It's funny how things change.
Growing up, Jules never thought she'd be here, dancing in a club that was women-only, surrounded by her teammates and girlfriend. America, the land of opportunity in more ways than one.
Jess catches her arm as she stops short on the dance floor, dark eyes catching hers. “I just need some air,” Jules yells. It's like Germany all over again, except both of them are older and Joe is nowhere to be seen. It's been this way for a while now, the two of them together.
Jules pushes through the crowd of sweaty, warm bodies, but then stands at the door. If she goes outside, people will know where she's been, what she calls herself in the dark of the night, the name she was so adamant against in her youth.
It's no surprise that Jess has followed her. Her smaller hand pushes open the door, the other one latching around Jules's wrist and tugging her outside. They stand outside and it's not much cooler underneath the street lamp thanks to the California summer heat.
Jules leans against the pole and doesn't say anything. Jess lets go of her wrist, sliding her hand down to tangle her fingers with hers. Jules pulls away, eyes scanning down the road automatically. There's no one around but them.
Jess gives a soft sigh, like she knows what's going on in Jules' head. She steps closer, letting go of her hand to wrap both arms around her waist. Jules lets both of her arms wrap around Jess' shoulders and pulls her closer, against her body. They stand that way, not speaking and Jules' head buried against Jess's dark hair, until the club door opens again, spilling light and noise into the night.
Family isn't the same thing to Jules as it is to Jess, but she still doesn't want to disappoint her mother any more than she already has. She knows her mum wanted a daughter, a little girl who would play dress up in pink and frills, hold tea parties – instead she got a daughter who liked to play football and chopped off her hair. Bless her mum, she tried and tries even today to understand. Jules wonders if her words in the car that summer were truth or lip service.
She remembers being in her room, young and confused, mourning Joe, her friendship with Jess and there was that doubt, that niggling voice in the back of her head that wondered if she was more upset because Jess was kissing Joe or Joe was kissing Jess. Jules heard her mother sob even from upstairs, her father’s quiet reassurance about George Michael still being a superstar. But Jules doesn’t know how to be brave when it’s her own self on the line.
“You don't have to tell them,” Jess says. “They're hundreds of miles away, it's not like your mum can do anything about it!”
“I'm holding you back!” Jules exclaims. “You, you're halfway across the world and had little problem telling your mum!” It's their usual fight, when Jules's long-held fear that rears its head every so often.
“It’s not like I meant to,” Jess says right before she storms out, and Jules knows that’s true too. She had been there for that long-distance phone call, seen the way the Jess’s skin had gotten paler after the words had slipped out, how the voices had raised on the other end of the phone in the immediate aftermath.
Jess talks to her parents less often now, after that conversation so many months ago when this thing between her and Jess was new and fragile. It felt like a stone then, weighing down Jules, because she knows she can’t tell her mum. (She doesn’t know if she even accepts it herself.)
Jules calls her parents every other week, talks about the football team with her dad, the travelling schedule. Her mum always asks after Jess and the latest fashions; sometimes she asks about boys and Jules turns to her standard answer of there’s a boy in class I might fancy, always when Jess is out of the room or in the shower.
It feels a bit wrong, hiding this part of herself. Jules thinks that maybe her mum would be accepting. She knows that Jess is probably right, her mum wouldn’t get on a plane at the news - it might not even be news - but Jules doesn’t want to have the conversation over the phone.
How do you explain that you fancy both? Jules had a crush on Joe back when she was younger, she doesn’t bother denying it. He was pretty fit and talented on the pitch, why shouldn’t she have been attracted? Joe humored her and flirted back, but he also listened to her, got the Harriers started and gave them all a shot. Then Jess had come along and everything had turned on its head. Jules had spent the summer equally overwhelmed with thoughts of America, her long-held dream becoming a reality and at the sight of the shorter girl, often right next to her and running around the pitch with the ball at her feet.
She’d flown to America with Jess at her side, knowing that the Indian girl was wrapped up in thoughts of their coach and tried to bury her feelings in the excitement of Santa Clara. It had mostly worked, up until the point that Joe had said it wasn’t going to work and Jules had kissed Jess three weeks later. She’d been surprised when Jess had kissed her back.
Jess returns as Jules is brushing her teeth.
“I don’t mean to pressure you,” she begins and Jules spits into the sink. “I know you’re flying back for the holidays,” and Jules cuts her off, heading into the bedroom.
“You aren’t pressuring me, Jess. Well, I mean you are,” she watches Jess’s face crumple before she pulls on her sleepshirt. Jules draws her longtime friend to sit next to her on the bed. “But it’s nothing that hasn’t been going around in my head before. Honestly, it’s driving me a bit mad, all this wondering about my parents and what to say and how to say it and I’m not like you, Jess!”
Jess takes a moment to respond. “I’m not asking you to be,” Jules crosses her arms over her chest and Jess pulls her into a one-way hug. “I just want you to be happy,” the other girl whispers.
“I’m happy now,” Jules says quietly, into the room where it's just the two of them wrapped in each other.
“Are you?” and Jules doesn’t answer, she just turns out the light. She can think about it on the plane ride back home. She might even have an answer when it lands at Heathrow.