“What do you mean, you went on this small trip with Noor?”
June is standing in front of her, all defensive and — not to mention — mad. Frankie completely bailed on her and she’s not happy about it. Sure, she hung out with the rest of that famous crew for the rest of the night and scored the number of a famous producer, but still — there are boundaries. The youngest of the sisters clacks her tongue and resorts to silence to come up with a decent explanation, but there isn’t one. It’s late and Frankie’s feeling tired. All she wants to do is go to sleep. In her own bed this time.
“Where did you go?”
“Just somewhere out of town. Into the woods.”
June frowns: “The woods?”
“Yeah. The woods. It was fun.”
Fun? Her sister’s not impressed. Well, she kind of is, but she’s also annoyed. Partly because Frankie bailed on her, but maybe even more because she wasn’t invited to tag along. June thinks she’d make an awesome superstar’s best friend. She actually told herself in the mirror an hour ago.
“And what did you do?”
Frankie’s about to growl at her and answer with a sassy that’s none of your business. But that won’t help. Especially not with June. She’d probably just smack her over the head or something.
“We just hung out. We talked. You saw what happened in the VIP corner. She wasn’t exactly in a happy place.”
But that’s a big lie, because it turned out Noor got over it rather quickly. She won’t mention the talk at the lake or the way her entire body felt alive the second that bird’s wing touched the still water. She won’t spit the details on their morning dance session in the living room or the way Noor made her breakfast. She won’t discuss their barefoot stroll along the shore or the fish that nibbled their toes. That information is a private treasure. It’s hers and nobody else’s.
“Well, at least are you okay?” June finally wonders.
Above everything, she’s always going to be the protective, caring sister. Overprotecting, but still.
Frankie nods and passes her to get to her room. She’s wearing clothes Noor gave her. Even panties, which is all sorts of weird. She definitely won’t be mentioning that. Most people are dying to get into Noor’s pants — she’s actually wearing them.
As she’s about to put her hand on the door handle, June says her name out loud. Frankie turns around to face her sister, whose eyes urge her to speak up.
“Did you guys …”
She won’t say it out loud, the younger Morris sibling realizes, but her tone suggests enough. They don’t really talk about stuff like this much. That’s why she has two other sisters. They are her confidants.
“No!” Frankie hisses all upset and insulted. “Good night.”
A slam of the door introduces the end of their talk. It’s late. Frankie just wants to go to sleep.
In the morning, Frankie appears at work on time. It rarely happens. The only time management she’s capable of is barely managing to get on time. When she walks through the door, her infatuation about the events of the last couple of days causes her to bump into her best friend and colleague, Miguel. They met in kindergarten and never let go of each other.
“Wow. Didn’t see me there, did you?” the guy amusingly chuckles after stepping back. “Did I lose some weight or something?”
He rubs his chest, as if he’s hurting. Frankie knows he’s acting. She apologizes and smirks before asking him what time his class starts.
“In an hour. I’m a bit early,” he tells her.
That makes him frown. As said before, Frankie never is on time, let alone early. His curious, brown eyes inspect the way she’s frowning those gorgeous eyebrows.
“What’s up, kiddo?”
The skinny black guy is a gay man. Gay men always know when something’s bothering you. Frankie can’t even come up with a way to explain things. She just shrugs and pulls him aside, as instructors and clients pass them in the warm hallway.
“Would you believe me if I said that I just spend the weekend with a famous person?”
His dark eyes express doubt and his enchanting smile appears.
“No,” he replies.
“Well, I did,” she says anyway. “Do you know Noor?”
“Raining questions Noor? I wish I’d seen you before Noor? Beatdown Noor?”
Each time he pronounces one of her popular songs and name, it sounds more enthusiastic and sharp. She nods, completely aware that he might not believe her at all.
“You did not.”
“Oh, I did,” she emphasizes cock-sure.
She has been thinking about it all morning. When they drove home — Noor was behind the wheels this time — they quietly sang along to the songs on the radio. They had this weird appreciation about being quiet around each other. When Noor dropped Frankie off in front of the house she and June share, there was a quick hug — which felt totally familiar. Dazzled by the feeling, it took her an entire ten minutes after Noor rode off into the night to realize she forgot to ask her number.
“How did that happen?” Miguel curiously wonders.
Frankie isn’t sure herself. She asks her good, old friend whether or not he checked the gossip sites lately. Almost offended because she even dares to imply he might not have, he crosses his arms.
“We met at that concert I was going to. I was waiting in line and said something — I can’t even remember it now. She picked up on it and beforeI knew it, she invited me to the VIP section.”
Miguel’s feeling probably more jealous than impressed by now.
“Oh, and then that thing happened,” he gathers, remembering the nasty photos and videos that popped up two days ago.
Frankie nods: “Then that thing happened.”
On their way to the main dance room, Miguel holds the door for them and Frankie can’t help but think it’s so gentleman-like.
“She asked me if we could go somewhere and next thing I know, I’m driving this awesome Porsche and we disappear to a cabin — excuse me: mansion — in the middle of nowhere.”
Her memories take her back to that place. It was so beautiful down there. The trees breathed air into her lungs. The wind played with her blond hair. She felt so relaxed each time a small twig broke under her city shoes. And then there was the dancing. The dancing in pajamas that felt like the most normal thing in the world.
“What is she like?” Miguel asks.
Frankie could tell him a lot about her, even though they didn’t even talk that much. It’s in the way Noor tried to hide her feelings and refused to talk about Aiden for a while. It’s how she got up early and prepared breakfast for a complete stranger. It’s how she practically begged Frankie to spend the night, but only with her eyes, not with words. And how they didn’t talk but said so much during their long car rides.
“Her jawline has more structure than my life,” is the best she can come up with.
“Do you have a picture?”
She suddenly realizes she doesn’t. After that, he begs her to give him her phone number. According to Miguel, they’d be excellent friends. Frankie has to tell him she doesn’t have it either.
“Are you kidding me? How am I supposed to believe you spend an entire weekend with her if you don’t even have her number?”
The girl suddenly looks at him all annoyed and clenches her teeth briefly.
“Famous people don’t hand out their phone numbers like candy sticks, okay?”
“So you might never see her again?”
That realization is new to her. Suddenly, her stomach turns.
“Yeah,” she sighs with her heart pounding in her throat.
A week passes and everything turns back to normal. Frankie’s getting teased by her friends and family about the secret trip to nowhere with the famous person That Shall Not Be Named. Every once in a while, her thoughts escape to that paradise hideout under the sun and the thousand stars, but as time passes, the blonde barely even thinks about it anymore. It’s when night falls and her dreams guide her to the mysterious eyes that looked at her all curiously that she realizes what an impact the famous singer had on her.
It’s Thursday evening when Frankie locks the door of the studio. Everyone has left, except for her and Miguel. They are talking about the development of a girl named Sarah, and the way she has improved over the last couple of weeks, just by practicing harder. Frankie can’t shut up about kids like her, because they always make her feel like she did something useful.
When they turn around to head toward the parking lot, a dark, expensive car pops up in front of them. It’s blocking their way — not to mention it has two wheels on the sidewalk — and Frankie growls.
“Great, another idiot who thinks it’s okay to park their car wherever they like.”
The driver’s side door opens with a quick thrust and as soon as the person gets out of the black vehicle, Frankie’s heart skips a beat.
For a second, she actually believes she might be dreaming. But when her eyes turn to her best friend, his startled expression convinces her she’s not. Noor is looking beautiful as ever. Her hair is hanging loosely down her shoulders, tickling the sides of her bare arms. She’s wearing a designer dress that’s wrapped tightly around her slim body. The only thing that saddens Frankie are the massive sunglasses on Noor’s face, preventing her to stare into those captivating brown eyes.
Frankie swallows and reminds herself to breathe.
“Hi,” she ultimately utters as Miguel is yanking her sleeve.
She pats his hands, ordering him to stop, but at the same time, she’s feeling pretty good about herself. This is better than a picture or a phone number. Noor — the one and only Noor — came to track her down.
“You’re hard to find,” Noor says as she walks over to the two of them.
She gently smiles at the infatuated gay guy but quickly turns her sight to that stranger she took on a road trip a few days ago.
“I drove to your house, only to find your sister all freaked out and hysterical.”
Frankie rolls her eyes. It’s not hard to imagine June’d go there.
“But after calming her down and promising an autograph so she’d stop hyperventilating, she gave me this address. Now tell me, is this your precious dance studio?”
Frankie hears the words, but they aren’t being processed. Something is keeping her mind from reacting to them. Maybe is’t the way the evening sunlight glows over Noor’s perfect skin. Or the way the singer mysteriously smiles while staring at her.
Miguel pokes her back into reality with his elbow. She groans and steps aside, only to learn that the guy wants to be introduced. Oh, right. She forgot about that. Manners.
“This is Miguel. He’s my colleague and best friend. Miguel, Noor.”
Her fingers quickly point back and forth between the two of them. Miguel shakes Noor’s hand and utters an impressively female shriek when he realizes just how real she is. Frankie begs the clouds above her he won’t bow and kiss her hand. Luckily, he doesn’t.
“What are you doing here?” Frankie wonders.
It almost sounds annoyed. There’s no time to understand what all her feelings are doing to her. Maybe something happened. Maybe she left something important in Noor’s car.
“Well, well,” Noor smirks impressed. “Aren’t you happy to see me, Frankie Morris?”
“I told you my last name once and you remember it?”
This time, Frankie’s impressed. Noor nods and starts playing with the keys in her hands. Her eyes are piercing — dreaming.
“I remember everything about you.”
Miguel inspects the way the girls are openly teasing each other. It makes him smile, but not enough to stop being starstruck.
“Can I have a picture?” he asks.
Noor looks at him and snaps out of her magical, enchanting Frankie moment.
He moves his fingers up and down like he’s taking a mental picture. She understands.
“Oh, right. Sure. Do you have a camera or something?”
He straightens his jumpsuit — perfect outfit to meet a superstar of course — and leaves Frankie’s side to steal that spot next to Noor. His excited voice orders Frankie to take out her phone and capture this epic moment for the rest of eternity. His exact words. Noor puts on her dazzling smile and looks at Frankie instead of the lens when she clicks the screen. Though she’s wearing sunglasses, Frankie notices.
It’s a beautiful picture. But then again, she has never seen a picture of Noor that didn’t look beautiful. Miguel recognizes the judging look on his friend’s face.
“What?” he asks. “I’m not stupid enough to meet her and not ask for a picture. Or her number.”
The way he says it implies they’ve been talking about it and that annoys Frankie. Noor shouldn’t know about the amount of words she has wasted on their secret hideout last weekend. She’s not entitled to feel proud about it. Not yet, anyway.
“You wanted my number?” Noor teases, picking the exact detail Frankie was afraid she’d hear.
“What are you doing here?” Frankie asks instead of answering that question, this time more gentle and welcoming.
Miguel confiscates the phone and steps aside to fangirl over the picture for a second. His heart stops beating the second this encounter seems confirmed on screen. Noor secretly laughs over his behavior before facing her again.
“I wanted to see you — thank you for last weekend. It was great. I had a lot of fun.”
“I had a lot of fun too,” Frankie admits, putting aside their relationship talk.
“And I wanted to offer you something.”
“Like a job,” Noor says.
Both Miguel and Frankie widen their eyes: “A job?”
Noor looks at the guy all confused. Does he think she was talking to him?
“Why would you offer me a job?” Frankie wonders.
A few steps bring Noor closer to her target: the pretty blonde in front of her. She innocently shrugs and takes off the sunglasses. This time Frankie can actually stare into those brown eyes and they are being dead-serious.
“You told me the industry has favorites. You’re mine. You’re my favorite dancer.”
“I didn’t even audition or something. You saw me dance once. How can you —”
“It was convincing enough,” Noor interrupts her. “I was secretly headhunting.”
She explains how a few of her dancers got the flu during their stay in Europe last week. They got send home and the next couple of shows were horrible. It might be an exaggeration. The fans didn’t notice a thing. The entire crew thought it was great. But Noor’s a perfectionist and that means it was horrible.
“You want me to go on a world tour with you?” Frankie gathers with confusion.
Miguel just stands there and gasps for air. This is not happening, he tells himself. There cannot be a famous singer begging his friend to travel the world with her. And Frankie certainly can’t be this reluctant about it. He’d say yes immediately. He’s dying to say yes right now, and Noor didn’t even ask him anything.
“I need you,” Noor suddenly admits. “I need you to come and help me with my dancers. And I need you because I need someone normal to talk to. To process …”
She sneakily glares at Miguel for a second and clears her throat.
“… what happened last week.”
It’s obvious she’s talking about Aiden. They all know it, but it’s better they don’t admit to it. Frankie sighs. They aren’t even friends. This is the second time they meet. There’s no reasonable explanation as to why they should hang out more often or why they even started hanging out in the first place. The blonde sighs and seeks for guidance next to her, with Miguel. Why she expected anything else than his purging eyes to take up on that offer surprises her.
“So you need a counselor?” she jokes, to clear the tension.
Noor smirks, the way she always does whenever Frankie has something funny to say and shakes her head afterward.
“I need a friend. Someone that isn’t corrupted by the wonderful world of showbiz yet. Someone who still knows right from wrong without thinking about the financial and public retaliations.”
“And there’s no one else but me?”
It amuses Noor how unwilling Frankie is to accept her offer. She should be mad or upset, or even a little bit worried, but no — she just thinks it’s funny.
“Sure there is. Oprah was busy. But there’s Miguel, I guess. Can you dance?”
Miguel, still a silent observer — or creepy if you had to follow Frankie’s choice of words — raises a surprised eyebrow and nods.
“I’m the kind of person that’ll easily get corrupted by the showbiz world,” he laughs.
Frankie rolls her eyes. He shouldn’t have said that. Now Noor’s gonna feel even more confident about her idea.
“Please?” Noor finally sighs. “Look at me. I am here for God knows what reason, asking a stranger to join me, to get paid by my management and to travel the world for just three more weeks. Forget about asking, I’m begging.”
She takes another step toward Frankie and by now it’s starting to feel awkward just how close they are.
“And I don’t beg,” Noor assures her.
Frankie’s pace of breathing has gone up, even Miguel notices. He pokes her again, more gentle this time and urges her without words to accept the offer.
“I don’t know. I’d have to, like, plan and reschedule some things. Like work.”
“I’ll handle that,” Noor says with the right amount of confidence to spark curiosity inside of Frankie.
“How exactly are you going to manage my schedule when you don’t even manage your own?”
Crossed arms express just how doubtful Frankie is about it.
Noor smirks and turns to Miguel: “You, fine piece of homosexuality.”
Now that’s a way to charm your way into Miguel’s heart. He confidently smiles. Another word and he takes a gracious bow.
“Would you be willing to take over her classes for three weeks? After that, you’ll get her back. I promise.”
Noor shushes him immediately: “Wait, wait.”
He looks confused.
“You should negotiate, my friend. I was going to offer you some front seat tickets to my show next month and one of the finest bottles of wine.”
Frankie smiles. Of course she would. Her friend just processes the moment in awe and thinks about it for a while.
“Well, if you put it that way, I’m reluctant to accept it right on the spot,” Miguel says, exactly as Noor insinuated.
“Good boy,” Noor compliments him. “I’ll give them to Frankie. Make sure you get them.”
“I’ll put self tanner in her hand and face moisturizer if she doesn’t,” he promises.
Frankie just rolls her eyes again and accepts defeat.
“Fine,” she sighs before she turns to the beautiful Mercedes. “Now will you please take that hideous thing off my sidewalk?”
Noor knows she’s mocking her and nods: “I’ll let you drive it if you take me out to dinner.”
“You are the rich one here. You’re buying dinner!”
Miguel isn’t invited. Even though Noor feels guilty and rude for not asking him to tag along, she can’t help but wanting Frankie all to herself this evening. She asks her new friend to take her somewhere private. Somewhere people will have a hard time recognizing her. Frankie says she knows the perfect spot. The blonde takes the car keys, crawls behind the wheels of yet another beautiful pearl of automotive engineering and shivers run up and down her spine as she hears the roaring of that powerful engine. Noor just smiles over it. The car takes them to a cosy restaurant just outside of town. It’s red and small. As soon as Frankie opens her door, Noor recognizes the scent of Italian food.
Noor does as she’s told and awaits her friend’s return. It takes the blonde thirteen minutes before getting in the car again — the singer keeps track of time on the display in front of her while she sings along to her favorite songs on the radio.
Nothing about this feels uneasy or unreal. Noor’s kind of the girl that gets whatever she desires. That’s how people treat superstars.
“Where are we going?” she asks after Frankie puts a big paper bag on her lap.
“Wait and see.”
They end up near a cliff that overviews the entire city. The sun is almost gone and it’s beautiful to watch all the different parts of town light up like a giant christmas tree. It’s warm outside, so the girls step out of the car and sit down so the grass can tickle their skin.
“Are you kidding me? A picnic?” Noor scoffs, but in an enthusiastic way. “That’s amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before.”
Frankie gloats, because: score!
The girls eat the Italian takeout and drink the small bottle of wine that accompanies the food. When Noor asks her how she got the idea, Frankie tells her she knows the owner of the restaurant. Plus, Noor wanted to have dinner in anonymity. It’s the perfect solution.
“I like this,” the singer admits while stretching her view over the magnificence that is Frankie’s home town. “It’s peaceful. I’m always peaceful when I’m around you.”
“Maybe you should start taking Xanax,” Frankie blurts out while having another bite.
Noor turns to her, unable to tell whether or not Frankie’s joking. She just smiles instead of overthinking it. After a calm meal together, the girls remain silent for another while. Their lack of desire to speak is enchanting. It makes the moment even prettier. Frankie asks Noor if she’s cold. She’s not. She wants to know if she wants to go home. Noor tells her home is far away from here. Frankie asks if she wants to spend the night at her place. Noor says yes, without really knowing why.
They drive to Oak Street and leave the car in front of Frankie’s house. Once inside, Noor inspects the place thoroughly, but in secret, with her eyes circling around while her companion cleans up in a hurry. It’s cosy. Not as big as her mansions around the globe, but more homely. She almost feels jealous about the atmosphere in here.
“I don’t really have a spare room,” Frankie tells her after subtly throwing some leftovers in the garbage can. They had been on the kitchen counter … for days now. June can get messy like that. Noor just shrugs, like it doesn’t matter.
“We can just share your bed, can’t we? I promise I don’t snore. At least that I know of.”
But Frankie feels like she should confess something. Something that matters, especially when it involves sleeping in a bed with another girl.
“I don’t think you — I mean,” she stutters. “I’m gay. So …”
She’s not ashamed of it or something. It’s just important to know when you decide to share your sheets with someone else. He or she might be uncomfortable with it.
“So?” Noor shrugs yet again. “As long as you don’t snore.”
Frankie’s entire face lights up. She shakes her head in denial.
Noor sits down on the comfy couch that’s facing the television. It’s close enough to forget about contacts and glasses, but distant enough to not feel like part of the movie.
“June does,” Frankie says, kind of to prolong the conversation they are having.
The only response she gets is a mysterious smirk. It confuses her, yet it feels comforting.
“Where is she? June?”
Frankie shrugs and has a close look at her watch: “Probably at work. Did I tell you I’m a waiter sometimes? She owns a restaurant downtown.”
“That’s nice. Is it any good?”
“I’m forced to say yes. But it actually is the truth.”
Noor smiles over that comment.
“Why didn’t you take me there instead of an Italian shack outside the epicenter of this metropole?”
She’s mocking the place Frankie calls her home but that’s okay. Frankie always says you can never get lost around here. All you have to do is walk straight ahead for fifteen minutes and you’ll reach some sort of border.
“I wasn’t sure if you wanted to eat your dinner under the musical guidance of June’s fangirl noises.”
The singer shakes her head. Maybe one encounter was enough for today.
Frankie decides to show her the way around the house. Upstairs, there’s June’s bedroom. It’s clean and organized. It has more cabinets and closets than it has pictures. Downstairs, there’s the bathroom and the toilet. Next to the living room and the open kitchen, there’s Frankie’s room. It’s a mess. There are clothes everywhere, the sheets on the bed are upside down and somewhere in a dark corner, Noor even recognizes a pile of dirty laundry.
“I’m sorry,” Frankie blushes, “I didn’t really expect anyone to walk into this catastrophe of a room today.”
Noor’s unimpressed: “You should see my dressing room after each concert. If I didn’t pay people to clean up my mess, there’d be rats living under my bed.”
The blonde pouts her lips a little with approval: “Charming.”
They change into something more comfortable before Noor excuses herself to make some phone calls. Obviously, she won’t be returning to the hotel room she booked for the night, so she asks her manager to arrange for someone to pick up her stuff in the morning. She calls him David. After that, a short, unpleasant conversation takes place with someone else. Frankie assumes it’s Aiden. They haven’t talked about him yet.
They sit down in front of the television and switch channels every time they get bored. Frankie asks when she’s supposed to pack her backs and leave. Noor says tomorrow. The dancer weirdly feels good about that. A millionth rerun of Friends comes on and they watch it in silence. Although neither of them is facing the other, it doesn’t take long before Frankie feels Noor’s secret glancing over her. She recognizes that look.
“How did you know you were straight?” Frankie then suddenly asks her.
Noor snaps out of her secretiveness: “What?”
Frankie shifts on the pillow and shrugs.
“Did you choose to be straight or were you born that way?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t really know —”
“Maybe it’s because you’ve never been with the right woman. I mean, did you ever have sex with a woman?”
Noor frowns all confused, then shakes her head: “What? No.”
“Then how can you be sure that you’re straight?” Frankie shrugs.
“Frankie. Stop it. What’s this about?”
She secretly likes it when Noor says her name. She makes it sound special.
“What? You were going to ask me the exact same questions in a couple of minutes,” she smirks self-confidently.
Noor remains quiet for a while. Afterward, she turns her eyes back to the television. Her mouth tries to fight back an intrigued smile.
“Why would I want to have sex with a girl?” Noor suddenly ignites the conversation again during the commercial break.
The room is barely lit. Candles clear up the dark. It’s cosy. Noor likes cosy.
“I don’t want to brag, but sex with women is awesome,” Frankie sighs confidently.
Frankie wiggles her eyebrows. She says Noor just has to believe her.
“Do you have a girlfriend?”
Frankie shakes her head and doesn’t seem too worried about it.
“Why not? You should.”
Noor shifts in the couch and closes the gap between them.
“Because you need a girl,” she explains.
All Frankie can do is scoff amused. Is this seriously turning into a relationship talk again?
“Why would I need a girl?”
Noor bends over to whisper in Frankie’s ear, as if there’s someone else in the room to hear the words she’s about to say. Frankie feels the tickling of her lips before her eyes widen with embarrassment and admiration.
“Oh, my God, Noor!” she shrieks while urging her to stop talking. “Shut up.”
A cute shade of pink colors her entire face. She clears her throat, reminds herself to calm down and turns back to the television. Noor stares at her all confident. For the first time since they met, Frankie is speechless. Well, at least that she knows of.
“What? I have an imagination. Think I can’t come up with ways you have sex?” she teases.
The blonde next to her simply heaves a nervous sigh and refrains from talking.
“Not that I imagined you having sex, of course,” Noor suddenly corrects herself all giggly and awkward.
Suddenly, Frankie feels confident enough to look back at her. Friends started again, but neither of them is watching.
“Because why would I think about having sex with you, right?” the singer stutters, only making the one-sided conversation more embarrassing with each word that leaves her mouth. “I can’t give you that pleasure.”
At last, she winks to chase the shyness away. Her new friend raises an interested eyebrow, which makes her shut up completely.
“Believe me. If you were to have sex with me, it’d be for your own personal development. Nothing is keeping me from making people experiencing the best thing in their lives. I see myself as a philanthropist. Look at is as a science thing.”
They both don’t say a word for the rest of the night. They go to bed — backs turned toward each other — and fall asleep after a couple of uncomfortable minutes under the sheets. Frankie smiles. Tomorrow, she’ll be on a world tour.