;; Lots of girls your age have sort of sexual dreams
If she's honest with herself, it doesn't start with the dreams.
Caitlin can remember, back when she was little, her mother saying "Oh, Caitlin, you have such a vivid imagination!" and maybe, at first, that's all it is. Because of course little touches are going to move onto bigger ones, strokes of fingers, grasps of hands in forbidden places. And Caitlin doesn't just explore those places with her eyes closed.
She's said to herself, "Ms Avery can't be a lesbian," and "I'm not one either!" but the wondering just gets to her—it would get to anyone. And she has to know.
It doesn't start with the dreams.
It starts—as much as there is a start to these things—with a brush of hair on Caitlin's cheek, and the thought, that, oh.
When she shakes at night she doesn't blame the epilepsy, not all the time.
;; I wouldn't want to be alone with her in a dark room
"It's just," Kathleen began, leaning against one of her carefully pinned-up posters for the Environmental Action Committee, "you really don't need to do this."
Caitlin shut her locker and shoved her bandanna back, shooting Kathleen a quick smile. Kathleen wasn't exactly her favorite person either, but at least Caitlin went out of her way not to broadcast it. "I want to. And besides, I've already taken the pictures. I just need your approval—"
Kathleen perked up slightly; of course, any reference to how important she was. Caitlin poured it on a little thicker.
"I need your expert opinion on which image to use. Because, you know," she gestured with empty hands, letting Kathleen fill in the blanks.
"Because the right picture is going to do all the work for us. I know." Kathleen managed to look condescending while repeating what she had been drilling home to the EAC for a week now. They needed something to take to the print shop, something to look professional and moving, to get Degrassi students to really care about the environment. They could ignore announcements all they wanted, but a picture—well, it was true, wasn't it? That a picture spoke a thousand words. That's what Kathleen had been telling them, anyways.
And Caitlin was happy enough to go along with it. At least it wasn't some scheme to give Kathleen more power. This might actually have an impact. She'd spent the past two days with her camera to her eye, snapping pictures of pollution around Degrassi, disgusting things that should have been cleaned up; by the school, by the government... by someone.
"Anyways, let's get some of these developed, okay? I want to give you a good assortment to choose from." She turned and began to walk towards the school dark room, which she had reserved for the after school period.
Kathleen hesitated. "No offense, Caitlin, but..."
Caitlin blinked. "But what." Great. Something else to appease the queen.
"Couldn't you just do what you do, and then show them to me tomorrow? I think that, maybe, I should get home." She began to finger the shoulders of her backpack, twisting her lips. Caitlin's stomach sunk. Not this, still.
"Kathleen, I'm hardly going to attack you." I hardly like you, she added, silently. "I just want to get all the developing done today, and the easiest way to do that is to have you tell me what pictures you want—so I can get them as focused as possible, and..." she trailed off, shoulders dropping. She didn't feel like fighting her way out of this, or explaining why she wasn't some predator. Kathleen could believe whatever she wanted.
Kathleen narrowed her eyes.
;; To make a difference you have to be different
"I've been thinking." She doesn't have an easy segue into this, not really. She hasn't practiced at home, though she really has been thinking about it, far too much to ignore it for much longer. She knows herself, and she knows she can't let this linger on.
Spike brushes Emma's hair back and slides a clip in place. "Thinking?" She smiles easily. Everything about Spike goes easy, Caitlin thinks, like a milkshake, or cookies just out of the oven.
"How do you do it?"
Spike's eyes crinkle up when she smiles. "I'm afraid you're going to have to be a little more specific. I do a lot." And it's true: even now, Emma asks for more milk, so Spike gets up to pull some from the fridge, giving Caitlin a moment to think about how to phrase her words. She can't just say "Everything" – she can't admit that she needs that much, that she'd take advice from a teenage mom just to scramble to get her own life together.
"Your hair," she spits out, turning red. "I was wondering how you manage your hair. It's so..."
"Strange?" Spike fills in, pouring more milk in Emma's cup, leaning against the kitchen counter.
"Cool," Caitlin finishes, coughing a little. She knows she's watching Spike closely. Too closely. It's not natural. Nothing about her is natural, not these days.
Emma begins to sing to herself, the Sesame Street theme song, so Spike has to talk over the noise. "Hair spray mostly. Extra strength. You wouldn't be interested in a demonstration, now, would you?" She's teasing, of course, but Caitlin feels put on the spot. She can't answer for a moment—tongue-tied. Spike steps closer and touches Caitlin's ponytail. "Your hair's already nice and thick. You've got so much more to work with. We could really do something special here." She ducks down into Caitlin's line of vision and winks.
Caitlin swallows. "You think?"
;; If I wear this, everyone'll know
The mall is quiet right after school, a lot of the stay-at-home moms still lingering with their strollers in the food court. It's a lame excuse to cheer Caitlin up, to be honest, but at least it is one. "Let's go in here," Lucy says abruptly, after a long silence, pulling on Caitlin's arm. She fingers the fabric of a striped top, more as pretense than anything else, avoiding Caitlin's eyes. Everyone avoids her; after Claude. Why should Lucy be any different?
She's trying to get past it; past all of the dreams, and the nightmares. But sometimes she just can stand the playacting. Especially with people who are her friends. "You've been really nice and all, nicer than I deserve, but can we just talk—about something normal?"
"Normal? Well, sure. I can do normal." Lucy flips through another rack of dresses, biting at her lip.
Caitlin laughs. Right. "That's a pretty sad attempt if you ask me."
"Well." It's an abrupt change of subject, even in the expression on Lucy's face. "I'm working on something, at school, you know."
"It's a kind of silent protest. Against the male-oriented reading material in our curriculum."
Caitlin tucks her hair back. "I don't know, Luce. I'm a little burnt out on causes right now."
"This plan is fail safe, Caitlin!" Lucy continues. It's just how she gets when she's excited about something, just Lucy, but Caitlin can't help finding the whole thing sort of... cute. Even despite herself. "We just have to get everyone in the school to buy these armbands—"
"And isn't that sort of... well, didn't the Nazis use arm bands?"
"We're re-appropriating meaning. Like if I call you 'bitch'—it doesn't have to be a bad thing. And you're one of the most trusted voices in the school. If you support us, then other students will start to listen."
"I don't know..." Caitlin draws out the words.
"Really." Lucy says, stressing the word, "I would—you would make an important asset to the cause." She touches Caitlin's hand and smiles. And it feels good, when not a lot does.
;; I finally got something right
Caitlin almost doesn't come to Lucy's New Year's Party, back in Toronto, but after a late-night phone call and a long work session, Caitlin figures she can swing it. It is, after all, the first time they'll all be back together since school let out.
There's loads of booze, which is a change from high school; like all of the sudden they're old and wise enough to handle this sort of thing (news flash: they're not). After greeting Caitlin enthusiastically at the door, Lucy springs off to her other guests, looking radiant. She's been studying in the states; she has an apartment in New York, sharing with four other freshmen. They get along well, if the way they pour alcohol down each other's throats is to be believed. It's a bit like watching a movie about people she's supposed to know, they all look and sound the same, but the movements are off.
"I'm surprised that you made it."
Spike's done something with her hair—pieces dyed black, and... Caitlin blinks quickly. She likes it. "Oh, I almost didn't. I guess Emma is with your mom?"
"She'll be fast asleep by now." Spike has a drink in one hand, but it's still full. She doesn't seem to be in a hurry to move on. Caitlin tries to remember what Spike's been doing since May—comes up empty. "Everyone's so different, like college is some kind of magic potion."
Caitlin shrugs. "I know what you mean." Except, somehow it missed her: She's just regular old Caitlin. Plain Jane. "Well, I don't know. Maybe some of them." Maybe they've had this secret person inside them all along and it took this time apart to let it show.
"Yeah." Spike finally takes a sip and gestures to Caitlin. "Want some?"
"I shouldn't—my epilepsy, remember?"
"Right." She changes the subject quickly. "But... I don't know. You don't seem weird." Spike smiles, quirking her lip sideways.
Caitlin smooths out her dress. Funny. She feels weird. "I guess it took some time away to figure out that I didn't need to change. Though, you seem to have that figured out all along."
"Me, not change?" Spike ruffles her hair, grinning. "You must be confused."
"Not your hair—that kind of stuff doesn't matter, not in the long run." Caitlin blushes. "I mean your ideals... yourself."
Spike smiles a little, hiding behind a sip of her drink. "Well, believe me, I definitely didn't."
Watching her, those dark eyes over the lip of a plastic cup, it just spills out. "Oh, I feel like my entire high school career was a wreck compared to yours!"
Spike is quiet for a moment. Caitlin settles into silence as well, until she realizes that Spike's been staring at Caitlin's purse for these long minutes, more likely at the pink triangle pin she has secured on the shoulder strap.
"At least you got some things figured out," Spike whispers, touching the edge of the pin gently.
"What, this?" Caitlin swallows. Fuck. "Yeah, some people were giving them out on campus. Um."
"Caitlin, I know what it is. And it's okay."
"You aren't drunk, right?"
"Do I look drunk?" Spike grins. Except Caitlin is starting to think that maybe she is drunk.
Spike kisses her, quickly, on the cheek. "There. Now you've got to use your college education and make the next move." Her hand is on Caitlin's wrist, just there, causing Caitlin's heartbeat to jerk upwards. Her voice shakes.
"If you insist." Caitlin takes Spike's drink and sets it aside, making it much easier to move against the wall and touch Spike's face with her hand. She pulls back, heart jumping into her throat. "I'm not all that figured out, you know."
"Oh, be quiet and kiss me."
It's easier than she thought.