Quinn wakes to the incessant beeping of her phone. Over and over again. There’s a message waiting. She rolls over, rubbing her face vehemently, wiping away the salty trails crusting her skin. Reaching down, she rummages through her bag until she finds the source of the beeping. 6 messages: 1 from Ellie, 1 from Terry, 4 from Stevie. She wishes one was from Geoff.
She quickly reads Ellie’s message and the following four messages asking to talk before she flips to Terry’s: “Want a slushie and some fun-dip?” She grins, a night with Terry might be a good distractions. It might be just what she needs to decide if the last several months have just been one giant mistake. Maybe there’s just this one girl for this one time. The phone rings in her hand.
“Beotch! Where the hell were you last night!” Ellie’s voice travels through the receiver.
“I had stuff. What’s the plan for tonight?” distractedly Quinn strips off yesterday’s clothes. “You probably have family stuff ‘eh?”
“Nah. We’re doing our big supper tomorrow.”
“Us, too.” Quinn nods, scanning her closet.
“We were going to have a lake party, but the fucking cops busted up a bunch of chauches partying there last night, so that plan’s out.”
“A lake party would have been kick ass.” Rubbing her hands against her legs, Quinn decides she can go another day without shaving. “We could try something entirely different.”
“A night in. Popcorn and a movie, maybe?”
“Well, I don’t know. Where?”
“We could do it here. Dad’s golf tournament is this weekend. Their supper and stuff is tonight, so he’ll be out late.”
“Can’t we bush party? Huh, can’t we? Please?” Ellie whines.
“Ellie, I really don’t feel like partying tonight.”
“You bailed on us last night, you can’t do it again! We have a finite number of long weekends in our senior year.”
Sighing, Quinn wanders down the hall to the bathroom. “Can I think about it?”
“Nope. I’m coming over to pick you up in half an hour. We’re going to go play some Frisbee and then it’s all about the bush.”
Choking back a chuckle, Quinn resigns herself to a party. “Alright. Alright. I give.” She spreads toothpaste on her toothbrush. “Are you talking half an hour of real time, or half an hour of Ellie time.”
“I’ll see you in an hour, bitch.” Ellie laughs and ends the call.
Climbing into the passenger seat of Ellie’s beat up green Volkswagen, Quinn slips her sunglasses onto her face. “Lady.”
“Dude.” Ellie pulls an iced coffee from the cup holder and hands it to her best friend.
“Awe, thanks buddy! This is exactly what I needed.”
“Rough morning.” Quinn pulls a long sip from the drink. “You know how sometimes things just don’t go the way you expect?”
“Wanna talk about it?” Ellie asks, not taking her eyes off the road.
“Then pick some music and let’s go indulge in some retail therapy.”
“Sounds like a mofoing plan.” Turning on a Pixies’ album, Quinn leans back in her chair and watches the scenery slide by. The coffee in her hand confirms that she isn’t willing to risk losing Ellie. She and Geoff are the two people Quinn’s most worried about losing if she comes out, even more than her parents. Ellie will never accept Stevie. Never. Not someone from the popular crowd. One of the overly spirited, neatly dressed, boring as crap, carbon copies of everything they’re supposed to want to be. That relationship will kill their friendship.
Pulling into the parking lot of the only store in town that is even remotely suited to their fashion sensibilities, the two girls climb out of the air-conditioned car into the blistering heat. Sweat instantly pools in every possible crevice.
“What the hell?” Ellie looks up at the sky. “It’s October. Isn’t there supposed to be snow by now?”
“Shut your mouth!” Quinn laughs, “Would you rather be bundled up in a parka?”
“Point taken.” They scamper into the darkness of the store. Quinn wanders away from where Ellie is sorting through a display of silver jewelry and heads toward a rack of shirts. Flipping through the hangers, she finds an adorable pink and black blouse with little cap sleeves. She pictures how great Stevie would look in it, pulls the right size off the shelf, tucks it into a pile, and heads to a skirt she knows is hanging at the back of the store. Slipping between two shelves that seem awkwardly close together, she hears a girly giggle from the corner behind the shelving unit. Two pairs of sandaled feet. One boy’s. One girl’s. Not wanting to interrupt, she starts to move away but stops short when she hears an unexpected voice.
Slipping behind a rack, Quinn peeks between a couple pairs of pants. Chelsea’s long blond hair is instantly recognizable. Her tight white top and tiny shorts were clearly not purchased in this store. Her long manicured nails brush through short dark hair. Annoyed that they are invading her store, Quinn makes a move to step forward but stops short when the boy turns. This isn’t Chelsea’s douchey boyfriend.
Backing up, Quinn pulls her cell phone from her purse and quickly types a text: “Not ready to talk. Just saw Chelsea making out with Kevin. Thought you should know.” She wants to scream in indignation for Stevie, but part of her is happy. This is a step towards Stevie not being with Kevin. But that might encourage her to come out more publically. Conflicting emotions make her head hum.
“Who ya texting?” Ellie bumps her on the hip.
“No one.” Quinn shakes herself out of her self-pity. “Just making sure I have enough money to buy all this crap.” She points to the pile of clothes in her arms and leads Ellie away from where Chelsea is hiding in the corner. “What do you think of this?” She grabs the skirt that had led her in this direction in the first place.
“Cute! And that is an adorable top.” Ellie fingers the blouse Quinn pulled for Stevie. “Not really your style though.”
“I was thinking of a more rockabilly look. Shake things up a bit.” Quinn smiles at her friend. “Shoes?” Glancing over her shoulder, Quinn sees Chelsea’s back exiting through the front door.
“Always.” Ellie skips down an aisle to the wall of shoes.
A short time later, weighed down with bags, the two girls climb back into Ellie’s car. As Quinn settles into her seat, her phone vibrates. Flipping open the screen, she sees a message from Stevie: “Can we talk? Please. I need to talk to you before I see Kevin again.” She closes the phone, jamming it back into her pocket. All the emotions from this morning come flooding back. Turning to the window, she blinks back tears.
“Let’s pickup donairs and go back to my place to waste valuable time watching cooking shows? Sound like fun? Huh? Huh?” Ellie pokes her friend in the ribs.
A smile breaks across Quinn’s face. “Sounds like fun.” She agrees, slumping against the seat, letting her mind wander as Ellie puts the car into drive.
When they settle in Ellie’s bedroom twenty minutes later, Quinn sits on the floor and leans back against the bed. Unwrapping her food, she takes a big bite and sighs.
“This is delicious. Good suggestion.”
“I don’t know why you even order them. What’s the point with no tomatoes or onions?”
“The point is donair sauce. The point is always the sauce.” Quinn grins up at her.
“So, am I turning on reruns of Top Chef or are we talking about what’s been bothering you?”
“Don’t know what you mean.” Quinn mumbles around a mouthful of food.
“I’ve known you for fourteen years. I know when you’re happy, when you’re sad, when you’re angry, and when you’re actually tired and stressed. This thing you’re doing lately isn’t stress. In fact, if I didn’t know better, I’d think it was happiness. But super, duper distracted happiness.”
“Can’t you just leave it at that?” Quinn wraps up the bottom half of her meal.
“You don’t want to share the source of your happiness? Can’t be Terry. You just started seeing him two days ago.”
“It’s complicated.” Quinn shrugs and crawls up onto the bed. “Too complicated for a Sunday afternoon. Give me Top Chef or give me death.”
“Always the melodramatic one.” Ellie flips on the tv and starts twisting Quinn’s hair into long, braids.
***** ***** *****
Dusk is falling as Ellie’s car pulls into the field. Parking next to the tree line, Quinn can see Terry’s truck already parked and empty. Pulling containers from the trunk, they head towards the group of people attempting to build a fire.
“So, tonight’s all about fun. No thinking. No problems. Just seat of your pants, spontaneous fun. Alright?” Ellie looks at Quinn.
“Isn’t it always?” Quinn shoots her a smile.
“I mean it. Whatever it is that you’re not telling me about is back burnered for the night. You want something you just do it. If I see you thinking, I will cunt punt. Understand?”
“Jesus, Els! Do you have to be so… ugh, I hate that term.”
“I mean it, Quinlyn.” Ellie stares her down.
“Sir. Yes, sir!” Snapping to attention, Quinn salutes her friend, stone-faced. She holds the pose for a few seconds before losing her composure and laughing. Rolling her eyes, Ellie puts their drinks down on the picnic table.
“Babes!” Ellie jumps on Jason’s back, wrapping her legs around his waist. Within minutes, they’re making out beside the keg.
“Hey you.” Terry slides an arm around Quinn’s shoulder. “Those two really have this relationship thing down to a science.” His thumb caresses the skin of her upper arm.
“A pseudoscience, maybe.” Quinn laughs, leaning against him as she watches the fire grow. The crackling of the wood is soothing, distracting her from the barrage of arguments running through her head. Whenever her thoughts drift to Stevie, her red hair, her sparkling eyes, her soft skin, Quinn panics. As much as she wants to be with her, all she can think about is the reactions if she were to come out. The reaction of her friends, family, the town. How betrayed Terry will be if he finds out what she’s doing to him. She feels a twinge of guilt as Terry’s hand slides down over her butt. Looking up at him, she finds him looking down at her. That tiny smile that’s always playing across his lips. Maybe he is the one she’s supposed to be with.
To distract herself, she crawls into Terry’s lap. Straddling his legs, she wraps her arms around his neck. The hot flesh of his palms presses against the cool skin of her thighs. His hands are so much larger than she likes. Her lips meet his. His tongue brushing against hers. Her brain screams at her. This is wrong. It isn’t what she wants. She needs something more delicate. Softer. More feminine. Every touch is confirmation.
Pushing against the thoughts, she tightens her grip. Pulling herself desperately against Terry’s firm chest. Trying to escape her brain. His hands run up her legs. His fingers find the hem of her shorts, travel beneath them, higher and higher up her legs. Finally, she can’t push against the yelling in her brain anymore.
“Whoa cowboy, not here.” She giggles, sliding off his lap. Finding a place on the grass beside him, she leans away. Not enough to offend, just enough to show that she’s serious.
“Later then.” He kisses her shoulder and gets up to grab another beer.
“Get me a cider, yeah?” She calls after him.
People continue to arrive as the sky darkens. Different social groups begin to mingle on the grass. Conversations flutter through the air – discussions of basketball and turkey and full stomachs. Quinn finishes her drink and tosses the bottle to her feet. Terry’s body exudes heat from beside her. Looking up, she sees skin and blond hair bouncing towards the fire. Immediately, her eyes scan the distance behind Chelsea. She doesn’t see Stevie in the crowd of people surrounding the fire. She breathes a sigh of relief.
“You seem distracted.” Terry pushes a strand of hair behind her ear. “Want another drink?”
“Please!” Quinn answers emphatically, knowing the answer should probably be no. Terry grabs another bottle, opening the cap before he hands it to her. She kisses him on the cheek in thanks.
“That’s all I get? A kiss on the cheek?” He raises his eyebrows.
“You think you deserve more, do ya?”
“I opened the bottle with my bare hands. So, come here.” Laughing, he grabs her waist and pulls her onto his lap. She settles against his chest and takes a long drink. Terry’s telling her a story about a water pipe breaking in the church basement when they hear yelling from the other side of the fire.
“You are such a fucking bitch!” Stevie’s voice rings out so loudly the crowd falls silent. The red head stands, hands fisted at her sides, staring down the head cheerleader.
“What the hell is your problem?” Chelsea’s grip on her beer tightens.
“How can you do this to someone you call your friend?” Stevie’s arms are rigid with anger. “Your best friend!”
“What the hell are you talking about, headcase?” Chelsea yells back.
Kevin steps up beside his girlfriend. Stevie holds up a finger to stop him. “I will get to you later, Kevin!” She turns back to Chelsea. “Are you sleeping with my boyfriend?”
“When exactly did you become a psycho?” Chelsea looks around incredulously, “First you bail in the middle of a party. Then you start defending the freak shows. You don’t show up where you’re supposed to. Now you accuse me of this!”
“Someone saw you together!”
“Who?” Chelsea’s bravado wavers for the briefest of seconds, but it’s enough.
“Baby, let me explain.” Kevin tries once again to interject.
Stevie spins to look at him, “I said later!” She turns back to the girl who’s supposed to be her best friend. “It doesn’t matter who it was!”
Quinn fidgets from her side of the fire, wanting to be the one supporting her girlfriend, knowing that she can’t do anything to help. She shifts away from Terry’s body.
“Maybe, if you weren’t such a prude your boyfriend wouldn’t have turned to me to get some touch.” Chelsea shoots back.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Stevie jams her hands into her back pockets.
“You haven’t fucked him in months. I’ve watched you with him. You recoil every time he touches you.”
“My sex life is none of your business!”
Quinn’s throat tightens with panic. This is not going the way it’s supposed to.
“It is when I start to think that you’re not into guys. When you start not wanting to do your boyfriend, what are we supposed to think?” Everyone at the party has stopped talking. The music has ended, but no one moves to turn it back on. No one is paying attention to anything other than the two most popular girls in school tearing into each other. “Are you turning into a big gay lezbo, Stevie?” Chelsea’s beer falls to the ground as she throws her hands at Stevie. “You like the girls, do ya?”
“Yes! I do!” Stevie screams without pause. “I am a lesbian. What the hell are you going to do about it?” Then, realizing what she’s said, she slaps her hand over her mouth. A collective gasp sounds, followed by the loudest silence possible.
Grabbing Terry’s hand, Quinn pulls him away from the fire; their movement breaks the frozen shock. Whispers wave through the crowd. Quinn doesn’t look back at Stevie. Every fear she’s felt since their fight this morning has come true. In less than 24 hours, Quinn has gone from the happiest moment of her life, to the worst. Anger swells inside her. How could Stevie do this to her? Force them into this situation. Force her into this situation. And for it to come out this way. Now Quinn’s role in the whole situation will be tainted by this moment. When it finally comes out, she is going to be blamed for breaking up a golden couple. She turns to Terry “You wanna see my bedroom?”