The day started off like any other. Lisa awoke with a little stir in her warm bed. When her eyes fluttered open she peered at her open curtains and saw darkness and stars through the window. It was early morning; the time she usually woke up at. She turned to her bedside coffee table to confirm it and she was right. Her alarm clock said 3.45 am. So Lisa climbed out of her bed, pulling the sheets off of her body, and stood upright in her navy blue sun and moon jammies. Her first instinct was to take a bath but it was early and her parents would most likely be in bed by now. She didn't want to wake Daphne and Richard anymore than they themselves wanted to be awoken. So she went to her desk and sat down by her computer. She did as she always did; logged on then connected to the internet. She checked her hotmail account, replied to any e-mails that had been sent her way, then busied herself by trawling through all the websites she liked to frequent.
That sequence of events took no more than forty minutes to complete. She was half-asleep in a way, everything about it just felt routine to her. But when the sleep finally drifted from her head she was left with the confusion that had burrowed its way into her head yesterday. She knew now that she was more confused than ever. On the one hand she had Dani -- the woman whom had taken her virginity, who opened her naive eyes to the very many pleasures of the flesh, the girl whose contemptuous overconfidence had sucked her in like metal to a magnet in a vacuum. And on the other she had Nicole. Nicole. So sweet and caring, her newest and only friend, the proverbial oasis in the proverbial desert. Lisa was lost between the two of them and she didn't even know it. What was worse was that she didn't know if she was reading into a calamity from a squall. With Dani she had the true dilemma. Part of her wanted to end things once and for all with her -- yet with Nicole she felt a burgeoning set of feelings that so far she'd been quite oblivious to. But that was in question too, because they made her feel guilty.
It wasn't some obnoxious delayed reaction to her sexuality, she knew that much. Lisa knew implicitly what her sexuality was and knew that she didn't have anything to be ashamed of, no matter what the bulk of humanity had to say about the issue. So that led her to the conclusion that her guilt stemmed from her current... thing with Dani. It wasn't a relationship. It wasn't a marriage. It wasn't a commitment. It was just sex; sex that Lisa rationally didn't want. So why did thinking about her attraction to Nicole make her feel so guilty? Why on earth did she feel like she was betraying Dani in some way? No matter how hard or how often she asked herself that question Lisa found no answers for herself. It was frustrating in so many ways. Lisa chastised herself for it all, just like she always did. But she knew she couldn't bury her head in the sand about it forever. This wasn't a problem that was going to go away.
If only she had a solution.
Lisa buried her face in her hands and whimpered. There were no tears, merely sobs of frustration and weakness and impotence that she resented in every way possible. If only she were half as strong as the women she were attracted to; she'd have no problem figuring out what to do. But apparently her current constitution denied her that underrated luxury. While she languished in that emotional quagmire, her pet kitten, Koenig, poked her little ginger head through the bedroom door. As if sensing Lisa's depression the cat padded in on quiet steps and headed for her desk. It 'meowed' before leaping into her owner's lap and nuzzling at the girl's stomach with surreptitious pokes of her head. When Lisa pulled her face from her small hands and snivelled, she saw the kitten's warmth.
It made her smile, if only a bit.
"Oh Koenig," she whispered, stroking her pet. "I wish I knew what to do. It can't go on like this. But I'm not really sure how I feel about either of them. I'm attracted to Dani and Nicole, but Dani's not right for me... is she? And Nicole... she's my only friend... I don't want to risk that. And even if I could... there's no way she'd be attracted to other girls, right? And even if she was a lesbian or at least bi... that doesn't mean she'd be interested in me, does it? Oh it all so confusing."
It truly was. Lisa couldn't think straight about any of it. She tried to distract herself from that point on by creeping downstairs and making herself a cup of coffee. She drank it there whilst making a point of replenishing Koenig's water dish. But that did nothing to take away from her problems. So Lisa distracted herself by doing what she had been meaning to do all week --- finishing every piece of incomplete schoolwork she'd left behind since first sleeping with Dani. She went back upstairs to her room and bulldozed through four essays, two assignments and one term paper, most of which wasn't due for weeks. It was unusual and by no means cathartic but by the end of her spell morning had hit and her parents were wide awake downstairs. What she was left with was a pile of freshly printed schoolwork that, without question, would provide her with a continued A-grade stretch. Despite all that Lisa didn't feel the slightest bit tired or lethargic. She merely went into the bathroom, had a bath, brushed her teeth, combed her hair, got changed into some other clothes (a pale burgundy blouse, black trousers and flat-soled shoes). Then she got her bag packed with all the books she'd need for school today. Nine minutes later she left her bedroom fully prepped and headed downstairs. It was the usual spiel with her parents -- Richard with his head in the morning paper and Daphne in the kitchen making coffee.
"Lisa," Her mom smiled as she approached the kitchen door. "Would you like something to eat? I've made pancakes."
The younger woman sighed. "No thanks, Mom. I'm fine."
"Come now, honey. I haven't seen you eat breakfast in days. Go sit at the table and I'll fetch you a plate."
She couldn't argue and she didn't expect herself to either. Lisa exhaled and shrugged the backpack off of her shoulders. Inside the dining her father sat reading the newspaper. There was a partially eaten croissant and a half empty cup of coffee waiting on the table beside him. Lisa took a seat by the opposing side of the table to wait for what her mom intended to bring her.
"Morning, Dad." she spoke softly.
Richard's reply as loving and eloquent as ever. "Good morning."
It didn't Daphne long though. She came into the dining room and set down a plate with a four-tier stack of syrup-drenched pancakes and an a mug of coffee to accompany it. Though she was kind of in a rush to get out of there Lisa didn't woof down anything; she ate with the same manners and grace she always did before finishing up and putting her plate and cup in the dirty disk rack. She said her goodbyes to her parents (once again asking her Mom to feed Koenig for her) then left and shut the door behind her. Given the 'routine' feeling of the day so far, perhaps it shouldn't have surprised her to see Dani's car waiting very patiently at the sidewalk for her. Whatever confusion that brought to the girl she ignored it only to run up and see what Dani was doing there.
The black-haired girl sat in the driver's seat of her car. She grinned when Lisa came up to the passenger's side window. "Hey, Lisa."
"...Dani..." The first thing she did, perhaps unconsciously, was look at Dani's face. The swelling of her bruise had gone down somewhat, her cut was still wasn't bleeding (although the bandage had been replaced) and her hair was no longer tousled. Whatever happened to Dani before hadn't happened again last night or this morning. That was something of a relief although Lisa wasn't exactly busting with joy at the prospect of Dani being parked in front of her house. Especially since Nicole would be heading for school anytime soon... "W-what are you doing here?"
That trademark smile of self-assurance resurrected itself in Dani. "Join the dots, girl. You have to go to school and I have to go to school. Why don't I take you?"
"That kind of 'take' wasn't what I had in mind," Dani purred suggestively. "But I could be persuaded..."
Bang. Dani was back to her old un-humble self. Lisa felt a twinge between her hips. For her own sake, she bit her lip and tried desperately to suppress the carnal, wanton lusts that Dani could so effortlessly extract from her. The core potentiality of sex with Danielle Cooper was (at least in Lisa's case) like being trapped in quicksand. It didn't matter how hard you tried to struggle and wriggle free you ended up being swallowed into its mass. The only way to avoid the fate was to avoid the phenomenon entirely.
The girl in question pushed the passenger side door open. "Get in."
"What's the hold up?" Dani prodded. "Haul ass, or we're gonna be late."
Crunch time. Once again Lisa found herself herded into one of these 'Dani or Nicole' moments. Her friend would be leaving home soon. Even now Lisa exchanged glances between a seated Dani and the painted white door of the Milligan household across the street. Normally she could deny Dani nothing -- all it took was a look of lust or determination from her to sway Lisa Whitfield's impotent course. But something inside her, something slightly more overwhelming than the dirge of sexual desire, told her not to get in the car... not right now.
Lisa bit her lower lip as she always did when she had to make a hard choice. But eventually a resolve came to her and she was compelled to express it to Dani. "...I... I'd prefer to go... by myself."
Dani's quadruple four (arrogant-as-an-ass) smile twisted into a frown. No psychology degrees from Harvard were necessary to see that Danielle Cooper did not like to hear the word 'no' from Lisa. Her brow wrinkled with irritation as a result, causing Lisa to shrink back an inch in steadfastness.
"What the hell is with you lately?" Dani barked. "I thought we were getting somewhere."
The blonde looked away. "Dani, p-please don't make this into a big thing..."
There was a silence and a pause. Then Dani, with her strong yet soft hands grappling the wheel, turned and stared hard at Lisa with shrinking glare. The comment that followed was just as penetrating. "...Has this got something to do with that girl you were talking about yesterday?"
No one could cut through the shit like Dani could. Lisa balked, partly for being so transparent and partly for even subscribing to the notion that she had to hide things from Dani. But again there came this sense of indignity. Why was she making allowances for her actions to someone who had no real claim over her? Why was she tip-toeing around her own life? And again Lisa didn't broach the question. She buried it.
"...Dani," She skirted around the name. "We can see each other... another time, okay...?"
She gave the younger girl a frank stare. "When?"
"I... I don't know..."
There was another pause. It was followed by Dani's skull drooping toward her wheel in frustration. She pulled a seething grin and chuckled derisively at herself. It had Lisa confused for a moment, until the Italian-American girl breathed out heavily and reached for her stick shift.
"Why the fuck do I bother?" She barked at herself. "You know what? You go have fun with your 'friend'. Tell me how that works out for you."
The engine came to life. Lisa sighed and stepped back. As soon as she did the car peeled out of the sidewalk, tyres screeching, and shot down the road toward the main street. Lisa watched her go. She'd seen Dani angry before but never at her. It was a bit unnerving to say the least. And yet those anxieties vanished like phantom when the door to the Milligan household opened and revealed its progeny, Nicole. Lisa's bright smile, the one from yesterday afternoon, returned to her. Nicole was quick to notice her and waved accordingly across the street. So Lisa crossed it to see her.
"Morning, Lisa." Nicole said cheerfully.
"M-morning..." she replied.
Nicole gestured to her house. "What were you doing, standing over there?"
In the same way that she didn't want Dani knowing anything about Nicole, Lisa didn't want Nicole to know anything about Dani. It was a sector of her small life that she wanted no one (beside herself and Dani) to have any knowledge of. "...Nothing, really."
"Oh. Okay. Well, lets get going then," Nicole shrugged her satchel over her shoulder. "I don't wanna miss my bus."
Spending time with Nicole, Lisa found school far less difficult than she usually did. The drive to school on the bus was no longer the boring rolling mantra it usually was. It seemed to pass as quickly as a cool breath; because she had Nicole to talk to. The same went with Alderson High itself. Normally when she went from class to class Lisa felt like a fly caught in a spider's web -- the web being the school and the spider being her peers. But whatever scathing and egotistical comment your random jock or cheerleader levelled at her as she passed by, she didn't pay them the mind she would have done three days ago. Times had changed. Even when Nicole didn't share a class with her (for example Math and Spanish) it was enough to know that she'd be seeing the brunette again later that made them pass by so smoothly. It was a good thing. For some reason it allowed her to better focus on her work.
Then when the first set of classes for the day were over and lunch briefly took their place, for the first time ever, Lisa didn't feel so self-conscious and paranoid about the lunch room. They didn't eat there of course. As soon as their last morning class (Spanish) was over they met up and headed to the cafeteria together. When they left they headed for the grassy knoll that Lisa always ate her lunch by. This time Lisa had a cheese and pickle sandwich, a carton of tropical fruit juice and a banana; while Nicole had a cheeseburger and fries, a glass of lemonade and finally a slice of chocolate cake. That was one negative about Nicole. She didn't eat very healthily; although it was impossible to tell by looking at her body.
The two girls spent most of lunch chatting and laughing with each other.
"Hey listen, you're still coming over for dinner after school, right?" Nicole asked. "Not putting it off or anything?"
Lisa shook her head. "No. Of course not. I can't wait."
"That's good, `cause I'm not gonna be free tomorrow."
Nicole nibbled on a fry from her trey. "Well, don't laugh or anything, but I'm trying out for the girl's soccer team on Friday."
"You play soccer?" It hadn't even occurred to Lisa that Nicole would.
The brown-haired girl nodded. "Uh huh. I played for the girl's team at my old school back in Salt Lake City. I used to kick around a ball with my Dad all the time, until his accident. Its been one of my little passions, you know?"
Lisa couldn't really relate. She'd never played sports outside of academic necessity (one of the most awkward and mortifying moments of her life was when she was forced to play basketball in gym class -- her small frame and inability to either jump or shoot made a laughing stock of her -- unsurprisingly she wasn't likely to be head-hunted by the WNBA anytime soon) nor had she gone out of her way to develop any affinity for them. But to Lisa it was irrelevant how she felt about sports up until that point. Anything Nicole was interested in was something that Lisa was willing to give the benefit of the doubt. It explained how someone who ate so much junk food could have such a delicious body too.
"Good luck," Lisa offered. "I'll be rooting for you."
"Thanks, Lisa. You know-" Nicole cut herself off when her cell phone went off. It was that little jingle from Grey's Anatomy. The brunette took it out of her satchel and looked at the I.D. of the person calling her. The name `Ryan' was displayed on it. Lisa watched with concern when Nicole's brilliant smile collapsed like a deck of cards. She was quick to answer the call though, proclaiming,
"I know. I know, Baby, I know that... but,"
Lisa bit her lip.
"That's because I've been really busy here. My Mom's carrying everything on her own and, and, you know my Dad tries but he needs help while she's at work. I can't just drop everything to-"
"It's not like that!"
Lisa tried to detach herself from this by eating something. But her sandwich was finished and her banana was now nothing more than a skin. The fruit juice carton was empty also. She was left fidgeting with her hands.
"It doesn't have to be like this Ryan, please...!"
Yet another pause. Nicole ran an anxious hand through her chocolate-coloured bangs.
"So that's it? You won't even give it a chance?"
Then came the final pause.
"Ryan, I'm begging you, please don't..." As soon as Nicole finished the sentence Lisa knew the conversation was over. Nicole, who now looked dejected in a way Lisa never would have imagined possible of her, lowered the cell from her ear and froze.
Lisa didn't want to ask her the question but, "...What happened...?"
"T-that was my boyfriend... from back home," She explained in shock. "He just dumped me."
In the precise two and half minutes that this all took place in, a certain fact (or at least what she thought was a fact) had been revealed to Lisa. Nicole's sexuality. It weighted on her like a brick. But the very instant she saw those first few tears welling up in her friend's eyes... that was the moment that her own revelations and anxieties took a backseat. All she was aware of after that was that her friend was hurt. And she didn't really know what gave her the courage to do it, but Lisa climbed off of the smoothed out patch of grass she'd been sitting on and carefully wrapped her arms around the brunette. Nicole collapsed into Lisa's embrace of her. She sobbed openly into Lisa's shoulder, not even noticing when her cell phone fell out of her hand. The blonde held the brunette close without a single thought for what was going on around.
So as a consequence... she didn't notice when a young woman, who had been passing by only to get to the cafeteria, caught sight of the two of them embracing each other like that. This girl stood paralysed at the image, Lisa holding Nicole, Nicole holding Lisa. She then stormed off. This woman... was Dani.
It took a while but by the time the final bell rang it was clear that Nicole had calmed down a little bit. The last two classes of the day were classes that she and Lisa shared so they managed to see something of each other in that time. Nicole was grateful for that because it meant having a friend around in one of the worst possible places to get over a break-up, and that was class. Lisa was grateful because it meant that she could keep an eye on Nicole while she was coping with all this. So when that final bell rang the first thing they did was seek each other out. Nicole didn't even bother to entertain the one or two guys whom had been ogling her in class as usual. They simply found each other and went to the bus stop. On the bus ride back things were silent, with Nicole pretty much holding back her dry heaves. But it was when they got off the bus and started walking home that she started to talk.
"What is his name?" Lisa asked.
Nicole sighed out loud. "Ryan Finch. I met him three years ago I think. We were friends first. Then, one day after we'd seen a movie with some of our other friends, there was this really horrible storm and we got separated. Ryan and I hid under this old bus shelter until the storm calmed down. I remember... feeling so frightened of it. But he was warm and kind to me. He kept me talking to help me ignore all the thunder and lightning and rain... and then out of the blue he just kissed me. When he told me he'd had a crush on me since we'd first met, well... I was a little giddy. I cared for him but that made me like him all the more, you know? That was about... seven months ago. I was so proud to call him my boyfriend. I... I-I-I don't know if I'm in love with him or not, but... if there was anyone, it would have been him."
Lisa swallowed the lump in her throat. "...So... um... what happened...?"
"I moved here," Nicole whispered bitterly. "It was hard on me when my parents told me we'd be moving to L.A. But I think it was even harder of Ryan. I wanted us to try a long distance relationship, you know, like with phone calls and e-mails and letters and everything... but he said it wasn't working for him. So he broke up with me."
At that point Lisa thought back to that moment she saw Nicole standing sad and alone by the bus stop. She had been on the phone at the time. In retrospect it became clear that she had been speaking to Ryan. They probably had an argument then too. And although she wanted to hate him for hurting Nicole, she found that she couldn't. That was for more than one reason though. No matter what her sexuality was, no matter who the person was, male or female, Lisa shuddered to picture Nicole with someone else. She could relate with Ryan too. As sad and as cruel as it was, she wouldn't have been able to bear the thought of being separated from Nicole like he had. So was there anything more torturous than being reduced to having tiny fractions of her person? Little love notes and poignant e-mails? Lisa knew that if she were in that position it would have destroyed her. That's how special Nicole was. You'd be a fool not to see it.
"...I'm so sorry, Nicole." It was all she knew to say. It was all she possibly could say.
"It's okay," Nicole feigned a little smile. "But you know what? I should be apologizing to you. Me and my big silly self. I was crying all over you."
There was a wet patch on the left shoulder of Lisa's burgundy top. It was quite noticeable. Although she never would have admitted it, she liked having something of Nicole's `marking' her, even they were her tears. "...Don`t worry about me."
Neither one of them paid attention to their surroundings whilst they were talking. It was only by chance that when they strode by Milligan household's driveway that Lisa spotted. And so they stopped. Then thoughts turned to what had been planned for the evening, for Lisa to have dinner with Nicole and her family.
"...Maybe this isn't the right time," Lisa wondered out loud. "I'm sure you don't want me in the way-"
Nicole shook her head. "No. No way. I don't wanna throw off my plans with you because of this. And, you know, to be perfectly honest, I'd really like to have a friendly face around me right now. Please come inside, okay?"
That provoked precisely what it warranted; a smile. "...Okay."
Then, for the second time today, someone's cell phone went off. This time it was Lisa's. She exhaled and took off her bag so she could pull out the phone. She knew without even looking that it would be Dani. And sure enough, when she did look, it was Dani. When Nicole turned her keys in the lock, she looked back and saw Lisa standing silently with her ringing phone.
"Who is it?" Nicole asked.
Lisa stared at her cell for a second before switching it off. "...Nobody. It's nobody."