Mildred was a little nervous.

It was Sunday, and she was waiting at one of the tables with Val. Neither of them had gotten coffee yet, just sitting waiting for the other two. They had barely spoken a word. Mildred could tell Val was nervous too. They both anxiously watched the door. They wanted to make a good impression. They were sure Ethan had talked about them quite a lot, and they wanted to live up to his expectations. Mildred hadn't been this nervous since before Leah had broken up with her. It was a bubbling in her chest and a prickliness in her skin she just couldn't ignore. It was really starting to get annoying. She was grateful she had already dressed up for church, so at least she wouldn't look like complete shit. Even Val looked a little less sloppy than usual.

Today, after a wait so long it now seemed silly, they were finally meeting Ethan's boyfriend.

Before she could only bury herself in more anxiety, she noticed people walking toward the door. The darker shape she recognized as Ethan. She gulped, and took a huge breath, and nudged Val with her elbow. He jerked as though startled, and took a look out the door. He seemed to take a calming breath as well. The door opened. Ethan glanced around the room for a second before spotting them and walking over.

And there next to him was someone who could only be Devon. He was taller than Ethan, and more thickly built. Ethan had said he played rugby. Despite his somewhat intimidating form, his face was smiling and kind-looking, so his appearance didn't really make Mildred any more nervous. People weren't always kind when smiling, but she got the impression already that Devon was genuinely a good person. That was the gut feeling she got. She already somewhat knew that from Ethan's stories of him, but it was still nice to feel it.

Mildred and Val stood up to meet them. Looking strangely nervous, Ethan gestured at his boyfriend. "Guys, this is Devon."

"Finally," Val said in a near snarl.

"Yes, finally. Mildred, Valentine," he said, pointing at them in turn.

"Of course you call me Valentine."

"Of course."

Still smiling, Devon said to her, "Nice to finally meet you, Mildred. I've heard a shitload about you." His voice, much like his smile, was kind and gentle. He said something similar to Val, shaking his hand. That he didn't attempt to do so with Mildred probably meant that Ethan had told him she doesn't like to be touched if she can help it, especially by strangers. "I'm sorry it took so long to meet. Just no time really worked out."

"Oh shush, you liar," said Ethan. "You were just nervous."

"Shush, yourself."

"I guess that makes you like Mildred," Val said with a sly smile. "Just before you came in here, she was practically shaking."

Mildred punched the nearest part of him. She had come into a habit of doing that. "And who was nervously staring at the distance like it was the hottest girl in the world?"

"That would be you."

"Ha, ha, ha." She considered punching him again, but decided against it. "But it is good to meet you finally. We've heard a lot about you too."

"Incessantly," muttered Val.

"Ethan doesn't seem like it at first," Devon said, "but once you get close to him he's a big talker. Like this one time—"

"Tell that story and I'm never doing that thing again."

Val covered his ears with his hands. "Tell me when the sex talk is over."

"I wasn't talking about sex, Val."

"Really? Because that's what it sounded like."

"He was talking about cooking," Devon said through a laugh. Ethan had had to learn to cook a little to take care of his younger brother long ago. His mom still made him do it sometimes. And, apparently, Devon.

"And you got off on that?"

"Well, he was cooking naked."

Val was covering his ears again, so Mildred spoke instead. "I wouldn't mind a naked cook. Sounds fun."

Ethan was looking at Devon with a strangely expressive annoyed look on his face. "Did I say you could tell them about that?"

"No. I did it preemptively."

"I see. Next time I'm at your place I'm going to delete all your save files. Preemptively."

"Forgive me, Master."

Val covered his ears. "Tell me when the sex talk is over." Mildred and Devon laughed. It had gotten easier to do things like that in public. Ethan just smiled a little, which was a lot for him.

They got into line to get their coffee, chatting lightly. Mildred, as she did most of the time in conversations, faded into the background a little. She did participate more than she would have before, though. Mary and Leah really had helped her with this kind of thing. But she listened more than she spoke. She did quickly decide she liked Devon. He was a nice guy, she could tell already.

She was last in line to get her coffee, and noticed as the the boys made their orders that it was Natasha taking them. Every once in a while, Natasha would glance up to find her with her eyes. Each time, Mildred would give her a slight smile. They had been doing this kind of thing for a while now, yet they still hadn't spoken a word to each other. Ethan and Val were a little exasperated with her by now. They said she should just talk to her if she liked her. Mildred would, but she wasn't sure she was quite ready for another relationship yet. Leah had struck her pretty badly. And she was pretty sure Natasha was a good amount older. When Mildred made her order, she made it calmly, with no outward indication that she was thinking about Natasha, save for the slight smile on her face. Natasha, for her own part, said nothing more than necessary, but was giving her a look that clearly communicated what she was thinking. Saying nothing more than her order, Mildred wandered off for the other end of the counter.

"Was it just my imagination," Devon whispered to Ethan, "or were those two eye-fucking?" Mildred's stomach bubbled slightly.

"They've been doing that forever," muttered Ethan. The bubbling got worse.

"It's very annoying," Val added.

Now Mildred felt the heat of a blush on her face. She avoided the boys' eyes. "Shut up. She might hear you."

By some miracle, the boys actually shut up about it. After getting their coffee—Mildred traded a few more glances with Natasha—they returned to the table they had started at. Again, Mildred mostly faded into the background. Devon talked with Val about this and that, mostly nerdy things, and Ethan threw in a comment every once in a while. Mildred pretty much just let the boys talk. She was starting to get into this nerdy stuff, dragged in by Ethan and Val—Val had recently even started teaching her Magic—but it was still mostly over her head.

It surprised her when the topic switched to her, and something she really didn't want to talk about. Well, she was getting better about it, but it still wasn't number one on her list of things to talk of. Devon turned to her and said, "How are you doing? I heard about that business with that girl. What was her name?"

"Leah," Mildred said immediately, frowning at him a little.

"Right. I knew it began with an L. Ethan didn't tell me much about the last couple weeks. Though he told me about the E-word. I can't believe she used the E-word."

It took Mildred a few seconds to figure out what word he meant. Experiment. Just thinking of the word made her stomach sink, but not nearly as much as it would have not long before. "I'm okay, I guess. I just thought someone actually liked me, you know?"

"The barista likes you," Val said with his teasing smile.

"Yeah, I wonder about that."

Ethan, who had been sitting for some time now with his arm linked with Devon's, raised an eyebrow at her. "I won't have this self-hating thinking. It must stop now. If you need to find proof that you're likeable just look at Valentine."

At his words, Val flinched. "You promised not to say anything about that."

"I'm reneging on my promise."

With an uncertain feeling of confusion in her chest, Mildred glanced between the two of them. She settled on Val, who looked a little uncomfortable. "What is he talking about?"

"It was a long time ago," he said, not looking at her. "Can we just not talk about that?"

"Come on," said Ethan, "I think you're both mature enough to have this conversation."

"What's going on?" asked Mildred, frowning at Val. Devon looked as mildly annoyed as she was.

"Well…" Val broke off and said nothing further.

"Fine," Ethan said with a sigh, "I'll do it." He turned to Mildred; she thought she saw a slight smile there. "You were the first girl Val liked."

Mildred jerked in surprise, and she flicked her eyes over to Val. He still wasn't looking at her. "Is that true?"

As though extricating the words from his mouth took great effort, Val said, "Yes."

That was definitely a near-smile on Ethan's face. "That's part of why he wanted to be friends with you."

"Ethan, stop it."

"Actually, his first wet dream was about you."

There was a hollow thud followed by a sloshing noise. Val had knocked over his coffee cup. He quickly righted it, though coffee had already splashed onto the table. Devon and Ethan backed from the table a little. Cursing under his breath, his face a bright red, Val ran off to get some napkins. Mildred watched him go. She wasn't really sure how to feel about this.

When Val was back, wiping up the mess, she voiced her thought. "I don't know if I should be flattered or very creeped out."

"It was a long time ago," Val grumbled, still not looking at her. "Let's just forget about it, please."

Mildred thought a moment. She decided she wasn't creeped out. It actually felt kind of good. She felt a little weird admitting it to herself, but it did. Then a thought occurred to her. "If you liked me so much why didn't you ask me out?"

"He was nervous," said Ethan. He still seemed vaguely satisfied about this whole thing. "By the time he worked up the courage you were friends already, and he didn't want to ruin it. I know because he complained to me about it."

"Besides," Val said, "we kind of already thought you were gay."

Mildred frowned. "But this was in middle school." Both boys shrugged. "Did you really know that long before me?" They shrugged again. Mildred sighed, putting her face in her hands. "I must be really slow."

"Self-discovery," Devon said, "takes quite some time. I didn't figure out I was bi until, um…"

"He means to say he didn't know until he met me."

"I spent some time thinking I was just a pedophile." Devon got an elbow in the side. "A lot of times, people don't realize until something makes them realize. Leah was that for you. It didn't work out in the end, but at least you know yourself better now."

Did she really know herself better now? Yes, she knew she was a lesbian. But was that really such a big deal? Her sexuality wasn't all she was. Really, despite the huge deal everyone makes about it all the time, sexuality is only a small facet of a person, a face that often doesn't make that big of an impression overall. Yes, she knew she was gay, but she didn't really think that was that big of a deal. She had worried about it so much at first, but now it didn't even really matter to her, wasn't the focus of her existence. Not like it would ever matter again. Nobody wanted her.

That's not entirely true. Val had wanted her. She could put a lot of that to childishness, that Val hadn't developed in his desires, didn't know what he would really want yet. But she couldn't blame all of it on that. In every illusion, there was some aspect of truth. So what had Val seen in her? What about herself did she know better? She wracked her brain for a moment, searching for what might be remarkable in her, what had changed.

She supposed she was intelligent. That was something she should have learned long ago, with how easily she would pass finals with only the littlest effort. She tended to pick things up pretty quickly on the side. She had been the best violinist in the school orchestra before she had quit last year. Right that second, she decided she should pick that up again. If she asked the right people it shouldn't be too much trouble to get her schedule worked around so she could get in the proper class to be in it and everything. Actually she should rearrange her schedule a fair amount, switch to more difficult classes. She should actually put some effort into them this time, too. Mostly to see how good she could do. If she did it properly that last semester might help her get into a good coll—

She frowned at herself. It was so rare she thought about college. Did she really want to go? She would worry about that later.

She had been told many times by several people she was pretty. By looking inward, she found, deep inside somewhere she wasn't fully conscious of most of the time, she was starting to believe them. It still didn't register looking in the mirror. But Ethan told her it all the time. And Mary. And Val used to really like her, enough to dream about her. And if Leah didn't think she was pretty, she probably wouldn't have bothered. And those looks Natasha kept giving her were pretty clear. Lots of people gave her looks, actually, and these looks had increased in frequency since she had put on weight again. She had always thought they were of hate, annoyance, disgust, but now she wasn't so sure. Maybe she actually was pretty. It wouldn't be that far-fetched.

And, though she couldn't imagine what it was about her, some people seemed to like her personally. Ethan and Val had been close friends with her for years, and they wouldn't have done that if they didn't like her. Mary was staying in contact with her, even after the disaster with Leah. Those were really the three people—in real life—she had to measure the vague feeling against, but it was still a feeling she had. Ethan and Val had recently said they were proud of how strong she was. She didn't really think she was, but they had said it with such conviction they must believe it. Things like that. She was starting to see it.

She had been so busy seeing what her tormentors saw in her, that she had never looked clearly at herself. It wasn't until someone new had come along, showing a polar opposite view, that she could start seeing herself differently. Start seeing herself honestly. See the beauty in her, the strength in her, everything about her that Ethan, Val, and her parents loved, and all that could touch others. Leah, even if she had been cruel, had helped her to at least start to see that.

And she was grateful.

So yes, she had learned from her short whatever that had been with Leah. And she was still learning. She thought, she was sure, that she would never stop learning. That's what life was all about.

She came to a split second decision, almost without thought. Val had grabbed a couple more napkins than he had needed, so she grabbed one. She slipped off her chair, and moved to the empty counter. She grabbed the pen kept there for people to sign receipts, and quickly wrote down her phone number. A glance up revealed Natasha. A surprised look was on her face, her mouth open as though she were about to say something, but couldn't think of the words. Feeling the blush on her face, Mildred gave her a slight smile, and slid the napkin toward her. Then, her confidence gone, her heart suddenly hammering in her throat, she retreated as quickly as she thought was decorous.

When she returned to her seat, it was to find all three boys giving her similar looks. "What?"

Ethan spoke first. "Did you just give a strange girl your number?"

"Yes. I did." Ethan and Val shared a glance. "What?"

"I just didn't think you would ever do something like that."

"Though I must say," said Val, "the barista is a pretty good choice. She's hot."

Mildred smiled a little. "I had noticed that, yes. Do you think she'll call?"

Her boys glanced at each other, as though unsure of what to say, and before they spoke Devon answered. "Give her a couple days."

"Why a couple days?"

"If you call right away it makes you seem desperate. You got to play it cool for a couple days."

"I'd rather she just call me right away."

"That's not how this works."

"Well, that's stupid."

"Yes. Yes, it is."

Mildred hoped that Devon was wrong. If it were over the phone, she would probably have the confidence to actually talk to Natasha, and she didn't want to wait forever. They talked for a while longer, but not for very long. Devon had to be at work. Besides, by then, they were done with their coffee, and it had gotten to the point that they usually broke up to go home. They all said goodbye, the three who had been introduced said things about how good it was to finally meet each other, so forth and so on. Mildred walked home.

When she got home, she went immediately to her computer. Her parents weren't home at the moment, so there wasn't really a whole lot else to do. Mary had said she wanted to do something soon, so if she pushed she could probably have something to do, but she didn't want to be pushy. So instead she signed on.

Sappho89: omg you'll never guess what happened last night

FullofTime: hot girl?

Sappho89: oh yeah :3

So Saph regaled her with a tale about a girl she had met the previous night. Saph had been a little high at the time—she did plenty of heroin herself—but just enough to elevate her mood. She had said before that she had learned long ago how to control her dose just right to get the effect she wanted. The other girl had been completely wasted. Alcohol, Saph was sure. They had made out for a while, but to Mildred's surprise, they hadn't actually had sex. That was a little out of character for Saph. They had parted without even learning each other's names. Saph had gone home and immediately knocked herself out with a larger dose. She had just barely woken up before Mildred got home.

They talked for a while longer about pretty random things. It was in the middle of a conversation about Saph thinking about getting a cat when her phone rang. Mildred started in surprise. A little frantic, she pulled the vibrating thing out of her pocket. She checked the caller ID. She didn't recognize the number. A flaring nervousness burst into life in her. She clenched her hand before it could start shaking. She took a long breath in and out, then answered. "Hello?"

"Hey…" Even over the speaker, the voice was silky smooth, like good chocolate. "I just realized we don't even know each other's names." Mildred felt a smile stretch on her face. Devon had been wrong.

"Hello, Natasha."

That's it. Story over.

This is the first story I have ever finished. EVER. I feel kind of proud of it. Of course, there's the whole revision process to go through, but that's for a later day.

I'd like to thank anyone who stuck around for the whole thing. I'm not sure how many of you there are, but I still appreciate it.

I have a sort-of sequel in the works, but I'm not sure if/when I'll ever post it. It follows the girl Saph just met last night. I also may or may not post a sort of epilogue, showing little flashes from Mildred's next year.

But that's it. Thanks for reading. I would absolutely love it if you could leave a review saying what you thought of the story. Even something small and stupid-sounding would be greatly appreciated.


I wrote the above back in September or October or something. Now it's the end of January, and guess what? It's revision time! I'm going to work in a few style changes, and change a couple minor things, so I hope it will turn out better. I just rewrote the first chapter — 4k words in one sitting O_O — and I think it's greatly improved.

I also hope to turn the two sequels into full length stories, but I don't know if that's going to happen. Revision first.

Now, I'm not sure if I want to post the revised Butterflies up here. But I do want people's thoughts on it. So, if you like the story, but more importantly if you want to help me, PM me and I'll share what I have with you, and we can discuss it. People who have no particular opinion about Modernism (Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, etc) are preferred, but I don't super care either way.

Please please pleeeaaaassse? I need help D: