Five Weeks Earlier
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Where do you see yourself in 15 years?
"Alive? To all of the above?" Yashvi laughed to herself as she sat on her bed, one leg tucked under the other before shaking her head and letting out a sigh . "No, I can't write that."
Having to answer these questions got her thinking about the future, about her future. Where she saw herself in years to come and what she wanted to do with her life when she finished school at the end of the year. Footy was still on the table. She wanted to continue with it as long as she could and if she could go pro - make it all the way to the AFLW, it would be a dream come true but she also wanted more. She wanted to do more with her life and having been there for Xanthe. For Jay, Ben and Kirsha and Olivia made her realise she wanted to help people as well. She wanted to be there for them and protect them.
She'd ruled out joining the police, despite Mishti's encouragement as well as going into law or medicine. They just weren't for her - weren't areas she was interested in being involved in but there were two options she'd thought a lot about. The first, social work and the second, counselling. Both allowed her to help people like herself: People of Colour and the LGBTQAI+ community.
Help them. Protect them. Support them. Look after them. And do so in a way that she had been her entire life, especially from her mother. She knew why she did it, even when it frustrated her (which was almost all the time) or was so overbearing that she wanted to run. Her mother just wanted to protect her from the reality of the world, from seeing what it was really like and wanted to make sure she didn't face the same world that she had to at her age and that was something that so many people didn't have.
And her mum was a big reason why she felt she hadn't struggled, as much as she thought she would, with who she was. With her sexuality. It had taken her a while to realise and understand but once she did, it was as though all the pieces just fell into place. She knew who she was and she was happy, comfortable and loved herself for it.
There was a difference between knowing who you are and saying the words, admitting it out loud to another person - telling another person that you're gay and not knowing how they might react. If it'd change the way they looked at her. Changed how they treated her. It was a big part of why she had kept this to herself. Why she hadn't told anyone yet, especially her family. She was scared of what might happen next. She'd heard too many stories. Seen it at school, in Burk and even in the street itself. When someone came out or in some cases unfortunately, were outed by others, they either got the supportive family or they got the homophobic ones (like Olivia, her mum threw her out onto the streets when she found out she was a lesbian. Luckily, Leo agreed to let her stay at The Backpackers for free for as long as she needed it).
She already knew, from their reaction to Jay telling them he was trans that he family was opened minded - accepting but the problem was she didn't know if that acceptance applied to her too. She'd learnt not to assume that that accepting and loving one person, their sexuality or gender meant you accepted everyone. The Brennans showed her that and Mark was the worst when it came to this. He accepted Aaron and David. Both their sexuality and relationship but treated Steph (probably why Steph dumped him after a couple of weeks) and Chloe appallingly. It wasn't hard to figure out why, especially after she'd overheard some of the things Mark and Aaron were saying one day and weeks later, Steph blasting them in the streets over it. Saying that all the men in that house hated queer women before she punched Mark in the face, breaking his nose.
That was on the back of her mind. What had her worried.
Did they love her as much as they loved him?
Jay had always been the favourite. They loved him. Adored him. He was perfect to them - couldn't do anything wrong and it was like that from the moment he was born and after he came out as trans, they were just a nightmare. Suffocating with this never-ending love and care and protection (which she understood, the people back in Burk were as closed minded as you could get).
But she was different.
Her relationship with both of them was different.
It was strained.
They were both supportive, protective and loving when the time called for it or she needed them but the rest of the time, their relationship was fractured and no matter what she did or how hard she tried to do the right thing, she just always seemed to end up disappointing or letting them down. She just never managed to get anything right with them. To be the daughter they actually wanted and since Kirsha's accident, it'd been worse. Especially her relationship with her father. She knew, despite what he said that he still blamed her for what happened. He'd just never actually admit it to her face but she'd overheard him talking to her mum, talking about how he disliked her - the person she'd become and that moment, months on still cut deep.
As she sat on the bed, she heard a knock at the door which caught her attention as she looked up to see the door partially open and Shane, stick his head in and smile at her, the phone in his hand pressed against his left shoulder.
"Hey." Shane whispered. "I'm ordering the take out now. Did you want the usual or something else?"
"Where are you ordering from?" Yashvi asked.
"Just the usual."
"Okay." Shane said, as he put the phone to his ear and turned to close the door.
Yashvi called out, suddenly which stopped the door from closing as Shane looked back in. She didn't know what it was or why not but there was something that made her feel like it the right time and that, out of everyone she should tell her dad first. That if anyone was going to reject her, i would be him and she would be ready for it. And considering how bad their relationship was already, there was no concern that this might make things worse between them.
"Can you..." Yashvi paused, taking a deep breath before licking her lips. "Can you... can you stay? Please? I need to tell you something important."
Yashvi paced up and down her bedroom.
Pausing to say something before looking at her father, his back hunched and his brows furrowed as he leaned forward on her bed, confused about what was going on before she shook her head and continued pacing.
She'd decided to come out before she'd thought about what she was going to say or how she was going to say it and whether she should start at the beginning or just dive right into it. Tell them she was a lesbian or gay or only interested in girls (whatever the right word was for herself, she hadn't worked that out) or explain that, for years, she'd believed she liked boys but there was always something awkward about it. Something off like, it wasn't a real feeling. SImply a way of making people like her. Of looking cool because it was what every other teenage girl seemed to be doing. So, she did it too but it always felt wrong. Uncomfortable even. Especially when things started to get close and personal which made her realise she wasn't actually interested in them at all. At least not like that.
Shane's eyes followed her.
From left to right and back again as he tapped the tips of his fingers on his right knee. "Vi..." Shane whispered, nervously, catching Yashvi's attention and stopping her in her tracks. "Is... Has something happened? You're..." Shane chuckled. "you're really starting to scare me."
"No! No, it's... sorry. It's fine. There's absolutely nothing to worry about. I'm okay. I'm... No, actually I'm pretty great." Yashvi smiled.
"Okay." Shane breathed a sigh of relief. "That's go-"
"I'm gay!" The words flew out of Yashvi's mouth before she had to a chance to think or stop herself, leaving her stunned. "I'm... dad, I'm a lesbian."
Yashvi nodded, her lips pressed together as she blinked, repeatedly before whispering to herself. "I'm a lesbian. Ha!" She let out a laugh as her eyes lit up and she was unable to contain how happy she was and how freeing, just saying those words out loud made her feel. But her smile faded the moment she turned and realised her father was still there, sitting on the bed watching her in silence. Unsure of what her father was going to say or how he'd react.
Yashvi whispered under her breath, her eyes following Shane as he stood up and approached her. Placing his arms around her and pulling her into a hug. Letting out a massive deep breath as she relaxed, closing her eyes and smiling again as she let herself sink into his arms.
"I love you, Vi."
Shane whispered, smiling.
He'd known or at least suspected this for a while now but thought it was best not to say anything. At least not until Yashvi was either ready to admit it herself or in case he was wrong. He wanted this to be hers to tell him if and when she was ready to and when that moment came, he was going to make sure he was prepared and reacted in an appropriate way. That he knew what to say and more importantly, what not to say as to avoid hurting her.
He'd enrolled, under an alias of Marcus Puffer in a group chat for LGBTQAI+ people and posed the question to them of what did their parents, who were supportive and accepting of their sexuality say to them when they came out that they wished hadn't been said. The main thing that upset so many was their parents responding with "I know". One person said it made them feel like their coming out was irrelevant while another felt undermined when they were at their most vulnerable. That their parents made them feel like their coming out wasn't that big of a deal while others said it made them feel more at ease because they didn't feel like they were expected to explain anything to them.
Weighing it up, he came to the conclusion that he shouldn't say anything about knowing, at least not yet. All he could do was make sure Yashvi knew he loved and accepted her for who she was and that she felt loved and accepted, no matter what. And he'd already made so many mistakes over the years, he wanted to make sure it never happened again.
Yashvi said, softly as she pulled away from him, looking up at him. She wanted to ask if that was it or if he had something more to say. Questions he wanted to ask her before shaking her head and smiling.
"Nothing." Yashvi continued smiling as Shane smiled back at her. "I love you, dad. Um..." Yashvi took a deep breath. "Dad?"
"Do you think you could tell mum and Kirsha for me, please? I want them to know. I just don't want to go through this again. And just keep it in the family... at least for now."
Shane nodded. "I can do that."
"Thanks dad." Yashvi smiled and lent in, wrapping her arms around him.
Shane asked and signed as both Dipi and Kirsha sat on the lounge, in complete silence. He didn't want to beat around the bush. Didn't want to wait or delve into this too much. This was Yashvi's story to tell, not his so he wanted to relay the information and then take a step back. He'd called them both into the room just over 10 minutes ago and asked them to sit down because he had something important to tell them both.
"Yashvi has, um... Well, she's asked me to tell you both something. It's something that, um... well, she wants this kept between... um, well between us, okay?"
Shane said, both verbally and signing as Dipi and Kirsha looked at one another, confused and concerned and then back at him, nodding.
"She's a lesbian!"
Dipi sat there, unresponsive as Kirsha watched her. She hadn't taken her eyes off her mother, concerned about her and how she was coping with the news but realising there was nothing she could do, she turned and looked around the room. Smiling half-heartedly and tapping her finger on her knee before shrugging her shoulders and putting her right hand up, as if to ask a question.
"I already knew that."
"Yeah, me too." Shane chuckled as Dipi looked up at him, shocked. "But, um... we won't tell Vi that, okay?"
Shane signed to Kirsha as she smiled and nodded, standing up and leaning towards her mum as she placed her hand on her shoulder which caught Dipi's attention as she spoke softly. "It's okay, mum." Kissing the top of her head before she turned and walked out of the room, Shane watching her before he turned to look at Dipi.
Shane asked as he reached across, attempting to hold Dipi's hand as she retreated from his touch and stood up, walking around the couch and towards the kitchen counter. Placing her hand on her stomach and pressing against her clothes as she closed her eyes. Tears rolling down her left cheek as she clenched her teeth together while trying to maintain her composure and stop herself from completely breaking down.
Dipi was at a loss.
Unable to think or react or even know how to react to what was going on. She was trying desperately to focus on Yashvi, on being happy for her and supporting her but her thoughts, her guilt was pushing itself to the surface. Leaving her feeling as though she'd failed her. That if they'd been closer over the years, if their relationship wasn't strained or things were better between them than she would have noticed what was going on and Yashvi wouldn't have felt like she couldn't approach her. Like she couldn't open up to her.
"Where was I?" Dipi said softly, her voice strained and breaking up.
"It's not like... like I wasn't paying attention. Like I don't pay attention. I... I have been but, I mean, why didn't I see what you both saw? What did you and Kirshie see that I didn't? I don't understand how I missed this? I should have seen the signs. I... I saw them with Jay. I knew it was coming. I was ready. I was prepared for it but with Vi..."
Dipi closed her eyes as her lips begun to quiver and she placed her jittering hand over her mouth. "I failed her."
"You didn't, Dip. You... you haven't." Shane got closer, standing behind her as he gently placed his hands on her shoulders. .
"Then why didn't she come to me? Why didn't she tell me what was going on? What she was going through and how she was feeling? She must've... she's been alone this whole time - I could have been there for her but... I mean, why else would she have you do it?"
"She just... didn't want to go through that all again. That's all."
"THAT'S ALL?" Dipi yelled, her voice screeching as her eyes momentarily were overcome with anger as she turned around to face Shane, who took a step back before taking a deep breath. "No! She... she thought I would reject her and if we were closer she would know that I would never, ever do that."
"If we were closer she would have come to me."
"I don't think that... me and Vi..." Shane looked down, sadly. "we aren't that close either. Not anymore anyway so it's... that's not it."
"Maybe..." Dipi sighed before taking a step towards Shane, her brows furrowed. "How did you know? I mean..." Dipi chuckled, briefly. "God, Shane! You're the least observant person I know. I always... ALWAYS have to tell you everything that's going on in this family!"
"Well, not everything." Shane whispered to himself.
"About the kids, Shane, okay? I'm... We're talking about the kids here!"
Shane took a deep breath as he turned, walking towards the door frame before he stopped. Standing there for a few moments before he turned to look at Dipi. "After Jay... I guess, I realised that I needed to pay more attention. Look out for the little things - signs that..." Shane looked away from Dipi, whispering. " I don't know." Shane cleared his throat. " I just said so many awful things, behaved so badly with Jay and... I mean, the things I said to him... I shouldn't have..."
"You were a bigot, Shane! Let's just... just leave it at that, alright? Jay... he's forgiven you." Dipi forced a smile while her eyes filled with rage. " He's moved on. Let's just..."
"You haven't though, have you?"
Shane's lips quivered as his voice broke up while Dipi clenched her teeth together, closing her eyes and looking down, in an attempt to maintain her composure and stay calm before looking back at Shane, her arms folded and her face void of any emotion.
"This isn't about me or how I feel. It's about Yashvi."
"Yeah. Sorry." Shane took a deep breath. "I'm just saying... If I'd noticed he was trans earlier, I wouldn't have said any of that. At least, I'd like to think I wouldn't have and I didn't want to make that mistake again. I wanted to do the right thing this time. I wanted to make it right. That's something you've never had to worry about, Dip." Shane smiled at Dipi, talking softly and in awe of her. " You're always there for them. You... you love and care about them no matter what. I wanted to be more like that."
Dipi nodded as she looked down. "We all have room for improvement, I suppose. I need to do better, especially with Yashvi. I need to fix this - our relationship."
Yashvi texted Jay as she laid on her bed, waiting to see who was going to be the first person to knock on her door. She hadn't wanted to speak to her mum or Kirsha but knowing Jay was so far away, that the only contact she'd have with him was over the phone and could avoid any awkward conversation with him by simply not looking at her phone which made it easier to tell him. She and Jay had their moments over the years but they had never been close and he always felt more like Kirsha's brother than hers. If anything, they were more like two strangers who just happened to live in the same house.
As she lay there, she felt her phone vibrate next to her and hesitantly picked it up and looked at it. " Congrats!!! :D Hope we won't have to fight over girls now bcos u rn't hot enough 2 beat me :P"
Yashvi rolled her eyes and shook her head as she put the phone down on the bed before her eyes widened and she sat up in response to the sound of knocking at the door. Needing a moment, she took a deep breath and smiled. "It's okay. You can do this." She whispered to herself.
Yashvi called out, waiting for the door to open and see who was standing behind it before there was another knock. "I said..." Her brows furrowed as she realised it must have been Kirsha knocking. "Oh!" S he got off the bed and walked towards the door, opening it and gesturing for Kirsha to come in. Kirsha took a few steps into the room before turning around and facing Yashvi, who was standing with her back to the doorway, fidgeting with her fingers as she nervously awaited Kirsha's response.
"Are you okay?" Kirsha signed. .
"Yeah. Yeah, I am. I actually feel pretty good."
Kirsha responded, smiling.
If her father hadn't told her not to say anything about already knowing, she would have said more to Yashvi. Would have asked her about Xanthe, for one and if they were in a relationship. She and Jimmy had both realised some time ago that she clearly liked her as much more than a friend. It was obvious to anyone who looked at them and especially at the way Yashvi acted - like being around Xanthe just made her come alive. Light up in a way she'd never seen before. It was beautiful.
But she didn't want to say anything that took away from Yashvi's coming out, that made this moment about someone else or asked her too many questions that she might not want to answer at this point.
"I'm really happy for you."
Kirsha signed before approaching Yashvi, placing her arms around her waist and resting her head on her shoulder as Yashvi smiled and hugged her back.