Is She?

When Claire starts university she moves in with fellow student Jasmine and immediately falls for her. But how do you tell if a girl is gay? Claire looks up the ‘signs’ on the internet and desperately seeks advice from friends. But with all the signs pointing in either direction she is just left wondering: Is she?

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6. CHAPTER SIX: THE MORNING AFTER

She felt pathetic.

She’d cried herself to sleep the night before. It wasn’t just the rejection it was how wrong she had been, how she had been so sure and yet set herself up for such a dramatic fall.

She felt stupid.

Claire looked at her pale and tired reflection in the grimy bathroom mirror. She’d even moved into this hellhole because of her.

There were lectures this morning. Lectures she had to attend. Lectures that were starting in about twenty minutes. But Claire was still in her pyjamas, and intended to stay that way.

She left the bathroom, not caring if she was seen in her make-up stained dressing gown, mismatching pyjamas and bunny slippers. There wasn’t really any point in trying to make a good impression now. She was going to slob around the house, eating crap food and watching crap telly. She might even take up smoking for the day.

As she passed Jasmine’s bedroom door she remembered the moment from the night before, when Jasmine had announced her news in excited tones, when she had broken Claire’s heart without a notion of what she was doing.

Claire heard giggling.

Two girls, giggling in Jasmine’s room. Her heart sank as she realised she was going to have to share the house with Jasmine and her football playing girlfriend all day. She couldn’t do it. What if she bumped into them? What if they invited her in for a chat and a cup of tea? What if she heard more than just giggling?

She had to get out.

Claire ran up to her room and found clothes scattered about the floor, she didn’t care what she was wearing, she had to get out. She had to leave. Within five minutes she was on the bus heading into Uni. But she couldn’t face a lecture.

In desperation she looked at her phone and typed in the name of Mandy’s new company in the city.

It had always confused Claire that ‘City’ was actually a small square mile inside London, which is itself a city. So it is a City in a city. She wondered if there was a pub or a club called ‘The City’ which she could go to, then she would be in ‘The City’ in the City, in the city.

It was only when she got off the bus on a busy street, drowned in tall buildings, where the sun could hardly reach, that she realised the City was not like the rest of London.

It was a soulless business district, with stern buildings and sterner people. Everyone wore black, as if there was a national day of mourning and suddenly Claire felt very conspicuous in her bedroom floor outfit, which probably hadn’t seen a washing matching since she moved to London.

There didn’t seem to be any road names, and every street looked the same, it was a labyrinth of impossibility and Mandy was working somewhere inside of it.

Suddenly she wanted to cry. She felt lost. Like the time she had lost her mum in the department store. She’d hidden from the staff in the clothing racks as they had tried to catch the unattended child, she’d thought they were going to tell her off, it was only years later that she realised they had wanted to make her safe. It had felt like hours that she had been separated and alone. She had been terrified. Then when she finally found her mum, she hadn’t even been aware that Claire had been missing.

But she had found her mum. Even then, at four years old, she had managed.

Claire pulled herself together and looked at the map on her phone, she knew the offices were close it was number 4-6 on this street, she just had to work out which way the numbers were running.

Only a few buildings actually had numbers on them, but she quickly worked out she was heading in the right direction.

Sixteen. Twelve. Eight.

This was it. A huge glass building with a security desk and a couple of burly looking security men rather than the chirpy receptionist she had been hoping for. There was no way she would find Mandy in this maze of a building.

It was ten past twelve. She decided to take a risk and give her a call.

“Claire?”

“Mandy are you free?”

“Yeah I’m on lunch.”

‘Thank God.’ Claire thought “Can I meet you? I’m outside your building.”

“So you’ve finally come to take me for that congratulatory meal?” Mandy laughed.

Claire choked back the tears which were threatening to surface again. She had forgotten to congratulate Mandy, she hadn’t even sent her a text about her new job, she was so obsessed over Jasmine she hadn’t allowed herself the brain room to think of anything else. She was such a crap human being “not exactly” she managed to say.

Mandy’s tone changed. “I’ll be right down.” She said, it was clear she heard the pain in Claire’s voice and somehow that only added to Claire’s guilt.

“You look terrible.” Mandy said.

“Thanks.” Claire replied feeling utterly rubbish as she looked at Mandy in her gorgeous fitted suit: a pencil skirt, red heels and a matching red top. She looked stunning, especially when compared to the monochrome of the rest of the city.

“I’ve only got forty minutes. “ She said “But I know a little Malaysian place around the corner.”

Any other day, Claire would have been thrilled. The exotic trip into the financial quarter, the secret quiet side street, leading into a wide open square that seemed as if it was built to be hidden from tourists, and the quiet little restaurant with just a few suited and booted city folk, but not enough for it to be crowded. But today, her bed hair, unkempt appearance and her abject misery somehow took away the enjoyment of the experience.

“What do you want?” Mandy asked gently.

“I just needed to talk to you” she said, trying to prevent the tears from welling up “I just feel so pathetic I had so a huge crush on Jasmine and I let it take over and I thought I had it so right and I had it so wrong I’m such a crap lesbian, I’ve never even kissed a girl and I thought that I had a chance with Jasmine and out of all the people I’ve liked she’s the first one that is actually a real lesbian and she’s not interested because she’s busy getting it on with some gangly, football fanatic who’s completely unattractive and has no style whatsoever and blatantly does not deserve to be anywhere near Jasmine, who actually looks a lot like the real Jasmine, you know, the one in the movie? I mean what has she got that I haven’t?” Claire had to stop as she choked on her tears, and as they began to fall she picked up a napkin and started to wipe them away.

Mandy looked up the slightly startled waitress waiting to take the order, “We’ll just have a seafood platter then.” She said, and the waitress nodded, relieved to be gone from the table.

“Do you mean Princess Jasmine from ‘Aladdin’?”

Claire nodded “I’m just so pathetic!” She cried.

“You’re not pathetic—”

“I was so sure, so certain! I should have listened to you. You knew right from the beginning what Jasmine was like and I just ignored you.”

“I wasn’t right,” Mandy said, keeping her voice calm and steady to try counteract Claire’s whimpering “I didn’t know that Jasmine would have a girlfriend or even that she was gay… I just think that sometimes you can be a bit blind to the obvious, and maybe you should take things slowly and get to know people—”

“Oh! That won’t get me anywhere!” Claire replied, she knew exactly what she was like, she knew that even now the too smart business people were looking sidelong at her, she knew she was obsessive and she was clearly stupid “who could possibly like me after getting to know me?”

“Don’t be mad, you’re a wonderful person!” Mandy said, but Claire couldn’t bring herself to agree “you’re caring and funny, you’re sweet and you are really smart” Mandy didn’t realise that her praise was only serving to make Claire feel worse about herself “when you’re not being dumb, that is” she added with a smile.

Claire looked away. It was hard to hear Mandy say those words, hard to hear such praise when she knew that Mandy didn’t feel a thing for her. All it did, was make her realise was how much she wanted Mandy, how much she had always wanted Mandy.

“You’re bound to say that!” she said, trying to cover up her pain “you’re my best friend!”

“Yes but that’s why I am your best friend, you halfwit!” Mandy laughed “I wouldn’t be your best friend if you weren’t all those things, can’t you see what’s right in front of you?”

Claire looked up at Mandy, she was so beautiful and so earnest. She had known that Mandy would try and make her feel better, but she should have known that Mandy would only ever make her feel worse. She shouldn’t have come to see her. Mandy was the last person she should go to when she felt like this.

When she has dressed with clothes she found on the floor and left the house without looking in the mirror then she should not go and visit the beautifully styled Mandy.

One heartbreak was now reminding her of another.

Claire knew then that the simple reason she had been so obsessive over Jasmine was to bury her feelings for Mandy, she was always trying to bury those feelings. Always trying to push them aside and find someone else to focus on. But whatever happened, she always came back to Mandy.

Perhaps that was the problem. If she was ever going to move on, she couldn’t keep going back. She had to stop going back to Mandy, reminding herself of the pain.

She should never have come here.

“I have to go.” She said, suddenly, as the waitress brought over the seafood platter.

“What? Why?”

“I just can’t…” Claire stood and left the restaurant, she couldn’t bear it anymore. Perhaps in time she would be able to explain to her why, but right now she had to go, she had to be alone and find a way of moving on, making a clean slate.

“Claire!” Mandy had followed her into the street, but Claire kept her head down and kept walking. Mandy caught up and pulled her arm. “Claire, I want to help you!”

“You can’t help me” and she knew it was true, she knew Mandy was just making everything worse. But as she looked at Mandy with those beautiful eyes, trying so hard to help, it only made her angry “you can’t understand what it’s like!” she wanted Mandy to feel her pain, to understand how much it hurt just to look at her. “I will never be loved!”

“You still can’t see what’s right in front of you, can you?” Mandy said, grasping both of Claire’s shoulders and looking straight at her. Claire didn’t understand what Mandy doing, and she wasn’t in the mood for playing her games “if anyone sees half of what I see they’ll love you instantly”

Claire tutted and looked away, it almost made her laugh that Mandy didn’t see the irony of what she was saying.

Then suddenly, Mandy kissed her. She pulled Claire forward into and embrace and pushed her lips against Claire’s.

Claire was startled, frozen for a moment but then kissed back, feeling Mandy’s soft lips against her own, holding her body close. After so many years of wanting her she didn’t care who walked passed, didn’t care about anything else but that moment and holding the girl she loved.

“I love you” Mandy said, pulling out of the kiss “you’re dumb and stupid, your dress sense is bizarre, and you obsess over every girl you ever see,” Mandy smiled and stroked her cheek “but you’re so brave;” she said “I could never have put up with what you did when you came out…” she looked away for a moment “I so wanted to tell you how I felt, but I was so scared – I’m still so scared…”

Claire stared at her, stunned, unable to take in what was happening, unable to believe the words she was hearing “but…” she said, thinking of all the times she had talked to Mandy, all the hours they had spent together, all the hours she had spent wanting Mandy, not knowing that she felt the same “I had no idea” she said.

“I know!” Mandy laughed, but a tear had fallen across her cheek “I’ve been dropping hints for like, almost a decade!”

“I can’t believe this is real” Claire didn’t trust what was happening, after last night she didn’t want to ever trust her senses again “can I… kiss you?” she asked, hoping that Mandy wouldn’t laugh at her, wouldn’t walk away and say she got lost in the moment, it won’t happen again. But she didn’t walk away. She didn’t say no. She smiled, and nodded. And for the first time in her life, Claire took the initiative and kissed a girl, she took hold of Mandy’s soft cheek, and gently leaned forward, feeling Mandy’s lips against her own. Tasking the sweetness of her and feeling that now, maybe now after all this time she could be content.

“What do we do now?” She asked, still holding Mandy’s cheek.

“Well I think, probably the first thing we should do is go back and pay for our lunch!” They laughed, realising that the poor waitress must be wondering where on earth they had run off to; people normally eat and run, not order and run.

“And then what?” Claire said, hoping that Mandy wouldn’t want to forget about this, that she wouldn’t decide that it was too difficult and say they needed to ‘cool off’.

“I don’t know,” Mandy said, “maybe we should just get used to being ‘us’ for a while.”

“I think I’d like that.”

And, hand in hand, they walked back to the restaurant and had their first meal as a couple.

 

THE END

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