Catra stares at the article open on her phone, unblinking, hands trembling. She’s been sitting in her car outside her apartment for at least ten minutes, processing what she’s seeing. She swipes away from the article long enough to send a single text.
Catra 2:38 pm:
Scorpia 2:38 pm:
Catra 2:39 pm:
what the hell. what the fuck. why
Scorpia 2:39 pm:
did you know?? like did you know she auditioned
Catra 2:39 pm:
NO I had no clue. not that that would’ve stopped me I just
idk idk it’s stupid but this is freaking me out a little
Scorpia 2:40 pm:
it’s not stupid!! hang on I’m gonna call you
Scorpia’s contact photo appears on Catra’s screen. Entrapta took this one, a picture of Scorpia pointing her camera lens at the phone, laughing.
“Tell me everything,” Scorpia says without preamble.
“Listen to this bullshit,” Catra says. “‘Indie Darling Catra Hart Cast in Highly-Anticipated Directorial Follow-Up’ blah, blah, blah, something-something. I hate that phrase. ‘Indie darling.’ What the fuck does that even mean?”
“It means you’re cool and mysterious to them and they don’t know what else to say.”
“Oh, well, in that case.”
“You’ve been so excited for this one, Catra. You love the director, and the part, and you worked yourself to the bone preparing for it and you got it.”
“I know, I know, and I still am, I just—god, this is weird. I feel really fucking weird.”
Scorpia pauses. “Is this a taco night? This feels like a taco night.”
“You’re sure you’re not busy? Didn’t you just do that photoshoot today?” Catra asks.
“Too busy for a taco night? May it never be said of me! See you in an hour?”
Catra smiles, leaning back on the headrest. “I’ll pick it up. You’re the best, Scorpia.”
Scorpia laughs. “See you in a bit, wildcat.”
They hang up and Catra leans forward, resting her head against the steering wheel, taking a few deep breaths in and out. When she looks up, she grabs her phone again and lets herself skim the rest of the article, reading one line over, and over, and over.
“Hart will play opposite Adora Weaver, a frequent collaborator from their childhood acting years. The upcoming film is the first time they’ve acted together since 2014.”
6 years old
Adora reaches up to adjust her small, wire-frame glasses, which keep slipping down her nose, hoping her mom won’t notice. Her mom hates Adora’s glasses and usually doesn’t let her wear them, but in their rush to get out the door this morning and to this particular audition, her mom hasn’t noticed Adora is still wearing them and probably won’t take them away.
It’s a commercial this time. Shadow mumbled something about “a waste of my time,” and, “some good this agent is,” but it’s still important that she do her very best.
“You never know who might be watching, Adora,” her mom likes to say. “Always aim to make the right impression.”
And so Adora does, sitting up straight in her chair in the waiting room, looking around at all the other little girls who answered this casting call for some cereal Adora can’t quite remember, some of the girls with untied shoelaces on feet they swing back and forth underneath their chairs. Adora’s mom always tells her not to fidget, so she remains very still and smiles at every adult who walks in and out of the audition room.
“I’m going to the bathroom,” Shadow says. “Don’t move from this spot, okay? I’ll be right back.”
“Yes, mom,” Adora replies. Her mom smiles back and winks. Adora smiles brightly in return.
Shadow moving away from their spot in the corner of the room reveals another small girl Adora’s age, sitting two chairs away by herself. The girl’s long, curly brown hair is almost as long as she is tall, reaching well past her waist. When the girl turns to look at Adora, Adora sees that the girl has one gold-hazel eye and one blue.
“Wow,” Adora says.
“Hi,” the girl says, waving.
“Hi!” Adora waves back.
“I lost a tooth yesterday.”
“Did the tooth fairy come?”
“No. My mom says she doesn’t know where we live because we just moved to a new apartment.”
Adora frowns. She would be so upset if the tooth fairy hadn’t come when she lost her first tooth a few weeks ago.
“I’m sorry,” she says, but the other girl shrugs.
“It’s fine. I get to keep my tooth. It’s in a little box by my bed that my mom gave me.”
Adora giggles. “Ew,” she says, laughing.
The other girl giggles, too. “I’m Catra.”
“I’m Adora! Why are your eyes different colors?”
“They were like that when I was born,” Catra says.
“I like them.”
Catra smiles, getting up and moving to sit in the seat next to Adora.
“Is this your first audition?”
“No, I do this all the time. I booked my first commercial on my first birthday,” Adora says proudly.
Catra’s eyes go wide. “Wow! Do you remember it?”
Adora considers this for a moment, cocking her head to one side.
“No, I don’t think so. But my mom says I did great .”
It’s her mom, stalking quickly toward Adora, taking Adora’s hand in hers, tugging her to the opposite side of the waiting room as Adora calls out a goodbye to a bewildered Catra over her shoulder. Shadow plops Adora into another chair but remains standing herself. Adora cranes her neck back in order to meet her mom’s steady gaze.
“Don’t talk to her, Adora,” Shadow says. “That girl is your competition. Everyone in this room is your competition.”
“I’m—I’m sorry, mom,” Adora says, eyes burning from tears she’s trying not to cry. “I didn’t mean to—”
“Listen to me,” Shadow commands, and Adora quiets. “This is not play time. This is serious, and it is important that you take it seriously.”
Adora nods, but one rogue tear slips down her cheek that she furiously wipes away. Her mom’s features soften, and she places a satin smooth hand on Adora’s chin.
“Oh, Adora, there’s no need to be upset. I just want you to do well. You know that, don’t you? I only want the very best for you.”
Adora smiles now, relieved. “I know, mom. I’m going to do my best, I promise .”
Shadow smiles. “I know you are, my dear. Keep your distance from the others, okay?”
It doesn’t work.
It doesn’t work because Adora and Catra are cast in the commercial together. They learn their lines together, sneak bites of the sugary, pink cereal, and draw pictures together in between takes.
Adora sees Catra at audition after audition. Their moms exchange phone numbers, together bemoaning the whirlwind schedule of auditions in between their own professional lives. Catra’s mom occasionally even takes them to the same auditions when Shadow can’t get away from work. Eventually, Shadow stops trying to separate the girls; everyone else puts them together anyway, so there’s no use.
When they’re 10 years old, the girls are cast as a main character’s best friends on a popular sitcom. They’re only in a handful of episodes, maybe five or six. But it works.
“They have something,” the director states simply after one of their final scenes. Even though Adora’s mom doesn’t look happy exactly, she at least seems to enjoy the praise aimed at Adora.
It keeps working for many years.
12 years old
Catra bounces impatiently on the balls of her feet as she waits in front of the door to Adora’s place after her mom drops her off. Adora’s mom is finally, finally letting Catra come over to their apartment, in spite of what she called Adora’s “ exceedingly busy” audition schedule. Sure, she and Adora hang out all the time on set, but there’s always work to do, and people wanting a dozen things from them at once, so this is a big deal. Catra wore her favorite jeans for the occasion, the ones Adora said she liked last week.
Catra knocks on the door and it’s only a moment or two later that Adora’s mom opens the door. She looks down at Catra, and for some reason, she looks even taller standing over Catra in the doorway.
“Hi, Ms. Weaver,” Catra tries.
“Come in,” Ms. Weaver says, forgoing a greeting altogether.
But Catra doesn’t care because now she sees Adora, running towards her with a shining smile on her face.
“Catra! You’re here!”
Adora throws her arms around Catra in a hug, and all of Adora’s energy only makes Catra more excited, and they race to Adora’s room in a stream of chatter and laughter. Catra spots the guitar as soon as she walks in.
“Since when do you play?” Catra asks.
“Since forever!” Adora says. “My grandma taught me. Here, I’ll show you one she loves.”
Adora grabs the guitar and begins to strum and Catra can’t believe everything Adora can do. She acts, and she plays an instrument, and she can sing, too, even if it makes Adora a little shy. But here, just the two of them, Adora sings a verse and a chorus to a song Catra’s never heard before. Adora stops, blushing, after the chorus.
Catra is blushing, too, even though she couldn’t say why. “That’s—that’s really pretty. What’s it called?”
“‘Light of a Clear Blue Morning,’ Adora says. “It’s by Dolly Parton.”
Catra cocks her head to one side. “Who’s that?”
Adora’s mouth drops open.
“We have work to do.”
Two hours later, Catra knows a lot about Dolly Parton, but also about Adora.
“My dad’s from Kentucky,” Adora says, plucking absentmindedly at the guitar strings. “He grew up on his family’s horse farm with his mom, my Grandma Razz. My mom’s from here, and she met my dad when they were in college, but they got divorced before I was born. Mom moved us back to LA, but I went back to the farm every summer! Me and my dad rode horses together, and I helped Grandma in her vegetable garden. She plants flowers, too, and she has a bunch of herbs and berries!”
“Wow,” Catra says, trying to picture it. “I’ve never been outside the state! Are you gonna go back this summer?”
Adora looks down at where her hands strum the guitar. “No, not this time. Not since my dad died. I haven’t been back since then.”
Catra isn’t quite sure what to say. She never knew her dad, so she doesn’t feel that sad about him, but it sounds like Adora’s dad was really cool.
“I’m really sorry,” Catra offers. She feels silly. She doesn’t know what else to say.
But Adora brightens. She places one hand over Catra’s and squeezes, and Catra squeezes back. It makes Catra feel special.
“Thank you, Catra,” Adora says, smiling. “Me and Grandma Razz write each other letters all the time, and talk on the phone, and she always says how much she misses me and wants me to come back.”
“Why don’t you?” Catra asks.
Adora shrugs. “Mom says we’re really busy. She just quit her job to help me with acting full time. I wanna go back really bad, but . . . well, mom’s right. We are really busy. And I’m sure mom will take me when we have time.”
Catra nods, even though Adora’s mom doesn’t seem like a person who’s ever not busy.
“What about your dad?” Adora asks, and Catra shouldn’t be as taken aback as she is, but she’s never loved talking about herself, something that’s already beginning to baffle directors and producers.
“I never knew my dad, and my mom won’t talk about him,” Catra says, shrugging, but watching Adora’s reaction. “I tried to ask her about him when I was little, but she’d get really mad, and then she’d start yelling, and then she’d start crying. So I stopped asking.”
Adora looks so sad, Catra wants to hold her hand again so she doesn’t feel bad anymore, but she’s a little shy.
“It’s alright, though,” Catra says quickly. “My mom’s usually okay, honestly. She’s always on my ass about auditions, same as yours. But she does let me choose which ones, which is cool, I guess.”
Adora laughs, loud and sudden, and she covers her mouth with her hand. “You just said a curse word,” she says through her fingers, low, as if someone might hear.
Catra laughs. “Adora, come on. My mom says it all the time.”
Then they’re both laughing and they can’t stop, and they lay back on Adora’s bed, the guitar between them, until they catch their breath.
Two weeks later, Catra is in Mara’s trailer practicing the same song Adora showed her at her apartment.
The person who wears the costume for Billy the Bear is actually a woman, and Catra thinks she’s never seen anyone cooler. Mara is 23, has tattoos and piercings, and a beautiful singing voice, clear and high like a bell, but lower than the exaggerated, higher-pitched voice she puts on for the character. She lets Catra and Adora play her guitar when they’re on breaks between scenes.
It’s been two years now, two years since they booked this part. The same casting director who put them in that first sitcom put them in this show, too.
“You two are becoming a package deal, aren’t you?” she said, smiling.
Catra likes the sound of that. Getting to work with her best friend in the world all the time? She can’t imagine much that would be better.
Adora walks into Mara’s trailer, and Mara gives her a tight hug.
“I have to go into hair and makeup, but you two can hang out here as long as you like, okay?”
“Thanks, Mara!” Catra and Adora say together as Mara blows them a kiss and leaves her trailer.
“Do you wanna come over for a sleepover tonight?” Catra asks. “My mom said it’s okay!”
“Yes! We can keep learning our song! I just gotta go ask mom.”
Adora runs off to find her mom and Catra continues practicing the chords Mara showed her, plucking each string with focus and care.
Adora does find her mom, talking in low tones with the director of the episode they’ve been filming all day. Adora stops short when she gets closer, observing the coiled tension in her mother’s tall frame.
“Your daughter,” the director replies firmly, “will be in the scene when it’s time for her to be in the scene. Take a seat.”
Her mom looks like she might be about to push back, sling a well-timed insult to cut him down. Instead, Shadow’s previously angry expression melts effortlessly into a smile that, while thin, could be mistaken for genuine.
“Of course, Nicholas. I understand completely. You have a job to do, just like I do. Far be it from me to keep you from yours.”
Nicholas doesn’t seem to pay much attention to this, throwing a distracted, “uh huh,” over his shoulder as he walks closer to the set.
Shadow finally turns, directing all her tension towards a patiently waiting Adora.
“Hi, mom. Can Catra—”
The words escape a clenched jaw but hit Adora with enough force that she goes still. Shadow walks closer.
“Adora, it is very important to show people just how good you are. You’re better than these other children. They’re . . . regular. Unremarkable. You’re special.”
Adora twirls a strand of her hair around one finger over and over, an old habit that comes out when her mom talks like this.
“I—I like all the other kids, though. And Catra is really good, her voice—”
“Do not talk about Catra. And don’t play with your hair like that. It’s distracting.”
Adora’s hands still and she looks down slightly. “Yes, mom.”
Her mom’s expression relaxes, and she cups Adora’s chin in her cool, smooth hands. Adora relaxes, too. Her mom is still happy with her.
“You’re a good girl, Adora. Go make me proud.”
Adora nods, relieved.
She doesn’t ask her mom about the sleepover. She tells Catra her mom said no. Catra rolls her eyes, muttering under her breath (“ugh, typical”), but for the rest of the day, in between scenes, Mara and Adora teach Catra with the guitar.
“You’ve both got the touch!” Mara declares approvingly.
Adora and Catra grin at each other.
By the end of the day, the scene is finished, and Catra can play the first verse and the chorus without any mistakes.
16 years old
Years from now, Adora will look back on this time and wonder when she and Catra had time to sleep and eat, do anything other than film, and record, and do press for the shows and made-for-TV movies that came at a rapid pace over their teenage years.
It started with the producer who visited the set of their kids’ show, a big name from the sister network geared at teenagers. Right after Catra and Adora turned 15, they were offered their own show playing best friends who are also undercover double agents with a top secret spy agency.
This year alone they’ve filmed two movies and are in the thick of filming the second season of the show. Adora manages to grab a plate of food from craft services, settling down in her and Catra’s favorite spot, a little bit away from everyone else, to wait for Catra.
It’s Scorpia, the girl who plays one of their friends at school on the show. Scorpia’s friendly, gentle presence is one that Adora is usually happy to have around. Lately, though, Scorpia has been talking to Catra all the time, interrupting Adora’s dependable and very much valued routine with Catra. Adora doesn’t really get why, but it’s starting to irritate her. Obviously, Catra can have other friends, but Scorpia is always around.
She does like Scorpia, though, and she waves back.
“Hey, Scorpia, good morning!”
“Morning! Hey, uh, you wouldn’t happen to have seen Catra, would you?”
Adora groans internally.
Let it go. She just wants to be better friends with Catra. She’s being friendly.
Adora plasters a smile on her face that should be convincing, considering all the acting classes her mom has put her through.
“I haven’t seen her in a bit, but I’m sure she’ll be around soon.”
“Gotcha, thanks!” Scorpia waves again, heading in the direction of hair and makeup, and Adora feels a twinge of guilt for being so annoyed. Scorpia is a good person, so Adora will just have to get better at sharing her best friend.
That’s when Adora sees Catra, rounding the corner of the craft services tent, a full plate in one hand and a bottle of bright green soda in the other.
“Oh nice, you got the spinach dip today,” Adora says by way of greeting.
Catra grins. “And I brought you that gross green apple soda you like. Tastes like melted sugar.”
“My tolerance for sugar is renowned.”
“Famous last words.”
Adora snorts. “Shut up.”
“I’m just saying, you’re gonna turn your insides green with this stuff. Then what’ll I do with you?”
“Don’t be a brat,” Adora says, but she’s grinning.
Catra sticks out her tongue at Adora and blows a raspberry in Adora’s direction, then looks at her phone.
“Oh, shit. All I did was go to the bathroom and my lunch is already over. I’ve gotta go.”
“Not me,” Adora says in the most annoying, sing-song voice she can muster. “I’m not in the next scene.”
Catra rolls her eyes and sets her plate down next to Adora’s feet.
“Eat the rest of my spinach dip and try to be less annoying.”
“No promises. Don’t be late, we can’t let anyone see “Catradora” slipping,” Adora says as Catra stands, brushing crumbs off of her jeans.
“You just like saying that name,” Catra says, smirking, turning to walk back toward the set.
“You have to admit, it’s got a ring to it!” Adora calls out to Catra’s back.
Catra turns around briefly, grinning, and winks.
17 years old
They’re finally done shooting for the day, and Catra’s mom is driving them home tonight. Adora’s mom is, like, 70/30 on them getting to have a sleepover, and Adora is certain she can push that to 100% if they get all their homework done. She spots Catra, half-hidden by a nearby trailer, and she’s about to call out her name, but the sight of Scorpia leaning down to kiss Catra’s mouth kills the sound in Adora’s throat.
So instead, she retreats, leaving to wait for Catra where Catra’s mom will pick them up. Adora only speaks when Catra’s mom asks her questions about their days, and eventually, the car falls silent.
“What’s going on?” Catra whispers to Adora, but she only shakes her head. When they get to the apartment, Catra grabs Adora’s arm before she can go inside.
“We’ll come in in just a second, okay, mom?” Catra says.
“Alright, honey,” her mom calls back over her shoulder, too exhausted from her shift at the hospital to think much of it.
As soon as her mom closes the door, Catra turns to Adora, hands on her hips.
Adora’s not going to get out of this, but damn it if she isn’t going to try. “What do you mean?”
“Why are you acting so fucking weird?”
“I’m not acting weird!”
“For an actress, you are a terrible liar, Adora. Come on.”
Adora huffs, but she would be lying if she said she didn’t want to bring it up, so she does.
“I’m just—I saw you. With Scorpia. You—were kissing. Each other.”
Catra crosses her arms and smirks. “What, do you have a problem with girls kissing girls? Don’t be homophobic, Adora.”
Adora scoffs. “I’m not homophobic.”
“Then why are you acting so weird?”
Adora’s cheeks burn so hot she’s afraid to touch them. “I’m not acting weird!”
Catra points a finger at Adora. “Yes you are! I’ve known you since you tried to eat play-doh dipped in glitter. Don’t try to bullshit me.”
“I’m just confused! Are you . . . are you dating Scorpia? Like, is she your girlfriend?”
Now Catra is sheepish. “No, I—I don’t know. Not really.”
“Not really? How can someone ‘not really’ be your girlfriend? Either they are or they aren’t.”
“I don’t know, Adora! She asked if she could kiss me, and I wanted to, so I said yes. That’s it!”
“Okay, okay, sorry! I’m just trying to figure it out.”
Catra sighs. “Yeah, I can tell.”
Adora scoffs. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing. I’m not dating Scorpia, okay? She’s cool, but she’s . . .” Catra looks up at the sky, then shrugs. “Not my type.”
“What’s your type, then?”
“I don’t know! I guess I’m trying to figure it all out, too.”
Adora presses her lips together, starting to regret the entire conversation. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”
Catra’s irritation is soon replaced with what Adora can only interpret as worry. “You don’t have to be sorry. Are you mad?” Catra asks.
I have no idea. Yes?
“No,” Adora says. “Why would I be mad?”
“Because I might wanna kiss girls.”
Adora shuffles on her feet, wishing she could explain herself better than this.
“That doesn’t make me mad, Catra, not at all. I just—I was surprised, that’s all.”
That seems to help Catra some, and the crease in her brow smooths.
“Okay,” she says. “As long as you’re not mad.”
Adora smiles, grabbing Catra’s hand. She doesn’t want Catra to feel bad, or strange, or anything other than her best friend who Adora loves.
“It’s all okay, don’t worry. Come on. My mom said that if we finish all our homework, I can spend the night.”
Catra smiles, relieved that Adora isn’t upset, and that a sleepover is within their reach, and lets Adora tug her inside.
Later that night, when Catra is asleep next to her, Adora lies awake. She looks over at Catra, chest rising and falling with each breath. Adora reaches out to brush an errant curl away from Catra’s temple, and Adora doesn’t stop to consider why it makes the emotion inside of her spill over as hushed tears onto her pillowcase.
Adora is waist-deep in the article’s comments section when she’s startled by the sound of her mom setting two armfuls of groceries down on the kitchen counter behind her. Her surprise comes out in a high-pitched yelp as she whips around to see Shadow raise her eyebrows.
“Goodness, Adora. What’s wrong?”
“N-nothing,” Adora sputters, heart still hammering. “I just didn’t hear you come in, that’s all.”
“What are you looking at?” Shadow asks, coming up behind Adora to look over her shoulder at Adora’s laptop screen.
“It’s nothing—” Adora starts, but her mom has already seen the article.
“Mara Gray Opens Up About Being Gay in Hollywood,” the headline reads, accompanied by a photo of a beaming Mara holding her most recent award: Best Supporting Actress for the miniseries she was in last year. Adora braces herself.
Shadow’s face twists unpleasantly, her distaste apparent.
“Ugh. That’s a . . . choice. It’s a shame, really. Mara could have had an incredible career. Now she’ll be lucky to be a footnote in a ‘where are they now’ feature ten years from now.”
Adora starts to speak, stops, then tries again. “But . . . but Mara’s really good. She was just nominated for—”
“Oh, Adora,” Shadow says, smoothing one hand over Adora’s hair. “That’s sweet of you. But, unfortunately, Mara’s career will never truly be what it could have been now that she’s revealed her . . . preferences. Count yourself lucky that you’re not like her.”
“Now, when is your friend coming over?” Shadow asks, as if Adora isn’t bleeding out onto the kitchen floor.
Adora doesn’t know where her voice comes from, but she hears it say, “Catra will be here at 4.”
“Very well,” Shadow says, walking out of the kitchen towards her bedroom. “Just keep it down after 10, okay?” she calls out over her shoulder.
Adora puts away the groceries.
Adora’s mom must have let her in because a few hours later, Catra walks right into Adora’s bedroom, the way she always does, but stops short.
Adora doesn’t answer. Her sawdust-dry throat won’t let her. She lays in a huddled lump on the furthest corner of her bed, pushed against the wall.
“Adora?” Catra says again. Adora sniffles.
The edge of the bed creaks as Catra sits down, and Adora jerks slightly at Catra’s hand on her shoulder, but she doesn’t pull away.
“Adora, what’s wrong?” Catra asks, urgent now.
Adora turns towards Catra now, but she doesn’t answer for a moment. She kicks off her blanket to make room, and Catra lies down next to her, joining Adora’s nest of blankets and pillows. Catra strokes her hair and brushes tears from Adora's eyelashes and waits. Finally, Adora speaks.
“I want my dad.”
Catra wraps her arms around Adora, as she has so many nights over the years, and tucks Adora’s head under her chin. She rubs her hands up and down Adora’s back in a pattern that evens out Adora’s heart rate.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Catra says.
Catra smooths a hand over the crown of Adora’s head.
Then, in a low, quiet voice, Catra begins to sing, and she doesn’t let go.
I can see the light of a clear blue morning
I can see the light of a brand new day
Everything’s gonna be alright
That’s been all wrong
Everything’s gonna be alright
It’s gonna be okay
18 years old
Fireworks streak across the sky and explode over the ocean, illuminating the faces of onlookers. Adora is the only one who’s not fully watching the display. She looks out over the group watching the Fourth of July fireworks above the Pacific, mostly people from the show, and a handful of kids she and Catra grew up auditioning with, many of them with shows of their own on the same network. Scorpia stands with Lonnie, pointing up at the latest firework going off. Catra isn’t answering Adora’s texts, and she promised she’d drop by. Suddenly, a blur of curls and limbs appears a few yards in front of Adora, more splendid than the fireworks.
“I did it, I did it, I did it!”
Catra runs to Adora, letting out an excited squeal and leaping into Adora’s waiting arms, locking her legs around Adora’s waist. Adora is ready, laughing and catching Catra, spinning her around once. She sets Catra down on the ground, both of them grinning ear to ear.
“I got in,” Catra says, clutching Adora’s hands in hers. “I got into both of my top choices!”
“Of course you did!” Adora exclaims, giddy, feeling like she’s the one who just found out she got into her dream schools.
Catra squeals again, tugging Adora away from the crowd and farther down the beach, away from the light from the firepit and the noise of the crowd. She pulls them into the surf, just up to their ankles, and splashes water at Adora. Adora shrieks, laughing, splashing Catra back.
“I just feel like . . . like everything is possible right now, you know?” Catra says, looking brighter than the moon on the ocean. “Like we could do anything. Be anything.”
Catra’s enthusiasm is infectious, filling Adora up to the brim, and she throws her arms around Catra, picking her up and spinning her again, fireworks booming above them, the salt air sharp and new. The waves crash around their feet, foaming and surging, and when Adora sets Catra down in the surf, Catra doesn’t let go entirely, her arms linked together around Adora’s neck, Adora’s arms around Catra’s waist.
The explosions across the sky and the chatter of the crowd fade entirely in the distance, the only sound the rhythmic crashing of the ocean at their feet.
It’s not a matter of who leans in first. It wasn’t Adora, and it wasn’t Catra. It was the ocean, perhaps, a rogue wave that gave them the last push they needed, but once they’re kissing, Adora doesn’t want to stop, doesn’t want to go back to the rest of the group, doesn’t care about anything other than Catra in her arms, her hand tangled in Catra’s hair.
Then, a phone ringing. Both girls give a jolt, startled, breaking apart just enough for Catra to reach into the back pocket of her jeans for her phone.
“It’s—ugh, sorry, it’s my mom, I—she’s waiting for me, I have to go, she’s in the worst mood,” Catra says, breathless, clearly not wanting to.
“It’s okay,” Adora says, dizzy, stars and color and light still exploding behind her eyelids, her hands on Catra’s unbelievably soft skin. “I’ll see you tomorrow, right?”
Catra grins now, looking like her mischievous self. “Yes, you’ll see me tomorrow.”
The mirror is dirty. That’s the first thing Adora’s mom mentions when she walks into Adora’s trailer the next day.
“You would think,” she says, wrinkling her nose, “they could arrange for someone to clean in here more often.”
Adora agrees with her out of habit, hoping her mom will leave sooner rather than later. She needs quiet. She needs space. She needs . . . something her mom can’t give her.
Shadow points to the thick stack of white paper bound with extra large binder clips.
“Make sure you have that read by the end of today, okay?”
“I will, mom.”
Shadow blows her a kiss. “That’s my girl.”
Eventually, her mom does leave, and Adora has a moment to herself. But only a moment.
A rapid knock at the door makes Adora think it must be the makeup artist, a high-strung but sweet man who is very concerned about Adora’s t-zone. Today is a big day, and Adora needs to look her best. They’ve been shooting the finale of the show for the last few days, and they’re finally at the end. Instead, it’s Catra, dressed for their final scene.
She looks beautiful. But of course, she always does.
She’s smiling so big, and she looks like an island across a vast ocean, a place Adora would be content to stay forever if she could only reach it. Catra’s smile falls when she sees Adora.
“Hey,” Catra says. “You alright?”
“Mhmm,” Adora says. “Sorry, just distracted. Today is crazy. I haven’t even had a chance to get dressed.”
“Okay. What were you up to?”
“Reading through that script I told you about. The movie that’s shooting next spring?”
“I remember. But won’t that be in the middle of the semester?”
Adora shrugs. “Yeah. It’s no big deal, though.”
Catra blinks. “But . . . you said you were thinking about college.”
Adora grabs a tube of lipstick on the counter, putting it in a drawer, just to have something to do. “I was, but . . . I don’t know, this movie is a really great opportunity.”
Catra shakes her head, like she’s clearing the sudden fog that’s descended on the room. “Well, what about taking a break? We’ve been talking about this for months.” A note of humor, though strained, enters Catra’s tone. “You’re going to take me to Kentucky and show me all the horses, right?”
Adora moves more objects around near the mirror: a powder brush, her phone. “I can take a break after I film this one.”
“You said that last time, though,” Catra says, narrowing her eyes. “Actually, you said that about the last three movies you’ve done.”
Adora sucks in a breath, standing up to her full height. “My mom thinks this is going to be really big for me.”
Catra rolls her eyes. “Big for her, too, I bet.”
Adora crosses her arms. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I’m just saying your mom is probably excited about the cut she gets as your manager.”
Adora huffs. “That’s not the point.”
Catra places her hands on her hips, tapping her foot once on the ground. “Do you even want to do this movie?”
“I didn’t ask what your mom said. I asked what you want.”
Adora looks around the room, as if searching for a way to make Catra understand.
“I want . . . I want to do a good job.”
“You’re always gonna do a good job! That’s just how you are. But what do you want, Adora? When do you get to choose?”
Adora bristles, and her throat tightens. “My mom wants me to have the best, to be the best. She believes in me.”
“No, Adora!” Catra says, the pitch of her voice rising. “I do!”
From the stunned look on Catra’s face, Adora can tell she didn’t mean to say it out loud, but it’s already done.
Adora curls her fingers into fists to stop them trembling. “What are you talking about?”
“I believe in you. Do you know what you—it’s like you don’t even see!” Catra says, walking closer to Adora. “You’re 18 now! You don’t have to do what she says.”
Adora grabs a strand of hair and twists it around her finger, tugging hard. She doesn’t know what to say. Catra’s eyes soften.
“I just . . . Adora—you’re like me.”
Adora looks out the window, over Catra’s shoulder, at an indeterminate point on the ceiling.
Catra’s eyes narrow again. “You know what I mean.”
Adora’s not getting away with shit, and she knows it, but she’s still going to try. “No, I don’t.”
Catra stamps her foot on the ground, just like she used to when they were little, and Adora might be inclined to laugh if her heart weren’t fighting to escape her chest.
“Why are you being so annoying?”
“Why are you being so cryptic?”
“Cut the shit, Adora! I’m fucking gay. I’m a lesbian. I’m not straight, and you aren’t, either.”
The thundering of her own heart pounds in Adora’s ears. “Catra—”
The exasperation in Catra’s voice takes on a plaintive note now. “Why are you acting like nothing happened? You kissed me back. Don’t try and tell me this is one-sided. Don’t try and tell me—”
“Maybe I just wanted to try it,” Adora says quickly. “That’s why you kissed Scorpia, right?”
It’s a mistake, instantly. Catra deflates so suddenly that most might not have noticed. Then, her stance changes, hardening, her chin rising into the air.
“What are you saying?” Catra asks.
Adora has to swallow nails to say it, but she does. “Maybe it just didn’t mean the same thing to me that it meant to you.”
“You’re lying,” Catra says, but it’s almost a whisper.
Adora straightens her back, a dull pain thudding in between her brow. “Maybe we just have different priorities. I have people counting on me, people I can’t disappoint. My mom—
“Your mom doesn’t care about you, Adora. She’s using you. She always has. She—”
“All she cares about is the money you make! All she cares about is—”
Adora’s shout echoes through the room and Catra blanches. Adora pushes her next words out of her mouth, a lie that makes her teeth hurt.
“I’m not like you.”
Catra goes so still, Adora wonders if maybe Catra didn’t hear her. Ashen shock turns to a steady burning in Catra’s eyes. Adora is about to speak again, smooth it over, when Catra straightens her spine, her jaw setting in a hard line.
“You’re right, Adora,” Catra says. “You’re not like me. Because I’m not a fucking coward. If you wanna pretend in your real life too, be my fucking guest.”
Catra sweeps her arms wide, gesturing at the room around them.
“Enjoy it,” she says, voice thick and strained. “I hope you get everything you want, if you ever figure out what that is.”
She slams the door behind her.
Adora books the part. And the next, and the next, and the next. Her mother is overjoyed. Adora keeps working.
20 years old
Two years pass.
Catra goes quiet for a while. Paparazzi don’t even get a photo of her for a year. They finally figure out where she’s gone, getting a shot of her sitting on the quad with a group of other first years.
She flips off the camera.
Adora follows Catra through these snippets of her new life as if she were just anyone. A casual fan, maybe. Certainly not her best friend. So, Adora reads the articles and looks at the pictures and wishes she could help it.
Adora buys her first house and everyone tells her how lucky she is. She smiles and agrees.
“Big” doesn’t describe it. “Huge” is laughable. “Enormous” is close. Seven bedrooms, nine bathrooms, a home theater, a spacious yard. Adora looks out the sliding glass doors onto an artificially green lawn and wonders what she’s supposed to do with it.
The movie, the “big one,” is a hit. Adora is a hit. Within days of the first round of reviews, Shadow and Adora’s publicist are fielding calls from casting agents, directors, and magazines who all want to talk to Adora.
Her team makes the schedule, and Adora shows up with a bright smile on her face.
“You must be so happy, Adora,” an interviewer says.
Adora smiles and agrees. Everyone is happy.
Interviewers ask her about Catra. Adora knew they would. She knew this would be a part of it, and she prepared for it. Ever since the video of Catra trying to leave a restaurant in downtown LA started circulating, the one where a paparazzi asked, “how’s Adora?”
“Ask her,” Catra replied, prompting a flurry of shouted questions from all the paparazzi present as she got into her car and drove away.
It also prompted speculation about the wellbeing of “Catradora,” for which, apparently, Adora is now the sole spokesperson. Teen magazine headlines are full of phrases like “Best Friends Feud” and, of course, “Cat(radora) Fight.” The magazines have a lot of fun with that one.
The articles are full of speculation, a lot of lies, and the teeniest, tiniest kernels of truth. Adora doesn’t give them anything, perfectly composed.
“I’m so proud of Catra, and everything we’ve accomplished, together and separately,” she tells an eager interviewer barely older than herself.
“I’ll always care about Catra,” Adora continues, eyes tracking the interviewer’s swift pen strokes across their notepad. “And I’m so excited for this next chapter she’s going into.”
The interviewer is polite, but clearly not satisfied, hoping for something juicier.
Adora is willing to give a lot. But not that.
“What the hell is this?”
Adora throws the envelope at Shadow, who catches it, even if with a confused gaze. She opens the envelope slowly, glancing at Adora, and takes one look at the piece of paper before calmly slipping it back into its envelope and setting it on the kitchen counter between them.
“It’s a bank statement, Adora. What are you going on about?”
“When were you going to tell me about this?”
“Tell you about what?”
Adora laughs, hard and short. “Where did it all go? You said I was ‘set,’ remember? That we were set.”
“Oh, Adora, we are . There were so many . . . expenses in the last few years, expenses I didn’t want to worry you with.”
“That’s what you always said, isn’t it? ‘Don’t worry about the money, Adora. Focus on your career, Adora. I’ll take care of you , Adora!’ That’s what you said!”
Shadow takes a step closer to Adora. “Like I said, there were expenses that were necessary to get us here.”
“Expenses like what? Like your cars? Like your house?”
Shadow shakes her head, as though Adora is simply mistaken and making a fuss over nothing.
“No. I’m talking.”
Shadow crosses her arms over her chest, but Adora doesn’t miss the moment of surprise that precedes it.
“You told me you were saving it. Putting it away for my ‘future.’ For when I’m 40 and no one will hire me because I’m too old, right?”
Shadow tries to speak again, but Adora doesn’t let her.
“Why did you stop letting me go to Grandma’s? Why haven’t I taken any time off in the last ten years? Why did you keep me from looking into colleges?”
Shadow inches closer now, reaching out for Adora’s face, as she has so many times over these long years. Shadow’s hands alight on Adora’s cheeks, cupping her face, and her mom’s eyes are so earnest, the part of Adora that is still six years old and desperate to please her mother almost wants to give in.
“Adora,” Shadow begins, “I lov—”
“No!” Adora yells, and the room stills. Her mom freezes, hands still cupping Adora’s face. Adora grabs her mom’s wrists and pushes her arms away, breaking the physical contact.
“No, no, no, no, no . You don’t love me. You—oh, my god . You don’t.”
Her mom’s expression changes instantly. Gone are the pleading, supplicating stance and teary eyes of just seconds before as her mom’s spine straightens and locks into place.
“You have no idea what I have done for you. What I have sacrificed , what I have been through to get you here—”
Adora grits her teeth. “Get out.”
Shadow scoffs. “Excuse me?”
“Get out .”
“How dare —”
“ Get out! ”
The scream comes from a place inside Adora so deep and unmoored, Adora sways where she stands from the force of it. She grips the edge of the kitchen counter as black dots flood her vision, but she stays on her feet.
Shadow glares. Adora shivers.
“You were nothing before me and you will be nothing without me.”
“I will never forgive you,” Adora spits back.
She turns on her heel and makes it to her room without looking back. She only starts crying when she looks out her window to see the taillights of her mom’s car pulling out of the driveway.
The next morning, Adora calls Grandma Razz. They talk at least once a week, and Razz picks up the phone with her customary, “hello, dearie,” but stops short when she hears Adora’s strained tone.
“Adora, what’s wrong?”
Adora knows her voice is full of tears and a sleepless night. “Can I come see you, grandma?”
“Oh, my love. I thought you’d never ask.”
Adora books the flight without telling anyone. She arrives at her grandmother’s doorstep and falls into Razz’s open arms.
24 years old
Adora was in the back of an Uber when she heard it. She thought for sure she must be dreaming. But her driver turned up the volume and sang along. Adora could be 90 years old and remember nothing else about her life, but she would remember that voice.
When she gets home that night, Glimmer can tell something is off. Glimmer, her makeup artist, best friend, and now, roommate, can always tell, but Adora is good at dodging, especially after a long day. Glimmer’s mom, Angella, the renowned and beloved director of Adora’s last movie, was over earlier, and Glimmer is irritated, so she doesn’t push as hard as she might have otherwise. Glimmer loves her mom, but she distances herself from her mother’s fame, using her dad’s last name in her career instead, something Angella still doesn’t always understand.
So, when Adora wolfs down her dinner and says she’s exhausted, Glimmer doesn’t argue, wishing her goodnight instead. Adora retreats to her room and gets under the covers of her bed, like a little kid with a flashlight and a book, up past her bedtime.
Adora knows she shouldn’t. She knows. She spares a single thought for what her therapist might say as she opens Spotify and searches a familiar name.
Catra’s face pops up on her artist page, a beautiful, artful photo that Adora imagines Scorpia must have taken. Since their teen sitcom days, Scorpia has made a name for herself as an up-and-coming photographer, following in the steps of one of her moms. Catra looks directly into the camera, almost stoic, but she doesn’t look grim, or unhappy. She appears more open instead, looking almost quizzically at the viewer, and a bit challenging, like she might be waiting on the answer to a question.
Adora taps the title of the top song on the page, feeling a jolt of unearned pride when she sees Catra has reached almost one million listeners. It’s the song from the car earlier, and Adora lies back on her pillows, closing her eyes, pretending no time has passed, no hearts have been broken, no ties have been severed.
Adora knows Catra is here.
She fiddles with the skirt of her dress, a flowing, shimmering, ivory off-the-shoulder gown that she loves . Her mom used to do those things, picking a handful of gowns for a tired, distracted Adora to choose from, but Adora has taken more interest lately. It’s mostly due to Mermista, who just launched her own fashion label. Adora’s personal stylist-turned-friend flushed with pride when Adora asked to wear this dress tonight, giving a “yeah, sure,” that was bursting with enthusiasm by Mermista standards.
But Adora knew Catra would be here, and she wanted to look great. She wanted to feel great.
After Catra graduated college with a degree in music composition, there was more quiet, for a while, until a new article came out. Catra was starring in a new indie movie, her first acting gig in more than four years.
When the reviews came in, pride and admiration spilled over Adora without her bidding. The directorial debut was a breakout hit, and Catra its breakout star. Catra smiled softly in a photo from an interview about the film, almost shy. As much as Catra has hated paparazzi and all invasions of privacy, she also wants to be recognized when she works hard and does well. Adora’s chest ached at the sight of that smile. Adora read the small snippets of life that Catra offered in the interview greedily, sparse details about Catra’s time in college, her experiences coming out, and returning to film after finishing her education.
Now, Adora is at another awards ceremony, a big one, and she’s nominated in one of the big categories : Best Supporting Actress.
So is Catra.
Sometimes Adora really enjoys these things. She loves the atmosphere humming with excitement and celebrating, seeing friends and people she’s worked with, Bow on one arm and Glimmer on the other, ushering her down the red carpet so Adora doesn’t linger with one reporter too long. There’s always nerves, always. There’s a part of Adora that still wishes her mom was here, wishes she could look over and see her, maybe even get an encouraging nod—
“Adora?” the reporter asks.
Adora snaps to attention, giving a light laugh paired with an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry, it got so loud for a second! What was the question again?”
The reporter smiles graciously. “What does it feel like to be nominated in the same category as Catra?”
Adora smiles wider now. She was ready for this. And, just like when she practiced, she executes it flawlessly.
“It’s such an honor anyway, of course, but to be nominated alongside someone so talented who I came up in the business with, well—that’s extra special.”
The reporter loves it. Adora braces herself for the follow up questions while she holds her smile in place. Questions like, “are you and Catra still close? You weren’t seen together for a long, long time—”
“Adora!” Glimmer calls out, and Adora can breathe again. “Time to go inside!”
Adora gives her apologies to the reporter with a friendly wave and walks towards Glimmer, camera bulbs flashing behind her and illuminating the way forward.
Adora is seated in the second row from the front. Catra is seated in the same row, but one section over. Adora glances at her periodically, trying to pretend she’s simply surveying the room. The woman sitting next to Catra, holding Catra’s hand, has long, shiny red hair. Catra wears a simple but expertly tailored black suit with a white shirt and skinny black tie. Her curly dark hair is swept over to one side and held back with an intricate, golden hair pin.
Catra raises her head, beginning to look in Adora’s direction, and Adora looks away quickly, directing her attention to the stage.
They both lose, but Adora barely notices, instead watching Catra’s sheepish smile on the screen when her name is read in the list of nominees.
Before long, it’s time for the after parties, the part Adora actually really does enjoy, buoyed by the joyful spirit of the night and her dates, Glimmer and Bow, who materialize with shots for all three of them in a small, elaborately decorated alcove draped with dark red and gold fabric. The three of them sit down, grateful for the reprieve for their aching feet.
It’s loud, and dim, and it takes a second for Adora to realize that she’s sat down right next to Catra.
Adora no longer has the ability to form words or even breathe, really, but Catra wastes no time.
“Hey, Adora,” she says, and she’s so close, Adora can smell her shampoo.
Other than her clandestine music habits, it’s is the first time Adora has heard Catra’s voice in six years. If she weren’t already sitting down, she would be too weak to stand.
“Hey, Catra,” she says instead, marvelling at her own composure.
A beat comes and goes.
“I like your outfit,” Catra says, and Adora hopes the dozen layers of makeup she’s wearing is enough to cover the hot pink flush simmering under her skin.
“I like yours, too,” Adora replies. “It suits you,” she says, before she can think better of it.
Oh, my god, you dork.
Catra snorts, and Adora is so relieved, she could burst into tears.
“You’re kidding me,” Catra says, failing to suppress a smile.
Adora blushes, even hotter now, but she laughs, too, and Catra’s hand grazes Adora’s when Adora readjusts the skirt of her dress. A camera flashes somewhere near them, so this has been captured by someone, somewhere, and Adora is going to see it again.
Then, a voice calling Catra’s name, a hand waving her over. It’s the redhead.
Catra stands up, smoothing her hands over her dress pants. “Well, um—see you around.”
Adora says something back, and it was probably also a goodbye, but she really couldn’t say.
Her hand burns where Catra touched it.
Adora stares at the foreign object in her hand that was once her phone, eyes glazed over, her vision swimming as she tries to finish reading the email from her agent. Then the toaster lets out a cheerful ding! that tells Adora her s’mores poptart is ready, breaking her out of her daze. Adora rises from her seat at the kitchen table, stalking on bare feet to quickly grab her breakfast, letting out a small yelp when her fingers touch a hot part of the toaster.
Her feet draw a restless, circular pattern around the island counter in the middle of the room. She wishes she could just go straight to the stables, saddle Swift Wind, and ride until she’s not thinking about anything other than the rhythmic pounding of hooves on the ground, but the stables aren’t open for another couple of hours.
Frustration and anxiety and exhaustion (she couldn’t get more than a couple hours of sleep last night) swirl unchecked in Adora’s gut until, with shaking fingers, she manages to call Bow. He picks up after a few rings, right when Adora is about to give up, and she breathes a sigh of relief at Bow’s groggy greeting.
“I can’t do this!”
She woke Bow up, and even though sleep coats his voice, he still responds with immediate support. “That’s okay. Why?”
“Because I can’t!”
“Hmm,” Bow says, clearly still catching up. “Wait, what can you not do?”
“I can’t be in that movie I told you about! And it’s not just because it’s gay!” Adora can hear the panic rising in her voice, but she can’t keep it down. “I knew this was a mistake! Why did I think I could do this? I’m just gonna mess it up! Glimmer’s asleep!”
Bow clears his throat, alert now. “It’s okay, Adora. I’m right here. Which one is this one again?”
Bow’s reassurance momentarily calms Adora’s racing pulse. “It’s the gay romcom, remember? The main characters get thrown together because their best friends are marrying each other. and they butt heads. My character is the maid of honor who thinks she’s in love with her friend who’s one of the brides, but she ends up falling for the other bride’s maid of honor.”
“Oh, yeah, I remember! Okay, so, um . . . why can’t you do it?”
Adora lets her head fall into one hand, the other still gripping her phone. It’s embarrassing that still, after all this time, this can throw her into a complete tailspin.
“Because Catra’s going to be in it, too.”
The other end of the line is silent for so long, Adora wonders if the call has been cut off.
“I can be there in 20 minutes.”
Tears fill Adora’s eyes and she curses herself for being so fucking emotional right now.
“You don’t have to do that.”
“We can argue about that later, but I want to. You’re my friend, Adora!”
“What about work?” Adora asks, guilt already climbing the inside of her throat. Bow just got his first staff writer gig on a huge sitcom, and she’s so proud of him.
“I have the day off! And I don’t have any groceries here anyway, so I’m gonna come eat all your poptarts. It’s a favor to me, too, when you think about it.”
Adora smiles, brushing at a tear leaving a trail down her cheek from the corner of her eye.
“Okay. Come eat all my poptarts, then.”
Exactly 20 minutes later, Adora and Bow sit side-by-side on the cushy, pillow-laden couch on the balcony off her kitchen that overlooks the lush backyard dotted with bright golden yarrow flowers. Two steaming mugs of green tea combat the early morning chill. Adora’s panic, for the moment, abates, as Bow munches on his second poptart.
“And I haven’t seen her since that night,” Adora continues, recounting seeing Catra at the awards show after party. “Seeing her there . . . I knew I would. We’ve seen each other around, obviously, over the last couple years. We ran into each other in a bathroom during fashion week last year. We nodded at each other and moved on. But this . . . we haven’t talked, haven’t said more than a handful of words to each other since we were 18 because . . . because—” Adora stops. “She hates me,” she finishes quietly, staring at the swirling steam rising from her tea.
Bow’s soft, soothing voice grounds Adora’s thoughts. “From what you told me, Catra was the one who wouldn’t talk to you after that fight. Didn’t you try calling and texting her, like, a million times?”
Adora nods. “Yeah, but . . . it’s hard to describe.”
Bow takes Adora’s hand in his and squeezes gently. “Try anyway. It’s just me.”
The familiar worry and shame Adora associates with that part of her life wriggles uncomfortably just beneath the surface of her skin. She’s cold and hot at the same time, her skin stretched tight, like she might burst out of it if she could. If she could.
The encouraging touch of Bow’s hand on hers makes her a little bit braver.
“So, you know how I told you Catra decided to go to college? I knew she would. She’s so smart.”
Bow nods, smiling, and a low burn heats Adora’s cheeks at her own words. She clears her throat and continues.
“Yeah, well, I kinda wanted to, too? Maybe I would’ve chosen to keep acting anyway, but I at least wanted to think about it. And I did, I really did. One weekend, all I did was just look at a bunch of colleges’ websites. I even started a couple of applications. But my mom caught me filling one out, and she got really upset, and . . . well, you know.”
Bow nods again. “I know.”
Adora’s mouth curves into a half smile. “Catra was so excited. She was ready for change. She wanted it so badly. She wanted it for both of us, for us to be—”
Adora stops, her throat closing, refusing to cooperate.
“To be what, Adora?” Bow prompts gently.
“To be together,” Adora finishes, her voice low and hushed.
“At the same college?” Bow asks. Adora silently thanks him for his incredible patience, a patience she still doesn’t always understand.
“No, not necessarily. As a—a couple.”
Bow tips his head to one side, considering Adora with empathy, but not surprise. “I wondered,” he says simply. “Did you want that, too?”
Adora stares at her hands, her bare, short-filed nails that she’ll have to get manicured before she arrives to her first day on set.
“I didn’t think I could want it. Back then.”
“But you loved her,” Bow says. Not asking, but stating it as fact.
Adora closes her eyes. “Yes.”
“Then why did you two stop talking?”
“We kissed. After she found out she got into college. And when she told me how she felt about me, about us, I told her—I told her that it was just her. That I didn’t feel the same way, and that I wasn’t gay. I lied, and she knew it. I wasn’t out then, no one knew, and I was scared it would ruin everything . I lied because my mom, she said—she said—”
Bow takes Adora’s mug from her hands, and she isn’t sure why at first, until she notices the small pool of tea spilled on the ground due to her shaking hands. Bow puts one arm around her shoulders, and Adora rests her head on his shoulder.
“She’s going to hate me forever,” Adora says, her voice breaking on the last word.
“Adora . . . you were both kids. Both under a ridiculous amount of pressure. And you had your mom to deal with, too. You were young, and scared.”
Adora leans into Bow further, wanting to believe it.
“And now,” Bow continues, “you’re out to everyone, and you’re still getting work, good work. You didn’t think that would ever happen, but it did. Maybe you and Catra can be okay. Maybe . . . maybe this is a chance for you two. To resolve some things.”
A flicker of something like hope appears unbidden in Adora’s heart. Then, the sliding glass doors to the balcony open, and a yawning Glimmer appears in the doorway.
“Glimmer!” Bow exclaims. “You’re awake.”
Glimmer rubs at her eyes, her long, pink dressing gown trimmed with faux pink fur (“glamour is hardly just for the evening, Adora,” Glimmer had declared to her amused friend) trailing behind her.
“Hey, babe,” Glimmer says to Bow, kissing him quick on the lips. “What brings you here so early?”
Bow glances at Adora, who nods her agreement.
“Adora needs some extra support right now.”
Glimmer’s sleepy expression changes instantly, alert now, as she looks at Adora intently.
“What’s going on?”
Bow wordlessly offers Glimmer a poptart, which she accepts, and scoots over on the couch so Glimmer can join them. Adora, haltingly but with determination, tells Glimmer her story.
The trailer is nice, but not too over-the-top; spacious and comfortable, but not overwhelming. The director, Spinnerella, is just as cool as Adora remembers from their first meeting. She’s a lesbian, too, thrilled to be directing her second film, and even more thrilled that Adora is in it, too.
“You were my top choice for this role, Adora,” she said, and no matter how long Adora has been doing this, that never stops feeling good.
“Thank you so much,” Adora says, meaning every bit of it. “I really wanted this.”
“Excellent! And Catra was my first choice for her role,” Spinerella continues. “Look how lucky we all are!”
Adora agrees, her stomach pitching just enough to let her know she’s still nervous about what’s coming next, which, incidentally, she doesn’t have to wait very long for.
When the knock comes at her trailer door a few minutes later, Adora tosses a “come in!” over her shoulder, assuming it might be Glimmer, or even Bow, who said last night that he would drop by to visit her today.
When Adora turns around to greet them, though, she finds Catra, her back ramrod straight, pulled up to her full, if petite, height. Wearing jeans, a gray shirt, and a leather jacket, a motorcycle helmet in one hand, Catra is windblown, like she might’ve ridden her bike straight into Adora’s trailer and stumbled in. Despite her blustery appearance, determination and confidence define her stance in the small doorway of the trailer.
She looks good.
“Hey, Adora,” Catra says, voice steady and rumbly like the surf.
“It’s been a while.”
Catra taps one foot on the floor, her nervousness manifesting in clenching and unclenching her fists.
“I tried to call,” Adora says.
Catra bites her lip. “I know.”
A pause widens between them, and Adora wants to close it so badly, she’s about to speak and just see what comes out of her mouth. Mercifully, Catra intervenes, saying what she came here to say.
“Listen, we’re both professionals,” Catra says. “We might not know how to be around each other, but we do know how to do all this. Let’s just do our jobs. This—this is important to me.”
Adora nods, probably too vigorously, but she wants Catra to know she means it. “No, I agree. It’s important to me, too. Really important.”
Catra’s expression eases, the tension in her frame dissipating. “Cool. I’ll uh—see you out there, then.”
“Yeah, see you out there.”
Adora plops back onto the couch as soon as Catra shuts the trailer door behind her. Adora’s bones are limp and squishy, so intense is the relief flooding through her. That’s one hard thing done. Maybe the hardest thing. If she and Catra can be okay around each other, the rest of this might be just fine.
Adora heard the director say “cut,” but she can’t seem to move. The air buzzes like the hum of an electric fence. If Adora moves, she’s sure it’ll shock her. This is her favorite part, the part where she knows the scene went perfectly the first time through. It happens at least once in every project, more than once in the really good ones, but rarely is it the very first scene she films. Her feelings are confirmed by Spinnerella’s glowing compliments and remarks about “a good beginning boding well for the rest!”
She glances over at Catra for the first time since their scene ended, to find that Catra is smiling, really smiling, not holding back at all.
“Good job,” Catra says with that same smile, and Adora shimmers with her praise.
“Thank you,” Adora says, and that’s not enough, but Catra smiles at Adora like it is anyway. “You were—you were great .”
Catra smirks. “Yeah, I was.”
Adora snorts, relief and residual awkwardness from before making her giddy. The snort turns into a giggle, and then Catra is joining her, and they walk off the set together laughing, the bustle of the crew setting up for the next scene taking all attention off of them.
It wasn’t intentional, not on Adora’s part. But it didn’t have to be, really. They’re in all the same scenes together, so of course all of their breaks match up, too.
“Can I sit?” Adora asked the first time, when Catra and one of their co-stars, the woman playing Adora’s best friend in the film, are sitting together at lunch a few days into shooting.
“Of course!” the other woman says, gesturing for Adora to sit, but Adora pauses just until Catra also replies.
“Yeah, of course,” she says, and Adora can still tell when Catra is bullshitting, even after these years apart, and right now, Catra gives Adora a small but sincere smile. So Adora sits down, and half an hour later, the three of them are so engrossed in their conversation, she can almost forget she was worried in the first place.
Now, almost a month later, it’s habit. When Adora gets to lunch first, Catra joins her without hesitation. Even the days it’s just the two of them, Catra still sits with her.
“So, I’ve been wondering, but . . . what made you want to do this film?” Catra asks now, not looking at Adora, studying the bubbles rising upwards in her glass soda bottle.
“I mean . . . the script is really great, and I loved Spinnerella’s first movie,” Adora says.
“Me too,” Catra says, looking up now. “But I meant . . . why this one?”
Adora nods, understanding now. “Oh, right.”
Why would I choose a gay film.
“My mom used to tell me that even considering playing a gay character on screen would typecast me forever,” Adora says, and she has Catra’s full attention. “And now that she’s not my manager anymore, I guess I just . . . decided I didn’t care. I decided I wanted to do it anyway.”
Catra’s smile grows, and she looks down at her feet.
“What?” Adora says, smiling, too.
“No, sorry, it’s just . . .” Catra looks back up at Adora now. “It’s nice to hear you say that. That you wanted to, so you did it.”
Adora puffs up a little bit, this small affirmation from Catra affecting her more than she expected.
“I’m happy I did,” she says. Then, “I’m happy I’m here. With you.”
Catra chews on her bottom lip. “You are?”
If Adora’s phone hadn’t started buzzing, she might’ve just kept staring at Catra’s smiling mouth until she said something embarrassing.
“Oh, shit,” she says, looking at the time. “I’ve gotta go, I’m done for the day.”
“Where to?” Catra asks. She’s curious. Adora likes that.
“The stables where I go riding. I try to go at least once a week.”
Catra’s mouth curves into a smile. “You started riding again?”
“Yeah, a couple years ago. My grandma encouraged me to pick it up again. It’s . . . kinda kept me sane.”
“Grandma Razz? In Kentucky?”
Adora tilts her head to one side, smiling. “You remember.”
Catra pouts with mock offence. “How could I forget your sordid horse girl past?”
Adora gives a big, full-hearted laugh. “Well, now it’s my sordid horse girl present, too.”
Catra’s eyes crinkle at the corners. “Have fun.”
Adora says goodbye and waves as she walks away.
It wasn’t a bad idea, necessarily, Adora tells herself. Or, it wouldn’t have been, if they hadn’t gotten a flat tire.
Catra rides her motorcycle to set, and in LA, that works 99% of the time. The 1% of the time it doesn’t work, though, happened to be today, and it’s been raining ever since noon without letting up. So, when Adora offered to drive Catra home, it was practical. A nice thing to do for a coworker, really. It doesn’t mean anything at all that Adora’s heart jumped when Catra accepted.
But now, they wait for the mechanic, rain thrashing the roof of the silent car.
“Well . . .” Adora begins, but she doesn’t get far.
Catra closes her eyes. “Stop.”
“Again, I have to ask, what?”
Catra whirls to face Adora, the rain smattering the roof of the car.
“Be nice to me. Ask me how I’m doing. Offer to drive me home when it’s raining. I know you hate me!”
Adora draws in a sharp breath. “What? I never hated you!”
Catra throws her arms in the air. “Then why did you say what you said, back then? Why did you—why did you act like I was a fucking stranger to you? Like I didn’t matter to you?”
“Because I was scared !”
“I was scared, too!”
Catra’s voice cracks like ice, tiny fissures in the space between her words.
“ I was scared, too, and I needed my best friend.”
Adora hates the desperation that’s crept into her own voice. “You left !”
“No, you left! I was right there! I wanted everything for us and you told me to fuck off. I was 18, and so stupidly in lo—”
Catra stops, closing her eyes, and inhaling deep.
Adora, for her part, holds her breath.
“Imagine my surprise when you came out and I realized that it wasn’t that you weren’t gay, it was that you just didn’t want me . You broke my heart,” Catra says, finally, and the old wound in Adora’s makes itself known.
“I’m sorry, Catra. I’m so sorry.”
Catra shakes her head. “Don’t do me any favors, I don’t want—”
“No, I’m serious,” Adora says, turning in her seat to face Catra fully. “I’m sorry because I—I shouldn’t have said those things. I didn’t mean those things.”
Catra looks at Adora out of the corner of her eye.
“I didn’t mean them,” Adora says again. And because it’s time, because they’re trapped here on the side of the highway in a deluge until someone comes to rescue them, Adora tells the truth.
“I wanted to be with you, too. I wanted it the whole time. My mom told me that—that being gay would destroy everything I worked for. Or, everything she worked for, I guess.”
Catra stays completely still, listening intently.
“All I wanted was to make my mom proud, for as long as I can remember. To make her happy. That only got more intense after my dad died. Suddenly, I had one parent, and I didn’t wanna lose her, too.”
Adora can’t prevent the tears welling in her eyes, so she lets them go.
“But I did. Lose her. She took a bunch of my money and I told her to get out of my house. I thought she’d call me to apologize, tell me she was sorry, tell me she loved me. But she didn’t. She did call me to tell me how ungrateful, spoiled, and selfish I am, and eventually, I stopped picking up. I haven’t talked to her in a couple of years.”
“She must know now that I’m gay,” Adora continues, wiping away tears with her sleeve. “Everyone else does. But she’s never said a word. I have no idea what she thinks. She works for some talent agency now. Doing what she did with me, I guess.”
Catra is facing Adora now, and seeing that there’s tears in Catra’s eyes, too, makes Adora start crying again in earnest.
“Adora, can I hold your hand?” Catra asks.
Adora can’t speak, but she nods, sniffling.
Catra gently grasps Adora’s hand, threading their fingers together.
“I’m so sorry that happened to you, Adora. You were never anything other than a fucking incredible daughter to her. You didn’t deserve that. And I . . .” Catra squeezes Adora’s hand. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.”
Adora shakes her head, amused. “Wait, no, I’m apologizing to you.”
Catra shrugs. “Well, now I’m apologizing to you.”
Adora giggles. “This is ridiculous.”
Catra snickers, and then she’s laughing, so hard that she grabs her stomach, and Adora does, too, and she marvels at the joy she can feel with tears still drying on her face.
“We’re not little kids anymore,” Catra says. “We’re calling the shots now.”
Adora knows this, has known it, ever since she told her mom to leave. The difference is that this time, for the first time, that knowledge feels powerful instead of terrifying.
“Do you wanna be—be friends again?” Adora asks, raw hope and no pride.
“I do,” Catra says, all earnestness. “I do want that.” She looks down at the floorboard. “I—I missed you.”
Adora’s lungs expand and contract, loosening the knot at the center of them that was apparently waiting for permission to release.
“I missed you, too.”
An hour later, the mechanic arrives, getting the spare onto the car and the two women on their way, and Adora finally gets to drop Catra off at her apartment building. The rain stops right before they get there, and the sun breaks through the clouds just as Catra waves a smiling goodbye to Adora.
Not a bad idea after all.
The night Catra comes over to Adora’s house for the first time a few weeks later, she takes in the high, vaulted ceilings with exposed beams, arched windows and doorways, hardwood floors, and marble fireplace of the living room with astonishment.
Catra whistles low, eyebrows raised. “You’re like a real movie star.”
Adora smirks. “I am a real movie star.”
Catra sticks out her tongue at Adora. “So cocky.”
“‘Cocky’, ‘correct,’ call it what you will.”
Catra throws her head back and laughs. “New house, same Adora. Come on, show me around.”
And so Adora does, taking Catra upstairs to see the bedrooms and Adora’s favorite spot on the balcony where she has breakfast on the weekends with Glimmer, and usually Bow, too.
“My roommate, Glimmer, isn’t home right now,” Adora says, “so we have the place to ourselves!”
“Wait, you have a roommate? What for?”
“Well, Glimmer lives here with me because I . . . I just didn’t wanna live here by myself,” Adora says, and she doesn’t miss the way Catra’s eyes soften. “I met Glimmer a few years ago through her mom, Angella? You’ve heard of her?”
Catra’s nods, her eyes lighting up with recognition. “Whoa, she’s a big deal. Hasn’t she directed, like, a dozen movies?”
“Yep, and Glimmer cares a lot about establishing herself in her industry on her own merit as much as she can. She really wants to prove herself, but she’s already amazing . She does my makeup for everything!”
They make their way back downstairs, out the patio doors and into the back yard. Catra looks around, all wonder and bewilderment.
“This is huge ,” she says, opening her arms to encompass the whole backyard. She points at the pool. “That’s basically the ocean. How deep is it?”
“I don’t know, actually. I . . . don’t really swim in it, I guess.”
Catra laughs. “Are you serious? You have an Olympic-sized swimming pool taking up half of your Olympic-sized backyard that you ‘don’t really swim in’?”
“Okay, well, technically it’s not actually Olympic-sized.”
Catra smirks. “Oh, well, excuse me, then.”
Adora snorts, the absurdity of all of it hitting her. “You know what’s worse? I don’t think I ever have. Like, I literally don’t think I’ve ever been in this pool.”
Catra’s mouth gapes open. “You’ve gotta be kidding me! Not a single lazy pool day ever got you out here?”
Adora shakes her head. “Nope, not a single one.”
Catra sighs dramatically, extending one hand out to Adora. “There’s only one thing to do, then.”
Adora scrunches her eyebrows together in confusion, accepting Catra’s hand anyway. “And what’s that?”
Catra grins. “We’re getting in the pool.”
“Yes, right now.”
“In our clothes?”
“Honey, you’ve already waited, what, six years? No more excuses.”
“What?” Catra says, her mouth crooking into a lopsided smile at Adora’s bewildered expression. “You’re not really gonna let me show you up, are you?”
Adora grins. “Absolutely not.”
Catra grins back. “I thought so.”
Catra takes a few steps back from the pool, grasping Adora’s hand in hers. Goosebumps rise on Adora’s skin in defiance of the warm, summery night air.
Catra turns to Adora, the patio lights casting half of her face in a golden gleam, a mischievous brow arched over her blue eye.
“Ready?” Catra asks.
Adora squeezes her hand. “Ready.”
Then they’re running, bare feet sounding on the pavement, and for one weightless instant, they’re suspended together in the air, hands still clasped, the pool lights flickering in the water beneath them.
Adora plunges below the water, cool and open and dark. She opens her eyes, looking up towards the surface, the moon wavering in the sky through the lens of the water. Her hair streams behind her, loose and out of her way. Catra is nearby, underwater, too, eyes open like Adora, and waves. Adora manages to wink back at her, and Catra’s eyes widen before a laugh escapes her mouth, chlorine bubbles rising as she kicks her legs towards the surface. Adora follows.
Catra bursts out of the water laughing, joyful and full, making her way towards Adora.
“You’re such an idiot,” she says, half-heartedly splashing water at Adora, still laughing.
“You like it!” Adora says, splashing her back, grinning.
“Maybe I do!” Catra replies, then shrieks when Adora pounces, pretending to push her down into the water.
Out of breath, panting, rivulets of water streaming down her face, Catra suddenly turns serious.
Adora cocks her head to one side. “For what?”
“For pushing you away.”
She swims closer to Adora, Catra’s feet just barely touching the bottom of the pool at this depth.
“I’m sorry for not being here,” Catra says.
“I’m sorry I hurt you,” Adora says.
“I’m sorry I didn’t pick up the phone.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you.”
“I’m sorry I stopped talking to you.”
“I was so scared.”
“I was so angry.”
They’re close now, closer than they need to be, certainly, in a space as big as this one.
“I don’t wanna hide anymore,” Adora says.
Catra shakes her head. “You don’t have to.”
“I wanna be more than friends,” Adora whispers, linking her arms around Catra’s waist under the water. “Friends but more.”
Catra slips her arms around Adora’s neck, water dripping from her eyelashes.
”I wanna be ‘friends but more’ with you, too.”
And in the fluttering, watery shine of the pool lights, Adora kisses her.
They sit together on the couch in front of the firepit, wrapped in beach towels as the fire warms them with a steady cadence of cracks and pops, flames rising into the air. Catra leans into Adora and the arm she has wrapped snuggly around Catra’s shoulders, the joint they’re sharing balanced delicately between Catra’s fingers.
Adora kisses the tip of Catra’s nose. “I can’t believe you’re here,” Adora whispers, like someone might hear and interrupt this private, blissful spell.
Catra’s breathes out a laugh. “Can you imagine what 16-year-old us would say? At your very own house, no supervision, no one telling us what to do?”
Adora gives a short, mirthful laugh. “They’d think we’re so cool.”
“Um, we are cool,” Catra says, playfully nudging Adora’s shoulder.
“Actually, you’re so right,” Adora says, and they dissolve into a fit of giggles, breathing in the lingering scent of chlorine and smoke.
Catra’s phone buzzes and she shifts just enough so she can glance at the screen. “It’s my mom. She’s good though, I can answer later,” she says, turning her phone on silent.
“I want to hear about what happened with her,” Adora prompts. “If you want to talk about it, that is.”
Catra looks up, her eyebrows drawing together in concern. “Are you sure?”
Adora gives a half smile. “I’m sure.”
“I love my mom, and she loves me, too, but . . . those years were so hard,” Catra says. “You remember. She wanted me to have better than she did, but it was too much. She pushed too much.”
She takes a long drag from the joint, the burning end glowing orange.
“She was happy for me when I went to college. But once I was there, I got so angry. At everyone, at everything. I felt like so much of my life had been out of my control for so long, and I blamed her. So, I didn’t talk to her for a while. Actually, I think the only person I talked to for most of freshman year was Scorpia.”
Catra offers the joint to Adora, who accepts it from Catra’s soft, slender fingers.
“But then I had a recital at the end of that first year, and all I wanted was for her to be there. I called her and I couldn’t stop crying. Then she couldn’t stop crying, and we were both just sobbing and apologizing to each other for ten minutes.”
Catra chuckles at the memory. “And then, when she came to see me play . . . everything felt easier. Not all better, but easier. Now we have lunch together every Sunday.”
“I’m so happy you made up,” Adora says, and she is, even if it makes the unmothered part of her heart ache.
Catra leans up to press a soft kiss on Adora’s jaw. “I should’ve been there. When everything happened with your mom. I wish I’d been there.”
Adora places a small kiss on Catra’s forehead. “You’re here now.”
A piece of gum pressed into her palm when she isn’t looking reminds Adora how much better press tours always were with Catra.
Adora doesn’t mind these any more than she minds any other part of the job. She likes talking to interviewers about her projects, especially the ones she genuinely loves. But it gets harder, as days like these wear on, to smile with the same enthusiasm, listen with the same patience, speak with the same poise.
But Catra’s hand on her shoulder, the knowing look she gives Adora when an interviewer asks her a ridiculous question, grounds her, uncovers stores of energy she forgot she had.
And this is the last interview of the day, a short one, only intended to be about ten minutes long. The interviewer is sharp, and gracious, and a fan from their younger years. Five minutes have passed before Adora even notices, and she gives silent thanks for reporters like these.
Catra finishes her answer, and the interviewer switches gears.
“I want to show you two something,” she says, grinning. She passes a photo to Catra, who angles it towards Adora.
It’s a still from that last made-for-TV movie they were in together. They played characters who were both princesses, but one of them didn’t know it. The details are fuzzy. Many of those years are a whirlwind, the only real constant being that they did so much of it together. But Adora does remember Catra laughing hysterically at Adora’s first attempt to move around in the enormous pink ball gown used in the final scene of the movie.
After the movie premiered, a very vocal corner of the fan base shipped Catra’s and Scorpia’s characters together. Adora got a lot of angry Twitter replies for a year, in spite of the fact that Adora’s and Catra’s characters were only best friends on screen. The fans who loved “Catradora,” though, were thrilled to have an entire movie with the girls being best friends onscreen, too. Adora blushed and ignored the fans who openly speculated about whether or not there might be something more to Catradora than just friendship.
“We look so young here,” Adora says, and the truth of it catches her off guard.
“We were,” Catra says, awe coloring her tone. “And we didn’t even know it.”
“Look at your wig, oh, my god,” Adora says, chuckling. “What was that about?”
“Your outfit was wild,” Catra says, nudging Adora’s arm. “You could barely walk in it,” she teases.
“At first!” Adora says, pretending to be offended. “I was a pro by the end of it.”
The interviewer smiles. “It sounds like that was a special time for you both.”
“It was,” Adora says, turning to Catra. “It really was.”
“There’s a lot of good memories from back then,” Catra says, her mismatched eyes warm and soft.
“And here you are, making more of them!” the interviewer says.
Catra looks at Adora, and Adora knows a promise when she hears it.
“Yes, we are.”
Catra’s apartment perches on a quiet street in a homey neighborhood outside of the main bustle of the city. It could be another country for how different it feels when Adora finds parking on the street and walks around the building to find Catra’s door. A few weeks ago, walking right up to Catra’s home would’ve been unthinkable. The years since they were 18 created a gulf of an almost mythic quality, one Adora would have imagined uncrossable, the Catra on the other side more of a fable than a reality.
And yet, here she is, the only thing separating her from Catra a single door.
Catra answers Adora’s knock, and before Catra can say anything, Adora wraps her arms around Catra, pulling her close. Catra links her arms around Adora’s waist, tight, and rests her head on Adora’s chest, breathing in deep.
“Hi,” Catra whispers, her breath tickling Adora’s collarbone.
Adora presses a kiss to Catra’s forehead. “Hi.”
Catra leans back, looking up at Adora, grinning. “You wanna come in?”
Catra kisses her, long and deep, and Adora could stand in this doorway kissing Catra for the rest of the day if Catra will let her.
Catra breaks the kiss, finally, brushing her thumb over Adora’s lips, and Catra gives that tiny, high-pitched laugh she does when she’s really happy. “Do you wanna come in?”
“Yes,” Adora says, laughing, and kisses Catra again. “I wanna come in.”
It’s a small, cozy, pretty one bedroom with windows everywhere, the late afternoon light and a soft breeze streaming in through open windows and drawn curtains. Photos of Catra and her mom, and Catra with Scorpia, along with a woman with long purple hair that Adora doesn’t recognize, cover the top of a built-in bookshelf next to a few plants. Catra’s guitar leans against the couch, like maybe she was just playing before Adora got here.
Adora nods her head towards the guitar. “Will you play something for me?”
“Really! I haven’t heard you sing in a long time.”
Catra raises her eyebrows. “Is that right?”
Adora rolls her eyes. She blurted out that she liked Catra’s new song at the tail end of a late night shoot, exhaustion and adrenaline battling each other in her brain, and Catra, taken aback but gratified, shyly thanked her.
“You know what I mean! It’s been a long time since . . .”
“No, I know, I get it,” Catra says, picking up her guitar, still grinning, motioning for Adora to come sit next to her on the couch. “Alright. I’ll sing if you sing with me.”
Why Adora immediately starts blushing is far too embarrassing for her to interrogate, so she simply smiles, crosses her arms, and answers the challenge.
“Sure. You got it.”
Adora relishes Catra’s impressed surprise like a sweet behind her teeth.
“Well, alright, then, you got me. Your choice, baby.”
Adora shivers pleasantly, and Catra strums the first few chords.
The premiere is a whirlwind.
Enthusiastic early reviews have the entire cast buzzing with excitement, and the evening passes in a blur of cameras and congratulations. Adora and Catra both are asked dozens of questions about the film, their personal lives, and, unsurprisingly, each other. They handle it with all the practice and grace that a lifetime on display has given them, and everything goes to plan.
But it’s the photo of Adora reaching out for Catra’s arm, and Catra turning around to look back at her, both of them beaming at each other and in the middle of saying something neither of them can remember, that fans latch onto.
They don’t confirm anything, and they don’t deny anything. It’s not important, not really. They’re going to do what they want, live how they want, together, and the rest of the world can catch up, or not.
Adora can’t help an amused snort, though, at a comment she sees under an article on Twitter: “ catradora is canon???? wtf?? 12 year old me is freaking tf out!!!!!”
Adora waits at the kitchen table at Catra’s place, banished from the kitchen itself by Catra while she cooks dinner.
“You are not allowed to help. You can hang out there,” Catra told Adora firmly, pointing at her kitchen table. “ I am making you dinner.”
“Fine, but I’m cleaning up after,” Adora said, giving Catra a kiss on her cheek.
“Oh, don’t worry,” Catra replied. “I won’t fight you on that.”
Now, Catra shuts the oven door, wiping her hands on the apron her mom gave her, flushed from the heat of the stove, wispy hairs curling around her face.
“Alright, now all we have to do is wait,” Catra says, taking off her apron and draping it over a kitchen chair. She takes Adora by the hand and they go to Catra’s room, where it’s darker and cooler.
Catra sits down on the edge of the bed and Adora follows. Catra cards her hands through Adora’s hair, gently scratching her scalp.
“You look so cute in your glasses,” Catra says.
Adora grins. “Oh, do I?”
“I heard you singing earlier, when I first got here,” Adora says, rubbing circles on Catra’s hip bones. “It sounded new.”
The flush Catra got from the heat of the kitchen deepens. “It was.”
“You wanna focus on your music, don’t you?” Adora asks, searching Catra’s eyes.
Catra casts her eyes down, and she’s quiet before meeting Adora’s gaze again.
“I don’t know if I can do it, but—I want to try. I really want to try.”
“You can do it, Catra. I know you can. Your voice . . . it’s like nothing else I’ve ever heard.”
Catra waves one hand like she’s dismissing it, but Adora persists.
“No, I’m serious. You can do this.”
Catra cups Adora’s chin in her hands, lightly kissing her lips. “If you say so.”
Catra chuckles. “Okay, then what about you? What’s next for you?”
Adora takes one of Catra’s hands and laces their fingers together, kissing Catra’s knuckles.
“Acting just—the more I do it, the more I feel like it’s not . . . not all I want to do. Not that I want to quit completely, I don’t think, but just . . . see what else I can do, I guess. What else I can do when I’m calling the shots,” she says.
“Adora, you’ve worked so hard for a long time. You haven’t stopped once . Not since we were five years old. Maybe it’s finally time for a break.”
A break. The mysterious, seemingly inaccessible option that Adora has never truly considered before now, before this film, before Catra coming back into her life. It’s not just because of her mom, it’s not just because of the pressures to keep working so that she stays “relevant” by industry standards. It’s deeper than that, scarier than that, and Adora has never said it out loud.
But it’s Catra. It’s safe here.
“Who am I if I stop?” Adora asks quietly.
Catra smooths a hand over the crown of Adora’s head, tucking a strand of blonde hair behind Adora’s ear.
She says it like it’s easy, and because for Catra, it is, it feels easier for Adora to accept. As if there is an essential part of her that isn’t how many auditions she nails, how many parts she books, how many magazine covers she graces in a grocery store checkout line.
Adora sighs. “I’m not sure I even know who that is.”
Catra squeezes Adora’s hand. “Then maybe it’s time for you to get to know her like we all do.”
Adora shuts her eyes tight, conflicting emotions surging inside her heart.
“You told me once that you believed in me,” Adora says. “Do you still?”
“I do,” Catra says, and after examining her fingernails for a moment, “I always will.”
Adora breathes in. “If I take a break . . . what do I do?”
“Maybe you look into taking college classes. Maybe you spend all your time reading by the pool,” Catra says. “Maybe you become a full time horse girl,” she says, winking.
“Oh, my god, shut up,” Adora laughs.
“I’m just saying, it’s an option.”
Adora shoves Catra lightly, and Catra laughs.
“I’m serious, though,” Catra says. “You love being there with the horses. Why not do more of that? It’s in your blood, after all.”
Adora’s heart aches between her ribs.
“I love you.”
Catra leans down, the ends of her long hair brushing Adora’s shoulders. She kisses Adora’s temple, her cheek, her mouth.
“I love you, too.”
three years later
They bought it together, this place, a little bit outside of the chaos. Smaller, more manageable, easy to live in and take care of. Something that’s theirs.
Early morning fog hangs level with the horizon, and Catra pulls her blanket closer around her on the porch swing. Their flight leaves in a few hours. They’re going to Kentucky, where Adora spent those first childhood summers among the honeysuckle and the yellowwood, to visit Razz. They go as often as they can, at least two or three times a year.
The patio door opens, and Catra looks up from her phone to see Adora coming towards her, hair down and feet bare. Adora hands her a mug of coffee, kissing her lips twice, and sits down next to Catra. Catra opens the blanket and tucks it around Adora.
“What are you looking at?” Adora asks, and Catra tilts her phone so Adora can see the article open on the screen, a review of Catra’s show two nights ago. Catra probably wouldn’t have seen it, but an enthused Scorpia sent it to her.
As she reads, recognition transforms Adora’s beautiful mouth into the smile Catra sometimes still can’t believe that she puts there.
“At the end of the night, Hart invited her wife and former co-star, Adora Weaver, onto the stage. The crowd fell silent as the two women sang an acapella duet of Dolly Parton’s ‘Light of a Clear Blue Morning.’”