Authors: Julie Anne Peters
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Social Issues, #Adolescence, #Dating & Sex, #Homosexuality
Coop skated up to us and said to Seth, "We're starting another game. Red team's one short. You or Holland in?"
Seth queried me. "Holl?"
"I'm done," I said, digging snow out of the collar of my parka. "You go on. I need to spend some time with Leah."
He brushed powder off the back of my head, then left.
I found Leah at the outdoor fireplace where she and Kirsten were warming their hands. Leah said, "Good game. I just saw the end where you scored."
Kirsten murmured, "We'd have won if it wasn't for that dyke."
I slowly turned to face Kirsten. "Excuse me?"
She met my eyes and curled a lip.
"If you mean Dayna, she's one hell of an athlete."
Kirsten snorted. "Yeah, they all are."
supposed to mean?"
"Hey." Leah put a hand on my arm. "It's getting cold. Let's go in Trevor said he'd save us a table in the snack bar."
"Speaking of Travor," I said, removing my stiff mittens. "People are starting to talk."
Kirsten's head shot up. "About what?"
Her eyes slit. She leaned her face into mine and said, "Why don't you tell me?"
Shit. I shouldn't have started this. She might as well know the truth, though. "They're saying you're a player."
Kirsten expelled a short breath. "Really." Her jaw clenched. "Well, whoever
are, they can go fuck themselves." She skated off toward the entrance.
Leah sighed. "Holland –"
"I know," My head lolled back. "Open oven, insert head."
Leah ran her skate blade and forth along the ice. "She thinks you judge her."
"I don't." Blood rushed to my face. Do I? Maybe I do. "I'm her friend, Leah. I thought she should know. I'm only trying to protect her." Right, Holland. You're so noble. You should alienate your friends with the truth more often. I let out a long, visible breath. "I'll call her tonight and apologise."
“Thank you,” Leah said. She hated when brush fires flared between Kirsten and me. Thank God she was always there to douse the flames. It made me wonder how Kirsten and I had stayed friends for so long. We’d known each other since eighth grade, when she and her mom moved here from Texas after her parents first split. Kirs was pretty messed up then. She really wanted to live with her dad, but he’d moved in with his girlfriend and having a kid around would put too much of a crimp in his style. He never called her; not even on her birthday. We got to talking and discovered we had the “fatherless” thing in common.
Kirsten was fun to be around. Wild and crazy, sort of reckless. Unlike me, Ms. Boring and Predictable.
Leah started for the entrance and I caught up. “Are you all right?” I nudged her shoulder with mine. “You seem a little distant, to quote Kirs.”
Leah smiled. “I’m fine.”
She opened her mouth, then shut it. Gazing wistfully across the ice, she said, “I miss the old days.”
I frowned. “What old days?”
She looked at me. “When we were kids. Coming here. Skating for hours. Playing tag and keep-away. I’m going to miss all this.” Her arm extended to include more than the lake.
We dodged a bunch of rowdy boys who were dogging these girls ahead of us. Making them giggle and scream. I guess I knew what Leah meant. Life was easier when we were kids. It wasn’t so much about change and choice and moving on. We lived for the moment. Time was eternal.
I linked my arm with Leah’s. “Tell you what. I’ll buy us a banana split with extra whipped cream and two cherries on too. For old times’ sake.”
“In your dreams,” she said. “I’d have to diet for a week.”
I was just drifting off to sleep Sunday night when Seth called. My eyelids were lead weights after poring over the same page in
six hundred times. Not one word had registered. “Is Faith gone?” he asked.
“Yes.” I yawned. “But Neal’s here.”
“I don’t care,” Seth said. “I’m coming over.”
He hung up before I could protest. Not that I didn’t want to see him; but it was Sunday. A school night.
First thing he did after I trailed him downstairs to my room was unzip his jeans. “Jesus, Seth. You didn’t even ask.”
He paused with his jeans around his hips. “Don’t you want to?” he said.
I sighed and plopped on the bed. Scotching up against the headboard, I hugged my knees and answered, “It’s not that. I just…” I stalled.
“What?” Seth searched my face. “What, Holl?”
“Whenever we’re alone, this is all we do.”
He rezipped his jeans. Perching on the mattress beside me, he said, “We don’t get that much time alone, babe. Since you won’t do it in the car and we can’t be together when faith’s here. Now school nights are out.”
I got the message. “Remember how we used to talk? For like hours and hours, we’d just talk. We never talk anymore.”
“We talk every day,” he said. “I see you at lunch, and I call you almost every night. We’re together on the weekends as much as possible.”
I squeezed my eyes shut and dropped my head to my knees. Seth stretched out beside me, snaking an arm around my waist and drawing me close. “We can talk,” he said. “What do you want to talk about?”
“I don’t know,” I murmured.
“I love you,” he whispered in my ear. “I know I don’t say it enough. I love you, I love you, I love you. Is that what you want to hear?”
It wasn’t. I aready knew that. “When did we stop being friends?” I raised my head.
He pulled back a little. “We’re still friends. You the best friend I’ve ever had.” He studied me. “It’s different with girls, I know. But don’t you think of me as your friend?”
“Yeah, I do. Of course I do. It’s just…” Just what, Holland? Tell him.
Tell him how you want to go back to the way it used to be. Before the sex, the commitment. Oh, yeah. He’d be stoked about that.
Seth kissed my ear, then my neck, my lower neck. Hard as I tried, I couldn’t respond to him. What was wrong with me? He was great, wonderful, perfect. He was everything a girl could ever want.
Then why, long after he was gone, did I lie awake and ache inside for something more?
The cold at first. The swelling of lungs. Then the force. Fighting it, straining against it. Harder, stronger. Glide. Kick. Breathe.
Faster and faster. Moving, moving.Away from it. Toward it. Get there.
My inner voice chanted, “Get there, get there, get there.”
No answer came.
Concrete grazed my fingertips at the same time my head burst through the surface of the pool. My chest hurt. Every muscle in my body burned. How long had I been swimming? Too long at speed. My eyes stung. I closed them, hung over the edge until the dizziness evaporated. Then I hauled myself out of the pool and padded to the locker room for a hot shower.
I jumped. Usually I was alone at this time of day.
“If I had your self-discipline, I could look like your mother. But alas, my fat cells rebel against shrinkage.”
I smiled at Mrs. Lucas. “What are you doing here?” My voice sounded harsh, accusatory. The way I felt – intruded upon.
She didn’t notice, unfortunately. Slipping a sweatband over her head, she answered, “We started an early morning faculty shape-up program. Work those biceps.” She hefted imaginary weights.
I cursed her silently. My only private time. I really needed to be alone right now. To think. To not think. I grabbed a couple of towels from the laundry cart by the door and headed for the showers. Mrs. Lucas followed. “Did you get through all those catalog? Have you decided where to apply?”
“Not yet,” I told her, screeching on the hot water faucet. “I was swamped with homework all weekend.” Which was true. We were only into week two of the term and I was already struggling to keep up. Zero motivation didn’t help.
“Well, don’t wait too long. Most of those applications have to be postmarked by February fist.”
“I know,” I sniped. Calm yourself, Holland. God. “I’ll do it tonight.” I twisted my head and smiled at her. Wished her gone.
“Did you get your invitation?”
I didn’t answer; just plunged into the shower and zoned.
Cece was sitting on the floor in front of her locker, poring over an
comic book. Her coffee cup was on the carpet next to her, the box of donuts opened to the world. “You’re going to get fat,” I said before spinning my combination lock out of control. Could I be more surly? I turned to apologize.
Cece hadn’t heard, or was ignoring me. I opened my locker and looked in the mirror. I had to stand on tiptoes to see her. She’d taken a bite of a chocolate donut and was waving it in the air, baiting me.
I smiled to myself. Not to myself. Leaving my locker wide open, I sauntered across the hall and examined the contents of the box. Most of the donuts were broken pieces or misshapen rejects. “These are the poorest excuse for donuts I’ve ever seen.” I squatted and selected a chunk – coconut frosted. “Whatever you paid, you got ripped off.”
She closed the comic book. “Since I didn’t pay anything, I’d say I got a deal.”
“Free donuts?” My eyebrows shot up. “Where?”
“Hott ’N Tott,” she said. “My uncle’s shop. Or as we fondly refer to it – and to him – Hot to Trot.”
She smiled. “I only get them for free because I work there.”
My thigh muscles were seizing up, straining on my haunches like this. Up or down? My knees decided. Curling cross-legged on the other side of the donut box, I asked, “Where is this place? Hot to Trot Donuts?”
She cricked a lip. “Over on Speer and Colfax. By Wash Central.”
I nodded. Still didn’t know where it was. Washington Central was like the netherworld, the other side of the city. The warning bell clanged overhead and I crammed the donut into my mouth. Scrambling to my feet, I darted across the hall.
“Here’s the app,” she said suddenly at my side.
“The what? Oh.” The “Lesbian Bisexual Gay” title jumped off the top line. I took the club application from her and skimmed over it as I slammed my locker.
“When’s your next meeting?” she asked.
“Today, actually.” I slid the app into a spiral. “During lunch.”
“Okay.” We stood there for a moment, sort of awkwardly. My heart was racing. I don’t know who moved first, but we began walking down the hall together. Close together. She stopped at the intersection. Or I did. “Let me know what they say,” Cece said. “I’ll see you in art.” She gazed into my eyes, holding me in a trance. When I regained consciousness, she’d retreated. Disappeared into the mist. I drew a deep breath and let it out slowly. Why did she make me feel as if I was teetering on the brink of a precipice? One false step and I’d plunge into the abyss.
To be different, I decided to hold the student council meeting during lunch at the Pizza Hut across the street. Mr. Olander kicked off the meeting by informing us he’d gotten a request from Admin to help organize a leadership conferenced at southglenn in May. We discussed how many rooms to reserve and what topics would be of interest. The details multiplied exponentially as we talked, so I suggested we form a subcommittee. Seth volunteered himself and me to serve on it.
That earned him my most threatening I-wash-you-hadn’t-done-that glare. He knew my schedule was already on overkill.
We divvied up duties for the community service projects, too, before Olander said, “Okay, if there’s nothing else, motion to adjourn –”
“Wait,” I cut in. “There is something.” I dug in my backpack for the application. “I got a new club request.” I’d shoved it inside my Brit Lit spiral, which lay at the bottom of the stack. “Let me find it.”
“What is it this time?” Seth spoke up. “Death Eaters Anonymous?”
A few people laughed. The Goths were the last group to apply for – and be denied – club status, since they couldn’t find an advisor. “It’s a Lesbigay group,” I said.
All the air in the room was sucked up.
“The queers want a club? Forget it.”
Who said that? My head whipped around. Kirsten?
“Let me see.” She snatched the app out of my hand. “Ms. Markenko agreed to be their faculty rep?” She clucked her tongue. “I always figured her for a big dyke.”
“Kirsten! God.” I yanked the form back.
“Sorry,” she said, not sounding it.
“We had this kind of request over at Mitchell, my last school,” Olander said.
“What happened?” I asked him.
“Nothing. Too controversial.”
My blood boiled. “So we turn clubs down because they’re too controversial?”
He looked a little squeamish. “Well…”
“Isn’t that unconstitutional?” I said. “What about the first Amendment? What about freedom of speech, freedom of association?”
Kirsten replied, “The First Amendment doesn’t apply to public school settings, right?” She queried Olander, who looked like he’d rather be pithing a frog than dealing with this.
“Wait a minute –” my voice rose.
Seth reached across the table and squeezed my wrist. “Don’t we come off looking like a bunch of intolerant bigots if we turn them down?”
“Thank you,” I said to him.
Kirsten quipped, “What do you think Zero Tolerance Policy means?”
A few people sniggered.
I riddled Kirsten with eye bullets. “Very funny.”
“Cece Goddard.” Kirsten flattened the app on the table to read it upside down. “Who’s she?”
“She’s new,” I said. “She just transferred from Washington Central.” To the group, I added, “Obviously they’re more progressive there than we are here.”
Everyone lowered their eyes, looking embarrassed. They should be. We should be. My eyes focused on Cece’s name, then below it to the question: Estimated number of members. Fifteen, she’d written. Fifteen? Did we have that many gays at our school?
Kirsten said, “We’re not behind the times, and I don’t think we need a gay club at Southglenn. Just because some radical lesbian want to promote her own agenda, I don’t see why we have to comply.”
I clucked my tongue. “It’s not like that. She doesn’t have an agenda. She isn’t some kind of militant feminist, or whatever you think. She’s cool. She’s great.” Better shut up, I thought, feeling the heat rising to my face.