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The L Word

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My parent’s car was so ancient that I didn’t want to chance driving too fast on our way to Port Angeles. My head contained a vision of vehicle parts falling off alongside the highway, and once this image ended another entered my head. The second showcased me calling my parents and explaining to them why my friend and I needed to be picked up. If either of those situations ended up springing forth from my brain to became reality then I was sure the end result would involve me not being allowed to drive their car again. I wasn’t going to take that chance. Unfortunately this meant that I had to drive using a pace similar to someone who had already entered a nursing home. It didn’t go unnoticed by Bella and after being on the road for a few minutes with me, she joked, “You’re driving so much slower than I thought you would. I’m starting to rethink my decision of letting you be my chauffeur, grandma.”

“I’m pretty sure chauffeurs get paid. Does that mean you’ll be handing over some cash to your grammy when we get there?” I played along using my best interpretation of what an elderly woman might sound like, although mine sounded like she might have worked the vaudeville stage at some point.

Bella laughed. “Yeah, sure if you actually get us to Port Angeles I will pay you, but only because I will be so shocked that we got there at all.”

“You are the rudest grandchild I’ve ever had in all my years of being a grandma! I’m taking back that sweater I knitted you for Christmas.”

We went back and forth like this for a while and the silliness made me giddy. It lifted the heavy mood that had blanketed us ever since Edward had been brought up and Bella admitted she worried about letting me into whatever secret world the two of them shared. The idea that she thought about me, like at all, was something that still wrapped itself around my brain and hugged tightly. Bella hadn’t brought up hottest guy in class since then and whatever secrets his perfectly coiffed hair had inside its tresses, she didn’t bring them up. It seemed that as long as we didn’t talk about Edward and the conflicting emotions she felt about him, then Bella was okay. She even turned the station away from classical, which I silently praised baby jeebus for. Classical wasn’t something I had in common with Bella … you know, along with the whole lesbian thing.

Port Angeles wasn’t that big and only contained one mall, but it was one more mall than Forks had to offer. The only place in our little town I could think of that one could visit to find what a girl might need for a school dance was a resale shop that sometimes sold old bridesmaid dresses. Otherwise, if you wanted to wear anything new, it would have to come from Port Angeles ... unless you were feeling frisky and wanted to the drive to Seattle. When we eventually made it into Port Angeles and pulled up to its mall, Bella handed me a dollar bill and I glared at her in a teasing manner, but pocketed the money anyway.

Our dress shopping was uneventful, since Bella wasn’t buying and really was only there for moral support. She informed me that her tastes in clothes didn’t exactly include dresses and she didn’t know what looked good to wear to a dance. “I guess you could say I’m a tomboy or at least that’s what my mom always said when I was growing up.”

“What does your dad say?” I asked from behind one of the dressing room doors as I adjusted my breasts inside the top of a spaghetti strapped two piece pink dress.

“He doesn’t say much. Doesn’t really care. I think he’s just glad I’m not up for showing off all the curves I don’t have with tight clothes,” she replied and my brain instantly created an image of Bella dressed this way, but I quickly let it scatter into the recesses of my mind where I could pull it out later ... now was not the time.

“What do you think?” I asked walking out of my dressing room, because even though my friend had let me know she wasn’t willing to critique, I wouldn’t let her get off so easy.

Bella’s smile was shy when her eyes met mine and I saw the faint rise of the color pink lighten her cheeks. “Well, I think Mike will appreciate the view of your … uh … chest.”

Glancing down, I noticed the crevice in between my breasts that the dress showed off nicely. Probably too nicely.  I shook my head, “Yeah, too much boobage. Don’t want to give him the wrong idea, like I want him hanging around after the dance or something. This dress is a no.”

I had moved back into the tiny space that contained one mirror and a few other dresses I had already tried on, when I heard Bella ask somewhat timidly from the other side of the door, “Um Jess, I thought you liked Mike.”

“I do,” I replied, not understanding where she was coming from. “Going to the dance with him doesn’t exactly scream I hate you.” My voice came out playfully sardonic and I hoped Bella would catch the tease in my voice. She did and softly laughed.

“Yeah, I know, but you just said you didn’t want to give him the wrong idea to stick around,” Bella explained. “What idea is that?”

I knew that the real wrong idea was I didn’t want Mike being anything more to me than a prop. He would be my blinking billboard that showed everyone else at my high school just how normal I was … hey, here is a boy I’m going to a dance with, very hetero behavior from Jessica Stanley. Nothing unusual to see here. Move along. Of course, I couldn’t tell Bella this … or anyone, so I lied. “I’m not really looking for anything when it comes to guys. Dating is fun, but it distracts me from my endgame of leaving Forks after graduation. I don’t want to be tied down to this town, because of a guy.”

But a girl on the other hand …

“Oh that’s too bad for him, because Angela told me she overheard Mike telling Ben that he planned to take you somewhere else after the dance. I guess I assumed it was someplace ...” Bella paused, “Well, you know private to do private things.”

I snorted and exited the dressing room wearing the clothes I had come in. “The only place I’m going after the dance is home to eat some ice cream and watch Netflix. He can go somewhere else and be private with his hand.”

“Jess!” Bella exclaimed in a shocked whisper.

My filter, which usually was functioning properly, had been on the fritz ever since I’d decided to open up to Bella and now it seemed that along with my closeted lesbian those parts of me were falling away, destroying the expertly crafted character I had created. I honestly didn’t care anymore and didn’t think Bella minded my candor. She was more surprised than offended … we were teenage girls after all, it would be weird if the subject of a guy jerking off didn’t come up at least once during our trip.  I shrugged my shoulders in response to her saying my name and Bella giggled shyly.

“I think I’ll get this yellow one.” I held up my chosen dress for Bella’s inspection and she nodded.

“It goes with your bright and colorful vocabulary,” she added with a wink and I melted.

“Ok, so I’m going to pay for this and then we can get some lunch? Maybe do that other thing we came all the way out here to do?” I said, bringing up Edward, because I knew Bella was stalling.

“Yeah, I guess so,” she sighed, leaning against the wall and fiddling with the zipper of her hoodie, “But can we go somewhere else first?”

“Where’d you have in mind?”

“A book store,” Bella replied, a bit of hesitation in her voice.

I wasn’t sure if she was joking, “Um yeah, I got a book store on my phone, it’s called the Amazon app. Pretty useful tool.”

“No, I’m serious. It’s one of those weird bookstores that has palm reading in the back and sells books on the occult. I looked it up online.”

“You looked the store up online, but didn’t take the time to order the book you were looking for at the same time?” I raised my eyebrows.

Bella sighed. “I don’t know what book I want. I just like the ambiance okay and it will help me in explaining things to you.”

I could tell she was getting frustrated with me and I decided to lay off the teasing. “Okay … let’s go to this bookstore, but if you tell me that we are going to meet Edward there, so he can read our palms then I’m out.”

Bella rolled her eyes. “Believe me he doesn’t need to read a palm to know what someone’s thinking.”

She sounded glum, but I didn’t press her to explain what she meant, because I was sure I would find out soon enough anyway.