look at her. Partial annoyance makes Noor frown. But Frankie doesn’t mean any wrong by it. She just looks at Noor and finds marvelousness. Everyone does, right? If she had a record label, she’d throw record deals at her.
“I swear. I got rejected by dozens of labels before one would even listen to my tapes. But I never gave up. Because all I wanted to do was sing — and I wanted people to hear my songs.”
The bowl is empty now and Frankie can’t remember the last time she had such a healthy, yet delicious, breakfast. She also can’t remember someone actually making her breakfast. She usually makes June breakfast. And then June scoffs and points out all the flaws about it.
“That’s great. One day, I hope to achieve that as well. Only with dancing,” she comments.
Noor walks around the counter and sits down on the empty stool beside her: “Are you any good?”
“You should take me out sometimes, I’ll show you,” Frankie tells her, a bit too confident.
Sometimes she can smack herself over the head. She shouldn’t be saying these things. To random strangers, sure. But not to Noor.
“I’d love that,” the singer assures her which indicates she appreciates this level of sass. “But … why don’t we start right here?”
Frankie looks around the place for a second and scoffs: “Here?”
“Yeah,” Noor answers, after getting up from her chair again, searching for some device in a drawer. “Right here. In your pajamas. In broad daylight. No better judge than the sunlight.”
Frankie is reluctant at first, but quickly understands that the singer isn’t joking. As soon as Noor puts on some music and turns up the volume, she realizes that dancing is the only option. After tapping her tummy to point out that she just devoured a meal, her hand grabs Noor’s to drag her along to the broad space in the middle of the living room that’s right next to the kitchen area. It has a wooden floor, which is perfect for dancing. And slipping, when you’re just wearing socks.
“I won’t dance without you.”
They start off with giggling noises and inconsistent moves, simply because it’s ridiculous. But the music quickly captivates their nerves and senses. After briefly closing their eyes for a second, the girls both hear different things to focus on. Frankie listens to the beat, the rhythm of the music and the vibes it sends down her spine — the repetitive times a musician hits the drums. Her muscles and feet follow it instinctively. Noor, however, pays close attention to the words and the lyrics. She hears a melody that carries a message. Her muscles don’t react, it’s her heart and emotions that cause her to move. She’s a singer, not a dancer.
They finish the song. And another one. And after that, another one. The girls move around the place like it’s the most natural thing in the world and even entwine hands for a while. They twirl until it makes them dizzy, they giggle in silence, they stumble clumsily and ridicule their dance moves to make each other laugh. It’s amazing. It’s simple and fun. It makes Noor forget about her problems completely.
“So do you want to talk about it? Or do you want me to shut up about it forever?”
Noor looks up and notices Frankie’s serious expression. It’s caring and sweet at the same time. She can’t help but smile softly.
“We can talk about it. But I’m afraid there’s not much to say.”
Frankie frowns: “What do you mean? I saw what you saw.”
She’s kind of afraid to say it out loud. Maybe it’d upset her new friend. Maybe it would undo all the careless fun they’ve had up until now.
“Aiden’s the kind of guy that likes to drink and have fun and shoot powder through his nose when he thinks I’m not watching,” Noor admits, not really sure why, though.
But Frankie doesn’t judge. All she does is listen, while the sun burns her skin a little bit more. They are sitting near the lake. Yes, this place even has its own lake. That’s how ridiculous this is becoming.
“We met shortly after my third number one hit. He was sweet, sexy, famous, mysterious.”
She can’t help but gloat over that memory. It was a long time ago. Three years, to be exact.
“Actors are pretty great at charming themselves into your pants. They have all these personalities they can rely on, you see. Aiden is pretty good at using them in the right situation.”
“Are you saying he’s a … fake?”
Frankie’s choosing her words carefully. She was going to say liar. Or asshole. That wouldn’t have been nice. But Noor doesn’t pay attention to any of her tact. She just shakes her head casually and stares across the still water. It’s so beautiful out here — and she forgot all about it. In fact, she hadn’t been here in over a year.
“Aiden is a good guy. He’s smart and talented. He’s sweet and romantic. But he likes to party too, you know? He likes to hang out with his friends and despite all of his fame, he really craves to feel accepted and loved. Add some alcohol to that equation and you get last night’s events.”
She sighs and focusses on a tree in the distance. It must be great being a tree, she thinks. The only thing you’d have to worry about is the possibility of some bastard cutting you in half one day. Apart from that, there’s nothing but magnificent creatures running through and over and past you. And the wind, composing songs with the help of your leaves.
“He did this before?” Frankie curiously wonders, unaware if she’s overstepping a boundary by asking.
Noor shrugs: “I don’t know. I don’t think he has. Lately, it’s been weird between us. We haven’t seen each other a lot. Work, careers, different schedules. It hasn’t been easy. Marriage is hard work. We already do a lot of hard work on the regular, with our jobs and social status. Sometimes it seems too much to handle. Does that make any sense?”
Frankie nods. Not that she has any clue, though. Her parents have been married for years now. They hardly ever fight, but that’s probably because they are simple, ordinary people. They both work hard; they raised their four girls with patience and dedication. There were no tough schedules or trips around the globe.
The grass is tickling the inside of her hands and it blurs her mind for a second. She could live in this place. She could not see a person for months and feel great about it.
“What are you going to do? We can’t stay here forever. Though I’d wish,” she whispers.
Noor is staring at her all intrigued. She carries that expression a lot around her, so it seems.
“I like you. Promise me you won’t disappear from my life when we go back.”
The blonde briefly nods, enough to assure her friend she won’t. She could spend time with Noor every day for the rest of her life and not get bored, something tells her.
“Do you want to divorce him?”
Noor honestly can’t answer that. Her eyes drop to the ground beneath them.
“Walking out of a marriage is hard. Walking out of a celebrity marriage might even be harder.”
“Because of the money and stuff?”
Noor shakes her head: “Because of the world you’re in. Because of the rumors and the gossip. Because of the tabloids and paparazzi. Because we tried to prove them wrong when we got married after seven months of dating and I hate to admit to that. And because there’s so much connected to us a couple, it’s nearly impossible to give up on that over nothing.”
She realizes that none of it makes a lot of sense. Frankie has no idea how this entertainment world functions. How it controls everything you do, every opportunity in your career and the things you represent.
“But you love him, right?” Frankie asks, like it’s the most important aspect of their connection.
It should be. Noor heaves a tired sigh and ends up reaching across the water for answers again.
“I love the man I married two years ago. I’m just not sure he’s still there.”
Frankie doesn’t respond, she just stares at the water that doesn’t seem to move. A bird flies over the surface and touches it with the side of its wing. That’s when she finally notices a shift — a small little wave caused by it. Small actions can have big impacts.
“Can we come back here one day?” she asks, without thinking about it.
She’s not entitled to ask for anything. Noor was kind enough to let her stay here. They aren’t even friends … yet. But the pretty superstar just turns her head and the sides of her mouth curl up. She nods, like it’s the simplest request in the world. Of course they can.
“Have you ever been in love?” Noor suddenly wonders out loud.
There’s not the slightest bit of reservedness between them.
“Once, I think,” Frankie tells her after thinking about it for a long time. “I’m not sure.”
“It … it never really even started,” Frankie explains without looking away from the lake. “It was gone before it started.”
“That must suck.”
Frankie feels like that’s not a great word to describe the agony that tore her apart for months after it happened.
“Do you know that feeling, like you have lost something that you can’t replace?”
Noor is willing to say yes, but she holds back and shakes her head instead: “Not really.”
“That’s how it feels like.”
The girls get dressed properly and get in the car. They visit a nearby village, that’s too small to find on a map. They talk to the locals and search for food in a nearby market. As the sunlight is giving them a nice treat, the girls take off their shoes and roll up the sleeves of their pants, so they can cool down in the water of yet another lake. There are curious fishes passing their feet and Frankie thinks it’s amazing. She thinks this entire trip is amazing.
Noor doesn’t talk about Aiden anymore, she merely mentions him once or twice while discussing her professional adventures. She’ll be leaving tomorrow, to resume her world tour. For a second, she was considering inviting Frankie to go with her. But the realization came quickly that that just might have been insane.
“So what are you doing right now?” she asks instead, really interested about the answer. “Teaching kids or dancing professionally?”
Frankie glances the stereotypical mysterious smile Noor hasn’t discovered yet.
“I always dance professionally, even when I teach kids,” she teases.
Noor pokes her and smiles. The sun is starting to burn; she notices the red marks on Frankie’s bare shoulders. She has nice shoulders.
“You know what I mean.”
“I’m actually waiting tables right now. It’s pretty hard to get a dancing gig. And once you have it, it doesn’t last very long. Tours are wrapped up in a couple of months. After that, you have to start all over again.”
Noor is afraid to ask, so she opens her mouth briefly and shuts it again before talking, which makes Frankie smile.
“I know what you were going to say. If I’m that good, why aren’t they lining up for me to join them, right?”
It’s partial shame, partial blushing that takes over the singer’s face. Not exactly the way she would’ve put it, though.
“There are thousands of dancers like me,” Frankie explains. “And a lot of them have better connections. The big artists, they use their regulars. The entire industry has favorites. And frankly, I’m happy with the variation. I don’t mind teaching the kids. Their smiles, the way they look at me all enchanted whenever they realize that practice got them to execute their move perfectly — it’s even more magical than standing in front of thousands of people.”
Noor just stands there and witnesses the way the blonde is about to burst from excitement. It’s dead cute. They are barefoot on a summer night. Life might not get any better than this.
“We should get going,” she suddenly suggests.
It’s getting colder as the sun is about to set. After packing, there’ll be a four-hour drive back home. And then, the rest of her world tour is waiting to happen. Oh, yeah — and reality.
Start – Next Chapter