It’s almost Christmas, and Janis’s all-consuming crush on Cady Heron is just becoming more of a burden.
Not in a bad way, but in an ever-present gay panic kind of way. Basically, Janis looks perfectly normal whenever her and Cady are affectionate (which is a lot because they’re friends and that’s what friends do, right?) but inside is having 12 mental breakdowns and 30 existential crisis.
Also, she’s 99% percent sure Cady is straight.
So, yeah, she’s fine.
Janis absolutely no idea how to approach her feelings, which isn’t a surprise because she has never been good about this sort of thing.
Her first thought is, of course, tell Damian. It’s her first instinct in most situations but she doesn’t really want to drag him into her overdramatic gay angst right now. Plus, she knows that he would make a huge deal over it.
Her second, tell Cady. It always seems like a probable possibility to her for a couple seconds, then she remembers that it could mess up the whole dynamic of their friend group and she pushes the thought deep down into the always expanding box in her brain labeled ‘Cady’.
Her final option, even though it’s insanely outlandish and risky, is to tell Regina George. And to be honest, it is the option Janis has considered the most. Sure her and Regina hated (understatement) each other for most of their teen lives and she did ruin Janis’s life. But, Regina does have the most relationship experience of anyone Janis knows and after the bus incident, she had come out to Janis first. Explaining that one of the reasons she had treated her the way she did was because she was just confused about her own sexuality. She also said that she knew it wasn’t an excuse (to which Janis had enthusiastically agreed) and apologized again. They aren’t exactly friends, but they’re on way better terms than before.
Even so, Janis’s stomach is still in knots as she finds herself standing on Regina’s front porch and staring up at the girl's magnificent house. It is basically a castle, at least compared to Janis’s house which isn’t even that small.
Rose gardens (pink roses obviously) line the outside of the house, giving the air a fresh, overpowering aroma. It’s just like Janis recalls from when she was in middle school and she came here all the time. She realizes she hasn’t been back since the day when Regina had confronted her before school and everything went wrong, but the same feeling of dread and excitement still settles in her stomach. She reaches out and rings the doorbell after a minute of just standing there and waits until the door swings open, revealing Mrs. George in one of her bright pink tracksuits.
“No! Way!” she squeals. “Janis Sarkisian? It’s been so long. Oh, my God, come in, come in.”
Janis enters, offering her a closed lipped, awkward smile. “Hi, Mrs. George.”
Before she can look around, the older woman crushes her in a hug. It really is true, her boob job is rock hard.
“How are you? What brings you by?”
Janis silently thanks her for not commenting on how different she looks, because boy does she. She remembers flouncing into the mansion with her pink clothes and non-dyed brown hair and running straight up to Regina’s room without a second glance at her mom.
“I’m good. I guess,” Janis says, letting the sleeves of her jacket cover up her hands. “I’m actually here to see Regina.”
Immediately, Mrs. George leans her head back towards the spiral staircase in the corner of the open room and screams, “REGINA!”
A moment later, the former Plastic yells back. “WHAT?”
“COME DOWN HERE!”
There is a garbled mess of a couple curse words and footsteps before Regina appears at the top of the staircase. She doesn’t see Janis until she’s halfway down the steps and she stops abruptly when she does. “Janis?”
Janis gives her a little wave. Regina’s brows furrow, then she nods her head to the side, indicating that Janis should follow.
Regina’s room is exactly like Janis remembers. Same bright pink walls, bed and dresser. Except now, there is a treadmill shoved off into the corner and a couple discarded cans of soda strewn about. Clothes still litter her floor, covering almost every inch of the dark hardwood. As one would expect, most of the clothes are pink. Her vanity, covered in many makeup products and strong smelling, expensive perfume has only seemed to grow.
“What’s up,” Regina sighs, though it’s less of a question and more of a greeting.
“I need your advice,” blurts Janis, standing frozen in the doorway until Regina motions that she should sit down on the end of her bed.
“About what? Everything okay?”
“Yeah,” Janis looks out Regina’s bedroom window that overlooks her massive backyard, bouncing her leg up and down as the nerves finally get to her. “Well, I mean… I don’t know. Exactly. I’m just sort of confused.”
“Okay,” Regina says slowly, plopping down on her fuzzy pink ottoman and picking up what looks to be a fresh can of soda. She takes a sip.
“I’m just gonna say it… I think I like Cady.”
Regina starts to cough violently and chokes on the soda she’d been drinking. Janis is pretty sure some of it squirts from her nose and she can’t help the little snort of laughter that escapes her lips as Regina coughs, doubling over from surprise.
When she straightens up, her face is bright red.
Janis comes to her senses. “Oh God, it’s so weird I know-”
“No, no, Janis, it’s not weird,” Regina waves her off with one hand and then grins. “I was just surprised. Well, not really. I know you like her, I just wasn’t expecting you to go right out and say it. No offense, Jan, but you’re not the best when it comes to owning up to your feelings.”
Janis scowls, but she knows she’s right. Then she frowns.
“How did you know, that I like her, I mean?”
Regina scoffs and rolls her eyes. “It’s so obvious. I mean you’re always staring at her when you think no one is looking. I’ve seen how much you doodle her, and whenever she is any sort of affectionate with you, you turn so red you look like the Kool-aid man.”
“Who I hate, by the way,” she adds as an afterthought.
Janis buries her face in her hands, taking in what Regina had said. Is she really that obvious? Or is Regina just incredibly perceptive? If it's the former, there is a chance that everybody knows and just pities her so they don't say anything. A chance that Cady knows. Janis shudders at the thought.
“What do I do?” She mumbles, muffled by her fingers.
“I would tell her,” Regina sighs, reaching out to awkwardly pat Janis’s arm. “But, I’d get it if you don’t want to. It’s pretty intimidating.”
“Yeah,” Janis says, looking up at the blonde and feeling sort of burnt out as the rush of adrenaline that had helped her admit her feelings fades away. “Thanks, Regina.”
She smiles kindly, the kindest smile Janis has ever seen on Regina George’s face.
“I’ll see you tomorrow?”
Janis stands and moves to exit, but not before she says one more thing.
“The Kool-aid man?”
“Oh, shut up."
Janis wakes the next morning, Monday morning, a few minutes before her alarm, which is pretty goddamn annoying. She waits for it to go off, then literally rolls out of bed, only sticking her legs out at the last second to avoid falling face first on the ground.
When she glances at her phone, she sees a couple texts waiting for her. A meme from Cady and a reminder that Janis is supposed to pick her up for school (to which her heart flutters annoyingly), a text from Damian complaining about how his cat had scratched him and one from her dad saying he’d be home late.
That last one isn’t a surprise. As a big executive, her father is always working late. She doesn’t blame him, though, because he is the only source of income for their household. Since her mom left, Janis has become way more protective of her dad. He’s the only family she actually talks to and, besides her mom (who’s off living some great life in another state), he’s the only family she has left.
By the time Janis is sitting in her car, she has twenty minutes to pick up Cady and get to school.
She honks twice when she pulls into the Herons’ driveway and waits a couple moments before Cady comes barreling out the front door with her backpack in one hand and a half-eaten banana in the other.
Janis can’t help but grin as the small redhead slides into the passenger seat, backpack at her feet and reaching to give her a friendly side hug.
“Hey, Jan,” says Cady.
“Hey,” Janis greets back, looking over her shoulder to safely back up.
Cady reaches out to Janis’s phone on the dashboard and picks a song. Janis can’t help but smile at how comfortable she is around her. The song she picks is a little too close to pop for Janis’s taste, but Cady seems to like it so she gives it a chance.
“Oh,” Cady exclaims during a comfortable silence after a little conversation they’d had about a new show Janis was watching. “I’m having a Christmas party.”
Janis glances over at her. “Uh, that’s great.”
“I want you to come. It’ll be fun.”
“I don’t know, Caddy, parties aren’t really my scene.”
Cady turns toward her. “It’s just going to be people from school. I don’t want to force you to come if you don’t want to, but I really think you’ll like it.”
Janis watches the road more intently for a couple seconds. Then, she sighs. “Okay, I’ll go.”
Cady fist pumps adorably. “Great. It’s on Sunday, my house, at six.”
After school, Janis drops Cady off at her house, then makes her way back home. When she rattles open the front door, she’s surprised to see her dad sitting at the kitchen table. He’s scribbling something in a notebook with a laptop open (obviously working), but he’s home. Janis grins.
“Hey, Pop’s,” she teases, setting her bag down on one of the chairs near him.
He looks up and smiles. “Hey, kid. How was school?”
“Fine. What’re you doing home so early?”
He sighs. Janis can see the exhaustion in his face. The bags under his bloodshot eyes and the way he yawns every couple of seconds. Normally, her father is full of life. Well, that was mostly before he became a single parent. He still sometimes resembles the lively man she’d once seen, but he always seems just a little tense. Like he’s constantly waiting for bad news.
Janis can also somewhat see herself in him. The relentless ambition (in his case, to work harder at his job, and in hers, the amount of time and attention she puts into every art piece she makes) and the unwavering loyalty. Even the way they hold themselves; confident, but also a little under the radar in a strange way. Like nobody really notices how proud they are until they get up close.
“I needed a little break, and I wanted you to help me set up some Christmas decorations.”
Janis spends the rest of the night laughing with her dad about stupid stuff and setting up their fake tree, stockings, and lights around the house.
The day comes of Cady’s Christmas party, which is the night before Christmas Eve.
Janis sits on Damian’s bed, up in his room, mindlessly scrolling through seasons of The Office on his TV while he hums (and occasionally belts out) Broadway tunes. It’s a Sunday, so they spent the day talking and watching re-runs of old Disney channel original movies. It’s always so easy with Damian that sometimes Janis forgets what to do when he isn’t there. Luckily, he is, so they lounge around in their matching Christmas sweaters waiting for six to roll around so they can head out.
Damian wanted pink sweaters with little snowflakes on them, but Janis had protested, so instead, they got dark red ones with dancing skeletons in little light red Santa hats.
Although, now that Janis is paying a little more attention, she notices something off with her best friend. Every couple of seconds he glances over at her, bites his lip to keep from smiling and looks away again. His humming also decreases. After a couple minutes, Janis can’t stand it anymore.
“Okay, what’s going on? Why do you keep looking at me like that?”
He then proceeds to look at anything but Janis.
“Damian,” she says cautiously. “Damian, what happened?”
“Okay,” he squeals. “I’ll say it, but you have to promise not to kill Regina, okay?”
It dawns on her. She grabs a pillow and buries her face in it. “Oh, God. She told you.”
“Well, yeah. I can’t believe it! How did I not see it? I mean it was right there in front of me! Janis, you like Cady, this is amazing!”
By the end of his outburst, he’s practically jumping up and down.
“This,” Janis says, gesturing wildly. “Is why I didn’t tell you. I knew you would make a bigger deal out of it than it already is.”
Damian seems to calm down a bit. He sits down opposite her but his eyes are still shining. “Sorry. Okay, I’ll stop. I’m just really happy, Jan.”
“Why,” she whines, leaning back against the headboard of his bed. “She’s straight, Dam. Crushes on straight girls never end well. I just have to get over it.”
“Okay,” he starts. “First of all, no straight girl wears that much flannel. I don’t care if she lived on the savannah her whole life and wasn’t exposed to any other fashion choices, it’s just not a thing. And second, you don’t need to get over it, you just need to tell her. I know you, Janis. You bottle up all your feelings, then you explode or you get sad. I don’t want either of those things to happen to my platonic soulmate.”
Janis can’t help but smile. She leans over to hug him.
“Thanks,” she mumbles into his shoulder. “I’ll, uh, think on that.”
They get to Cady’s party a little late, mostly because Damian wanted to stop for hot chocolate at the new cafe in town. And, honestly, Janis can’t complain. They arrive, just as they’re finishing their drinks and head up the little flight of stairs to the front door.
Janis knocks a couple times but ultimately decides to just open the door because the pulsing music probably prevents anyone from hearing anything. She gives Damian a little nervous sideways glance.
It’s actually not as loud inside as she had expected it to be and the music seems to be a remix of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. Kids mill around holding red solo cups and talking and chatting normally. It definitely seems tamer than the Halloween party last year, at least from what Janis had seen of the pictures on Instagram.
Damian splits off after a couple minutes when he spots his theatre friends across the living room, leaving Janis to wander for a bit until she finds Regina standing in one of the doorways. She seems to be flirting with a shorter brunette girl but abandons the conversation when she sees Janis, waving her over.
“Hey, Casanova,” she greets. Janis rolls her eyes.
“Ha ha,” she says, deadpanning. “I can't believe you told him."
"I know," Regina looks down. "I'm really sorry, I thought he already knew. You know, because you guys literally tell each other everything."
"It's okay, I guess. He would've found out eventually," Janis sighs. "Have you seen Cady?"
Regina raises her eyebrows. “Once. When I got here.”
“Oh. Well, I think I’ll go fi--,”
Suddenly, Regina pushes her. Not hard enough that she topples over, but just hard enough that she stumbles a few feet back and right into someone. Janis spins and immediately recognizes the copper-haired individual she’d run into. Cady let’s out a little ‘oof’ noise, then looks up at her, then further up, directly above their heads. Janis follows her gaze.
Janis had been pushed right into the opposing doorway across the hall from where she and Regina had been talking, into Cady, and precisely underneath a large bundle of mistletoe.
“Uh,” she says. “Hi?”
“Hey,” Cady mutters, then points up at the plant dangling from the doorframe. “Mistletoe, huh?”
Janis can feel her face go completely red. “Yeah, but it’s stupid. We can just forget about it.”
She hears a dramatic cough behind her shoulder.
“Well,” she says. Janis is acutely aware of how close they are, Cady’s arm pressed against hers. “I mean it’s a tradition, right?”
Janis gulps and nods. Then, Cady stands on her tiptoes to press a small kiss to Janis’s cheek. Her lips barely brush Janis’s skin, but she gets a little light-headed anyways.
Cady smiles shyly and steps away. Janis thinks she sees a light blush underneath the freckles along Cady’s cheekbones. It just makes her turn even redder.
“I’m gonna go,” she points vaguely behind her. “Talk to Regina.”
“Okay,” Cady smiles. “I like your sweater.”
“I’m going to find Karen. Glad you came, Jan.”
When Janis turns around Regina is grinning like an idiot, wiggling her eyebrows dramatically.
“That might have been the most adorable and painful thing I’ve ever seen.”
“I hate you,” Janis grumbles, crossing her arms.
The party goes by gruelingly slow and Janis finds herself spending most of it standing near Damian or the snack table. Not an entirely bad way to spend an hour. She observes her drunk high school classmates intently. Intoxicated teens have always been Janis’s favorite thing to watch, and she wishes that she had her sketchbook to draw them. That is until she spots a particular sight that makes her blood run cold.
Cady, obviously flirting with a taller boy Janis recognizes from her AP English Lit. class. He’s leaning over her, saying stuff that makes her giggle. Janis isn’t sure if Cady has had a lot to drink and she’s loopy or if she genuinely finds him funny. He says something again and Cady starts to laugh. Then, he leans down to whisper in her ear and she looks up at him innocently with a grin on her face.
Janis has no right to the jealousy burning in her chest. No right to feel the way she’s feeling, but she can’t stop it and that scares her a little.
Unconsciously, she grabs for Damian’s sleeve. He looks up, a little surprised and follows her gaze. His face falls when he sees them and he throws an arm around Janis’s shoulders and tugs her away from the crowd. Once they’re in the hall next to the stairs where it’s mostly empty, he frowns.
“I’m so sorry, Janis,” he says, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her in. She buries her face in his shoulder and pushes back the sting her eyes and lump in her throat, reminding herself how wrong her feelings for Cady are. After a couple minutes, she hears heel’s clacking on the hardwood and opens her eyes enough to see Regina walking towards them with an apologetic look on her face. She pats Janis’s shoulder once she takes a step back from Damian.
“I saw,” Regina sighs.
They glance at each other, then back at Janis. It’s pity in their eyes, which she can’t stand. She never wants them to pity her.
A rush of sudden confidence rolls over her in the most unexpected way. Like a spark in her brain that’s only fueled by the unreasonable anger and jealousy she feels about seeing Cady flirting with someone else.
“Janis...” Damian says, seeing the expression change on her face.
“I’m gonna to tell her,” she mumbles, pushing past them.
She hears Damian say under his breath, “Sweet Jesus,” then he calls out, “Good luck, honey!”
Her eyes scan the living room for the familiar redhead, and they find her still talking to the boy from earlier, near the fireplace. She marches up to Cady.
“Hey, Janis,” she says cheerfully.
“I need to talk to you.”
“Alone,” Janis motions over her shoulder.
“Okay,” she says, slowly, then says ‘bye’ to the boy, Jonah, Janis remembers. He looks disappointed, shooting Janis a small yet evident glare.
Now in the hallway, Janis grabs Cady’s hand and pulls her up the stairs and into her room, shutting the door soundly behind them.
“Janis, is everything okay?” She looks concerned, placing a hand on Janis’s shoulder. “Why are you acting weird?”
Janis shrugs off her hand, the confidence wavering. But, she knows she has to do it. Has to say it, because she doesn’t want to (and can't stand to) keep it bottled up any longer.
“I need to tell you something and you have to promise not to freak out, or stop being friends with me.”
Cady furrows her brows in confusion. “Of course.”
“Okay,” Janis starts to pace, struggling to find the words. She hadn’t been expecting to confess tonight, so she has nothing prepared. She tries shutting off her mind and just talking.
“Okay, so, I like you. A lot. And not in a platonic way, in a gay way. And – and I hated myself for it. I hated that I had this hopeless crush – no, no. That I was hopelessly in love with you. That’s so weird to say out loud – for so long because I thought it was so wrong. I thought it would mess everything up, and then you would hate me and I couldn’t deal with the idea of that, of not having you in my life. So I didn’t say anything, I didn’t risk it. But I have been so – so in love with you for so long. And, now that I’m saying it out loud I sound insane.”
Janis leans back against the wall, burying her face in her hands and refusing to look at Cady. To see the expression on her face. After a few moments of tense silence, she does. Cady is sitting on the edge of her bed, now staring at her hands in her lap.
“Say something, Cady. Please. Say anything.”
“I-I,” but she falters.
The confidence is gone now, replaced with an aching pain. Janis swipes at her cheeks defiantly, wiping away any stubborn tears that she has shed.
“Fine. I should go,” she says, wanting to sound like she doesn’t care. But she does, and it comes out in more of a pitiful mumble. Janis turns, throwing open the door and strides out, slamming it behind her. She rushes down the stairs shoving past Damian and Regina who were gathered at the bottom having a low conversation.
“Jan?” Damian calls after her. “What happened?”
But she doesn’t stop. She pushes through the crowd in the foyer, grabbing her coat from where it has been hanging and tugs it on.
As she rushes outside, she barely notices the fact that it has started to snow through the white-hot embarrassment boiling in her stomach. She stomps her way through Cady’s front yard, nearing the gate to the white picket fence.
She freezes, hand tensed against the fence’s metal lock.
This time she turns.
Cady is running toward her, stumbling down the front steps with a frantic look in her eyes. Janis has barely any time to think before she reaches her and takes Janis’s face in her hands, looks at her for a second, then kisses her.
Janis is so caught off guard that she stands there for a while, shock coursing through her veins. But it fades, and so does the embarrassment, pain, and every other negative emotion she has felt the entire night. Gone. Because Cady is kissing her and it’s so much better then she has ever imagined. Her hands slide around Cady’s waist, pulling her in closer. She ignores the cold in the tips of her ears and fingers and focuses on how warm Cady’s lips are against hers.
When Janis pulls away (mostly so she can catch her breath), she stares at her friend in awe.
“I’m in love with you, too. In a gay way,” Cady says, never breaking eye contact. She seems so sincere that Janis can’t help but grin like a fool, then laugh and drop her head onto Cady’s shoulder when she sees Damian and Regina standing on the front porch. They’re beaming at her and giving her enthusiastic thumbs up.
“I don’t know what to say,” Janis says, lifting her head.
“Don’t say anything, just kiss me.”
So she does, reveling in the way Cady’s hand slips behind her neck and her fingers curl in Janis’s hair. She could have stood there forever, but she pulls away just enough to look at Cady and uses her thumb to brush away some of the snow that has gathered in her hair.
The Christmas lights strung up on the porch illuminate the girl in front of her, and she’s so utterly beautiful that Janis can’t help but lean in again.