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The best way to catch my attention with a story is by including the words "Gay romance" in the description. Sadly, it's almost always followed by an oversexualization of gay or lesbian relationships. I wanted a cutesy, romantic novel with leads that just happen to be the same gender and when I couldn't find one, I decided to write it myself.
There are sixty four million people living in the country of Great Britain, about eight and a half million in London alone, and it seems like every single one of them is in this airport. I can’t even have a seat to myself; some kid keeps throwing his toys onto my lap and screaming until I throw them back. His ‘mummy’ has yet to notice, as she’s on a very important and very loud business call.
The loudspeaker, for the millionth time, crackled to life. “Flight 347 to Denver now boarding!” The voice squawked. Sure, the accent is appealing at first, but after about a month it becomes torture.
I stand up, knocking another bright, plastic toy from my lap onto the ground, and grab my bag and jacket. I try to ignore the baby’s cries of protest as I march away, head held high as always. People tell me I walk like I have a secret. My father always told me I walked like I had a thorn shoved up my backside.
The line to board the plane was short, but I could see people already racing to get on. Not surprising. Everyone wanted to get out of this scenic tourist trap. Just as I was about to slip into line, a woman with massive, curly brown hair rammed into me with the force of a linebacker. We both went crashing down; my jacket on top of her, her suitcase on top of me.
“What the heck-”
“I’m so sorry-”
It was a crumpled mess of shouting and yelling, kicking and thrashing. Did she not see me? Is she an jerk? I found my stuff as quickly as I could and hurried into line, leaving her in my dust. My shirt was wrinkled, my hair was obviously a mess, and I probably had a nasty bruise starting to form on my back. The perfect way to get onto a flight. I threw my passport at the poor flight attendant before stomping into the tunnel. My jacket trailed on the floor.
Slinking into my seat, I began to calm down. Right by the window. I loved to watch the ground shrink beneath me and then disappear in the clouds... whoosh. As a child, I never got to fly. My mother was scared of the world and my father hated modern technology. He was all for preserving his culture, and he hated anything that screamed “White People”, like planes or bagel bites. I relished in thinking about how much he would hate sitting in these plastic seats and drinking from these foam cups. How much he would hate the way I loved it.
People were still piling onto the plane, shoving their massive bags into the overhead compartments. A baby had already started wailing, it’s mother staring absentmindedly out the window. I glanced up into the sky, imagining myself crashing through the clouds. This was the second flight I had ever been on in my life; the first was from my home in Idaho to here. I still felt new to this, and the euphoria I was experiencing was uncharacteristic. It was almost childlike.
But, all of my giddiness soared out the window as someone very familiar crashed into the seat next to me. Her curly, disheveled brown hair covered most of the seat, and her large leather bag took up the rest. She hadn’t turned to face me yet, thank god. Maybe she was blind and wouldn’t recognize me. Or maybe I gave her a concussion and she’d lost her memory.
“Oh. Hello, again.”
“Hey,” I huffed, turning towards the window. She turned with me, trying to get my attention. Her hair bounced.
“I think we got off on the wrong foot here. I really didn’t mean to run into you. I guess we were both just racing to get to our flight, huh?”
“I’m Diana. I’d ask where you’re going, but it’s kind of obvious.” She giggled. Hilarious, I thought. I could practically feel every last ounce of joy spill out of me onto the floor. I was going to have to sit for ten hours next to someone who could’ve out-joyed Elmo. “What’s your name?”
“My name. Missy.”
“Oh! What an interesting name.” I wanted to puke. She was so sugary sweet, it was like nothing could phase her. Either she was beyond positive, or she was a total dits.
The flight attendants began to shuffle around their compartment and the speaker crackled to life. Our pilot informed us that we would be departing for Denver shortly. Apparently, “shortly” was pilot speak for “right this second”, because as soon as the voice fizzed out, the engines roared to life. I turned away from Diana and looked towards the window. We were taxied onto the landing field, and then we were airborne.
I could feel her looking over my shoulder, but the joy had returned to my body and I didn’t care. I could feel the pressure in my chest, in my ears. The ground started shrinking smaller and smaller, the world disappearing out from under me. I felt so small, yet so big. Then, we crashed through the clouds, engulfed in a flash of white for just a second, and then we were flying over a sea of clouds. My breathe caught in my chest. The last flight I had taken, that was at night. I could only hear the clouds breaking around me. This was different. The clouds seemed to glow and sparkle, like white snow caps. I was flying.
We soared for a while longer, and then the people in the cabin began to get up and move around, so I assumed the seatbelt light had been turned off. I unbuckled mine and curled my legs up, knees to my chest. Diana pulled her tray table down and pulled a small paperback from her bag. I glanced at the cover. Some romance novel. She didn’t seem that interested; she flipped to a random page and started reading, pursing her lips just slightly.
A perky flight attendant walked over to our section and asked us if we would like something to drink.
“Just water, thank you,” we said in unison. I glanced over at her and she giggled, of course. The attendant nodded and walked away.
“So,” Diana must have taken this as a cue to start talking. She had put her book down, not bothering to save her place. “Why are you headed for Denver?”
“Why do you do that?”
“The book. You were reading it just two seconds ago, and you didn’t even bother to save your spot.”
Diana looked down at her book and shrugged. “Oh, yeah. I do that sometimes. I don’t really care where I start in a book, because it’s like a new mini story every time I pick it up. Like this one; I don’t know who Tom is, or why Amanda is sleeping with him on a Tuesday night. And the last time I read it, Amanda was in jury duty and he was the defense attorney. It’s fun.”
Strange. I nodded and turned back to the window. I can tell she’s still staring at me, eyes big and gleeful, asking me with her smile to come and talk some more.
As much as I hate small talk, I hate sitting next to people who stare, so I humoured her. We talked about small stuff, why we were headed to Denver of all places, stuff like that.
“Why not?” She had responded when I asked. “Denver seems cooler than London, and it’s someplace new. You?”
“I haven’t been able to find a place to live here, so I picked the coolest sounding place and just... went.” I had been meaning to get out of London since day one. I moved her only to get away from my parents, but she didn’t need to know that. She didn’t need to know any of this, really, but after talking to her for a while, I couldn’t help but talk to her more.
She asked me about my tattoo, like I knew she would.
“I wanted a tattoo, but my father wouldn’t let me get anything unless it had something to do with “our heritage”, so that limited my options. I went with a wolf, which he liked, and I added my own little flare.”
“Heritage?” She questioned, tilting her head a little.
“He’s Nez Perce. All into preserving his culture and s***. I was almost named Hemene, which means ‘wolf’.” I don’t know why I was telling her all of this; she couldn’t possibly care. I met her eyes and, surprisingly, she was looking at me intently. She was interested. I could feel myself start to blush, which was unlike me. I wasn’t prone to nervousness, but people didn’t normally listen to me, either.
“I like Missy better,” she smiled. God, I was really blushing now. Crap. I could feel a foreign fluttering feeling in my chest. “So, you picked a wolf so your dad would be happy, and the skull-”
“That was my own personal touch.” The wolf head that perched on my shoulder was wrapped around a realistic human skull. It was gorgeously done; you could see the reflection in the wolf’s eyes, the hairline fractures on the skull. I had sat there for hours, knowing that when this was done my body would be art.
“I like it. I always wanted a tattoo, but I could never settle on a design.” Somehow, this didn’t surprise me. She scooted closer to me. “I’m kind of jealous now.”
The way she said it made my face turn to fire and my stomach do a back flip. I hadn’t felt this way in forever, so I turned away. Just, dropped the conversation. I didn’t care if I seemed rude, if I hurt poor Diana’s feelings. Whatever she was making me feel needed to stop.
You think she’s cute, the voice inside my taunted.
I do not, I shouted in my head. Besides, she’s a girl.
So? Since when has that stopped you? Do you remember Ana Greenwells?
Shut up, I could feel my face getting hot again. Darn it, I’m fighting with myself like a psycho.
She had the same laugh as Diana, but you just liked her curves-
Suddenly, the magazine in front of me seemed so beyond interesting. I flipped to a random page- Just like Diana would’ve done -and started skimming. After not even two pages, I couldn’t help it, I glanced over at Diana. She turned away sharply, like I caught her doing something. Like I caught her looking at me.
This plane ride was going to be torture.
At about the five hour mark, Diana got up to go to the restroom. As she got up, the woman across the isle smiled at me. I raised my eyebrow at her, and she gestured for me to come closer with her calloused, wrinkled hand.
“You fancy that girl don’t you?” she smiled. Before I could protest, she raised her hand up and chuckled. She looked like an old shaman, eyes worn with age, her mouth stretched. “Don’t lie; I can see that look. Don’t worry- she can’t see it. She fancies you, too, and fancying someone makes you blind to the world.”
“What do you-” I spoke too loudly. People turned towards us and I lowered my voice. “What do you mean she ‘fancies’ me? She can’t stand me.”
The woman laughed again. “She fancies you, alright.”
“She can’t stand me,” I repeated.
“Now, what makes you say that?”
“I tackled her before we boarded.”
The door to the bathroom creaked open and Diana squeezed out, swinging her hips around to maneuver herself though the small space. I sprang back into my seat and saw the old woman wink at me one more time before she returned to hers as well. I hope Diana didn’t see me.
Diana fell into her seat, her hair bouncing. I tried to hide my smile. The woman and the voice in my head were right; I did fancy her. A lot. She practically radiated life and happiness, and that smile...
“What?” Her voice snapped me back into reality. Oh, god, had I been staring? Her cheeks were flushed and I knew mine were, too. I had been staring.
“Uh, nothing. Nothing.” I stammered.
“Oh,” she sighed, not a disappointed sigh, just a sigh of contentment. It was a cute sigh.
I couldn’t be starting to like this girl, could I? No, I wasn’t. I had buried that part of me deep inside since Ana Greenwells broke my heart, leaving it tender and bruised. After thinking about her name, the rest of her followed suit. I could see her smile in my mind as clear as day, see her curves. I could hear her laugh. Crap...
Ana was a year younger than me, a senior in high school who lived a block from my house in Lewiston. A little white house, with the picket fence and everything, the center window on the second floor looking into her room. Everyone knew she was gay; she didn’t keep it hidden, like me. Oh, was she gorgeous. Tall, with curves that could drive anyone crazy, and hypnotizing brown eyes. I had fallen hard, and I thought she had, too. We kept things quiet, mostly so my father wouldn’t disown me and I wouldn’t have to come out of the closet, until the night before she was going to leave for college. She told me she wanted to take me out on a date, a real date, not the secret ones we always had. She cried when I told her no. She screamed at me when I told her I didn’t want to. She bought me a dress and everything, Ana had yelled. I watched her rip the delicate yellow fabric straight down the middle. She refused to speak to me after that, and I decided I won’t fall for anyone again. I didn’t see the appeal. Problem was, I could see Diana’s appeal-
Stop it, I whispered to myself. I could feel Diana shifting next to me, moving her bag from one knee to the other, tugging at a loose ringlet of her hair. I felt like a pair of hands were tugging at my heart, pulling me back, begging me to ignore her for the rest of the flight. I didn’t want to get myself caught up in that again. Besides, once this plane lands, I’ll never see her again. We’ll part ways. It’ll be as simple as that.
Once this flight is over, I will never talk to her again.
“Here,” Diana said as soon as we left the tunnel. She thrust a neatly folded piece of napkin at me. I knew what it was before I unfolded it. My face burst into flames. “In case you want to talk more.” She smiled and my face grew hotter.
“T-Thanks,” I choked. The crowd of people around us pushed us in different directions. She waved at me quickly before she darted off. I’m not sure if she saw me nod in response before the man in the khakis barreled into me. I held tightly to the napkin. So much for losing contact.
I walked straight passed baggage claim, needing only my carry-on, and stepped out into the dry, Colorado heat. I was dressed for London weather, with black jeans and hoodie, but the heat still felt pleasant. I missed livable weather.
Hailing a cab was easy. Dozens of them littered the street in front of the hotel, waiting to pick up passengers fresh from the airport. I hopped into one, driven by a short Hispanic woman with straight black hair, and settled into the cracked seat.
“Where to?” She asked the moment the door closed.
“What are you rates?”
She pointed to a sign next to the meter, “Two twenty-five per mile, ma’am.”
I ruffled in my pocket and pulled out some cash. Quickly counting it, I glanced up. “Okay. I have twelve dollars. What’s the nearest hotel you can get me to for that price?” The sky was already dark and I wasn’t in the mood for wandering around town. Exploration would have to wait.
“Hmm...” she paused, glancing up. “There’s a Days Inn about five miles from here?”
Thankfully, I had picked the cab with the driver who didn’t care for small talk. She dropped me off at the hotel after not having said a single word to me since we left the airport. I reached into my backpack as I crashed through the revolving doors and into the lobby, pulling out my wallet in the process. The clerk looked at me with a strained, 'please-don’t-be-annoying' smile. I retaliated with a 'right-back-atcha' grin and slid my card across the counter. “Cahill,” I said. He pecked on his ancient computer, peering at me from over his glasses.
“Room 347, third floor,” he murmured. I grabbed my credit card along the key card from him and started up the stairs, thankful for the lack of conversation.
The walls were plastered in sickly green wallpaper and the carpet smelled of dog pee, but I could ignore it. This was, after all, only temporary. I’d find a place to live soon. I threw my stuff down on the bed. A piece of napkin fluttered to the floor with numbers scribbled on it in bright blue pen. I didn’t even realize I had been holding onto it the whole time. I picked it up, turning it over in my hands. Diana held this, I thought. Like, her hands were right here.
Creep, I responded to myself, setting the paper down by the ancient phone receiver. Getting off of that plane was the last time I would ever see Diana and I needed to admit that. If I let myself get attached or, Lord help me, fall for her, I would only get hurt again. I wasn’t going to get caught up in this again. I was going to enjoy myself, prove to my father that I could live on my own. I didn’t need his guidance.
I swung myself onto the bed, smacking my backpack with my thigh. This was just the beginning. I’d get a job, get a house, maybe even get a dog, and everything will fall in place around me. No one is going to change that. No matter how beautiful they are...
The next morning, bright and early, I got dressed and headed out the door. Thankfully, I had packed warm weather clothes, so stepping out into the heat in my cut-off shorts and black tank top wasn’t painful. The sun baking on my skin felt nice and familiar. I had always hated overcast weather.
The neighbourhood the taxi driver had dropped me off in was perfect. A shopping center was just a few miles away, so I hailed another cab and made my way over there. It was cute; not too busy, but just big enough where there were enough places to visit. I held onto the straps of my backpack, reassuring myself that no one would take it. I never liked crowds, but I couldn’t avoid them if I wanted to explore the city, so I would just have to suffer. I kept my head high, trying to plaster my face with a ‘if-you-try-anything-I’ll-break-your-nose-in’ look. It must’ve worked because the crowd practically parted around me like the Red Sea wherever I walked.
I started making a mental note as to where the different stores and restaurants were located, forming a map of the place. There’s a Victoria Secret here, a Banana Republic there, a Taco Bell across the block. I slipped into a clothing store for a change of scenery.
The store was bright white, with rows of incandescent bulbs on either side of the store. There was a younger woman standing behind the cash register in the back, wearing a stark white shirt, with her hair pinned back. The clothes on the racks were like something off of an aesthetic blog; pastels and weird prints, lots of pictures of cacti. I was suddenly aware of how dark my clothes were.
“Can I help you?” The woman behind the register drawled, her voice lower than I expected. She, too, looked like she stepped out of a blog, with her big, perfectly drawn-in eyebrows furrowed over big blue eyes.
“Just looking,” I said, mindlessly running my hand only the fabric. She lowered her head, not even a single hair falling from her bun.
I shuffled awkwardly around the store. One glance at a price tag told me I couldn’t afford even a pair of socks here. I let myself out, leaving the Instagram-worthy scene behind me and stepping back out into the heat and crowds. If this is what every store was like here, I wouldn’t be buying any new clothes anytime soon.
That notion inspired me to search for a reasonably priced store, something more my speed. I didn’t really have a style, so I thought it would be easy. Turns out, everyone in Denver had the same style, and that style was called ‘way-too-expensive-for-Missy’. Every store seemed to laugh at my small wallet. I strained my head, searching for a Kohl’s or, hell, even a thrift store. Nothing.
I walked the length of the shopping center on one side, then looped around and went back the way I came, this time walking on the opposite side. Before I knew it, I had walked the entire mall. I sat down on a bench, facing the north side of the center, and decided to do a bit of people watching to distract myself from my predicament.
I loved to people watch. Every person I saw, they had their own lives. They had their own thoughts, wishes, and ambitions. That man in a suit, walking and talking on his phone, he’s probably on his a business call. He might be arguing with his supervisor or his assistant. That young girl and her mom, they might be heading to the toy store I passed. Or they’re going to a cafe to drink tea like princesses.
I wondered what people saw when they looked at me. Did they see my long black hair and my dark clothes and think, “Oh no, she’s bad news. One of those punk kids.” Or did they see my dark skin and get caught up trying to guess my ethnicity. ‘African? Nah. Not Asian, either. Mixed?’ I tried to give off this, ‘I’m-cooler-than-you-but-not-stuck-up’ vibe, but I doubt I pull it off.
A woman walked in front of me with big, curly brown hair, and my heart skipped a beat. No, I told myself, it’s not Diana. You shouldn’t think it’s Diana. She’s gone. Shortly after, another girl with similar hair and a similar laugh raced past me, giving my heart the same reaction. I almost smacked myself. I was being so ridiculous. If I was going to get all worked up over every girl that walked past me with hair like hers, I was going to be miserable. I stood up, keeping my eyes down to avoid seeing any more brunettes, and made my way back to the street. I hailed another cab and went back to my hotel. My cab driver had curly brown hair.
“This is stupid,” I cried, chucking my bag onto my bed. I threw myself onto the ancient armchair, ignoring the plumes of dust that billowed around me. Diana, Diana, Diana, my mind raced. God, why was I obsessed over her so much? She’s just one girl out of a billions. She wasn’t even that exceptional. So, she never saved her spot in books. So what? Her smile wasn’t even that radiant...
“Oh, who am I kidding?” I moaned, throwing my hands up over my arms. I was falling for the girl I sat next to for ten hours, who had hair that bounced in all directions and moved to Denver on a whim. I could feel my chest flutter and my stomach flip. My arms dropped into my lap and I remembered the napkin next to the phone receiver with the blue ink.
“I can’t do this,” I said to myself, holding the phone in one hand. I had most of her phone number entered, the dial tone begging me to enter the rest. I could see her picking up the phone, hearing my voice, and throwing her phone down, laughing. Even if the hypothetical laughter was at me, it was still enchanting. I hit two more buttons and pressed the phone to my ear. I leaned against the bed, sitting on my free hand to stop it from shaking.
“Diana Clark, professional traveler. Speak now.”
“Um, Diana? Hi, this is Missy. From the plane?” Please don’t remember me-
“Yeah, hi. Hi.”
“Took you long enough to call back, right? Hey, I’m a little busy at the moment, but I loved to talk to you more. Ten hours isn’t long enough. Meet me at the Halfway Point Cafe tomorrow at one thirteen.”
“Yep. It takes me eleven minutes to walk from my hotel to that cafe, plus two minutes for traffic and finding a table.”
“Great! See you there, Missy.” The phone clicked off.
I’d love to talk to you more. She wanted to talk to me more? My nerves rolled off my shoulder. I could do this. She didn’t even call it a date. Just a friendly meeting. I walked over to my temporary closet, staring at the vague shades of black and blue crumpled onto the wire hangers. I didn’t care about my clothes, but I needed something to keep my brain from derailing in excitement and fear.
One-thirteen couldn’t come fast enough.