The rest of the summer was spent in misery- not in genuine misery but the one that came with the thought of school looming in the distance like a giant cliff face on the beach. My parents came back from Spain looking tanned and relaxed. My ten year old sister was being led into the house by my excited mother dressed in a revealing top and black sunglasses perched on the bridge of her nose. Her curly blond hair hung past her shoulders.
“Honey! We’re home!” she said in her chirpy voice, dragging her suitcase and bags of clothes.
My dad walked in and shut the door; he was dragging home two more enormous suitcases, his face screwed up with the effort of dragging them around. He was red from sun exposure with white sunglasses marks around his eyes. His hair was dark brown and short, he used to be part of the military and had only retired a few months ago. He still had the crew cut and the firm stance of a man who spent half his lifetime giving orders. He used to love parading around the kitchen in his uniform. My mother used to love watching him at it and one irresponsible night led them to have my sister. Not that I was complaining. I loved the little ball of annoyance.
My little sister, Annie, was a girl filled to the brim with sarcasm and biting remarks. Her hair was brown and hung past her shoulders in a sleek, straight curtain. She was tall for her age and did dancing. My parents adored her, even if anything that came out of her mouth was criticism and random facts about something children her age shouldn’t be talking about. She came in with a disgruntled look on her face and made her way to her bedroom.
“How was the trip?” I asked lightly sitting at the counter in the kitchen, the dinner I had been trying to make was smoking in the stove and gave out an amazing herbal aroma. I spent an hour trying to cook it, half an hour trying to stop it from going on fire and another half hour trying to get rid of the burning smell. After my dad rang me to tell me that they were coming home, I ordered Chinese food to our house and sprayed the kitchen with an air freshener. I knew that Isabel would laugh at me if she knew about this incident; I could almost imagine the look of amusement on her face.
My mum walked to the pan eagerly and opened the lid, then went to wash her hands in disappointment, “The holiday was amazing!” she said, “You would’ve loved it! The Spanish men are styling!”
“Styling?” I asked her with a roll of my eyes, “Who says that?! Apart from Spanish men was there anything of interest?”
“Annie found herself a little boyfriend!” my mother thrilled just as Annie walked into the kitchen.
“No I didn’t!” sulked Annie, walking in and opening the pan of burning aroma, “Mum is lying! I don’t have a boyfriend.”
“He was always walking you back to the room,” insisted my mum fixing her with an adoring look, “Don’t you remember? And he kept insisting to say goodbye to you. Awh bless. I nearly melted.”
Annie muttered something unintelligible under her breath, her face burning scarlet, “What is this?” she demanded, pointing at the pan.
“Food,” I told her and got off the counter.
“It looks like a ball of shit…”
“Now Annie,” scolded my mum, “Don’t you be using that kind of language! Do you remember what Sister Mary said about people that swear?”
“They go to hell,” replied Annie with a roll of her eyes, then she turned back to me, “Is this meant to be our dinner?”
“Get your boyfriend to make your dinner,” I told her.
Annie’s face fell and she folded her hands, “Mum! Why did you tell her?”
I walked out of the kitchen to see my dad sniffing the air in the sitting room. He was gazing around the room suspiciously, inspecting every coffee table and mantelpiece. I knew what he was searching for.
“I wasn’t having a party,” I told him instantly.
He looked embarrassed for being caught and insisted that he trusted me enough to know that I wouldn’t have one anyway. That dinner I watched my family and tried to decide on whether or not they would accept me. I watched as my mum teased Annie and tried to teach her how to use the chopsticks. They talked to me about their holidays, describing their experiences in the water, a supposed shark warning that got them off the beach for a week. I barely answered but nodded, smile and occasionally laughed. Would they accept me? I wondered again, if I told them now would they look at me and smile and say they didn’t care? I was on the verge of doing so when my mum brought up another incident on their holidays.
“On the last day you wouldn’t believe what we had the misfortune of walking in on,” she said rolling her eyes,
“We were just rounding the corner to our hotel when we saw two women kissing! It’s disgraceful behavior, and in public too!”
“Wasn’t one of them the hotel worker?” inquired my dad frowning thoughtfully.
“Yeah her…! I thought it was I always knew there was something dodgy about her.”
I felt my heart sinking and stared miserably at my plate. Or maybe they wouldn’t accept me.
“Do your parents know you’re a lesbian?” I asked Isabel that same night.
Isabel had invited me for a movie night and we were sitting on a soft, dark couch in her empty apartment watching a shit romantic comedy. The jokes weren’t funny and we found ourselves talking through most of it.
Isabel shifted in her place and turned to look at me, “Yes,” she replied and smiled, “They do.”
“How did you tell them?”
She shrugged, “I don’t know really. I just told them, we were in the car and I said, “Mum, I’m into girls.”
“How did she react?”
Her face turned bitter and she shook her head, “I think it’s a tale for another day,” she murmured.
I felt my heart sinking, “They didn’t accept it did they?”
“Of course they didn’t,” replied Isabel in fake cheerfulness, “I wouldn’t tell your parents if I was you. Not now anyways, not while you’re unsure.”
“I am sure,” I said instantly and turned to look at her, “When I’m with you- I am definitely sure that I want this…”
“But when you’re away from me?” asked Isabel.
I felt the hesitation; if I was truthful I was unsure when she wasn’t around. I started to doubt all my feelings; I denied that this was permanent. I was pretty much sure that it was just a phase; the phase theory would blow away once I saw Isabel. When I would look upon her again all my doubts would wash away and I’d be left with a terrible longing to feel her arms around me, I’d feel relieved when she’d brush her hand against mine and safe when her eyes found mine. I didn’t want her to know how much I seriously cared about her. “When I’m away from you I’m confused,” I said honestly.
Isabel nodded and smiled, “It’s natural,” she replied, “You’re going through it…”
“I don’t want to go through it, I want to be sure,” I told her softly, and sighed, “I want to skip ahead to two months from now just to see what would happen!”
“Don’t we all,” Isabel took my hand in hers and brought it up to her lips, her eyes found mine as she kissed the palm of my hand, I felt butterflies filling my stomach, “There’s only one place I’d like to be two months from now,” she murmured, “With you, right here…”
I pulled her towards me and kissed her, savoring the feel of her lips against mine. I loved the little intake of breath she’d do before her lips would start dancing with mine, her arms circling my waist and pulling me closer. This felt right, I realized, nothing felt more right in the world.
We weren’t together but I wanted to be. I wanted her to be my girlfriend and know that I belonged to her and only her. I wanted her to belong to me and know that she wasn’t thinking about anyone else. I also realized that I couldn’t do this to her. What if I ended up going out with her and realized I didn’t like girls? What if two months from now I’d be in love with a guy? What if I realized it was just a phase. I didn’t want to hurt her like that. So I didn’t say anything that’ll get her hopes up. I just kissed her and let her hold me as we watched the end of the film laughing at the stupidity of it all.
At the end of the night she walked me home, her fingers tangled in mine and her voice filled my ears like
music. I insisted that we walk through a more covered walkway home, she didn’t argue but did as I asked.
She understood what I was going through and that made me respect and like her even more. When we stopped at the edge I moved in closer to her and whispered, “I’ll miss you.”
“I’ll be thinking of you,” she murmured back, her fingers tightening around mine.
“I’m hoping you will,” I said and smiled, “You beautiful monster.”
“Monster?” she asked, one side of her lips pulled up into a lopsided grin, “What gives me the honor?”
I kissed her softly, trying to tell myself that I had to go home quicker, but then I couldn’t walk away. Her arms wrapped around me and I was kissing her back fiercely, my fingers tangling in her hair.
“Isabel,” said a voice behind us and we both broke apart.
I felt my eyes widening in horror, who could it be? I turned away just as Isabel turned around. I glanced at her and saw that she was looking unaffected by the discovery.
“Luke,” she said, “What brings you here?”
I turned around and saw that it wasn’t anyone from the school but a dark haired stranger dressed in grey tracksuit and a hood. I couldn’t see his face; only see his outline in the distance as he held his hands in his pockets. She caught my hand and kissed me on the cheek, “I’ll see you whenever I’ll see you next,” she murmured, “See you.”
I said goodbye to her, feeling my heart soaring at the thought of seeing her again. I kept the picture of her smile in my head as I walked out of the walkway and into the bright light of my estate. On the way I turned around and saw her talking to the guy Luke. She had her back turned to me but I could see the tension in the set of her shoulders. She had her hand outstretched, he put something in her palm and she stuffed it in the pockets of her jeans. She put something else in his hand and then he was gone. What was going on? Who was he and what did he give her?
My heart sank just a tiny bit. What kind of secrets was she keeping away from me?