Deena only has three, four if you count her brother, friends. Kate, Simon, and Sam.
Kate is probably - no definitely the best friend anyone could ask for. She’s kind, funny, fearless, understanding. But she’s also blunt and strong, honest, straightforward. Deena and Kate met in first grade. Deena was coloring in the back of the classroom by herself when Kate came up to her and said, “You could’ve stayed in the lines better there.” And she pointed at a spot where Deena’s red crayon had slipped and colored outside of her dragon. From then on they were practically inseparable.
Deena will never forget when she came out to Kate in her sophomore year. She expecting Kate to react with disgust and worry and unfriend Deena.
But instead, Kate said, “You like girls? Same I get that. But I don’t think we’re the same. I always thought girls were pretty but so were boys so I didn’t question it. Until - you know Claire Miller right? Well, remember in eighth grade we all went to that party? Claire kissed me in the bathroom and I was like ‘Woah okay.’ So I did some research and I think I’m bisexual. Meaning I like girls and guys. I just didn’t say anything because I was worried about how you guys would react. Turns out you’re gay too. So apparently I had nothing to worry about.”
And that was that.
Deena met Simon not long after Kate in second grade. He came up to them on the playground with a cricket in his hand. He had named it Buddy and Kate told him that was a boring name. He scoffed at her and put it in his pocket as the teachers called for them to come inside. Later that day Simon came up to them to tell them that the cricket had asphyxiated in his pocket. (He actually used that word and Deena had no idea what he meant.) And well ever since then the three of them had always been together.
They met Sam a little later in fifth grade. Her Grandmother had homeschooled her whole life. But when your homeschool teacher dies it’s kinda hard to continue doing that. So Sam started attending Shadyside. Their teacher Ms. Parker had told Kate to show Sam around. Kate didn’t bring Sam around to Deena and Simon until her third day after Simon begged and begged for her too. And secretly Deena had wanted Kate to introduce Sam.
Well, Kate introduced her and the four of them became a group. Well not really. It wasn’t like they were divided but Deena was way closer to Kate and Simon than Sam. And Deena was closer to Sam than the other two could ever be. Kate, Simon, and Sam knew each other but they weren’t best friends. They were just three people who sat with Deena at lunch and shared oranges and jokes but that was about it. Surprisingly Deena was the real glue of the group.
Sam had reacted differently than the others when Deena came out. Not in a negative or a homophobic way. She didn’t even care Kate was bi. But she acted differently around Deena. Sam was awkward and weird and...uncomfortable. It bothered Deena. When she brought it up to Sam, Sam assured her everything was fine. But she couldn’t brush the feeling. For a second she thought it was like how Josh acted around Kate. She pushed that thought away, that’s insane.
Deena never really saw Sam as anything more than a friend. Sure she was pretty and nice and kind and wonderful and full of all the good things in the world but she was nothing more than a friend to Deena. And it stayed that way until the first day of junior year.
Sam had stayed in Michigan over the summer to visit some family and Deena had missed her more than she thought she would. More than she wanted to admit.
When Sam walked into their first-period class and sat next to Deena it was different. She had always been beautiful but it was like this was the first time Deena was really realizing. She smiled at Deena and holy fuck she smiled at Deena. The dimple that always flashed when she smiled flashed and it made Deena wanna fucking melt. Everything she did Deena was used to her doing but this time it was earth-shattering. It was phenomenal, it was something Deena wanted to take and bask in, it was something she wanted to lay with and be with every second of every day of every fucking week.
“Hey,” Sam said as she sat down. “Are you okay?” Sam reached for her textbook.
Deena blinked bringing herself out of her trance. “What?”
“Are you okay? You seem a little…” Sam motioned her hands in a circle. “Absent.”
“Oh yeah, I’m fine. Just zoned out a little.” Deena pulled out her notebook and they carried on as usual. Except it became harder and harder for Deena to pull her eyes off of Sam. It became harder for her to not do every stupid thing in an attempt to make Sam laugh. It became harder for her not to make up excuses to walk with Sam to her classes. Everything became harder for Deena because she crushing hard on her best friend and she didn’t know how to stop.
Deena was sure no one knew until one day in November. Deena was leaning against the bathroom wall while Kate checked her hair in the mirror.
“Hey, Deena?” Kate asked turning around and leaning against the sink. “Can I ask you a question?”
Deena furrowed her brows. “ Depends.”
“Well, the question.”
A deep scowl appeared on Kate’s face. “It’s about Sam.” Deena felt a balloon of anxiety fill her chest.
“Yeah. What about her?” Deena crossed her arms in a protective manner.
“Do you maybe happen to like her?”
Deena shrugged. “Yeah Sam’s cool I mean if she wasn’t I wouldn’t have hung out with her for the past what six-year-”
“Deena,” Kate cuts her off. “you know that’s not what I meant. Do you like...have a crush on Sam?”
Deena looks at Kate with a look that dares her to say more. But she doesn’t. Deena honestly doesn’t want to tell Kate but also doesn’t want to lie. And she knows Kate already knows she just asked Deena out of politeness. So Deena sucks it up.
She nods. “Yeah.”
Kate smiles. “Fucking knew it.”
“Shut up.” Deena rolls her eyes.
“You may have a chance you know.” Kate turns back to the bathroom mirror.
Deena scoffs. “Yeah right.”
“I’m serious. I don’t think Sam’s straight.”
Deena furrows her brows again. “What?”
“She just,” Kate motions her hands “She doesn’t read as straight to me.”
“How would you know Kate? Are you able to look at people and tell if they’re gay? You didn’t know I was a lesbian.”
“In my defense, I barely knew I was gay. And,” Kate turns around again. “I was a sophomore.”
“Oh so since you’re a junior you’re much wiser?”
“Exactly. Well no. I’ve just kissed more girls.”
Deena and Kate laugh as they make their way to class.
It went on like this for weeks. Deena looking longingly at Sam then feeling Kate’s leg kick her under the table. One day she felt eyes on her and she looked up and saw Sam looking annoyed at Simon. She could make out that Sam said “Why did you kick me?” But couldn’t see what Simon said before Kate had kicked her.
“You gotta stop kicking so hard. You’re gonna bruise me.” Deena says reaching down to rub her leg.
“I wouldn’t have to kick you if you stopped looking at Sam,” Kate says not even looking up from her math work.
“I know. Trust me I know. It’s so hard. She’s so...fuck I don’t know, Sam?”
Kate looks up with a confused look on her face. “She’s so Sam?”
Kate looks at her with pity in her eyes. “Oh, you poor lovesick puppy.” Kate lightly pushed Deena’s head. “Now do your work.”
One day in early December, Sam and Deena went out into town. They didn’t really have any plans they both just wanted an excuse to leave their houses. Sam got coffee and Deena got hot chocolate (she hates coffee.) They went to a music shop and Deena found a stereo she loved.
“This thing is so fucking cool.” She mumbled kneeling in front of it.
“Do you want it?” Sam asked standing next to her.
“Hell yeah.” Deena stood up and sighed. “It’s just 600 dollars I can’t afford that.”
They continued shopping for the day then they returned home separately. A couple of days later Sam started working a part-time job which Deena kinda hated. It took away a lot of Sam’s time. Time Deena would like Sam to spend with her.
Two weeks passed and they were out of school for winter break. Simon and Sam both started working more and Kate left to visit family out of state. So for the next week until Christmas, Deena was bored out of her mind. Josh tried to teach Deena to play one of his video games. But she lost and got upset so Josh took the controller away before she kicked his console.
Finally, Christmas Day came along. Josh and Deena’s Dad worked that day so again it was just the two of them. Deena bought Josh another video game. She honestly had no clue what it was. She had to ask Simon’s brother, Timothy, for help. Josh got Deena a new pair of drumsticks because her old ones were close to breaking any day now. He also got her a box of hot chocolate mix.
“Thanks, Josh,” Deena said as she inspected the box of hot chocolate mix.
“No problem. Thanks for the game,” he said.
“You’re welcome,” Then a knock came at their door.
“Are Simon and Kate coming over?” Josh asked trying to set up his new game.
“Uh no.” Deena stood up and looked through the peephole on the door. A taller blond woman was standing there. A box wrapped in red wrapping paper sitting at her feet. Deena opened the door. “Sam?”
“Yeah. Hey. Hi. I’m really cold can you please let me in?” Sam said sounding out of breath.
“Oh yeah. Of course.” Deena moved out of the way and Sam picked the box and entered the house.
Josh looked up for a second and said “Hey Sam.” Then returned to his game.
“Hi, Josh.” Sam set the box down on the couch and Deena went up behind to pull her coat off.
“Do you want some hot chocolate?” Deena asked her.
“If you wouldn’t mind.” Deena put the coat on a rack then grabbed the mix off of the table. She made her way to the kitchen and Sam followed. Deena made hot chocolate and poured it into the mugs and handed one to Sam. Sam looked shocked there weren’t clumps of powder in the drink.
“So,” Deena took a sip of her drink. “Why are you here?”
“Uh well,” Sam motioned to the box on the ground. “To bring you your present.”
Deena raised her eyebrows in shock. “We- We didn’t say anything about presents. I didn’t get you anything-”
“That’s fine,” Sam cuts her off. “I wanted to surprise you.”
The two sat in silence drinking their hot chocolates. Eventually, they finished their drinks and Deena rinsed the mugs out and put them in the sink.
“Can we go to your room?” Sam asked and Deena looked at her, confused. “So I can give you your present.”
“Oh, well now I’m worried. It’s not like a bomb or something? You’re not planning to kill me, are you?”
“Shut up.” Sam nudged her and Deena picked up the box and carried it into her room.
Deena set the box on the ground and the two girls sat on her bed.
“Go ahead.” Sam pushed her elbow, smiling excitedly. “Open it.”
Deena leaned down and ripped the paper revealing the same stereo from weeks ago. Deena began to tear the paper faster and picked up the box in her hands. “Sam my god- how did you- why did you-” Sam laughed as Deena inspected the box in her hands.
“You know the job I started working that I hate. It was for that. So I could buy it for you.”
That catches Deena off guard. She sets the box down and turns to Sam. “You started working a whole ass job so you could buy me a Christmas present?”
Sam nods. “Yeah.”
Deena exhales. “Sam I-” Everything seems to hit Deena at once. Sam and her glory and her working a job she hates so she could buy Deena a Christmas present. And not just a Christmas present a 600 dollar stereo. No one in Deena’s life had ever done anything like that ever for her. She was taken back and she was shocked. There were so many things she wanted to say, she wanted to do. But one thing was very persistent in her mind. “Sam I wanna do something really stupid. Is that okay?”
Sam nods. “Yeah. What is it-” But Deena cuts her off, kissing her. And much to Deena’s surprise, Sam kisses her back. The kiss is gentle and soft and sweet. The taste of hot chocolate still lingering on their lips. Deena’s hands hook themselves behind Sam’s neck and kisses her deeper.
But Sam pulls away. Her expression is unreadable and for a second Deena thinks Sam’s gonna run away. For a second Deena thinks she’s made a mistake. But Sam’s hands on her hips pulling her closer to her and Sam’s lips on her’s. And they’re kissing and they’re kissing and they’re kissing.
They kiss and kiss until Josh’s voice calls out. “Deena! Dad’s home!” And Sam pulls away. She looks down at her hands then back at Deena for a second before returning back to her hands. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” And Sam left.
Well, Deena didn’t see her tomorrow or the day after, or the day after that. She didn’t see Sam until the first day back to school. Sam didn’t talk to Deena, she avoided eye contact at lunch, she didn’t speak up. She just let Kate discuss her Christmas in Pennsylvania and Simon complain about working 60 hours at the grocery store the week before.
“I mean is that even legal? For me, a seventeen-year-old, to work 60 hours a week?” Simon asked dramatically while peeling his orange.
“Definitely not.” Kate leaned over and grabbed a tater tot off of Simon’s plate. “So, Deena, Sam. What did you guys do?”
Deena shot a glance to Sam and Sam just said. “I just worked and stuff. I also quit right after Christmas.”
“Why?” Kate asked.
“I hated it,” Sam says and Kate nods. “I have got to go so you guys enjoy your lunch.” And Sam got up and left. Deena’s eyes followed her as she left and then she felt Kate kicking her.
“What?” Deena said a little too harshly.
“Jesus, calm down,” Kate inhaled for a second before turning to Deena and whispering. “I’m sorry. Are you okay?”
“No - Yes. I’m just tired.” That wasn’t a lie. Deena hadn’t slept well since the kiss. Between the anxiety of what was next and the joy from the kiss. It kept her up. The thoughts of Sam’s lips on her’s. But also the thought Sam may never look at her again.
Deena’s trying to be understanding. She knows this is confusing and scary for Sam. She’s trying to be patient and give her time but she misses her so much. She wants to talk to her again, to make her laugh, to walk with her to her classes. She wants Sam back.
It goes on like this for about two weeks until Deena was finally able to get Sam alone to talk to her. They were all hanging out at Kate’s Sunday night. They were sitting in the living room after Simon had left for work. Josh and Kate were talking about something not involving Deena and Sam.
Deena scooted over to where Sam was on the couch and whispered in her ear. “Hey, can I talk to you? In private? Please.”
Sam looked at her and then nodded. Josh and Kate didn’t even realize the two of them go into Kate’s room. They were too wrapped up in their own conversation.
Sam leaned against Kate’s door and exhaled sharply. “So, what did you want to talk about?”
Deena knew she couldn’t hide her feelings anymore. It’s been almost six months she’s been falling for Sam. She can’t hold back it any longer. She was pretty sure Sam knew. Deena did quite literally kiss her. But there’s something about Deena actually saying it that makes it more real.
So she swallows her pride and shame and fear. “Sam I like you. Like a lot. And I have for months. I just didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to scare you. But then Christmas happened and you bought me that stereo and it all just overtook me. How kind and beautiful and amazing and just how good you are. I couldn’t do it anymore so I kissed you. Sam, I really like you and it’s fine if you don’t feel the same. I just really needed-”
“Shut up,” Sam said cutting Deena off.
Sam made her way to Deena. “Shut up so I can kiss you.” And she did. Sam kissed Deena. Everything Deena felt at Christmas she felt now. She may have even felt more.
Nothing was more intoxicating than the feeling of Sam’s hands on her face and Deena’s hand on her waist. She pulled Sam closer and their kiss deepened.
They stayed like that until the door swung open. “Are you guys in here-” Kate was standing there with her hand on the doorknob. She stepped back and shouted “Fina-fucking-ly!”
Sam stepped away from Deena her face a deep red color.
“Can you not?” Deena asked Kate.
“You two are the ones making out in my bedroom.” Deena stayed silent at that. “Well, you guys need to leave. It’s getting late and my mom will be home soon. So, get out.”
Sam and Deena made their way out of Kate’s house stopping on her front porch. “So,” Deena said, “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow?”
Sam smiled and edged her way to Deena. The two shared an awkward but sweet kiss. Sam pulled back and giggled. 'She’s so pretty.' Deena thought. “Yeah, Deena. I’ll see you tomorrow.” The two laughed once more before going their separate ways.