Chapter Thirteen — The Meaning of A Dream
Frankie swallows and remembers how a few minutes ago, her entire being was absorbed by words and emotions. How she went on this rollercoaster by hearing notes and music. How her body felt like exploding from love and appreciation — from caring and frustration. From wanting her too much. She’s been in denial for months — telling herself it wasn’t worth it. Telling herself she’s not missing Noor that much. But it’s the biggest lie in the history of lies. Her body felt like dancing again. Just for a second, for a tiny bit. It heard the words and felt like moving. And that hasn’t happened in months. Not since Miguel died. She hates how Noor’s the only one capable of changing her mind. Changing her painful, bruised and fragile inside.
You said you’d never write a song about me. But it’s about me, isn’t it? The song’s …”
“A Promise,” Noor whispers and the thrill of her breathing causes goosebumps to take over Frankie’s entire skin. “It’s about me, really. About me loving you so very much. How I miss you when you’re not near. How I dream about you at night. How I want you. How I want to give you every single thing you deserve. How I want you to be near me all the time and I don’t know how to do that without hurting anyone.”
Frankie is crying now. Warm tears burn her skin on their way down and Noor is kissing them away. But the lips are burning too. They are burning every inch of skin of her face. The singer is closing in on her target now, slowly moving down a bit with every soft touch of her mouth. She’s about to kiss her. The tension’s there, the opportunity is there. Frankie’s willing and this room is a bittersweet mixture of perfect memories and craving desire. The blonde digs her nails in the softness of the bathrobe and pulls Noor closer, obviously caving in. Their heartbeats align, their breathing fastens. Every fiber in her body is attracted to this superstar and it feels so normal that at times, she forgets to question her morality. Her friendship with Aiden. Her own promise. Everything at risk.
Noor breaks the inevitable tension by suddenly kissing her hard and Frankie kisses her back. She gasps for air as the memory of their connection turns into reality. For twenty-six days they haven’t talked or texted or seen each other in real life. But unlike last time, these seemed eternal, as a heartbreaking goodbye. Like they’d parted and they’d never see each other again. Noor didn’t even expect Frankie to actually show up at the concert. Thank God for Ellie.
Noor puts both hands on Frankie’s cheeks and pushes her back up against the door, which shuts with a slam. The panting blonde needs a second to breathe, and instinctively, her fingers slip under the thick fabric of the bathrobe. They discover the softness of Noor’s tanned skin. They trail up until they caress the hem of her lace panties and cross her perfect six pack. She’s been working out, it shows. When her curious fingers reach the perky, round and soft breasts, Noor moans loudly in her mouth and shivers completely take Frankie away from this world. They kiss and kiss and keep kissing until Noor can’t hold it anymore and suggestively starts thrusting her core up against Frankie’s. Stars dazzle in front of their closed eyes and the taste of each other is divine.
“I miss you,” Noor pants while the tasty, smudging sounds of their heated kisses interrupts. “I want you. I love you.”
Frankie hears the words and abruptly stops the making out. She’s out of breath and completely taken over by desire, but this is the first time Noor actually said those words to her. She knew she felt the same way, but nothing ever came close to proclaiming them out loud.
Noor moves back in to kiss her softly and tenderly and the entire act is so pure and filled with utter love that Frankie’s heart nearly explodes from happiness.
“I love you. I have always loved you.”
Frankie nods, but the revelation made her sober up somehow. She still enjoys the kiss, the connection, the feeling up. It’s everything she’s ever wanted. But she also remembers the song and the lack of confidence Noor has about their dubious relationship. It’s somehow toxic and forbidden. Forbidden things never end well.
Noor notices the change and looks up, her lips swollen from determinately sucking on Frankie’s skin. Her eyes are screaming sexual expletives and Frankie reads every single one of them in her irises.
“What is it? Did I freak you out?”
“We shouldn’t be doing this, Noor. This is exactly why I didn’t want to come.”
None of them are moving. They can’t, because it scares both girls to death to loose this connection.
“Do you still love me?”
“That doesn’t matter.”
Noor grabs the hem of Frankie’s shirt and flashes her eyes again. She’s getting angry now, but just because she’s trying to make a point. She wants Frankie to listen. She wants to figure this out. Because not seeing her again for so long might actually kill her.
“It freaking matters, okay,” she presses.
They both sigh and fall back into a soft and caring tone.
“Because if you tell me you love me, I might consider breaking up with him.”
Except it’s not a breakup. It’d be a divorce. A very public, painful and expensive divorce. She’d be leaving one of the most charming and beloved actors in Hollywood for an unknown dancer girl. She’d be trashed and haunted for months. Frankie’ll be the bag guy. Noor’s career could be over.
“But you told me … That song —” Frankie stutters.
Her mind is going crazy. Then she remembers that talk in the car. His eyes as he revealed his knowledge about their illicit affair.
“He’s my friend,” she tells her. “I could never do that to him.”
But Noor doesn’t understand.
“Why not? It’s simple: I miss the best thing about my life. And that is you.”
“You’re married. That’s a promise to God.”
“Making a promise to God means nothing if that means I can’t be with you,” Noor explains with tears in her eyes.
She means it. There’s no worse feeling in the world than missing Frankie. If only she could see that — experience it for once, just a day. She’d understand.
“It’s not that easy,” Frankie whispers and she puts her forehead back against Noor’s.
She sighs. God, when will Noor ever understand? The complete picture? The reality. Superstars don’t understand reality.
“Because this isn’t right. I can’t break up a marriage. I can’t ask you to do that for me. I’m not worth it, Noor.”
Noor puts two fingers of her left hand on the bare skin above Frankie’s cleavage. She softly traces them up and down, drawing circles and memories.
“You realize what’s going on between us, right? That this isn’t just a … You once told me I had to make a choice. Now I do. I want you.”
“You don’t want me,” Frankie tells her as she turns her head away and painfully sighs.
She’s a mess. Somehow, she’s always been a mess. In every year of her life. In every relationship she’s ever had. In every job and every friendship.
“No, I mean, you wouldn’t want me. I’m a terrible girlfriend. You’re hitting a low in your marriage and I’m nearby. It’s convenient and easy but I’m not part of your world.”
She’s not a celebrity. She hates cameras and paparazzi. She hates to get stalked on her way to McDonald’s or a supermarket. It’d consume her. It’d completely drive her nuts.
Noor leads her fingers up and forces that small chin to turn back her way: “You are my world.”
They pause the conversation and it seems to be over. Except it isn’t but none of them has words to carry on. Noor lets go of her girl and steps back, scanning the room for inspiration.
“Look, every week again, I wanted to come to your place and talk about it. About us. Because if I started talking about it, I’d be ready to process. And then I got here and I felt the entire weight of the earth drop down on me. And I learned that I wasn’t ready. So I turned around and went back home. At some point, I didn’t think I’d ever be ready. So I shut up — and I waited another week. I was patient enough to await that day. I was just hoping that one week, it’d be the right one.”
“The right one for what?” Frankie wonders.
Noor stares at her and shrugs, like an innocent child does when she can’t explain things anymore.
“To tell you I love you.”
“It’s a strong word,” Frankie notices.
“Well, I’m a songwriter,” Noor smiles. “I happen to be great with vocabulary.”
But that explanation is too real, too understandable to just ignore. Frankie recognizes every word, every feeling it brings along. She’s lost too, scared, decomposed.
“Even if you are sure — even if you’re ready to leave this all behind and be with me — I’m not,” she tells her perfect superstar. “I’m broken, Noor. I am indescribably messed up right now. This thing with Miguel, it tore me apart and I’m still trying to find back the pieces. I’m a paper house right now and if you’d be with me, with the sight of just a slightest breeze, I’d be gone. I’m not ready.”
She grasps onto Noor’s hand and starts to cry almost immediately.
“And I want to be ready, but I’m not. And you don’t deserve that. We’re both not in this right now. And we need to be if we want to survive what’s waiting for us.”
Every relationship in her life right now is complicated. Even the one with Kennedy, which isn’t even a relationship. So technically, she’s even screwing up her non-relationships. It takes time to get better. It takes a lot and maybe it’s too much to also be giving something to Noor as well. Because Noor deserves the very best. The absolute best. And that’s just something that isn’t inside of Frankie at this moment.
She hides her face and tears into the embrace of her beloved Noor and as her shoulders shock up and down from crying, she starts shaking her head.
“I am in love with you. I am desperately in love with you. But you’re with Aiden. And I’ve come to realize that sometimes, it’s okay to let things go. Because this has been one hell of a long fight — a war really — and … I am so tired. The last two years have been so exhausting and I don’t want to do this anymore. It’s okay if you stay with him. And it’s okay that I don’t want to fight anymore. Sometimes love just sucks. Sometimes you don’t win.”
Noor tries to interrupt her: “But, Frankie …”
“Look — he’s my friend,” Frankie tells her as she’s backing away and wiping her face clean with her sleeve. “I’ve been through break ups and flings and faux-being in loves. And every girl has ever left. But he’s actually a good friend to me.”
Noor feels insulted.
“And what am I?”
A moment of silence glorifies the room. Frankie can’t even put it into words.
“The love of my life. And his.”
It sounds horrifyingly raw and hurt. She leans toward the face of the singer and kisses her softly on the cheeks. It’s a little bit teasing and caring, but so emotional and loving at the same time. Her eyes briefly stare at those pink, pouty lips, like she’s about to kiss her. It’d just take a brief movement, a silent leaning in and they’d be joint. But she doesn’t and her raging hormones calm down again. Noor gasps for air as the sensation washes away from her face. If she would’ve kissed her harder, or moved to her mouth, or looked at her a second longer, Noor would’ve jumped her and fucked her brains out until morning. But Frankie didn’t. She politely released her loving kiss on her cheek and walked away. Noor was left completely turned on and confused. For a second, she forgot her own name.
At night, Frankie dreams about Miguel for the first time in a while. They are sitting in a bar, enjoying a beer — though Frankie doesn’t really like the taste of beer. But it’s a dream and a lot of things are possible in dreams. There’s music playing in the background. The counter smells like old drinks and dirty cloths. The place is empty, except for the two of them. Miguel looks fine — unharmed. Above all, he seems happy.
“I’ve missed you,” Frankie tells him, a lot happier than she should be.
“I’ve missed you too.”
His smile is soft and casual, as if they just saw each other yesterday. He asks about her family, she says she hasn’t seen them in a while. He asks about the dancing studio, she tells him she hasn’t attended the classes in months. He asks her about touring and Noor. She tells him that’s all in the past. That’s when he puts his beer down and frowns.
“My God, what are you doing?”
She looks up, a bit confused, and awkwardly smirks: “What do you mean?”
“Frankie, this isn’t you. You’re not dancing, you’re not teaching, you’re not living.”
“I am hurting,” she explains.
“Too. Mostly. But there are other things.”
She plays around with the bottle in her hand. The music changes. It’s old and jazzy. She likes the beat.
“Noor?” he wonders.
His dark skin makes her wonder if she can touch it, even if it’s just a dream. She just nods and subsequently shrugs.
“I can’t do it, Miguel. Not now. Maybe not ever.”
He hears the hurt in her voice. The way this love affair has dragged her out empty. How it left her wounded and scared for life.
“Remember what you wrote in that MoodBook of yours once? That line about the scars?”
For a second, Frankie wonders how he’d know the contents of her MoodBook. But then again, this is a dream and dreams don’t make sense.
“Yes, we’ve hurt each other. Maybe a lot. But every scar on my heart is a memory of a time that I was with you. And those scars are sacred to me,” she quotes.
She smiles. The words were written the first time the girls parted. After the cut in Noor’s hand. After that night in the hotel. After breakfast with her parents.
Miguel nods and smiles, as if he has read the quote a million times before.
“The thing about Noor is … she took me to museums. She took me to the wildest parties. She had me end up in a pool party with Beyonce and Taylor Swift one night and kissed me until I saw fireworks until the next day. She destroyed me. You know how they always say that they suddenly understand why storms are named after people? I do now. And Noor, well, that sounds like some kind of Greek goddess, right?”
Miguel shakes his head, confused about the level of depression his best friend expresses. He has never found that kind of love. He never will. But he has seen how Noor and Frankie looked at each other, when they thought no one was watching. He saw the sparks and undefinable love they shared.
“You’ll wake up in a few hours, Frankie. Because — you know — this is a dream.”
They both chuckle and put their beers together.
“But when you do, please get out of bed. I’m fine. I might not be where you want me to be. I may be gone and I’ll never return. But I’m with you.”
He puts his hand on his heart before continuing: “I’ll always be with you. We’ve been inseparable since kindergarten and that’ll never change. But instead of moping and drinking all day, please honor that connection we shared. You love to dance, even though you might not remember it anymore. You love to teach kids. Even more, you are great at it. Allow yourself to be loved, because I’ll never know how that feels like. Just … Do something.”
He gets up and throws a hundred dollar bill on the bar. Not that Miguel ever carried around so much money or that a couple of beers cost that much.
“Do something,” he whispers in her ear before kissing her cheek like he used to do whenever he got excited.
The touch of his lips make her shiver. He feels real, just for a second. She smiles at her hands and turns around, only to find an empty room. He’s gone. Disappeared. Maybe forever.
Weeks pass and Frankie slowly starts to understand the meaning of her dream. She gets up, day after day, and thinks things through. It takes her a while, but then it hits her: Miguel was right. In all the weird ways that dream developed, he was utterly, doubtlessly right. So she goes to her parents to talk about her issues. They offer her a helping hand. She invites Ellie to take a trip to a nearby town to seek out opportunities — Ellie happily tags along. Frankie looks around and calls in favors. She has met a lot of people during her time with Noor and intends on using those connections.
It comes together as a well-thought-through plan when exactly one year after Miguel’s death, she opens a children’s dancing studio downtown, Miguel’s Dancing Shoes. A lot of people show up to show their sympathy. Miguel’s parents are there, overly emotional of course. Frankie feels a bit uncomfortable, but she powers through it. The kids run around and test the new wooden floor that’ll take them through months of practice before they perfect a routine. Frankie can only smile. She feels the presence of Miguel in this building. She sees him smiling in her imagination, smiling at Frankie and the kids and his parents and all the other people around. This is what he meant, even if it was just a weird twist of her mind endorsing that dream. It felt real — it felt Miguel-like. And the result is utterly amazing. Nobody in this place is sad or unhappy — there’s only cheerful sounds of laughter and perfect glances at the perfection of this initiative.
Frankie puts her MoodBook down on her desk when she leaves her office later that afternoon to go talk to some of her old dancer friends. Some of them still can’t dance yet. The injuries of the stage collapse will haunt them forever and that’s exactly why it feels so good to see Miguel’s pretty face hanging on the wall. They congratulate Frankie and hug her until she feels less emotional.
When she looks over her shoulder, familiar faces crosses her path. Her breath briefly chokes, but she manages to act as normal as possible. Aiden and Noor, standing side by side, peacefully apart from the big crowd. She clears her throat, like a true host would do.
The couple looks her way and both of them fake a genuine smile. Frankie has totally stepped out of their glamorous life. She totally blacked out and never looked back. This project has absorbed everything — every waking second and all the energy she was able to give. It was either this of cry uncontrollably, like before. Noor seems enchanted, unable to respond, until Aiden nudges her shoulder and she enters reality again.
And then Aiden: “Hi.”
Frankie smiles at him, like it’s the least she can do after nearly stealing his wife.
“We got your invitation,” he tells her and she nods, as if they never really knew each other. “So we came.”
“I’m glad. Miguel deserves this.”
Noor smiles, because he does. He was a sweet guy. Very flamboyant, very open, very talented. He was at the wrong place at the wrong time. And she’ll forever feel guilty. His smile could enchant a million people. And now it’s forever locked into the foreverness.
She leads them around the place and Aiden insists his former best friend accepts a donation. She refuses three times, until the exceptional and painfully obvious silent Noor raises her head and tells her to take it. For what happened. For the times they spent and the memory of Miguel. Frankie sighs and puts the cheque in her pocket. Her eyes wander to the entwined fingers of the married couple. Her heart erupts.
“I have to go check on other people now. My parents will be here soon.”
It’s sort of an invitation for Noor to say hi to them later. The singer gets it.
“I’ll go talk to them,” she promises.
Frankie does her absolute best to ignore them for the rest of the event. She is occupied with important people like the major and Miguel’s parents and her own family. Somehow, a superstar and her movie star husband don’t seem to matter, though everyone close to her knows exactly what they mean to her.
The day ends and so do the pleasantries. Aiden and Noor were gone before she even blinked. She’s weirdly okay with that. Because saying goodbye never really worked out right before.
“Now, that was the best idea of this year,” Aiden sighs as he walks toward the bedroom closet.
Noor rolls her eyes and scoffs at him: “Don’t be like that. We had no choice. It was for Miguel.”
Aiden turns around and flashes his mischievous smile.
“Keep telling yourself that, dear. You saw that guy like what? Three times?”
But his wife can’t appreciate the dark humor: “I saw him plenty of times, okay? And he’s Frankie’s friend, so —”
“Don’t remind me.”
“So of course you had no chance but go. Because whatever involves Frankie is sacred. Whatever she does is predicted and announced by the Gods of whatever it is.”
Noor just shakes her head with disappointment and turns on her angry face: “Whatever, Aiden.”
He realizes his mistake of questioning her loyalty, especially after she’s not hung out with her after all this time and sighs apologetic.
“Look,” he then says, “I’m sorry. Come here, I’m sorry. I know you’re trying. We’re trying. We are doing great.”
She looks up to him as he reaches for her hand and she enjoys the touch. But it’s not the same as when Frankie touches her. Nothing ever is.
“I have to tell you something,” he admits after patting the end of the bed with his free hand.
They both sit down and stare at each other as if they are the world’s most ordinary couple.
“I got this job offer. It’s for a show, long-term, great pay.”
She scrunches her gorgeous eyebrow and that means she needs further explanation.
“It’s in New York. I thought it’d be around here, but I was wrong. Baby, I can’t miss this opportunity. It’s huge. It’s supposed to be this big hit and this is the opportunity of a lifetime. No more movie sets. No more constant traveling. We’ll be able to settle down, think about the future. Maybe even start a family.”
Against all expectations, he is a changed man. He sobered up, straightened out his act and committed to her perfectly, without slipping once. He loves her, adores her, would do anything for her. The world loves that about them.
“I want you to come with me. I’m begging you to give me that chance.”
But he’s not done yet and Noor’s mind is racing already.
“I have one condition. You can’t see her anymore. This thing tonight, I get it. Maybe part of it was for Miguel, but you’re not fooling me about the fact that you really wanted to see her again.”
While she awkwardly turns away from his stare, he grasps her hand — to gain her attention again.
“Look, I know that things happened. I get that you felt this connection. Maybe it was even love. But we chose each other. And now we can only move on and make the best of it. I love you, Noor. I love you more now than I did when we got married. So please, stay away from her. Don’t see her anymore. Give me the chance you once promised me a long time ago. If you can’t do that — I mean … I’m your husband. Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”
She looks up to him and her eyes are filled with tears. Four years ago, she saw the love of her life in him. But only months ago, the true love of her life turned her down for acceptable reasons. And she chose to stay with Aiden, but not because it was her first pick — no, Frankie chose for her. And in theory, though she’ll never tell him, Aiden’s the only option left. The one that doesn’t scare her. That one that pleases her manager and publicist and all her fans. Which is terrible, of course.
“I can’t compete with a girl,” he continues after she remains painfully quiet. “Especially not with Frankie. That’s impossible. So let me have an advantage. Let me stay with you. Don’t see her anymore. Come with me to New York and we’ll be like we were before.”
She loves to sing. She loves to walk across the street while people are pointing at her. She loves to interact with her fans and even more, she loves that they think she’s worth copying, that they are trying to live up to her as a role model. She loves that when she crosses the red carpet with Aiden, every magazine in the country calls them adorable or hashtags about them on Twitter. She likes the positive feedback, the joy she brings into stranger’s lives. She’s terrified to give that all up.
“I’ll go with you. When do we leave?” she agrees and asks at he same time, merely because she’s feeling awfully guilty.
She hasn’t even thought it through, but it feels like the right choice. The best, logical choice.
She stares at herself in the mirror in front of her.
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