Jared quickly became a good friend. In trying to distance myself from Gwen, and therefore losing time with Kelly in the process, I was realizing just how wrapped up in myself I’d been. My roommate and I were completely out of touch, my friends were distant and caught up in their own lives and problems, and they felt hurt that I didn’t talk to them at all during the past several months. I couldn’t blame them.
Jared was a fresh start – someone who hadn’t really known me before. He had no resentful feelings, wasn’t too concerned about labels or giving me a hard time about Gwen. In fact, he never brought her up. I loved that part best.
We worked together easily and when work ran late into the night we would grab donuts and sit on the hood of his car and talk for hours about this and that. We both loved astronomy and the old stories of the constellations, and would trade stories about one culture’s interpretation or another.
He kissed me occasionally, a kiss goodnight, and each one made me feel all at once less lonely and also the most lonely I’d ever been.
Kelly invited me to brunch one Saturday, and as Kelly tended to live off of cereal, I came over to the house to make her favorite dish. Kelly and I laughed around the stove as she poured orange juice into champagne flutes and set the table prettily. Her relationship with Trey was going well and she was light and bright and fun. I soaked her in, hoping to absorb some of her effervescent happiness, and let myself feel how much I’d missed her.
We talked and ate and giggled, and halfway through our meal, Gwen ambled down the stairs, still in her pajamas.
“Oh! Sorry! I didn’t know you were here,” I apologized. “We’ve been so loud. There’s plenty, would you like me to set you a place?”
Kelly snorted and I looked over at her. There was fire in her eyes. She hadn’t told me or Gwen on purpose. Kelly was very, very angry, and I wasn’t sure why.
“I can get it myself. Thank you, though, for offering,” Gwen said, though she looked at Kelly. Suddenly I felt tense and uncomfortable. It was clear Gwen didn’t want me here, or at least that she and Kelly were fighting and I was now some sort of pawn in their chess game.
Gwen sat down and began to serve herself. “So, you’ve been having a good morning?”
“Um, yes,” I mumbled, feeling like a small child. What the hell had I just gotten myself into?
“We were just talking about relationships. How’s yours going?” Kelly threw out boldly. I shot her a look.
“We weren’t and you don’t need to answer that,” I tried to assure Gwen, but she glared at me.
“No, I think we should. I heard you have a new boyfriend. Couldn’t even make it till graduation?” There was venom in her voice but I didn’t understand her question.
“I don’t have a boyfriend,” I tried to stay calm.
“I saw you kissing him the other night!” she shot back.
“Actually I hadn’t, but you just proved it,” she gloated.
“You don’t have any room to talk, Gwen. Why don’t you tell Tabby what’s been going on with you and Mandy?” Kelly interjected.
“Stay out of it, Kelly, that’s none of your business,” Gwen tried to shut her down but Kelly was filled with a ferocity I hadn’t seen in her before.
“I can hear you from my room! I can hear you guys fighting all the time! Three in the morning and I can’t sleep!”
I didn’t know they’d been fighting. I knew how much Mandy meant to Gwen. I could see the effects now, the sagging shoulders, the bags under her eyes – Gwen hadn’t been sleeping.
“Gwen, are you okay?” I reached out toward her but was careful not to touch her. She shoved me and I stumbled into the counter.
“Go play straight with your boyfriend,” Gwen shot at me. I felt wounded, I felt betrayed, I felt like I disappointed myself and her and a whole culture of lesbians.
“I don’t even like boys!” I cried out, “At least I know he doesn’t have a second girlfriend!”
With tears building behind my eyes, I slammed the door behind me. I pulled out my phone. Jared, can you come to my house? I need to talk to you.