“I think I‘m bi.” It wasn’t a miraculous realization with a beam of light shining down on me and a choir singing in the background. I was just walking to class with Seth and Michelle and suddenly my mouth spoke. I didn’t think about it. It just kind of came out. Afterwards, there was nothing but silence. Until Michelle gave a simple “okay” and Seth just shrugged his shoulders.
In 8th grade, I had my first crush on a girl. I adored her. She was gorgeous and her smile made me weak. Just being around her brought butterflies in my stomach and for a while I kept it to myself. How could a girl like a girl? Sure it was heard of but I wasn’t a lesbian. I liked boys too. My mom found out and sat me down and asked me “do you like girls?” I shrugged. I didn’t like girls. I liked a girl. I was confused. How am I supposed to tell someone what I like when I wasn’t even sure what I liked?
I had the entire summer to get over Beth. I was sure I was over it. But when I saw her walk into class on the first day of school, I was smitten. Her eyes lit up when she saw me and she automatically took the seat next to mine. “Melaina! It’s good to finally see someone I know in here!” Beth’s voice was laced with joy.
“Yeah this place is huge!” I giggled.
“But the boys are so hot!” She scanned the room. I watched her eyes bounce from face to face.
“Right. Boys,” I mumbled.
“Bad summer romance?” Beth’s eyes sympathized with me as I nodded. What else was I supposed to do?
“I feel you. I met a boy over the summer too.”
“Oh my god, he was so cute! And he played guitar and wrote a song for me and his eyes! Oh my. His eyes were beautiful! But to top it all off, he was an amazing kisser!”
“So what went wrong?”
“He’s a junior and doesn’t want to be seen with a freshman.” I smirked.
“Boys are idiots. He has no idea what he’s missing out on.”
“You two can talk about that later,” our teacher, Mrs. Stefansen, said from behind us. She walked to the front of the room to introduce herself but I wasn’t paying attention. My focus kept being pulled to the mesmerizing tan on Beth’s skin.
“Would you just tell her already?” Dalton spoke with his mouth full and pointed his sandwich at me from across the table. “You don’t have a chance if you never say anything.”
“I’m not good with rejection,” I said.
“How do you know you’ll get rejected?” Isabelle asked as she slammed her lunch down next to me. She sat and scrunched up her nose at the food.
“I don’t even know why you buy lunch at school when you know you’re just going to end up throwing most of it away,” I said.
“‘Cause I know Dalton will eat it,” Isabelle said as Dalton reached over to grab the pizza slice off her tray.
“As true as that is,” Dalton swallowed. “Melaina is trying to change the subject. We need to get back to the fact that you’re in love with Beth.”
“I’m not in love with her! I just think she’s cool,” I said.
“No you don’t. You think she’s hot,” Dalton said as he chewed. “And who could blame you? Her boobs are fantastic.”
“Don’t be perverted. And please chew with your mouth closed,” Isabelle said. “Look Mel, as your best friend and unofficial therapist, I think you should tell Beth so you can stop staring at her all the time.”
“I don’t stare! I just gaze occasionally.” I rested my chin in my hand. Beth’s table was across from ours and I could see every freckle on the bridge of her nose. “I can’t help it. She’s so…”
“Sexy?” Dalton offered. I rolled my eyes.
“It doesn’t even matter. She doesn’t like girls and even if she did, I’m out of her league.”
“What are you talking about?” Isabelle said. “Beth dated that girl, Alex, and she was far from an ideal girlfriend. Anyone who even gets a second of your affection is lucky. Just go for it and stop making excuses.”
“Fine. If I were to tell her, how would I even start?”
“Just go for it. Don’t overthink it,” Isabelle faced me. “Okay. Pretend I’m Beth.”
“I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that. Now, I’m Beth being all beautiful and amazing and whatnot. Just tell me how you feel.”
“Okay. Well, uh Beth.”
“Yes Melaina?” Isabelle flipped her hair over her shoulder. I stifled a snort.
“You know, I’ve liked you for quite some time now.” I raised an eyebrow and smirked from the side of my mouth. Isabelle faked a high giggle.
“Yeah. I would just love to kiss your sexy red lips. I bet they’re real soft.”
“Why don’t you find out?”
“Boom! Sex scene!” Dalton raised his hands in the air.
“You’re such a mood kill Dalton,” Isabelle said.
“Isabelle, I know you’re in love with me but you need to learn to control yourself,” I laughed.
“How can I with you flirting with me all the time?”
“That’s how I roll baby. Get used to it.” We all failed to stifle our laughter and Dalton choked on a piece of his sandwich only causing more laughs from me and Isabelle.
“What’s so funny guys?” Beth sat down next to Dalton and my voice disappeared.
“Oh nothing,” Dalton said. “It’s just that Isabelle here really likes this girl and is too scared to tell her.”
“Really? I didn’t know you liked girls Isabelle.”
“What can I say? There’s just… something special about her,” Isabelle said.
“Well, who is it?” Dalton and Isabelle glanced at me at the same time. It was a quick glance but not quick enough. “Oh.” My face got warm and I stared down at the table. “Isabelle, I don’t think she, you know, rolls that way.”
“What?” Isabelle asked.
“I saw you two. I know who it is.” I couldn’t help it but I let out a relieved giggle. She thought Isabelle liked me.
“It’s not me Beth,” I said. “You don’t know the girl, she goes to a different school.”
“Oh! Well, Isabelle, you’ll never know if you don’t try.”
“That’s what I’ve been saying!” Dalton yelled. The bell rang and Beth ran from the table to walk to class with her friends.
“I hate you guys,” I said when Beth left earshot.
“No. You love us,” Isabelle said. “Did you see how fast we covered for you? We deserve a medal for that performance.”
“Or a sandwich,” Dalton added.
“Dalton what won’t you do for a sandwich?” Isabelle asked.
“I draw the line at prostitution.” I snorted. “You’re right. I’d so sell my body for a good sandwich. But it has to be good… mediocre at best.”
“I don’t have time to talk about Dalton working the corner,” I said. “I have to get to Geometry.”
“We’re in the same class,” Isabelle said. “You’re not going to be late.”
“I know I’m not. I won’t allow it to happen, definitely not on the first day of school. That’s just wrong.” I started walking out of the cafeteria, Dalton and Isabelle walked on either side of me.
“You still coming over after school?” Isabelle asked.
“Yeah,” I answered. “I might as well since I need to pick up my clothes from your house.”
“Except that pink shirt.”
“You can’t have my shirt.”
“Fine. It’ll just disappear then.” I laughed. Isabelle looked down and smiled at her phone at her phone. “I have to meet up with Gerry. I’ll see you in class.” Isabelle ran off in the opposite direction. I watched Dalton’s shoulders slump.
“Hey,” I nudged him. “It’s not like they’re married or anything.”
“She seems to like him a lot,” Dalton mumbled.
“She does. But he’s a loser. She just needs more time to see it.”
“And once she realizes that he’s a bum, she’ll dump him and come running to you to tell her sorrows and you can be all like ‘baby, I’ve always been the one for you’. And she’ll be like ‘of course!’ and you will dip her all romantically and you two will kiss while the sun sets behind you and you will hear the sounds of soft jazz and me vomiting.” Dalton’s face struggled to hide his smile.
“I don’t think I’m her type.”
“Her type? She doesn’t have a type.”
“Yes she does. She always goes for the tall guys with beautiful eyes and abs and arms like logs.”
“Now that you mention it, that does sort of sound like her type. But things can change!” We stopped outside my class.
“I doubt it.”
“Oh come on. You’re on the football team and you’re muscular and tough and your eyes aren’t ugly. Plus you’re taller than her.”
“Everyone is taller than her.”
“Not 5th graders. You have a chance! This could be the year! 2 years of having a crush on someone and keeping it to yourself is enough. We’re high school kids now! Time to man up.”
“I guess. I should really head to class.”
“Yeah, see you later.” Dalton turned to walk away right as Isabelle was running to the classroom. She ran right into him. Before she could fall, Dalton caught her. It was like a movie and I couldn’t believe I was seeing it. He helped her regain her balance. I could feel the heat coming from Dalton’s face.
“Thanks Dalton,” Isabelle said. I glared at her but she only returned a smile. “Come on, we’ll be late.” She grabbed my hand and dragged me into class. We grabbed the last two seats. Gratefully, they were in the middle. Not too far from the front where the teacher will ignore all my questions but not too close up front that he’ll call on me for every answer. Isabelle was grinning ear to ear but before I could ask why, our teacher began his ‘Welcome to High School’ spiel.
After school was the same as every day when I went over to Isabelle’s house recently. “Why doesn’t she love me?” I moaned while stretched out on the longer part of Isabelle’s L-shaped couch. “I’m adorable and funny and smart. I’m a catch. So what’s the problem?”
“Maybe she doesn’t like how conceited you are,” Isabelle said. I snatched the bag of chips from her hands and stuffed my mouth before she was able to snatch them back.
“I’m serious. We would make such a great couple. The only better couple than us would be peanut butter and jelly.”
“Who’s the peanut butter out of you two?”
“What? Why does that matter?”
“I don’t know.”
“Can you stop taking my love life as a joke?” I draped my arm over my eyes. “What if we never get together and that ends up causing World War III?”
“How would you two not dating cause World War III?”
“Well, uh, oh! Okay. So say we never get together right? And we never adopt a cute little baby together, the baby that would’ve stopped the bombing on Russia that cause World War III.”
“I think you’re exaggerating a little.”
“You can’t tell me I’m exaggerating while you’re dating Mr. Gorgeous.”
“I think that gives me more authority to tell you you’re exaggerating.”
“You can tell me I’m exaggerating when World War III comes along and your house ends up getting bombed.”
“Don’t jinx me like that.”
“Now you’re worried about being jinxed! Isabelle, save the world and help me figure out why Beth doesn’t love me.”
“Maybe she does like you but you’ve been oblivious to all her hints.”
“You, the Queen of Oblivious, are saying that I’m clueless?”
“I am not oblivious.”
“Are you kidding? Dalton has liked you for two years. He has bought you flowers and chocolates on Valentine’s Day, he sang for you on your birthday, he even took you to the 8th grade dance.”
“Dalton and I are just really good friends.”
“Right,” I stated. “I don’t know what made me think that he would like you. All of his gestures are just ‘friendly’.”
“Exactly.” I pinched the bridge of my nose.
“It’s amazing how blind you are,” I muttered to myself. “Back to the point at hand. Beth isn’t in love with me. How do we get her to that point?”
“Well, you could ask her out.”
“Yeah, but just us alone? I’d choke and freak out 2 minutes into it.”
“Ask her to homecoming!” Isabelle jumped up when she got her idea. “It’s the perfect setting. A bunch of people you both know will be there so it can’t get awkward and the lights are just dim enough if you get brave enough to make a move.”
“I guess I could ask her to homecoming.”
“You’ve got an entire month to decide how to ask her and everything. Oh! It’ll be so sweet. I’ll help you with everything.”
“Help me? You mean you plan and tell me what to do?”
“Exactly, it’ll be perfect.”
“Hey Melaina, maybe for your birthday, we could go out and do something nice together. Just us,” Beth offered. My face could’ve cracked if my smile got any bigger.
“Really? You want to?”
“Of course. I’ll text you details.”
“Okay!” Beth gracefully placed a kiss on my cheek. My heart was racing.
“See you later,” Beth walked away into a bright light.
That was the dream I woke up from on my birthday. I groaned and kicked my blanket off my bed. Of course my mind would torture me like that. I laid in my bed angrily staring at the ceiling until I remembered: it was my freaking 15th birthday. I jumped up and immediately ran to the kitchen. My brother, Jason, was making pancakes. He faced me.
“I burned a couple and I want you to know I’m only giving you the good ones because it’s your birthday.” I ran up and hugged him.
“I love you too.” Jason shrugged me off.
“I should start charging you when you want me to cook.”
“I would cook for myself but I’m not as good at it as you are.”
“Yeah, yeah.” I helped myself to the stack of pancakes on the counter.
“Did you put chocolate chips in here?!” I asked through the pancake I stuffed in my mouth. Jason nodded. “You do love me!”
“So you going to ask that girl out today?” I froze.
“You know that girl, Belle.”
“Yeah, her. You going to make a move?”
“No. Why would I?”
“Because you like her.”
“I liked her.”
“You still do. I hear you talking about it on the phone.”
“You’ve been eavesdropping.”
“You can’t prove that.”
“I hate you.”
“You say as you eat the pancakes I made you.” I finished stuffing my mouth and push away the plate.
“Stay out of my business.” I left the kitchen and started searching through my closet. I refused to allow Jason to annoy me today. I pulled out an orange dress and hunted for my sandals. Today was my day.
“Happy Birthday!” Isabelle basically attacked me at lunch. “I made you cupcakes!” I laughed as Dalton helped himself to one of the cupcakes Isabelle had placed on the table.
“Thank you Isabelle.”
“I’m the best, I know. Dalton what did you get Melaina?” Dalton’s eyes widened.
“Well, uh, I…”
“You didn’t get her anything did you?” Dalton shook his head. “Then, once again, I shall let you piggy back off of my gift.”
“Gift?” I asked. “I thought I was clear on not spending money on me.”
“Not even if it’s…” Isabelle pulled out a bag of licorice from her backpack. “I know you’re not going to turn them down so just take them.” I snatched the candy from her and stuck out my tongue.
“Thank you,” I mumbled. I reached into the bag when something hit me from the side rushing all the air from my lungs and causing me to drop a licorice. I pouted a little to the fallen solider.
“Melaina! You didn’t tell me today was your birthday!” I faced my attacker, Beth. Beautiful, glorious Beth. “I would’ve gotten you something!”
“The body slam I just got was more than enough,” I laughed.
“Oh,” Beth smiled. My goodness that smile. “Sorry, I just got really excited when I saw you. You guys mind if I sit here today?”
“No!” I yelped. “I mean, that’s fine with us.”
“You know what I’m realizing?” Dalton said. “Homecoming is coming up pretty fast. Only 2 more weeks.” Dalton winked at me.
“Yeah!” Beth said. “I already have my dress picked out.”
“Isabelle’s had hers since the first day of school,” I said.
“What’s the point in waiting to buy a dress when I’ve already seen the perfect one?” Isabelle added.
“Is Gerry going to match with you?” Beth asked.
“Of course. I’m going to live my high school experience as cliché as possible. Just seems more fun that way.”
“That’s repulsive,” I said. “Just going through high school by every movie ever made. I already can feel myself getting sick of you.”
“You love me,” Isabelle said. “Beth is your date going to match with you?”
“Oh yes,” Beth said. My lungs quit breathing and I stared directly at Dalton, who was failing to hide the grimace in his face, and I didn’t dare look anywhere else. “We’ve got it all planned out. We’re going to dinner first then the dance and then…” Beth’s words faded from my ears. I closed my eyes and focused on my breathing. Once again, I had missed my chance. “What about you Melaina?”
“Huh?” I opened my eyes and faced Beth.
“Who are you going to homecoming with?”
“Oh. I’m not going to homecoming.”
“What? Why not?” I shrugged.
“I don’t like to dance. Plus, I rather not get grinded on by a bunch of sweaty teens.”
“Oh, come on. You love to dance. You’ve always danced with me at the dances in middle school.”
“Yeah. Well, that was middle school.”
“That’s unacceptable. You can’t miss out on your first homecoming.”
“Why do you care if I go or not?” I stood up and grabbed my things. “Sorry, I just realize that I have an essay that I need to print out before the next class.”
“If you’re heading to the library I should tag along,” Dalton said. He grabbed his sandwich and followed me out of the cafeteria. “That was smooth.”
“Shut up Dalton. Please just shut up.”
“Did you see her face as you left?”
“How could I if I was leaving?”
“Well, she looked hurt.” I stopped walking.
“Well, I feel hurt! This is so unfair!”
“It’s not like she’s dating the guy. They’re just going to a dance. You should’ve asked her earlier.”
“Why do I have to do it? Why can’t she ask me to the dance?”
“Because you’re the one who likes her.” I groaned. “Just tell her you like her.”
“Fine! But only if you tell Isabelle you like her.” I smirked.
“I tell Isabelle and you tell Beth.”
“No! You’re supposed to chicken out and then get off my back.”
“Not this time. I’m tired of you putting yourself through hell.”
“I don’t take rejection well Dalton.”
“You obviously don’t take not knowing if she likes you back well either. So do we have a deal or not?” Dalton held out his hand. I rolled my eyes and shook it.
“I hate you.”
“I can live with that.” I continued walking. “Where are you going?”
“The library. I really do have an essay to do.”
“I think Dalton likes me,” Isabelle said. There was only one week left until homecoming and I was in Isabelle’s room helping her decide how she was going to do her hair but primarily to eat her snacks. I swallowed down a handful of cheese crackers.
“Why do you say that?” I asked.
“Well, he came over a few days ago so we could work on our Biology project but he brought a rose and smelled like cologne.”
“Maybe he just likes to smell nice.”
“I would believe that but his face seemed pink, like he was embarrassed. And every now and then he would open his mouth but he wouldn’t say anything.”
“You think I’m reading into this too much? I’ve got to be, right?”
“Why are you asking me?”
“Because he would tell you if he liked me.” I shrugged. “What do you know?”
“I don’t know anything.”
“Melaina.” Isabelle’s voice was attempting to be threatening but I shrugged again.
“What’s the deal? Maybe he likes you. So what?”
“He does like me!” Isabelle collapsed on her bed knocking crackers out of my hand.
“Seriously? Don’t take this out of the crackers.”
“This is awful. He can’t like me! It’s too weird. Liking him back would be like liking a puppy.”
“Ooo la la, puppy love.” Isabelle threw a pillow at me that missed my head by a hair.
“That’s gross. Plus I have a boyfriend.”
“Gerry’s an idiot. Dating an actual dog would be an upgrade.”
“He’s a good guy.”
“Yes. He’s a good guy who smells like cheese and has an IQ lower than one of these crackers.” Isabelle laughed.
“I like him. He’s sweet.”
“Unless I can eat him, don’t tell me about how sweet he is.” Isabelle opened her mouth. “I have eyes, I can see how hot he is so if that’s your next argument, shut it.” Isabelle smirked, confirming my suspicion.
“Don’t be all grouchy because Beth has a date to homecoming.” I glared at Isabelle.
“That was such a low blow.”
“I don’t know why you don’t just tell her. It’s not like you to be such a punk.”
“I am not a punk!”
“Really? I couldn’t tell.”
“You know what? I’ll call her right now! I’ll call her right now and tell her!”
“Then do it but I already know you’re going to punk out.” I grabbed my phone and smashed Beth’s number into it. I was ready, I was going to do it. But the moment Beth answered, my mouth went dry. Isabelle smiled and mouthed the word punk. I took a deep breath.
“Hi Beth,” I greeted somehow without moving my lips.
“Hey Mel. What’s up?” Beth’s voice weaved its way into my head and cradled my eardrums. My heart was knocking in my chest and someone was at war in the pit of my stomach.
“I- I, uh, was wondering if we had any homework from last class.”
“Just that worksheet but I think you finished in class didn’t you?”
“Oh yeah. I did. Thanks.”
“No problem.” Isabelle c***ed an eyebrow at me and her eyes mocked my cowardly lips. I took another deep breath.
“Hey Beth, there’s one more thing.”
“Okay.” I put the phone on speaker so Isabelle wouldn’t have to lean so closely to hear.
“I just uh, I just want to tell you that, uh.” I could feel myself shaking and I was gripping the phone so tightly that I swear I heard it crack. “I just uh, I think you’re really cool and amazing.” Isabelle placed a hand on mine and smiled with pure support. “And I think you’re the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen and I guess uh, I was wondering if you would want to go hang out sometime as, uh, you know a little more than just friends.”
Now, if silences could kill, then this pause from Beth has tortured, stabbed, and shot me. “Oh Melaina,” Beth whispered. “No. I mean don’t get me wrong I think you’re an amazing person and you’re gorgeous, inside and out, and even you being all flustered just now was adorable but, I don’t swing that way.”
“I don’t like girls.”
“I know, I mean, but what about that girl Alex? From last year?”
“Yeah, that was an 8th grade thing, you know, a phase. We’re highschoolers now. It’s time to move on from all of that.”
“And if you think about it, it’s kind of disgusting actually. Like a girl kissing a girl? That’s not how the world was meant to be. You can’t get married and have kids with a girl. Like how would that even work?”
“I’m not sure,” I choked out.
“Exactly, it’s just not right. I have nothing against like people who are like that but I think they’re mostly confused, like you.”
“But I know you’ll figure it out. I’ll see you in class tomorrow, okay? If you want, we can talk about it more then.”
“Alright.” I hung up the phone without waiting for a proper goodbye. Isabelle looked at me with so much pity that I hated her. I snatched my hand from her grip.
“Melaina,” she cooed.
“Don’t.” I was crying and I was sure my nose was pink. “I told you I was bad with rejection.” I let out a weak laugh before allowing myself to break down into a sob. Isabelle wrapped her arms around me and I leaned into her.
“I’m so sorry Mel. She did more than reject you. She rejected who you are.”
“It’s just a phase,” I mumbled.
“Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, it wasn’t her place to say things like that.” I felt numb. I quickly wiped my face and sat up. “You okay?” I nodded and smiled as best as I could. I took a strand of Isabelle’s hair into my fingers.
“Maybe you should curl your hair.”
I had successfully avoided Beth until the end of the semester. I would walk away when I saw her coming near, I stopped talking whenever she was earshot, I even went to the extent of explaining the situation to Mrs. Stefansen just so that she would change my seat as far from Beth as possible. Maybe it was cruel to cut all ties from Beth without giving her a proper explanation but honestly, I didn’t have an explanation. Just the thought of being near her put a taste of dread in my mouth. It definitely didn’t help that I was moving and would be attending a new school in the 2nd semester with no friends or even a familiar face to cling to.
Winter Break brought this blissful torture onto me that left me so confused I would stay in bed until 2 in the afternoon even if I had been awake since 10 a.m. It’s not that I couldn’t get up, I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to. The main words that bounced around in my head were: it’s kind of disgusting actually.
Was that her way of indirectly calling me disgusting? It had to be, right? If I like the idea of being a girl that had to mean that I was disgusting and desiring a disgusting lifestyle. Maybe Beth was right about it being a phase. If it’s just a phase then I’ll move past it and be okay. I like boys anyway. I’ve always liked boys. So I can’t like girls too. It had to be either one or the other because otherwise it’s just confusing. Maybe I was confused. I had a beautiful, close friend and confused my appreciation of friendship for attraction. That had to be it, right? I hadn’t liked a girl before Beth and even if I liked girls it had to be just a phase. But what if it wasn’t? What if I really did like girls? Who else would see me as revolting and turn away from me? How many sleepovers will I automatically not be invited to? How many people would treat me differently? How many girls will inch away from me or take my kindness as flirting and reject me? How many guys will try to talk me out of being myself because they knew how to fix my confusion? How will my family treat me once I tell them?
These thoughts as well as a 101 others stabbed at my heart and head until I had depressed myself and made skipping breakfast a regularity. I only knew how gays were treated in movies, bad movies at that. But if those movies spoke any truth, I didn’t want to endure being a lesbian girl in high school.
Of course, when I was able to pull myself out of my room, a smile was pasted on my face, I emptied my mind, and I acted as normally as possible so not to alarm my family. But the moment I once again entered my chamber of thoughts, I found myself lying on the floor staring at the ceiling until I saw the moment the sun peered into my room and I forced myself to get into bed and attempt to get some sleep.
One morning after Christmas, my blanket was yanked from my body and I tumbled to the floor. I looked up to see an angry Isabelle standing over me. “So you are alive,” she said. She threw my blanket onto my bed and opened the curtains allowing the sun to bombard my eyes. I hissed involuntarily and glared at Isabelle with my one awake eye.
“Why are you here?” I asked.
“Your mom said I could sleep over for a few days.”
“You didn’t ask me if I wanted you to come over.”
“Maybe I would have if you hadn’t spent the entire break ignoring my calls.” Isabelle looked me over and I shifted suddenly self-conscious that I hadn’t showered in a week. “You look awful.”
“Well, I don’t feel too hot either.”
“Melaina, I’m sure keeping yourself miserable like this is unhealthy.”
“I love how you talk like I’m just deciding to be unhappy.”
“You’re deciding to stay in a dark room all day. Your environment has an impact on your mood, that’s basic sociology.”
“You mean psychology?” I stood and stretched a bit before going to close the curtains.
“Whatever it is you need to go outside, get some sun and air, take a shower.” I sat on my bed.
“Thanks,” I muttered.
“Sorry but I could smell you outside of your door.” I pulled my blanket over my head.
“Just leave me alone.”
“After you shower.”
“I don’t want to! Get out!”
“I wasn’t asking.” Isabelle pulled me out of bed by my legs and began dragging me into the hall. I kicked and thrashed but Isabelle had a good grip.
“What’s going on?” Jason asked as he stared at us from his doorway.
“Just help me get her into the bathtub,” Isabelle said. Jason paused and then lifted me up by my arms.
“You traitor,” I hissed. I was dropped roughly into the bathtub.
“Hold her down,” Isabelle said. As my struggling against Jason become tired the more aggressive the words in my mouth came out. My list of unpleasant words were interrupted by a cold shot of water slapping my face.
“What the hell?” I yelled. Isabelle aimed the shower head at my feet.
“Are you mad?” Isabelle asked. I responded with my middle finger. She sprayed more water into my face. “Are you mad?”
“Yes,” I growled.
“Finally! Another emotion besides depression!” Isabelle turned off the water and Jason backed out of the bathroom. I wiped water away from my face.
“That was the purpose of this? To make me angry?” Isabelle leaned against the sink.
“Yes. And it worked. You can thank me later.”
“Don’t hold your breath,” I mumbled.
“It’s better than being miserable all day. Look at you! You look more alive already!”
“Melaina look.” Isabelle sat on the edge of the tub and in her eyes I could see how terrible I looked. Imagine a homeless, whimpering, wet kitten. That kitten was me. “Beth’s words were rude and mean but you can’t dwell on them forever.”
“Good. And you know, no one cares if you like girls --”
“I don’t like girls.” I hugged my knees. “And it’s not because of Beth. I just can’t see myself with a girl. It’s too weird. I don’t like girls.”
“You sure about that?” I nodded. “Okay. Just take a shower. The sooner you look better, the sooner you’ll feel better.” Isabelle gave me a weak smile and left the bathroom. With each layer of clothes I peeled off, I decided to peel away my attraction to girls.
I showered and put on sweats and a t-shirt. Isabelle played hairdresser and Jason made me soup without me asking him to. When I looked in the mirror, I saw that Isabelle curled my hair and I was wearing a scowl on my face. I forced my lips into a smile and chuckled at how my smile complimented the curls in my hair. Isabelle was right, I felt better, even with the new bags under my eyes.
I stared directly into my eyes. “I am Melaina Roberts, and I am straight.” I sighed. I wasn’t convincing. “I am Melaina Roberts, and I am straight. I am straight. I do not like girls. I am straight.” I don’t know how many times I repeated those words to myself. I just knew if I said it enough, it would be true.
I was the first one in class once school started again. The teacher seemed nice enough. The bell rang and other kids began filing into the classroom. The tables were set up to fit two people per table and for a while it seemed as if I was sitting alone until a boy with bored eyes sat next to me seconds before the bell rang. I introduced myself and he turned towards me like he just realized I was there. “Ryan,” he said and turned back to the front.
Ryan didn’t speak much, unless it was to Jamie, the pretty girl who sat at the table behind us. I thought they were dating until Jamie said something about her boyfriend who “knows like absolutely nothing about romance”. I tried not to listen in but it was hard when you sat next to the worst whisperers in the world.
I went through the day with uninterested politeness and was relieved to see that Web Design was my last class of the day. Web Design was a blow off class if you just did your work when you needed to. I was seated at a computer in the back of the room next to a boy in an oversized highlight orange hoodie and a boy with snow white hair (after many glances, I realized he was wearing a wig).
“Hey are you new?” asked hoodie boy.
“No,” I answered. “I’ve just been invisible to you all year.”
“Like Jack Frost!” shouted the white-haired boy.
“Okay?” I said.
“Well, I’m Jack and that’s Seth,” said hoodie boy.
“Are you usually this quiet?” asked Jack.
“Am I being surveyed? What’s up with all the questions?”
“Sorry. Just trying to be friendly.” I looked over Jack. He seemed genuine. He smiled and I suddenly felt bad for being so mean.
“Sorry,” I mumbled. “I just don’t like being questioned.” Jack nodded understandingly and I couldn’t help but smile. Something radiated off of him that made you just want to hug him as if he was a giant teddy bear yet punch him in the face.
“We’re usually seen as weird,” said Seth. I glanced at his wig.
“You don’t say?” I said. Seth shrugged. “Okay I have to ask. What’s up with the wig?”
“I’m Jack Frost!” Seth pointed at his hoodie covered in snowflakes.
“Right.” I was sitting next to weird anime, cosplay freaks. Perfect. I glanced at the clock 5 minutes until the bell rang. “Hey do either if you know where I can find room 220?”
“Yes,” said Jack. “Why?”
“There’s a club that I’m interested in there.”
“Is it Writing Club?”
“Awesome!” shouted Seth. “We’re headed there after class too! You can walk with us.”
“Yay,” I mumbled.
I walked into the room to find maybe 7 people. It was too late for me to turn back so I took a seat. A short boy was standing at the front ineffectively demanding the attention of the room. A loud whistle silenced the room. “Alright,” said the short boy. “It seems we have a new member.” He gestured his hand towards me and cheers filled the room. “What’s your name?”
“Melaina.” Another round of cheers.
“I’m Alex,” announced the short boy. One by one, everyone went around the room announcing their names. Then they were released to do as they pleased.
“Melaina,” called Seth who welcomed himself to the seat next to me. “You’re straight right?”
“Yes,” I said defensively.
“Great now could you please look at this boy and tell Ethan that he is beautiful?” I looked at Seth’s laptop and nodded.
“He is pretty hot,” I laughed. “Why are you guys talking about that?”
“Because he’s gorgeous!”
“Yeah but are you like gay or something?” I laughed again.
“Well I am but Ethan likes to dip in both pools.” I froze.
“Wait. You’re really gay?” Seth nodded.
“Oh.” I leaned away involuntarily and reprimanded myself once I noticed. I looked at Seth’s face. He noticed. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.”
“It’s fine.” Seth smiled. “It takes getting used to for some people.”
“Does everyone in here know?”
“I’d be surprised if they didn’t.”
“And they’re okay with it?”
“No one here cares,” Seth paused. “Do you?” It’s kind of disgusting actually. I shook my head.
“No,” I answered.
The year seemed to drag on and I found myself opening up to more and more people and going to Writing Club more and more.
“What’s pansexual?” I asked. Jack just told me he was pansexual during one club meeting and everyone smiled at my confusion. “Oh come on, stop giggling and tell me.”
“A pansexual,” began Seth the gay dictionary, “is someone who doesn’t care about your gender identity. They’re gender blind.”
“It’s what you identify as. Like a girl who sees herself as a girl or a guy who sees himself as a girl.”
“So like a transsexual.”
“The correct term is transgender.”
“What are all of these words?” I groaned. Seth just laughed. “You’re mean. Stop laughing and educate me!”
“Okay, transgender is someone who identifies against their birth sex. Transsexual is more of a medical term.”
“I feel like I should be writing this stuff down. Okay. Wait, one more question. So what exactly is a queer? Isn’t that an insult? And if so, why is it connected to the LGBTQ thing?”
“Okay,” Seth breathed. “To start off, that was three questions. A queer is slang for someone gay. It can be offensive it just depends on the person or context it’s used in.”
“I am learning so much. How do you know all of this?”
“This magical thing called the internet taught me. But most straight people don’t really care for the vocabulary so I didn’t expect you to know any of this.” I grabbed Seth’s hand.
“You’ve taught me more in 5 minutes than I have learned within an entire school year.” The room laughed and I joined in.
“I think the only straight ones in the club are Alex and Kevin,” I said. Isabelle was spending the weekend at my house to so I could “tutor” her and we both wide awake and running on sugar at 2 am.
“Are they cute?” Isabelle asked.
“Yeah but it’s hard for me to see them in that way. Alex is too short for my taste and a little bossy. And Kevin is sweet but I swear he wears a superhero t-shirt almost every day his extensive knowledge on superheroes is intriguing and yet creepy. But they’re all pretty great. At first I thought they were just a bunch of awkward dorks but they’re cool.”
“They’d be cooler if you had your eyes set on one of them.”
“Well, there’s this one guy…” Isabelle bounced on my bed and grabbed tightly onto my arm.
“Who? Don’t hold back. Is he hot? Is he smart? Does he smell good? How did you meet? Did you look decent when you met him?” I was crashing from my sugar high and had trouble keeping up with Isabelle’s words.
“Would you keep still so I can think?” I scolded and Isabelle froze. “His name is Ryan and he is so hot you could bake cookies on him.” Isabelle giggled. “I sit next to him in one of my classes and we just started talking more and he is smart and interesting and his voice should be recognized as an illegal drug.” Isabelle fell back onto the bed.
“Ugh. I envy that. He sounds like a dream.”
“How are you and Gerry?” She waved a dismissive hand.
“I dumped him before the end of the first semester.”
“What? Why didn’t you tell me that?”
“You were going through your thing… and not answering your phone.”
“Oh yeah,” I bit my lip. “How is Beth?” Isabelle sat up and hesitantly spoke.
“She’s okay, I guess. The guy she was dating cheated on her with this upperclassman and she’s kind of been all over the place since.”
“What do you mean?”
“She’s just hooking up with whoever will take her.”
“Yeah. It’s pretty bad.”
“Maybe I should call her and just make sure she’s okay.”
“She’s fine,” Isabelle screamed. I stared at her wide-eyed. “I mean, she’ll figure it out. She’s a big girl.”
“I guess if she wanted to talk she would’ve called.”
“Exactly.” Isabelle laid back on my bed. “Forget Beth,” Isabelle yawned. “Find another hot girl to devote yourself to.”
“I don’t like girls, Isabelle.”
“Right. You only like boys.” Isabelle dozed off with a smug smile. I rolled my eyes and realized she fell asleep on my bed and far from her sleeping bag on the floor.
I started eating lunch with Nicole, a girl from my theatre class. She was beautiful in the face but had a crude mouth that not many people could handle.
“Ryan, huh?” She said suddenly.
“What?” I asked turning my attention back to my sandwich.
“You stopped talking when he walked by. It doesn’t take rocket science to know you want to ride that horse.” I felt my face heat up.
“I do not!”
“If you say so. But I do see the appeal.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You like him.”
“No I don’t!”
“Just that response screams you do.”
“Oh shut up. What do you know?”
“I know any guy will date you for a good BJ.”
“Oh like you haven’t thought about it.”
“I haven’t! Believe it or not some people think about other things besides sex.”
“I don’t see why. It’s the reason people are here: to reproduce.” I laughed.
“Have you considered going to church?”
“Don’t tease me about my ungodliness when you’re the one drooling over Ryan. At least I get what I want.”
“You make it sound so easy.”
“Because it is…Okay. Watch this.” Nicole waved at a boy walking towards our table and motioned for him to come over. “Hey you,” she said sexily. “What’s your name?” The poor kid was speechless. Nicole was leaning forward pushing her boobs up so much the boy didn’t have a chance to think.
“Steven. How cute.” Nicole bit her lip. “Do you have plans this Saturday Steven?” He shook his head. “Do you want to do something with me this weekend?” He nodded. “Then how about you take that pen out of your pocket? Although I’m hoping it’s not just a pen in there.” Steven almost dropped his lunch tray trying to get the pen out of his pocket. Nicole took it and gracefully wrote some numbers on his arm. “Call me.” Steven nodded. “See you Steven.”
“B-B-Bye.” Steven walked off.
“How did you-”
“Practice, my dear. Practice.”
“Did you really give him your number?”
“Yeah. He wasn’t exactly cute but I might as well see what he’s packing besides pens.”
“How did you even know he had a pen?”
“I saw it sticking out of his pocket while he was walking over.”
“I can honestly say, I am amazed.”
“I told you, it’s not hard. But Steven is.” I chuckled.
“Why can’t you have an innocent conversation?”
“Because they’re boring. Why can’t you just go ask out Ryan?” I picked invisible hairs from my sandwich.
“I’m not good with rejection.” Nicole placed a hand on mine.
“No one is good with rejection. Do you need another example? Because I call Steve back over here.”
“No! That would be awful.”
“Good because I was not looking for it. The look of defeat wouldn’t look on him. You should just take a chance and stop hiding behind your feelings all the time.”
“Besides, who knows what could be hiding in that boy’s pants because no pen is that big,” Nicole laughed.
“Hey Melaina,” Jamie said as she sat in Ryan’s seat. “Ryan’s sick so I hope you don’t mind if I sit here.”
“Of course not,” I said. “Plus you’re already here so.” I reached into my backpack and pulled out my binder.
“You know I think I see it,” Jamie said.
“See what?” I asked, flipping through my binder.
“Why Ryan likes you.” I think I broke my neck turning it so quickly.
“You know what I said.”
“Y-yeah but I wasn’t sure if I heard you correctly.”
“How do you know?”
“He told me.”
“Really?” My cheeks were already sore from my smile.
“Yeah, but I wouldn’t bother trying to ask him out or anything.”
“Look Mel, you’re adorable and everything but I have been working my up the Ryan ladder since middle school and just look at the comparison.” She was right. She was beautiful and confidence radiated from her and her eyes were more powerful than Medusa’s. “You really don’t have a chance so it would be better not to embarrass yourself.”
I nodded. I couldn’t fight that logic. I didn’t need to have another rejection meltdown.
“But Jamie is a b**** so you really can’t trust anything she says,” Jack said. I had told the entire Writing Club my dilemma after they pestered me for information.
“It doesn’t matter if she’s telling the truth or not, I’m not going to do anything,” I said. “Now how about for once we do some actual writing.”
“Write at home,” Seth said. “This is way more important. To be honest I just assumed you were gay.” I gaped at Seth.
“I thought you were a lesbian.”
“When a pretty girl walks by, you automatically bite your lip.”
“No I don’t!”
“Fine.” Seth put his hands up defensively. “Maybe I’m just imagining it.”
“Maybe you are! It’s not right to just assume thing about people when you really don’t know anything about them.”
“Sorry,” Seth mumbled. He was cowering like at any moment I would hit him.
“I didn’t just assume you were gay when I met you. So why would you just assume things about me?” At this point I was standing up and screaming. A hand rested on my shoulder.
“Calm down,” Jack said. “It’s okay if you’re gay. We’re not going to judge you.”
“I AM NOT GAY! I do not, have not and will never like girls! I am straight!” I felt hot tears rush down my face. “Why would a girl like another girl? It’s- it’s… It’s kind of disgusting actually. I’m straight and that’s all there is to it!” I grabbed my things and stormed out of the room. I ran to the nearest bathroom, locked myself in a stall and cried.
The next day I began my new morning ritual. I got up, showered, brushed my teeth, and then looked at myself in the morning and recited my mantra: “I am Melaina Roberts, I do not like girls, I like boys and I am completely straight.” It was simple. Once I had trained my mind, the rest of me would follow suit.
I'm Not Gay
“I think I‘m bi.” It wasn’t a miraculous realization with a beam of light shining down on me and a choir singing in the background. I was just walking to class with Seth and Michelle and suddenly my mouth spoke. I didn’t think about it. It just kind of came out. Afterwards, there was nothing but silence. Until Michelle gave a simple “okay” and Seth just shrugged his shoulders.