If Noelle didn’t think things could get any more awkward, they certainly already had. She had braced herself for what Charlie’s question was to be, but she hadn’t expected for the blonde woman to like her, let alone, voice it. Her mouth open and closed repeatedly, and she knew she probably looked like a fish out of water, so she bit the inside of her cheek to prevent herself from doing so. There wasn’t much else to be said, but she knew she had to say something.
“Uh…” She stammered, looking for the right words to say. She couldn’t tell Charlie that she felt the same, possibly even loved her. The Latina wasn’t ready for any kind of commitment right now, nor did she want to complicate things between the two. Well, more so than they already were. “Oh, uh, Charlie… I – really?” Honestly, she wanted to just make sure she had heard her right. What if she was just imagining it. But, she couldn’t have been. The look on Charlie’s face was enough to confirm that.
Taking a deep breath, she ran a nervous hand through her hair, her eyes trained on the wooden floorboards beneath her. “I don’t know what to say, Charlie. I didn’t regret that night, but I don’t….” Was it okay for her to lie? Maybe that was best. Charlie deserved better. Not some cheater, and someone who couldn’t even fully commit to a person, drunk or not. That’s what she was after all now, right? A cheater. “I don’t feel the same.” The words tasted bitter on her tongue, pulled at her heart, tore into her like blades, but they were out before she could stop them. “I’m sorry.”
Had she honestly heard Noelle right? She was saying really? For an initial reaction, that was a disappointment and not entirely what she had hoped for. Charlie frowned and a What-do-you-think? look was apparent on her face right now. This was probably a huge mistake. It felt like a mistake. But the blonde had grown tired of dancing around the obvious elephant in the room. And a small part of her thought that maybe, maybe the Latina reciprocated some of those feelings back.
Her breath caught in her throat listening to the next words tumble from her mouth. “No, no, no,” she whispered under her breath, tears welling up in her eyes. She tried desperately not to blink profusely, to keep the tears at bay and not seem weak. Who was she kidding? She was Charlie Fabray, the girl who practically had her heart and emotions on her sleeve constantly. The signs had told her otherwise, the friends the blonde had confided in had told her otherwise. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go - it was supposed to be a cliché The Notebook-style ending. Get the girl, kiss in the rain, have a few ups and downs but end up living happily ever after. Fat chance of that now.
Swallowing the little saliva left that kept her mouth from drying out, Charlie brought her sleeve up to wipe at her wet eyelashes and catch the tears falling. “But you…I-I don’t…” She was talking gibberish now, the inability to form coherent sentences kicking in as her heart ached. And regrettably she locked eyes for the briefest of moments, and that was enough to make her want to sob. “I’m so stupid. How could I ever think you might like me back?” she said to no one in particular. Stupid, stupid Charlie. God, she needed out. She needed to run back to her apartment before her body was completely wracked with sobs. “I have to go. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” Her voice was fluctuating in pitch, vocals portraying just how upset the blonde really was. She found herself to her feet, taking off out of the patio area and into the Manhattan streets.
A sigh of relief escaped the brunette when Charlie obliged, accepting her offer. After handing the exact amount to the waitress, and leaving a very generous tip, Noelle gathered her belongings and gestured for Charlie to began walking towards the patio, following behind her, all the while trying to keep her eyes trained ahead and not the lower region of the blonde.
Once outside, Noelle walked over to a nearby bench, taking the seat next to Charlie. She tried to stop her heart from racing, not really sure where the conversation was going to go. She really didn’t have a clue as to why she was nervous, considering she didn’t even really have a reason to be. Silently, the Latina racked her brain for a conversation starter. Maybe before inviting the blonde to stick around for a while longer, she should have thought of something they could talk about. However, she didn’t have much time to think when Charlie began speaking for her. The small smile that danced on her lips soon evolved into a slight frown when the words had left her blonde friend’s mouth. Well, that was something she certainly hadn’t expected.
Taking a deep breath, Noelle contemplated lying to the woman’s face, or being honest and straight forward with her. She quickly decided on the latter, figuring it’d be much easier, and lying hadn’t really done her any good in the past. “Uh, yeah. It was true.” She blushed, ducking her head, not wanting Charlie to say, though it was barely noticeable. But when Charlie trailed off, the brunette forced herself to look up, not really sure what more to say. “Does that mean what?” She questioned, genuinely curious.
Now it was Charlie’s turn to flush at her own question. Really, could she have worded that any more embarrassingly? Even so, she felt the need to ask. The whole day so far they had been dancing around discussing the obvious pink elephant in the room and enough was definitely enough. The blonde was grateful for the small talk at the beginning, but there was only so much small talk she could make; list of topics to converse about shrinking significantly the longer the pair spent time together.
Cue her cheeks to flare up more at Noelle’s quiet admission. Realizing it was her turn to continue again, Charlie stopped to think about this a second. Maybe if she told her straight up about how she’s been feeling then it could work out in her favor. Maybe, it would be like ripping off a bandaid swiftly - quick and painless. Did she really have anything else to lose at this point? The whole affair was already affecting her relationship with Noelle. “Um,” she said, averting her gaze elsewhere. “D-does it mean…you maybe…?” She didn’t want to say it out loud. Who was she trying to fool? They were both unbelievably drunk. Sure, the Latina said she never regretted it but it was sex after all. Great sex, at that.
Shifting awkwardly in her seat, she clasped her hands together and sighed deeply through her nose. “I’m going to be honest about this, okay?” The woman turned to face her companion. “I feel like ever since that night things have been different between us. And, yes, I can sense the awkwardness too. I don’t like it all. It sucks,” she started to say. “I just want things to return to normal again, you know? And… And if that means…” Charlie screwed her eyes shut. “I like you, Noelle. I like you so, so much.”
Although she wanted to stay focused on the conversation and tune into everything that Charlie was saying to her, Noelle just couldn’t. The task became difficult with each passing moment and she wanted to do was kiss her senseless, tell her to shut up and all about her feelings and just walk off into the sunset. Or at least that’s how her daydream had been going for the fast few minutes. Snapping out of her daze, she wiped at the corners of her mouth subtley, hoping that she hadn’t been staring, let alone drooling. A tight lipped smile played across her lips, as she took another sip of her ice cold beverage. But when the topic of Brittany arose once more, her ears instantly perked up.
We’re not dating, that’s all Noelle needed to hear for her nerves to ease, and all unpleasant thoughts to subside. Why was she relieved though? She shouldn’t been. Aside from the pact that she was madly in love with the girl who she thought was taken only a moment prior, but that was beside the point. “Oh.” Was the only syllable she managed to force out, no emotion showing in her voice. The brunette opened her mouth to change the subject when Charlie continued stating that she didn’t have feelings for Brittany. ‘O-oh, you don’t?” Her voice was higher than she wanted it to be, so she quickly cleared her throat, and instead stuffed her face to prevent herself from talking.
After a few moments, she finished her course, emptying the rest of her glass. Damn, was the date over already? Well, not date, but hang out? For lack of a better word. Honestly, Noelle was disappointed, but that emotion quickly vanished when a thought crossed her mind. She was off that day, Charlie was off that day, and according to the florist she had no other plans. Looking over, she noticed Charlie had also finished her meal, thankfully. “Hey, C. I – uh. Did you want to go out onto the patio, y’know. Just talk?” The question was more awkward than she intended, but she couldn’t help it. As she waited for the woman’s answer, she flagged the waitress over, already digging in her purse for her wallet.
It was definitely a risky topic, the topic of Brittany. One wrong word and it could really change everything. The words “We’re not dating” “I don’t have feelings for her” were words that left her lips instinctively; she felt the need to verbally confirm those facts to the other woman. And it did give her the opportunity to see how Noelle truly feels, too. Studying her initial reaction could allow her that. Except…it didn’t - her facial expression remained neutral, her voice giving nothing away. Until she mentioned about unrequited feelings for Brittany. There was a glimmer of something, the unusual rise in pitch, but Charlie wasn’t going to get her hopes up over something so tiny.
So instead Charlie opted to tuck into her own meal as well. It was delicious and the blonde was savoring every single bite. The glass was emptied of its content and soon enough the plate before her empty. A wave of sadness overcame her at the idea of the outing being over so soon. That feeling quickly dissolved at the tentative mention of speaking. Just talk? That question was more loaded than the tone of voice it was spoken in. Even so, Charlie nodded and muttered a “sure” in response. She smoothed her dress out and rose up from her seat, thanking Noelle again for paying for the meal and stood at the doorway waiting for her friend.
Meals and service paid for, the pair entered the patio area and noticing a bench, Charlie motioned for them to sit. Again, a silence fell upon both of them and Charlie wasn’t sure who should be the one to break it. She didn’t give her companion much of a choice when she began her infamous Charlie ramble. “Did you really mean everything you said that night? About not wanting to stop? Does that mean ummm…” she spoke in a low tone, knowing it was dangerous territory she was treading on. Her heart was on her sleeve, there was a lot they had to discuss. God, looking at Noelle right now, she wanted to confess and scream her feelings, but her fears were standing in the way of that happening.
The Latina wasn’t sure if she was prepared to hear Charlie’s answer. What if she said and her Brittany were a thing? What was she thinking? Of course Charlie wouldn’t. If she and Brittany had been together, she wouldn’t tell Noelle for the sake of sparing her feelings. This thought alone made the brunette want to stand up and leave, but she couldn’t be mad, right? They had no ties, they both were single and free to do what or whomever they pleased. It’s not like Charlie even knew how she felt and Noelle sure as hell planned on keeping it that way.
Noelle nodded along to every word the blonde voiced, only looking up every now and again, but not being able to look for far too long. When the waitress returned with their food, Noelle gestured for Charlie to hold her thought as the woman settled everything in front of them. “Thanks.” She kindly thanked the elderly woman, waiting until she was gone, to dig into her salad and tune back into the conversation. The model was prepared to swallow her first bite, when Charlie mentioned Brittany buying her flowers. She coughed slightly, quickly following it back with a gulp of her drink, trying to pretend she was fine.
Of course Brittany still would have feelings for Charlie, she’d be stupid not to. And Noelle had to respect that. She wasn’t going to move in on the girl when she had someone else, someone better waiting for her. “Oh, that uh…that was sweet of her.” She lied, forcing the words out, which proved to be difficult. “The dogs? They’re doing fine. I took Jewel on a play date recently, and I think she’s preggers.” She smiled. “I’m going to be a grandma.” Noelle added, trying to ease the tension she felt building, or maybe it was only one-sided. “So, I take it you two are doing well?” A perfectly arched eyebrow quirked in her friend’s direction. Why couldn’t she let it go? “You and Brittany?”
The atmosphere had definitely shifted to something that Charlie was praying mentally not for - awkward and slightly tension-filled. Bringing up Brittany was a touchy subject, Charlie had to choose her words carefully now. How was she going to explain this? Yes, Brittany had given her flowers but… it didn’t mean anything, right? Being quite the florist, Charlie knew the exact meaning of the bouquet at first glance. She was trying to move on with Brittany, considering Noelle was off the market forever (or so she had assumed). But as soon as things started to get serious and feelings were becoming more and more involved, the nerdy girl realized she couldn’t lie about whom her heart truly desired anymore.
Thankfully the waitress approached with the ordered meals in each hand, granting the blonde a few extra seconds to arrange and form some kind of coherent sentence to clear the air around them. Again, politely, Charlie thanked her for the great service the older woman was providing. Honestly, the food looked delicious so she was happy to tuck in and take a few bites. Her eyes widened momentarily, surprised at the reaction gained from mentioning the flowers. No, it was simply coincidental. That didn’t mean anything. Or so she told herself.
Her expression quickly morphed into one displaying sheer happiness. “Really? She’s pregnant? That’s amazing! Wow!” She was genuinely happy for her. “A grandmother already? You look so young! What’s your secret?” she playfully teased, relishing in the blissful moment. Unfortunately, it was short lived. Charlie furrowed her brows out of confusion at the questions that followed suit. “What?” she said at first. “Ummm we’re not dating, or anything like that. She—I told her I didn’t…” Why was she even saying this out loud? She didn’t owe Noelle an explanation on her love life…right? Charlie shook her head. Surely the Latina could pick up what she meant by that. Brittany’s the only person who knows Charlie has feelings for someone—it felt good to not keep it bottled up, to finally admit it out loud to herself that night she told Brittany her feelings were one sided—but the blonde made sure she didn’t know who exactly it was. “I don’t have feelings for her.” Charlie lifted her eyes from her meal, studying Noelle’s face carefully for her reaction.
Noelle smiled as Charlie ordered, silently wishing she would have ordered the same thing, but she really couldn’t jeopardize her career when it was the only thing she had going for her. The entertainment business, more so the modeling business was cruel, and they noticed every little flaw. The Latina flashed the waitress a tight smile, handing over their menus before turning back to the blonde across from her. “I’d rather deal with stressed out brides, than overbearing, uptight agents.” She scrunched her face up in mock disgust. Noelle honestly loved her job. It was easy and the pay was good. Also paid vacations, who wouldn’t love that? But it was also a cruel industry, if she was being completely honest.
When Charlie mentioned the brunette’s offer to pay, she winced slightly. Maybe she was being too forward, she knew she had been almost instantly. “Uh, no. It’s fine, Charlie. I want to.” Flashing a smile at the blonde, she took a sip of the tea that was just brought to her, turning her gaze to gaze out of the window for a brief second. “So, how’s things back home?” She asked, turning her focus back to the florist, arching an eyebrow. The last she heard, Charlie and Brittany were kinda hitting it off, or so she assumed. She wouldn’t have been surprised really. When she first arrived to NY, she figured they were together, considering their high school history, but she had been grateful they weren’t. But they were living together, after all. “How’s uh…Brittany?” She asked, not really sure of what else to say.
“Oh no, no. You really don’t,” she returned with a small smile. Being a photographer herself, Charlie was aware of struggles that many models deal with from the media and hearing it from models she had worked with on school assignments themselves. It seemed tough. She had no idea how Noelle could do that for a living. Then again, the Latina was absolutely gorgeous, Charlie can tell she does well in the business and she must enjoy it. Hearing that the brunette wanted to pay, well, it warmed the blonde’s heart to hear it.
Fiddling with the straw in her glass, Charlie inwardly sighed contently. So far, so good. No awkward moments. “Back home in my apartment? Things are great. They’re really, really good.” She cast her mind back to the those nights Quinn, Brittany and herself would cuddle on the couch, watching rom-coms after a hard day’s work. And of course she had her furry companion, Alfie, the lovable Chinchilla to curl up with while lying in bed. Life at home was beyond great. Taking her drink to her lips, call it bad timing, she sputtered a little at the mention of Noelle inquiring about Brittany. “Brittany’s doing well too,” she said too quickly for her own liking. Was that too short and sweet? “She umm… she bought me flowers the other day.” The girl decided against saying what the flowers meant. “How are things at home with you? How are the doggies doing?” Charlie turned the tables onto Noelle, hoping she wouldn’t press her any further on it. It felt…wrong to discuss it.
It was almost impossible for Noelle to keep her eyes off Charlie as she spoke. Her eyes, her mouth, her simple hand gestures – everything captivated the Latina, no matter how much she tried to prevent it. It was like Charlie not only had a hold on her heart, but also her ability to function properly. How could one person have such an effect on you in such a way? Not wanting to seem like a complete idiotic robot, the model nodded here and there, to assure Charlie that she was listening, smiling warmly when the woman mentioned her Pokemon addiction that was still in tact even after many years. That was only one of the minor things she adored about the blonde. The fact that she was still a kid at heart and completely care free was just something that Noelle admired entirely.
New people? The question was simple, but it hit Noelle like a ton of bricks. Surely, Charlie couldn’t have thought she would have moved on that fast, and just the slight mention of being involved with anyone else caused her heart to hurt in a way that she didn’t know it could. “I – uh, no.” She stammered out, not even bothering to mask the slight stutter. Other than Chris and Charlie, Alana was the only person she had ever actually loved, and that boat had sailed a while ago. She wasn’t exactly keen on meeting new people – in that way, anyways. “I do have a new photographer.” The Latina shrugged, hoping Charlie wouldn’t press the issue. “I start work again, like soon, so. I guess that’s both fortunate and unfortunate.” A small giggle escaped her lips, as the waitress returned.
A comfortable silence enveloped the duo and Noelle took the time to silently look over her menu. She was still on contract diet and couldn’t eat as much as she wanted, so she quickly opted for a seafood salad with extra mushrooms, and after finishing a water, decided she’d also have a sweet tea. “What are you having, C? My treat.” Was she being too forward? She certainly hoped not. And she hoped Charlie didn’t think so, either.
As the question left her mouth, Charlie felt instant remorse and regret. Or maybe it had a mixture of fear in there, too. The idea of Noelle possibly moving on so hastily was ridiculous, preposterous even. Then again, she was single again. The brunette had no ties anymore and people deal with the breakdown of relationships differently. Some people cry, some people try to get back into the game, burying themselves in meaningless sex. It was difficult to swallow and imagine Noelle being one of those people. Charlie knew she wasn’t that kind of person, but with how crazy and messed up her thoughts are these days, even the wackiest of theories were becoming possibilities.
The blonde braced her heart for it to drop and was pleasantly surprised by the Latina’s answer. Okay, good. Those thoughts could be tossed side easily now. “A new photographer, huh?” she said with great interest. The girl was well aware that Chris was her old photographer, so she wasn’t going to pry on the issue. “Really? Hey, that’s a good thing. Your job seems so easy. At least you don’t have to deal with stressed out brides phoning the shop constantly to make sure their order is absolutely perfect,” she teased, sipping some of her water through the straw. “Not to mention the customers at the shop can be a little crazy too.” In spite of the chaos, Charlie genuinely loved her job. She decided to keep to herself that it’s a good thing that Noelle is starting back to work again - after all, it’d give her something to occupy her time with.
Taking a moment to read the menu, Charlie broke from her concentrated glances at the mention of a salad. Yuck, salad? Now the girl felt glad she wasn’t a model. “Your treat?” Charlie repeated. The chivalrous act definitely wasn’t helping her pink cheeks return to a normal color at all. She wanted to protest, she hated when people paid for her but decided against that. The waitress looked expectantly at her. “Ummm, can I have this pasta dish, right here?” The blonde pointed at the type she wanted. Offering a sweet smile at the mature woman as she walked off, Charlie brought her gaze back to Noelle. “You… you don’t have to pay for me or anything, you know.” Inside, she was beaming. But on the outside she was desperately trying to fight back the huge grin that threatened to take over her features. “Thank you,” she said softly, feeling like quite the school girl all over again, ignoring how her heart was fluttering rapidly. Keep it together, Charles.