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She Will [Not] Be Loved
I walk down the hall, books held so tightly against my chest that my knuckled are white. I know I don’t know three-quarters of the people I pass, but I feel they’re all looking me, that they can just see what I did with Hailey last night, that they’ll shun me like they did to Christopher, and Jason, and Liana…
“Hey, Gwen,” I hear Hailey’s lovely singsong voice say from behind me, and my knees begin to buckle. The memory of her hand on my cheek, my fingers in her hair, my lips on hers…
“Hi, Hailey,” I say weakly. Hailey catches up to me and walks next to me, as if things were totally normal, as if we hadn’t kissed and touched passionately, for well over an hour until my parents came home, last night.
Hailey babbles on about something that her parents were fighting over and how she wishes they would get a divorce already, but I still feel like everyone’s staring at me, that any moment people will ring around us yelling, “Dyke! Lesbo! Butch! Homo!” like they did to Liana Godberson when she came out.
“Right,” I nod when she stops, as if I was paying any attention to her actual words, and not her lips, those lips that I’ve been dying to kiss since I was eleven…
“What’s up with you today, Gwen?” she asks me. I give her a look and she cracks a smile, pulling me into an empty classroom. “Was last night a manifestation of something or experimentation?”
I gulp and stare into Hailey’s chocolate brown eyes. “Manifestation,” I manage to croak out. “Was it - what - for you, was that-”
“Manifestation,” she says, and my heart flies. “But Gwen…we can’t do this. I don’t know what came over me last night, to admit to it…we became friends because we were always different, remember?” Hailey asks.
I nod. How could I forget? We played with GI Joe when the other girls played with Barbie, we raced with the boys when the girls sat around and gossiped, we kept our hair short when the rest of the girls wore it long. It was only when I was ten that I realized I liked girls, and eleven when I realized I like Hailey.
“I have Mike. I don’t want to be openly…out. Not after what they did to Liana, or to Christopher or Jason.” When Liana came out they terrorized her and she switched into some liberal fancy-pants private school, when Chris was caught with his boyfriend in a pizza shop three towns over he was beat up so badly that he was in the ICU for two months, and when Jason told his girlfriend’s boyfriend that he had a crush on him, he punched Jason in the face, and Jason’s younger sister found him hanging in his basement an hour later.
“But…don’t you love me?” I asked her, sounding like a three-year-old with separation anxiety.
“Of course I do.” She leaned in and gave me a taste of a kiss. “But I can’t be gay in Northmill Creek. We graduate in two years, Gwen. Until then, I don’t want to be out of the closet. Okay?”
“No,” I say desperately. “Hailey…I love you…”
“I love you too,” she says. “But we can’t be together now. I can’t do this, I can’t deal with how people would treat us. I’m not strong like that. If you want to be out, I don’t mind. But I won’t be with you for another two years.”
She gives me another shadow of a kiss and melts out of the room. The bell rings and I make my way to homeroom, feeling sick.