Chord, p.19
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       Chord, p.19

           Chelsea M. Cameron
 
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  We went back to my dorm room and they helped me pack up some clothes and my pillows. Of course I had those at home, but I wanted the ones that smelled like Cordelia. I’d also snuck a few of her shirts in my bag to bring with me when my parents weren’t looking.

  I texted Cordelia to let her know that I was heading for home and she didn’t answer, but I figured she was driving and would get back to me later. Still, it sucked to be away from her and it had only been a few hours. How was I going to make it a whole week?

  “I MADE SURE TO GET all your favorite things,” Mom said the second we walked into the house. “And if there’s anything else you want, I can go out and get it.” I wanted to tell her that she was being a smother, but I knew she had just missed me and this was her way of showing it. I could deal with her shoving pieces of cake at me.

  Kate disappeared to her room and I took my stuff upstairs. My room was across the hall from hers and she slammed her door. If that wasn’t a statement, I didn’t know what was. I finally got a message back from Cordelia. Phew. She had made it home and was making her way through a pineapple upside down cake, her favorite. Apparently her dad and my mom were two of a kind.

  I shoved my phone in my pocket and knocked on Kate’s door.

  “What?” she snapped.

  “Can I come in?” I asked. I heard her huff.

  “Sure, whatever.” I poked my head in and she was on her bed, messing with her phone.

  “Are you okay?” I figured trying to be blunt first might work.

  “Yeah, why?” She finally looked up at me.

  “Because you have been a pain in the ass for the past few hours and you were fine when I left. What’s going on?” She lifted her eyes to the ceiling and sighed.

  “I’m fine. Seriously.”

  I took a few tentative steps and then sat down on the edge of her bed.

  “Okay, okay,” I said, putting my hands up in surrender.

  “What about you? There’s something you’re not telling Mom and Dad. I have no idea what it is, but you’re not very good about hiding it. Just so you know.” She smirked at me and I felt like I’d been slapped. I stood up.

  “You have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about, Kate. And I came in here to try and be your big sister and give you someone to talk to, but I guess you’d rather be an asshole alone. Fine.” I stormed out and went back to my room. I didn’t hear if she muttered anything after me, but I bet she did. Fine, she was on her own. I wasn’t going to let her treat me like that. So much for a happy homecoming.

  CORDELIA

  Dad would not stop staring at me and it was starting to freak me out.

  “Why are you doing that?” I asked. His eyes were narrowed, as if he was trying to figure something out.

  “Did you get your hair cut?” he asked. I shook my head.

  “Nope.”

  “Color it?” Another head shake.

  “No, Dad. What are you doing? It’s annoying.” I slumped further over on my side of the couch. Away from his judgey gaze.

  “There’s something. I can’t put my finger on it. Maybe you look older. Or it’s something else.” He took up most of the couch with his frame and it creaked every time he moved. He was hard on furniture.

  “You’re being weird, cut it out.” I threw a few pieces of popcorn at him. We were knee-deep in a Keanu Reeves movie marathon. I knew he’d been waiting for me to do this, so I didn’t tell him I’d rather watch something else. I was going to humor him. At least for now.

  In the back of my mind were the words I had to tell him. The conversation we had to have before I went back to school. I was leaning on having it sooner rather than later, even if it would make things uncomfortable. I could always get in my car and leave if I had to. Not that I thought it would come to that, but I had the contingency plan in case.

  “I’m not the one who went off to college and now won’t really talk about what she’s been doing.” I looked away from the movie and him.

  “What are you talking about?” I had been yapping about college plenty since I’d been home.

  “You’re telling me all kinds of things, Sprite, but you’re not telling me other things.” Well, shit.

  “What do you want me to tell you?”

  He shrugged his massive shoulders.

  “I don’t know. I feel like you’re keeping something from me. And I’d like to know what it is, but I’d also like to know why you feel you need to hide something from me.” I took a breath. Guess it was happening now.

  “I’ll tell you what’s been happening, Dad. But you have to let me get it out and not interrupt me.” He nodded and paused the movie.

  “Of course.”

  Another breath.

  “So. Chase, my roommate? We’re, uh, we’re seeing each other. It totally took us both by surprise, and I don’t know what it means, honestly. But I love her and she loves me and we’re together.” My dad wasn’t the silent type, but he didn’t say anything for a long time while I trembled so hard that I thought I was going to fall right off the couch.

  “Dad?” I finally said. It had been a lot of information to drop on him at once, but I needed him to say something or else I was going to have a panic attack.

  “Yeah, I’m just processing this information and trying to find the best and most supportive thing to say.” That sounded good.

  “Anything right now would be good,” I said. “It doesn’t have to be perfect.”

  He reached for my hands and held them.

  “I love you, Cordelia. You are the light of my life. My Sprite. I love you unconditionally. Always. There is nothing you could tell me that would change that. Not who you love. Not anything, Cordelia. Nothing would change the fact that you are my daughter and I love you.” Those words turned on the faucet and I couldn’t stop crying. He pulled me into his chest and I curled up like I had when I was a little girl.

  “I love you, Dad,” I said through my tears.

  “I love you, too. This has been quite a year for you, hasn’t it?” I nodded and wiped my face on his shirt. I knew he didn’t care.

  “Yeah, little bit.”

  “You want to tell me about it?” I did.

  At last, the tightness in my chest loosened and I could fully breathe. I told him about how I’d felt when Chase walked in, I told him about my confusion and feelings, I told him how I kissed her first I told him about our date. I did NOT tell him about everything, because, well, some things were private. I also didn’t think Chase would really like my dad knowing about our sex life. So I skipped that part.

  “I don’t know what this means. Obviously, if I’m in love with a girl, I’m not completely heterosexual. But other than that ... I don’t know. Do I still like guys? Was I only liking them because I was taught to? Do I like other girls, or just Chase? What about people of other genders? It’s all so confusing and overwhelming and I can’t even begin to untangle it all. It makes me so tired. I started looking stuff up online, and it almost gave me a panic attack, so I stopped. I don’t know what to do.” That started me crying again. It was a rush of relief to have this talk with him.

  “Hey, hey, it’s okay, Sprite. You don’t have to put yourself through that if you don’t want to. Maybe just take some time and be with Chase and see where it goes. I don’t have a lot of experience with this kind of thing, but I don’t think you need to force something that makes you feel that anxious. Just enjoy what you’re doing. I knew there was something different, and it’s that you’re happy. If Chase is making you happy, then I’m ecstatic.” He had a point. Trying to figure all this out had been making me stressed out. Was it really worth it?

  No, not right now. It wasn’t. I would support Chase in whatever decision she made, but right now, I wanted to focus on loving her, and trying not to be so distracted by how hot she was to that I flunked out of college. Plus, I had to figure out what I wanted my major to be. That was going to take priority over my sexuality. At least for now.

  I sat with tha
t decision for a few moments. It felt right. It was what I needed.

  “Thank you, Dad,” I said, hugging him again.

  “You’re welcome, Sprite. I’m here for you. No matter what.”

  “Even if I murdered someone?”

  “I’ll get a shovel.”

  “You know, it would be better to dissolve the body in acid. Less evidence.” He raised his bushy eyebrows.

  “I don’t even want to know how you know that.”

  I HAD BEEN TRYING TO text Chase as much as I could, but I wanted to hear her voice when I told her what had happened with my dad, so I asked if we could call or even videochat.

  She said that was fine, so I told Dad I was going to my room and that I was talking to Chase.

  “Keep it G rated,” he said. I almost tripped over my own feet.

  “What?”

  “I’m just saying. You never know who might be watching or listening.” I blinked at him.

  “Okay, sure, Dad,” I said and ran away as fast as I could, shuddering the whole way. I didn’t need my dad giving me that kind of advice.

  “Hey!” I said when Chase picked up the call. Just seeing her face made me want to squeal with glee.

  “Hey, Carrots,” she said, and I felt my face flame up. Every time. She got me with that nickname every time.

  “How’s it going?” she asked.

  “Well, I told Dad. And he was totally supportive. I think he ships us.” He had basically said as much.

  “Oh, wow, okay. You went ahead and told him.” I hoped she didn’t feel pressure to also tell her parents.

  “I mean, he wouldn’t leave me alone, saying that I looked different and I kind of caved. As I do.” I shrugged and lay back on my bed.

  “No, it’s fine. I’m glad you did and I’m glad it went well. I love you.”

  I beamed at her. The only way this could be more perfect is if she was here with me.

  “I love you. How’s everything going there?” She sighed. Oh. I guess things weren’t all rosy at the Hillier house.

  “My mom is kind of up my butt because she missed me and my dad knows something is up and my sister is being a brat and won’t talk to me about it. Oh, and she knows that something is up, too. Because I guess I’m not very good at keeping secrets from my family.” She sighed and raked her hand through her hair.

  “I’m sorry. I wish I could be there to do something. I have no idea what I could do, but I still wish I was there.” She gave me a weary smile.

  “It’s okay. I think it’s going to be fine. Just ... not what I was expecting. I was hoping for more time. Since I don’t have a car and I’m trapped here if my parents turn out to be secret homophobes.”

  “If your parents are like that, I will get in my fucking car and come and rescue you. I wouldn’t even need a cape. I don’t even care where you are, I will come get you, Chase.” I wished neither of us had to deal with that kind of uncertainty, but that was the way the world worked in our lifetimes.

  “I know. And I know they’re going to be fine. But still, a little voice in the back of my mind is questioning everything.”

  “I would like to punch that voice in the face.” That made her laugh. Finally. She relaxed a little after that and I told her about my travel adventures and some of the plans my dad had for this week. He had to work during the day, so I was going to take a lot of baths and hog the couch while he was gone. I also, unfortunately, had homework that needed to get done as well. Chase, of course, had already done hers because she was an over-overachiever.

  “What do you think is up with your sister?” That seemed like a less-fraught topic than if she was going to tell her family about us.

  “I honestly have no idea. She’s always been the kind of person who won’t tell anyone when something is wrong and just sort of holds it all in and snaps at anyone who tries to help. It makes loving her hard sometimes. She’s a pain in the ass, but I would honestly do anything to help her.” I didn’t have any siblings, but I knew that fierce feeling, and I admired it a lot in Chase.

  “I’m trying not to feel guilty for being away at college and not talking to her often enough,” she said.

  “C, you can’t help someone who doesn’t want you to help them. You can try, but if she doesn’t want it, she doesn’t want it. I wish I could give you a hug.”

  “Thanks. I know you’re right.” I heard a pounding sound in the background. “Hold on a sec.” She set the phone down and I had a view of her ceiling as she talked to someone and then came back.

  “Sorry, that was my mom asking me what I wanted for dinner. I don’t know why she asked, because she literally had all the lasagna ingredients out on the counter and she knows it’s my favorite.” Oh, lasagna. That would be so good. I didn’t want to make it, but I wanted to eat it. Maybe I could go out and get a frozen one and throw it in the oven.

  “If you need to go, that’s fine. I just wanted to let you know what happened with Dad.” I was lying. I didn’t want her to go, but I understood that I had to share her with other people.

  “If I don’t go down, she’s going to pester me until I do, so I probably should. But before I do...” she lowered the phone and then pulled up her shirt.

  “Chase Hillier! You naughty girl.” She giggled as she flashed me her bra.

  “Just something to remind you of what’s going to happen when we’re together again.” Fuck, now I was turned on. I figured it was only fair that I showed her, so I pulled my shirt up.

  “Fuck, you’re so hot. Okay, I love you. We’ll talk soon.” She made kissy faces and I said I loved her and we hung up.

  I rubbed my chest where my heart beat. God, I missed my girl.

  Fifteen

  Chase

  Things that night were fine. Or as fine as they could be. Mom was still hovering, Kate was still surly, I was still upset with her, and Dad was just sort of sitting back and watching how everything was going to go.

  Cordelia had told her dad and it had gone well. I was so happy for her, but now even more nervous about my parents. That little voice that told me they were going to disown me kept getting louder and I wanted to drown it out, but I didn’t know how. Not even my mom’s delicious lasagna could do that.

  “You’re awfully quiet, Kate,” Mom said, finally taking her focus off me.

  “Yeah,” she said.

  “Why is that?” Mom asked and I looked at Dad. This was not going to go well.

  “I dunno,” she said. Right now she was the picture of the grumpy teenager, slumped at the table.

  “Kate, you’re being ridiculous,” Mom said. I wanted to tell Mom to lay off, that she wasn’t helping, but I kept my mouth shut. I wasn’t going to make waves now.

  “Linda, leave her alone,” Dad said.

  “May I be excused?” Kate said. Mom looked like she wanted to say no, but after a wordless discussion with Dad over the table, she agreed. Kate went upstairs without clearing her place.

  “What is wrong with that girl?” Mom said, looking after her. She almost looked like she wanted to cry.

  “I don’t know, but nitpicking at her isn’t going to help. Let her alone. Let her come to us,” Dad said. I felt like I didn’t want to be here anymore if they were going to be talking about Kate. I wasn’t done eating, but I did want to get out of there, so I excused myself as well.

  I figured I could give it another shot with Kate, even if I was hurt by what she had said earlier. I knocked on her door and she let me in. I figured that could be a good sign.

  “Look, I know you don’t want to talk to me. And I know you think I’m hiding something and I am. So I’m going to tell you. And then maybe you’ll trust me enough to tell me what’s going on with you.” It was a risk, but I figured I could start with one family member and work up from there. Plus, Kate wouldn’t mind keeping a secret from both of our parents. If we got along better, I would have told her sooner.

  “So what, we’re trading secrets now, is that how this works?”

 
Look, you can be as snotty as you want, but this is a big deal for me, okay? Can you just be my sister for five minutes?” That seemed to shut her up. She tossed her long dark hair over her shoulder. It was easy to tell we were sisters. We shared the same hair color and brown eyes, but her face was rounder than mine and she wasn’t as tall. Still, we were the spitting image of one another. Our mother’s genes were strong.

  “Fine,” she said, folding her arms. I figured that was as good as I was going to get.

  “I’m dating Cordelia. My roommate. We’re together. She’s my girlfriend.” Kate’s mouth dropped open.

  “Are you fucking serious?”

  “Yes.” And she started laughing. Literally laughing.

  “What the fuck, Kate?” I had no idea what to do with that reaction. Did she think this was funny? It wasn’t funny at all.

  “I’m sorry,” she said through giggles as she wiped her eyes. She had laughed so hard she was crying. She took a deep breath.

  “I’m sorry. I’m not laughing because it’s funny. I’m laughing because I think I’m bisexual. There’s a girl I really like and she’s been flirting with me and I don’t know what to do about it and I don’t know how to tell Mom and Dad and here you are telling me you have a girlfriend and if this isn’t irony, I don’t know what is.” I nearly slid off the bed.

  “You’re bisexual?” She nodded.

  “Yeah. I think. I’ve been feeling that way for years, but I haven’t had a crush like this on a girl yet. Just boys. Honestly, I could probably date anyone, who knows. But right now I’m head over heels for this girl and I figured Mom and Dad were going to find out and I didn’t know how to tell them.” This was a shocking development.

  “Huh,” I said.

  “Exactly.”

  “So we’re both not heterosexual.”

  “Guess so.”

  We sat and stared at each other for a few seconds.

  “So what do we do now?” she asked.

  “I guess we tell them. Together. If you’re ready for that. I had planned on telling them this week sometime, but Cordelia already told her dad and I feel guilty for not doing the same. I’m not hiding, but I also don’t know what they’re going to say.” Kate rolled her eyes.

 
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