It is exactly 6:48 AM, twenty minutes before my bus comes, and I am currently still lying in bed, atop my covers, my face buried into my pillow.
"You… do know it's a school day, right?" My mom asks as she opens the door to my bedroom, crossing over to shut my shrieking alarm off.
I don't move; my only sight is sound. The floor boards of my room creak quietly; my mom sighs; my head pounds.
I make some sort of noise, I think it's supposed to be a 'yeah,' but it comes out as a groan.
I feel my bed dip and my mom's hand comes to rest on my forehead. "Are you feeling sick today, Jill?"
I want to say yes, I can feel my throat constrict to get ready to utter the word, but what comes out instead is, "Can we talk?" Dammit.
For a moment, all the sound in my room silences, like it's been gobbled up by a black hole. I peek out from my pillow just to make sure such a calamity did not, in fact, happen. I don't know whether I'm relieved or not.
"Of course, Jill, what is it?" My mom's voice sounds different somehow, and there's a twinge in my chest.
"I… don't really know how to say it," I mumble into my pillow, regretting my stupid voicebox's refusal to comply with my earlier and simpler copout.
There's that beat of silence again. "What, Jill?" Her hand pats my shoulder.
I bury further into my pillow.
"C'mon, Jill, look at me. What?"
I once again peek out from my pillow. Everything looks normal, my room, my mom, but all of a sudden there's something out there, something I can't face. So I burrow into my pillow. Again.
Coward, I chastise myself.
"Jill, c'mon. Are you a lesbian or something?"
I make another weird noise, definitely a groan, but a more agreeable-sounding one. If such a groan exists.
"I thought the first question was supposed to be, 'Are you pregnant?'" I whine, turning over and looking at my mom with pleading eyes. "How come you didn't ask that one?"
My mom snorts. "Yeah right, Jill."
I huff. Another beat of silence goes by.
"Will you drive me into school?" I ask, getting up and going over to my dresser. I pull a random drawer open and stare into it.
"I'm a little late." I pick out a hoodie and a pair of jeans but don't turn around.
"I'll call you in. Come here, let's talk about this." My mom pats the edge of the bed.
I hold the bundle of clothes to my chest. "Actually, can we talk while I'm getting ready? I don't want to be late." For some reason, my words come out strangled, and they hurt as they leave my throat.
"It's okay, Jill. It doesn't matter." My mom gets up and hugs me, but all I can think about is how it does matter.
A lot. To a lot of people.
"It's okay. You can be gay, bi, or straight and I'll support you. It's okay."
"Yeah," I say, but my throat is itching to say something else. "I…know."
I stand with my eyes closed, willing myself not to cry. And I don't even know why. I mean, coming out is supposed to be a relief, right? I'm supposed to feel good. I mean, I got an 'all-clear,' that's what every gay kid dreams of, right?
What's wrong with me…
I walk into first block half an hour late. My math teacher gives me the look and tells me to copy the notes from someone before launching once more into spouting equations that have more letters than numbers.
I drop my backpack on the floor and sit down in my desk with a decided lack of grace.
"Where were you?" The guy behind me – Jack? Jason? – whispers as I fish out my notes.
"Home," I say shortly, staring down at my notebook and hoping he leaves it at that.
Teenagers should never hope for anything. Of course he doesn't leave it at that. "Lucky," he replies.
I roll my eyes, half as reflexive action that I always seem to do whenever a guy talks to me, and half for some unknown (or at least un-wanting-to-process) reason. "Did I miss anything? Important?" I add.
He grins. "A valuable educational experience that would've had a major impact on the rest of your life."
"I thought that lesson got axed due to budget cuts?" My voice comes out rough and dry with sarcasm, but he laughs whole heartedly at it anyway.
"Jill Kramer! Michael Feldman!"
Wow. I wasn't even close to getting his name right.
"Jill, if you're just going to come in here and distract everyone else who is trying to learn, you can leave my classroom." The teacher says, contorting her face in some strange way that I think is supposed to be intimidating. I feel a match strike in my veins.
"Sorry, Mrs. Ryan. I didn't mean to disturb the class." I reply through a tight, small smile. "Wouldn't want to distract the half of the class that's sleeping in the back from their learning experience," I mutter when she looks away from me.
That gets Michael laughing again.
"Jill!" Mrs. Ryan's head whips around so fast I expect it to fall off and land on my desk. "Out!"
"I…" Frustration bubbles in me, but as quick as it came, it went. I just didn't care.
A vein pops out on the teacher's forehead. "Now!"
I grab my stuff and walk past Michael's desk on the way to the door. Jerk has the decency to look guilty.
I close the door softly behind me, despite my urge to slam it. The halls are empty, considering; there's a few kids working on a packet outside their classroom at the end of the hall, but that's it.
I walk a couple aimless paces and lean against the wall, staring up at the ceiling. What does one do when sent "out?" I've never been sent to this mysterious place before… And just where constitutes as out; can I go get a drink? Ugh, "out" is a confusing place.
I'm considering all this when I realize someone's leaning on the wall next to me. Like, close next to me.
"I was waiting to see how long it'd take ya to notice me. Damn, I've been here ages. You're a quick one."
Katelyn, of course.
"Are you stalking me?" I ask, quirking a brow at her and shoving all my thoughts in an itsy little compartment in the corner of my mind.
A sly smirk. "D'you want me to be?"
I'm just about to respond when someone comes around the corner closest to us. Aaaand, guess who it is?
It feels like everything freezes except her. I hope to anything that she didn't hear anything. Our eyes meet; I can't read anything from them.
"Hey, Jill." She smiles slightly, and a small lopsided smile pulls at my mouth with no input from my brain.
She looks over at Katelyn a second, and then she's gone. I watch her go.
When I glance back at Katelyn, she's looking at me with wide eyes and a thoughtful face.
And then the dam breaks.
"Omigod, omigod! Does my baby dyke have adult feelings for someone?" She literally cannot contain her excitement; she's jumping up and down with her hands over her mouth, eyes shining.
"Shush! Calm yourself girl, geez," I say, looking around to make sure no one else is in earshot. Clear, thank god.
"Well, well, well?"
I pinch the bridge of my nose, choosing my words carefully. "Y'know, it's really none of your business…"
Katelyn rolls her eyes mid bounce. "A: Has that ever and will that ever stop me? And B: that wasn't a denial, so spill! C'mon," she goads, a goofy smile plastered on her face.
I sigh and lean back against the wall. "I like her, alright?" This conversation is somewhere split between uncomfortable and chill. Despite the awkwardness, it feels strangely easy to talk to the hyper girl.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Like, or like like?" She looks completely serious as she asks, but there's a teasing lilt in her voice.
"Damn you," I retort, crossing my arms over my chest and rolling my eyes at the elementary school lingo.
"Touchy. But that was not just a like look, or even a like like look. You were practically drooling," Katelyn bumps shoulders playfully with me, eyes trained on my face. "I think we need to get a little warning sign for you: 'Lesbian in Heat.'"
"It's such a joy talking with you, you know that? My joyousness right now is totally off the charts." Despite the sarcastic tone, a grin tugs at the corners of my lips.
"God, I know." We laugh together and it feels comfortable in a way I didn't think it could.
"Sooo…" Katelyn starts, absent-mindedly tapping her foot while she looks at me. "Watcha gonna do about it?"
That made my heart skip a beat. "D-do? Uh, how about: nothing?"
"Jill!" Katelyn whines, crossing her arms and standing squarely in front of me.
There's silence as we stare at each other, and then a glint catches fire in her eyes and a wicked grin splits across her face.