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Barking Up the Wrong Tree

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Girlfriend. That doesn’t seem right, because Alison isn’t gay. Of course not. 

But  Alison’s stomach still flutters when she sees Beth, and her heartbeat speeds up to about a million miles an hour, and she can’t ignore that. She can’t ignore the way she wants to kiss Beth more than she ever wanted to kiss Donnie. 

Okay. Fine. Maybe she is a little bit gay, or maybe Beth is just different. She decides it doesn’t really matter.

She’s been sitting in the parking lot of the vet clinic for five minutes now. Great. She’s even later. She sighs, and half-runs/half-jogs to the door, hoping nothing’s happened yet. 

“Alison!” says her boss, sounding rather relieved. “Where have you been?” 

“I, uh…” Alison stammers, scrambling for an excuse. She decides to go with the not-quite lie. “I was at my, um, my girlfriend’s house.” 

Her boss looked shocked for about a second, before her face turns into a knowing smile. “Fine, then. Just make sure you’re not late again. And get ready. Your first appointment’s in twenty minutes.” 

Alison breathes in silent relief, and makes sure she gets ready for the day faster than she ever has.

 Her appointment goes quickly. It’s one of her favorite patients, a man named Ramon and his bird Avocado. Alison loves that bird, even if he doesn’t have the…cleanest language. (Ramon’s taught him to swear. Every time now, he greets Alison with a “Hey, dumb-ass.” Alison rolls her eyes and laughs.) 

Nothing else of note happens for the rest of the day. Three more appointments and two redone ponytails later, Alison’s on her drive home. She knows she’s in too deep, because she’s singing cheesy love songs at the top of her lungs (the ones she used to hate) and she’s thinking of Beth. In fact, nothing of note happens for the next week or so. A couple calls from Beth. Work. Nothing much. 

Until, almost a full week (a week without Beth!) later, after a particularly stressful day. 

She gets home, and just as she opens the door, a car honks behind her, on the street. She turns to look, and Beth’s waving at her from the parked car. 

Of course it’s Beth. 

Twenty minutes later, Alison is riding shotgun in Beth’s car. Beth had barely given her ten minutes to change out of her work clothes, let alone get something to eat. Oh well. She’s with Beth, and it’s kind of hard to worry about anything else. 

“How was your day?” Beth asks, seeming genuinely curious for once. 

“Terrible,” Alison sighs. “Three cats threw up on me. Three!” 

Beth laughs. “Doesn’t matter. I’ve got a way to calm you down, don’t worry.”

 They end up in Beth’s living room again. This time, without the dog. Beth had shut Riot out in the backyard, and every few minutes, Alison could hear the puppy bark or whine. 

Beth disappears into the kitchen for a few moments, before returning with a bottle of wine and two glasses. 

“You drink?” Beth asks. 

“Yeah. Yeah, sure.” 

A short while later finds them slightly tipsy and telling dumb stories. Alison’s laughing, and it occurs to her that Beth was right about calming her down.

 “No, no dude- I was like, twelve” Beth begins, “And there was this girl-I was in sixth grade, okay? So anyway, this girl, she like, apparently had this major crush on me, right? So there I was, and this girl was sorta cute, and I was in her room and we were doing something incredibly stupid. Probably listening to some boy band I haven’t heard in ten years. And she kissed me. And it was so terrible, oh my god. But it was fun at the time. So yeah.”

 There’s quiet here, the only sound Alison’s giggling.

 “Who was your first kiss?” Beth asks. 

“Oh, God,” Alison sighs. “Not counting cats? Or musical posters?” (This is how Alison knows she’s a little drunk. She’d never say these things sober. Dignity.) “Well, I was seventeen, and I had this boyfriend. Donnie. Oh, my God, I’m so glad I broke up with him. Anyway, it was so cliché, you wouldn’t believe. I think it was, like, prom, or something- right? And it was like, typical high-school kissing. Neither of us had any idea what we were doing. End of story.” 

This goes on for a while longer, until they are both mostly sober, and have told pretty much all of the stories they have worth telling, at least for tonight. Sleep comes easy, and tonight, Alison remembers to set her phone alarm. 

She really needs to stop doing this. 

Beth’s not her girlfriend. They’ve known each other for a week and a half.

 She probably doesn’t worry about these things like Alison does.

 Alison makes a promise to herself. She will not stay the night at Beth’s tonight. In fact, she won’t stay at Beth’s again until (if) they go on another date. 

Big if. Sure, Beth likes her well enough, but… 

She really needs to stop thinking about this. 

And, to her credit, she does. She only thinks about Beth a few times the next day. Even less the next day. But Beth is always in the back of her mind, something nagging at her to just call Beth already. But she can’t. Because there’s also the (completely invalid) worry that Beth doesn’t care.

 Alison realizes she should probably just ask Beth if this is actually going anywhere (if they’re going anywhere). 

It’s only 1:07. She still has three more hours before she can call. She turns her phone off, and resigns herself to not thinking about Beth until she gets home. 

Almost the second after Alison settles into her couch, she takes out her phone. Before she can even unlock it, it notifies her that she has a new text. It’s from Beth. 

Hey, Ali.

 You wouldn’t happen to be free this Saturday? I thought we could watch a movie….I have more wine ;) 

Alison knows Beth’s trying to flirt with her, and she doesn’t have any actual idea of how to respond. She decides to play it cool, try not to show how excited she is. 

She’s stressing out over how to word her reply, but figures that Beth’s already forgotten any ideas that Alison was anything other than awkward. So she sends it, before she can have any doubts. 

Sounds good. I’ll drive myself this time, though. :)  

Alison puts her phone down, and allows herself a little smile.

 She ignores her doubts, because for the moment, everything is perfect.