Karolina Dean is six years old when she first laid eyes on Nico Minoru.
She had been knee deep in an argument with Alex on which Lego structure to build first to notice when the tiny girl had entered the room.
Little did she know, that moment would change her entire life.
Here’s how her story begins. Karolina Dean comes from a very powerful family, her mother, Leslie Dean, runs the Church of Gibborim. One day, Leslie felt this insane philanthropic need to do more for the people of their city. This pushed her to gather five powerful and influential families and create a charity organization called PRIDE.
For the most part, Karolina didn’t care for her mother’s organization, until it began to directly involve her.
It started when she was in the first grade. She had just arrived home from school when her mom made her dress up and told her to be on her best behavior. This basically meant, she had to play extra nice with guests that would be arriving at her house. However, that day in particular, Karolina was unsure why her mom had reminded her of that. For the past two months, she has been hosting these meetings and for the most part, Karolina knew who was expected to come.
The first people to arrive were the Wilders, and luckily for her, Alex Wilder was her best friend. The two of them had met a year ago; they were at some gathering that recognized their parents. Alex was playing with his Black Panther figurine when one of the older boys, Lucas, started to tease him. When Karolina witnessed this, she automatically reacted by attacking him while screaming ‘leave him alone’. Luckily for her, Chase Stein, had witnessed everything as well and stepped in, grabbing Karolina and Alex before Lucas could harm a hair on any of their heads. That was probably the first time she’s ever gotten into a fight (let’s be real it wasn’t a real fight), but nevertheless she did it for Alex. From that moment, they have been inseparable, even if Alex was a year younger than her.
Then came the Stein family, which involved their son, Chase Stein, whom Alex and Karolina had always been friendly with but never “really friends” (granted he’s saved them on multiple occasions). He would always look out for them, making sure guys like Lucas never messed with them. He would join them on their games, when he felt like it.
The last family to arrive were the Yorkes, there was Gertrude “Gert” Yorkes and her adopted little sister, Molly Hernandez. Gert was five years old and in all the same classes as Alex. For the most part, they were also civil with one another, just not that close. Karolina was intrigued with how much Gert loved dinosaurs and black and white movies. She never understood them, but she liked Gert so she tried her best to get into them. Then there was Molly, the youngest of them all. She was only two years old but she was the cutest two-year-old Karolina had ever seen. She would waddle when she walked and always remain close to Gert. Whenever they played, Molly usually kept to herself and the building blocks in front of her. Even at such a young age, Karolina felt this innate need to protect her at all costs.
And that was it for the kids of PRIDE. Or so Karolina had thought.
“Karolina sweetie, come over here and meet the Minoru’s,” her mom calls out. Karolina glances up from where she was sitting, locking eyes with a brown-eyed girl standing behind what looked like her older sister. Intrigued, she rises from the floor and walks over to where her mother and the two girls are standing. She’s never seen these girls before, so they must’ve gone to a different school.
“Hi, I’m Karolina,” she smiles sweetly at the two of them, however her focus was directed to the tiny girl digging her face into her older sister’s shirt.
“I’m Amy,” the taller girl attempts to slide towards the other side, revealing the tinier brown eyed girl with jet black hair, wearing a striped shirt and jeans, “and this is Nico.”
Karolina beams, walking up to Nico and grabbing her hand, she also made sure to grab Amy’s hand as well and lead them to where Alex, Chase, Gert, and Molly were sitting. Gert was too busy playing with her dinosaur figurines, while Chase attempted to talk to her. Molly was holding onto her building blocks and Alex was already opening the Lego kit that Karolina told him she didn’t want to do.
Throughout the night, Nico did not pay much attention to Karolina, in fact, she chose to completely avoid her. While Amy joined in on the Lego building with Alex, Nico kept to herself drawing in a journal she had brought. This made an impression on Karolina because she wasn’t used to being ignored. Even Molly liked being around her.
Eventually dinner had ended and the meeting was officially over. Karolina had failed to get Nico to acknowledge her. As the parents began to disperse, so did Karolina’s friends. First was Chase’s parents, followed by Alex’s, and then Gert and Molly’s parents. Which left Nico and Amy. Amy was nice to talk too since she was a year older than Karolina. However, when Amy excused herself to go to the bathroom, Karolina attempted once again to speak to the tiny raven-haired girl.
“I like your drawing,” Karolina exclaims, her eyes glancing at the drawing of a girl wearing a pointy hat and holding a broomstick.
Nico glances up at her before looking away, “thank you,” she whispers.
“What is it supposed to be?” Karolina questions, not completely sure what she is looking at.
“She’s a wizard,” Nico declared, “and she’s doing a magic trick.”
“Do you like magic?” Karolina questions, trying to get an idea of what Nico was interested in.
Before Nico could respond, Tina Minoru had showed up at the front of her room requesting her to hurry up. Nico quickly packs up and walks out the door, before saying a single thing back to Karolina.
Once she was alone, Karolina devised a plan. If Nico liked magic, then magic is what Karolina would bring the next time she saw her. Over the next couple days, she did her research on the best types of magic tricks. Finally, she finds the perfect one.
A month flies by and soon enough the next meeting occurs. Per usual, Alex arrives first, followed by Chase, Gert and Molly, and eventually Nico and Amy. As soon as they had walked through the doors, Amy made her way over to Chase, Alex, and Gert. Nico had followed behind, sitting adjacent to Amy but facing away from the rest of the group. Karolina walks over to sit next to Nico, startling the tiny girl.
“Hey do you want to see a trick?”
Nico is hesitant at first but nods her head in agreement.
Prior to the dinner, Karolina had specifically worn her ‘special’ jacket that hid the special flowers in her sleeve. Her plan was to show Nico her empty hands and then pull out a bouquet of flowers. For the most part, the trick was simple and foolproof. Karolina waves her hand around and reaches into her sleeve and for a split second the trick looks like it’s going to work (after all the practice she had put in) but as she digs further into her sleeve, she realizes the flowers are gone. This causes her to freak out a bit, feeling the flowers sticking too far into her arm. She then attempts to discretely pull them out, only tangling herself into her jacket. Eventually she has to unravel her jacket in order to retrieve them. Embarrassed, she decides she should just give up and leave the girl alone.
However, Nico breaks out into a smile before showing Karolina how to properly tuck the flowers between her sleeves.
Even if Karolina’s plan to impress the girl had failed, the plan to get Nico to acknowledge her had worked. From that moment on, the two of them had become the best of friends.
Karolina Dean is six years old when she managed to befriend the one and only Nico Minoru.
Karolina Dean is thirteen years old when she realized what being in love would mean for her.
By this time, they were in middle school and all the kids of PRIDE grown very close to one another. They even ended up attending the same school (thanks to their parents). As time went by, the PRIDE organization continued to grow. Monthly dinners had turned into weekly meetings that involved galas, events, and so forth.
Karolina was sure this was the moment that changed everything for her.
It happened at a charity gala, Alex had not been able to attend because he had gotten the chicken pox. Chase was going through the ‘I’m too cool for parties’ phase and took a ‘hard pass’ on this event. Gert and Molly were off at some summer camp their parents sponsored. Meanwhile, Amy was attending this tech convention her parents had enrolled her in. Luckily for Karolina, Nico had no prior plans, leaving them alone.
At this point in her life, Karolina and Nico were very close friends (along with Alex and Amy of course), but there was something about her friendship with Nico that felt special. Different. Nothing compared to how she felt around Alex (even if he was her partner in crime), Nico was just special.
They had been sitting at one of the tables to the side, furthest away from the crowds, invested in a conversation about the upcoming summer and what they wanted to do, when Brandon and Lucas approached them. They were both rich trust fund kids whose parents came to support the organization. Karolina didn’t pay much attention to him, until right now. He began to tease Karolina about her religion, saying that crazy didn’t fall far from the tree.
As he continued to say hateful things about her, Karolina chose to ignore what he was saying (it’s not like she hasn’t heard it before). She attempted to get back to her conversation with Nico. Wait, where did she go? Karolina turns her head and sees Nico punch Brandon in the face. Before Karolina could react to Brandon’s bloody nose and Lucas potentially going after them, Nico grabs onto Karolina’s hand and they sprint away from the crowd. They maneuver around the dance floor, heading straight for the back of the venue, far away from the noise. Karolina remains silent as Nico shuffles her into one of the staff elevators.
Once they were a couple floors down, Nico finally speaks up.
“Are you okay?” she asks, her eyes filled with concern.
Karolina nods her head. She was used to those types of comments. Being Leslie Dean’s daughter was never easy. Especially when she came in contact with people of other religions. I mean yeah, being labeled the “cult family” was very traumatizing, but after a while you get used to it.
“I’m okay Nico,” Karolina reaffirms.
Nico’s demeanor suddenly changes, “Brandon is such an asshole. Why does he even attend these things? It’s not like his parents force him too,” Nico grumbles, using her free hand to clutch onto the hand she used to punch Brandon.
Karolina steps forward, “here, let me see your hand.” Nico obliges and Karolina notices a bit of swelling.
“Jesus Nico,” she mumbles, “how hard did you punch him?”
“Hard enough,” she says, wincing from the pain of Karolina touching her hand, “he deserved it.”
“Well it doesn’t look broken but I think you should put ice on it,” Karolina says.
Nico nods her head, “I’m sorry he said those things about you.”
“It’s okay Nico. I’m sure he didn’t mean any of it.”
Nico stares, her mouth slightly opened, “you don’t seriously mean that? How are you able to defend someone like him?”
Karolina sighs, “because kindness is the light that dissolves walls.”
Nico stares at Karolina, her mouth slightly open before forming a smirk, “Is that part of some Gibborim message?”
Karolina shakes her head, giggling. Honestly, it was.
“Probably, I’m pretty sure my mom said that to me at least twice today” Karolina gazes at the elevator as they finally reach the lobby, “so where exactly are we going?”
“It’s a surprise,” Nico smiles, her eyes focused on the levels as they slowly decreased.
When the elevator doors finally open, Nico walks up to the front desk and asks for the receptionist to grab her bag. Karolina was a bit confused on when Nico brought a bag with her but decides not to question it. Nico then latches on Karolina’s hand and leads her out of the hotel and into the city streets. Karolina wanted to ponder a bit more on where they were going, but decided to just trust Nico. They walk for a bit, Nico leading the way, until they reach the entrance of what looks like a park.
“I hope you’re feeling bold tonight Kar,” Nico says, using her free hand, she grabs Karolina and drags her to a specific spot in the middle of the park.
Karolina couldn’t help but feel a tight knot in her stomach start to form.
“We’re here” Nico releases Karolina’s hand. She places her bag down and pulls out what looks like a medium sized blanket. She lays it out and takes a seat, looking at Karolina, she motions her to sit as well.
Karolina pauses, not exactly understanding what they were doing in the middle of the park at this time.
“Where exactly is here Nico?” Karolina questions, not liking the idea of being two girls in the park after hours. It didn’t feel safe. Granted, there were a few lights and they weren’t completely cut off. If they had to escape, the odds were pretty high.
“Just sit down,” Nico says knowingly. Karolina gives in and takes a seat next to her.
“Okay, now look up,” Nico states, laying down flat on her back. Karolina follows, her eyes immediately falls onto the night sky. Surprisingly, this was the only spot that the trees didn’t ultimately cover. In fact, Karolina was sure that Nico had marked this exact spot.
“Wow,” Karolina breathes out. Nico leans onto her taking in the view as well.
“The stars are always better viewed from this spot,” Nico points out.
Karolina turns her glance towards Nico, something inside her started to change. Not only were they inches apart but she felt as if she were seeing her in a new light for the very first time. Even in a city as noisy as it is, in this moment, the world quieted down and the only thing she could hear was the sound of Nico’s voice and her heart racing. She immediately turns away at that though and tries to focus on the stars shining brightly in the night sky. There weren’t as many as they portrayed in movies, but nevertheless, it was beautiful.
“This is my favorite spot” Nico breathes out, pulling Karolina out of her thoughts.
“Really?” Karolina questions, intrigued. She’s known Nico since she was for eight years now and she’s never seen this place before.
“When Amy and I were younger and Wizard Tech was first coming up, they used to take us on family picnics here. This was before they became ranging workaholics, obviously. Before all the glam and business. Back when everything was simple.”
Karolina understood that. Growing up, she had both her parents, until her father decided he loved acting more than his own family. While her mom ran the church, he ran off to pursue other projects in other countries. The most she’s seen of him was a FaceTime call on her birthday. It was okay though, her mother was more than enough and it wasn’t like she needed him anyways. Yet, she couldn’t help but understand Nico. She had always known that the relationship Nico had with her parents were tough. The constant comparisons that were made. The feeling of never being good enough. So, what if she wasn’t like Amy? She didn’t need to be a computer tech or a genius. She was better than that.
“As Wizard grew, so did the conventions and parities. The hotel we were just at was probably suggested by my mom, it’s one of her favorites. Anyways, I hate it there because it was so boring and pointless. So, one day, I convinced Amy to play hide and seek, when reality, I just needed her to be away enough so I could make a run for it. I walked for a bit till I recognized the area and I just stayed here. I was here for a few hours until the police showed up. When they took me back to the venue, my sister was crying because she was sure someone kidnapped me.”
Nico giggles, causing Karolina to break into a smile, “and don’t get me started on my mom. She was so pissed and not because she thought I’d gotten kidnapped but because I postponed the celebration. She grounded me for weeks, I ended up missing Gert’s birthday.”
“Seriously?” Karolina exclaims, remembering that day so vividly. Amy had come and said that Nico was visiting their grandparents, “is that why you weren’t there?”
“Yeah, my mom told everyone it was because I was ‘out of town’, but she just refused to lift my punishment. But ever since then, this has been my spot. No one really comes here so it’s usually empty anyways.”
Nico pauses, eyes gazing at the sky above. The sound of the city began to fade away as Karolina stared at Nico. Her heart began to beat faster, something about seeing Nico in this light made her suddenly nervous. Why was her heart beating so hard right now?
Nico began to talk but she had been too engrossed in her thoughts to understand what she was saying.
“It’s pretty cool, isn’t it?”
“Hmm?” Karolina turns red, quickly diverting her glance, embarrassed to have been caught staring at her for too long.
“As long as the conditions are right, you can see other planets from here,” Nico says, her eyes staring above.
“Here, watch this.” Nico reaches into her backpack pulling out one of those small children telescopes. The ones you can buy at any local shop for twenty-five bucks.
“Is that-” Karolina raises her eyebrows, amused.
“When I can afford it get the real one, I promise you, I’ll upgrade,” Nico shushes her and sets it up in front of them, “prepare to be amazed.”
Karolina shakes her head. She knew that if Nico really wanted a new one, she could just ask her parents, which meant that this was more important to her.
“If you know where to look, you can see Saturn from here”
Karolina blinks in surprise before moving over and peering into the telescope. Honestly she didn’t know what she was looking at, but she didn’t want to disappoint Nico.
“Do you see it?” Nico asks excitedly. Karolina was astonished at how enthusiastic Nico was about this that she was too embarrassed to tell her that she had no idea what she was looking at.
“Yup, I think this is it?” she mumbles, scooting back to her spot. This allowed room for Nico to scoot closer, pressing her side against Karolina. She peers into the telescope and giggles.
“I’m pretty sure you were close Karrie, here let me find it,” Karolina freezes at the contact made between them. She wasn’t sure why but her face began to heat up, she was sure her cheeks were burning red. She could even smell Nico’s shampoo, which always smelled like lavender. Honestly, she was glad it was too dark that Nico wouldn’t notice her reaction. Also, Karrie? Did she just call her Karrie? Her mind began to spin, there were too many things happening at once.
“Okay now look,” Nico moves away and Karolina immediately hates the space it creates. She tilts her head, bending down to look into the telescope and yeah, it did look like Saturn.
“Wow, that’s amazing Nico.” You’re amazing, is what she was really thinking. Seeing Nico in her element made her promise that she would one day take Nico back here and this time with a picnic and maybe an even better looking telescope.
They lay back down and stare at the sky a bit more. Nico begins to point out different constellations, some that even Karolina could not pronounce. The more Nico talked about it the more Karolina fell in love with the beauty that was in front of her.
A moment passes and Karolina’s phone begins to buzz. She notices it’s a text from her mother asking where she had run off too.
“Nico, we should go back now,” she states, hating herself for being the one to ruin this.
“Just five more minutes Karrie,” Nico pleads. Karolina knows that they shouldn’t and the longer they’re out here the more in trouble they would be in. But she doesn’t care.
“Okay, five more minutes,” she agrees. Karolina can’t help but glance over and take in the image of Nico eyes shining in the night sky. Yeah, this was totally worth whatever trouble they were about to get into.
Later, after her mother finished lecturing her about getting into another fight and running off when it’s dark, she finally makes it back to her room and for the first time ever all she can think about was Nico. The feeling she got when she was with Nico. When Nico held her hand or got closer to her. Nico. Nico. N I C O. That’s all she could think about. Maybe she would buy her a telescope for her next birthday and then they can have a picnic there. Anything for her. Anything to see that smile she saw today.
As her mind began to drift, she became overwhelmed with her emotions. The butterflies she felt when Nico grabbed her hand. The comfort that came with Nico being next to her. The fact that when she thought of having her first kiss, it wasn’t with somebody like Alex or Chase, it was a tiny-raven haired girl whose eyes sparkled in as the light of the moon shined above them.
Karolina Dean is thirteen years old when she realizes that she would risk anything if it meant seeing Nico the way she did tonight.
Karolina Dean is sixteen years old when she finally has the courage to come out about her sexuality.
For the past three years, Karolina struggled with coming to terms about her sexuality. It wasn’t about whether she was sure or not about who she liked. She was one hundred percent sure she liked girls, but she was scared of how everyone would react to finding out. Especially Nico.
Shockingly (but not really) the first person she did come out too was Nico and it was on accident.
It was the summer before her junior year of high school. Karolina was a year older than Nico, making her sixteen at the time while Nico had been fifteen. This past few weeks they have been hanging out a bit more than usual lately (which wasn’t unnatural, but different since it was only the two of them). Nico had been over a lot more with Amy being gone, something about her house being too big. Meanwhile, Alex had enrolled into another computer training camp that focused on increasing his skill in programming. Nerds (Nico’s words, not hers). There was something special about that day, something Karolina recalls thinking back. It was around two in the afternoon when Karolina finally grew tired of staying indoors watching Disney movie reruns. Don’t get her wrong, she loves a classic Hercules, but there was only so much of inside she could take. After a few minutes of pleading and puppy dog eyes, she had successfully convinced Nico to accompany her to the beach.
For the most part, the entire day was normal. They walked around for a bit, Karolina convinced her to get gelato and then they sat under one of the umbrellas they offer at the beach. Once they arrived home, they were both craving something sweet.
Nico suggested they bake something and Karolina jumped at the chance to try this new vegan cupcake recipe she had found.
Everything was going well until Nico suggested they make their own icing. This prompted Karolina to recommend a recipe she had that was found in her cooking journal. However, Karolina (being the useless lesbian she is) had forgotten that she had bought the same brand of journals. So, when Nico appears at the door of her kitchen, holding what Karolina could only assume was her personal journal (the one where she writes all about her feelings, especially pertaining to a pretty goth girl whom she has been in love with for the past couple years), she begins to panic.
“Nico I know what it looks like-” Karolina stammers, her heart pounding. This was not happening.
Nico shakes her head, “Karolina, how could you keep this from me?”
“I-I just wasn’t ready to tell anyone,” Karolina rambles, her anxiety beginning to rise. “It isn’t easy to say ‘hey I like girls’ you know? Especially with my religion, I was just waiting for the right time to actually say those words out loud but I didn’t intentionally keep it from you. It was never malicious, I promise Nico.”
Nico freezes, her eyes widening before breaking out into a small smile.
“Karrie,” she takes a step forward, using her free hand to grab onto Karolina’s hand, lifting her head up to see her eyes. “Hey, if you weren’t ready, that is completely okay. But for what it’s worth, I support you completely. This doesn’t change anything at all. You’re still you.”
“You’re not mad?” Karolina whispers, suddenly feeling so small under Nico’s grasp. Ironically (since Nico was the smallest one).
“Of course I’m not mad. If anything, I am so proud of you.” Nico pulls Karolina into a warm embrace, causing Karolina to melt in her arms. They hug for a second until Nico eventually let’s go. Karolina takes a step back, still feeling a bit embarrassed that Nico had to find out through her journal.
“So back to what I was saying,” Nico says, lifting the journal, “why didn’t you tell me that you have different vegan cake recipes right here? I have been trying to find one that you have liked for so long.”
Karolina freezes in her tracks, eyes staring at the journal in Nico’s hand. Oh my god.
“That’s my cooking book in your hand, isn’t it?” Karolina says, her face turning red.
Nico raises her eyebrows, “uh yeah, you said I could grab it for the vegan icing recipe that we’re going to put on the cupcakes. Did you think it was something else?”
A beat passes, and Karolina swears time had stopped. Her mind spun and all she wanted to do was crawl into a cave and never come out.
“I can’t believe I just did that.” Karolina mumbles, shocked.
Nico gives her a knowing look, “Karolina, it’s okay. I am sorry that you had to come out to me this way but know that I will always have your back. If you aren’t ready to tell anyone else, then we can keep it between us. And when you are ready, I will be right here besides you.”
Slowly her embarrassment dissipated. Instead, she could feel butterflies evade her space. How lucky was she to have someone like Nico in her life? Sweet and accepting Nico. Yet, even with the fact that Nico was okay with her being gay, she still was relieved that Nico hadn’t actually read her journal. The thought of Nico knowing about her crush on her was something she was not ready to face.
“Thank you Nico,” Karolina says, smiling. Even if this was the last possible way she could’ve imagined coming out to Nico, once it was done, she was thankful. She felt this weight lift from her.
“C’mon, let’s finish baking those cupcakes,” Nico declares, walking back to the other side of the kitchen to grab more ingredients.
Soon enough, summer was almost over. Alex and Amy had returned, prompting the kids to host another welcome home party. That same night, Karolina had offered to drive Alex home and as they caught up with each other on this past summer, she had mustered the courage to say what she’s been holding onto for weeks now.
“I can’t believe how amazing this summer has been,” Alex exclaims, as Karolina pulls into his driveway, “it sucks that I couldn’t spend it with you guys but I’m glad that we have two weeks before school actually starts.”
Karolina nods, building up the courage to say what she needed to say. Damn it. She knew she should’ve drank a bit before doing so but then she wouldn’t have been able to drive him home.
“We have to make a bucket list!” Alex continues, “a list of things we both can do before school starts and you find new friends who are much cooler than me.”
“What are you talking about?” Karolina laughs, “it’s only senior year Alex, and we still go to the same high school.”
“You never know,” Alex argues, “maybe you’ll find another best friend or worst, a boyfriend.”
Karolina freezes. Okay, now was her time to correct him. As she opened her mouth to speak, she is interrupted by the sound of his alarming ringtone.
“Hold on,” he fumbles to grab his phone before bringing it up to his ear, “Chase?”
Karolina sits and contemplates her next move, was this the right time? Maybe she should just wait. What if Alex reacted badly? Of course, he wouldn’t but she wasn’t sure anymore. Nothing about this was easy. This past few days she has confided in Nico about telling Alex, but still, she was terrified.
“I’m hanging up Chase,” Alex sounded annoyed. Which wasn’t new to Karolina but she always found it amusing. “Okay, bye,” and with that Alex had ended the call.
“What was that about?”
“Chase had this idea for an app and wanted my input on it,” Alex shakes his head, “but thanks again for the ride Lina.”
“Wait,” Karolina yelps, causing Alex to turn around.
“What?” Alex says, looking back at her frantically, assuming she had seen something.
“I need to tell you something,” she whispers, her voice shaky. Just say it now.
“Okay,” Alex states, “what’s up?”
“I-I um, well, something uh” Karolina begins, unable to find the words to say. This wasn’t supposed to be this hard.
Alex sat there, expectantly, watching Karolina struggle with what to say.
“Lina, is everything okay?” he whispers, his eyes beginning to fill with worry.
“Yes. No. Maybe. I don’t know,” she spits out, tears beginning to fall. She had barely said anything and she was already crying. Alex says nothing and instead pulls Karolina closer to him, embracing her.
“Hey, whatever it is, we will get through it,” he whispers, comforting her. Karolina decides that it’s now or never. If she doesn’t tell him now, she doubts she will ever do so.
“I like girls Alex,” she whispers so low she was unsure if Alex had heard her or not. A second beats by and she removes herself from his arms, wiping away the rest of her tears. She glances at Alex’s face, which was unreadable. Was he shocked? Disgusted? Was he going to tell her that she was going to hell and that he never wanted to see her again? Ugh. She knew she was spiraling. She couldn’t look at Alex any longer and diverted her eyes down to her hands, hoping Alex would speak soon.
“Oh, okay,” Alex nods his head, “well then, don’t forget me when you find yourself a girlfriend.”
Karolina looks up to find Alex smiling at her.
“You’re not mad?” she utters out, her heart racing.
“Of course not,” Alex sighs, “You’re my best friend Lina. Nothing will ever change that.”
Karolina pulls him into another hug. From that moment on, it started to get easier for her to speak about it. Eventually a few weeks later she came out to the kids of PRIDE, which (for the most part) had positive results.
That same weekend, she decided she would finally tell her mother. And honestly, Karolina had been terrified of this conversation the most.
For the past couple days, Karolina had wanted to tell her mother (even before her friends), but each time she had the chance, something in had stopped her.
But tonight, there was no going back. As her mom began to eat her dinner and talk to Karolina about her plans for the upcoming week, she opened her mouth.
“Mom, I have something to tell you.”
Leslie raises her head to face her daughter.
“What is it dear?”
“This isn’t easy for me to tell you but I have been meaning to do so for a while now,” Karolina takes in a deep breath, and in super speed says the following, “Mom I like girls, like romantically. I’m a lesbian.”
Leslie pauses, staring at Karolina, before breaking out into a large smile.
“Jonah, you owe me fifty bucks!” Leslie yells. Karolina quickly turns her head to see Jonah, their butler sighs and hands over a fifty-dollar bill to Leslie.
“YOU MADE A BET OVER MY SEXUALITY?” Karolina exclaims, not sure whether to be shocked that she would do such a thing or that she knew, “WAIT, YOU KNEW?”
“Honey, I am your mother, call it instinct,” Leslie stands up to walk over to where Karolina was sitting, “I am so proud of you for telling me, I’m sure it wasn’t easy. But remember that I love you so much Karolina and nothing will ever change that.”
Karolina Dean is sixteen years old when she realizes that she had nothing to fear, whether people liked her or not, she liked who she was and that was all that mattered.
Karolina Dean is seventeen years old when she decides to take a leap of faith and tell the girl of her dreams how she felt about her (and to do it in the best way possible).
The following year had come and gone and Karolina only grew more confident in who she was and what she wanted. Before she knew it, March had arrived and that meant that prom and graduation was right around the corner. Not that it really mattered to Karolina. She was a junior and she only planned to go to prom once (for her senior year). However, Amy was graduating, and she wanted to go but didn’t have a date. So, she went to the next best thing, the PRIDE kids.
Karolina thought about rejecting Amy’s offer to go, but seeing that Nico agree to it, she felt that maybe prom would be the perfect time to tell Nico the truth about her feelings. For the past few months, Karolina has been trying to build up courage to be honest with Nico about her feelings. However, each time she felt almost ready, she backed out. Maybe prom was the perfect cover. The plan would go as followed. She would tell Nico that they needed to have a girls night out, just the two of them. Karolina would then pick up Nico from her house and drive them to their spot in the park. When they get there, a picnic would be in place and once the finished they would go stargazing. She would then tell Nico to set up the telescope, giving Karolina extra time to set up. When Nico turned around, Karolina would be holding up a sign that says, “Will you light up my night and go to prom with me?”
The plan was cheesy and maybe over the top, but it was perfect for them. The worst Nico could do was reject her romantically (which could obviously crush her) but she could make up for it by saying it was a friendly gesture (not that she was sure Nico would believe it). However, with senior year coming, she had to at least try. Even if her heart gets broken, at least her friendship with Nico would (hopefully) stay intact.
With the help of a few friends, Karolina was sure she could pull this off. The only problem was that none of her close friends (aka the kids of PRIDE) knew about her feelings for Nico, not even Alex. Granted, she wanted to tell him, but he was so close with Nico, she afraid it would get weird. So instead, she enlisted the help of Victor and Xavin, students who were part of the LGBTQ organization for their school. When Karolina did come out, her mom suggested she go to a meeting, to meet other kids ‘like her’. At first she resisted, but ultimately she decided to give it a shot, befriending Victor and Xavin right away. They were the only two people in her life who was aware of her feelings for a certain raven-haired girl.
“She’ll love it Lina,” Xavin responds, “I mean, who wouldn’t?”
“Yeah Lina, it’s perfect. Maybe when you two finally get together, you’ll introduce us to her,” Victor jokes, looking up from his desk
Karolina rolls her eyes. She never actually told Victor and Xavin that they couldn’t meet Nico, it’s just she didn’t trust Victor to keep his mouth shut around her. Not to mention, they all ran in different crowds.
“You can always meet her Vic, just as long as you have tape shutting that talkative mouth of yours,” Karolina jokes, causing Xavin to laugh.
Victor rolls his eyes, “ha ha, very funny. You joke now until you need my help. Speaking of help, when is project nicolina happening?”
“Nicolina?” Karolina laughs, “did you really just combine our names together?”
“Um yeah, it’s called a ship name,” Victor states, “it’s cute, duh?”
“No it’s not,” Xavin nods their head, “it sounds like a brand of nicotine.”
“You’re a brand of nicotine,” Victor bites back.
They begin an argument that Karolina decides she wants no part of. When Victor and Xavin fought, all bets were usually off. It could get messy real fast.
“Okay, I’m going to head out now but I’ll let you know more once I finish the poster,” Karolina picks up her bag and walks out as her friends continued to argue over the use of ship names. Even if she would never admit this to Victor, part of her liked the sound of her name mixed with Nico’s.
It was going to be okay, she told herself.
Who knew that it would go so wrong so fast?
A few nights later, Karolina had finally finished the prom sign when Alex had showed up at her doorstep, soaked in his own sweat.
“Alex?” Karolina opens her mouth as Alex barges his way through the front door and into her kitchen, “yes please come in,” she says sarcastically, shutting the door behind her. She follows his trail and finds him downing a cup of water, hunched over the table.
“I did something today and I just couldn’t wait to tell you,” Alex declares, attempting to catch his breath.
“Okay?” Karolina takes the seat in front of him, “please spill Alex, cause you’re sweating over my mom’s granite countertops.”
“Oh sorry,” he says, wiping away his sweat with his arm “okay well first I have to tell you something that I have been bottling up for so long now, and you can’t hate me for it.”
Karolina rolls her eyes, “I could never hate you Alex.”
“Okay, so you know how last week Amy and I were away at the tech convention for her parents new Wizard phone?” Alex begins. Karolina nods her head, she recalls that they had went but Alex and Amy went on many conventions, she had lost track after the first three.
“The one in New York?” Karolina guesses.
“Yeah, that’s the one,” Alex agrees, “so while we were there, we had a short break and I decided to attend a hacking seminar, the same one that Amy was also attending. She pulls me aside and says something about a prom date, which I was like ‘nah I don’t have time to find a date’ but she keeps bringing it up, asking me if I have any plans. I tell her that if anything, I would just go with you, cause we’re both single and it wouldn’t be weird or anything because nothing could ever happen between us,” He pauses to catch his breath.
“And then as we were heading back to the airport, Amy finally says ‘so when are you going to man up and ask my sister to prom?’ and at first I’m shocked because I didn’t think anyone had noticed my crush on Nico,” Alex says.
Karolina’s heart drops.
“Amy and I talk about it a bit more and she convinces me to ask Nico to prom when we got back today. At first, I was hesitant, I wanted to make it special, but Amy insisted she had a plan. We ended up buying supplies from the airport and making a sign and then buying some balloons. But the point Karo, she said yes!” Alex says excitedly.
For the first time in her entire life, Karolina was thankful that she had attributed one thing from her father, his ability to act. Even if she could feel the inside of her heart collapse, she never once showed her true feelings. As Alex continued to tell the story, in further detail, she could feel the room begin to close on her. How has she managed to miss the fact that Alex, her best friend, had liked Nico too? After he was finish speaking, he called out her name and she was met with eager eyes waiting to hear what his best friend had thought.
Alex had always struggled with validation and Karolina had always been the one to provide that for him. So, having him here in her house spilling his heart about Nico, the woman they both loved, she knew she could only react in one way.
“Wow Alex,” she manages out, “I’m so happy for you.”
“Thanks Lina,” he grinned, “I hope you’re not mad at me for not telling you beforehand how I felt about her, I was scared it would be weird and I wasn’t even sure she felt the same way.”
Honestly same Alex.
“I could never be mad at you Alex,” Karolina says, and even with her heart sinking, she meant every single word.
Later that night, after she had dropped Alex back home, Karolina found herself unable to drive back to her place. Instead, she drove around a bit before deciding she rather not spend it alone. She calls up Xavin and Victor, hoping one of them would be okay with her showing up at two am in the morning.
Thankfully, Xavin’s answered her phone. She drives over to her house and ends up crying on her front porch.
The day after Alex told Karolina about Nico, she was scared that everything about them would change. However, it didn’t. Alex and Nico didn’t seem any more different than what Karolina was used to seeing. The only thing that did change was her.
Karolina begins to avoid being alone with Nico, too scared she would let something slip. She went to great lengths, even burning the sign she had made for her. Okay maybe she was being too dramatic but she needed to get rid of any evidence. The only thing she couldn’t bring herself to destroy was her journals. So instead, she threw it all into a box and stuffed it so far into her closet, promising herself that she would do the same with her own feelings.
Prom day eventually came and Karolina opted to go alone, or so she thought. That day, she told her friends that she wouldn’t be able to get ready with them and that she would arrive in her own car. Honestly, this was to avoid being near Alex and Nico. Her heart couldn’t handle it.
After she had finished getting ready, she heard her mom call her name out. She quickly put some finishing touches before walking out into the living area, eyes locking on Xavin dressed up in a tux (with a bowtie that matched her dress) and in their hand, was a pink corsage.
“This is for you,” Xavin smiles wide at her.
“Xavin?” Karolina was confused. She knew that she had asked Victor and Xavin to accompany her, but she meant she would see them at the dance.
“I know how you feel about her, but a beautiful girl like you shouldn’t have to go to prom alone,” Xavin grips onto the corsage and takes a step towards her, “if it’s okay with you Lina.”
Karolina nods, prompting Xavin to place the corsage onto her hand. Once that was one, her mom makes sure to take a billion pictures before finally sending them on their way. When they arrive at the venue, they quickly spot Victor all dressed up waiting for them at the front.
“Wow, my two beautiful angels,” he smiles, pulling them both into a hug, “not going lie, you two look really good together,” he smirks, winking at Xavin. Karolina could feel them freeze right next to her. That was weird.
“By the way Dean, a huge ass limo pull up a few minutes ago. I’m assuming they’re with you. The one with purple hair gave me a look, do you think I should go for it?” he asks, holding his hand out for Karolina to grab.
Karolina shakes her head grabbing onto Victors arm, “not if you want to keep that beautiful face of yours.” Even if the group didn’t speak about it, Chase and Gert had been walking around each other since they were kids. They were complicated but anybody with eyes could see that they were meant for one another.
“I guess that’s a no,” Victor sighs dramatically, letting go of her. Karolina chuckles at his response before entering the venue.
As soon as they were inside, Karolina eyes immediately spots her friends. Even from a distance, she sees Amy and Nico. Her eyes take in the image of Nico standing behind Amy. Déjà vu hits her as she recalls the very first moment she laid eyes on the girl. Part of her wanted to ignore them and enjoy her night with Xavin and Victor, but she knew that would only cause attention on her behalf.
“We don’t have to go up to them if you don’t want too,” Xavin whispers, holding onto her hand. If only that were true.
Karolina shakes her head, “no we, I mean, I should.” Xavin nods and follows Karolina as she made her way towards them.
The closer they got, the more clearly she could see Nico followed by Alex, standing directly behind her. Her eyes traveled along Nico and her long black dress. The way it fit perfectly on her. That’s when she noticed Alex’s arms wrapped around Nico’s. A surge of desire and jealousy flowed through her, as she attempted to masquerade it all.
“Hey,” she says, capturing their attention. Alex detaches from Nico walks up to greet them, followed by Amy and Nico. Karolina’s eyes lingered onto Nico, who was not staring in Xavin’s direction. For a split-second Karolina noticed a change in her face, one that hinted disappointment. However, before she could even consider about it, Gert and Chase appeared out of nowhere.
“Hey, so someone definitely spiked the punch bowl, be careful how much you drink,” Chase speaks up, before his attention is captured by the two newly added members in their circle, “wait, who are you two?”
Karolina speaks up, “this is Xavin-”
“Karolina’s date,” Xavin says, their tone slightly aggressive.
“And I’m Victor,” Victor speaks up, “nice to finally meet you all. Karolina speaks so highly of you guys.”
“And yet we know nothing about you,” Nico says quietly, allowing only for Amy and Karolina to hear. Karolina gives her a strange look. Why was Nico suddenly acting this way?
“Well it was nice to meet you Xavin and Victor,” Gert says, smiling only at Victor. Karolina could notice Chase’s disproving looks, so whatever Gert had planned for tonight, it didn’t appear like it was going to end well.
“Why don’t we move this to the dance floor?” Amy suggests.
“Sounds fantastic,” Karolina mumbles, grabbing Xavin’s hand and dragging them onto the dance floor.
They are then followed by Alex grabbing Nico’s hand. Gert following Victor, leaving Chase with Amy.
For the rest of the night, Xavin made sure to never leave Karolina’s side, something she was internally grateful for. Especially if it meant being nowhere near Nico and Alex. And it worked, for the most part.
“Hey, are you okay?” Xavin asks, as they take a break from the dance floor to grab a drink.
“Yeah” Karolina mumbles, taking a sip before wanting to spit it out. Jesus, did anyone not know portion control, it tasted like straight up rubbing alcohol. She gags before placing it down, her eyes falling to Alex as he pulled Nico onto the dance floor as a slow song began to play, “I’ll be okay.”
Xavin raises their eyes to see exactly what Karolina was looking at. Once they make eye contact with the couple, they sigh.
“C’mon,” Xavin says, holding out her hand for Karolina to grab. She glances at them before accepting. They walk over to the side of the dance floor, furthest from Alex and Nico.
“Karolina, I want you to know something” Xavin starts, “I’ve liked you for a while now and I know how you feel about her. I totally respect that and I don’t mean to add any pressure to you at all, but I want you to know that when you are ready to move on, I’m right here.”
Karolina is taken aback at Xavin’s honesty and deep down a part of her knew that getting over Nico wouldn’t be as easy as she imagined, but seeing her with Alex reminded her that it was necessary.
“Xavin, I-I- don’t know what to say”
Xavin pulls back and smiles at her, “You don’t have to say anything right now. I understand Lina and I’m willing to take my time with this, with us. If there is an us.”
Karolina remains quiet, allowing her mind to think. This was too much. She knew she wasn’t ready for anything real but as her eyes drifted to Alex and Nico, she knew that she had to do something about her feelings.
Two weeks following prom night, Alex had officially asked Nico on a date.
One month later, Amy had graduated.
Before anyone could even realize it, summer was here and for the first time ever, Karolina doesn’t stay in town.
Two days after Alex had asked Nico to be his girlfriend, she was on the first plane out of the country.
Now that may have been rash and she was sure her friends had a feeling something was wrong, but she made it her goal to avoid speaking to any of them, just for the time being. She told them that she was taking a break from social media as well as her phone. She was lying. She still very much used her phone, the only person she allowed herself to speak to was Xavin and her mom.
Karolina Dean is seventeen years old when decides to comes to the realization that she would have to get over Nico, even if she wasn’t ready to just yet.