Counting Stars (1) / A Long Read

The New York Coffee shop was bustling, people grumpy and groggy pushing past one another to get their order and leave. The poor coffee staff hurried behind the counter. Kurt Hummel, as relaxed as he could be, followed in line as he watched silently at everyone else. It’s been awhile since he could be in a coffee shop and not be swarmed by paparazzi or raging fans. Once he gets to the counter he waits patiently till the girl rings the order. She does and finally looks up. Her mouth dropped and the corners slowly rose. He handed her a bill and pressed a finger to his lips. She covered her wide smile with her hand and held in a squeal.

“You are like, my favorite designer.” She whispers over the counter.

He smiled at her and hands her a tip, a large one and starts to head out the door.

“Kurt?”

He frantically turned to the voice and started to make an excuse. Walking towards him was a small girl, with gorgeous brown ringlets and a black dress. He stood there staring at the girl as she smiled wider and wider at him as she approached. As soon as she got to him he realized that she was not a random fan or person, she was the Broadway star from Funny Girl; She was Miss Rachel Berry.

“Kurt!” She said gleefully as she embraced him for a hug. He slightly complied, still stun to see her. After a moment, she let go of him and stood there admiring. “How are you, it’s been awhile?” She exclaimed.

“Um,” For a second he was lost for words, but he then snapped out of it. “Great, great, and how are you miss Berry?”

She giggled. “When did we become so formal?”

“I’m sorry, I’m so use to you being called that on the pamphlets. Miss Berry, Miss Berry, is just got stuck in my head.”

“Do you have a second?” Rachel asked hopeful.

He stood there uncomfortable, wanting to say he couldn’t, but something sparked in him to say yes: An old response to Rachel, something that hadn’t come up since he left. “Sure, why not. I got the time.”

She clapped her hands together and they took a table outside under an umbrella. He ate his bagel and sipped his coffee as Rachel talked aimlessly.

“I’m sorry, I know I talk a bit too much.” She abruptly apologized.

“No, no. Don’t worry about it.” He said coolly. “I kind of miss someone babbling on about stuff, sometimes people can’t seem to speak their minds, especially when it could save lives.”

Rachel giggled at the table and then smiled at him. “You are an expert on that.”

“Not really, there are plenty of people that can do it much better than me. Try anyone who has been interviewed by the press, they can certainly speak.” He joked

“Nothing but junk.” Rachel added. “But you always seem to say something inspiring or intelligent. People get helped when you talk.”

“I just say the things that needed to be said, they do the work.” He shrugged.

There was a moment of silence as they both looked down at the table, thinking and remembering.

“So,” Rachel looked up to Kurt. “May I ask why you canceled a bunch of shows from now till, like, three months. I mean, that can’t be good for publications or profit.” He asked as he leaned back in his chair.

“Oh,” Rachel blushed. “I’m going back to Lima.”

His cold expression melted at the name. He hadn’t thought about that name, said it out loud or had even talked about the place in years. Suddenly, his mind turned with curiosity, oddly hoping to hear news from a place he didn’t want any affiliation with, and anyone from there.

“How come?” His face transformed to a new old expression.

“Glee club.” She sighed.

He looked at his coffee, feeling a stabbing sensation in his stomach. He didn’t like the feeling and wanted to leave, but unsure on how to leave.

“You know the contract, the one Sue made us sign in glee club as a scheme to try to shut us down? She wrote it so that at least one person wouldn’t want to sign and then we would be short and then she could shut us down. It was what?  One in sophomore year and then one is senior year? Yeah.”

He chuckled to the side and then nodded to her.

“Well, there’s an error in it and everyone one who can, has to come back.” Rachel crossed her legs and looked at her hands under the table. Kurt’s amusement vanished as quickly as it came. Well, there’s an error in it and everyone one who can, has to come back. There was moment of silence before Rachel looked up again. “Are you going?”

He sat there his mouth open, wanting to say his real answer, hell to the no, but his boldness evaporated and he was left with his shell. He didn’t need to know any details to know for a fact that he wasn’t, and really didn’t want to go back. “Um,” The only word that came out of his mouth. “Um, when is it?” He instantly regretted it, because it gave false hope that he was even considering the possibility.

“You didn’t get an invite?” Rachel cocked her head in confusion.

Kurt shook his head slowly, silently knowing why he hadn’t gotten one.

Rachel whipped out her cell phone and searched on it. She then held it to him. “Isn’t this your number?”

He peered at the phone and laughed in his mind, keeping his face still. She still had his old cell phone number from when he still lived near her. As cute as it was, it was a stinging reminder on how long it had been since they had talked. “No.” He answered calmly

She retracted her phone back and sighed at it. “Figures.” She huffed. She suddenly broke into a smile and shined it at him. “For a while there, I thought you were just ignoring my text and calls.”

She giggled but he admitted inside his own mind that in fact, that was the main reason why he had bought a new phone and changed his number. Once he started his rise to fame, the others kept trying to socialize with him and cling like a newborn infant to it’s mother. They weren’t interested in him before it so he saw no reason to reciprocate it. He wasn’t their mother nor would he ever again pretend to be anyone’s mother. It might have been a bit too cold to just go up and change his number and not really talking or calling once in a while, but the hiatus was refreshing and now that he was sitting across from one of his old associate, he really wished the hiatus lasted longer.

“You should give me your new number so we can get together and hang out again.” Rachel suggested. Kurt took a deep breath, trying to not show that he was displeased with the suggestion. “Maybe later when we are both not so busy in the morning.” She giggled. She put her sunglasses on and turned around in her seat to the street, just as Kurt sighed in relief. “Oh my god.”

He turned in her directions and mimicked her reaction. Rushing towards the two was a small horde of paparazzi, cameras flashing and shouts heard from where they sitting. Kurt instinctively stood up, gripping his coffee, and planned to run until Rachel stood up and grabbed his arm. He turned his head to her and she again, smiled. She kept them standing there until the group of paparazzi caught up with them. When the paparazzi did, they instantly surrounded them and started to flash camera’s in their faces while shouting things at them.

“Rachel, what are you doing with Designer Hummel?”

“Kurt, how do you know miss Rachel Berry?”

“Can we get a shot with you guys?”

The shouts began to be more and more obscure, and while Rachel basked in the fame, Kurt stood there with a surprised look, almost as if he was scared but trying really hard not to show it.

“I was just having some breakfast with my old friend, Kurt Hummel.” Rachel announced to the cameras. They turned to him, and without missing a beat he agreed.

“How do you know her Kurt?” One reporter shouted at him

“From high school, we were in a club together.” He answered calmly, stuffing his free hand away from Rachel’s grabbing palm and into his pocket.

They continued to shout things at them and although it was refreshing to get some needed attention, Kurt had about enough of it within a few minutes. He slowly leaned down to her ear without any of the reporters pointing it out.

“Hey listen,” He whispered, Rachel nodding shortly in recognition. “It’s been nice seeing you and getting breakfast. Maybe it will happen again, but I have to go right now.”

She turned her head up to him. “Already?” She puppy- dogged her eyes but his only response was a shrug. What else could he do? “Fine but we should totally hangout later.”

He faked a smile and briefly hugged her. Then while avoiding anymore paparazzi, he got a cab and headed to work; VOGUE.

He kept his head down for the day, not looking up at anyone or speaking when asked. He felt the eyes on him. Rachel, why? Why, did you really mean your statement or was it just another scheme to get more publicity. The first time he did look up at his workplace, he met Paul’s stare at him. The corner of Paul’s mouth turned up but the rest stayed straight. Kurt sank back in his desk, keeping his eyes to his screen.

“Kurt! You knew her?”

He looked up from his screen and raised his eyebrows at Isabelle who walked up to his desk. In her hand has a print out column with a picture of him and Rachel from this morning. News in New York travels extremely fast.

“Yeah, we were friends for a while.” He admitted coolly

Isabelle nodded her head, rested her hands on the top of his computer head, and thought for a moment. She then quickly looked at him.

“Do you think she would be a model for one of the designs?”

He shrugged and rolled his eyes. Isabelle brought the column up to her face and started to read it over again.

“Seems like she was enjoying the spotlight with you.” Isabelle absently commented.

Kurt snickered at it and she glanced away from her reading to look at him. He quickly covered his mouth and avoided her stare.

“What?” She asked

He waved her off but she didn’t stop.

‘What? What is so funny?”

He waved her off once more. “Nothing, nothing.” He centered himself and stopped chuckling, although it left a smile on his face. He couldn’t believe anyone who heard the name Rachel Berry would ever say that she likes to share the spotlight. With the years of knowing her with him, and even if he hadn’t seen her for a few years, not in a million years would she change from being a spotlight hog. The memories came back as clear as glass the times she had nearly endangered some else in order to keep her spotlight or bullied someone into submission in order to get another solo. He knew he had some moments where he had foolishly tried to take her on for a solo, only to get viciously torn apart till there was barely any of him left to live. Their friendship was odd and wasn’t always clear if they were even friends, and maybe that was the reason they had fallen out. He hadn’t thought about it since the first couple of months after he had moved out, and after thinking hard about them he realized that their friendship was one sided. He was there to encourage Rachel like a mother without any appreciations or expectations for anything back from her. And like he said before, he will not be anyone’s mother anymore.

“So what did she want?”

He glazed over his screen again. “Just wanted to chat.”

“Anything new, something that we can use for maybe an article?” She asked, leaning a bit into his workplace.

He shrugged. “She went on with Funny Girl and her roommate and her are going to Ohio for glee club-“

“She’s going to Ohio?” Isabella asked, interrupting rudely.

He looked up at her with an uncaring expression. “Yeah, that’s why Funny Girl has been canceled for like three months.”

Isabella nodded at the information and took a moment to formulate her next question, which came fairly easy. “Why?”

“Glee club,” Kurt answered without missing a beat. “Apparently she is going to Lima to see if she and a bunch of other alumni can get the Glee club back. But I wouldn’t hold my breathe.”

“Why not?”

He looked up at her. “Because I know the principal, Sylvester, and from years of experience she will not let Glee club have come back. She would rather wipe out the entire famous and rich celebrity race and burn down every recording studio in the universe and beyond than let Glee club come back.”

Isabelle raised an eyebrow. “And you would know about this. . .why?”

He sighed and looked down at the screen. He clicked open a folder and dropped his work into it. He could see where this was going and there was no way around it. After making sure the document was saved and backed up, he leaned his head in his hand and tilted his head up to her.

“Because I was apart of that club.”

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