Jimena picked her teeth with one of the spikes on her boots, which she had shaken off as the school day drew to a close. Before that afternoon's teacher had the chance to chastise her for her choice in outfit… again… she stood on top of the table.
'I've got something to tell you all. I…' She wobbled a little on the table. 'Woah, this is pretty difficult.' She took a deep breath. 'I'm gay.'
Everyone, the teacher included, rolled their eyes and resumed their in-class tasks. Vinciane leaned back in her seat as she looked up at Jimena. She watched this grand reveal with a smirk on her face that would make a lawyered-up business mogul jealous.
Her short, dyed red hair in a sidecut was a constant source of frustration for the teachers. Jimena tried to copy it with her black hair but settled on a faux sidecut with braids. In fact, she tried to copy every aspect of her appearance, a feat made difficult by their differing body types, with Jimena being tall and thin and Vinciane being short and curvy. Both wore dark and heavy makeup, also causing a stir among the teachers.
Vinciane almost dropped her smirk when she saw Jimena's hands turn into trembling fists. Almost.
There was little point in being concerned since it wasn't long before Jimena laughed and applauded herself.
'You should have seen the looks on your faces! Get wrecked!' She plopped back down off the table and nudged Vinciane in the ribs. 'Lezzies for life, Vinny?' she said, holding out her pinky finger and rivalling her smirk with her own. 'We'll get our own U-Haul and argue over who makes the sandwiches.'
Vinciane tied her pinky around Jimena's. 'Wouldn't have it any other way. By the way, I'm making the sandwiches.' Her accent was lightly French.
The two laughed loud enough to cause another quick lecture on manners from the teacher. Then it was Jimena's turn to roll her eyes. Being the rebellious girl she was, she flipped the bird at her teacher… under the table.
That night, Jimena held her pillow in between her chest and her knees, slouching against her bedframe. She lifted her pinky and stared at it before bringing it to her lips in a gentle kiss. She looked at the acoustic guitar at the other end of the room, romantic lyrics flittering in her head.
The punk text tone on her bedside table sent lightning up Jimena's spine. It was Vinciane's favourite song. The text was accompanied by a poorly shot photo.
I put a gold bath bomb in and now the bathwater looks like piss. FML. Gonna kill myself, brb.
Jimena responded a little later than she had hoped, taking time to craft her text.
Is that a toaster in your bathtub or are you happy to see me?
Vinciane's next text pushed Jimena's heart up to her throat.
¿Por qué no los dos? Btw, you almost had me fooled today. Almost convinced me your verbal coming out shitpost was real. Excellent job, my love ;)
Oh, yeah. Shitpost.
Jimena pulled her numerous blankets on top of her body and rolled around until she was caved in by warmth. It did little to bring a smile back to her face, but at least she could bury herself and perhaps never come out.
The pity party was crashed by her mother calling her to the dinner table. She had no choice but to crawl out of her blanket cocoon and enjoy a nice meal of… supermarket tacos.
Two thoughts battled for prominence in Jimena's mind. The first was wondering how her parents could have possibly come from Mexico when they had the most Americanised tastes.
The second was the reopening of the recent wound caused by her friend.
¿Por qué no los dos?
Her mother heard her sigh and asked her how school was. Jimena shrugged, using the beef and lettuce in her mouth as an excuse not to talk. Her mother didn't buy it. Not that she ever could, what with Jimena resting her feet on the table and scowling at no one in particular.
After lecturing her on keeping the table clean, she asked, 'Why must you always wear those shoes? Is this because of that girl?'
As Jimena managed to prove, swallowing food in an unambiguously angry way was something humans could do. A light clink hit everyone's ears as she kicked the salt shaker, causing it to collide with her mother's plate.
'Leave her out of this,' Jimena said in the clipped voice of someone who wanted to yell but knew she would receive a yell in return.
Her father tried to speak calmly. Emphasis on 'tried'.'We're just a little concerned that you've, well, been acting differently since befriending her. You used to be such a bright girl. And why won't you wear the dresses I made you?' His voice cracked a little at the question.
'Well, maybe you should make clothes that I actually want to wear.'
'I don't appreciate that tone, young lady,' her mother chastised her, raising her voice even louder. There it was: the yell.
'Well, you're going to hear that tone a lot longer if you don't shut the hell up!' Jimena shouted, getting out of her seat and storming off to her room. She then went back into the dining room to retrieve her tacos and brought them to her room.
She took her phone out and texted with one hand while holding one taco in the other.
My parents can step in dog shit while stuck in a time loop. Shit on their shoes for all eternity.
After a few minutes that felt more like fifty, Vinciane responded in an almost insultingly short text.
Rather than take the length as an insult, Jimena held her phone to her chest and giggled. She was unsure whether it was the heat from the phone or something else that made her heart feel so warm.
That sensation didn't last long when she remembered that Vinciane lived with her aunt. She immediately texted an apology. She didn't have to wait long before getting a message back.
Don't sweat it. If I lived under their house, I would have to live under their rules. My aunt gets me better anyway. She's even okay with my nose ring.
The two continued texting through the night, and not once did Jimena admit to looking forward to going to school the next day.
The day that followed involved Vinciane skipping class and, without even asking her, being followed by Jimena. Vinciane sat by the pond, a place students weren't allowed to be within ten feet of, and took out a cigarette. Upon seeing the horrified look on Jimena's face, she chuckled and lowered her eyelids until they were half-closed.
'You worried these will turn me from a dyke to a fag?' she asked in a strong Cockney accent. 'Don't worry, love, I would never leave you.' She took a drag of the cigarette and opened her eyes fully, returning to her original accent. 'Oh, speaking of which, any guys you think are cute?'
'None as cute as you,' Jimena murmured, then gulped when she saw that Vinciane heard her. The stone she was sitting on started feeling mighty uncomfy.
'No, but seriously. No one? There's a guy who's got my eye- what's wrong?'
Jimena was looking down, focusing her eyes on the hem of her plaid skirt as she fiddled with it. Anything to stop tears from falling.
'I'm gay.' A laugh came from Jimena's mouth out of habit.
Vinciane joined in. 'Yeah, yeah. So which guy do you like?'
Jimena shrugged. 'No one at this stupid school.'
'Fair point.' Some of the smoke reached Jimena, who couldn't help but cough. This earned a snicker from Vinciane. Jimena pouted and reached for the other girl's cigarette packet. Vinciane guarded it with her free hand. 'I don't think you're ready for that. Wait 'til you stop sounding like you're dying of tuberculosis.'
'No way. If I'm going out, it's gonna be human mad cow disease that takes me down.'
Jimena smiled and gave Vinciane a finger gun. 'Or AIDS.' The two were silent for a moment as Vinciane finished her cigarette. She squished the butt into the ground and stood up, stretching her arms and yawning.
'Um, why exactly do you go to school anyway if you're going to skip class?' Jimena eventually asked.
Vinciane brushed her fingers through her hair. The sight took Jimena's breath from her. 'I mean, you're here. And where else am I going to go?'
Jimena didn't know how to respond to that, not that her airless lungs would have allowed her to respond at all. All she could really do was look away from Vinciane's plump lips and pray that she would soon be able to breathe properly again.
A decision managed to get air pumping through her veins again. She was going to come out for real, and she was going to make it as convincing as possible.
At home that night, she jotted down ideas for this ceremony onto her notes app. The following morning, she gave Vinciane vague details about an announcement she planned to make and a song she would use to do it.
'Is this another one of your coming out ceremonies? This might be your most over the top one yet. Looking forward to it.'
'No, no, it's quite different. Okay, so for the announcement song, I will sing it to you and you'll sit there all surprised.'
'What will you be announcing?'
'I have to make sure you look surprised.'
'You saying I can't act?' Vinciane asked as she crossed her arms.
'That's not what I mean! I just want the song to be a surprise to everyone, including you. I may dance around you, by the way, so don't be surprised by that. Focus on the content.'
'So where are you going to say… er, sing this announcement?'
'The cafeteria at lunch, two weeks for now. That should be long enough to write and rehearse a song, right?'
'I guess. So are you going to play the song on your acoustic guitar?'
'I was thinking of asking the music department to borrow one of their electric guitars. I think the song would be cool with a punk edge.'
'Good luck getting one in two weeks. And an electric guitar kind of needs a band with it, so you'll be spending a lot of those two weeks trying to get bandmates. Won't the song be more, I don't know, sincere sounding if it's acoustic?'
'You think so? You sure it wouldn't be fake deep? I don't want to sound like some hipster dude trying to pick up a girl at a coffee shop.'
'If the lyrics are sincere, an acoustic guitar will highlight them. I doubt you'll sound pretentious.'
Jimena took a deep breath and put her fist in her other hand as she exhaled. 'Okay, I've got this.'
Vinciane stroked Jimena's hair, not noticing the warmth radiating from the other's cheeks. 'I know you do.'
Instead of hanging out with Vinciane, Jimena spent lunchtime putting lyrics into her phone. Vinciane kept walking up to her and trying to sneak a glance, but Jimena's screen-covering reflexes were way too good.
At home, Jimena continued typing on her phone, even during dinner. Cue the nagging from both her parents, whom she ignored.
As she lay in bed, she tried to continue typing away but the claws of doubt picked at her brain. She sat on her side, listening to the scarce sounds surrounding her. Her ears picked up the whir of a sewing machine, a sound that pulled her up like the strings of a marionette. After listening for a while with her eyes closed, the familiarity of the sound lulled her back down onto the bed.
She knew exactly what was going on and was tempted to tell her father not to bother, but the sound softened the pillow she lay on. She let it play in the background like an ambient album full of rain sounds.
Before she could fall asleep, and boy was she tempted to, an idea popped into her head. She sat up again and grabbed her guitar, playing riffs in time with her father's sewing. The plucking of her guitar mirrored the sound of the needle.
She made a new note on her phone and wrote new lyrics referencing the sewing terms she could remember her father mentioning. Half an hour later, she put the phone down and got into her pajamas.
The first thing Jimena saw when she woke up was a finished dress hanging from the doorknob. A piece of paper was taped to the hanger, saying, 'For when you perform your next song'. She smiled until she received a text from Vinciane. She pictured Vinciane scrunching her nose at her and tossed the dress next to the bin tucked in the corner of her room.
The following lunchtime, it was Take Two for Vinciane's attempts to uncover Jimena's lyrics. Once again, she failed.
'Come on, can't you show me a little bit?'
'For the last time, no!'
A pout stayed on Vinciane's lips for the rest of the day.
When she dropped her backpack by her bed, Jimena saw the dress her father had made neatly folded on the bed. She sighed and threw it back towards the bin, narrowly missing it. The next few days were a pattern of the dress appearing folded on the bed and her throwing it in the bin. Each day, her father's shoulders drooped further and further until he looked like a caveman with depression.
During those days Vinciane didn't pry any longer and instead spent the time sitting next to Jimena and offering words of encouragement as the girl silently edited her own lyrics. She reached for Jimena's free hand but Jimena wriggled out of her grasp to start typing with two hands.
Once again, Vinciane pouted for the remainder of the day.
Jimena practised over and over again at home, at least until her mother yelled at her to knock it off. The 'knock it off' point was at 10 o'clock at night. She gave her mother the middle finger but did indeed knock it off.
However, she continued adjusting the sheet music and playing the song in her head well into the night. Naturally, this led to her coming to school with bags under her eyes and little patience for Vinciane's gestures of friendliness. Apparently a quick, non-invasive question about how the song was going was enough to set off an atomic bomb.
'Shut it, Vinny!'
Vinciane blinked and stepped back. 'Sorry.'
Jimena almost apologised too but couldn't bring the words out. Vinciane made sure not to bother her until the two weeks were up.
Having her muse not by her side made it both easier and more difficult to practice the song. On the one hand, more time to herself without worrying about the secret getting out. On the other, no words of support and no one to look at when she needed a boost of inspiration. Doubt's claws scratched at her psyche again.
That night, she sat in the dark, Vinciane's verging-on-tears face playing over and over in her head like a scratched CD.
The morning of the performance day was the same as usual, complete with the neatly folded dress on the bed. Jimena groaned as she shoved the dress into her backpack.
Vinciane didn't show up at class. Alarms rang in Jimena's ears. What if the most important audience member wasn't there for the performance?
After changing at the beginning of lunch, she wasted valuable rehearsal time searching the school for Vinciane. She wasn't at the pond nor behind the gardener's shed where the druggies usually hung out.
It was five minutes before the end of lunch by the time she found Vinciane in a classroom. The same classroom Vinciane would have been in that morning had she not skipped class.
Vinciane's eyes popped out of their sockets upon seeing Jimena in the dress. Its colour was not unfamiliar- black, as always. However, it was frilly and lacy and buoyant, paired with knee-high socks and a little bonnet. It was utterly adorable.
As soon as the shock wore off, she glared at her. 'Come to tell me to shut it?' Jimena tightened her grip on her acoustic guitar. 'Or maybe you want to take me to the cafeteria so everyone can hear the song you refused to show me.'
Jimena stepped closer and began playing the guitar. She breathed in, then out, then in again.
'You pull me in... like a thread caught in a sewing machine.' She pronounced the last syllable of 'machine' pretty weakly to get it to rhyme with 'in'.
She continued. 'I don't know where this is going. This sin... gives me pins and needles, you're giving me the feels. Now I'm the happiest I've ever been.'
She strummed the guitar rapidly, sending a warm sound to a smiling Vinciane. 'I'm really sorry if I'm bursting at the seams. It's so hard standing next to the girl of my dreams. When you're edgy, I keep folding like a hem. It's so hard to admit that you're my favourite femme.'
Vinciane's cheeks went red while Jimena's playing slowed down. 'Your jokes leave me in stitches but my foot's in my mouth. I want to tell you how I feel but I don't know how.'
Jimena circled around Vinciane's chair, speeding up her strumming. Her heart was beating faster than the song but, for the first time, she wasn't going to back out now.
She returned to the tune she started with. 'Well, I'm as straight... as the hem of a big swing skirt. Don't hate, I'm not looking to get hurt. A date... would be wonderful, don't judge. My feelings simply won't budge and I feel like this might as well be fate.'
It was time for the outro. 'No, this is no joke. No this is no prank. I'm gay as fuck and with some luck, I got you in my ranks. This is the real me and yes, my heart is true. I'm not that tough, it's all a bluff. Just know that I like you.'
Vinciane looked into Jimena's eyes and saw the sincerity in them. She stood up and whispered in her ear, sending tingles down her spine.
'You didn't need to act tough, you know. I'd have liked you either way.'
'Um, so about that guy you have your eye on-' Jimena asked.
'Oh, that?' Vinciane's smirk returned as she put her index finger against her own lips. 'That was a lie. Just wanted to test the waters, plus I didn't know how to tell you. You won't get mad at me for that, right?'
Jimena shook her head and then rubbed the back of her neck. 'So, uh, how does a date sound?'
'Make it two. Then we can get a U-Haul. I'm still making the sandwiches, by the way. I've seen you in Home Ec and you kind of suck in the kitchen.'
Jimena giggled and grabbed her hand as the two walked out of the classroom. 'Sounds like a plan. But for now, we should just focus on how to convince everyone else that we're a couple for real this time.'
Vinciane shrugged. 'Does it matter? I know and you know. Who cares what the others think?'
The bell rang and Vinciane followed Jimena into another classroom. During class, they spent less time listening to the teacher and more times sneaking glances at each other. Vinciane played with the ribbon attached to Jimena's bonnet, twirling the pretty fabric around her finger. Jimena ran her kitten-heeled shoe over the spikes on Vinciane's boot, smiling at the rough sound.