Word Count: 12,100
Summary: The rest of the show is awkward and uncomfortable. They don’t look at each other, mess the other girls up when they’re supposed to be standing next to each other and don’t, Camila scuttling between Dinah and Ally instead of taking her place next to Lauren. It’s childish and stupid. She knows it, and she’s sure Lauren knows it. But there’s something sparked under Camila’s skin now, angry and bright, starting in the ache in her wrist that she still feels long after it’s really gone. It’s spreads everywhere and makes her feel flush and hot. The way Lauren had snapped, “What’s wrong with you today?” echoing in her ears and pounding in her temples. It had sounded like the today was tacked on, a beat too late to be part of the original question.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything and am not profiting off of this. It's entirely a work of fiction. Title comes from Lea Michele's "Battlefield."
Author's Note: Written for Tori because it's her birthday and when I reblogged "Battlefield" with a Lauren/Camila tag, her response was basically: "We seemed like a good idea sparked Lauren/Camila feelings in you, too?" proving that she really does get it. Happy Birthday, and I hope you like this.
It was a time
of waiting, of suspended action.
I lived in the present, which was
that part of the future you could see.
The past floated above my head,
like the sun and moon, visible but never reachable.
It was a time
governed by contradictions, as in
I felt nothing and
I was afraid.
“Where’s Lauren?” Ally asks.
Camila shrugs and spreads some cream cheese onto her bagel, sucks on her teeth when a clump clings to the side. She swipes it away with her thumb and sucks it into her mouth. There’s almost never fresh blueberry cream cheese. Someone is smiling down on her today.
“She knows we have to leave in fifteen minutes, right?”
“Yeah,” Camila says.
When Dinah had knocked on their door to get them for breakfast, Lauren had been in the bathroom blow-drying her hair. Camila had knocked, gotten no response, and twisted the handle. The door was locked. She shouldn’t have been surprised. “I’m going to breakfast. We have to leave at six thirty,” she’d called. Lauren hadn’t said anything. Camila’s not even sure Lauren heard her.
It’s not Camila’s fault that Lauren had laid in bed, curled up on her side when Camila was brushing her teeth and puttering around the bathroom. Camila had even shaken her shoulder gently, telling her the alarm had gone off. She’d ignored the twisting in her stomach when Lauren had blinked open her eyes, face open and relaxed before going blank and unreadable.
Camila rubs at her eyes. She hadn’t fallen asleep until after midnight, until Lauren had relaxed next to her, breathing even and soft, yet still so loud in the quiet, unfamiliar hotel room -- Lauren always seems so loud to Camila. Camila had rolled onto her back then, not bothering to stare at the curve of Lauren’s spine anymore. It wasn’t worth it when there was no way Lauren knew it was happening, when it wasn’t making her uncomfortable.
“Maybe I should check on her,” Ally says. She takes a sip of her coffee and shifts like she’s about to get up. She stops. “Oh, hi. We were just talking about you.”
“Hi,” Lauren says, voice scratchy and low with disuse.
Camila doesn’t turn around or look up. She takes a bite of her bagel and chews, doesn’t listen to whatever Lauren’s saying to Dinah, waits until Lauren appears in her line of vision at the buffet table. She watches Lauren pull at her shorts before pouring coffee into a to-go cup, watches her rip a sugar packet and looks at the way the granules stream out of it, imagines them reflecting light like a rainbow even though they don’t. She watches Lauren stir and add some almond milk, because she’s really into that now.
When Lauren turns around Camila averts her eyes. “I like your lipstick,” Camila says to Ally.
“Oh, thanks.” Ally rubs her lips together and then smiles small. “You can borrow it if you want.”
“Thanks.” Camila smiles back before taking another bite of her bagel. It takes a lot of effort, the smiling. Mostly because she had to wake up when the sky was still pink and birds were chirping insistently outside the window. Mostly. “There’s not going to be cameras at the station, right? Like, there’s not a livestream of the studio online?”
“Good.” She runs a hand through her hair. “It wouldn’t cooperate this morning. I’ll need help fixing it.”
Ally laughs and rolls her eyes. “It’s fine.”
Camila pouts. “It’s not, but I love you for lying to me.”
Lauren makes an aborted sound in the back of her throat before sitting down next to Ally.
“How’re you sleepy head?” Ally asks.
“Fine.” Lauren turns her entire body toward Ally. “The coffee’s helping.” She takes a sip. Camila watches the pink of her mouth around the white of the Styrofoam, the smooth, pale column of her throat as she swallows.
Camila hates herself.
Ally leans against Lauren. “I can make you another cup for the road?”
“That’d be great,” Lauren says. “I have to talk to Normani about something anyway.”
Camila’s left alone at the table then, watching Ally pour too much vanilla creamer into a cup. Lauren won’t like it but will drink it anyway. Shoving the last of her bagel into her mouth, Camila goes over to Ally and touches her wrist.
“She likes almond milk now.”
“Yeah,” Camila says. “Here.” She grabs a new cup and fills it with the dark roast before adding a Splenda packet -- if Lauren gets too much sugar her teeth start to feel weird. Camila doesn’t know exactly what Lauren meant when she said that one night, whispered it into the huff of breath between them before they fell asleep, but she knows it’s important. Camila tilts her head when she pours the almond milk, makes sure it’s not too much, puts a lid on the Styrofoam and hands it to Ally. “There. She’ll like that.”
“I don’t want to take the credit,” Ally says, holding the cup out for Camila to take back, her eyes soft and encouraging.
“No. She’ll like it better coming from you.”
Ally’s forehead wrinkles and she presses her lips together into a frown. But she doesn’t force the issue. Camila loves Ally.
On the ride to the radio station Lauren sits in the passenger seat and Camila sits in the back with Dinah, buries her head into Dinah’s neck and inhales. She closes her eyes, tries not to fall asleep as Dinah rubs at her arm and hums along to the radio.
She decidedly doesn’t think about how she’s learned to sleep better with a body warm and solid next to her, how she hasn’t had that in so long.
She falls asleep on the way to the studio.
It’s the best ten minutes she’s gotten all night.
She turns down a hallway. The walls are painted beige, much like every other hallway she’s been in, and there are doors littering each side. Camila has no idea if she’s heading in the right direction, but she’s definitely in the wrong part of the hotel. This place is huge, and she had tried to follow the arrows that pointed to the auditorium, but it clearly didn’t work. There should’ve been maps.
Camila turns left and runs into someone, stumbles backward and steadies herself. She pushes her hair out of her face and blinks. “Sorry.”
“It’s fine,” the girl says.
And okay. Camila knows her. Not knows her knows her. But she recognizes her. From the booth and from her audition. She recognizes her pretty eyebrows and pretty hair and pretty smile and pretty, pretty eyes.
“You’re pretty,” Camila says dumbly. Then she smacks her forehead. “Sorry.”
The girl -- Lauren, Camila remembers, because she’s creepy and Lauren is so pretty -- laughs. “Thanks?” It’s a question, accompanied by one raised eyebrow.
“Sorry. I’m Camila.” Her face feels hot and she tucks a piece of hair behind her ear, shifts on her feet.
“Do you know where the auditorium is?” Camila asks. Because right. She has to get to the auditorium. And then she’s thinking about High School Musical because of school auditoriums, and she’s thinking about singing “Start of Something New,” except instead of singing by herself she’s singing it with Lauren and twirling her around and around and around. And it’s like.
What? “What?” Camila says. She’s sure her face is bright red. Lauren probably thinks she’s a giant weirdo creep.
“You’re going the wrong way. It’s the other way.” Lauren points behind Camila. “You’re at bootcamp, too?”
“Yes.” Camila nods. “Lost, though.”
“Here.” Lauren grabs her wrist and tugs her back a few feet before letting go. “I’ll show you.”
“Thanks.” Camila grins, touches the place on her wrist where Lauren’s thumb had been. “I got all turned around somewhere after the lobby.”
“No problem.” Lauren shrugs. “It’s not like I’m going out of my way.” Her mouth kind of tilts up like there’s an inside joke in there somewhere. Camila really wants to be in on it, too.
“Are you nervous?” Camila asks.
“Yeah,” Lauren says.
“You don’t look it.”
Lauren laughs again, a little louder this time. More freely, Camila thinks. Camila can feel herself smile and loosen up a bit in response. “That’s good, I guess. You don’t look it either, you know.
“Didn’t say I was nervous,” Camila says. Lauren rolls her eyes, mouth twitching up. “But I am. Like. I got lost in the freaking hotel.”
“Good thing you found me. Someone else probably would have pointed you in the wrong direction to eliminate you from the competition.”
“Oh my god.” Camila stops walking and slaps her hand over her heart, the loud thump it makes nothing compared to how loud Lauren’s eyes sparkle -- Camila knows that doesn’t make any sense, thank you very much.
“What?” Lauren asks.
“You’re not going to push me down an elevator shaft or something, are you?”
“No. I’d rather pull a Tonya Harding.”
Camila hums and starts walking again. She’s suddenly grateful for all the hours she spent watching those pop culture shows on VH1. “That’s a much better idea. Very clever. Your boyfriend can take me out and then you won’t have to worry about people tracing the untimely demise of my career back to you.” That was very smooth. Camila tries not to ruin it by pointing out just how smooth it was.
“Might be difficult though,” Lauren says.
“Because of the hotel cameras?”
“Because I don’t have a boyfriend.”
And okay. That is the information Camila was fishing for. She can admit that. She’s fine. Doesn’t even fistpump in response. “Oh. That’s too bad.”
Lauren shrugs. “Whatever.”
“I’ve never had a boyfriend,” she says. Because like, that’s a fact. Maybe an embarrassing one. But Camila figures she’s already embarrassed herself so much that at this point it doesn’t matter.
“So, you’ve never had your heartbroken?” Lauren asks. She turns left without warning, and Camila distinctly remembers not turning left when she got here from the lobby. There really should’ve been maps.
“I guess not. Unless you count all those Harry Potter deaths.”
“Those definitely count,” Lauren confirms, a flitting quality to the words that promises more amusement than mockery. “I’m pretty sure those are more painful than any boyfriend dumping you, anyway.”
Camila bites down on a grin. “I’ve experience much pain in my fifteen years, then.”
Lauren laughs again, quiet this time, looking down at the ground instead of at Camila. Camila doesn’t think she’s stopped looking at Lauren the entire walk, not really. The way she carries herself, the way her lips form words, and the way her entire body seems to lean when she laughs, whether full-bodied or just with her mouth, imprinted in Camila’s memory already. Her stomach flutters with something that has nothing to do with bootcamp.
“Much heartache,” Lauren agrees.
They make it to the auditorium with a few minutes to spare, sit down among the mass of bodies onstage. The judges haven’t arrived yet, but there are producers and assistants milling about, a few people huddled around one of the cameras. Camila runs her fingers through her hair and tugs too hard on a knot. “Ouch.”
Lauren looks at her, bottom lip caught between her teeth. “You okay?” she asks.
“I forgot there were going to be cameras.”
Lauren’s mouth quirks up. “You look good.”
It doesn’t really mean anything, Camila thinks. Knows. She knows that. Definitely.
She swallows. “So do you.”
Lauren flips her hair and winks, exaggerated. Camila’s heart still feels like it’s going to pound right out of her body. “I know.”
“Of course you do,” Camila says. She rolls her eyes.
She does not think about how good Lauren looks for the rest of the day. Scouts honor.
“Congratulations on the album,” the dj says. He goes by DJ Spin, and Camila would normally think that’s funny and cool, but today she wishes he just went by his real name.
“Thank you so much,” Ally says. She grins, sitting up straight. She’s upbeat, using her slightly-higher-than-normal phone voice. Camila clenches her jaw.
“We worked really hard on it,” Normani adds.
Camila adjusts her headphones. If this goes on too long her ears are going to be sore from the pressure. “Yeah. We co-wrote a lot of the songs.”
“That’s awesome. Revealed your deepest and darkest secrets, right?” DJ Spin winks.
Ally, Dinah and Normani all laugh, the sound bubbling like champagne. Camila looks down and pulls on a string that’s come loose from the seam of her jeans. “That’s why everyone should buy it,” Dinah says. “Get the dirt.”
“It’s pretty controversial,” Normani agrees.
“But not in a bad way!” Ally rushes to add. Camila looks up at her. “We’re good girls.”
On the other side of Ally, Normani’s face contorts the way it always does when she thinks Ally’s being ridiculous. Camila smiles a little, kicks out and nudges at Ally’s ankle with her foot.
“Right, right. Of course. No Lindsay Lohan’s, here,” DJ Spin says. “Surely there were some creative disagreements, though? A few punches thrown.”
Camila almost rolls her eyes.
“I don’t think so,” Ally says, looking between the girls. “We all have different influences--”
“Beyoncé,” Normani cuts in.
“Yes,” Dinah agrees.
“--but I think that just makes the songs stronger. Like Lauren and Camila wrote a really good Spanish bridge on one of the tracks,” Ally finishes.
Camila leans forward and looks past the other girls to where Lauren sits at the opposite end of the studio. The downward twist of her mouth is almost unnoticeable. Camila blinks and looks back at DJ Spin.
“We wanted to incorporate more Spanish within the actual songs this time,” Lauren says.
“What’s it about?” he asks, something like genuine interest in his voice.
“Just like,” Lauren pauses for a beat, and in her periphery vision Camila sees her scrub at her face, “that feeling of contentment when you’re with the right person, I guess.”
Camila feels her cheeks go hot. The song is happy and upbeat, has a weird folksy sound to it, reminds her of Noah and the Whale a little, reminds her of the first time Lauren had stuck an earbud in her ear and played Noah and the Whale for her, their shoulders pressed together warmly on the bus. When they wrote the song with Julian it had seemed like a good idea.
“So.” DJ Spin looks down at his notes. “Lauren and Camila, you two both speak Spanish?”
“Yeah,” Camila says, feels like something is caught in her throat. She can’t remember the last time she’s said anything in Spanish to Lauren.
“I speak some. But if they get really into it I get lost,” Ally says, moving her hands around in quick, tight circles to demonstrate something Camila thinks must be the way the speech sounds to her. She almost points out that they’re on the radio and none of the listeners can see the gesture.
“Dinah and I are learning,” Normani adds.
“I bet you two use it to share secrets,” DJ Spin says, looking conspiratorially between Lauren and Camila.
“Not really,” Lauren answers. When Camila looks over at her, Lauren is looking back, but then she just presses her lips together and turns her head.
“Don’t want anyone to feel left out,” Camila adds. She breathes, focuses on relaxing her shoulders and rolls her neck.
“Aw,” Dinah says. “They like to annoy us with it. Probably talking trash behind our backs.”
“We don’t,” Camila says, shooting Dinah a look that pretty clearly means move on.
“What?” Dinah mouths back. Camila shakes her head and Dinah adds: “Sorry.”
“Well, let’s play their newest single.” DJ Spin presses a button. “Which is entirely in English. Want to introduce it?”
“Sure!” Ally says.
Ally and Normani introduce the single, and Camila dances along to it in her chair when it plays in the studio, tries to get into it. She laughs when Dinah whips her hair into Lauren’s face and Lauren huffs, laughs when Lauren pushes Dinah into Normani, but it sounds tinny, causes Ally to lean over and hug her.
“You okay?” Ally whispers. She looks like she’s about to fall out of her chair.
“Fine,” Camila lies.
She’s sure Ally can tell she’s not fine by the way she hugs her tighter before letting go.
Camila hopes that if she says it enough maybe the girls won’t be able to tell.
If she says it enough maybe it’ll be true.
Lauren is a warm press against her side, her laughter hot and wet against Camila’s jaw and ear.
“That’s not fair,” Dinah says from across the table, eyebrows scrunched and mouth turned down. “Secrets aren’t allowed.”
“Wasn’t a secret,” Lauren says. She’s smiling, still so close. Her knee is solid against Camila’s, bone against bone. She’s got a hand resting on Camila’s chair, fingers nudging up against her thigh.
“Not everyone here speaks Spanish.” Dinah rolls her eyes. “Duh.”
“What’d she say?” Normani asks Ally.
“I’m not sure,” Ally says. She picks up her water and takes a sip before shrugging. “Too fast.”
Dinah groans. “We’re never gonna make it through the first live show if y’all are already plotting our demise.”
“Not plotting our demise. Promise,” Camila says. She feels like she’s vibrating. Lauren’s still leaning close, her hair tickling at Camila’s neck and collarbone. She has to fight the urge to lean her head on Lauren’s shoulder, close her eyes and breathe her in.
“Come on, tell us what you said.” Normani’s face has gone serious and frustrated. She crosses her arms over her chest.
Camila is ninety percent sure Normani hates her and is going to stick her bra in the freezer. She thinks that is a thing people actually do. Normani seems like the type to stick her bra in the freezer. Dinah seems like the type to help. Ally seems like the type to tell them not to, but when it comes down to it, she won’t actually do anything to prevent it from happening.
“That I hate you all and hope you meet an untimely end,” Lauren says. Her smile cracks halfway through and Camila laughs, shaking her head.
“Stop lying.” Dinah pouts.
“I told her that I love her more than all of you combined,” Lauren says. Then she smacks a kiss, wet and loud, against Camila’s cheek. Camila rubs at the spot with the sleeve of her sweater.
Normani rolls her eyes. “I believe that.”
Ally smiles. “Y’all are so cute.”
“We know.” Camila scrunches her nose, reaches out and tucks a piece of hair behind Lauren’s ear. “It’s gross.”
“Disgusting,” Dinah agrees. She makes a gagging sound and Camila kicks her under the table, shoe barely brushing against Dinah’s shin.
Lauren leans close again, closer than before, and actually does whisper this time: “I really like you.”
Camila smiles, her spine tingling. “I really like you, too,” she whispers back.
Between the way Lauren’s eyes are shining down at her, her mouth barely upturned, and her fingers scooting under Camila’s thigh, Camila thinks maybe Lauren might mean it the same way she does. She thinks about leaning over and kissing her. Right here and right now. She imagines Dinah continuing to act like she’s gagging, Normani telling them to get a room, Ally telling them they’re cute again before also reminding them, very politely, that they’re in public, a scandalized lift to the end of the sentence.
Camila’s not going to do it. She’s not that reckless. But there’s something about Lauren that makes her heart skip beats and her breath stutter. Camila doesn’t think she could pinpoint that something even if she tried, but she kind of likes not knowing. Sort of makes everything more exciting.
“Do you think this was like, fate or something?” Camila asks. Dinah, Normani and Ally have gone back to talking about artists they love. Camila loves Beyoncé, too, okay. She gets it. But she doesn’t want to spend another ten minutes talking about “Halo.”
“What’d you mean?” Lauren asks. She’s moved away now, is dipping a French fry into the pile of salt and pepper she’s poured onto her plate.
“I don’t know. It’s stupid.” Camila flushes. She should probably start thinking things through before she lets them slip out of her mouth all willy-nilly like that.
Lauren bats at her arm gently. “Bet it’s not.”
“That’s only because you don’t know what I was going to say.” Camila bites the head off of one of her dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets.
“Camilaaaaa,” Lauren sings. She widens her eyes and sticks her lip out. Camila has to look down at her plate. “Promise I won’t laugh.”
“I don’t know like. You and me meeting and both being from Miami and then we’re put in the same group. It’s really cool, you know?”
When Lauren doesn’t say anything Camila looks at her. Her face is smooth and open. She looks like she’s about to smile but hasn’t let herself yet. Camila feels Lauren hook their ankles together under the table. All the air has clearly been sucked from the room and the walls are closing in and Camila shouldn’t have said anything at all.
But then Lauren says: “The coolest,” like she means to say something else.
Camila doesn’t care about what that something else is, because it’s soft and fond and makes her feel like maybe she’s melting.
And then Ally’s asking about her favorite Ed Sheeran song, Dinah’s offering to split dessert, and Lauren’s ankle is still hooked around hers.
She remembers what Lauren had said, Spanish rolling off her tongue like she forgot it wasn’t English, like Camila was something akin to home: “You look so sad eating those. Like you’re worried about hurting them. But you could never hurt anyone, Camzi. Except maybe me.”
She thinks no, that’s not right: she’d never hurt Lauren.
Lauren’s concluding laugh, like punctuation, probably meant she knows that, too.
The car moves slowly through the crowd of people outside the venue before coming to a stop too many feet from the doors. Camila can tell Lauren isn’t in the mood to deal with fans by the way her hand grips the handle of the passenger door too tightly. Camila’s not in the mood either, if watching the pop of knuckle and twist of wrist when Lauren opens the door is any indication.
She takes a deep breath anyway, crawls out after Normani and lets herself smile and wave. The fans are loud, a wall of noise that makes her blink and take a step back, every single time. She walks over to a group of girls, thanks them for coming out and opens her arms for a group hug.
“I love you so much,” a girl with chin-length blonde hair says.
She looks like she might cry, so Camila hugs her again and rubs her back. “I love you, too. You’re so amazing.” She grabs the girl’s earlobe, fingers the little globe earring she’s wearing. “This is so cool.”
“What’s your name?” Camila asks.
“Jess,” she says. Her face has gone red and splotchy and Camila hugs her again. Camila’s smiling so wide and feels like maybe she’s on the verge of tears, too. Maybe she and Jess can cry together.
As Camila works her way around the group of fans, signing as many glossy pictures, CDs and iphone cases as possible, she starts to feel a weight lift off her shoulders. She sticks out her tongue while taking a selfie with a girl named Callie, who she remembers from a meet and greet last year. She tells a terrible knock-knock joke to a group of little girls -- they can’t be more than seven. She squints into the sun and listens to a girl talk about arriving at the venue at six in the morning.
This is Camila’s favorite thing in the whole entire world. If she could just stand out here with the fans all day, the southern sun beating down and making her start to sweat, she would do it in a heartbeat.
She’s just finished scribbling a smiley face on the booklet from their CD when she turns too fast, loses her balance and reaches out. The pavement beneath her feet is cracked, and she thinks it would be very poetic if the cracked pavement cracked her skull open. The fans gasp and there are hands on her, trying to hold her up, and then someone grabs her wrist, successfully pulls her body weight up enough so she’s balanced and steady, and when Camila shakes her head and looks to thank whichever fan saved her a trip to the emergency room, it’s not a fan at all. It’s Lauren.
“Thanks,” she says, feeling shaky all over again.
Lauren jerks her hand away and wipes it on her shorts. “Be careful.”
“Yeah. Sorry.” But by the time she apologizes -- for something that’s not her fault, by the way -- the single word rushed out on a quiet, embarrassed breath, Lauren has already turned around, walking away.
Camila blinks back whatever it is that’s threatening to spill out of her eyes and spins back around to the fans. “Oops,” she laughs, the sound wet and trembling.
She feels like she’s going to vomit. She tells herself it’s from the tumble she almost took, the weird way her leg started to twist underneath her. Nothing else.
She taps her pencil against the desk, chews on the inside of her cheek and studies the problem. Her first answer wasn’t in the bank at the bottom of the page, so clearly something went wrong. She looks at the remaining options, tries to decide if one of them looks like it’s the answer to problem number six, or, as Camila has taken to referring to it in her head, the problem from hell.
The door to the school trailer creaks and then Lauren’s sticking her head in. “Hey,” she says.
“Hey. What’re you doing?”
“We have to be in makeup in like, ten minutes. I was told to come get you.” Lauren flops down on the couch behind Camila and closes her eyes. “Do you think there’s enough time for me to take a nap?”
Camila smiles, erases some of the random pencil marks on the side of the page and swipes at the eraser dust. “Yeah, I’ll wake you up.”
Camila works through the problem one more time, gets the wrong answer again and sighs. Whatever. She’ll have someone explain it to her later. She stands up and stretches as though she can stretch the failed math problem out of her body. Flopping down on the sofa next to Lauren, she lets out an annoyed huff.
“What?” Lauren asks, eyes still closed.
“I can’t do math. I’m going to fail out of high school.”
Lauren cracks one eye open. “We’ll have to win, I guess. It’s the only option.”
“Definitely. Popstars don’t need pre-calc.” Camila snuggles up right next to Lauren, drops her head onto Lauren’s shoulder and does her best to inhale without making it obvious. Lauren smells good like this, before hair and makeup have somehow masked the distinct Lauren-ness of her skin.
“We won’t even need to know addition or subtraction anymore. And to think we wasted all that time sitting in elementary school.”
“Tragic.” Camila shakes her head as much as she can and pushes closer so their bodies are pressed together. Lauren’s mouth looks a little chapped, lips a little rough. Camila blinks and catches her eyes. “Shakespearean.”
“Except without the death,” Lauren says. She’s so focused on Camila that it prickles underneath Camila’s skin.
“Of course. A romance, then.” Camila sits up and swallows. She wants to move away almost as much as she doesn’t want to move away. Lauren’s thigh and hip and arm are lined up with hers, and it’s so very terrible-amazing.
“As you like it,” Lauren says. And Camila isn’t sure if that’s just a response or if she’s naming an actual romance -- maybe both. Knowing Lauren it’s probably both. She doesn’t often pass up opportunities to show how smart she is, even if she’s the only one who picks up on it. Camila likes that about her. It’s like bragging except no one feels bad afterwards.
“Yeah,” Camila says. She should probably say something smart, but Lauren is still looking at her, hasn’t blinked. She’s leaned a little closer, though.
Camila wouldn’t have to move hardly at all to kiss her.
Camila absolutely cannot kiss her.
Instead of thinking about kissing Lauren she thinks about the words to the song they have to sing today. She thinks about ways to keep Dinah from paying her back those five dollars she insists she owes Camila after they got Froyo the other day -- so far her best strategy is never wearing a coat with pockets, so Dinah can’t sneakily shove some cash into one when they’re hugging. Camila admits it’s not much as far as plans go. She thinks about how she promised Ally she’d go to the early mass with her on Sunday, even though that sounds exhausting and there’s nothing wrong with going at eleven. She thinks about how much she wishes she’d eaten something, because now she’s not going to get a chance until after the show. She thinks about Lauren kissing her.
Lauren is kissing her.
Their foreheads are touching. Lauren’s nose is cold against her own but her lips are warm. And even though it’s just a small pressure, there’s a roughness and a drag because Lauren’s mouth is definitely chapped and maybe a little chewed on. Camila fumbles trying to twist her body, awkwardly places her hands on Lauren’s shoulders and neck, opens her mouth when she breathes, “Oh.”
She likes the way Lauren sucks on her bottom lip then, likes the way Lauren’s hand grips her hip, the other twisting a little in her hair, tugging like she’s trying to create a few new knots. When Lauren pulls away, just far enough so they’re not kissing anymore, she laughs.
“Sorry,” Camila says. “Sorry if I was bad at that you know I--”
“Shut up,” Lauren says before pressing a gentle peck to the corner of Camila’s mouth. “It was nice. Don’t ruin it.”
“Sorry,” Camila says again. She’s never been drunk, but she feels like maybe she knows what it’s like, at least a little. Some poet has probably warned people not to get drunk off another person.
“That was okay, right?” Lauren asks. Her eyes are wide and black and her mouth is wet.
Camila’s throat goes dry with the knowledge that she did that. She made Lauren look like that. “Yeah. I liked it a lot.”
Lauren smirks, wrinkles her nose and grabs Camila’s hand. “Come on. We’ll be late.”
“Your fault.” Camila pouts.
They walk to hair and makeup holding hands, and Camila’s heart thuds loudly in her chest, blood rushing in her ears.
The fluorescents in the dressing room are harsh and too bright. Camila feels like she’s in a doctor’s office. She blinks and kicks her legs up over Normani’s lap on the couch. “I could just get ‘you are beautiful’ on the inside of my wrist maybe. Oh! Or the deathly hallows symbol. From Harry Potter.”
Normani snorts. “I know what the deathly hallows symbol is from.”
Camila smiles, leans forward and wraps both her hands around Normani’s arm, shakes it. “I know you do. I made you watch all eight movies with me.” She tries to scoot a little closer and grabs at Normani’s cheeks to pinch them, but Normani flinches away. “The best weekend of my life.”
“It’s sad how long you can sit in a dark room watching movies,” Normani says.
“It’s a skill only a special few have.” Camila leans back against the armrest. “I have spent years honing it. Lots of butt exercises.”
“It’s very impressive.” Normani doesn’t sound very impressed at all.
“You’re just jealous,” Camila says. She wiggles her toes in Normani’s lap until Normani wraps a hand around her foot and holds it still. Normani aborts a laugh and rolls her eyes. Camila grins.
“Hey,” Lauren says. Camila tips her head back to look at her. Her hair’s been done, almost curled, and she’s in her outfit for tonight. There’s a weird pull in Camila’s chest, a sharp pain. This weird sensation that she knows is from looking at Lauren -- really looking at her -- for the first time since she tried to wake her up this morning.
“Hi,” she says back. Because it’s the polite thing to do.
“Can we talk?” Lauren pulls her lip into her mouth, spins a ring around and around and around her finger.
Camila blinks. Her head starts to feel fuzzy. “I’m having a very important conversation with Normani right now, so.”
“Not really,” Normani says.
Camila sits up too fast. She feels light-headed and the room tilts to the right. She still finds it in herself to glare at Normani. “No. It’s very important. Normani’s just being nice.”
“Oh.” Camila’s not sure you can hear someone rolling their eyes, but she can definitely hear Lauren rolling her eyes so hard she’ll probably sprain something. “Fine. Sorry I bothered you.”
“Bye,” Camila says, only turning around when she’s sure Lauren’s walked away. Lauren’s leaning close to Ally, a frown on her face, and Camila almost feels bad about it.
“Hey, Mila?” Normani asks.
Camila doesn’t like the concerned look on Normani’s face. “Yeah?”
“Don’t get mad at me, okay?”
Camila’s mouth twitches up despite herself. “Pinky promise.” She holds out her hand, pinky up, until Normani reciprocates.
“Are you and Lauren okay?” She’s resting her hand on Camila’s ankle now, firm and solid, almost like she’s trying to hold Camila there and comfort her all at the same time.
Camila shrugs. She doesn’t really know what that means anymore -- what okay means when it comes to her relationship with Lauren. “I think we’re just having a bad day. She woke up on the wrong side of the bed.”
Normani nods, looks down at Camila’s ankle. “Was yesterday a good day?” she asks.
Camila thinks about it. She thinks about how Lauren had cackled when Camila did an elephant impression using a churro as her trunk. Lauren’s head had hit the table, hair splaying everywhere and onto Camila’s plate. She remembers how Lauren had tucked her tag back into her jumper before they went onstage, her fingers cold where they brushed the knob at the top of her spine. They’d had a scuffle in the morning over which one of them used the last of the toothpaste the night before, and Lauren had frowned and gone all huffy before going to sleep when Camila said she wasn’t in the mood for anything, the press of Lauren’s hand skimming under her shorts more annoying than anything else.
“Yeah. I think so,” Camila decides.
Normani sucks on her teeth, narrows her eyes at Camila like she’s trying to solve a puzzle. Or riddle. Whatever it is people solve. “Don’t get mad.”
Camila shakes her head. She wants to smile to lessen how heavy the air in her lungs feels. “I won’t.”
“It’s just,” Normani starts. She drums her fingers into the pop of bone on Camila’s ankle and exhales. “Your good days seem an awful lot like the bad ones.”
“Oh.” Camila doesn’t know what to do with that, having it laid out bare by someone that isn’t Lauren and isn’t herself. Her shoulders hitch up and she crosses her arms over her chest, shifts one leg closer, but Normani’s got a solid grip on the other one. “Well. I guess you’d know.”
“Camila,” Normani says, voice soft and sad. “You promised you wouldn’t do this.”
“I’m not angry,” she responds before forcing herself to smile, probably thin and stretched out and all wonky. “I’m not.”
“I could be wrong,” Normani adds, moves her hand up, kneads at Camila’s calf and pulls her a little closer. The tilt of her head says she could be wrong, but she doubts it.
“What tattoo would you get?” Camila asks.
Normani sighs, but she answers anyway, a line from a prayer, maybe.
Camila jokes, “So Beyoncé lyrics?”
The quirk of Normani’s mouth makes Camila bite down on a laugh.