Love Drunk (Chapter 6)

Chapter 6: we push and pull like magnets 

***

The cool marble of the bathroom sink does very little in soothing Camila’s increasingly flushed skin.

She’s been rooted to the same spot for the past few minutes; her heart thumping so hard it might as well be bouncing off the walls. Her head is reeling and she isn’t sure if she’s enjoying the high or absolutely dreading it. Lauren makes her body react in ways she’s never had to deal with before.

Mason has never caused such an avalanche of emotions within Camila the way Lauren does. He never made her feel so jittery, yet so calm and collected all at once. Her head has never felt so muddled, yet clear at the same time. Camila has never wanted someone to kiss her so bad, yet simultaneously push them away to shield them from all the insecurity and doubt festering up inside her.

She doesn’t want to hurt anyone. Camila’s always been scared of hurting people that mean the most to her, and she would never forgive herself if she ever hurt Lauren. Lauren’s been through a lot and Camila doesn’t want to add to that.

They have a strong connection; she can only feel it growing with each passing moment they spend together. She’s just afraid that if she gives in to the physical desires, when it comes time to give herself emotionally—she won’t be able to.

Camila’s working on dealing with the issues Mason’s left her with. Being cheated on isn’t something you can easily move on from. What if she thinks she’s ready, but she really isn’t? What if Lauren ends up feeling more for her than she does for Lauren? What if she can’t give Lauren what she wants? She can’t bare disappointing people, she’s always been a perfectionist when it came to that.

BreatheCamilaBreathe.

Don’t work yourself up.

Inhaling slowly through her nose, and exhaling softly at the count of five through her mouth, the tension begins to drop from Camila’s shoulders. When the marble beneath her fingers finally feels colder, she knows it’s working and she feels a lot more relaxed.

Camila trusts Lauren—she hasn’t given her a reason not to. Lauren every bit proved that she’s willing to give Camila time and space to sort out her feelings.

Camila’s really come to admire the green-eyed girl. She’s been very patient and understanding, and it’s pretty rare these days to meet someone so genuinely kind and selfless. Lauren is definitely someone worth giving a chance to.

There’s no way to know how Lauren is when she’s in a relationship (unless she were to date someone else, but the thought of that makes Camila feel queasy even if she has no claim on the girl—but in a way, that’s like, her girl). But the thought of being with Lauren is exciting. Lauren is sweet and charming—as was Mason, but it’s just so different with Lauren (everything is)—and Camila doesn’t feel like she’s walking on eggshells trying to protect herself around her.

Camila turns around to face the mirror and run her hands through her hair a few times. Can’t look like I’ve been having a love-life crisis, she thinks, can’t have Lauren think she got one over on you.

She’s not so much worried about dealing with Lauren anymore as she is of having to face Dinah and Normani now that she’s sure they know she and Lauren have spoken. The embarrassment starts to seep in, and she blushes again before saying ’fuck it’ and bounding through the door to make her way back to join her friends.

After a shared look of understanding between the dark-skinned girl and the blonde, they don’t poke and prod her about what happened (Camila knows Dinah will surely corner her at some other point and Lauren will undoubtedly tell Normani). They do however, snicker with each other about the red tint on Camila’s cheeks and the glances she’s been sending Lauren’s way any time she catches sight of her.

The bartender approaches their table and slides a drink across it to Camila. It bumps against her hand, some of the liquid sloshing over the rim. He looks apologetic, but she just smiles.

“I don’t think I ordered this.”

“There’s a guy over at the bar that bought it for you,” The bartender points his thumb vaguely in the direction of the bar. He smiles and leaves them to tend to his other customers. No one seems to be looking over to their table at the moment, so Camila isn’t really sure who it could be.

“Free drinks are free drinks, Walz. But if you don’t want it, I’ll take it.” The blonde eyes the bar curiously in an attempt to find the mystery man. When she locks eyes with the stranger, she tugs on Camila’s sleeve. “Hey, I think that might be him.”

“Stare harder, Dinah. I don’t think he can see you,” Normani says sarcastically, jamming an elbow into the Polynesian’s ribs.

Camila concludes that he isn’t unattractive. He has nice dark eyes and perfectly quaffed dark hair to match. He’s got a little stubble going on, but it suits him. He’s smiling at her, eyes twinkling as the lights reflect off them and the beer bottle in his hand.

He’s cute but he isn’t Lauren.

Camila looks back to Dinah, who’s chugging the drink down.

“Yeah, sure you can have it.”

“I tried to stop her,” Normani defends.

Dinah swallows the rest of the contents of the glass and places it back on the table. “He’s coming over here.”

“What?” Camila splutters. “Fuck. Shit.”

“Hey,” The man says smoothly, eyes trained on Camila. “That was some show you put on earlier.”

Now that she can see him more up close, it’s obvious that the man is a lot older than she thought. To each their own, but Camila personally wasn’t into guys old enough to be her father.

And again, he wasn’t Lauren.

“Yeah,” She agrees half-heartedly. “It was.”

He takes another sip of his beer before smiling. “Can I buy you another drink?”

“Uhm—I’m good. But thank you.”

“Not much of a talker, are you?”

Camila opens her mouth to respond, but Dinah beats her to it, “She doesn’t want to talk to you, dude. She’s with us trying to enjoy herself. She isn’t here for old men to hit on her.” Normani nods in agreement, although she wouldn’t have used those exact words.

“I’m sure if she doesn’t want me here, she can speak up for herself.”

“She’s right,” Camila speaks up, the man looking a little offended before she clarifies, “It was a little out of line for her to say it like that, so I’m sorry about that, but I’m not really interested. Thank you for the drink though.”

After a moment of contemplation, he decides on, “Fair enough.” He gives Camila another once-over quickly, yet his eyes linger too long for her liking. “But if you change your mind, I’ll be at the bar. Have a good night.” He turns on his heels to return to his spot at the bar.

“That was easy,” Normani comments.

“I swear, Mila. You’re such a douche magnet,” Dinah huffs. “First that Logan kid, then this old dude. What is with these guys?”

“To be fair, you were rude to him first.”

“Seems like he’s over it already,” Normani points to where the man is buying another young woman a drink and attempting to feel her up.

“Still think he wasn’t a douche?”

“Alright, alright. You made your point.”

“If he comes back, I got you. Don’t worry. But for now, let’s do some more shots, bitches!”

***

Lauren was proud of herself for the way she handled the situation between herself and Camila in the bathroom. Even though she was satisfied with how it worked out, she was still frustrated with the current turn of events. At first glance, Camila comes off as very reserved, quiet and timid. But this version of her right now—the one that’s sending Lauren smoldering looks, flirtatious glances, and lots and lots of lip bites (which Lauren knows is payback)—might actually be the devil. 

She knows a lot of it is because Dinah and Normani have gotten her progressively more drunk than she already was because they’re bad influences, but like, she’s almost dropped her tray of drinks a few times because Camila just looks so hot—she can’t stop thinking about how she wants to be the one biting that lip—and that’s just not cool.

Her job is annoying enough already. She doesn’t need some sexy, emotionally unavailable girl sending her ’take me to bed’ looks from across the room when she knows it’s nothing but the alcohol talking.

Lauren’s thankful in a way that their interaction for the rest of the night is limited to fleeting glances and distant flirting; she isn’t sure she’d be able to handle herself if Camila actually tried to touch her.

She’s relieved when the final call for drinks rings out and the lights start to flicker, indicating it’s time for everyone to get the fuck up outta there. After a lot of grunting and grumbling, the crowd eventually dispersed, although Lauren’s friends decided to stay behind and wait for her.

While she was cleaning up for the end of her shift, Lauren offered to drive the girls home. Normani declined—reasoning that she had already called a cab for herself and Dinah—and that she would just see Lauren in the morning. She then proceeded to give the Latina a not-so-gentle nudge in the ribs while telling her to take Camila home instead.

Unsurprisingly, she didn’t protest.

“Come on, Camz. Left foot, right foot.”

Lauren circles her arms tighter around Camila’s waist when the girl’s steps falter, causing her to stumble as they enter her apartment. She was completely wasted, the alcohol seeming to have turned her legs into actual Jell-O.

Lauren deposits Camila onto the couch, shaking her head as she watches the girl attempt to take her shoes off. It’s like watching a baby deer try to do anything—it’s very clumsy, but adorable, nonetheless.

Her fingers fumble against the clasp on her heels and Lauren can tell she’s had about enough of this fuckery when she huffs and lays across the cushions in defeat. She’s pouting now, and Lauren’s heart has lept a million times in her chest because she can’t get over how much she just wants to hug Camila and squish her little cheeks.

“Can’t get them off,” Camila slurs to no one in particular. She isn’t even sure if Lauren’s paying attention anymore. She’ll sleep in her fucking heels if she has to. Not like she can feel her feet at this point anyways.

She vaguely registers the husky chuckle from Lauren as the girl leans down to unclasp her heels and pull them off her feet. Placing them off to the side—careful to leave them out of the walk way—the green-eyed girl squeezes Camila’s ankle lightly. “Better?”

“Yes,” She hums against the cushion. “Thank you, Lo.”

“Alright, drunkie.” Lauren straightens back up and reaches for Camila’s hands. “Let’s get you to bed.”

Camila frowns and pushes her torso from off the couch in what feels like slow-motion. She ignores Lauren’s outstretched hand and glances over at the kitchen. “I’m so hungry,” She complains. “Will you please make me some food?”

She knows Lauren isn’t going to say no, but she gives her the puppy dog eyes anyways.

Lauren wanders off into the kitchen to prepare something. Thankfully, Camila already has some left over chicken and rice, so she doesn’t have to go through too much trouble. She empties the container onto a plate and heats it up. When the food is all warmed up, she grabs a few paper towels and fills a glass full of water. 

Miraculously, Camila has managed to stay awake while waiting—even though she looks like she’s about three seconds from passing out. “Do you want to eat in there or in the kitchen?”

“I’ll come in there.”

It takes her a little while, but she makes it to the table and (ungracefully) plops down in one of the chairs. She wastes no time with the food, making a show to quickly scarf it all down.

“Slow down,” Lauren warns. “You’re going to choke. And that sort of defeats the entire purpose of me being here to watch over you.”

Camila rolls her eyes, mouth stuffed with food. “Sorry, mami.”

Lauren knows that Camila is just being a smartass by comparing her nagging to that of her mother’s, but something about the nickname makes heat slowly creep up her neck. It goes unnoticed by Camila, her focus still glued to the food in front of her.

When the girl is done practically licking her plate clean, she deposits the dish in the sink, opting to wash it later. Lauren knows that if she even tried right now, she’d probably drop it and break it. And the last thing she needs is to have to drive Camila to the hospital for stitches.

“Are you going to stay over?”

The thought of staying over hadn’t actually crossed her mind. She just figured once she got Camila to bed, she would stay passed out for the rest of the night and she’d check on her later to make sure she was feeling alright.

Camila bites her lip and nods shyly. When she leads her to the bedroom, Camila picks out something for Lauren to wear while she changes and uses the bathroom. Once she’s done, she and Lauren switch places while she waits for the girl to finish.

Camila had decided to just sleep in her underwear and a shirt, so when Lauren comes out and finds her sitting on the edge of the bed dressed like that, her brain short-circuits and her mouth goes dry. Her eyes have a mind of their own as they wander up the smooth, caramel skin of her legs. They look so soft and inviting, all Lauren wants to do is kneel in front of her and run her hands over them.

It’s times like these Lauren can appreciate the fact that Camila is spaced out so she doesn’t call her out on her blatant ogling.

“Camz?” Camila’s eyes open slowly when she hears her name. “You okay? You’re not feeling sick, are you?”

“I’m fine,” The girl assures her with slurred speech and a slow blink. “I’m just…relaxing.” Her eyes close again and she hums in satisfaction.

Lauren laughs lightly as she throws her hair up in a messy ponytail. “Exactly how much did you drink tonight?”

“A lot. I don’t know if I should hang out with Dinah and Normani together when we go out anymore.”

“You’re going to have an awful headache in the morning.” She pushes the blanket open and pats the spot next to her. “C’mere.” Camila obeys, crawling across the bed to where Lauren is. In any other moment, this would seem really seductive, but with Camila’s drunken stumbling and her tired eyes, Lauren can’t think about being excited to do anything other than just hold her.

Camila’s body is warm as the girl cuddles close. Her nose grazes the underside of Lauren’s chin, while her arm bunches up the fabric of her shirt at the waist. It all has such a domestic feel to it.

Lauren loves the way Camila feels. She loves how they seem to fit together so well. She wishes things could have been different so that maybe Camila could already be hers.

But if there’s one thing that Lauren is—it’s patient.

She’ll wait however long, because this seems like it could be more than worth it.

Lauren’s broken out of her thoughts when she feels fingers pressing against the underside of her jaw. She shifts a little and squeezes Camila’s shoulder. “You okay?”

“More than okay,” Camila mumbles into her neck. “I like sleeping with you.”

Lauren’s heart flutters at Camila’s confession. She knows the girl probably wouldn’t admit this to her without having had more than a few drinks, but she appreciates it nonetheless.

“You’re very cuddly,” Lauren replies light-heartedly.

“You’re so warm and soft.” Camila hums comfortably, enjoying the feel of being wrapped up in Lauren’s embrace. “Just wanna stay here forever.”

Lauren doesn’t respond, instead just strokes up and down Camila’s arm. The girl’s breathing evens out and she’s pretty sure Camila has fallen asleep until she speaks again.

“Do you think he cares about what he did to me?”

Lauren doesn’t really know how to answer this question. She doesn’t want to tell Camila how she really feels in fear of upsetting the girl, but she doesn’t want to play it off like Mason cares when he’s already shown that he in no way seems to. 

There’s no way for her to know for sure, but she has a feeling he doesn’t.

“Camz…” Lauren begins softly. “I don’t really know if I can answer that.”

“I don’t think he does.” Lauren can feel Camila’s breath against her neck as the girl talks. “It’s like he turned into a different person completely out of nowhere. He was so sweet and caring, then he was cold and a complete dick. I just don’t understand what happened or where it came from.”

“I don’t know, Camz.”

“I just don’t understand how someone can play with another person’s feelings like they aren’t an actual person.”

“Some of them just don’t have any concern for others,” Lauren explains. “It’s not right, and it isn’t fair, but it’s just how it is. Some people can coast through life making other think they care just long enough to get what they want until they don’t need them anymore. It’s the shitty truth, but it goes back to how there’s always bad to balance out good in the universe.” She feels Camila squeeze her side in understanding, and quickly adds, “But you never deserved that. You’re the embodiment of everything good in this world, Camila. I hope you know that.”

“I’m just tired,” Camila says after a beat.

She feels Lauren’s hand make its way into her hair, stroking the strands lovingly. She breathes a sigh of relief, everything seeming easier with Lauren by her side.

“You should sleep, Camz.”

“I didn’t mean that I’m physically tired—well, I sort of am—but I meant that I’m just so over feeling like this.” Lauren continues her gentle strokes as she lets the girl vent. “I’m so tired of being stuck feeling like shit over someone who didn’t give a fuck.” She hurriedly wipes at the tears of frustration she knows are forming, “I don’t even care about him anymore—it’s just the fact that it was so easy for him to get under my skin and now I don’t know if I can trust someone so easily again. I’m stuck with feeling like I won’t be enough, like I won’t be able to keep someone happy, and I’m going to be constantly paranoid I’m going to get cheated on again and be stupid enough not to be able to see it.”

Lauren’s heart aches in her chest painfully for Camila. She’s such a sweet, genuine person and it hurts her so much that she feels like this. Anyone would be the luckiest person on the entire planet to be with her, and she’s so deserving of love.

“And I’m so scared—I’m so fucking scared that no matter how much my mind protests, that I just can’t feel that way with you.”

Lauren blinks slowly. Did Camila really say that or is just hearing things?

“I’m trying so hard to keep myself guarded; to let myself get over this. But I just—I don’t know what it is about you, but it just makes me want to dive head first into it without caring. I like you more than I thought I would, but I can’t allow myself to do that. I want to say fuck it so badly and just worry about the consequences later—if there even would be any—but I can’t. I just can’t.”

Lauren can feel her own eyes growing watery at the pain and desperation in Camila’s voice, so she presses a kiss to the girl’s forehead and pulls her closer, wrapping both her arms around her frame. “You deserve the world, Camz,” She whispers, rubbing her back. “I know it’s hard for you to see that because of what some undeserving prick did to you, but it’s so true. And I so willingly would give that to you—but only when you’re one hundred percent ready. Don’t push yourself because you think it’s what I need, I’m so happy to be your friend, too. You being around is just enough for me.”

Camila sniffles and lifts her head to look at Lauren. She can vaguely make out her features from the dim light of the moon shining through the curtains, but it’s enough to see the shining tears against her cheeks. Lauren reaches out slowly to wipe away her tears and cradle the girl’s face in her hand. Camila leans in to her touch, her heart hammering at the feel of Lauren’s compassion for her. 

“It isn’t fair to you, Lauren.”

“Hey, don’t think that I’m not okay with waiting until you’re ready—if you’re ever ready for me. But in the meantime, I’m totally fine with just being your badass bartender.”

And just like that, Camila’s laughing again and Lauren allows herself to get lost in the sound. If it was the only sound she was able to listen to for the rest of her life, she’d be okay with that.

Camila settles back into Lauren’s chest, “Sorry for keeping you up. I don’t really know where all of that came from.”

“Please stop apologizing. I’m not angry with you, and you have every right to feel what you feel and express your emotions. I like that you trust me enough to share them with me. It makes me feel special.”

“You are special,” Camila murmurs against her skin.

“You should get some sleep now, babe. That hangover’s gonna be killer in the morning.”

Camila smiles at the pet name, sighing at the warmth that envelopes her chest. “Don’t remind me, I can already feel the headache coming on.”

“Here, let me help.” Lauren weaves her fingers through the silky smooth strands of Camila’s hair for the next few minutes again, fingertips grazing soothingly over her skull. “Better?”

When the younger Latina doesn’t reply, Lauren knows this time she’s finally fallen asleep.

***

Several things come crashing into Camila’s conscious when she wakes the next morning.

One: there’s a dull ache in her head that throbs harder any time she so much as breathes.

Two: she did (and said) a lot of embarrassing things last night at the bar that she sadly has to remember (would be a lot easier if she couldn’t). Everything after is still a bit hazy.

Three: she’s lucky she woke up when she did, considering she has to work in about two hours (she would call out, but she needs the money).

And four: Lauren is no longer in bed with her, which prompts her to wonder where the hell green-eyed girl is and why she isn’t cuddling her.

Camila rubs at her aching head and reaches over to grab her phone from the night stand. She almost knocks over the glass of water that wasn’t there the night before. Sitting up, Camila opens up the few text messages she has.

Dinah: waaaaaaaaaaaaalzerio! Just checking in to make sure your huge Cuban ass got home alright and if I never get a response im just assuming you got lost in lauser’s vag

Mani: ignore that dumbass, Laur told us you got home safe. Had a fun time, see you again soon! x

Lo: Good morning Camzi! Or whatever time it is when you wake up, lol. I had some classes today, so I couldn’t stay to make you any breakfast or make sure your head didn’t explode. I did leave some water and Tylenol on the nightstand for you, so take that when you can. Hope you feel better, and we’ll talk later.

Camila groans and drops her phone without replying to the messages on the bed next to her. She reaches out for the water and takes the Tylenol. Hopefully her head will stop throbbing by the time she has to go to work.

She dozes in and out of sleep for the next thirty or so minutes before she finally drags her ass out of bed to take a shower and get dressed.

She’s wrapped a towel around herself and secured her dripping hair when her phone rings from the bedroom. Hoping it’s not because her boss is pissed that she’s late, she scurries to answer and finds that it’s only Dinah. She’s relieved that she has more than enough time to get to work. 

Walz, you never replied to me. I thought maybe you died.”

“I can assure you I’m very much alive. Although my head kinda feels like it’s been ripped in half, so maybe it’s up for debate.”

Yeah, yeah,” Dinah feigns interest. “So, what happened with Lauren? I want details. I know something happened last night.

“Nothing happened.”

You’re a shitty liar, Mila!

Camila puts the girl on speaker so she can get dressed. She dries her hair off with the towel, rolling her eyes the entire time at Dinah’s antics. “Fine,” She hisses. “But I promise nothing happened. We just sorta had another moment.”

What the fuck does that mean! Start talking! How do you expect me to be a good captain if you won’t tell me anything?”

“Alright, alright. Calm your tits. I was really drunk—as you know, because it was your fucking fault, but we’ll talk about that some other time—and we talked in the bathroom and I sort of—uhm, we were touching a lot and like—I told her I wanted her to kiss me.”

The other end is silent.

“Dinah?” She’s half convinced Dinah’s hung up until the girl yells.    
Oh my fucking god! Did she do it? Ew, she didn’t fingerbang you against the sink did she? Nasty lesbians.”

Camila rolls her eyes so hard she’s afraid they might pop out of her head. “First of all, we aren’t lesbians. We’re both bisexual, so shut the fuck up. Secondly, no. She didn’t fingerbang me against the sink you nasty ass pervert.”

Did she do it in the stall?”

Dinah!”

Dinah scoffs incredulously, how dare Camila act like this when she’s the one withholding all the information. “Then what even happened? One second you’re being bold as fuck during karaoke then you’re running back like a scared little puppy with its tail between its legs. Then you’re back to the gay, longing stares from across the roomWhat. The. Fuck!”

“I was a little embarrassed, Dinah. I practically threw myself at her. And then I was really wasted so I probably didn’t give a fuck.”

“It’s about time! And she still went home with you, so I don’t see what the big deal is.” The blonde sighs defeatedly. “So what did she say then?”

Camila blushes when she thinks about what Lauren had said. Not yet, not like this. “She wants to kiss me, but not when I’m drunk off my ass or still upset about the shit with Mason. She’s just giving me time and space. We talked about other stuff too, but I was really wasted so some of it I can’t really remember. I was pretty upset though.”

Oh, no. You ugly cried, didn’t you?” Camila can imagine the look on Dinah’s face right now, knowing how Dinah feels when people start ugly crying. “Well, if that didn’t completely scare her off then I guess you’re good. But that’s nice of her, she seems really respectful. I’m glad she didn’t take advantage of you.”

“She wouldn’t do something like that.”

Let’s hope not. I wouldn’t want to have to fuck up her pretty face.”

Camila groans, “That would be absolutely tragic, but I’m sure it’ll be alright.” In an attempt to change the subject, she asks, “What are your plans for today?”

Gonna have lunch with Mani soon, so I probably need to go get ready. But keep me up to date on your lesbian affairs—”

“I told you we aren’t lesbians!”

Bye, Walz! I’ll tell Mani you said hi, have fun at work!”

The line clicks off and Camila scoffs in annoyance, throwing her phone on the bed behind her. How dare Dinah hang up on her. She shakes her head and continues getting ready for the long day ahead of her.

***

Lauren slides off her bed into a crouching position beside it; she locates the box she’s looking for and carefully pulls it out to place it on the bed. Popping the top off, she sifts through a few pieces of the memorabilia until she locates the photo she’s been looking for.

It’s a favorite photo of hers; one that has a very special place in her heart. Lauren isn’t sure exactly when it was taken, but it was some time after she and Reagan had celebrated their two year anniversary. They ended up having a late celebration party and she remembers that Normani had caught them cuddled up together on the porch swing; all smiles and giggles as they talked and kissed. Lauren couldn’t remember being happier.

Her thumb trails across the expanse of the photo and stopping on Reagan’s face. She could never forget the way her lips curled when she smiled; or she would laugh with her entire body when she found something particularly funny. It was forever etched into her memory, and Reagan would always be her favorite memory.

A drop of wetness hits the hand that’s holding the photo, and before Lauren knows it, she’s crying. Her fingertips come up to rub the moisture away. She sniffles, a giggle caught in her throat.

“God dammit, Rea. You always know how to get to me, even when you’re not here.”

She pauses as if she’s waiting for a reply.

It doesn’t come, and it shouldn’t be surprising, but it always hits Lauren the same. She’ll never get a reply from Reagan again. She’ll never hear her laugh again, or argue with her again. They’ll never hold each other after an exhausting day, or kiss just because they can.

It’s a feeling Lauren isn’t sure she can ever get used to.

She’s come to terms with it, but it still hurts and it always will.

Her mind then drifts to a certain brunette with her big, bambi eyes and cute little button nose that Lauren wants to kiss a million times. She may have lost someone that’s always been so near and dear to her; but at the same time she feels as though she may have gained so much more.

“You’d really like her Rea,” Lauren says quietly, as if the girl were right in front of her. “I know she would’ve liked you.”

The Latina makes herself more comfortable on the floor; knowing now that Reagan is listening, she has a few things she wants to share with her.

Reagan’s always been a good listener.

“When I first met it her, it was so fucked up, Rea. She was so heartbroken and I didn’t know who she was or what even really went down, but I felt so protective of her. I was so drawn to her, I have no idea how to explain it.” Lauren runs a hand through her hair.

“I was so fucking distraught after you died. I know you were probably so disappointed with the way I handled everything, but I was just so lost.” Lauren frowns when she thinks of how Reagan would have reacted. “And I know I’ve apologized so many times, but it’s not okay,” Her thumbs caresses the photo as she sniffles. “I haven’t done anything like that in a while though, you know that I’ve been getting better—I’m a lot better now. I mean, I’m still a human and a girl has needs,” She chuckles to herself, knowing that if Reagan were sitting opposite of her, she’d be laughing too, “But it’s been so different since I met Camila.”

“She’s still hurt—I know she is. I can see it sometimes, you know? It’s bothering her less, but it’s still there. Her piece of shit ex-boyfriend made her doubt her worth, and I just—that’s so fucked up, Rea. He was so fucking wrong for that. If anyone deserves the world—it’s her, you know? She has such a beautiful mind, and she’s so compassionate. I could say so many things about her and it still wouldn’t even touch the root of who she is and how amazing she is.”

“I could see myself with her; I’d be lying if I said I could see myself with anyone but her now. And I know it’s so crazy because it hasn’t been that long, but I’m such an idiot around her. It’s like I don’t know how to human anymore, it’s ridiculous.” Another chuckle. “It’s so refreshing to be able to feel that again, Rea. I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to move on, I was so convinced my heart would be broken forever. I just built my walls so high that no one would even try to climb them. I always made sure I couldn’t fall for anyone. And god—she isn’t even trying, but she’s done it.”

A beat passes.

“I could love her. I could definitely love her.”

She sighs.

“I just hope she could love me, too. And I would never rush her—God knows I wouldn’t. I’ll give her all the time she needs, and I’ll be there for her every step of the way. I need to be. Even if all she ever wants is to be friends, I’ll take it. I would rather be her friend than not have her in my life at all.”

“I just want her to be happy. After all this shit she’s had to deal with, she really deserves it.”

“You deserve to be happy, too, ya know?”

Lauren’s eyes widen at the sound of another voice and she whips around to find Normani leaning against the doorframe staring at her. “How long have you been standing there?” Her voice is high and squeaky, embarrassment settling in.

“I didn’t mean to scare you or intrude, Lo. I couldn’t help but hear you though, and I really hope you know that Reagan would be so proud of you, and you deserve to be happy as well. Whether it’s with Camila or not.” Normani smiles softly at her friend. “Even though Dinah and I need another couple to double date with.”

Lauren laughs while wiping whatever remaining tears that are on her cheeks away, “Thanks Mani.”

Normani pushes herself away from the doorframe to enter Lauren’s room. She crouches next to the girl and wraps her arms around her neck, embracing her with a heart full of love. “I know you miss her, Lo.”

“I always do,” Lauren clutches at Normani’s arms. “I miss talking to her most of all.”

“She listens to you,” Normani assures her, dropping a kiss against her hair. “She hears everything you say to her. She’s watching over you.”

“You think so?”

“I know so.” Normani releases her hold and stands, grabbing Lauren’s wrists and helping her to her feet. “And who knows? Maybe she’s the reason Camila’s here now. Maybe she sent her to you.”

“I don’t know about all that—”

“I do,” Normani cuts her off with a serious look. “Reagan was head over heels in love with you, Lauren. How do you know she didn’t give Camila a push in the right direction? That girl would have given you her kidneys if she had to. And seeing you with Camila—you haven’t been this happy in years.”

Lauren stares at the girl reluctantly. She isn’t so sure about the power of angels, and Heaven and God, but she does know that Reagan loved her more than anything. And she isn’t really sure how she feels about it, but perhaps Normani does have some sort of point.

Normani points to the photo in Lauren’s hand, to which the girl passes over to her.

She smiles knowingly—the same smile that she had worn that same night when she found Lauren and Reagan together so blissfully happy. “You remember this day? I used to think about it a lot when you were self-destructing. I couldn’t get over how happy you looked. It was like you were a completely different person here.”

“Yeah,” Lauren agrees half-heartedly. “A lot has changed. I’m glad I got help when I did.”

“Me too, I couldn’t stand losing my best friend.”

“Rea was always good at keeping me grounded, but I lost all my footing when she died.”

Normani’s frown quickly quirks back into a smile, “Remember how mad your mom was when she saw how trashed the house was after the party?”

“Oh my god, she was pissed,” Lauren snickered. “I’m surprised I’m alive right now.”

Normani lowers the polaroid camera as the photo pops out. She plucks it from the device, shaking it a few times just because she’s seen them do it in movies.

“Let me see!” Reagan squeals as she unwraps herself from Lauren’s hold causing the older girl to pout without her space heater. She saddles up next to Normani, grinning hard as she scans over the picture. It’s cute and she really likes it. Definitely going up on her corkboard.

“Babe, come here. We’re so cute!”

Lauren grumbles and pulls herself from the porch swing. She wraps her arms around Reagan’s waist and cuddles close to her with her head on the girl’s shoulder. She looks over the photo and a matching grin spreads across her lips.

“We are cute. But you’re cuter.”

“Babe,” Reagan says sincerely. “You’re the cutest.”

“As cute as you both are—” Normani rolls her eyes and shoves the photo into Reagan’s hands, “—this is no time to be gross couple goals.”

“Someone’s salty,” Reagan jokes as she pinches Normani’s cheeks. “We have enough love for you too, Manibear.”

“Not a chance, Valdez.”

She shrugs. “A girl can dream.”

“I’m right here you know,” Lauren comments while Reagan’s busy making heart eyes at Normani. She bites the girl on the shoulder in order to get her attention.

“Lauren Michelle, my darling, the light of my life, I love you so so so much, but I can’t help my attraction to Normani. I mean, have you seen those abs? They’re unreal!”

“You’re not funny,” Lauren pouts.

“I’m hilarious.” Reagan slips around in her grip to plant a sweet kiss on Lauren’s lips. “You know you’re the only girl I have eyes for.”

Lauren smiles and rests her forehead against Reagan’s. “I know.”

“Hate to break up this incredibly disgusting—I mean cute—moment but Laur, I think your mom just pulled up.”

“What?” Lauren visibly pales (and it’s impressive how Normani spots this given how pale Lauren already is). “She shouldn’t be back until tomorrow afternoon.” She whips around and glances around the corner of the porch to see that it is indeed her mom’s car now in the driveway. “Fuck! The house is a mess, I’m so fucked!”

Lauren rushes into the living room the same time her mom is turning the key in the doorknob.

When the door opens and Clara looks around to find her couch no longer in the spot it was when she left, picture frames crooked on the walls, and trash littered all over the room, Lauren gulps because she knows Normani and Reagan are going to need to start planning her funeral.

Clara has an unreadable look on her face, although her eyes contradict this. They’re bubbling over with anger and Lauren can feel it radiating off her body.

When she opens her mouth and hears that ‘Lauren Michelle Jauregui Morgado’ she knows she’s definitely fucked.

“It’s a good thing your dad got there when he did, otherwise you probably would be dead.”

“He’s always been a lot easier on me. Perks of being the firstborn girl.”

Normani tuts, “I think it’s just because you’re cute and that puppy dog face is hard to deny.”

“Possibly,” The Latina grins. She puts the photo back in the box, closing the lid and sliding it back under her bed. “Enough sappy shit, what are you up to today?”

“I was going to meet Dinah for a lunch date. What about you?”

“I dunno,” Lauren shrugs. “I’m free now since I already went to class, so I guess I was just gonna relax and read or something. Maybe catch up on Game of Thrones.”

“Why don’t you go visit Camila at the bookstore? Dinah talked to her earlier and she said she had to work today. And I know how much you love bookstores.”

Lauren makes a face that Normani isn’t sure how to react to. “She’s working after as much as she drank last night? That’s dedication. She must be hungover as fuck.”

Normani looks a little sheepish. “Dinah and I may or may not have had something to do with that,” She mumbles.

Lauren slaps Normani in her not-so-surprisingly-hard-as-rock abs and scowls. “I know, she was really fucked up. She wasn’t even that drunk the first time I met her.”

“We were having a good time, not my fault she can’t handle her liquor!” She lightly shoves Lauren and runs out of the room. “Go see Camila! I gotta go now, my bae is awaiting. Bye!”

The front door shuts loudly and Lauren just shakes her head.

Never a dull moment

***

The bell above the door rings through the store, indicating the arrival of a customer. Camila doesn’t look up though, still nursing her now-slightly-less-throbbing-but-still-feels-like-she-got-hit-by-a-bat headache, but still greets them as chipperly as possible. “Hi, welcome to—”

“Hi Camz.”

Camila almost chokes on air when she looks up to see Lauren staring back at her with a smile on her face. “Hey, Lo—I—hey—how did you—uhm, not that I don’t like seeing you, but why are you here?”

Lauren chuckles when Camila rambles nonstop. “I thought I’d surprise you.”

“How’d you know I worked here? I don’t remember telling you which bookstore.”

“Ouch, Camz, seems like you do mind seeing me. Perhaps I should go,” Lauren giggles when Camila opens her mouth to splutter out a protest, her face turning a deep shade of red, “Relax. I know you didn’t mean it like that, I was kidding. I asked Dinah.”

“Not funny, Jauregui.” The Latina crosses her arms petulantly. “What do you want?”

“I just wanted to see where you worked. You’ve been to the bar a couple times and I’ve never had a chance to visit you here.” Lauren takes a moment to look around and survey the area. “Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever been to this bookstore before.”

“Well, if you had come here any time I was here, I definitely would have remembered you.” Camila groans inwardly at her awkwardness, hoping Lauren won’t laugh at her for being so lame.

Lauren bites her lip flirtatiously. “You hit on all of your customers, Cabello?”

The younger Latina leans forward on her elbows, feeling an urge of playfulness. “Only the ones that I know can get me free drinks.” She winks.

“Fair enough, I’ll keep that in mind. So are you gonna just stand there or are you gonna show me around?”

“Oh! Uh, yeah. I can do that.”

Lauren likes this bookstore more than any previous one she’s been to—and not just because Camila works there. They have a very wide selection of books, and there are many different sections that even have lounge chairs and tables for the customers to sit and read at. Lauren’s favorite part is the music department of the store. It’s much smaller than the actual bookstore area, but it contains nothing but records, CDs, and posters—Lauren is in heaven.

Camila leaves her to explore to her heart’s desire as she tends to the new faces that have walked through the door, and Lauren uses this as her chance to observe Camila as she works. She’s never seen Camila at work before, so this is interesting.

She watches as Camila gives them a radiant smile—the same smile that makes Lauren’s heart melt inside of her chest—and they have no idea how lucky they are to be on the receiving end of that smile. Her demeanor is very friendly as she guides them through the store in an attempt to get a feel for what they may be interested in purchasing.

The sudden feel of a hand on her shoulder causes the Latina to gasp and whip around quickly.

“Sorry!” The girl squeaks out. Judging by the logo on her tucked-in shirt, Lauren can conclude that she indeed works here. “I was just wondering if you needed some help, you’ve been standing over here in the same place for a while.”

Lauren bites her lip, the blush creeping up her neck when she realizes that she’s been so caught up in staring at Camila that she’s actually caused some concerns from her fellow workers.

Way to look like a creepy psycho.

She quickly—and nervously—rubs the back of her neck. “Uh, I’m okay. Sorry, I was just—I was just looking around. Trying to decide between a few books.” She quickly snatches two books from the shelf beside her, not bothering to look at the covers.

“Hmmm,” The girl—her name is Jess apparently (thanks, nametag)—squints as she analyzes the covers of the two books Lauren’s holding. She points to the one in her right hand, “Get the Guy? I seriously doubt you need this one.”

Lauren frowns as she finally looks at the cover. It’s super cheesy, and she can feel her eyes wanting to roll out of her head, but she stops them. “Thanks,” She hastily shoves the book back on the shelf. “That one seemed pretty shit anyways.”

“I’ve looked through it a few times, it’s not one of our best sellers,” She confirms. “I mean, you’d think a guy would give his advice on getting a date to men, not women, but whatever.” She shrugs her shoulders.

“Right. Weird,” Lauren comments off-handedly. “Anyways, thanks for your help.”

“No problem. If you need any more help, don’t hesitate to ask.” She gives the girl a friendly smile in hopes she’ll leave her alone. It’s returned, and she leaves.

She puts the other book back on its shelf and high-tails it as far away from that girl as possible. Once she feels safe in another section, she decides to actually look for something to read.

Once a cover has caught her eyes, and she’s thumbed through it to see if she’s interested or not, she settles at a table near the corner of the non-fiction section. She hasn’t seen Camila since her little incident, but she figures it’s probably for the best.

The less workers call her out, the better.

She’s only a few pages in when Camila decides to grace her with her presence.

“There you are.”

Lauren looks up from the words splayed out on the pages to find Camila’s soft brown eyes focused on her, a small smile playing on her lips. Her own lips mirror the action.

“Hey.”

Camila doesn’t sit next to her, instead opting to stand beside her. She reaches out to idly run her fingers across Lauren’s shoulder as if by instinct. The motion both calms Lauren and makes her heart race all at once. “Whatcha reading?” Camila asks softly, not wanting to disturb the girl.

“Just some book about the Bermuda Triangle and all of its mysterious glory.”

“Ah, cool.” The brunette nods in understanding. She smiles playfully and tilts her head, “So you took a break from spying on me to enjoy the wonders of the Bermuda Triangle?”

Lauren pretends she doesn’t hear her. “…What?”

“Don’t play dumb, Lo.”

“I wasn’t spying on you.” The glare Lauren sends her is so unthreatening, it’s ridiculous. She’s a little puppy. “Why would I be spying on you? If I wanted to talk to you or hang out with you, I would. I don’t need to spy.”

Camila pokes the tip of her tongue out between her teeth as she giggles (and it’s the cutest thing she’s ever seen Camila do). “Jess told me that there was an incredibly flustered vampire-looking girl ’admiring me from afar’ and asked if I knew you.”

What a fucking snitch,” Lauren mumbles lowly to herself. She’s not even offended that the girl called her a vampire, she’s gotten that many times. It isn’t her fault she’s just naturally pale. “I wasn’t, I swear. I was only trying to find a book and you just happened to be in the general vicinity.”

“It’s okay. I told her that you were my flustered vampire, and you aren’t a threat. She seemed pretty happy about that.”

“Please,” Lauren scoffs. “Like I’d suck her blood anyways.”

“I don’t know if I should be happy you’re saying that, or scared that you might be claiming that you’re actually a vampire…” Camila trails off, smiling.

“Even if I was,” Lauren holds her hands up in defense. “Not saying I am, but if I was, I wouldn’t hurt you.”

“Oh, you wouldn’t? Why’s that?”

“Because I like you,” Lauren says seriously.

Camila didn’t expect Lauren to be so blunt, and the blush is spreading before she can stop it. “Oh, well, I like you—”

“And you’ve got a great ass.”

She’s got a smug little look on her face like she’s so proud of herself. It makes Camila want to kiss her, but that’s highly inappropriate so a slap will do instead. The green-eyed girl yelps loudly, to which Camila shushes her.

“So rude. I’ll be sure to include ‘bullying customers’ on the review I’m going to write later.”

Camila gasps, worried that Lauren might actually do it (as if she would ever say anything bad about Camila). “You better not!”

“Stop abusing me and maybe I’ll reconsider.”

Camila crosses her arms against her chest, deciding to let it go for now. “So, do you like the store?”

“Yeah, it’s really cool. I like the music section the most, they have a lot of awesome records.”

“How come you didn’t get any?”

“I might on my way out, I wanted to look around over here more first.”

Camila smiles cheekily. “And by looking around you mean spying on me, right?”

Lauren shuts her book quickly and slaps it against Camila’s thigh. “I was not spying on you!”

“Sure you weren’t!” The younger Latina leans down and wraps her arms around the other Latina’s shoulders to subdue her offending limbs. “Keep telling yourself that,” She husks against the shell of Lauren’s ear.

“Get off, jerk.”

“No!”

Camila feels the sharp tug of teeth against her forearm. She pulls back quickly, a grin on her face. “Did you just bite me?”

Lauren wears a matching grin as she quirks an eyebrow, “I don’t recall.”

“You totally bit me, asshole.”

“You can’t prove it.”

Camila makes a move to slap her again, but pauses when she catches sight of some dark ink on Lauren’s skin. Her gaze softens as she runs her fingertips over the dragonfly on the back of Lauren’s neck. “I never saw this tattoo before.”

“Yeah, I have a few.”

Camila’s eyebrows furrow together. “Really? I’ve never noticed.”

“I have my abuela’s name on my wrist, twenty-seven in Roman numerals on the inside of my forearm for my birthday and the dragonfly on my neck.” The light scratch of Camila’s nails against her neck makes her heart flutter wildly.

“I like it, it’s pretty.”

“I got it after Reagan…” She swallows hard and pushes away the thoughts forming in her head, “…yeah. She loved dragonflies.”

“She would love it, Lauren.” When Lauren meets Camila’s eyes, she’s met with the most gentle and understanding look she’s ever seen pass over the brunette’s features. And just like that, the bad thoughts leave her head and she only feels the adoration Camila wears for her.

I really wanna kiss you, she thinks, but instead, says, “Thank you.”

Camila gives her shoulder a light squeeze then flashes her another smile. “Hey, do you wanna go get something to eat? I’m on break for a little and I wanna go to the sub place a few doors down.“ 

"Sure.”

Lauren follows as Camila leads them to a little hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop. They choose a table next to the window looking out onto the street. The waitress approaches them and takes their order, Camila insisting on buying Lauren some lunch, to which the girl continuously refuses, but eventually she caves when Camila looks at her sadly with those big, brown eyes.

“So did you have a horrible hangover this morning?”

“It wasn’t too bad, it only felt like my skull was being ripped in half,” Camila jokes. “But I’m managing. How were your classes today?”

“They were good until this asshole guy Brad decided that he wanted to debate with me over how gay people don’t deserve the same rights as straight people.”

“Did you punch him in the face?”

Lauren shakes her head, “Wanted to. But I just settled on embarrassing him enough to make him get up and leave.” The cocky smile was well-earned.

“That’s better than getting kicked out of college.”

“Very true.” Lauren shuffles in her seat uncomfortably. “Uhm, so I was thinking—should we, like, can we talk about last night?”

Camila looks down at her hands. She had been hoping they wouldn’t have to talk about it, but she guesses it’s probably for the best. “Y-yeah,” She starts in a shaky voice. “Okay. I’m sorry if I made it awkward or anything. I had way too much to drink and I wasn’t thinking. I didn’t mean to embarrass you at the bar." 

"It’s okay. I wasn’t too embarrassed to be honest.” She lowers her voice, and it so sounds so sultry that Camila’s heart speeds up, “I meant what I said about that little display of dominance being hot, though. Never had a girl do anything like that for me before.”

Camila’s mouth dries up instantly as she looks anywhere besides Lauren’s eyes. “I—”

Within a second, seductive Lauren is gone and replaced with the typical gentle and caring Lauren. “I like you, Camz. And I know it’s hard for you to open up to someone else after everything you went through and how he made you feel. I know you don’t want to get any deep feelings involved between us when you can’t fully commit to a relationship right now—and that’s okay. I’m just asking that you try to give us a chance if that’s something you want.”

Camila opens her mouth to reply, when Lauren continues, “I’m not asking you to be my girlfriend right off the bat. But could I maybe take you on a date? It doesn’t even have to be a real first date, it could be a pre-date date. Sort of like a trial-run, you know? A platonic hang out to see if you’d ever be interested in going on a real date with me.”

Camila smiles when Lauren won’t stop rambling. She’s really nervous, that much is obvious. 

“…Only if you’re interested, of course.” Lauren runs a hand through her hair. She hopes Camila will take her up on her offer. She just really wants to impress her. “I think it would be cool. I know it’ll take some time to build things between us, but I feel like it’s really worth the wait. I feel so comfortable with you already, and I haven’t felt like that with someone in a long time." 

"Me either,” Camila adds shyly. “A trial-run?” The brunette repeats, a small smile playing on her lips. Lauren blushes and ducks her head. “I think that would be okay." 

"Really?” Lauren looks like she was just told she won a million dollars, and Camila can’t help but feel so honored that it’s because of her. 

“Really." 

"I promise I won’t kiss you until you’re absolutely ready.” The dark-haired Latina assures her, but then smirks deviously when she adds, “No matter how much you beg me to.”

“Shut up,” Camila bites back, no malice in her tone. “I did not beg you.”

“Just like you weren’t hitting me earlier, huh?”

“Stop acting like you don’t like it a little rough.”

Lauren’s eyes shine with mischief and Camila just knows she has a sarcastic, snarky comment up her sleeve. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”

“You’re already starting off on the wrong foot. Don’t make me regret this, Jauregui.”

Lauren reaches over the table to grab Camila’s hand and interlace their fingers, “No way would I ever purposely try to ruin this.”

Camila blushes when the girl runs her thumb over her knuckles. “You’re such a flirt.”

“I’ve had plenty of practice.”

“Lauren!” Camila pulls her hand from Lauren’s grasp and slaps her on the forearm.

Lauren cradles the arm close to her chest, “I was joking! Stop hitting me, you’ve been spending too much time with Normani.”

“Dinah deserves every slap she gets.”

“I agree, but that isn’t always the way to go.”

Camila’s reply is hot on her tongue when the waitress approaches them with their food. She places it on the table in front of each of them, asking if they need any extra condiments before she returns behind the counter.

“Just shut up and eat your food.”

Lauren smiles back at her, happy to comply. “Yes ma’am.”

They eat together in silence for a while just enjoying the food and each other’s company. Lauren’s more than half-way through with her sandwich, and Camila is almost done when she remembers something important.

“Thank you for taking care of me last night, too. I don’t think I mentioned that to you yet.”

Lauren nods, “It wasn’t a big deal, but you’re welcome.”

“I know dealing with my drunk ass isn’t exactly the easiest. Thanks for putting up with me.”

“It wasn’t the bad,” Lauren shrugs her shoulders nonchalantly. “You just kinda ate, changed, had a slight mental breakdown, then went to bed. No biggie.”

Camila’s mortified that her brain chooses that particular moment to remember what she had said. “I’m so sorry about that, I don’t know what happened. I’m really embarrassed.”

“Don’t apologize, please,” Lauren’s tone grows serious. “You’ve been pushing things down for a while. It’s okay to let them out, don’t be embarrassed. We don’t have to talk about it.”

Thankful that Lauren is so understanding, Camila nods and continues eating her sandwich.

“Hey, I wanted to ask you something though.”

“Hmm?”

“It doesn’t have anything to do with last night, don’t worry. I was just wondering if you wanted to play in a softball game with me and bunch of my friends next week. You can invite Dinah.”

Camila’s eyebrows furrow curiously, “Is it like a real game with a crowd and everything or are you guys just playing for fun?”

“It’s just for fun. There’s a softball field included in this park that’s like twenty minutes away from my place. I do this thing with my friends where we all get together like once or twice a month to do something one of us really likes. It’s my turn to pick this time, and we’re going to have a little softball game,” Lauren explains. “I haven’t played in a while and it’s a good way to brush up on my skills." 

"That’s pretty cool, but I’m not really good at sports,” Camila says awkwardly. “I was really bad at putt-putt and that barely requires much strength.”

“It’s okay, it was cute.” Lauren smiles at the girl. “You don’t have to play, but you can still come if you want. You can meet my friends.”

“Is Normani going?”

“Yeah, she’ll be there.”

“Then I’m sure Dinah will want to go. She might also want to get revenge for putt-putt so don’t be surprised if she takes it a little too seriously.”

Lauren clenches her fists in the air, “Tell her to bring it on!”

Camila laughs, “Calm down, crazy.”

“I’m very passionate about my softball, Camz. One does not simply ‘calm down’ when it comes to softball.”

“God, you sound like such a jock.”

“It used to be worse, you’re lucky you didn’t know me in high school.”

“I was like really nerdy in high school, I’d say you’re the lucky one.”

Lauren balls up one of the unused napkins on the table and tosses it at Camila. “Don’t say that, I would have loved to know you in high school. I bet you were really cool.”

“No,” Camila throws the napkin back at her. “I was nerdy and people picked on me. I really doubt you would have liked me.”

“I wasn’t superficial, Camz. I wouldn’t have cared if you were ’nerdy,’ I probably would have had a big crush on you then like I do now.”

“You were with Reagan.”

“So? I’m sure if I had known you things might have been different. She was my best friend before we started dating, she would have still been my best friend even if we weren’t together.”

“Don’t say that,” Camila says, her voice growing defensive. 

“What?” Lauren asks innocently. I’m just saying, if I had known you before—”

“Well, you didn’t,” Camila spits back at her. Lauren’s taken aback by her sudden outburst, unsure of what to say. “Things weren’t different, Lauren. I didn’t know you, and you didn’t know me. You loved Reagan, you didn’t love me.”

Lauren swallows harshly. “Camila—”

“Don’t.” She holds up a hand to halt the girl. “Just stop saying things like that.”

Camila can see the hurt flashing in Lauren’s eyes as they fall to focus on the table, suddenly finding it very interesting. She looks dejected and Camila instantly feels guilty for snapping. She doesn’t even have a good reason for doing it.

She wants to apologize, but her mouth feels like it’s full of lead.

“Okay,” Lauren says, breaking the awkward silence that’s fallen upon the girls. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to annoy you.” Camila doesn’t respond—or even make any indication that she’s heard what Lauren’s said—so Lauren gathers the trash from the table with shaky hands to put it on her plate. “I think your break is probably over,” She says as if Camila’s going to yell at her again at any given second. “I should let you get back.” Quickly standing up, she pulls a few crumpled bills from her pocket to lay them on the table next to Camila’s clenched fists. “That should be enough to cover mine.”

Lauren feels awkward and she just really wants to get out of there. She doesn’t know why Camila’s so angry all of the sudden, and she isn’t sure if she wants to risk pissing her off further. Giving her space is probably what’s best right now. 

“Let me know if you still wanna come to the game. I’ll see you later.”

“Lauren—sit down.”

Lauren’s heart clenches painfully at how it sounds more like a desperate plea as opposed to a harsh demand. She obeys, carefully sliding back down into the seat, eyes trained on Camila and how she’s fidgeting with the ring on one of her fingers. 

“I’m sorry I snapped at you,” Camila says remorsefully. “Especially after every stupid thing I’ve done in the last twelve hours. If anyone deserves to be mad right now, it’s you.”

“It’s okay.”

Camila shrugs, the indifferent look on her face giving no room for debate on Lauren’s end. “I don’t know why I got so mad, I just—something about what you said rubbed me the wrong way. But I shouldn’t have yelled at you like that.”

Lauren nods, allowing Camila to carry on. The brunette’s definitely gotta give her props for how patient she is.

“I just don’t want you to discredit your relationship because you met me.” Camila bites her bottom lip nervously, afraid of Lauren’s reaction. “I don’t want you to end up forgetting about what it was like to be with Reagan just because you like me. And I know that’s fucked up to say, but I-I don’t want that to happen.“ 

The other Latina still doesn’t reply, and it makes Camila feel uneasy. She’s worried that she’s crossed a line and Lauren doesn’t want to talk to her anymore.

The nerves are getting to her, so instead of just shutting up, she keeps talking. "I don’t want you to think of me as a replacement.”

“You done?” Is all Lauren says.

Camila nods her head sheepishly. She’s braced and ready for whatever angry retort Lauren has on the tip of her tongue, but she’s not prepared for how much she knows it’s probably going to sting.

“Camila…”

Her eyes shut tight and she holds her breath.

“I didn’t mean for it to come off like that.”

Wait, what?

“I was only saying that if you had been in my life before, things would be a lot different than they are now. I’m not trying to discredit my relationship with Reagan because I loved her. I love her. But that doesn’t change the way I feel about you, or anything that’s happening between us." 

Lauren’s green eyes shimmer with warmth and adoration for the girl in front of her, and Camila wonders if this is what it feels like to finally be able to breathe. 

"She’ll always be my best friend—here or not. Nobody could ever replace her, and I would never trade any of the memories we have for all of the money in the world. She has a piece of my heart that I’ll never get back.”

“Don’t think of yourself as a replacement for anyone else, because when I look at you, I only see you.”

Camila wants to cry because she’s being so overly sensitive and Lauren has such a beautiful way with words. She opens her mouth to respond, but Lauren beats her to it.

“And I get where you’re coming from. Don’t you ever think I feel the same way about Mason? That I might just be someone you’re trying to use to get over him with?”

“But you’re not—”

“Then you shouldn’t feel that way with Reagan.” Lauren tilts Camila’s chin up so she’s forced to look at her. “I’m not using you and you aren’t using me. We’re just two people who are attracted to each other who are coping with what we feel by taking it slowly and exploring what this could turn into. We aren’t replacing anyone or anything. Everything we have been through, and the people we have loved will always stay with us and that won’t change. Okay?”

“Okay,” Camila agrees, instantly feeling relief wash over her body.

“Okay,” Lauren confirms, her smile returning as she reaches across the table to give the girl’s fingers a light squeeze when she tangles them together. “Now, let’s get you back to work. I need you to help me pick out some records." 

And just like that, everything is okay again. 

***

A/N: hi. i know this took a hot minute but it’s the longest so far and i hope this was worth the wait.

also, i know it may get repetitive at times with how the characters are feeling and what they will and won’t do, and how they might often contradict themselves. the human emotions are very complicated and fragile; we all do things to protect ourselves and i hope it isn’t confusing on how i’m trying to portray that. but with that being said, thank you for your patience and i’ll see you for the next chapter which is undoubtedly going to be one of my favorites. ❤