I wake up groggy at first, staring at the ceiling and blinking occasionally.
Then I remember the events of last night and blink some more.
Thought one: Huh…guess that answers that question.
Thought two: Well, it's not like I really thought I was straight anyway.
I twist around carefully to look at the girl sleeping on the couch beside me. She's wearing that floppy-eared nightcap I got her for her birthday. Which is probably a good thing, considering how epic her bed head is. It occurs to me that she is fricking adorable when she sleeps.
Her eyes open. She blinks, and I can see the same thoughts running through her head that were running through mine two minutes ago.
"You're grinning like an idiot," she informs me, propping herself up on an elbow.
Thought three: I am, aren't I? Huh.
She leans over and knocks our foreheads together, and we start laughing. Everything's funny, all of a sudden.
Everything is absolutely hilarious.
She's sitting at the pile of cardboard boxes that are currently masquerading as a kitchen table (and doing a pretty bad job of it too), head down on her arms, yawning loudly. I smirk.
A brown eye peeks out, glancing down at the fluffy pink monstrosities on her feet before closing again. She flips me off. Apparently it's too early for her to be forming words. I file the fact away for future reference.
She makes a kind of noise somewhere between a whimper and a squeak. I'll take that as a yes. If I'm wrong, hey, more for me right?
I finish making the nectar of the gods and fill up two mugs. I put one down in front of her as I sit down and she twitches, like she's sensing caffeine in the immediate vicinity. With a groan she sits up and grasps the mug, draining half of it in one gulp and probably scalding her throat.
"I didn't know you were an addict," I remark. She glowers from behind my Mickey Mouse mug. Still too early for words, evidently.
It's just as well, because my mother chooses that moment to appear and whatever Ash would have said probably wouldn't've been fit for polite company.
"Morning, girls," Mom says with a weary smile. My mother is incapable of summoning enthusiasm for anything until she's had her coffee. "Sleep well?"
Ash chokes on her coffee. Ouch, that had to hurt.
As for me, I say "Fine" with the vocal equivalent of a shrug. And as soon as my mother's turned her back to get her caffeine intake for the day, my eyes flicker over to Ash. She's giving me the same look I'm trying to give her.
So. We should talk, yes?
Well, this talk is off to an efficient start.
"About last night," I try.
She pulls a face. "You realize how cliché that sounds?"
I sigh. "Yeah, well, at least I'm trying."
"Well, at this rate we're going to be at it for a while. Let me see if I can get us through this quickly." She bites her lip and looks up at my bedroom ceiling for a few seconds, probably formulating the shortest possible way to say everything. She's always been good at summarizing.
"Okay," she says finally. "So, I'm gay. Or at least bisexual. Yes?"
"Looks like," I say, kind of relieved by her bluntness.
"And you are gay, or at least bisexual. Yes?"
"And last night, we…uh…"
Somehow, the ever-confident Ash tripping over herself is endlessly amusing. I can't resist the urge to poke a little.
"It's alright, you can say it: kissed."
She turns a shade of scarlet I didn't think was possible outside of fanfiction. I'm grinning again.
"Or how about this: made out. That better?"
Even redder. This is too funny.
"Or," I continue, "you could say French-kissed, if you want to be a little more old-fashioned about it. How's that sound?"
She throws a dirty T-shirt at my head. Seeing as it's my dirty T-shirt, I don't really care that much.
"What?" I ask innocently. "My adjectives aren't good enough for you?"
She gives me that look. The one that says clearly that a.) I'm an idiot, and b.) she loves me anyway.
Huh. Love? Maybe that word's taken on a bit of a new meaning now. Then again, it's a little too soon for that, right?
"Why so serious?" I inquire.
The Dark Knight reference works, sort of; she smiles a little bit before getting back to business.
"You don't find any of this…weird?"
"Nary a bit."
"You didn't hear any complaints last night, did you?"
"I wish you'd stop using lines you got from a B-list romantic comedy." She swallows. Hard.
The smile slips right off my face.
"For being a genius and everything," I inform her, "you're really kind of stupid sometimes."
She's about to say something else, ask something else that's logical and completely pointless and somehow I feel l can answer most—if not all—of them at once, so I grab her face as gently as I can and kiss her.
I can feel her nervousness; she's terrified, probably that my mother is going to open the door any second. And she could, easily, and I really don't care and I wish Ash wouldn't either.
I pull back. She looks about as dazed as I feel.
"…Okay?" I ask, idiotically, because I have no idea what I'm even asking about.
But she bites her lip again, then starts to smile. And nods.
And I guess it's okay.
This is all okay.
"You have really small hands, you know that?"
"Thank you, Jessica, for calling attention to a lifelong insecurity."
"No problem, Ashley."
"Ugh. Don't call me that. You know I hate it when you call me that."
"You called me Jessica."
"You said I have small hands."
"You do have small hands."
"And you are Jessica."
"Not to my friends."
"I'm not your friend, then?"
"One: You always call me Jess, so one infraction doesn't count against you. Two: No. You're my girlfriend."
"…Maybe we should leave the labels alone for now."
"Whatever you say, love."
"…I think I liked Ashley better."
"Aw, that hurts."
"You said I have small hands."
"But you do."
"And they're cute."
"You do realize you just called my hands cute?"
"Well, they're not the only cute things about you, obviously, but they're what I'm focusing on at the moment. Tomorrow it'll be something cliché and sappy like your eyes-"
"I didn't think eyes could be cute."
"-and the day after that it'll be something weird like your pancreas, just to shake things up."
"That makes no sense at all."
"But you do have cute eyes, you know."
"…Just how long did you have a deep-seated crush on me? Because that sounded very rehearsed."
"Ouch! You're on fire today."
"…A lot longer than I knew, I think."
"…Yeah. Me too."
"You should read 'Keeping You a Secret'. Maybe it'll make good reference material," I suggest one day.
She rolls her eyes. "We're not living in a book, Jess."
"True enough. And neither of our moms are psychos, as far as I know, but that's beside the point. Who knows when knowledge gleaned through fiction will come in handy?"
"You just want me to read the book, don't you?"
Busted. "Am I that transparent?"
"Yes," she replies simply.
"Guess I walked right into that one." I plop down next to her, said book in my hand.
"Take a good look, Jess. This will be the fourth copy of this baby I've bought in my lifetime." And it's true. One of 'em I just read until it fell apart, one fell into the bathtub (while I was reading it), and one fell into the toilet (also while I was reading it).
"Didn't know you were such an avid Julie Anne Peters fan," she remarks dryly.
"Uh, yeah. Now that I think about it, maybe I should've seen the gay thing coming…"
She smacks me upside the head.
We're in a bookstore. Great date, right?
Date. That sounds weird. We've always done stuff like this. Why should there be a new term for it now?
Maybe that's the thing about dating (gah, can't get used to that term either) your best friend. Everything feels pretty much the same. Even the "kissing stuff", as Ash adorably still calls it, feels so natural you wonder why the hell you never did it before. Or maybe that's just me?
Either way, all I know is that everybody finds somebody whose bed head they want to wake up next to every morning. And now I think maybe, maybe I've found my somebody.
But that's corny, right?
"Do you think we should…you know…come out?"
I look over my shoulder to make sure my mom isn't about to walk in and hear my end of the conversation. I never put the phone on speaker when I'm talking to Ash anymore.
Speaking of which, I'm kind of surprised that she's asking this question first. I shrug before remembering she can't see me.
"I don't know. Haven't really thought about it."
"Really." She doesn't make it sound like a question; more like a slightly waspish statement of fact. "Well, I have. A lot, actually."
"Didn't think you were so eager to explain all of this to your folks."
"I'm not. I'm just sick of feeling like I'm hiding something."
Ah. So that's it. "What's to hide? We hang out at each other's houses all the time. We go on dates. We kiss. We're not hiding anything. People just…haven't caught on yet."
"That's bull and you know it," she responds, sounding annoyed. Whoops. "We've always hung out—we've been best friends for about a decade, remember? Your definition of a 'date' is going to a bookstore or to the food court in the mall, which is also something we did anyway. And you always keep your bedroom door locked when it's just us and your mother's in the house. Don't even try to pretend you're not paranoid."
I gnaw on an overlong fingernail. She kind of has me.
"Well…what if we went on a real date?"
Silence from the other end. I frown and knock my old phone against the wall a couple of times before putting it back to my ear. Still nothing.
"Did you hear what I said?"
"You mean when you asked me out?"
I'm still so not used to hearing things said in terms of…well…couple stuff (yeah, I know I'm a hypocrite) that it takes my brain a second to wrap around the question. But wrap around it does.
"Yes, you heard me? Or yes, we should go on a real date?"
"Depends," she replies dryly. "What's your definition of a 'real date'?"
"Uh…" Well, Holland and Cece's first date was at a concert, right? Or was it at the donut shop? Did that one even count as a date? Dammit, I need to re-read that book…and besides, Ash isn't a fan of concerts or donuts. I swear, she is such a freak sometimes. I finally blurt out the first contender that comes to my mind:
I hear her sigh. But it's more affectionate than anything else.
"You and your clichés."
I grin. "Is that a yes?"
"You know, you never answered my question."
" Which one?"
"About whether we should say something to our parents."
"I don't like keeping secrets."
"That's fair enough."
"And I doubt anything overly dramatic will happen."
"Yeah, like, our moms won't throw us out of the house after forbidding us ever to touch our baby sister again."
"You've been reading that book again, haven't you?"
"Well, duh. Why else would I buy it? And as a matter of interest, what gave me away?"
"Your description of what won't happen was way too specific. And you don't even have a sister."
"Ah. And here I thought I was being subtle."
"Subtle isn't a word I can ever see myself associating with you, to be frank."
"Who is Frank, anyway?"
"…Please tell me that was a joke."
"Okay. It was a joke."
"…Don't shoot me for saying this, but I think it'd be easier for you."
"And how, exactly, do you figure that?"
"Because your parents still live under one roof. I'll have to explain the whole thing twice, unless I want to drag Dad all the way over from Seattle just to tell him my sexual orientation's gotten a bit more ambiguous."
"There is such a thing as a phone."
"Right. Cool. I'll just ring him up, put the phone on a chair and drop the bomb on both of them at once. Then they can flip their lids simultaneously. Great idea."
"The sarcasm's unnecessary. I thought you didn't want to have to tell the story more than once?"
"I never said that. Besides, I'll inevitably end up having to tell it multiple times—I still have aunts, uncles, grandmas, friends…"
"I do make them occasionally."
"So what's the bottom line here, Jess?"
"…Okay, how about this. We arrange a time. You tell your folks at your place, I'll tell Mom at mine and call Dad later. Then you call me and we'll commiserate."
"That sounds bizarrely simplistic."
"Yeah, well. It won't seem that way when we're doing it. Just need to rip it off quick, like a Band Aid, and not chicken out. Right?"
"…You sure you don't wanna read KYAS just once before we do this? It'll make you feel better knowing that no matter how your folks react, it'll be better than-"
"I'll pass, thank you."
"What about 'Annie On My Mind'? That one's a little old-fashioned, but it's not bad…although it's not very comforting either, come to think of it…"
"…Where do you find these books?"
"It's called the library, doofus."
I shut my bedroom door an hour after dropping the metaphorical bomb and lean against it with a sigh. I let myself sink down to the cheese-smelling (what the hell, I don't even eat cheese) carpet.
That was harder than I thought it'd be.
As if on cue, the phone rings. I dive for it before my mother can pick up in another room. Not that she would, though. She's kind of comatose at the moment, I think.
"Jess." She exhales. Slowly. "How did it go?"
"My mom looks like someone just dropped an anvil on her head," I reply bluntly. "All things considered, I guess it could've gone worse. What about-"
"I got my mom a couple of books on the subject," she interrupts. "And left some relevant website links open on her browser. She's handling it alright. I think being more informed will help things."
I start to smile. Typical Ash. Always relying on logic and info to make things work. And hey, sometimes it works. But sometimes it doesn't. Hopefully this'll be one of the former times.
"Well…" She hesitates. "What now?"
It's kind of an inane question, when you think about it. But I answer anyway.
"Wanna get some ice cream?"
"Are you trying to make me fat?"
I'll take that as a yes.
Her nose wrinkles up, which is kind of too cute for words, but I know she'll smack me if I say it so I keep quiet.
"Do me a favor," she sighs, trying to sound like her usual long-suffering self but failing a little because her face is still flushed as hell. Not that I'm one to be talking, I'm sure.
"Fire away," I say cheerfully, because really she could ask me anything right now.
"The next time you decide to kiss me, please skip the pistachio beforehand."
I grin like an idiot. "I'll do my best."
I dunno, looking back it seems almost too easy. Like, really? That's it? No drama? The coming-out stories in books and stuff are always so dramatic—usually in a horrible way, but still—that I was almost let down when all my mom really did was look at me oddly for the next week or so.
But then again, maybe Ash and I are going to fill our drama quota later. Maybe much later. Maybe we'll fight over living arrangements (and hopefully not end up in a shelter for homeless gay youths…yeah, I know, quit referencing the book—I can't help it if Peters is a goddess). Or about adoption vs. artificial insemination vs. not having kids period (going for the latter option…wouldn't kill me, I think, but maybe that'll change too). Or money or utilities or whatever married couples argue about.
Maybe we won't get married at all, even if it is allowed by the time we're "ready". Maybe this is all just a fling thing and we'll go back to being best friends and find our soulmates or whatever elsewhere.
But between you and me?
The more I think about it…the more I think that there is no way in hell that I'm gonna want to wake up next to anybody's bed head but Ash's.
So I'm a sap. Hey, c'mon—there're worse things to be.