But She Hates Me…

But She Hates Me…

Rose

“Mum, I don’t want to meet your new boyfriend,” I complained, dropping my schoolbag by the front door.

“Well, honey, that’s too bad. We’re having dinner with him tonight.”

“Ugh, you could have given me a bit more notice,” I told her.

“If I did that, you’d have made sure you had plans,” she pointed out. She knew me annoyingly well sometimes.

“I still have a couple of hours,” I threatened.

“You’re coming, Rose,” she said sternly. “Besides, he said he’s bringing his daughter, so if you don’t come, you’ll be leaving her alone with us.”

“Oh come on, now I have to babysit some stupid kid?”

“Actually, Georgia is one year older than you,” she told me. “Who knows? Maybe you two will get along.”

I rolled my eyes, not bothering to continue the conversation. She’d clearly already made up her mind, which meant there was absolutely no point in arguing with her.

Well, maybe it wouldn’t be that bad. I mean, I had no interest in meeting whatever bland, boring dude she was hooking up with lately, or his random teenage daughter. I did have an interest in good food though, and Mum always chose decent restaurants for this kind of thing.

A few hours later, we arrived at the restaurant, Mum practically buzzing with nervous energy. She must have really liked this guy to be so worried about this going well. I owed it to her to at least not make it worse for her.

“You know, there are colours other than black,” she said as we got out of the car, her gaze once again rolling disapprovingly across my outfit.

“Crap, you’re right,” I said dryly. “I’ll just dash home and get changed. You go on ahead.”

“I’m just saying-“

“Yeah, yeah. Come on, let’s go so you can introduce me to this stud of yours.”

We entered the restaurant together, and the waiter guided us to our table. Waiting for us was a middle-aged man, who I had to admit was a little handsome, in a scruffy sort of way, and a girl just a little older than me who was, frankly, kind of a knockout.

Honestly, she was kind of ridiculous. She was tall, athletic, long blonde hair, bright blue eyes, fair skin, the works. She was wearing designer brand clothes and make-up that could have been applied by a professional beautician. She looked like she’d just stepped off the set of some Hollywood movie.

I could already tell we weren’t going to get along. Girls like her just plain don’t get along with girls like me. I’m quiet, short, a little chubby, I wear glasses and I’m mostly interested in comic books and video games. Not exactly a poster child for femininity.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty happy with the way that I am. It’s usually girls like her who have a problem with it, and years of high school have taught me the survival skills necessary to deal with that; total avoidance.

The man stood to greet us as we arrived; the girl did not. Actually, she barely even looked up to acknowledge us.

“Rose, this is Paul,” Mum said, smiling nervously. “Paul, this is my daughter, Rose.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Rose,” he said, a lot less nervously, though he did seem a little unsteady. It was then that I noticed the cane hanging off the back of his chair. “This is Georgia, my daughter. Georgia, meet Tina and Rose.”

Georgia glanced up at us, making eye contact for less than a second before looking away again. So that was how it was going to be, then? Well, I could work with that.

The three of us that were standing took our seats, and Mum and I pored over the menus, trying to decide what to order. A few minutes later, the waiter came ask what we wanted. Paul ordered for himself and for Georgia, who hadn’t even said anything to him. What a princess.

“So, Rose, tell me a bit about yourself,” Paul said, trying a little too hard to be friendly. “What sort of things are you into?”

I glanced over at Georgia, who just sort of glared at me before looking away. No danger of lowering her opinion of me any further, then. That made things easier.

“A lot of science fiction, lately,” I told him, not really interested in talking.

“Oh? Anything good?” he asked politely.

“Hmm. I’m reading a book about a time traveller who gets captured by scientists,” I said. “Oh, and I’m really enjoying this comic book series about these kids who are all secretly aliens, only they don’t realise it.”

“She won’t stop playing some horrible video game, either,” Mum chimed in. “She just sits in front of the computer for hours, shooting aliens or people or something.”

“Hey, it’s better writing than your damn TV dramas,” I rebutted. Paul laughed.

“I was a bit of a gamer myself, when I was your age,” he said. “Of course, back then all we only had eight bit graphics and two buttons, but we made do.”

“Some of those games are classics,” I said, a little begrudgingly.

I looked over at Georgia, curious to see how she was reacting to all this. I expected to see her either on her phone or just looking down at me, but she seemed strangely focused on what I was saying, at least until she noticed me looking at her. Then she went back to glaring and looking pointedly in the other direction.

The rest of the meal passed relatively painlessly. Georgia didn’t say a word, but that didn’t surprise me. Paul and Mum mostly talked amongst themselves, though they did try and include me from time to time. Interestingly, neither of them tried to bring Georgia into the conversation. Maybe her anti-social vibes were obvious to them, as well.

All in all, it wasn’t a terrible experience. A little uncomfortable and very boring, but nothing I couldn’t deal with once in a while to keep Mum happy.

We said our goodbyes, and parted ways for the night. Mum was grinning like an idiot the whole drive home, and I didn’t have it in me to burst her bubble. It was nice to see her happy, anyway.

“So, what did you think?” she asked as we were pulling into our driveway.

“A little over-priced, but the service was good,” I said, teasing her.

“You know what I meant,” she said.

“He seems nice. You know, in that completely dull way that you like,” I told her.

“Hey, when you get to my age, dull is good. I’ve had enough drama to last a lifetime.”

“Fair enough,” I said. “Well, I’ve done my good deed for the month. I’ll let you know when I’ve decided how you’re going to pay me back.”

* * *

It was a couple of months before Mum dragged me out to see Paul again. Just like the last time, she sprung it on me last minute, when she knew I didn’t have anything else planned, and I had no choice but to go along.

I was in a particularly bad mood that night. I’d just had a fight with one of my best friends, after she blew off plans we’d made months ago to hang out with a guy she was into. We were going to go see the midnight release of a new superhero movie, something we’d both been excited about for ages, but when I asked her why she wasn’t going to go, she just told me it was more of a guy thing anyway, so she was going to go another time with him.

I was determined not to take it out on Mum, though. It was clear she really liked Paul, and I didn’t want to be the one to ruin that for her. Plus, whenever she saw him she actually came home in a good mood, which was a big step up from most of the guys she dated.

Then, as we pulled up to the restaurant, Mum got a message from him. She read it, smiled, and turned to me.

“Oh good, it looks like Georgia is going to be there after all. Paul said she had some other commitment, but she must have gotten out of it.”

Right, she cancelled other plans to hang out with her dad’s girlfriend. Sure she did. More than likely, her other plans fell through and she didn’t want to have to cook for herself.

If I’d known sooner that Georgia was going to be there, I’d have tried harder to get out of it. Given the mood I was in, she was the last person I wanted to see.

“Ugh, seriously?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Mum demanded, irritated.

“Oh, come on,” I complained. “You saw her last time. She’s just an airhead with a bad attitude, and I really don’t want to sit through another meal with her looking down her nose at me.”

“Rose!”

“What? You know I hate girls like her. At least at school, I can avoid them.”

There was a shuffling sound behind us, and the sound of something that sounded like a stack of paper being dropped to the ground. Then, a man’s voice called out.

“Georgia!”

Mum and I turned to see Paul standing there, leaning on his cane, his torso twisted around so that he could look behind him. I could see the silhouette of Georgia running off, down the street, and I winced.

Crap, she must have heard me. I felt awful; I hadn’t meant for her to actually hear any of that. I was just blowing off steam!

Mum took off after her, being in a much better position to give chase than Paul was. He smiled gratefully at her, then struggled to bend down and pick up the bag that Georgia had dropped.

Feeling guilty, I rushed over and helped him pick it up. To my surprise, it contained a couple of paperback novels, the next couple in the series that I was reading, and a few issues of the comic that I’d mentioned last time. What on earth was she doing with them?

“She’s not like that, you know,” Paul said, surprisingly calm.

“I feel really bad. I had no idea you were right there,” I told him.

“I know,” he said. “So does she. It’s kind of a sore spot for her, though.”

“What do you mean?”

“Georgia was excited to see you again today. Actually, she’s been bugging me to organise it ever since the last time, and she was devastated when she thought she wasn’t going to be able to make it tonight.”

That didn’t sound right. She’d spent the entire night last time alternating between glaring at me and ignoring me. We hadn’t spoken a single word to one another.

“That’s not the impression I got last time,” I said.

“Ah. I guess your mum didn’t tell you, then?”

“Tell me what?”

“Georgia’s had a pretty tough time at school since her mum died,” he explained. “She suffers from social anxiety, and has a lot of trouble making friends.”

“Seriously? She looks like she should be head cheerleader, not a social pariah.”

Paul smiled sadly, and pulled his wallet out of his jacket pocket. He fished out a photo, and handed it to me.

“That was her a couple of years ago,” he said.

The photo didn’t look a thing like her. She was overweight, her hair was messy, her face was covered in acne, her eyes were even a different colour.

“Wow,” I said. “The last couple of years have been good to her.”

“Around the time that photo was taken, she would come home from school most days in tears, complaining that everybody hated her and that she was ugly and useless. I thought it was just teenage angst, but she just kept getting worse, and I didn’t know what to do. Then, about a year ago, she tried to kill herself.”

“Fuck,” I said.

“Thankfully, she survived, and without any lasting damage. But after that, she decided she didn’t like the way that she was any more. So she worked hard to lose weight, and to learn everything she could about fashion, and makeup, and hair. We moved her to a new school, but despite everything, she still wasn’t able to fit in.”

“What, even looking like that?”

If she went to my school, and she showed up looking as good as she did, the cabal of beautiful girls would have swept her up and turned her into one of their own within a week. I’d seen it happen more than once.

“She really doesn’t cope well with people,” he said. “She gets anxious, overthinks things, panics when she doesn’t know what to say, she’s convinced she doesn’t fit in, no matter what she does, and no matter what people say.”

“Shouldn’t she be seeing a therapist, then?” I asked.

“She is. And she’s working hard to improve that side of herself, as well. It’s still hard for her, though. She doesn’t know how to connect with people.”

“She should try not glaring,” I offered, but I really did feel bad for her, and terrible about what I’d said. I was definitely going to apologise when I saw her.

“It’s funny you should mention that,” he said. “She’s been practicing in front of a mirror. She was determined to actually talk to you this time, you know. She even went out and read everything that you mentioned last time, so she would have something to talk to you about.”

Well, that explained the bag of books. But why would she try so hard for someone she hardly knew?

“That’s a little…”

“Creepy?” she said, surprising me. Her voice was unexpectedly soft and quiet.

“Whoa! Where did you come from?” I asked.

“Your mum brought me back. Um, I’m sorry for running away.”

“Eh? No, I’m the one who should be sorry. I really shouldn’t have said those things, that was awful of me.”

“Alright, we’re going to go head into the restaurant now,” Mum said. “You two come join us when you’re ready.”

Georgia nodded shyly at her, and I followed suite. Mum and Paul disappeared inside, leaving me outside with Georgia.

“Seriously, I’m really sorry,” I told her, wondering what else I could say.

“It’s okay,” she said. “Your mum said you were having a bad day. And I was really rude to you last time. I-I wanted to apologise today, but all I did was run away.”

“No, I just misinterpreted! Actually, I didn’t even really give you a chance. When I saw you, and how pretty you are, I just assumed that, you know, you were one of those popular, snobby girls.”

“I’m not popular,” she said.

“Yeah, your dad said you’ve been having trouble at school,” I told her. “That really sucks. I’m sorry. Fucking high school girls, right?”

She laughed; a cute, short, sincere sounding laugh that seemed totally at odds with her appearance.

“Right.”

“Oh, and I didn’t think it was creepy. With the books, I mean. Actually, I thought it was kind of sweet.”

She turned a bright shade of red.

“R-really?”

“So, what did you think of them?” I asked, genuinely curious. I mean, even if she didn’t like them, it was nice to know someone else that had read something that I had.

“I’ve never really read science fiction before,” she said. “There’s a lot to take in. But, I really liked that. It was like… it wasn’t just a story, it was a whole world.”

“Yeah, that’s usually what I like about it, too,” I said, surprisingly happy. “I probably wouldn’t recommend reading more, though.”

“Eh? Why not?” she asked, sounding disappointed.

“Well, the stuff I’m into is pretty geeky. That’s not usually great for making friends, especially for girls.”

“Oh,” she said flatly. “Um, but if I did read more of it, do you think that, um, we could, you know…”

“Be friends?” I asked.

“Y-yeah,” she said, blushing.

“I don’t think that’s such a good idea,” I told her.

“Oh.”

“You shouldn’t force yourself to like something just so you can be friends with someone,” I said. “We can be friends anyway, so just like the stuff you wanna like, okay?”

“Really? We can?”

There was something that just felt horribly wrong about a girl as pretty as her being so excited by the notion of being friends with someone like me. That just wasn’t how girls our age worked. Not in my experience, anyway.

“Sure. I mean, we’re probably gonna be seeing a fair amount of each other anyway, right? So wouldn’t it be a lot easier if we were friends?”

“Oh yeah,” she said, a little flat again. “You’re right.”

“Hey, I didn’t mean it like that,” I told her. “I genuinely want to be your friend. I’m just happy we’re gonna have more excuses to see each other.”

She smiled happily, almost like a kid. It was going to be really difficult to keep myself from being jealous of how dazzling she was.

“Um, I really did like those books,” she said. “Do you think you could tell me about more like them?”

“I’ll do you one better,” I promised. “I have a pretty sizeable collection, why don’t you just borrow some?”

“Can I?”

“I offered, didn’t I? Why don’t we arrange a time for you to come over, and you can borrow whatever you like?” I suggested.

“I’d really like that!” she said happily.

“Great, well, let’s head back inside for now. I’m getting hungry, and our parents are probably waiting for us.”

“Oh crap, I totally forgot about that,” she said, embarrassed.

* * *

After that, we found ourselves spending a lot of time together, which thrilled our parents no end, because it gave them a lot more opportunities to spend time together. Georgia latched onto all of my geeky interests like they were oxygen and she was drowning, and the two of us even ended up going to that midnight showing my other friend bailed on.

I actually really enjoyed spending time with her, and not just because we got to talk about all the nerdy stuff nobody else was interested in. She was fun to hang out with, and to play games with, and to just generally talk to.

“I don’t get it,” she said to me one day, apropos of nothing.

“Get what?” I asked, putting down the book I was reading. When I met her eye, she turned red and averted her gaze.

“Um, never mind,” she mumbled.

“Uh-uh, out with it.”

“N-no, it’s just…” she looked back up at me, hesitantly. “Why do you dress that way?”

I frowned. “Do you not like the way I dress?”

“No, I love it!” she said, a little too forcefully. She cringed, then tried again. “I really like the way you dress. I just don’t know why you dress like you do.”

“Because I like it?” I said, a little confused.

Georgia shook her head, looking a little distressed. “I’m sorry, I d-don’t…”

“Hey, relax. Breathe. I promise I won’t get upset or anything.”

She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, and I knew she was silently counting to ten. It was a simple trick her therapist had taught her.

“Better?” I asked, and she nodded.

“My dad told you about my… history, right?” she asked, and I nodded, allowing her to continue. “I worked really hard to look like, like the popular girls do. B-but I’m still not very good at talking, or… I’m not confident like you are,” she blurted out.

“Oh!” I said, finally understanding. “You want to know why I don’t try to fit in with the popular kids.”

“You’re good at talking to people. You’d be able to be popular if you wanted to.”

“I’m… not exactly a good fit,” I said, shaking my head.

“Why not?” she asked. “You’re pretty and you’re confident and good at talking to people.”

I shrugged. “I don’t like the things that they like. And they don’t like the things that I like. And since they don’t like they way I look, and I don’t want to look like them… I like being myself better.”

“You don’t get teased?” she asked, incredulous.

“Oh, sometimes,” I admitted. “It’s high school, after all. But…” I hesitated, wondering if I should tell her.

“But?”

“I’ve tried fitting in,” I told her. “I did a lot of things because I thought that was what I was supposed to do. And yeah, nobody picked on me, but I was kind of miserable. Scratch that, I was completely miserable. One day it just became too much, and I walked away.”

“I wish I could be happy with who I am,” she said sadly.

“Me too,” I said. “You’re a really sweet girl, and you’re a lot of fun to hang out with. You deserve to be happy about that.”

She didn’t say anything else after that.

* * *

When her birthday came around, about four months after we’d started hanging out, I decided to surprise her. I took the bus to her house after school, and let myself in using the key they kept hidden under the doormat. Paul wouldn’t be home, but I knew that she would.

I approached her door as quietly as I could, hoping to surprise her. I stopped just outside her door, listening to make sure she was actually in there before I tried to burst in on an empty room.

I could definitely hear her voice, though it was a little muffled. Was she having a conversation? It was only her voice that I could hear, but maybe she was on the phone? If she’d made another friend, that was great, though I had to admit, it did make me feel a little jealous.

Then I heard her say my name, quite clearly. Was she talking about me? Actually, if she was, I’d be pretty happy about that. Also, the perfect time to open the door and surprise her.

I twisted the handle and threw open the door, sucking in air to yell ‘Surprise!’ as I did, but the word never made it out of my mouth.

Georgia was lying stretched out on top of her bed, completely naked, one hand between her legs. There was absolutely no confusing what she was doing.

I’d just walked in on her masturbating. That had to rank just slightly below the time that my mum had walked in on me masturbating on my list of the most awkward moments of my life.

She froze the second the door opened, a look of horror on her face as she stared at me, and I tried and failed not to stare back. Neither of us moved or said anything for several seconds, until she frantically threw her bed sheets over herself, burying herself completely.

“Fuck me, I am so sorry,” I said, backing out and shutting the door again. My face felt like it was going to burn all the way off.

I slumped against the wall opposite her door, trying to get the image out of my head. Then it occurred to me that I had definitely, very clearly head my name just before opening the door. If that’s what she was doing, did that mean…?

No, there was no way. I mean, no one actually does that, do they? Call out somebody’s name while fantasizing about them and masturbating?

Several minutes later, the door opened, very slowly. Georgia stuck her head out, her face still completely red, saw me, and jumped a little.

“I am really, really sorry,” I said. “I should have knocked, or-“

“Did you hear?” she asked, cutting me off. It wasn’t like her to be so forceful.

“Hear what?” I asked, even though I knew exactly what she meant. I figured it was kinder to her to pretend that I hadn’t heard anything.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “You must think I’m disgusting.”

“What, for masturbating? Nah, I do that all the time. Nothing wrong with it, I promise,” I said, desperate to steer the conversation away from what I’d heard.

“N-not that,” she said, but she turned even more red anyway. “I meant, for thinking about you, while I…”

She didn’t seem able to finish that sentence, for which I was eternally grateful. I was just about ready to die from embarrassment. She obviously wasn’t going to believe I hadn’t heard her, or even let us pretend that I hadn’t.

“I don’t think you’re disgusting,” I said gently, and I meant it. Honestly, the idea hadn’t bothered me at all. “Just because you thought about me one time, doesn’t mean-“

“It wasn’t just one time,” she said, staring intently at the floor between us. “I-it’s every time. I can’t… I can’t help myself. I keep thinking about you like that, and I don’t know how to stop myself.”

“Since… since when?” I asked, trying to swallow the lump that was forming in my throat.

“Since the first time we met,” she said, and she almost sounded like she was in pain. “I try to stop myself, but I can’t. I can’t get you out of my head, and whenever I think about you, I start to feel like…”

“This is the real reason you were bullied, isn’t it?” I asked, the realization suddenly dawning on me. She nodded, tears welling up in her eyes. “So, you’re gay?”

“I don’t know. I like girls. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.”

“Hey, you weren’t obligated to tell me anything,” I said soothingly. She looked like she was about to break.

“I tried to hide it,” she said, her voice trembling. “I tried to make it go away, but I can’t. And then I met you, and I knew, straight away. That night, I felt so, so… I was so upset with myself, but you were so interesting, and I couldn’t stop myself from liking you…”

I felt so much pity for her, this poor girl who hated herself so much. It broke my heart to see her in so much pain.

“Why are you telling me now?” I asked.

“Because it hurts,” she said, tears welling up in her eyes again. “Knowing that I can’t be with you, knowing that there’s something wrong with me for wanting to be with you, all of it. I can’t do it anymore. I just… can’t.”

My eyes narrowed. “Wait, what do you mean you can’t do it anymore?” I was suddenly terrified that she was thinking of doing something dangerous. It wouldn’t be the first time she’d tried to kill herself, after all.

“I’m not that person anymore,” she said, as if she’d read my mind. “I won’t do anything like that ever again. But I also can’t be close to you anymore, either. Please, if you can’t return my feelings, don’t keep being my friend.”

“Are you serious?” I asked, my heart thudding against my chest. I couldn’t believe any of this was happening.

“I’m serious,” she said.

My mind was racing. I wanted to help her, to be there for her. I didn’t want her to go through everything she was dealing with alone. More selfishly, I didn’t want to lose her as a friend.

There was no way I could give her what she wanted, though. She might have been gay, but I sure as hell wasn’t, and if being around her was going to cause her more pain…

No, I couldn’t do that to her. I couldn’t be that selfish.

“I’m really sorry, then. I just don’t feel that way about you. I’m sorry.”

I tried to ignore the tears streaming down her face as I forced myself to stand up again. I needed to leave. I needed to be as far away from her as I could be while I tried to work out exactly what I was supposed to do about all of this.

Without turning back to look at her, I left. My head was reeling, and my chest ached. It was so hard to see her like that, and harder still to leave her that way, but what else could I do? It was what she wanted.

I wished that I could return her feelings, I really did. It would have been so much easier, and I wouldn’t have had to hurt her. There are some feelings you just can’t force, though.

* * *

I didn’t see her again after that. Our parents must have suspected something, because Mum never mentioned it to me, or gave me a hard time about bailing any time she wanted us to go over to Paul’s place. Whenever Paul came to us, Georgia wasn’t with him, but he never said anything about it to me.

I actually found myself quite liking Paul, too. He and Mum were good for each other, and I had to admit, he made for good company. I enjoyed talking to him whenever he was over, which only made things harder.

I missed Georgia. I’d gotten so used to having her around, it was difficult to adjust to life without her again. None of my other friends felt quite as fun to be around, and I never felt like spending as much time with them as I had with her.

Even though I knew she wouldn’t, I kept waiting for her to call. I think I was hoping she’d change her mind, and decide she still wanted to be friends. Or maybe she’d get over her infatuation, and it wouldn’t be hard for her to still be friends with me.

Actually, when I thought about it, I liked the way she felt about me. It definitely didn’t bother me; in fact, it kind of made me like her more. Maybe it was stupid, but I liked the idea of feeling… wanted.

Weirdly, the last time I’d been in the same situation, I had felt uncomfortable. Well, it wasn’t exactly the same situation, and I hadn’t exactly reacted the same way…

Memories splashed across the back of my mind’s eye, and all of a sudden, I felt sick to my stomach. No, no, no. I did not want to remember that.

* * *

I hadn’t told Georgia the whole truth when she’d asked me about fitting in. I couldn’t. If she’d known what I’d done, how far I’d gone…

Despite the way I acted, I hadn’t always had an easy time being myself. A bit over a year ago, I’d done the exact same thing Georgia had. I’d remade myself in a desperate attempt to fit in, and just like she’d guessed about me, I’d managed to fit right in.

Unfortunately, you don’t fit in just by looking and acting a certain way. That was just your way in. In order to stay in, you had to do the same things they did, and you had to want to do them.

So I did. I drank too much, I stayed out too late, I went to parties where I didn’t know anyone. And in my own way, I did enjoy it. Not the activities themselves, but I liked being part of a group, the feeling of security, the feeling of fitting in.

Then came the pressure to date. I wasn’t particularly interested, but I wasn’t opposed to it, so once again, I went with the flow.

There was a guy, Daniel. He obviously liked me, and I… well, I thought I liked him. Mostly I think I just liked the attention. And I enjoyed his company.

What I didn’t enjoy were his advances. The more time we spent together, the pushier he became. He wanted us to do things, things I definitely didn’t want to do. Things that, if I continued to not do them, meant he would no longer be interested in me.

Which would have been fine, except I got the distinct impression that if I lost his interest, I would lose the interest of the entire group. At the time, that would have been worse. So one night, I got drunk, more drunk than I’d ever been before, and we…

It was, without a doubt, the worst night of my life. I hated him after that night. I hadn’t technically said no, but I’d never said yes, and there was no way he couldn’t tell that I wasn’t enjoying it. He didn’t care.

The next day, I walked away. In every way I could think of. I dyed my hair, dressed in black, stayed as far away from the entire group as I could. I didn’t talk to them, didn’t even make eye contact.

The worst part was, none of them cared. None of them tried to talk to me, tried to ask me if anything was wrong, asked me what had happened.

After that, I mostly avoided people. I made some new friends, a few guys amongst them. Despite my fuck-off attitude, a few people still seemed to enjoy my company.

One of the guys, Ren, was the second guy to take a liking to me. It took me the better part of a month to pick up on it, and even then only because he told me. I politely turned him down, and that was the end of that, but from then on, I was a little uncomfortable around him. I didn’t like it when he stared at me when he thought I wasn’t looking, or the way he would always seek me out in group situations.

I’d say we drifted apart after that, but what actually happened was that I drifted away from him. I didn’t want to be around him.

So, wild mental detour over with, it brought me back to the same question I’d been asking myself before; why didn’t it bother me that Georgia felt that way about me? Was it because she was another girl? Why would that have made a difference?

Out of curiosity, I found myself looking up lesbian porn online. I knew what a guy would want to do, if he felt that way about me. I had no idea what a girl would want to do.

To be honest, I’ve never particularly enjoyed porn. Other people having sex did not particularly do it for me. When I masturbated, I liked to focus on myself, and the sensations I was feeling, not what other people were doing.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I found myself not only enjoying watching two women have sex, but actually getting turned on. Whatever I’d been imagining lesbian sex to look like before, it definitely wasn’t this.

Almost subconsciously, my hand drifted between my legs, and then, unbidden, the image of Georgia, completely naked, appeared in the forefront of my mind. I was so surprised, I nearly fell out of my chair.

My face burned bright red as my imagination continued to run rampant. I hurriedly closed the browser, shutting off the porn. The feelings did not subside. The images did not go away.

Once again, my mind was reeling. Two things were becoming blatantly obvious to me. One, I probably was not as straight as I thought I was. That didn’t bother me. The other thing, though…

Realisation number two was that I had very badly misinterpreted my feelings for Georgia. Even if I hadn’t known it at the time, there was a reason I craved her company more than anyone else’s, why I’d felt drawn to her, why it hadn’t bothered me when I’d learned she was attracted to me.

That realisation was not so comfortable. Not that I didn’t like that I was attracted to her, but with the way that things had gone, I didn’t quite know what to do next. What was I supposed to do, march up to her house and tell her I’d changed my mind?

Wait, why was I suddenly so sure of my feelings? Literally five minutes ago I hadn’t even considered the possibility.

I knew that was how I felt, though. I’d probably been feeling that way for a while without realising it. Or maybe that was just something I needed to believe so I wouldn’t second-guess myself.

Whatever the case, it didn’t really matter. What mattered was what I did about it next. It was crystal clear what I wanted. I just had to figure out how to make it happen.

* * *

“What do you mean, you’re getting married?” I demanded. It was the very next day, and I’d spent the entire night planning on visiting Georgia after school, and telling her my feelings had changed.

“Exactly what it sounds like,” Mum said. “Paul and I have decided to get married. Is there something wrong with that?”

Well, that would make Georgia my sister, which made what I did last night more than a little creepy. Not that I could tell her that.

“No!” I said, a little more forcefully than I’d intended. “I just… I guess I hadn’t really thought about the possibility, that’s all.”

“Well, it’s happening. Which means you and I need to have a talk.”

“A… talk?”

“About Georgia,” she said, and I felt the colour drain from my face.

“Wh-what about her?” I asked.

“I know something happened between you,” she said. “You were getting along so well, and then you just stopped seeing each other. What happened?”

Oh god, what was I supposed to tell her? I found out she was attracted to me and she freaked out and stopped speaking to me?

“I don’t really know,” I lied. “We just…”

“Paul told me you went to see her on her birthday, and that she did something to make you really upset. I didn’t push the issue, because it seemed like you didn’t want to talk about it, but things are different now.”

“No kidding,” I said.

“So, what happened?”

“A stupid fight,” I told her. “She wanted to do one thing, I wanted to do something else. It just got blown out of proportion, that’s all.”

“That’s all?”

“That’s really all,” I said sternly.

“Well, you might want to try making up with her,” Mum said. “If you’re going to fight like sisters, you should forgive like sisters, too.”

Stop saying sisters, please. Don’t make this any weirder than it already is.

“Y-yeah. Actually, I was thinking of going to see her today, after school,” I said.

“That’s a good idea. You should do that. I’ll let Paul know you’re coming.”

“That’s okay,” I said. “I’ll just surprise her. It’s probably better that way.”

“If you say so,” she said, raising an eyebrow.

* * *

This time, I made sure to actually ring the doorbell. The last thing I wanted was a repeat of the last time I visited unannounced. After a few seconds, Georgia answered the door, looking surprised to see me.

“Rose?”

“Uh, hey,” I said awkwardly. “Um, we need to talk.”

“Now’s not really a good time,” she said, her eyes darting back towards her bedroom door.

“Please? It’s important,” I pleaded. She hesitated, then unlocked the door.

“Fine, come in. But we need to make this quick,” she insisted.

I stepped inside, and she closed the door behind me. Instinctively, I began to make my way towards her room, but she grabbed my arm.

“We can talk here,” she said.

“Eh? Um, okay. Your dad definitely isn’t home right now, is he?”

“He’s not home.”

“Okay. Okay. Um, I really don’t know where to start,” I said, suddenly nervous. Her eyes flitted to something behind me, and I twisted my head around to see what she was looking at.

A girl just a little older than Georgia was sticking her head out of Georgia’s bedroom, a concerned look on her face.

“Everything okay?” she asked. Then she noticed me looking at her. “Oh, hi. Are you Rose, by any chance?”

“Give us five minutes,” Georgia said to the girl, moving to block my view of her. “It’s nothing you need to worry about, I promise.”

“I guess it really was a bad time,” I said, feeling a bit stupid.

“Well, we both know timing isn’t really your strong suit,” she said, turning a little red.

“You have no idea,” I muttered. “Anyway, I should let you get back to your… company. I’m sorry to have interrupted you.”

“I thought you said it was important,” she said, her voice a little sharp.

“I thought it was.”

“But now you don’t? Why?” she asked, and without thinking, I glanced over at her door. “Because of her? Rose, if it’s really important, I can get her to come back another time.”

I shook my head. What was that nauseating feeling welling in at the back of my throat?

“It’s fine. I was just being stupid, and self-centred. I should really just go home now,” I said, feeling a little unsteady on my feet.

“Rose, you don’t look so well. Maybe you should come lie down.”

“No, I’ll be okay,” I insisted.

“I seriously doubt that,” she said. “Seriously, please just come lie down.”

“I don’t want to.”

“Why not?” she asked, confused.

“Because it’s weird,” I said.

“Huh? Weird how? You can lie down in my bed, and we can just go talk in a different room, it’s fine.”

“It’s not fine!” I snapped. “I don’t want to lie down while you and your girlfriend go hang out in another room.”

Ugh, I had not meant for that to slip out. I had no idea what I was doing, or what I wanted to do, or what I should do. All I knew was that it felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me, and it was all I could do not to land flat on my face.

“Girlfriend? What are you, an idiot?”

“She’s not your girlfriend?” I asked, still teetering.

“She’s my therapist,” Georgia said.

“Since when do therapists make house calls?”

“Since I’m seventeen and can’t drive anywhere on my own,” Georgia said. “Why did you think she was my girlfriend?”

“I don’t know,” I admitted. “I guess I just assumed the worst case scenario. You may remember that being another bad habit of mine.”

“So me having a girlfriend is a worst case scenario?”

I could feel myself turning red again. None of this had gone even a little bit how I’d planned. How was I supposed to recover from this?

“Um…” was all I could manage to say.

“You’re acting seriously weird, Rose. Look, wait here while I go reschedule with Suzy, and then we can sit down and talk about whatever it is that’s bothering you, okay?”

I just nodded mutely. She disappeared into her room, and emerged a few minutes later with the girl from before. Up close, she actually looked more like she was in her late twenties.

“Sorry to interrupt,” I said as she went out the front door.

“Well, normally I’d be annoyed,” she said. “But you’ve done more good for her than I have, so I guess I don’t really mind.”

Georgia practically pushed her out the door, shut it a little more forcefully than she needed to, then turned back to me, her face a little red.

“So,” she said.

“I was wrong,” I said, blushing furiously.

“Wrong about what? Are you sure you don’t need to lie down? You look a little flushed…”

“I was wrong about you. Or maybe me. I mean, I…”

“Rose?”

“I’m sorry I made you cry,” I said, still babbling. “I didn’t know how I felt. I didn’t understand how you felt, and I’m so sorry.”

What was wrong with me? I had the whole speech planned out in my head. I’d practiced it on the way over. Why couldn’t I get the words out now?

Georgia closed the distance between us, wrapping her arms around me. Her scent overwhelmed me, distracted me, and without thinking, I nuzzled into her shoulder.

Almost immediately, I felt calmer. Being so close to her was like a soothing balm. God, I’d missed her.

I realised she was just standing there, holding me and stroking my hair, waiting for me to be ready to talk. I stiffened, suddenly feeling self conscious, and she pulled away, a frightened look on her face.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean-“

“I was wrong,” I blurted out, cutting her off. I grabbed her wrist to keep her from moving further away.

“You said that before,” she said gently. “What do you mean?”

“I said…” I tried to swallow the massive lump that had formed in my throat. “I said that I don’t feel the same way about you. I was wrong.”

She froze, a look of confused fear spreading across her face. I saw her weight shift, and she took a step back, breaking my grip.

“Wh-what?”

“Georgia, I know this probably sounds unbelievable, but I like you. I care about you. I…” I couldn’t keep looking into her eyes. “I masturbated thinking about you,” I mumbled.

“Why are you telling me this?” she asked, mirroring my own question from the last time we’d spoken.

“Because I miss you. I hated not talking to you, I hate it when you’re not around. I just want you back in my life.”

She eyed me warily. “Rose, remember what you said to me the first night we spoke?”

“Huh?”

“You said that you shouldn’t force yourself to like something just to be friends with someone,” she said, sounding a little pained.

“It’s not like that,” I told her defensively.

“It’s what it sounds like,” she said, unusually assertively for her.

“Trust me, if it was just about that, I wouldn’t have needed to say anything,” I said bitterly.

“What do you mean?”

“Our parents are getting married,” I said, with the sort of tone that probably would have been more suited to announcing the beginning of a war.

The look on her face told me she understood what I was saying. Our parents getting married meant it would be impossible for us to avoid each other. If all I wanted was to see her again, I wouldn’t have needed to have say or do anything.

It also meant that we were one signed piece of paper away from legally being sisters. And I was quite certain our parents would in no way approve of what I wanted to do with my future step-sister.

“What do we do?” she asked, distantly.

“That depends,” I said carefully. “Do you… do you still feel the same way about me?”

She bit her lower lip, and blushed. That was all the answer I needed, but my chest still thumped when she said, “Of course.”

“Are you still comfortable with it?” I asked. “Even if we’re gonna be…” Sisters. I couldn’t bring myself to say it.

“What about you?” she asked, not answering the question.

I didn’t know how to answer her. Part of me wanted to shout that of course it was okay, that I didn’t care, but I couldn’t. It wasn’t that simple.

Obviously, I liked her. I liked her a lot, and I knew she felt the same way. Was that enough? Two people liking each other wasn’t a guarantee of anything. We’d never dated, never kissed, we hadn’t even spoken in weeks. That was a pretty shaky foundation under the circumstances, considering what we were risking.

I looked into her eyes, those staggering ice blue eyes that I now knew were coloured contacts. I’d never even seen her real eyes. In that moment, I understood.

“I don’t care,” I said, my voice trembling a little.

“You’re really serious,” she said, taking a step towards me.

“As a heart attack,” I confirmed, taking a step towards her.

She laughed, pushing me away gently. “That’s a horrible expression,” she said, turning a little red. I grabbed her hand gently.

“I know. Sorry,” I said, rubbing the back of her hand with my thumb.

“So what do we do?”

“We have to tell them,” I said, even as I felt my mouth turn dry. That was not a conversation I wanted to have.

“How?” she asked, and I didn’t have an answer for her.

The two of us stood there, eyes locked on one another, and I could feel the warmth radiating out from her hand. She bit her lip again, and when the movement attracted my gaze, it lingered on her lips.

I don’t know which one of us moved first. One second, we were both completely motionless, and the next we were pressed up against each other, my hands on her hips, hers locked behind my neck. A wave of desire washed over me as we kissed, desire that only intensified when a gentle moan escaped her lips.

She pushed me back against the wall, taking me completely by surprise. I happily melted into her, my hands sliding further down, squeezing her butt through her jeans.

A loud coughing sound behind her startled us and we leapt apart, both of us blushing furiously. Paul was standing in the middle of the hallway, the front door still swinging shut behind him.

“Dad!” Georgia squeaked, looking like a terrified puppy.

“I see you girls have finally made up,” he said, a twinkle of amusement in his eye.

“Um, hey, Paul,” I said, every bit as awkwardly as I felt.

“Rose,” he said, nodding in my direction.

“Sorry,” I mumbled. “Not exactly how we planned on letting you know.”

“Oh, there was a plan?” he asked, a hint of laughter in his voice. “I would love to know how that was going to go down.”

“It would have involved sock puppets,” I said, hoping desperately that his gentle tone wasn’t just to disguise his intent to murder me in my sleep.

“Well now I’m very sorry I missed it,” he said, smirking. “Not that I don’t enjoy walking in on my daughter making out with my future step-daughter.”

“Oh yeah, about that. I kind of already told Georgia about your wedding plans,” I apologised, since Georgia was clearly still not able to talk.

“I see that didn’t dull her enthusiasm at all,” he laughed.

Georgia fell back against the wall, her hands covering her face. I started to laugh, but it was cut short as a gut-wrenching sob emerged from behind her curtain of fingers.

Paul and I rushed to her side, and though I reached her first, I let Paul talk to her. She was his daughter, after all.

“Honey, it’s okay,” he said soothingly. “Don’t cry. Everything is okay.”

“I was so scared,” she said, shaking. “I thought you would hate me. I thought-“

“Oh honey, I could never hate you. Don’t ever think that.”

She sniffled, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. She looked up at her father, trembling slightly.

“You knew,” she said.

Paul nodded. “When I talked to the teachers at your old school about what was going on, they told me why you were being bullied.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

“I wanted you to be able to tell me on your own time,” he said gently. “I guess you still did, in a way.”

“I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you,” she whispered.

“You never needed to,” he told her. “It doesn’t change a thing. And as for the current situation…”

Georgia and I both froze, exchanging frightened glances before both turning to look back at Paul. His stern expression lasted only a few seconds before a grin burst out onto his face.

“I couldn’t be happier. You two couldn’t be better for each other.”

He pulled the two of us into an affectionate embrace. Georgia’s hand slipped into mine as we hugged him back.

* * *

“So the two of you have finally made up?” Mum asked, smiling at me as Georgia and I shuffled nervously into the kitchen.

“We talked it out,” I said carefully.

“I’m sensing a ‘but’,” Mum said, raising an eyebrow.

“Yeah, there’s a ‘but’,” I admitted. I cringed as she narrowed her eyes at me, and tried to shrink myself down. It didn’t work.

“Out with it,” she said, in that weird motherly tone that is at once stern and authoritative, and still loving and supportive.

I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t think of anything to say. How was I supposed to start this conversation? I kicked myself for not having rehearsed this one.

Georgia’s hand snaked into mine, and I jumped. Reflexively, I tried to pull it away, but her grip held firm, and when I regained my senses, I squeezed her hand just as tightly. A quick glance told me her face was just as red as mine.

Mum just folded her arms, and raised her eyebrow again. I cleared my throat.

“So, um… funny story. Turns out Georgia here is, well, gay. And the look on your face tells me you already knew that. Okay. I didn’t stop talking to her because I’m a homophobe, I swear.”

“I asked her for space,” Georgia chimed in, squeezing my hand supportively.

“And you know what they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder,” I continued. “And then I had a moment of realisation, and, well, Paul isn’t the only one with a gay daughter. Congratulations?”

Mum laughed. She actually laughed at me. Then she walked across the room, and hugged me, planting a big kiss on my cheek.

“There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?”

“You are not allowed to say you already knew,” I said, stunned.

She laughed again. “No, I didn’t already know. But I’m also not surprised.”

I ignored the implications behind that, mostly because I was already stressing out about the next part.

“There’s a part two,” I said, and Mum pulled back a little.

“Why do I get the feeling I’m not going to like this part?”

“Because you’re probably not. Mum, Georgia and I are dating. Or we want to. Please don’t freak out.”

She looked at me, then at Georgia, then at our hands, still entwined. She took another step back, away from us.

“Dating?”

“Um, yes?” I said, not quite sure what else to say.

“So, when I said Paul and I were getting married, and you needed to have a talk with Georgia, you interpreted that as ‘go and make out with your future step-sister’?”

“No, I decided I wanted to date someone I actually like spending time with, and who doesn’t make me feel pressured and uncomfortable. Then you told me you were marrying her dad, and I freaked out, and we talked about it, and decided together that we wanted to try it anyway.”

Mum’s gaze shifted to Georgia. I felt her flinch, but she met Mum’s gaze, and clenched her jaw.

“Georgia?”

“I r-really like Rose,” she stammered. “Since we first met. I knew I sh-shouldn’t, because of you and Dad, b-but I still…”

I leaned in towards her, bumping her shoulder gently with mine. She smiled shyly at me, and Mum frowned.

“Rose?”

“This is all very new to me,” I confessed. “I’m not really certain of anything. But this feels different, in a really good way.”

“Well, this isn’t exactly the way I’d expected things to happen,” Mum said, looking at us awkwardly. “Have you told Paul about this?”

Georgia and I looked at each other again, and just as our blushes had started to fade, that brought them back up centre stage.

“He kind of caught us,” I said.

“Caught you doing what?”

“Kissing in the hallway,” I said quickly, trying not to think about what else we could have been caught doing.

“And…”

“He seemed to think it was a good idea,” I said.

“Well, I’m not going to lie, this is going to be extremely awkward,” she said. “But I can see you’re serious about this. Just… don’t let me catch you in the act, okay?”

“You might want to get in the habit of knocking, then,” I said with a sly smirk. She playfully slapped my arm. Georgia kicked my leg.

END

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