Chapter Ten — Breakfast
The look in her eyes could convince Noor of everything. The girls get dressed into their disgusting outfits again and call a cab. Frankie uses the towel to keep the cut from bleeding excessively while directing her precious superstar out of the hotel room. The driver takes them to a nearby town, where little colorful houses rise from the ground every other street.
“Where are we?” Noor wonders, more sober than she has been all evening.
The bleeding must have shocked her back into reality. By now, her hand is starting to hurt and sting. She’s staring at the blood-soaked towel without blinking. It’s her guitar hand. Her guitar hand can’t get messed up. She puts her head on Frankie’s shoulder and heaves a moaning sigh.
The taxi stops in front of a green wooden house after a twenty minute drive. They pay the guy, get out and Frankie walks straight to the front door to ring the bell. It’s after midnight by now and Noor has no idea where Frankie took her. The door opens after a couple of seconds and a tired-looking woman immediately flashes a welcoming smile.
The voice reminds Noor of Frankie’s. Their faces even look the same. Frankie turns around and entwines their fingers.
“Noor, this is my mom. Mom, this is Noor.”
The woman has curly blonde hair and blue eyes. She reaches out her hand as soon as she sees the blood dripping down the fragile girl’s arm.
“Good evening, sweetheart. Did you hurt yourself? Come in, I’ll take care of it.”
It’s the first time in a long while that someone new treated her as an actual person instead of a superstar. They enter the house and Noor is just utterly confused. When Frankie’s mom disappears in a nearby room to grab some medical equipment, the singer’s eyes beg for an explanation.
“She’s a nurse. No cameras here.”
Frankie thought it through. No one will ever know what happened. Noor’s thankful for that. The adorable woman returns with a little box in her hand and sits down at the dinner table. She’s suggesting Noor should follow her lead. While she glues the girl up — literally, she’s holding a tube that glues the wound back together — she lets the singer in on her admiration for her work and music. Noor immediately starts blushing.
“You know that Frankie loves working for you, right? She’s always talking about you.”
Now it’s Frankie’s turn to blush.
“Okay, mom, that’s enough,” she chuckles while sitting down next to her dear friend and averting her eyes with shame.
“I’m always talking about her as well,” Noor admits, while reaching for her friend’s hand under the table.
The blonde can’t help but glance at her beauty from the corner of her eyes. A very observant mom is registering the action. They all focus on the miracle work the lady’s performing. In a matter of minutes, Noor’s hand looks clean and healthy again. Cotton pads with blood color the table, but that’s okay.
“Just keep the bandage on for a few days. It’ll be all right.”
Frankie almost looks nostalgic as she heaves a relieved sigh.
“Mom used to patch us up all the time. Although we’re four girls, we used to behave like boys.”
Her mom frowns and growls: “Yes. Especially you and June, always climbing trees and acting all dangerous.”
“You and June were close as children?” Noor wonders while softly caressing the white bandage around her hand.
Frankie nods and shrugs short after: “We were. We still are, just — in a different way.”
The front door swipes open and Frankie’s dad makes his appearance. He’s a skinny guy with dark hair and brown eyes. Frankie looks nothing like him, but suddenly, Noor finds the resemblance to June. He’s warm and welcoming too, but in a masculine way. After ten minutes, he actually offers the superstar a beer. She kindly declines and goes for a glass of water. Frankie’s mom suggests the girls stay the night since there are enough bedrooms and quickly returns with fresh towels and pajamas from when Frankie was younger. The family reunion lasts another hour, where Frankie’s parents do nothing but ask Noor questions about how their daughter is performing at work. The singer has nothing but good words for them. She goes on and on about how she enlightens the spirit of the group, how her moves are enchanting and how she couldn’t imagine life without her best friend anymore. Every single time they sneak a loving peek at each other, Frankie’s mom suppresses an adoring smile. Mom and dad leave the room to clean up and as Frankie turns around, she finds Noor staring into the distance. At photographs, at drawings and letters.
“What is it? Does it hurt?”
Noor lowers her look and finds her hand, but it’s fine. That painkiller she got a minute ago is working.
“It’s just nice,” she explains in a low voice. “I always forget what it feels like, having a family.”
Frankie looks back at the kitchen door and nods: ”Yeah, it ’s nice. But it gets crazy once all my sisters are here. Like, crazy-crazy.”
Noor smiles and puts her head on Frankie’s shoulder.
“I can imagine that,” she whispers while yawning. “Let’s go to bed.”
They get up and put their chairs back in place. At the same time, Frankie’s mom reappears.
“Off to bed? We’re turning in as well. Will you girls stay for breakfast tomorrow? It’ll be for your birthday.”
Noor nods and thanks the lady in advance. When Frankie’s dad walks into the room, shirt already yanked out of his pants, he calls it a night. Frankie kisses his cheek and her friend does the same out of politeness. The lady of the house holds them both in a tight embrace before disappearing a minute later.
Once in the childhood bedroom, the girls start to giggle over the nostalgia. There are posters everywhere, though the room seems divided in two parts.
“This was my half. That one’s Ellie’s.”
Frankie points at the one with fluffy animals, the pink bed sheets and beach boys posters. Noor smirks: it looks exactly like hers when she was little. At Frankie’s side, she finds sports attributes and dancing trophies. Black sheets. Figures …
The girls put on their pajamas and seem to have forgotten about what almost happened a few hours ago at the hotel room. It might be wise not to mention it for now. After Frankie crawled under her warm, thick blanket, she turns around to find a confused Noor in the middle of the room, staring at her.
“I can’t sleep,” Noor whispers while rubbing her injured hand.
She’s looking around the room as if she’s confused and scared.
“You want to sleep here?” the dancer hesitantly wonders.
Maybe she shouldn’t have asked. It’s a bad idea. Plus, the bed’s too small.
“I don’t know. I can’t sleep in the same bed with you because I know something might happen.”
Frankie smirks. That’s the understatement of the year. She sighs.
“Well, you have Ellie’s bed.”
“I know, it’s just … I’m not sure I want to do that.”
The blonde frowns and clears her throat. Her friend is acting weird. Even more than ever.
“Then sleep on the couch.”
She did a lot when she was younger. It’s a great couch.
But Noor shakes her head slowly: “I don’t want to sleep on the couch.”
“So, you do want to sleep with me?”
The circle goes full round.
“Yes,” Noor admits. “But I shouldn’t.”
A shaky voice fails to sound convincing: “No, you shouldn’t.”
Noor puts down her phone and walks over to Ellie’s old bed. She hides under the sheets and turns her head toward the wall, not facing Frankie for once. Minutes pass and nothing is being said anymore. Frankie drifts off and her body falls into a sleep-induced coma. But then something wakes her up again. When she turns her head briefly, she finds Noor shifting under the sheets behind her. She must have snuck up on her just now and crawled into the same bed. Her warm hands are being put on the tiny waist in front of her, while her feet search for contact at the bottom of the bed. She needs to be close. She needs to feel her while she can.
“Please, Frankie, don’t try to kiss me,” she begs with a voice that displays a wide range of emotions and anxiety. “I won’t be able to stop myself once you kiss me.”
Her warm breaths cause goosebumps on Frankie’s neck.
She just swallows: “Okay.”
Noor traces circles on her bare arm, then they slide around her waist, to the piece of skin sneaking from underneath her shirt. Her legs go up and down, along Frankie’s bare thighs. They silently pant — which is painfully loud in a dark room. They hug, and it’s as far as they can allow themselves to go. Noor traces Frankie’s entire shape. From her shoulders, over her arms, over her tummy and her hips to the top of her knees. It’s the most loving and erotic thing the dancer ever experienced. Heated lips place a desiring kiss on the pale skin, but Frankie holds on to her promise to not kiss her back. After that, Noor buries her head in her back and sighs.
“Good night, Frankie.”
She said her name. For the first time in a while, she actually said her name. The blonde puffs the frustration away and calms herself down before answering.
“Good night, Noor.”
An hour passes and this time, she can’t relax enough to fall asleep again. Noor’s lying next to her, too close and too intimate. Her body’s pressed up against her back and it feels like a promise. She turns around, quietly and slow, so it won’t wake her up. Two of her fingers wipe back some lost hairs that fell down Noor’s perfect face. She looks adorable while she’s asleep.
“You may want to be with him,” a soft voice whispers through the night. “You may wake up and fall asleep next to him whenever I’m not around. You may choose to love him more than you love me. But remember: if you ever need me, I’ll come running. And he’ll never be faster than me.”
She turns her head back and closes her eyes. A troubled sigh leaves her lungs and at last, her body accepts defeat. It’s worn out and tired. It drifts away once more. That’s when Noor opens her eyes secretively. She smiles the most heartbreaking smile ever.
Morning madness takes over the Morris’ house. All the daughters reunite after mom called them up. It’s Sunday and Sunday usually translates into family day — minus the boyfriends. Except for Frankie, who’s usually busy doing whatever it is to avoid these kind of events. But it’s Frankie’s special birthday breakfast. It’s mandatory. After Noor’s been enthusiastically introduced into the household and all the sisters take a turn at fangirling, they sit down at the massive dinner table to enjoy a delicious breakfast. Noor eats some fruit and freshly baked pancakes and Frankie can’t help but smile, because she’s too ashamed to ask for a big bowl of coffee instead. The dancer offered, but Noor insists she’ll eat some food instead.
“What happened to your hand?” Ellie wonders.
Noor looks down at the bandage and turns red instantly. That’s when Frankie starts to laugh.
“We went skateboarding at the Memorial Pool, broke through the fence, climbed down that shaky ladder, checked into a hotel to have a party and just as she’s about to get into bed, she cuts her hand at her cocktail glass.”
Her family chuckles and Noor thinks it’s adorable. She turned it into a funny thing, thank God. When out of nowhere, Frankie’s mom suggests that Noor should entertain them with a song after breakfast, Frankie interrupts her.
“Mom, come on. She’s here as a guest. Don’t ask her that.”
It seems rude to her. But Noor doesn’t mind. She puts her hand on the blonde’s and shushes her.
Ellie, Cece and June turn their eyes at the affectionate gesture. They’ve been examining the interaction of these two ladies from the second they walked in.
“Of course Noor’s a guest. She walked into this house in the middle of the night, slept in one of my children’s beds, had breakfast with us at our family table — all after I professionally and discretely fixed her hand. She wouldn’t mind singing a little song later, would she?” mommy Morris explains in a very empowering way.
Everyone starts to smile like crazy, while Noor just turns her head to her friend.
“Is your mom emotionally blackmailing me right now?” she asks with joy lighting up her face.
Frankie briefly nods: “She does that a lot. And she’s not sorry.”
When they both face the mom, she nods: “Not sorry.”
Noor can’t help but love this moment. This insane, super busy collusion of togetherness and carefree interaction. Even Frankie seems to enjoy herself. A buzzing phone makes the table vibrate. It’s Noor’s. It has been doing so for a half an hour. First it was David — Noor declined. Then her publicist tried to get a hang of her — she declined again. When David called a second time, she texted him she was in the middle of an important meeting and Frankie smiled as Noor showed her the words on her screen. Now, it’s Aiden’s name that’s lighting up. The girls’ careless smiles falter and after an awkward stare at each other, Noor excuses herself from the group to walk into the backyard, wearing nothing but Frankie’s pajama pants and an oversized T-shirt.
“She’s a pretty girl,” the mother of the family speaks up as Frankie watches her every move through the window. “And she’s very lovely.”
The sisters aim their view at that one person that should feel addressed. The blonde looks up and shyly smiles, without saying a word.
“Who’s on the phone?” June asks, with enough snark in her voice to immediately make Frankie’s blood boil.
“It’s Aiden. I think he just got back from Europe.”
Her dad delivers the words she doesn’t want to hear: “They make such a cute couple. Always parading down the red carpets and looking all beautiful. It’s nice to see that in this day and age, a young, happily married couple.”
From a distance, Frankie notices the painful look on Noor’s face as she’s ending the call. Her body doesn’t move, it just stays frozen to the spot in the backyard. One hand slips in front of her eyes to block everything out. Noor’s struggling, that much is obvious. It might be guilt, or confusion. Frankie gets up from her chair and heaves a troubled sigh before turning to her father.
“It is,” she says.
She walks through the back door and finds Noor squeezing the phone in her hand.
The singer turns around and smiles.
“That was Aiden,” she says as if it wasn’t obvious yet.
Frankie nods and walks over to the wooden bench on her left side to sit down and rub her hands. It’s cold outside. Too cold to just be wearing pajamas. Noor follows her lead and sits down next to her. They keep their distance, like a normal friendship would require.
“What did he say?”
“He told me to say hi to you. He flew back in this morning. He went home and didn’t find me.”
“What did you tell him?”
They are randomly discussing it. Because reading too much into it would cause trouble.
“I told him I was with you, which actually cheered him up. He’s looking forward to seeing you again and hang out next weekend. Plus, he’s picking me up in an hour.”
Noor lowers her head and sharply inhales through her nose.
“I’m such a cunt.”
Frankie wants to comfort her, but decides not to. She reads the inscription of her bracelet.
“Remember when I told you that I’ve been in love once? That I thought I’ve been in love,” she says.
Noor looks up to her and, instantly, the lake house resurfaces in her mind.
“She was the most beautiful woman I’d ever met,” Frankie elaborates. “She was smart, funny, sophisticated and cute. But she had a boyfriend.”
The resemblance is striking, even the singer picks up on it. Frankie stares at the fence that’s separating the yard from the neighbor’s. Thinking about the past makes her sad — especially that part.
“Oh. That’s why it didn’t work out?” Noor wonders, afraid to imagine a life where Frankie and her will be apart forever.
“It worked for a second. She thought she had it worked out. But the second she picked me over him, she changed her mind.”
The singer’s heart drops the second she hears those words and her hands go searching for the lean fingers of her precious friend.
They go up until they are cupping warm cheeks. Frankie’s finally facing her.
“She kept me going for a few months, went back and forth. The guy came crying on my shoulder a few times, said he didn’t understand. I told him I couldn’t explain. I didn’t. Just when I thought we’d make it, when she could let go of her past and start this epically great life with me, she went back to him and she never looked back again.”
Frankie swallows deeply and closes her eyes so she can turn away from Noor’s touch.
“She broke my heart. She broke me. I promised to never do that again. To the guy and to myself. And look at me, being a fool a second time.”
“This is different.”
“Yeah, this is a marriage. It’s even worse.”
The dark-haired goddess shakes her head all confused and scared: “But Frankie —“
“No, just — trust me. You don’t want this. You want a husband and a traditional family. They all want that,” Frankie entrusts her.
”I’m not them, okay?”
Noor’s right about that. Everyone knows that. Frankie gets up and turns her sad eyes at the woman she loves. If Noor would do it — if she’d leave Aiden and choose her, everything would change. Her entire world would change. For no reason, people will hate her. She’ll be in the public eye forever, known as that gay singer. Conservative people will protest against her shows in their little town. They’ll turn their back on her just because she loves a girl. Because she followed her heart instead of the visionary ideas of her talented manager. She sighs.
”No, you are extraordinary, Noor. For you, I’ll keep my promise. I can’t destroy your marriage or your career. I refuse to.”
And in that second, Frankie walks away.
Noor leaves as soon as an impressive Ferrari parks in the front yard. It’s Aiden, living up to his promise. She didn’t really say goodbye to Frankie. She kissed all the sisters on the cheek and nearly bowed for the kindness mom and dad Morris showed her. But that small, athletic blonde barely got a hug — a soft whisper about a nearby encounter. Frankie entrusted her with the knowledge that it was her best birthday ever. It’s the truth.
The door closes and Frankie’s mom heaves a worried sigh as she walks away from her kids.
“Damn, she forgot to sing that song,” they hear her mumble.
“What about you? How are you getting back home?” June says in a snarky way, clearly set to piss Frankie off.
The blonde shrugs and fakes a smile.
“My car’s at the pool.”
“How are you getting back to the pool?”
“Well, since you’re clearly not offering me a ride, I’ll just take a taxi.”
“Can’t. Have plans for my business.”
The word sounds so snobby.
Cece’s been thinking things through: “Don’t you need anything from that hotel room?”
“I put all my stuff in my car.”
And the circle goes full round. The youngest of them all sits down in the couch in the next door room and speaks up so her sisters will head her way.
“What the hell just happened, Frankie? Breakfast was amazing. I could literally see how she loved being here and suddenly, she’s gone and you two seem to have had a fight.”
Frankie sits down next to her and shakes her head. If even Ellie’s confused about it, imagine what she’s feeling right now. Her head’s about to explode from all the debating going on inside of it. June scoffs loudly and takes a seat across from them. Cece follows her lead.
“I knew shit was about to go South. I knew it from that first night at the concert. Didn’t I tell you so?”
“Can it, June,” Frankie growls annoyed.
“Fine,” the brunette says while throwing her hands up in the air.
Cece looks at her with a skeptic eye and reminds herself why the two of them hardly ever get along. They are so different, such opposites. June’s judgmental and dominant. Frankie’s soft and compassionate.
“Talk to us. What happened? I thought you wouldn’t even work with her anymore.”
“I wasn’t supposed to. But she came back after that night and apologized.”
Ellie nods: “June told us.”
They look around and find the brown-haired girl checking out her nails, as if she’s not interested in the story at all. Frankie just rolls her eyes.
“Everything went great. Until yesterday. She showed up for my birthday and promised me things. I took her to the pool and we had so much fun. Back at the hotel, things escalated, but then she cut her hand and we came here.”
Cece picks up on the story: “And then her husband called.”
The blond dancer has a stoic face as she keeps staring at the same spot on the coffee table. She inhales sharply and closes her eyes for a while.
“I told her about Gwyneth.”
All of the sisters look up. They know that story too well. It kept Frankie crying uncontrollably for days. Even June felt sorry for her back then. Gwyneth was Greg’s girlfriend. And Greg was a childhood friend. They all used to hang out all the time. Until the little lesbian romance between Gwyneth and Frankie popped up and ended in a tragedy.
“I told her it wasn’t fair to Aiden — or at least I implied it. I walked away.”
Ellie rubs her upper leg and sighs with compassion, while June suddenly gets up and stares at the screen of her phone.
“You know what would be great. If there were contacts that could make you see in black and white. I’d buy those,” she utters as if she’d been thinking about it for a while.
The other three just stare at her confusingly. Cece pulls her sleeve and makes her younger sister look her way.
“Okay, either say something useful. Or go sit in another room,” she growls.
“What?” June scoffs, while running her fingers over the keyboard of her phone.
Frankie smiles because the childish behavior might have hit a low point.
“You have the attention span of a goldfish,” Ellie concludes.
The girls talk for another hour and comfort Frankie in the best way they can. Except for June, who’s behaving like the smartypants that predicted this chain of events. The girl actually refrains from talking all that time and it’s becoming painfully aware.
“I don’t know, guys. When I’m with her — alone that is — she’s so happy and peaceful and genuinely carefree. I mean, look at how she was this morning, with us. And when she’s at home, she just sits in the couch and hangs out with June and I. Right, June?”
June doesn’t look up.
“And then we had this fight and I quit and she came back for me. She always comes back for me. She knows exactly where I live, she knows where I work. She loves my family.”
Frankie turns around and faces her housemate with an angry face: “Even you.”
Still, June’s eyes are attached to her phone, like she couldn’t even be bothered. Cece is getting upset about the behavior and slaps her thigh a bit too violently.
“Auwtch!” June shrieks.
“Why aren’t you talking to me?” Frankie demands to know.
The restaurant owner rolls her eyes dramatically and is getting tired of this compassionate family gathering: “Because ninety-nine percent of what I want to say to you right now is offensive and rude. So I rather shut up.”
“Oh fuck off, June,” Frankie growls.
“What? You don’t want my opinion on this.”
“You know, there’s an old Japanese myth that says that if you shut the fuck up, you will be silent,” Ellie whispers, which earns her a death glare.
June sits up straight and puts down the phone as if she has something important to say. After that, she gets up and flattens her shirt.
“Look, I told you. I told you from the start. You didn’t want to hear it back then, so why say it now?”
“Fuck you,” Frankie scolds at her again. “The world doesn’t revolve around you, okay? I can’t help how I feel. I can’t make it stop. Trust me, I tried!”
“You didn’t try, you fucked up little piece of shit. You are such a pathetic self-loathing sponge. You have zero resistance, zero self control. You love this. You love to chase the impossible straight girls and you secretly love that you end up having your heart broken. Because falling in love with a normal person, one that might actually be available and realistic is just too fucking boring for you. Who the hell falls in love with a married, heterosexual superstar anyway?”
Frankie rises from the couch and it takes her less than a second to circle around the coffee table and violently shove her sister back a whole three steps. This has never happened before. Frankie has allowed her to shit on her head for years and never once dared to step up. But now she has reached her boiling point and her other sisters are just amazed by the twist in her behavior. They step in just as June and Frankie have started running around in circles — June afraid that her little sister might smack the living shit out of her with those wild eyes and frustrated feelings — Frankie trying to make sure she does. Ellie pulls back the blonde, while Cece firmly takes a hold of the brunette’s upper arm.
“Sit down, both of you,” she tells them dominantly.
They listen and ignore each other again. Ellie understands that this situation can’t be easy. She puts her hand lovingly on the back of Frankie’s shirt and sighs.
“What are you going to do? You should quit. You should try to get some distance.”
Frankie kneads her own hair and bends forward: “I am trying to tell myself that I’m better off having her as a friend.”
Cece, still holding onto June’s arm just in case someone might explode again, turns her head: “Is it working?”
The dancer faces her and flashes teary eyes and a sad, heartbreaking pout.
“Then stay away from her,” Ellie suggests calmly in the best way she can. “Maybe it’ll take away the feelings. Maybe it’ll make you see her in another light and you’ll stop wanting to be with her. Love ultimately fades out.”
But Frankie disagrees. She folds her hands and remembers yesterday, when she realized just how happy Noor made her by just being with her and acting silly.
“I don’t just want to be with her because I’m in love with her. I want to be with her because she’s also my best friend. Every time I’m with her, I’m having the time of my life. We laugh until our tummies tickle, we dance on top of tables until our feet hurt, we share judgmental looks no other person on this earth will ever understand and that’s the greatest feeling someone could ever give another person. When I ramble and freak out, she doesn’t need to ask twice, she immediately understands. I feel infinity loved when she kisses me. I become infinitely better when she stands near me. I have infinite fun with her. I think about her all the time, even though I tell myself not to.”
Ellie is impressed. The words Frankie just told her mean nothing to her in a way that she never experienced that feeling before. Suddenly, she feels jealous.
“Is it easy, forcing yourself not to think of her all the time?”
Frankie looks at her little sister and shrugs: ”As simple as quantum physics.”
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