By all accounts, Andrea was a normal girl.

She had a family with two loving parents, a brother and a sister. At school she wasn't an overachiever, but worked hard, and NCEA rewarded her with steady Merits. Her appearance was inconspicuous - shoulder length brown hair, average height, and a pleasant, though not stunning face. She didn't socialise with anything that moved, but had a number of friends, none of whom she was extraordinarily close to - in fact she often felt her friendships were superficial at best. Similarly, she didn't jump on anything with a Y chromosome, but had a boyfriend, the stereotypical boy next door named Mark. She was the type to plod along in life, unnoticed by everyone except the few she was close to. It was a mundane, but happy existence.

In contrast, Sarah stood out on all accounts.

She was raised by a single mother, a famous feminist name from the 70s who was outspoken in her political views and bisexuality. Sarah was slated for dux of her two thousand strong school, and seemed to achieve excellent results with rather little work. Her essays stunned most who read them, showing an eloquence uncommon among seventh formers. Physically, she was unmissable. At six foot two, she stood out instantly. Combined with that she looked somewhat like a younger, nerdier Carrie Brownstein - short dark hair, engaging brown eyes, slight figure. She wore imposing black framed glasses and had a proclivity towards t-shirts with abrasive slogans about feminism and heterosexism. This combined gave her an unmistakable identity - dyke. To her sophisticated, alternative uni friends, she was 'dykealicious', with the X-factor attracting girls to her like a magnet. To many others she was the target of ridicule. Being out in high school isn't easy, but insults seemed to bounce off Sarah. She was too innately self-confident to be affected. Unlike Andrea, Sarah was the type to change the world, to fly higher than everyone else and make sure everyone knew it.

They met at the start of seventh form, in the same classics form class. Neither took maths or sciences, Andrea because she sucked at such things, Sarah because she loved the ambiguous qualities of the arts over the cold, hard formulising of sciences and maths. Neither had friends in the class, this particular form being dominated by boys who still enjoyed pulling the wings off flies and girls who seemingly had nothing to discuss but their appearance and who they would show it off to. So Andrea and Sarah were thrown together unavoidably. 'Hey', said Andrea, 'aren't you that overachieving lesbian?' What an opening line, thought Sarah, and gave her eyebrow-raised look of are-you-one-of-those-ignorant-short-sighted-intolerant-arseholes-and-if-so-piss-off. 'Jokes', said Andrea. 'It's just that my friends have been talking about how you'd react if someone said that to you.' 'Trust me, I've had much worse than that', said Sarah. 'You're rather innocuous in comparison, but it's interesting people actually discuss me. I didn't think I stood out at all.' 'But you do,' said Andrea. 'Hard out.' 'That's called sarcasm babe,' deadpanned Sarah, wondering yet again at the intelligence of lower forms of life. 'Well, I mightn't be the brightest bulb in the box, but looks like you're stuck with me for classics, 'babe',' said Andrea. Sarah granted a slightly sardonic smile, though she knew Andrea wouldn't understand the connotations of a facial expression. Mere mortals don't.

So that was how it was. For the first few weeks of term, Sarah remained subtly patronising and Andrea subtly teasing. It was the day they were studying columns that it changed. 'That's a composite isn't it?' asked Andrea, knowing Sarah wouldn't be able to resist correcting her. 'No, it's a Corinthian. No volutes,' replied Sarah after a cursory glance. 'Miss, this is a composite one isn't it? Only Sarah reckons it's a Corinthian, but I think she needs stronger glasses.' Andrea piped to the teacher. 'Sarah, Sarah, Sarah, I don't know what's come over you. Did you fail to see the volutes right here?' said the teacher, prompting a few giggles from the skanky side. 'Andrea, you bitch,' said Sarah, and for the first time gave Andrea her full charming smile. It lit up her whole face, and both changed their perceptions. Sarah realised Andrea was really rather amusing in the way she stirred her, and Andrea realised Sarah was really rather sweet behind the hard layers of intellect.

From then on, they started to hang around with each other. Neither of their groups would accept the outsiders they both were, so they formed a separate unit. No one really noticed or cared. They were both quite lonerish in their own ways - Andrea had her group, but couldn't talk to them about anything more than trivialities. She'd often philosophise - think about the world and its problems and why everyone acted the way they did. Her friends didn't care for such things. They had their Girlfriend magazines and their supposed social injustices when they fucked each other's boyfriends etc. Sarah was a huge relief in a lot of ways. She was sharply intelligent, and although she could be condescending, Andrea saw that this was really a mask hiding the part of her she was afraid to show. Vulnerability. As for Sarah, she found it difficult to relate to a lot of people. Her uni friends were cool, but most high school kids were so damn one-dimensional, with the intellectual functioning of an amoeba. When she looked at Sarah though, there was something there. Something deep, but definitely there. Sarah wanted to know what it was.

They talked the long lunchtimes away, lounging around in the back of a classroom filled with chattering third form girls. None of them noticed or cared about the presence of two seventh formers, and even if they did, third formers as fresh as they were admired their elders. Except this one girl. Her eyes were harder and more defiant than the others'. While the others were wrapped up in themselves, she'd cast brief glances to Andrea and Sarah, sometimes bordering on staring when they were discussing something particularly interesting or controversial, like gay marriage or girl punk bands. One day, she sauntered over and challenged Sarah directly. 'Do you know God hates deviants?' she spat. Sarah stood. This girl was half her height, but still faced her. The air bristled. 'Have you ever read the part of the bible that says 'love thy neighbour as thyself'?' said Sarah, in what Andrea recognised as her 'dangerous' voice. Quiet, but with an edge of rage that could boil over easily. 'Not if your neighbour's a dirty fucking fag!' the girl replied. Andrea found it difficult to keep herself under control. She too jumped up, and challenged the little girl's cold eyes. 'Girl ones are called 'dykes'. And lay off her, she's one of the coolest people I know. Besides what right do you have to be challenging us, you're just a pathetic little turd!' Andrea managed to keep her tone level, but it wasn't easy. 'It's not worth it kid. I could crush you just like that.' Sarah snapped her fingers emphatically, then simply turned her back and sat down. Andrea followed suit, not before giving the girl the finger.

Following that incident, Andrea looked at the world differently. She realised she had the privilege of being normal. No one questioned her. She imagined what it must be like in Sarah's world. Constant uncertainty - could you walk around this corner without being harassed by someone? Sarah had told her that she avoided walking certain routes because she simply couldn't be fucked with the stupid little fourth formers. Sarah was sharp and Sarah was witty in her comebacks, but after a while it all got old quick. Andrea knew it cut her though. Even someone who acted as tough as Sarah accumulated the sting of careless insults, thrown nonchalantly at her every single day.

Her relationship with Mark changed, as well. That is, it went downhill, fast. Although he went to a different school, he had heard about Andrea's sudden and unexplained absence from her 'friends'. He'd also heard that she had taken to hanging around with the local militant dyke. 'You don't know with people like that, Andie! She's just out to recruit you, you know,' he repeated to her often, pretending to be concerned but she could feel his eyes burning through her school uniform and his mind ticking about dirty things. 'You'll be lost to the world of men forever.' With that he shoved an arm around her and kissed her, his eighteen-year-old sandpaper cheek burning hers and his tongue fumbling in her mouth. Mark was notoriously single-minded, unable to keep his hands off his girlfriends. Within seconds he had managed to slip out of his pants and was trying to remove hers, his raging erection pressing unpleasantly against her. 'Oh for FUCK'S SAKE MARK!' she screamed and pushed her testosterone-flooded body away from her. 'Can you only think about one thing? You're just a stupid adolescent boy and I want you away from me! I can't come near you without you shoving your tongue down my throat! I don't like it, I don't want it, so just fuck off!' He said nothing, looking a bit hurt in his own way. She'd bruised his ego she knew, and felt guilty for a few seconds. But only for a few seconds.

She wanted to get closer to Sarah, she realised over their lunchtime discussions. She was fascinated by this girl, her contrasts and idiosyncrasies and the way she hid her sweetness behind her toughness. One lunchtime Sarah brought along her CD player and they sat listening to Sleater-Kinney, whom they both loved with a passion. It was one of those hot summer days that burns out the part of the mind used for concentration and has a soporific effect, leaving you indolent and disinterested. Burn Don't Freeze started and Andrea ventured a glance at Sarah. She looked so delightfully lazy, sleepy and uncaring that Andrea let out a little giggle. 'What?' said Sarah coolly. 'Nothing, nothing. You just looked cute then, is all.' Sarah raised an eyebrow, as she had on the first day. 'You know this song, it's called Burn Don't Freeze. You freeze, Sarah. Give everyone that icy stare and make 'em think you don't care. But then sometimes you look at me, and I see that fire. Why hide it?' Andrea asked, articulating her curiosity. 'Damn that was deep. Let me think,' muttered Sarah, and stopped the CD. 'Why don't you show me some of your heart, before I show you mine.'

'What do you mean?' 'Well, you walk around this school acting like you're normal and everything's just fine with you. But you're hiding shit too, you know. You dumped your friends for me. That's not something a normal girl does. You never talk about boys or girls. Are you even attracted to anything? I think you hide behind your averageness,' opined Sarah. Andrea suddenly became acutely aware they were gazing into each other's eyes unflinchingly. It made her feel warm, almost, to feel someone else so interested in her. Interested in her? Jesus, it was so obvious. She realised then, that hot summer's day with the sun streaming in on their faces, that she had fallen in love for the first time. It was so painfully clich├ęd that she hated even thinking it. But who could deny it? The days the weeks she'd sat with her friends and wondered why she was cold at the boys. Then the way she'd felt that day in classics when Sarah had smiled and she'd seen everything that was hidden and recognised that she wanted to know this girl like she'd never wanted to know anyone. And just then, the way Sarah had looked so adorable and almost childishly vulnerable in her relaxed state...

'I know, Andrea. God, I've been through enough girls to see the signs. And you're right. I hide what I am coz I know people aren't going to like me. Like everyone I just want approval. Though I'd never admit that to anyone. Except I just admitted it to you. Because I think we're...' she faltered. 'Sarah, you're stronger than that. One of us has to say it,' whispered Andrea. ' love.' said Sarah, voice stronger this time, clearer. 'I don't know about girl love. Where to from here? What does it mean? How the hell could I not know I was gay?' Andrea's questions flooded rapidly. 'You were in denial. I knew it all along. Closet cases stick out like Mark does when he sees a girl. Where to from here? We go out, we kiss, we fuck, you won't admit to yourself you're gay, so we break up, you get with some guy and reproduce and break my heart. I wish I could stop it, Andie, but I can't. I love ambiguous girls. Shit, I love girls full stop. It's like a drug. But I don't know if I can do it. You gotta know, girl, you really gotta know before we go anywhere,' said Sarah, in an almost practiced way that surprised Andrea. 'How many times, Sarah? How many goddamn times have you done this?' she wasn't angry, just a little put down by Sarah's premature cynicism. 'Alison, she was older. Deflowered me then married a guy. Only wanted the experience before she was tied down. Katherine, confused little mouse. Too wimpy to confront what she really was. We didn't last long. Nicky, her parents found out. They moved her away. I never got the chance to say goodbye. Jodie, she was seeing a guy on the side. She ended up liking him better. Went on for six months before the gutless bitch told me. The list goes on.' Andrea was surprised again at the tirade. Further discussion however was interrupted by the bell. They searched each other's eyes for a few more seconds before going off to their respective classes, wordless.

There was only one person for this occasion. Corin Tucker. Call the Doctor was the ticket, Sarah thought. She pressed play then flopped on her bed, staring at the glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling in the darkness. 'They want to socialise you. They want to purify you. They want to dignify and analyse and terrorise you... this is love and you can't make it in a formula or break me. I'm your monster, I'm not like you...' it was a good choice. That song spoke to her heart when she needed it. Love love, was it love? She knew she shouldn't say 'love', but that's what it felt like. Andrea was cute and interesting and perceptive beyond her marks... and she'd reached Sarah's deepest part, the part that could admit she was vulnerable and human. It was a fast giddy friendship, but it was more than that. They both knew they were attracted to each other much too strongly for their own good, but neither could even dare to manifest it in thought or speech before today. Sarah had suppressed it; Andrea hadn't been able to contemplate the possibility. 'Just another girl. Just another fucking girl,' muttered Sarah to herself, but knew her words were false before they came out. Andrea wasn't just another girl.

Andrea too lay with Sleater-Kinney, but Dig Me Out was in her stereo. Dance Song 97. 'Well you know there ain't no doubt when the feeling finds you out, you know you can try to run, I tell you it still will come... you can try to keep it down, try not to let the words come out but I tell you it's no use, in your eyes they see right through... you're the one that I saw, you're the one that I want...' She was gay. She wanted another girl, so she must be. She knew she sure as hell wasn't bi. All the dates, she'd rather have been with a dead fish than with Mark, he left her so cold. Andrea remembered the way her heart had jumped a little when she'd seen some of the hotter photos of Carrie Brownstein. Then the way it had leapt into her mouth and beat violently when Sarah asked her about 'attraction.' She analysed it over and over in her mind until there was no longer any doubt. She examined her green eyes in the mirror. 'Andrea Cosgrove, you are a lesbian.' she announced. Around her, the molecules in the air seemed to shift a little, as if they were stunned by her revelation. She was no longer normal. She never had been.

'Please turn to the Trojan Horse painting in your flip-flop. Now this is one of my most hated paintings in the topic, it's so dark you can't see anything, but the curriculum requires that we teach you the meaning of all these smudges in detail,' said their classics teacher. Andrea and Sarah didn't hear a word. They appeared to be listening, staring at the board in dutiful scholar mode. But there was nothing written on it and under the desks their hands had found each other and what was really the point of Pompeian frescoes, when you had just grasped you were in love? 'I thought about it,' whispered Andrea. 'You were bloody well right. I was denying, denying, denying...' 'I've been thinking as well,' replied Sarah, 'I don't care if you hurt me. I'm too into you that nothing really matters.' Eyes off the board now, and into each other. 'Andrea, Sarah, if you could either stop gazing lovingly at each other or get a room, I'm trying to teach here,' interrupted the teacher. 'Gazing lovingly? What are you on miss?' said Andrea with disgust, opening her book and slipping her hand away from Sarah. The skanks were pissing themselves.

Their first kiss was hungry and desperate and like nothing either of them had experienced before. In the stairwell where fourth formers threw water bombs at each other towards the end of the year and the 'retarded boy' dropped his chip packets and apple cores, they came together. Sarah had to bend over, glasses in hand, pushing Andrea against the door that was rumoured to hold anything from secret teacher's porno collections to social studies textbooks, tasting the coconut lip balm on Andrea and her softness, her right hand tight around her feeling the curves of her hips, mint still on her breath from interval. Andrea felt the outline of Sarah's bra under her school shirt and this brought everything flooding into her mind, Sarah was a girl and so was she and they were kissing so hard and passionate, but simultaneously she was so soft like Mark could never have been, they were girls, everyone thought it was so wrong so why the hell did it feel so right? They broke apart after a long time but they were still only centimetres apart, and Andrea noticed how deep and sincere Sarah's eyes were beneath her glasses. It was like she had taken off the attitude along with her eyewear and this was who she truly was, just a girl. A girl whom Andrea had just kissed and felt better than she ever had in her life.

'I'm sorry,' said Sarah, and it seemed so incongruous as they sat there leaning against the door, Sarah toying with a strand of Andrea's hair. 'My cynicism. Yeah I've been through tough shit, but who hasn't? You're not like those others anyway, Andie. Half of them only wanted my body, the other half wanted my mind but none of them really wanted me. Sarah Brown. Goddamn, I sound so normal don't I?' 'That's a dirty word. Sarah. Promise me we'll never use the word normal in relation to ourselves.' 'It's a promise babe.' There was silence for a moment, then Sarah said, 'Let's just see how it goes. If you can tell your parents and walk around school knowing that people know, then you're made of strong stuff. If you can't, it won't change anything. But living a lie has got to be harder.'

Living a lie has got to be harder. Those were the words that assailed Andrea's mind the rest of the day. She got home, planning to escape to her room and Sleater-Kinney, but her mother interrupted her halfway up the stairs. 'Andie? I think we need to have a dialogue.' Having a dialogue. Her mother always used those words when what she really meant was 'I am mildly pissed off at you and we need to get a few things straight, young lady.' So they sat in the living room, big comfortable chairs and Andrea nursed the rumbling cat while her mother looked at her, more than a little concerned. 'I got a call from Samantha's mother today.' Samantha. One of Andrea's friends. At least, as far as her mother knew. 'Samantha said that you suddenly stopped talking to her and that lot, just went off without explanation. Her mother just seemed a bit concerned, that's all. Did you have a fight with them?' No Mum. Just that I realised they were dumb little skanks and I found another girl and now we're in love and I don't know what to do or who I am anymore... 'No Mum. It's just that I've started hanging around with some different people now. Nothing to do with them, but I just wanted to talk about something more intellectual than hairstyles.' 'Well, Andie, Samantha's mum said something else, too. I've heard a lot about that Sarah girl, Andrea. Her mother is nothing but trouble, and I don't want you getting too involved in that way of life.' Andrea's stomach churned. 'That way of life? What do you mean "that way of life?"' 'It's not normal. It's disgusting. And what about Mark, anyway? Don't tell me that girl's recruited you...' Andrea could no longer sit, remaining judicious while the woman who had given her life revealed herself to be an ignorant bigot. She didn't storm, she just walked. As calmly as she could, into her room, locked with the door, and Sleater-Kinney. Then the tears.

'She won't accept it. I hadn't even told her anything, and she launches into the accusations,' burst Andrea, seconds after Sarah rang on with the 'hey, Sarah Brown speaking.' 'Andie. Slow down. Who won't accept it?' Sarah's calm seemed to trickle down the phoneline a bit, and Andrea took a deep breath before launching into the whole explanation. 'So it begins,' sighed Sarah. 'What?' 'All the shit. Endless crap, from everyone. Deviant, dirty, disgusting, sinner, unnatural blah blah blah.' 'Goddamn. I haven't even told her yet.' 'Well, it's not easy. And I tell you it only gets worse. At least my mother accepted it. I really don't know what to do, Andrea.' 'I invite you round. Ask my parents. Say you're my girlfriend. If they kick me out, they kick me out.' 'Shit, that's risky.' 'Yeah I know, but you only live once and I don't know if I can live with the secrecy if it feels so bad this early...' 'Oh Andie... be rational. You know you can't do that, they love you but they're going to have a hard time accepting. You're going to have to work on them for a long time, and it's going to hurt. If you can't deal with that, then we'll never work,' Sarah spoke quiet and sympathetic and her heart burned for this girl, but she knew there was nothing she could do. Only Andrea could make her parents understand. 'I'll try it. I'll have to. If only to prove that I'm stronger than Katherine.' This remark broke the tension a little, and both allowed themselves a little giggle. 'There's no rush. We'll talk, hmm?' 'Yeah, Sarah. I'll see you. Try to resist looking up her number.'