Sliding off the edge of her bed, Quinn pulls her comforter tightly around her body. Terry stretches across her bed; the bed sheet thrown haphazardly across his waist, his bare torso taunting her with her giant mistake. He tugs at the bedding to pull her back down beside him.
“You should get dressed.” She pulls away, “I don’t know when my dad is going to be home.”
“We still have some time, don’t we?” He kisses her neck, turning her towards him. Quinn stiffens. “What’s wrong? Was that you’re first time?”
“That’s not it.” She softens, puts on her best face, and kisses his cheek. “It’s just been a messed up kind of day.”
“And that didn’t relax you?” Terry raises an eyebrow. “I’ve only received good reports in the past. Do we need to try again?”
Quinn’s heart begins to race as she searches for a way out, a pit of regret forming rapidly in her stomach. Guilt moistens her skin. Of all the things she wished hadn’t happened today, this might be the worst. And it was completely her fault. She takes a deep breath, releasing the warm air against the skin of Terry’s shoulder. He takes it as an invitation and begins to pull her back down onto the bed. She pulls back when headlights flash through the slit beneath the blinds of her bedroom window.
Quinn jumps away from Terry. “You need to go.” She begins pulling on clothes from the floor, throwing Terry’s clothes at him. Dressed, they silently sneak down the hallway. Quinn tiptoes up the stairs, calling softly for her father, peeking into the entryway. Not seeing anyone, she pulls Terry up the stairs. Quickly, she kisses him goodbye and pushes him out the door. “I’ll call you tomorrow.”
Tying the strings on her pajama pants absentmindedly, she waits to hear her dad come through the back door but there’s no sound. She peeks into her sister’s room. Taylor is sound asleep, one leg hanging over the side of the bed. Smiling, she pulls the door closed. Glancing at the clock, she notices that it’s not even midnight. Her dad probably won’t be home for hours. She hasn’t totally lied to Terry. It has been a messed up day.
She’s in the kitchen filling the kettle when a knock at the backdoor startles her. The kettle slips from her fingers, catches the edge of the counter, and tumbles to the floor. Water spreads rapidly across the tiles. Leaving the mess, she heads to the door. The knock comes again, gently. Peeking through the blinds, Quinn sees the top of a hat. The person outside stands just outside the ring of light, staring at the ground, two long braids hang on either side of her face.
“Stevie?” Quinn whispers, cracking the door open.
“Hey.” Stevie mumbles, bearing little resemblance to her normal confident self. Her voice is edged with fear. “Can I come in?”
Quinn can’t decide if she feels more angry or guilty. Stepping to the side, Quinn allows Stevie to enter the kitchen. “Get in here before someone sees you.”
“Why do you think I came to the back door?” Stevie huffs.
They fall into silence, simply standing there for what feels like forever. Quinn is the first to move. Picking up a towel, she begins to dry the puddle of water on the floor. Stevie steps around her, picks up the kettle, and fills it again. The sound of water coming to a boil fills the kitchen, momentarily drowning out the palpable silence between them.
When the kettle whistles, Quinn fills the French press, places it, two mugs, and some cookies on a tray. She leads Stevie downstairs. Once in her room, Quinn locks the door and checks the blinds. Unlike Stevie’s room, Quinn’s windows have an open view of the street. Quinn is thankful that she closed the blinds when she was in here with Terry. To arrive when she did, Stevie must have been waiting outside the house, watching for Terry to leave before she knocked. That makes Quinn feel even worse about what she’s done.
“So…” Stevie avoids the messed up blankets on the bed and curls into the chair in the corner of the room, giving Quinn her space.
“So…” Quinn refuses to give herself the comfort of sitting. Instead, she paces the short distance between her bed and the closet.
“I guess we need to talk.” Stevie blows on her mug of coffee.
“I suppose we do,” Pausing, Quinn perches on the edge of the desk. Looking at her girlfriend, the scene from earlier in the evening replays itself in her head. She pushes off the desk. She needs to be moving. “I can’t believe you did that.” She starts to make the bed and hide the evidence of her indiscretion.
“You can’t believe it? How do you think I feel?” Stevie refuses to meet her gaze. “This wasn’t how I wanted things to go. You know that.”
“How can I know that? Everything you’ve done today has been so… so stupid.”
“Stupid? Right, well maybe tonight, yeah. But not this morning. You think this was how I wanted to come out? That stupid fight. With that stupid bitch.” Stevie looks directly at Quinn. Her eyes run the gauntlet of emotions: anger, sadness, embarrassment, fear. “All I could think of when those words came out of my mouth was how angry you were going to be.”
“Damn right I’m angry! I just told you this morning I’m not ready for this.” She grabs her stuffed bear and chucks it on the wall. “You promised! You said you would wait. We said we would do this together. When we were older.”
“Oh my god, Quinn! Please stop for a second and see what really happened. I made a mistake!” Stevie pleads with her. “Tonight. At the party. I made a mistake.”
“So take it back. Tell Chelsea you were joking. That you were trying to make her look foolish. Do whatever you need to do to make this not have happened!” By this point both girls are standing. Coffee mugs forgotten on side tables. Toe to toe. “Please, Stevie.” Quinn’s voice loses its anger. Desperation takes over. “I can’t be without you.”
“Without me?” Stevie takes Quinn’s hands. “Why would you have to be without me?”
“Cause now you’re out. Now you’re going to want to be with someone else who’s out. That’s not me. I can’t. I’m not ready.” Quinn feels her defenses shatter. All the fear she’s been feeling finally overcomes her. Tears spill from her eyelids. Not pretty, girly tears. Hot, fast, uncontrollable tears.
Stevie’s arms wrap around her. Pulling her close. Molding into one another. Suddenly, Stevie knows she doesn’t want to take it back. She doesn’t care anymore. She’ll deal with the consequences. She’ll talk to her father. She’ll talk to Kevin. But she knows what she wants. “Hey. Hey.” She lifts Quinn’s chin, wiping away a tear. “I will always want to be with you. Always.”
“Even if I’m not willing to come out?”
“Even though I’m going to have to keep pretending I hate you?”
“Even if I made a mistake tonight, too?”
“Even if… even if that mistake was sleeping with Terry because I was so angry with you?” Quinn cringes, but knows she needs to tell Stevie the truth, no matter how much it hurts both of them.
Stevie pauses for just a second, her eyes flicking to the newly made bed. “Okay, that one’s a little hard to deal with. Because you felt you had to do it because of what I did. I didn’t want to… But, it doesn’t matter. I understand where you are. I don’t expect you to do this just because I decided to.”
Quinn smiles at Stevie, and starts playing with one of her braids. “You’re sure?”
“Absolutely. I’m not going to lie. It hurts. And I might have a good cry about it later, but I want you in my life. However that happens, I’ll deal. We’ll deal.” Stevie holds Quinn chin and stares at her. “But do you think there’s any way you can make that” Her eyes look to the bed again “not happen again? If you want to, then do it, but let me know, cause I don’t know if that’s something I can deal with.”
“Have you really not slept with Kevin in months?”
“Really.” Stevie nods, “Well, I guess technically a month and a half, right after school started.”
“How have you managed that?” For the first time since she woke up that morning, Quinn begins to feel some semblance of normalcy. “I can’t imagine being able to keep my hands off you for that long.”
“It’s been a month of cramps and stomach flu and periods.” Stevie shrugs. “I’ve been the worst kind of girl.” They settle on the bed and scoot back until they’re leaning against the wall. The anger of earlier ebbs away as their conversations settles into its familiar rhythm. “But you and Terry are new. He’s going to want to do this again.”
Quinn places with Stevie’s fingers. “I’ll see what I can do. I can’t believe I slept with him this soon. We’ve been friends for so long. I’m going to hurt his feelings. What are we doing, Stevie?”
“What do you mean?” Stevie leans against Quinn’s side.
“We’re going to hurt people. Good people. Kevin and Terry are innocent in this whole thing.”
“Terry slept with you after dating for two days.” Stevie raises and eyebrow. “Did he even try to suggest that you don’t? Or that you wait until you’re both sober for your first time.” Quinn begins to speak, but Stevie holds up her hand to stop her. “I’m not implying he did anything wrong. He did what any teenage boy would do. He had sex with a hot teenage girl who wanted to have sex with him. He’s not a guilty party, but he’s not entirely innocent either.”
“This is so complicated.” Quinn just wants to do is be with Stevie. “We’ll figure it out later. I’ll figure things out with Terry. You decide what’s going to happen at school. But right now, I just want us to be us.” Wrapping her arms around Stevie, Quinn pulls her close. “We’re good?”
“Absolutely.” Stevie kisses Quinn hard. Squeezing her tight. Not wanting to let her go. The anger of the day set aside. For the moment, it’s just the two of them. No one else matters.
Quinn revels in the feel of Stevie’s hands on her skin. Small, delicate, strong. Perfect. The softness of Stevie’s lips against her own. Her hands trail along the cheerleader’s body. She tightens her grip and pulls her closer. Unlike Terry’s hard, muscled torso, this feels right. Quinn feels her body mold against Stevie’s. She sighs and inhales the reassuring sent of Stevie’s shampoo.
Stevie smiles at Quinn when they finally break away from one another. Genuine happiness makes her eyes sparkle.
“Can you stay?” Quinn flips the long braid between her fingers.
“I should leave before your dad gets home.” Stevie leans her forehead against her girlfriend’s.
“Always the reasonable one.” Quinn smiles and kisses her. They walk through the house hand in hand. Stevie sneaks out the back door and into the shadows, happier than she’d been waking up that morning.
Half an hour later Quinn loads the dishwasher, emptying almost full cups of cold coffee into the sink. As she starts the machine, her father walks through the front door.
“Hey Pops.” She calls, tucking herself into a chair in the living room. It’s late, but she’s nowhere near tired.
“Hey Daughter. How was your evening?” He takes a seat in the opposite arm chair. Peeling his socks from his feet, he tosses them to the side. Quinn raises a playful eyebrow. “I’ll pick them up before your mother comes home.” He smiles ruefully.
“My night was not exciting.” She lies. “How was your tournament?”
“It was good. I was teamed up with a couple guys from work and Jake Monroe.”
“Terry’s dad?” Quinn gives him a quizzical look. “I thought it was a work tournament.”
“Just a work team. We had someone drop out. He was on the filler list.” Her dad pulls a score card from his pocket. “Nice guy. Not a great golfer.”
Quinn tries to decide if she should tell her dad she’s dating Terry. He interrupts her train of thought before she can decide.
“Don’t go anywhere.” Her father jumps from his chair, hurries down the stairs and out the front door. She watches him through the window. A few seconds later, he comes back in carrying a large white box. “I won this in a draw. I thought you might want it.”
Taking the box from her father, she looks inside nervously. Her father’s tournament gifts are always bizarre. Instantly, laughter bubbles past her lips. “Dad!” Inside the box is a hideous lamp with a base made from a taxidermied gopher. She pulls it out, holding it at arm’s length. “It’s so creepy!” Quinn shifts the lamp from the left to the right. “Its eyes kind of follow you.”
“So you want to put it in your room?”
“No way!” she giggles. “Hide this thing.” She hands it back to him. “Preferably in the garbage can. In the neighbour’s yard. I’m going to bed.” She skips down the stairs and falls into an easy sleep the second her head hits the pillow.