Shaking herself out of her revere, Quinn turns to Geoff. “So yeah, I’m dating a girl. And I’m kind of totally into it. I’ve never felt this way before, Geoff.”
“Quinn. Wow, I can’t… I don’t… Wow. I don’t even know what to say.”
“Don’t say anything.” Quinn suggests.
“Well, I want…”
“No really.” Quinn holds up her hand, “Don’t say anything. I want you to pretend you don’t know anything about this. Don’t say anything about this to anyone. Anyone!”
“So, you’re not planning to… you know.” He shrugs, unsure how to broach the subject.
“Come out? God no. No one finds out about this. No one.” She pokes him in the arm. “You understand. You tell no one. Zero people.”
“So what you’re saying is you want me to tell people about this?” he chuckles at her insistence. “Should I tweet it? Or would you prefer another form of social media?” He pulls his phone from his pocket.
She growls playfully. “God damn you.” Diving across the tiny space between them, she tackles him into the hedge. “Promise me.” She pokes him under his right ribs, where she knows he’s ticklish. “Promise. Do it. Say it. Say you won’t tell anyone. You’ll never bring it up again.”
“Alright! Alright!” He struggles to grab her hands, laughing uncontrollably. “I promise! Stop tickling me!”
After getting in one last poke, Quinn leans back against the hedges. Settling back into the more serious discussion.
“So, here’s my obvious question. What are you going to do about Terry?” Geoff brushes twigs out of his hair.
“What do you mean?”
“You can’t keep dating him, Quinn. You just can’t.” Geoff picks pieces of shrug out of his hair. “It’s just mean. Like actually cruel.”
“How can I stop?” She asks. “If I suddenly break up with Terry when everyone is trying to figure out who Stevie is dating, it’ll point people right to me.”
“But you know this isn’t going anywhere.”
“I don’t know.” Quinn chews on the side of her thumb.
“I can’t believe you even started dating him.”
“I feel guilty enough already. I think I’m going to tell him things are moving too fast and we need to slow it down.”
“How fast can things be moving? You’ve been dating since Friday.” Geoff mutters.
Quinn raises an eyebrow at him before quickly looking down to inspect the hem of her pants.
“You slept with him? Quinn!” He grabs her hands. “Quinn!”
“I know. I’m terrible.” She hangs her head.
“You don’t mean to be, but yeah, that was pretty terrible of you..” He interjects. “There’s one thing I would like to know.”
“Why aren’t you willing to admit this? It’s not like you have anything to be ashamed of.”
“Well, maybe you don’t think so.”
“I don’t. Why do you? Is it your church?”
“Pfft. It’s not that.” She waves the idea away “I think my mom will be ashamed of me.”
“The world traveler? The workaholic? The family breadwinner? Who rejects all gender roles?” He raises his eyebrows “She’ll be the one who rejects you?”
“She may be all those things. And she’s always told me I can do anything. But, she also expects me to get married – to a guy – and give her grandchildren, and do all those other things that make life worthwhile. And part of me understands where she’s coming from.” Pushing herself up off the ground, Quinn wipes the grass from the back of her legs. “Alright, I’m going now. I’m going to go hide in my bedroom and do some homework. This is probably the weirdest weekend of my life.”
Together they walk to Geoff’s truck, chatting about school work to fill the silence. When Geoff drops her off, she grabs her leftovers, leans over, and kisses his cheek.
“Thanks.” Before he can say anything, she’s out of the truck and through the front door of the house.
***** ***** *****
A pit forms in Stevie’s stomach as she pulls her car between two others in the parking lot. Turning the key to the off position, she leans forward, her head on the wheel. She calms her nerves before getting out of the car. Her yellow dress with delicate black lace presents an image of cheerfulness. With her long hair tied back in a ponytail, she’s not hiding from anyone. As she moves towards the double doors leading into the high school, she’s not sure what to expect.
She relishes the calm of the empty entryway before she turns the corner. The hallway is teeming with students. Stevie expects them all to go silent, like in a movie, where the heroine walks in and realizes that everyone is talking about her. It doesn’t happen. As she walks through the hall, the din of conversation continues. Some people look at her, or point, but most seem to have no interest in her as she walks towards her locker. She doesn’t know if the lack of interest is more disturbing than the attention would have been. Do they not know? Does she have to keep her guard up for when the gossip begins to circulate? Do they not care? Are they just going to accept her?
She sees the curve in the hallway approaching. The one right before her locker. And Chelsea’s locker. And Kevin’s locker. She’s wanted to talk to Kevin since Saturday night, but he’s been avoiding her calls. This is the moment that has been filling her with dread. Taking what feels like her millionth deep and reassuring breath of the morning, Stevie straightens her posture and walks around the corner.
There they are. Looking like the image of perfection they always present, but something isn’t quite right. Brandon and Chelsea, normally attached at the lips, aren’t touching. Instead, they stand on opposite sides of the group. Smiling and laughing, but not looking at each other. Brandon keeps shooting looks in Kevin’s direction, anger simmering beneath the surface. Brianne has taken Stevie’s place at Chelsea’s side. Circling the friendship death like a vulture. She’s been priming herself for this moment since they entered the tenth grade and she got her braces off.
Stepping forward, Stevie heads towards her locker at the far end of the row. This time, silence does fall. All heads turn in her direction. The sound of her flip flops slapping against the bottoms of her feet seems deafening. She fumbles with her combination. Has to try again. Still no one has spoken.
“Can you believe her nerve?” Brianne snorts, breaking the silence. “Pretending like you’re not even here.”
“I know! You’d think she’d have asked for a locker change already.” Chelsea flips her long blond hair over her shoulder. “Over with the nerds. They won’t care if there’s a big, gay lezbo in their hallway.”
“Yeah, but they’re not hot like us. She probably wants to stay here because she wants to do us.” Brianne’s tone is so haughty Stevie has to restrain herself from responding.
“God.” Chelsea gags. “I let her sleep in my room. She probably felt me up in my sleep. Fucking gross.”
Unable to concentrate, Stevie drops the chemistry book she’s just pulled from her locker.
“Jesus, Chelsea, leave her alone!” Kevin’s voice startles Stevie. She shakes herself from her anger to find him leaning beside her, picking up the papers that have fallen from the book.
“You’re going to defend her? You?” Small, strong hands grip tiny hips as anger flashes across Chelsea’s up face. “She’s made a fool out of you, Kevin. You turned her gay. What girl’s going to want to date you now?”
Stevie wants to defend herself, and him, but can’t make her mouth form the words screaming in her head.
“Chelsea,” Kevin straightens to a standing position, towering over the tiny cheerleader. His physical superiority does little to diminish the waves of confidence wafting from her. “You need to back the hell up and leave the situation alone.”
“Whatever.” She brushes him off with a flick of her wrist, “You want to keep being her buttboy, go right ahead. See if I ever let you touch me again.” She wraps the front of his t-shirt into her fist. Rising up onto her tiptoes, she presses her cheek against his. Lips brushing his earlobe. Her gaze pointedly staring at Stevie. She whispers loudly, “You’ll be begging for it by the end of the day. So make up your mind. It’s her or us, you can’t have both.”
When Kevin pushes her away, Brandon steps forward, his eyes darting between them, not sure who to side with. Not sure who he’s more angry with. Unwilling to let anything happen to his former girlfriend, but not sure that he wants to protect her either. Kevin puts up his hand and takes a step back.
“Find some new friends, Stevie. You’re not welcome here anymore.” Brianne kicks the chemistry book still sitting on the floor, sending it flying into the opposite wall, loose papers litter the hallway as it flies open.
“Come on, Brie.” Chelsea links arms and the two girls saunter away to their first period class.
“You want to blow off first period? Go get some coffee?” Kevin retrieves the stray chemistry book and once again collects the scattered pages.
“God, Kevin! Why are you doing this?” Stevie snaps at him, her guilt coming off as anger.
“Being… this! Acting like… God … Jesus, fuck.” She stomps her foot lightly. Stevie feels herself losing control of her emotions. Hiding her face in her locker, she pretends to look for something.
“We need to talk. Let’s go,” Taking her arm, he pulls her back from the locker, throwing everything but her purse back inside. Together they head down the hallway. Stevie knows that they will probably pass Quinn. This will definitely be the hardest part of her morning.
Rounding a corner to a long stretch of lockers, Stevie sees her. Yellow and black striped skirt paired with a plain yellow t-shirt and black flats with tiny skulls. Terry’s arms encompass Quinn’s waist. Her black hair perfectly frames her face, with its always rosy cheeks, as she leans against her boyfriend’s chest. Terry’s face is buried in her neck. Stevie briefly wonders why hormones always seem to go into overdrive in the school hallway. Her eyes meet Quinn’s. She sees the smile that can’t form on her lips flash across the deep grey. Stevie feels the beginnings of a smile forming. Unable to control the response, she quickens her pace. Kevin lengthens his strides to keep up with her.