Proverbial Closets, Closet Introverts and Actual Closets
By Rebel Maru
© 2013 Mari Thomas. All Rights Reserved.
This story is dedicated to you, Tala. To this day, I still think what you did one of the bloody bravest things anyone at our school has ever done. So, to you, Tala, I raise my glass.
Naomi Winters knew something was up the moment she noticed the stares. What she didn't expect, however, was that it wasn't her who had incurred the infamous wrath of the rumour mill. It was her best friend, Jamie Hart.
They were staring at her.
Naomi Winters realised that the second she walked through the door and into the crowded classroom. Every single pair of heavily eyelinered eyes was fixed on her and not moving away. She shrank slightly under the scrutiny, but still made her way across the dark carpeted floor to her desk. Once Naomi reached the desk, she shrugged her backpack off onto it and took a hesitant seat in her chair.
It was deathly silent.
They didn't stop staring.
Self-consciously, Naomi ran a hand through her hair. It wasn't sticking up in any weird fashion today, was it? Then again, she frequently came to school with bed-hair and no one looked twice at her, so what was it? She hadn't put her bra on over her jumper, had she?
Each time a feasible explanation came to her mind, Naomi quickly shot it down. In the end, she found herself utterly confused. With a sigh, Naomi sunk her head into her arms on top of her desk.
That was when Jessica Symmonds turned her blonde head of hair around to face Naomi, placing a manicured hand on top of Naomi's own. Her painted lips parted slightly as she paused, as if unsure of how to continue. Then, one hand cupping her mouth, her voice a barest whisper, she spoke.
"So, have you heard?"
Naomi's head peaked up from above her arms and she fixed her blue eyes on Jessica. Heard about what? The words were on the tip of her tongue, but she bit them down. Instead, she asked, "Why is everyone staring?"
The look Jessica shot Naomi made the quiet girl want to shrink into the floor.
"Have you heard?" she repeated.
This time, Naomi took the bait.
"Heard about what?" she asked.
A devilish smile spread across Jessica's face. Naomi's stomach plummeted and dread permeated its way into her expression. This had to be bad.
"So you haven't heard," Jessica mused, a hint of triumph in her voice. The blonde girl leant back in her seat, regarding Naomi as if satisfied.
At an elitist all-girl's school, there were only two things to fear: the homework load and the rumour mill. Naomi liked to think she could handle the homework load and had made her way through four years of schooling, determined to avoid the rumour mill's vindictive wrath. She had succeeded, it appeared, up until now.
"Look," Naomi started. "Whatever they're saying about me—"
Jessica cut her off quickly with a wave of her hand.
"Oh, Nao," she said, using the cutesy nickname that the entire year had picked out for her when they were eleven. "We weren't speaking about you."
Yeah right, Naomi wanted to say, and I eat little children for breakfast because they're richer in fibre than cornflakes.
Jessica spotted the look on Naomi's face and laughed. Patiently, Naomi waited for her to finish. As Jessica's laughter died down, she leant forward again, placing her face close to Naomi's as if sharing a dark secret.
"We were speaking about Jamie."
Jamie. Jamie. Jamie. The word ricocheted around Naomi's mind. Jamie: her joined-at-the-hip best friend. Jamie: the person she'd convinced first years was her twin. Jamie: the one person in the entire school that had persuaded her not to drop out after first year.
And, just like that, anger boiled up inside Naomi. She pushed herself away from her desk, standing up and hunting the room for her friend. By now, whispers had started up again, but Naomi paid them no heed.
At that point in time, Naomi didn't care if whatever they were saying about Jamie was true. She just cared that it was most likely malicious. Jamie had been there in first year for her. So, this year, in fifth year, Naomi would be there for her. And so help her, if she had to see Jamie cry again, she was going to break someone…
Eventually, Naomi's eyes caught sight of Jamie, who was standing in the doorway, dressed the same as always, a heavy backpack slung over her shoulder. It was in an awkward manner that Jamie beckoned Naomi out of the classroom – something that made Naomi feel decidedly more anxious.
Taking a deep breath, very much aware of everyone's eyes on her, Naomi exited the classroom. Keep it cool, she told herself. For Jamie.
"What is it, Jay?" Naomi asked as Jamie pulled them aside into an empty computer lab.
Jamie looked around before she wrung her hands in front of her. She fidgeted for a few moments before she forced herself to look up into Naomi's eyes.
"By now," Jamie said slowly, each word carefully considered, "everyone probably knows. I just—I don't want you to have to hear it from someone else."
Naomi studied her friend's face.
"Please tell me you're not pregnant," she began, only half-serious.
"No," Jamie cracked a smile, "it's not that." She paused for a second, her eyes flittering back down to her hands. Naomi placed one hand on top of them.
"You can tell me," she encouraged. "You know I won't judge."
"It's just…" Jamie trailed off.
"Just what?" Naomi prompted.
Jamie took a deep breath.
"I think," she began, then corrected herself, "no, I know…" she trailed off again. She took another deep breath, then wrenched her gaze from her hands and stared Naomi dead in the eye.
All thoughts in Naomi's brain seemed to stop.
Bisexual. Bisexual. "I'm bisexual." Bi. Jamie's bi. Jamie's bi. Jamie is bisexual.
Naomi didn't know what to think. Jamie – Jamie – was bisexual. She hadn't seen it coming. Why hadn't she seen it coming?
Jamie was staring at Naomi, her eyes crinkling into worry.
Everyone else knew. Why? Did Jamie not trust her? Why didn't Jamie feel that she could talk to Naomi?
Jamie took a deep breath.
"I will completely understand if you don't want to be my friend anymore," she said, her eyes not leaving Naomi.
Jamie. Jamie. Jamie was bisexual. Jamie had just told her she was bisexual. And Naomi was unresponsive. What kind of friend was she?
"What?" Naomi finally snapped to it.
Jamie stared at her.
"Nao, we've been friends a long time," she said. She took a shuddering breath. "So I'll understand if this is just too much—"
Naomi cut her off.
Sure, she was confused.
Sure, she didn't understand.
Sure, she had no clue how to react.
But, Naomi merely smiled awkwardly.
"Jamie, it's OK," she said, not sure how the lies were coming to her lips so easily. "I don't care."
She did care, though. She didn't know why, but it mattered.
The look of pure relief on Jamie's face when she heard this, however, blew everything out of the water. As Naomi stood, gazing at her friend of five years, she knew that she had made the correct choice.
"Really?" Jamie's voice came out choked as she asked the question.
Not trusting her voice not to give away her inner turmoil, Naomi nodded resolutely. Naomi barely had time to blink before Jamie had pulled her into a crushing hug.
"I was so worried," Jamie admitted. "I was so scared that you wouldn't accept me."
Naomi forced on a strained smile, hesitantly patting Jamie on the back with one hand.
It was so weird.
Jamie – Jamie – was bisexual. She'd always been, Naomi supposed. That didn't stop it from being weird, though.
Naomi had always thought of her friend as straight as an arrow, so to speak. Hell, Jamie had even admitted to crushing on her brother back when they were twelve – something that Naomi had teased her about relentlessly – and she had posters of Taylor Lautner up in her room in the boarding houses.
When the majority of girls in their year had discovered boys in third year, Jamie and Naomi had laughed. "How shallow," they'd said. "Studies come first."
Well, maybe that had only been Naomi, but the point remained.
It was so weird, thinking of Jamie as anything other than heterosexual. Heterosexual with her head screwed on tight – she didn't chase after anything with male genitalia – but heterosexual all the same.
It was so … weird.
The bell sounded, reverberating through the classroom they were in.
Naomi broke away from Jamie, who looked now to be on the verge of tears. It's OK, Naomi told herself. These are your problems. Jamie has to deal with enough.
"Assembly?" Naomi asked, proud of how normal her voice came out.
Jamie smiled weakly and nodded.
Sure, Naomi was confused as hell.
Sure, sexuality was never something Naomi thought she'd have to deal with.
Sure, Naomi was sporting a mask that she was certain could crumble to pieces at any time in the near future.
But, Naomi was damn sure that right now was not the time to be voicing all of this.
Stay cool, sodapop, Naomi told herself. (AN1)
She repeated those two words over and over again in her head as she pulled her hymn book down from her locker. She clung to them as the staring increased when she shot Jamie a smile. Naomi wouldn't let herself forget them even when Jessica Symmonds sauntered up to her with a knowing look on her face.
Damned good advice.
AN1 – adapted quote from Veronica Mars (Original: "Be cool, sodapop.") I don't own Veronica Mars, in case you were wondering. So I guess this counts as a disclaimer. Also, on that note, I don't own Taylor Lautner. That would be exceedingly creepy.
OK, hello and welcome to my new story. I know what you all are thinking: "Gee whiz, another one?" BUUUUUUUUUUUUUT, this is a very important story to me.