Chloe stood in the dark room, facing the wall covered in red ink. Her hand was trembling as she held her own red sharpie, still capped. She had taken the cap off and put it back on more than once, looking back and forth from her pen to the blank space in the wall she planned to use. Would this help? Would this do anything? Maybe it would, maybe it wouldn't do a single thing and she was wasting her time and energy. Maybe this whole thing was a huge mistake. But in that moment, her heart still shattering in her chest from replaying that fateful moment, she didn't care. She was desperate enough to try anything.
The ecology fair was a disaster on par with climate change; or at least that's how it felt. It was supposed to be a distraction from Lola, something to keep her mind off of her smile, and how she was never afraid to be herself and how "herself" was a beautiful, strong soul who was also really, really attractive. How Lola inspired her to write pages and pages of angsty poetry she could never read and how badly she wanted to take a leap of faith and let Lola catch her.
But she couldn't.
And then she had gotten exactly what she wanted; Lola asked her out. Lola asked her out to dinner on a proper, actual, official date. And Chloe panicked. She didn't know what to do. Every part of her wanted to say yes. Well, almost every part of her. Except for the fear deep in her chest where she had buried every crush she had ever had, the place she truly felt it when her feelings for Lola wouldn't stay down. She wasn't ready to admit to herself that she liked Lola, she especially wasn't ready to admit it to anyone else. Especially her.
So she panicked. She said she had a date with a guy. Which wasn't a complete lie, but wasn't exactly the truth. She hadn't said yes to Josh yet, and she had only said she'd consider it because then maybe, if she started dating someone else, she could finally forget about the beautiful, black-haired girl who was just as good at wrestling as she was at taking Chloe's breath away. But watching Lola walk away, she could feel their hearts shattering in sync. Clearly she had been picking up signals that Chloe was interested, otherwise she wouldn't have gone for it. Which only made her worry about how obvious she was. Did anyone else know? Who else picked up on it? If anyone had, nobody said anything. And would Josh have asked her out if he thought there was a chance she didn't even swing that way? Then again, it's not like Josh was around all that often. But wouldn't it have ended up on the tattle wall if someone really thought Chloe had feelings for another girl?
Well, it was about to.
Unsnapping the cap again, Chloe stuck it on the back of the sharpie. If she could stop hiding, maybe she could fix this. Maybe she could make things right, maybe she could even get another chance. Half of her was screaming that this wouldn't do anything, that she already blew her chance and it was for the best. She wanted an excuse to forget about Lola, and this was it. Lola thought Chloe was straight. She successfully pushed her away and if she walked away now, she wouldn't have to deal with it anymore.
But that was a lie, wasn't it? She would have to deal with it. Every night, laying in bed, wondering what could have been. Every morning, knowing she'd have to face the day and fight with herself about who she really was, and have to lie to everyone. She'd have to live with the fact she hurt someone as precious as Lola. No, she had to do something. Even if it accomplished little more than putting a target on her own back, she was done hiding. It wasn't just about herself, anymore. Besides, it's not like she had much of a reputation to worry about, anyway.
And for once, something on the tattle wall about her would be true.
With a wary breath, she took another step forward and pressed the pen to the wall and tried to steady her hand. Her heart was pounding and her head was spinning. Was she really doing this?
Once the 'C' was finished, she reminded herself this was her last chance to back out. She could cross it out and leave people to wonder what would have been written there.
Then there was an 'h'.
And an 'l'.
And she was officially out of chances to run.
She finished her name, each letter a bit more stable than the last. Once she shut off her brain and let her heart do the work, it was a lot easier.
"I didn't take you as the gossip type."
Chloe jumped, quickly turning around and positioning her head in front of what she was writing. She didn't get to the last word yet, but panic mode was suddenly back in full force.
"I-I, could say the same about you," she said to Lola who was leaning against the doorway with crossed arms. And Chloe hated herself for her first thought being how good Lola looked in the low light.
"Gotta keep up with what people are saying, you know?"
"Yeah, yeah, that makes sense. Some, uh, some interesting stuff ends up on this wall."
"Uh-huh," Lola said, taking a couple steps into the room, her arms still crossed. "So, what were you writing?"
"Oh, uh, me? It's... It's nothing, just..." And it was in that moment Chloe remember that Lola was taller than her, and it only took a slight glance around Chloe's head to see the incomplete sentence on the wall.
"You were writing about yourself? What's going on?" Lola took another step closer and she was sure she could hear Chloe's heart pounding from there. This was the point of writing it on the tattle wall though, right? So Lola would see it and ask her about it, and Chloe could tell her that it's true and explain what happened, and maybe, just maybe, Lola would understand. She just figured she'd have some time to plan what she wanted to say, write a script, rehearse it, anything other than being put on the spot in her most vulnerable moment.
The look on Lola's face wasn't one she expected; it was one of concern. She wasn't sure what Lola assumed she was going to write, but it could have been any number of things much worse than the truth.
"Look, Lola, it's just that..." She took one last breath, one last look into Lola's eyes, before things would change forever. "I like you. I've liked you from the beginning."
"It's just, I've spent my whole life suppressing and suppressing and I got really good at just ignoring my feelings for girls whenever they popped up, and then here you come and suddenly that's not working anymore. And I kept trying to just forget about it but you just kept showing up and being attractive and doing things that made it impossible to keep burying my feelings for you. But I wasn't ready to admit that. Not to myself, not to anybody. So when you asked me out I really, really wanted to say yes but I just couldn't. And then I went out with Josh and I kissed him because I felt like that's what I was supposed to do, and maybe I'd even like it and it'd be problem solved. But when we kissed, I thought of you and I just wished I could be kissing you. And then you were there and I knew I ruined everything and I just knew I couldn't keep pretending anymore. And I guess I thought, maybe making it public that I'm... you know... not straight would help somehow." Once Chloe started talking, she couldn't stop. She also couldn't look at Lola, staring at the ground and the walls and anywhere that wasn't her. Chloe was bracing herself for impact, even without any clue of what she might hit.
Lola paused for a moment, or a millennia, it was hard to tell, before she spoke.
"Do you still wish that?" Chloe was taken aback by that, finally letting herself look up.
"What do you mean?" Chloe asked as Lola took another couple steps until they were standing face to face, only a few inches between them.
"Do you still wish you could be kissing me?" Chloe smiled as Lola bit her lip. This was the do-over she wanted. She wouldn't ruin it this time.
"Yes. Always," she whispered.
Without another word, Lola cupped Chloe's face and she didn't even have time to process that this was really happening. As Lola's lips pressed against her, Chloe pressed her hands on Lola's hips. It was everything she had dreamed it would be and more. She let herself enjoy the sensation of her pounding heart, Lola's sweet lips, and the comforting warmth of the embrace. It wasn't until they pulled away, though, that she truly understood. That was what a kiss was supposed to feel like.
Looking at Lola's uncontrollable smile just made Chloe smile even more.
Chloe had never felt more free than standing there, in Lola's arms, and she already regretted spending so much time confined to the closet in fear. The world outside was so much more beautiful than staring at sharp hangers and ripped clothes that didn't fit anymore.
"Could I see that marker?" Lola asked.
"Oh, uh, sure," Chloe said, handing it over to the smirking girl in front of her. For a moment, she panicked. What was Lola writing? If it was something bad, she wouldn't do it when Chloe was right there, would she? But when Lola pulled back from the wall and handed the marker back to her, and Chloe turned to look back at the wall, she just let out a little laugh.
"It's true, you know," Lola whispered as the two of them left the tattle wall behind, the fresh ink like a tattoo to commemorate the perfect moment they shared together. Although their handwriting didn't mimic each other's, it almost made it better, obvious that two people were involved in it.
It wasn't what Chloe had intended to write, but it was much, much better.
"Chloe is a great kisser."