Chapter Eight — Crazy Emotions
The doorbell rings early in the morning and Frankie doesn’t even bother to get up. Maybe it’s some salesman or June has some kind of friend coming over. That would surprise her, though. June isn’t exactly the inviting-friends-over type.
After a second ring, the front door unlocks. Voices reverberate through the hallway. Frankie buries her head in the pillow to deafen herself. She turned off the sound of her phone four days ago, after everyone kept calling her. She didn’t pick up once. Pretty sure David left some awfully angry voicemail messages for her to roll her eyes over. Fuck David.
Kennedy just texted. Five times. It went like this.
Saturday, 6:34 p.m. — ’Where are you? The show’s about to start.’
Saturday, 11:13 p.m. — ’Frankie, are you okay? Are you sick?’
Monday, 10:01 a.m. — ‘Okay. Noor’s being a bitch. I guess that has something to do with you.’
Thursday, 15:44 p.m. — ‘Frankie?’
Saturday, 02:54 a.m. — ’Please, let me know you’re fine. I don’t need to know what’s going on. I don’t need details. I just need to know you’re fine. That’s all.’
Frankie finally texted back on Sunday.
‘I’m fine. Will call you soon. x’
Then there were the other dancers, wondering whether or not she got sick or injured. And Miguel brought her cookies and tequila. But Noor? She didn’t hear from her. Not once.
A soft knock on the door makes Frankie look up. It’s June, asking if she can come in. A loud growl escapes Frankie’s mouth and her sister understands it’s Frankie-morning-mood for ‘yes’.
“What do you want?” the blonde asks with a crispy, annoyed voice.
When she turns around, she finds the one and only Noor standing in her doorway. For a second, it feels like she’s dreaming. Her sleepy eyes could trick her. June is standing behind the famous girl, looking stoic and doubtful. She says she’ll give them a minute and closes the door after Noor walks closer to the bed. Normally, Frankie would jump up in a hurry and flatten her hair to at least look a bit decent. Now she just buries her head in the pillow again. She can’t stand looking at Noor right now. Not after what happened.
“How are you?” the singers asks, trying to make some small talk.
Her eyes wander to the corner of the room, where the bracelet that was once a gift is thrown into a corner. Noor tries hard not to stare at it.
Oh, the sarcasm. If it were splashes of water, that’d be a tsunami.
“Hey, can we talk?”
This time, the voice sounds a lot more fragile and concerned. The weight of Noor’s body drops down on the side of the bed and Frankie gets nervous from feeling her this close to her. Head still averted from her, the dancer starts to sigh. It takes her a few seconds to turn around under the sheets. Noor slept here before, in the same bed, wearing Frankie’s pajamas. They still smell like her — Frankie checked.
“What do you want to talk about?”
“Why did you leave the tour? And why didn’t you tell anyone?”
Of course it’s about work. Gorgeous, tired blue eyes blink a few times.
“I can’t work for you anymore,” Frankie ultimately tell her, like it’s the most natural thing in the world.
Is Noor actually being this oblivious? Or is she just acting. Maybe her husband thought her that.
“Because we had sex,” the dancer hisses so silently Noor barely understands it.
When she does, though, her cheeks turn flaming red. That memory seems to embarrass her, whether it’s in a good or a bad way. Thing is, Noor’s been missing her. No matter how confused and awkward she feels about this whole situation, being on the road without her favorite person in the world just won’t do. It’s boring and predictable. Plus, she’s one hot thing to secretly stare at when she’s asleep. Frankie can’t know about that.
“Do you know he took that girl home that night?” she suddenly tells her, soft and calm.
“He took her home. Even though he knew I could find out and a media storm could occur, he took her home. To my house. To my bed. Our bed.”
“That friend of yours he slept with?”
Frankie sighs and sits up. Pillow marks color her face. She rubs her nose with the palm of her hand and growls.
“That’s fucked up,” she sighs.
“It is,” Noor agrees. “That’s why you can work for me. After what he did, this is nothing. I don’t know if you feel it, but for some reason we have a connection. I like you. It’s like I’ve known you my entire life and I don’t know what that means. I know I’ll have to figure this out eventually. But I’ve never felt this way before. Not just a girl, but anyone. It’s confusing and scary. Because I’m married and I’m not supposed to be this tempted. So if working for me keeps you close — so I can find out what it is about you that makes you so special … I guess that’s okay, right?”
Frankie’s blond hairs are falling down her shoulders. She forgot to pull them into a ponytail before going to bed. Noor thinks she looks gorgeous this way. Her hand travels over the sheets until they find Frankie’s. It’s a calming touch, reassuring them that it might be all right in the end. The dancer heaves a troubled sigh and closes her eyes briefly. Even if she wanted, she couldn’t say no.
Noor suddenly bends forward to dive into Frankie’s arms. The moment they touch, both girls gasp for air. Frankie wraps her arms tightly around Noor’s fragile body and inhales her scent. They fall back on the mattress and remain silent for a while. Noor feels Frankie’s rushing heartbeat against her skin. She tries to memorize the way Frankie’s chest rises and falls with every inhalation. She finds herself mesmerized.
Frankie rejoins the group the next day — puts her bracelet on. Noor fooled everyone in believing the dancer went home sick with some disgusting bacteria, so now the blonde has to come up with plausible stories about throwing up and breaking into sweats. It’s no surprise she pulls it off perfectly.
Weeks pass and concerts approach just as fast as they pass. The girls remain close, but there are invisible boundaries. Frankie no longer spends every night at Noor’s place or hotel room. She choses to go to her own room or drive all the way back home in her old car whenever she has a couple of hours to waste. Aiden and her hang out, but only at sports events and public gatherings. She’s ashamed to look him in the eye, fearing he might read the truth off her face. What a terrible thing she’s done to him — to the marriage of her friends. Not that he’s any better, but still, it doesn’t smooth her own aching. Because deep down, underneath all the layers of friendship and decent behavior, the two of them are having an affair. They pretend to forget about what happened, but flashbacks of their hot sex surprises both girls every day anew. When they meet, they act as friends, but late at night, after saying goodbye, Noor sometimes kisses her on the lips, like it’s a habit. It makes them uncomfortable for a second, and then they pick up their act again.
New to the relationship is tension. Aggressive and frustrated tension. Whenever Kennedy is standing too close to Frankie, or when Aiden is around. Because no matter how much they lie to themselves and each other, the green monster of jealousy has invaded their emotions. And it’s ugly. And painful. And so very, very present.
The singer invites the apple of her eye for lunch before show number fourteen and without thinking things through, Frankie accepts the offer. After getting dressed up nicely, both girls approach a fancy restaurant. The paparazzi aren’t around, which is pleasant for once. Noor’s wearing a loose, white shirt, a tight pair of jeans and black high-heeled boots. The way her walk sets her body in motion stuns Frankie. She’s checking her out shamelessly, even slows down her pace to have a look from the back.
When Noor looks over her shoulder to find out why her friend isn’t next to her, the bewitched Frankie just happens to walk into a display of the restaurant. The blonde snaps out of her infatuation and shakes her head. God, she forgot about the world just for a little while.
“Now that was awkward,” she tells herself dryly.
Noor tries to contain her mocking smile and gestures to hurry up. Secretly, she knows she has this effect on Frankie. Secretly, she loves it.
They eat and talk, they forget about their history for a while. Neither Aiden, nor Kennedy is being mentioned — on purpose. It’s bad for their interaction. Bad for the green monster. After having a massive bite from her salad, some leafs of lettuce fall out of Noor’s mouth, which amuses Frankie.
“You’re disgusting,” she tells her.
Soon after, Noor throws a little piece of tomato her way and Frankie shrieks.
They are laughing about it. Noor throws another piece and flashes her enchanting, teasing smirk. It lasts for another minute, until they mistakingly end up staring at each other with joy. But that look changes into something else, something more meaningful and tender. Frankie shakes her head all frustrated once she frees herself from the enchantment.
“I thought that everything would go back to normal,” she then says, finally opening up her heart about her feelings. “That it’d all be the same. We slept together and I’d get over it and nothing would change. But I was wrong. Everything has changed. Every single freaking detail and emotion and perspective of life has changed. It’s drained with your presence and the memory of you and I hate it. I hate that you have that effect on me.”
Noor can’t respond to that. After the bedroom talk back at Frankie’s, the girls never really talked about it anymore. Maybe because it was easier that way. Frankie gets up from her chair and throws some money on the table before walking out of the restaurant. Noor doesn’t stop her, she doesn’t once say her name out loud. She wipes her mouth clean and heaves a troubled sigh. Frankie said all the right things that makes her heart beat until the point that it might burst from her chest.
Later that night, the concert is about to start. When Noor grabs Frankie’s hand after their paths cross behind the curtains, Frankie pulls herself loose in a frustrated way. Everyone around notices and awkward glances pass from person to person.
“We need to talk.”
“No, we don’t. You need to get up there and sing. That’s what you do, remember: write songs.”
Noor knows she’s just saying things to get out of the conversation that isn’t taking place in the first place. She sighs and puts her hand back on Frankie’s lower arm. The people around them have turned their heads again, but keep peeking from the corner of their eyes. Kennedy is one of them. Obviously, these two have things to work out. If only she knew what it was about.
“Hey, don’t be like that,” Noor whispers, after caressing the skin of her favorite dancer with the tip of her thumb.
But the blonde just sighs and shakes her head. She looks up to Noor and shrugs too defeated to keep standing here, while the show is waiting for them. Thousands of fans are yelling and screaming. They should focus on that. If she keeps staring at Noor a minute longer, that focus will be gone.
“You know, I wrote a song just now. It’s called ‘Stop talking to me’,” she says angrily.
They part as Frankie walks away. Noor closes her eyes for a second, but decides to power through her disappointment once she realizes her entire entourage is staring at her. She claps her hands and clears her voice.
“Okay, let’s do this. Two more minutes.”
She turns around to find David nearby.
“You’re her boss. Isn’t she supposed to listen to you?” he wonders perceptively.
Noor can’t help but smile. Her face is partly covered in pain.
“You’d think so, huh?”
She leaves the backstage area, so she can make her way to the bottom of the stage. Noor’s performance starts there. With an impressive smoke curtain to level her up. The fans all love it.
Kennedy and Frankie are standing next to each other at the left side of the stage, ready to access the concert area in a few minutes. The blonde isn’t saying a word. In fact, she’s mentally preparing herself for the next two hours. The choreography is flashing through her mind, her body is stretching to relax itself. She’s excited — she loves this feeling.
“You just met her and she’s your boss, but that doesn’t seem to stop you from yelling at her,” Kennedy randomly says after a couple of awkward, silent moments together.
“You wouldn’t understand,” Frankie tells her, while staring at one of the colorful outfits she’s wearing tonight.
Kennedy doesn’t like the way Frankie is behaving lately. She’s tensed and grumpy. She’s a completely different person compared to a few months ago.
“You didn’t sleep with her, did you?” Kennedy wonders, reading in between all the facts and observations.
Frankie turns her head and squeezes her eyes smaller: “That’s not funny, Kennedy.”
The music starts and Frankie walks away from the conversation. It’s showtime. Here come the smile.
It was intense and crazy. Not to mention: super fun. The audience actually sheered both girls up. They feel relaxed now, content about the day of work that has passed. Standing in front of thousands of fans always has a way to put things into perspective. They both love being on stage, they ache to perform. It makes them feel like they belong, like they are privileged and special. And all the rest — all the drama, all the trouble — becomes irrelevant.
“I think I’m crazy,” Frankie sighs after silently sneaking into Noor’s dressing room.
The singer looks up and gestures her to come closer. She knows this is an unspoken apology. All the outbursts of anger, the distant behavior, the inner battle about feelings — it brings out the worst in both. Frankie kneels down in front of her and puts her head on the soft skin of Noor’s bare legs. The singer’s wearing a bathrobe, nothing else. Most of her makeup is still there and it turns her body into a glitter bomb. There’s no other way to describe this girl than gorgeous. She’s drop dead gorgeous and Frankie can’t see past that. She heaves the most troubled sigh and forces herself not to focus on Noor’s scent.
“If you’re crazy, I’m crazy.”
The blonde looks up to find soft and meaningful eyes staring down at her.
“That’s how it works,” Noor explains. “You can’t be anything without me in it as well.”
Frankie dares to smile in a soft way. They are messed up. Utterly, completely messed up. What a pair.
“Did you just quote the Notebook?”
Noor shrugs confidently: “I slightly adjusted it.”
“I just feel lost.”
“You’re not lost. You’re with me,” Noor whispers in a soothing way that makes Frankie nearly cry.
They remain silent for a moment, while Noor’s fingers softly caress the blond hairs repeatedly. They find themselves lost into each other’s eyes and nothing about that feels wrong. Frankie looks all sweaty and Noor shouldn’t think it looks so hot.
Kennedy passes in the hallway and stops walking once she notices that the door to Noor’s dressing room is a chink open. She detects her special sexy friend and curiously observes the way the girls interact with each other. Noor is still lovingly playing with the blonde’s hair, as if she were to put her to sleep for the night. The sneaky dancer feels her heartbeat fastening. They were fighting, just a while ago and now this? Anyway, being sly was never her game, so she clears her throat silently and proceeds her walk to the tour bus. Frankie will talk to her about this once she’s ready.
“You hardly ever say my name. Why is that?” Frankie whispers.
She has noticed. Maybe a few times, but that all — Noor always addresses her directly or prefers to use a nickname. She wonders why.
The singer’s caressing fingers abruptly stop and they move to the side of Frankie’s beautiful face.
“Because whenever I say your name, I get tingles running up and down my spine.”
Her words send Frankie’s heart into overdrive. She feels it pounding in her throat and actually gasps for air. She bends forward until her lips grace the skin of the famous singer’s legs. Noor enjoys the sensation.
“I’m scared of you,” Frankie confesses. “I’m scared about how I feel about you. Because I think that there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do for you. I’m scared that there are things I’d do for you that aren’t pretty.”
Noor nods and looks at her with puppy eyes.
“I feel the same way.”
After an exhausting meeting with the musical director of the record company, Noor and David find themselves in front of the bar at Pure’s in downtown New York. Noor asked Frankie to join her on this trip, but the dancer declined. Her heart broke a little when she heard the rejection over the phone. Little does she know it took everything from Frankie to actually contain herself from jumping on the plane to make things right.
“You seem distracted lately,” David says, casually addressing the tension happening behind the scenes. “Is Aiden being an ass again?”
Noor smirks and shakes her head: “For once, he’s being a decent husband, actually. At least that I know of.”
David’s soft eyes express compassion. He likes Aiden a lot, but he disapproves of the way he treats his wife each time he gets drunk or wasted. Because, even more than a client, this lady is his friend. And she’s passionate and so worth it. He orders them both another round of cocktails and pats her on the shoulder.
“Marriage isn’t easy,” he tells her. “I’ve been there two times. There’s always something or someone messing things up. That’s what people do, I guess. We can’t stand perfection, so we orchestrate a diversion.”
After having a large draught of her strawberry mojito, Noor clears her throat briefly.
“You know about the cheating?”
“Aiden?” David asks while looking up at her.
He then nods: “I do. He told me about a week after your birthday party. He looked ashamed.”
Noor scoffs: imagine how she felt.
“Did you ever cheat on your exes?”
“No. I’m not exactly the poster child with my two divorces, but I honestly believe in the concept of marriage. It’s just that I haven’t found the perfect candidate yet, I think. Which is okay: I’m sure she’s around somewhere. And I’ve got time to waste until we meet.”
Noor smiles and likes the way he talks about the perception of love. It’s pure and realistic. Adjusted to the modern world.
“What went wrong with your marriage?” she wonders. “Or marriages …”
He laughs out loud, like she’s asking him the most stupid question in the world and heaves a troubled sigh.
“What wasn’t? I mean, number one was crazy. She was young, hot, blond, former Miss America. Bound to end in a disaster. We were worlds apart when it came to dreams and goals. But she was hot, so …”
Noor understands. It’s okay to be shallow at times.
“The second one, Angela. Well, she was quite special. She was sweet and caring — complete opposite of my first wife. But life got in the way. Her dad got sick, so she moved back home for a while. And work was calling, so I had to stay in town. We grew apart and it’s tragic because we really, really were a team up until that point. Ultimately, her dad died and she came back a different person. Or maybe I changed, I have no idea. It’s just … We weren’t the David and Angela who got married anymore.”
“You’re a good person, David. An annoying little brat from time to time, but a good person.”
He taps the bar and raises a questionable eyebrow: “Look who’s talking, Miss Superstar?
“Do you think Aiden and I will make it? I mean, we’ve only been married for, what, three years and we already can’t keep our shit together. It’s like we’re together, but we each have or separate lives. He has his acting career, which I’m very proud of, and his dubious friends and I tour around the world with my music. When we see each other, we fight or need the guidance of a relationship counselor. Or we throw these big parties to ignore the fact that we can’t spend a night together without turning it into something awkward.”
David inhales the relaxing scent of the bar and enjoys the lack of customers in here. It’s so very quiet and that rarely happens in a place like New York.
“What it is, Noor?”
She looks up to him and holds her breath. Because of course he knows there’s something going on with her. He observes her every move, he knows the way she thinks and the different kinds of attitude she masters. He’s so much more than just her manager.
“What is it that’s gotten you so messed up?”
“Nothing,” she quickly tells him, averting his eyes and staring at the drink in her hands.
Her fingers start to shake and her heartbeat fastens. It’s in there, that secret. And it’s been fighting to get out for months now — aggressively pushing her buttons and invading her every waking minute.
“It’s just that I have this friendship with someone. And we’re best friends and we call each other every day. We need to talk every hour, because if we don’t, we feel miserable and disorientated and broken. And it feels like this epic, soulmate-friendship, you know. Like the one everyone’s dreaming of. That one true person that understands you. Your person. But the thing is … the thing is that I’ve kissed my person. I slept with that person. And ever since, I can’t remember when a friendship felt that way. I can’t see how my friend can make me feel this way. Because I feel like I want to kiss my friend every day, just like I want to call her every day. I feel like I need it. And I …”
By now, she’s breathing in a heavy and panicking way. She said ‘her’. All David does is put his hand on her shoulder. She talked about it in riddles, as if he wouldn’t know exactly who she’s talking about. As if all the signs weren’t there in the first place, thrown around the entourage since the first day Frankie set foot on that stage. Since she walked into Noor’s life.
“And we are so not made for each other for so many obvious reasons. I’m distant and cranky and she’s bubbly and clingy. I go out until morning and she likes movie nights. Her Google history is about the world’s hottest top models, mine’s the healthiest recipes and holiday destinations. She has a terrible taste in music. She can’t cook. She hates my cats. We don’t match. At all.”
“But somehow you do.”
David saw it happening before one of the girls had a clue. He likes Frankie a lot, but he won’t be the one to tell his client. Noor looks up to him with red eyes. Her bottom lip is trembling with fear.
They stop talking for a while, until the waiter reappears from the kitchen area and finds himself surprised with the depressed mood of his customers.
“Can I get you another drink?” David proposes.
Noor rapidly wipes her tears away and nods: “Yes, please?”
Though he tries hard to simply be her friend right now, David can’t hide the part where he’s responsible for her career.
“What is it about her? I mean, I get it. She’s hot, but you’re not — … I mean, you were never into … At least, that’s what I thought.”
Noor shrugs. She has thought about this a million times already and it never makes sense.
“I feel terrible about cheating. I feel horrible, like I’m a bad person. But I’m not. I’m not a bad person. I know that. It’s just, if I don’t … if I don’t kiss her or touch her or hug her, I feel like dying. It’s beyond my control. It’s paralyzing and hypnotizing. I’m having an affair but it feels like I’m cheating on her, not Aiden.”
The manager wiggles his nose for a while and sighs. This conversation took quite the detour.
“Just stay away from her,” he proposes gently.
“I can’t. I tried. But I can’t.”
“And can you stay away from Aiden?”
The silence of the bar is deafening. That’s how long it takes before Noor can come up with an answer that meets the way she’s feeling deep down inside.
“I don’t know.”
David blows up his cheeks and clears his throat once more.
“Not the best answer,” he tells her.
She doesn’t look at him, simply stares into the distance. That’s when David repositions himself on the stool so he’s facing her now. He’s her manager.
“Look, Noor, I can’t tell you what to do. I like to think I can, but for some reason you have killed that illusion a long time ago. I know she makes you happy. I know there’s something about her that makes you feel relaxed and normal again. But the truth is you’re not. See, you aren’t just special. No, you are extraordinary. You have a talent that is unseen before. You walk into the room and everyone stares at you. You open your mouth and people’s emotions go in overdrive. You lead a very extraordinary life, because your gift requires that. And you married Aiden because he meets those standards. He has the exact same life and what you two are sharing is convenient and simple. Sure, there are problems, but the truth is that no marriage is ever easy. If it were, nobody would ever get a divorce. But she’s just a girl from small town. She likes to dance for fun and on her day off, she loves nothing more than work at her sister’s restaurant. If you think about it, you know exactly how this will play out. She has no idea what it means to be with you, to constantly be in your shadow, to walk around town and be worried about every single decision you make because there’s always someone documenting your every move. Aiden does. He has made peace with never being a bigger star than you. He has his flaws, sure. But above all, he’s a guy, feeling really insecure about his part in this marriage. In this world. I’m not saying you should pick him or forgive him for what he’s done, I’m just saying you should think about it rationally. Don’t destroy the idyllic vision of a perfectly happy girl when you don’t have anything to offer that’ll make her happy. Don’t destroy this vision the world has of you if you’re not sure. People worship you. They adore you. You are Noor, their Goddess. Everything will change once this news will get out. Not just for you, but for Frankie as well.”
Noor can’t come up with a single thing to deny or confirm his speech. She just sits there and empties her drink. And wishes for this trip to be over soon.
“There she is, little Miss Gay Mischief.”
Frankie looks up and finds Miguel smiling at her. It’s his special way of telling her he’s missed her. She closes her MoodBook and remembers the words she just wrote down.
‘I was walking. She taught me how to run.
I was learning letters, she taught me to write.
I colored. She taught me to paint.
I was breathing. She taught me to live.’
The guy walks over to her and presses his dark skin against hers. They both heave a relaxing sigh. It’s been too long. She missed this dancing studio, she missed the kids. They are crazy excited now she’s in Noor’s dancing crew. They are dying to learn from her, though it’s the exact same routines she taught them years ago. It’s great to see how driven they are, how carelessly motivated their young bodies and minds are. And then there’s Miguel, forever unconditionally free-spirited. The friends sit down on the wooden floor and remain silent for a second.
“How was it?”
“Great,” Noor calmly replies, too mysterious to contain Miguel’s curiosity.
“What is it?”
“I slept with her.”
Miguel’s jaw drops. Somehow, he shouldn’t be as surprised. He saw this coming from miles apart.
“I knew it,” he ultimately tells her, without any judgement in his voice. “And now what?”
“Now it’s complicated.”
“Well, isn’t that your normal day relationship?”
She pats his shoulders.
“I also have great news for you,” she then changes the subject.
They don’t need to talk about it any more. It’s been said, now he knows and the subject will resurface after a drunk night at the club at some point. That’s how their friendship works. It’s awesome that way. Miguel’s eyes start to sparkle. He likes surprises — especially when they carry good news. When Frankie uses the word ‘great’ it must mean something. She wouldn’t work him up over nothing.
“What is it? Tell me. Tell me. Tell me.”
Frankie smiles mysteriously and claps her hands all excited.
“We’re one dancer short for next month’s tour. West coast mini trip that’ll last a couple of weeks. Guess who Noor had in mind?”
Miguel’s brown eyes are almost tearing up. He mouths the word ‘me’ and puts his index finger on his mouth. Frankie smiles and nods overly excited. She knew he’d love the offer.
“I already checked with Jennifer and Rod, the studio will be closed for three weeks anyway, so it’s fine for you to leave. Besides, they didn’t want you to miss out on a great opportunity.”
Miguel’s dramatically fighting back tears right now, while waving both hands in front of his face.
“I am so happy right now,” he whispers with a shaky voice.
“Of course you are. And I am very happy you’ll be there to keep me from making a bad situation even worse.”
But Miguel snaps out of his excitement and shakes his head in a determinate way: “Frankie, you have a natural skill for making bad situations even worse. Even I can’t stop you from that.”
She fakes a vicious smile and slaps his thigh. This is going to be fun.