Frankie at work – Chapter 4: Normal life

 Normal Life


 

The show was amazing. Frankie danced like she had never missed an evening of the tour — or an hour of repetition. Her complete concentration was focussed on the dance moves, on the way Noor’s musicians filled the entire arena with powerful vibes and rhythms, on the way the energy of the crowd made her try even harder. She’s sweating like crazy by the time the last song fades out. The crowd is going insane. It’s ecstatic. It’s unreal. It’s amazing. This might be the best experience of her life.

During one of Noor’s powerful ballads, the dancing crew had a moment to cool down. Frankie took the time to shamelessly stare at her while her heartbeat and muscles were supposed to get a break. But the longer she was looking, the more her heartbeat went faster again. In return, Noor watched her as she danced her ass off during an impressive dance off between the dancers. It was enchanting, it took her breath away. The tour manager had to poke her before she realized she had to get on stage again. In all fairness, she could have seen her dance all night and she still would’ve begged for more.

Frankie hasn’t stopped smiling. Not during the performance. Not when she stared at Noor singing and dancing along during the gig, not when her colleagues crashed to their knees from tiredness after the routine. This entire act, the entertaining and interaction with fans, the flawless singing and exhausting continuity of dancing through all of it is quite admirable. Frankie couldn’t do it in a million years. Noor acts like it’s as easy as waking up in the morning.

But the stress and built up expectations of her performance leave quite a nasty trail of nerves inside that cute, slim body, so it seems. As the curtains close and the overwhelmingly loud audience resumes their tireless screaming, Noor storms off the stage to walk straight at her tour manager. The poor man barely has a second to congratulate her on the amazing realization before she explodes at him. There are accusations of bad lighting, of the mic creaking, of the audience standing too close to the stage, of security being too hard on her fans, …

Frankie’s appealed to walk over to her and calm her down, but one of her colleagues, Kennedy, holds her back.

“She always gets like this after a show. Don’t worry, it’ll be over in a second. It’s just tension release.”

Frankie turns her head and can’t even smile at the person next to her. It’s Kennedy, the cutest of all the dancers around. The one that’s responsible for teaching her all the moves and routines. She’s an amazing dancer, with an amazing body. Her hair is long and soft. It’s tied up in a tight ponytail for the concert. Frankie likes it that way. They’ve been hanging out a lot, these last couple of days. Frankie likes that too.

“Does she just randomly yell at everyone?” she asks.

Sweet, innocent Kennedy shrugs: “We are used to it. It’ll be over in a few minutes.”

But that’s not good enough for Frankie. She’s been her the shortest amount of time, but she knows there’s absolutely no reason to yell at that poor little event genius. Sure, there were some minor flaws. It wouldn’t be the first time something goes wrong at a concert. But not a single fan noticed.

“You want to go out for drinks later? We won’t be leaving for Amsterdam until tomorrow afternoon.”

Again, Frankie has to snap out of her Noor-infatuation. The singer is still angrily addressing her tour manager. Her eyes are dark, her entire body tensed. Something tells Frankie a simple touch of her hand would release her friend from that feeling.

“Frankie?”

She aims her eyes at Kennedy. It takes her a second to nod. Sure, she’s up for drinks with this hot girl. They arrange to meet at the hotel later that evening, after taking a decent shower and devouring a delicious meal. As soon as a male dancer passes the girls, Kennedy invites him too. It’s great to see how all of them are getting along so naturally, like they’re a family. Frankie’s been here for less than a week, still she’s part of that family.

“Great moves out there, Cameron.”

The guy appreciates her comment and graciously bows to her. He reminds her of Miguel. God, she misses Miguel. He’d be all over this guy.

“Oh, look. Two and a half gays.”

The blonde turns around to find Noor standing in front of her. The tone of her voice was weird and Frankie can’t make up her mind whether or not the singer was joking.

“What?”

“You’ve chosen the gay squat,” Noor explains. “Lesbian and bisexual.”

She’s actually pointing at the girl and boy as she says the words.

“Wow. Are you always this charming?” Frankie wonders out loud, clearly irritated. “You know, for a girl, you certainly have some serious dick moves.”

Noor’s face stiffens with surprise. But even though she should, she’s not angry about the comment. The dancer’s behavior startles her colleagues, though. No one ever thinks about questioning Noor. Not on the stage, certainly not next to it.

“It’s okay,” Kennedy pokes her nervously, hoping it’ll calm her down. “It’s a joke. Noor can joke.”

Frankie and Noor end up staring at each other in an awkward way. After the singer announces her defeat by smiling softly, Frankie softens up. Neither of them know what suddenly got into them, so they decide to ignore it for now.

“Hey, do you feel like hanging out later? We could watch a movie, or go for a walk downtown,” Noor proposes after a few silent moments, but Frankie shakes her head way before her mind has come up with a decent explanation.

“We’re going out,” she tells her ultimately. “Sorry.”

She leaves the room through the nearest door. Kenned tries to invite Noor as well, but the singer has seen the reluctance in Frankie’s eyes as she walked away from her, so she declines the offer.


 

They don’t see each other until all of them are gathered to board the bus to Amsterdam. It’s three in the afternoon and everyone’s excited to move on to the next country. Just as Frankie’s about to climb the small steps that’ll take her to her seat, David, Noor’s manager, walks up to her and holds her back. She looks confused. And tired. Going out for those drinks they were talking about last night only ended a couple of hours ago, hence the sunglasses. Germany is fun like that.

“Noor wants to talk to you,” he tells her.

Frankie sighs. She has this nervous feeling building inside of her. Maybe she shouldn’t have been such a bitch to her. After all, Noor did invite her here. Noor gave her this opportunity. Noor is paying her check. Kennedy, standing right next to the worn-out Frankie, jolts her shoulder to encourage her. They’ve talked about this situation last night. They even talked about it after they got drunk. Nobody barely remembers that part, though. Kennedy’s a sweetheart. She’s smart, she’s energetic, she’s honest. As time went by, the girls got absorbed in an enchanting private world. One where flirting and naughty questions became the standard. All the other dancers ignored them. They wouldn’t be the first ones hooking up behind the scenes.

The magical moment passed, though, they are sober again and ready to get back to work. There’s no awkwardness, no averting glances. The only thing they agreed on was sharing seats on the bus. Now they can’t even do that.

“This is awkward. I snapped at you yesterday and now I’m supposed to spend six hours on a bus with you?” Frankie jokes as she enters the VIP vehicle.

This one’s got a lot more upgrades than the one the dancers have to share. Noor looks up from her iPad and starts smiling. Something told Frankie she wouldn’t be mad at her for long.

“You have a big mouth, Dancer Girl,” she smirks. “You do know I’m your boss, right?”

Frankie closes the gab between them and drops her backpack on the ground before crawling close against Noor on that comfy couch.

“Technically, the studio is my boss,” Frankie comments before hiding a secret smile. “You’re as much as an employee as I am.”

Noor is genuinely intrigued by her level of sass. She feels the warmth of Frankie’s body nearby and something tells her she likes it.

“I like that I get to spend six hours with you on a bus.”

Frankie smiles too cute to be normal.

“I’m sorry about last night. I was shocked at how you …”

She stops herself this time. Noor understands.

“I get like that because I’m on a high after a show. I don’t like myself when that happens. But everyone I work with knows the deal. They know the reason why; because I want to be amazing for my fans. I want everything to be amazing. They pay a lot of money to see me from a distance, singing and dancing. So …”

Frankie gets it. The way Noor’s looking all worked up dazzles her. She’s not just some superstar — she discovered that the first time they met.

“You want it to be perfect.”

Noor nods. Something about her explanation suddenly brings some clearance. Maybe that same kind of rush takes control of her after a show. Maybe being edgy and — let’s face it — bitchy is the way her body responds to the adrenaline of such an eventful evening.

“I’m sorry,” she whispers a second time and her friend simply waves the apology away.

“Touring is intense. It’s insane. It’s anything but normal. You’re allowed to snap at me. But please don’t tell anyone.”

Frankie snorts and examines the room she’s in. There are cosy pillows, wallpapered walls, a fridge that’s probably stuffed with bottles of champagne and a television too big to even exist.

“So this is how the big shots travel, huh?”

The singer is amused. She can’t help that her management arranges this for her. At least there’s room for two. So Frankie can stay.

The girls hang out and watch some movies. They talk about last night’s show and Noor tells her what she remembers about Amsterdam from her previous shows there. It’s a great city. It has amazing people. For some reason, they’re all tall. Frankie stops apologizing and that’s okay. The next six hours are amazing. Frankie’s concerned about it.


 

They visit Amsterdam, then Bruxelles. After two days in Paris, the crew sleeps in the bus on the way to Madrid and Lisbon. Frankie spends the night in Noor’s private vehicle.

When the three weeks have passed, a plane takes them home. When the moment comes to say goodbye, both of them are awfully quiet. The world tour has ended. There won’t be another one for months. Does that mean they won’t …?

“So, Noor …”

Frankie’s eyes go searching for the averting face of her new friend. The last couple of weeks have been amazing. Apart from that little encounter after the first show, the girls have been super close and involved in each other’s life. But Noor can’t seem to look at her. Her heart breaks at the thought of not seeing Frankie again first thing tomorrow.

The blonde’s about to go in for a hug, or at least beg her famous friend to visit some time. Something tells her she won’t survive a whole week without seeing her. Noor feels the same way. But before anything is said, Kennedy interrupts them by grabbing Frankie’s hand in the middle of the airport’s hallway. She claims her full attention and even though Noor herself is standing in front of her, Frankie can’t help but looking up to her. Another great plus about this trip: this girl. Wherever they went, Kennedy and Frankie found their way to local bars and epic parties. They kissed underneath the flashing lights of the disco balls in three different cities. They felt each other up in two. But at the end of the night, Frankie always found her way back to Noor’s comfort.

“Want to hang out in a few days, when the tiredness of the tour has left your body?” Kennedy proposes while wiggling both eyebrows suggestively.

Frankie snorts all giggly while Noor just rolls her eyes. A swarm of paparazzi is starting to approach them. Exactly what Noor tried to avoid for weeks now. Luckily, Europe’s way more enjoyable when it comes to these parasites.

“I’m not tired.”

“Ooh,” Kennedy smiles curiously. “It hasn’t hit you yet? Just wait for it. You’ll call me in a few days after waking up from a seventy-two hours sleep.”

Noor is standing next to them, but she can’t help but feeling excluded. The girls aren’t exactly trying to involve her in the conversation. As some of the photographers start aiming their lenses on the girls, David, Noor’s manager, taps her shoulder subtly.

“We need to go now,” he whispers.

Clearly, the press hasn’t had the time to confront her about the disturbing event that took place at Boo Tay’s concert. They are dying to shoot all kinds of questions at her, to figure out whether or not her marriage with the famous Aiden is over. And Noor is not ready to face the flashes of the cameras. Mostly because she hasn’t even had a decent conversation with Aiden since it happened. He left after Berlin, she didn’t feel like saying goodbye to him.

“I’ll talk to you later,” she mumbles with hasty eyes and a voice that’s trembling.

Before Frankie has turned her eyes back at the woman she adores, the woman that hugs her in a way that’s too familiar, the woman who literally dragged her across the world just to be able to talk to her, she’s gone. Kennedy is the only one standing next to her by the time she sees David and Noor rushing through the exit. But the cutest smile of her favorite dancer can’t even keep her from worrying. She didn’t say goodbye to her precious Noor. They didn’t set a time or date to meet again. And for some reason, without that verbal confirmation, Frankie’s heart is breaking. Because in theory, it’s possible she’ll never see her again. In theory, she might not ever feel her skin, or smell her scent, or see the two shades of brown in her eyes. In theory, Frankie thinks she’s in trouble for feeling that way.

Kennedy squeezes her fingers briefly, just to gain her attention. It takes three blinks before Frankie reacts. Her heart is beating fast, the air around this place feels suffocating, her lungs are closing. She needs to go now. Her lips softly peck the side of Kennedy’s mouth — like it’s a promise and a goodbye at the same time.

“I’ll call you,” she says before taking off.


 

Cece and Ellie have gathered around the coffee table to squeeze every detail out of Frankie’s mind. They brought tea and cookies and curiosity. It’s the sister’s caring way of torturing her with awkward and questionable interrogation techniques. Frankie’s not good at the family thing. She rather spends times with her friends, especially when it comes to discussing things like her feelings and girl crushes. If anything, she feels like the people she shares her heart and emotions with should be the people she hand-selected — not just those related by blood. But clearly, Cece and Ellie don’t feel the same way. Suddenly the door sweeps open and a familiar figure enters the room.

“I’m sorry I’m late,” June coughs as she throws her jacket over the nearest chair. “I didn’t really want to come.”

Cece and Ellie rolls their eyes while exposing their annoyed smile. Frankie just has to laugh. Even though she could kill her from time to time, Frankie secretly missed her sister.

“You’re just mad that you didn’t get your own freaking diet coke that evening and that Noor didn’t pick you to travel the world,” Cece teases her.

But June just scoffs at that comment and sits down next to her blonde, younger sister, Ellie.

“So, tell me. Did you smoke marihuana in Amsterdam with your new hippie friends?”

Frankie heaves a frustrated sigh. Way to be welcomed back.

“Shut up,” she immediately utters after falling back into the big cushions of the couch. “I’m tired. I am jet lagged.”

“Poor you.”

Frankie’s blue eyes target the sister that’s responsible for the darkest thoughts in her mind. She’s about to tell her to shut the fuck up and she’s not even talking anymore. Cece tries to cool things down, while Ellie gets up to get a refill of her water.

“So, it was great?”

Frankie nods at her oldest sister. The one that’s strict and uptight. For some reason, she never fails from being supportive. After Ellie resurfaces around the little table, she sighs with admiration.

“I can’t imagine what it feels like, touring with Noor. Can she properly sing? Or is it all tape and playback?”

Frankie snorts: “Oh, she can sing. She can sing like … an angel or something. I was surprised.”

June doesn’t look up from her phone as she’s following the conversation. Every once in a while, she just utters a loud cough or a questionable scoff. Frankie wonders what’s that about.

“Hooked up with anyone? Bet there are some cute dancers in that group,” Elle wonders too excited.

As Frankie told Noor before: Ellie’s the big gay fan. She’s fascinated by that part of Frankie, though at many levels, it’s exactly the same dating world as her other sisters. Only with girls.

“There was this girl. Her name is Kennedy. I liked her.”

Frankie looks proud as she says it. Liking her is an understatement.

“Did something happen?”

June pulls a weird face. She doesn’t want to know whether or not her sister hooked up. The other two, on the other hand, do. But the dancer just shrugs and slightly pouts.

“We kissed a few times. It was innocent. But we’re getting together somewhere next week. So, we’ll see what happens.”

A soft smile illustrates that something else is going on, but her siblings don’t dare to dig deeper. When June stands up on her feet to curse over some employee’s text message, she growls loudly.

“Is this global experience over now or do I have to find someone to permanently replace you? Because these losers at work keep coming up with the most creative excuses to bail on work, so I need you back.”

Frankie nods: “I can start tomorrow if you like.”

June’s attitude suddenly softens up. Secretly, Frankie loves doing this. Whenever June snaps at her to provoke a fight or to degrade her, Frankie simply smiles as if nothing is going on. That makes the older one gasp for air, left with the void of her expectations.

“And what about Noor?” Ellie suddenly addresses her.

Frankie turns her head.

“What about her?”

“Are you going to see her again?”

“I don’t know,” the truth reverberates with the right amount of sadness in its tone. “We didn’t have the chance to talk about that.”

Suddenly, June’s interested. From that first second, she knew there were other things going on.

“You have a crush on your celebrity friend, little sis?” she teases.

Frankie would want nothing more to get up on her feet and yell at her. Or simply tell her to shut up. But she can’t. The lack of response does more damage than good. All her sisters notice.


 

“Heard anything from your lover?” June asks while passing her at the restaurant.

Frankie rolls her eyes before kindly putting the trays of food down in front of her customers. She wishes them a pleasant meal and chases her sister afterward.

“Not my lover,” she sighs annoyed. “I already told you that.”

Miguel appears through the back door, holding a bag of vegetables he just bought. As soon as June runs to him, she kisses the guy on both cheeks.

“You just saved my life”, she gasps.

She orders her chefs to take care of the vegetables while making sure both Miguel and Frankie disappear from the kitchen area. There was a shortage of tomatoes, spinach and green beans. Luckily, Miguel offered to help.

“Wait!”

June grabs the sleeve of Miguel’s dancing outfit, which startles him.

“What?”

“What about the mushrooms?”

“What mushrooms?”

June’s face turns pale: “I texted you to bring mushrooms as well.”

Miguel’s innocent expression turns his entire head red: “You didn’t.”

But the woman in front of him is already starting to panic: “Yes, I did.”

“No, you didn’t,” he emphasizes. “Check your phone.”

“I so told you to …” she quickly rolls her eyes up and down the screen of her phone before going silent. “I so didn’t text you. Oh my God.”

She puts both hands in front of her mouth as Miguel heaves a relieved sigh. At least he didn’t screw up. Frankie grabs her sister’s shoulders and tells the chefs to work something out. Her words of wisdom “People can survive one meal without shrooms” makes them laugh in silence. That’s when the dancers leave the room. The loud noises of banging casseroles and beeping ovens is starting to drive all of them insane. June’s shrieking inputs aren’t helping. While Miguel sits down on the other side of the bar, Frankie pours them both a shot of vodka.

“God, I need this,” she sighs.

“Now … Did you?”

June’s back, leaving the flapping kitchen door behind her.

“What?”

“Noor?”

“Did I Noor what?”

Frankie’s completely confused by now. Even Miguel frowns all uncertain. Obviously, June picked up on a conversation again and neither of them knows what it’s about.

“Did you hear anything from her? Or did she text you?”

After the shot is emptied, the worried blonde shakes her head. She shouldn’t feel so sad about this. It was only three weeks. It was just a job. Noor owes her nothing.

Miguel wiggles his nose and clenches his teeth, but not subtle enough, because Frankie’s eyes ask him what’s going on in his mind.

“Did you call her?”

She shakes her head again. Something stopped her.

“Why not?” June wonders as she’s drying some glasses that are standing next to the sink.

Frankie should be doing it, she has bar duty today, but for some reason, she’s not too invested in her job description.

“Because we have different lives. She’s out there in Hollywood or New York trying to make things right with her cheating husband and launching her forth perfume or something. There’s a new album coming up. There are fancy parties and award shows. She has better things to do than visit some loser that works at a restaurant, okay?”

“But, honey,” Miguel ensures her after emptying his own glass, “you’re not a loser. You just got invited by a massive superstar to join her on her world tour. That’s quite something.”

Frankie puts back the bottle of vodka and shrugs: “Still working at a restaurant, aren’t I?”

She leaves the bar to go check on some costumers that appeared to have finished eating. Her depressed attitude immediately shifts back to her professional one, where she jokes and laughs with the people that pay the bills. She asks them if their meal has been nice and they both compliment her on the great food. A humble smile expresses her gratitude. Miguel and June stare at each other with an expression that tells them both how much Frankie has changed.

After placing the empty plates next to the pile of other dirty dishes in the back of the kitchen, the young blonde sighs. This is getting to her more than she anticipated. Something tells her she should’ve never said anything back at that concert. Something tells her she couldn’t help herself. One week. It’s been one week since that magical adventure in Europe.

“Snap out of it, Frankie,” she whispers to herself, hoping it’ll work.

Three more tables ready for desserts. Table three and sixteen need to get cleaned up. Table twelve asked for the check. How did she get from tending the bar to running around this place in circles? After opening the kitchen door to enter the restaurant again, she finds Miguel and June startled. They have never been so quiet, or moveless. It’s like the atmosphere around them froze.

“What’s wrong?” she wonders, while tracing their flabbergasted expression.

At the end of their shameless stare, there’s a person she’d recognize from a million miles away.

“Noor!” she gasps.

Good thing she’s not holding any plates. They’d be on the ground right now.

“What are you doing here?”

The famous girl looks confused and cute, standing in that doorway. She’s covered in a big coat and an enormous hat — still everyone recognizes her right on the spot. The sun is starting to set, but she keeps her sunglasses on. Maybe at least one customer won’t recognize her. Frankie walks around the counter and heads her way. As soon as her hand caresses the sleeve of her Noor’s arm, Frankie feels at peace again. Suddenly, her lungs fill with air. Her head stops spinning. Her heart finds a steady pace. Noor surprises her by wrapping both arms tenderly around the body of her favorite dancer. When they find themselves settled into a familiar embrace, the girls breathe in each other’s scent.

“I missed you.”

The words almost cause Frankie to have a heart attack. A silly smiles appears.

“But what are you doing here?”

“The press is being an ass. I’m being followed wherever I go. I needed to get out. Aiden’s out of town, we talked for a few hours when I got back. But I missed my friend. And I needed to see you.”

Frankie just smiles like a complete dork. She can’t even respond to that.

“Can we go somewhere?”

There’s millions ways that Frankie would tell her yes, but she looks over her shoulder and finds her sister and friend still frozen to the spot. The customers are whispering to each other. About Noor, obviously.

“I can’t,” Frankie tells her after a few seconds. “I still have a couple of hours of work. I can’t let June down.”

Truth is, if she’d walk out of this place right now, June would kill her. Noor looks at the sister she met before and smiles cutely. June’s about to step into her fangirl attitude again, they both notice the twitch in her behavior.

“Maybe we can talk later? Are you staying at a hotel? I can call you after I’m finished or —”

But Noor takes her hand and shakes her head in disagreement.

“Don’t be silly, I’ll just wait right here. See what you do at your other job.”

She walks past her and sits down on the empty stool next to Miguel, who forgets to blink for a while.

“I met you at the dance studios, didn’t I? You’re Michael?”

While Frankie passes them on the way to four customers, she can’t help but smile.

“Miguel,” he corrects her with his jaw still dropped from excitement. “But you can call me Michael.”

June rolls her eyes. Sure she can.

“I’m sorry. Miguel. I’ll remember it from now on. I promise.”

He almost giggles. For a guy, he can be such a girl. Noor turns her head to Frankie’s sister and claims her attention.

“And June. How is it going?”

Noor seems genuinely interested. June joyfully nods: Noor remembered her name!

“I’m doing great. Had a few hard weeks without Frankie here. You’re not here to kidnap her again, are you?” she smiles.

That gin tonic she had an hour ago must be working wonders on her ridiculous tendencies to freak out around the superstar. Or maybe the presence of her clients tempers it. Noor looks intrigued.

“I might.”

She catches Miguel staring at her. He’s smart enough to believe her.

“I’ll have a glass of champagne, please.”

Frankie watches her from the corner of her eyes while waiting for her customers’ order. She secretly smirks.


 

“I’m quite impressed by your countless skills,” Noor compliments her friend after they leave the restaurant.

“What do you mean? Carrying around some plates isn’t that hard.”

Her famous friend stops her before they reach the car.

“Are you kidding me? I could never do that. And all those orders you need to remember, which wine they are drinking, which course they’re at … I’d freak.”

Frankie smiles and makes her way over to the car.

“I guess dancing comes easier. But I don’t know. It’s not quantum physics or anything.”

She likes to downplay her self-confidence and Noor notices.

The dark-haired beauty opens the door for her, like a gentleman would do and tilts her head: “Neither is singing.”

“Now, tell me. What are you doing here? Are we going to the woods again, because in that case I’d like to grab some clothes at home,” Frankie jokes after fastening her seatbelt.

An amused chuckle assures her that isn’t the plan. A few seconds later, Noor’s seated next to her.

“I wanted to talk. I feel like there’s something going on that I don’t understand.”

“What do you mean?”

“You and I. We’re friends, aren’t we?”

Frankie’s cheeks turn a cute shade of pink. She nods.

“I think we are.”

“And for some reason, I need your advice. I need someone to hold my hand and get through this.”

The engine starts and they drive off the parking lot. Frankie remains silent as Noor heaves a troubled sigh.

“I love him. I mean, I’ve always loved him. He has his ups, he has his downs. Cheating on me definitely isn’t the better part of him. But I can’t just give up on that, can I? I can’t just …”

She sighs again and this time, Frankie forgets to think before putting her warm hand on top of hers. Noor’s brown eyes glance at the contact and within seconds, a soft smile appears.

“So, are you, like, kidnapping me?”

A mischievous expression takes over: “Something like that.”

“Where are you staying?”

Her famous friend doesn’t talk for a while. She’s focussed on the road, on the moving cars around her. Her shoulders go up and down briefly before she turns her head to face Frankie.

“I thought that, maybe, it’d be okay if I crashed at your place.”

The blonde’s heartbeat suddenly causes her chest to implode. Her throat feels dry and her hands are sweaty at the same time. She shakes her clouded head and tries hard not to sound nervous.

“Of course you can. But let’s get some fun stuff to prepare for this depressing little night.”

The girls stop at a supermarket that’s open 24/7. They roam the isles, searching for chips, dip sauce, a toothbrush — it has to be a pink one — and a cute set of pajamas, though Noor teases Frankie by confessing she wouldn’t mind borrowing one of hers and Frankie tells her she usually sleeps naked and Noor winks and says that’d be fine too. As soon as one of the customers recognizes the famous singer, all the others approach her to score some autographs or selfies. Panicking eyes flash at Frankie. Nobody was supposed to find out she was hiding in this town. Nobody should see her like this, at this hour, in this supermarket. Frankie grabs her hand and pulls her along, as fans slowly close in on her. Noor is still kind and sweet to all of them, but she can’t go through this right now. That’s when Frankie forces her to move her feet. They run through the isles at an incredible speed, accidentally dropping some bags of chips on the way to the exit. Noor’s enchanting smile appears as she pulls Frankie back to recover the lost treats. Their hands remain entwined the entire time.

“Come on, come on,” Frankie tells her all excited.

The singer stands up again and notices how some of the fans follow her, be it at a slower pace. Her heartbeat raises. This is fun.

“Oh my God. They’re coming.”

The girls almost slip and fall when they decide to turn right. It makes them laugh even harder. Countless products pass their sight, but they don’t recognizes any of it. Their feet are moving too fast. They bump into a big guy by accident and stumble over their own feet as they are trying to prevent their bodies from crashing to the ground because of it.

“I’m sorry, Sir,” Noor apologizes in her hasty passing through.

The guy looks annoyed as hell, which amuses them even more. After accidentally bumping over a display of piled soup cans, Noor temporary fears this might get her a first mug shot. The moment passes. As they stop in front of the cash register, their breathless giggles intrigues the cashier. Frankie throws some dollars on the counter and wishes the old lady a good night. Her hand slips in Noor’s again as she pulls her along a second time. If anything, they are feeling alive right now. In the end, they find shelter behind the darkening windows of Noor’s jeep. Noor puts both hands on her steering wheel while catching a breath. She likes this feeling. She likes feeling young and careless again. Nobody does that to her, except Frankie. Not even Aiden. When she turns around, she finds Frankie staring at her, clearly still trying to calm down her breathing herself. Her eyes sparkle with joy, with adoration. Noor recognizes that expression. She can’t stand it when Frankie looks at her that way. It makes her feel weak, it makes her feel fragile. It makes her feel all kinds of things she doesn’t understand. Her eyes roll down the gorgeous face and find the thin lips that form the prettiest smile of all. Her heart beats in her throat, her knees feel weak. Frankie is doing the exact same thing. There’s a tension in the car that shouldn’t be there. So she puts her key in the ignition and turns on the engine.

The moment passes and Frankie looks away.

“How can you live like this? With people stalking you all over the world?”

Noor looks at her and smiles: “I owe everything to my fans. They are the reason why I am who I am today. They are the reason why I have money, why I am successful, why I travel the world and don’t have to worry about a thing. I could never be mad at them. If anything. I’m happy they still adore me after all those years.”

She then looks in the rearview mirror and ultimately sighs. She remembers the smartphones, the pictures, the curious clicking of the cameras.

“God, those snaps are going to be all over the tabloids tomorrow. I bet I look horrible.”

Noor quickly checks herself out in the rearview mirror before running some fingers through her hair.

But her companion clearly disagrees: “Are you kidding me? You look gorgeous.”

Immediately after hearing the words, Noor blushes. She focusses on the road and remembers the streets that take her to Frankie’s house.

“Still. I wasn’t prepared.”

It remains silent for a while. Neither of them dares to think about the weird vibe that just filled up the space of the car. Neither of them wants to consider its meaning.

“Not everybody has to like you, you know.”

Noor looks up to her with confused eyes.

“Not everybody has taste,” Frankie explains with a confident smile.


 

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