I stand before I say anything else, my school skirt itchy against my thighs. Trinity, still sitting on the floor, looks up at me. She’s got that look: her tell-tale I’m worried face that I see so often. Two little lines always form between her eyebrows, like little quotation marks.
It makes my insides tumble.
I tell her that I’m sick of wearing this uniform, careful not to say goddamn uniform, which is a phrase that I’ve exchanged with Amber a number of times. She nods and stares back at my pride flag as I change into a pair of shorts. I wonder what she really thinks about it.
I sit down again, cross-legged on the floor.
“How did you meet her?” Trinity asks, her eyes trained on her ankle-high school-issued socks. She’s, like, the only person that actually wears the ones from the uniform store. Of course, my mom keeps buying those ones for me, too, but I bought some different ones at the mall. They look the same, almost. But I prefer them anyway.
“At YRJ--the church retreats. It’s actually called Youth’s Road to Jesus, but everyone calls it YRJ,” I say. We both know that’s not really her question, but how do I explain it all?
I raised my head when I heard my name. I was sitting in the ministry building reception room, which honestly I hadn’t known about until then. I’d thought the only room in this place was the one where they set out the donuts after services sometimes.
My mom was sitting next to me, silently clutching her purse, which she does when she’s nervous. Or upset. Or disappointed. It’s hard to tell.
I was sitting clutching an overnight back in my lap and trying not to cry, because I thought that would be embarrassing.
My mom didn’t say anything when I stood and let the ministry person lead me into another room.
They let me get acquainted with my lodgings first, which was actually just an old bed in a room of other beds. Clearly everyone here slept together, and privacy was nonexistent. Though the boys and girls were separated--obviously. God forbid I accidentally saw an inch of a boy’s skin, but a girl’s was alright.
Explain the logic there.
It wasn’t long before Mark and Abby arrived. They were adopting me into their group, they told me, and they were very glad I’m here.
Their warm smiles and gentle voices didn’t do anything to stop the trickle of tears that had already started down my face. Luckily both of them were either too oblivious or too polite to comment.
The first thing they did was sit me down in a dimly lit room with a lot of pillows and a bowl of tiny candies and a woman named Jessica, who was young and hip. I can tell she thought she was hip because she wore an open plaid button-up over her ‘God is Love’ t-shirt. Casual dress for a casual meeting.
My mom had made me put on my business pants and blouse, an outfit that she’d bought for ‘when I interview for a job’. Which is funny because she doesn’t want me to get a job yet because it might distract me from my schoolwork.
Jessica let me settle into my chair--which was plush and so close to the ground that my knees were nearly at eye-level--and asked me about school. I kept my answers short, but not too short that she needed to pry with more questions.
I tried to say as little as I could that first day.
On the second day--Sunday--they took us all to the morning service, and I tried to make eye contact with my parents the whole time. Dad smiled or waved William’s baby hands in my direction or made faces to make me laugh. Mom never looked over at me once.
That day I mostly cried.
By Sunday evening, I was ready to tell them anything they wanted to know. I just wanted to go home. I knew going into this that the retreat went through Monday, so I’d miss school, too. I wouldn’t be back home until late afternoon Monday at best.
So when Jessica sat me down again to talk, I did. I let myself tell her the truth, which felt good, because no one else I knew wanted to know the truth. No one but Henry, anyway. But Henry was so sure of himself, and I sometimes found it hard to be.
“And does calling yourself bisexual make you feel happier?” Jessica asked. She never batted an eye at anything, and never frowned. She just seemed content to let me speak.
So I said, “Yes. Sometimes.” She didn’t respond, which gave me time to think, which made me say more. “I like that I have something to call myself. I just don’t know if it’s the right thing sometimes.”
“What makes it feel not right?”
I fumbled for an answer, because I wasn’t sure. “It… it is right. But I… I don’t know.”
Jessica regarded me calmly and asked more questions. About my family. About who I’ve liked. About who I’ve told. About how they reacted. About who I hadn’t told. About how I feel. About why.
I answered as best as I can, and the more she talked, the more confused I became. If I hadn’t properly dated anyone yet, then how could I know? If telling my parents was supposed to make my feel better, then why did it make me feel worse? If this part of my identity was making me feel sad and guilty and shameful, then why cling to the label?
I wanted to go home, and I wanted her to stop, but I was too tired to object. She spoke calmly and confidently and repeated all the questions from in my head, but out loud. She nodded at my responses and never objected and pushed a box of tissues across the coffee table between us when I got too choked up to speak.
“I’m glad you shared all of that, Pearl. I think that’s enough talk for now. Why don’t you get some sleep? If you want to talk more before you leave, you can find me tomorrow morning.” Jessica patted my hand and gave me a little consoling smile.
I wished it felt comforting, but it didn’t.
And that night I’d woken up in the middle of the night to the sound of a clattering window frame. I’d recognized the long-legged figure standing over said window-frame as Amber, from my small group. She never talked, other than to whisper complaints and profanities when Mark and Abby weren’t listening.
She was beautiful and witty and wore clothes with holes in them. It looked like she did them herself. So, of course, I sat up in bed. And when she started talking to me, I felt seen. I felt purely fuzzy-happy, and I knew girls were not supposed to feel that way around girls, but Amber didn’t care. She understood.
I whispered with her until the sky turned pink and she got so tired that she rolled up and fell asleep on my bed. I took my things across the room to her bed, and left her on mine, knowing that Abby wouldn’t be happy to find us together--though the thought of cuddling up to her was quite appealing. I slept in as late as they would let me. I didn’t go and find Jessica.
Trinity plucks a stray piece of fuzz off of her uniform blouse.
I shrug. “I met Amber on that first retreat. She’d been trying to sneak out a window at the time. She’s the first person that I felt understood me, other than Henry. But it’s different with Henry. He’s great, but he does remind me of you sometimes.”
I crack a smile when I see Trinity make a face. She clearly objects. “But he’s just, like, one of the football guys. And he’s usually walking around like he hasn’t got a care in the world, like everything’s so chill. Does that sound like me?”
I bark out a laugh, which makes her laugh quietly back, which makes me grin. “You’re right,” I say through giggles. “Those things aren’t like you. But, seriously, he worries about things. He just pretends not to, because that’s how he fits in.”
Trinity doesn’t look convinced, so I roll my eyes. “That’s not the point. The point is that Amber doesn’t worry. About anything.”
“I can tell,” mutters Trinity.
I suck my bottom lip, thinking. “But it was wonderful that she talked to me. At the time. She made me feel less alone, especially in a place like YRJ. I think I would have gone insane without her.”
Trinity looks strangely sad. “You’re not alone,” she tells me quietly. Her tone becomes more forceful. “You never were. The two of us--there doesn’t have to be anyone else--we’ll always be together. Best friends. No matter what.”
I want to give her a hug, so I sit on my hands and grin at her, hoping she can’t tell that my eyes are glassy.
Sometimes I wish I was more like her--that I could be so kind and effortlessly myself and easily likable. I swear there’s not a single person at Saint Paul’s that would say a bad word about her--what would there be to say? It feels like everyone has been her friend since childhood, and I still feel like the new kid. She’s going to Maggie’s birthday party and flirting with Nicholas Kelly and being saved from forgetting her part in presentations by John Richardson.
I hate it when I’m jealous of her. But that doesn’t matter now, because it’s so perfect to hear her say those words. Best friends. No matter what. As cheesy as they are, I repeat them back to her.
She smiles, then nudges me with a finger. “So, why are you upset at Amber?”
I don’t want to say, but I also do. I haven’t actually even told Henry yet, because he has his own drama with Jackson and his family and his football friends and apparently his ex, Katherine.
I stare into my carpet and admit, “I kissed her.”
(first part: https://theprose.com/post/432343/trinity)
(previous part: https://theprose.com/post/443889/trinity-19)
(next part: https://theprose.com/post/445706/trinity-21)