“Have you heard back yet?” Maia Fedlimid asked excitedly, bounding up to her best friend.
Galilani Itzel sighed. “No, Maia. I don’t expect them to text back immediately.” To be fair, though, she was anxious for a reply.
“It’s the 21st century, Gail! Everyone texts back fast,” Maia informed her, looping her arm through Gail’s. They started walking towards their next class, heads bent.
“I guess. I just don’t want to get my hopes up, y’know? It’s a bit hard to get a partner in high school, you never know if they actually like you.” Galilani bit her lip.
“I’m sure he does. What boy wouldn’t like you? Besides, its high time you get a boyfriend. It’s been a year since your s***head of an ex-boyfriend,” Maia said. Reaching their classroom, they walked in and took their seats.
“True, Maia. Only this time it’s not a ‘he’, it’s a she,” Gail thought worryingly as she pulled out her binder. The gender aspect of Galilani’s possible love interest had never come up, just like Gail had never told Maia she wasn’t as straight as Maia thought. Her ex-boyfriend had definitely not been the best experience that had happened to her. She’d realised she was bisexual the middle of last year and hadn’t told anyone other than her parents, who had accepted it as if they had known all along. Galilani had no idea what Maia would think, how she would react, nothing.
Galilani sat on her bed later that night writing an essay for Biology when her phone buzzed, making her jump. She bit her lip and rubbed her thumb against her collarbone, the skin quickly turning red and irritated.
Picking up her phone, she tapped the Instagram notification and held her breath. Gail reread her sent message.
Galilani Itzel: “ok this might be a little weird but we have a class together and i kinda like you soo yeah wow i’m so awkward”.
Not her best communication, but there was no going back. She tapped to see the reply.
Rayhan Hanan: ahh it’s fine i’m awkward too! i actually kinda like you too! i was a little worried you’d think i was a gross creeper. anyway, what’s up?
Galilani’s face broke out into a huge smile and let out a tiny shriek of happiness. Quickly, she typed back a response saying she was just doing homework and listening to music. The conversation went to their favourite music, then hobbies, and their mutual possession of awkwardness. Their names came up too, with both girls telling the other about their backgrounds. While Galilani was Native American and her name meant ‘friend,’ Rayhan was Muslim and her name meant ‘sweet fragrance.’ They talked for hours, getting to know each other, and never once did Gail stop smiling.
Two months of glorious dates went by, ranging from coffee to walks in a sculpture park, and then the school event of the winter formal came up. Galilani loved the story of the dance and how she and Rayhan ended up going together. First, Gail had impulsively asked Ray to go with her and was promptly told, “wait, i have a poster.” Gail had laughed, and the following day, Rayhan had instructed her to the language hall after school and presented her with a poster.
The winter formal itself, though, was a disaster. Too many people, too loud music, too high of a temperature–so the girls had walked a mile away from the high school to get ice cream. But that wasn’t the worst part. When Maia found out Gail and Rayhan had gone as a couple to the winter formal, Galilani was approached one day after school by a not very happy Maia.
“So, you went to the winter formal with your girlfriend?” Maia sneered.
Gail frowned, confused. “She’s not my girlfriend, but we went as a couple,” she replied.
Maia put her hand on her waist and jutted her hip out. “So you’re gay?” Her voice was filled with blatant disgust.
“No… I’m bisexual. Maia, are you mad about something?” Galilani asked, getting worried.
“You like girls,” Maia stated.
“Yes. And boys.”
“There you go. That’s why I’m mad.” Maia said in a voice clearly saying, I’m better than you.
“You’re mad because I like girls? Why? I thought you’d be supportive of me,” Gail said, her voice breaking.
“Not mad,” Maia said with a grimace. “More like… repulsed. Appalled, nauseated, abhorred, revolted. Pick any,” Maia snapped.
“I… I don’t know what to say,” Galilani said, twisting her fingers.
“Don’t say anything. In fact,” Maia paused, looking straight into her eyes and cocking an eyebrow. “Don’t talk to me at all. I don’t want to be around you or your… kind.” Then she pivoted sharply and walked away.
The end of November was nearing, and Gail still hadn’t talked to Maia. Previously, she had talked to her mother, who told her maybe the friendship between her and Maia wasn’t healthy. Galilani had also tried to call Maia–but her voicemail cut through like a knife to Gail’s stomach. But, today was the day to try and talk to her in person, Galilani decided.
She caught Maia at the end of the day, as they were about to go home. “Maia, can I please talk to you?” she asked.
Maia ignored her.
“Maia,” Gail pleaded. She reached up and touched her elbow, and Maia, quick as a bullet, pulled her arm against her chest. She whipped around, hair smacking Galilani on the cheek, a glare on her face.
“What the hell do you want?” Maia spat.
“Please, can we talk?” Galilani asked softly.
“I thought I made it clear, but obviously not. We. Are. Not. Friends.” Maia’s words were glass, slicing through the air. “Leave me alone, and don’t talk to me!”
Gail watched Maia leave, and sat down on a nearby bench, defeated.
“She won’t talk to me, and she says we’re not friends,” Gail said to Rayhan. They were sitting in their favourite coffee shop, both hands wrapped around a hot mug.
“I think your mother is right, Galilani,” Rayhan said with a Syrian lilt to her words. She reached up to adjust her hijab before speaking again. “If you aren’t meant to be friends, then that’s okay. In Quran, Allah says friendships are important in life, so I believe you should do your best to have strong friendships.”
“You’re right,” Gail replied softly. “You’re right.”
“On a happier note…” Rayhan bit her lip. “I’m just gonna do this now because I feel like I’ll keep wimping out if I don’t. So, first off, I really like you, and I may not be good at showing you so I just want you to know. Second, I was wondering if we could make this official? I know you may not want to, but we’ve been talking for a while and I hope you like me too and I know I’m rambling, so, oh god, I’m just gonna stop.”
Galilani’s jaw dropped and she let out a tiny shriek. “Okay you have no idea how long I’ve wanted to tell you the exact same thing, so yes, definitely,” she said, a smile splitting her face.
“Oh my god, I just had like six separate heart attacks but now it’s all good, so I’m gonna cry or something because I don’t really know what to say!” Rayhan said, her hands cupping her face. “I’m kind of shaking right now, so I think this is what it really feels like to be shook!”
The two of them went on and on, basking in each other’s presence and telling the other how lucky they are to have them. Galilani couldn’t believe what had happened and knew she wouldn’t stop smiling about it for a very long time.
Sitting at the kitchen table late at night with her mother drinking green tea, Gail said, “Mom, you were right. Maia doesn’t want my friendship, but I guess that’s for the best.”
“Friendships won’t always last forever. Are you happy?” her mother replied, smiling around her cup.
“Yeah,” Gail whispered. “Yeah, I am.”
“I’m proud of you, Galilani. I think you’ll make a fantastic young woman.”
“Thanks, Mom. I love you,” Galilani smiled at her mother.
“I love you, too,” she replied.
“No, friendships didn’t last forever–but you can always make new ones.” Gail thought. “My thoughts on Maia… I don’t need her, I’m strong without her. And my thoughts on Rayhan? Here’s to new beginnings.