The last week of school, Pash confirmed with Bliss that she was moving in with her in Austin, and she wrote a Don't Go After Bliss plan in an old undergrad notebook she still had floating around.
Pash was very proud of DGAB. It was simple and straightforward.
Overall goal: stay best friends with Bliss. Relationships of any kind were messy in the best of circumstances, and they were moving in together.
Step one: carefully plan hanging-out time with Bliss. Too much, and it would ruin the boundaries Pash needed. Too little, and they wouldn't have a relationship beyond "that woman who lives with me and sometimes does the dishes and usually buys new milk".
Step two: no drinking alone with Bliss. Lowered inhibitions = BAD. BAD BAD BAD.
Step three: put off the bisexuality convo as long as possible.
This one was dangerous and...well, a terrible idea, but it had started inadvertently when Bliss had come out in their first year of college. Pash had figured out the month before that she didn't just stare at the roller derby players because she liked their outfits, but she thought saying something would be stepping on Bliss's moment.
Pash had started dating Mariah later that year, but it was at the same time Bliss had broken up with a bassist named Ellie, and she was taking it hard, so what was Pash supposed to do? Send her a picture of Mariah and say "sorry your life sucks, but my girlfriend's hot and I'm happy"?
Mariah had gone to grad school across the country; she was a linguistics major while Pash was going into criminal justice, and their potential programs were at different schools. Their breakup was amicable, but Bliss had fallen in love at the same time that Pash's relationship ended. Pash was fine. It didn't mean things didn't...hurt.
(She didn't feel guilty about not saying anything then, but she occasionally ached in a way that told her she should have felt guilty.)
It snowballed from there, until Pash had a big secret she was lugging around and hating herself for, and starting and finishing grad school meant she had no emotional reserves for coming clean on something she hadn't meant to keep a secret in the first place. But she worried if she started talking, she might not stop.
Step four: consider dating? Maybe?
It didn't sound appealing, but if Pash found someone she liked - probably a guy, since she was keeping the whole dating-women thing under wraps - it would be a nice way to move past these weird feelings for Bliss.
Four steps. Simple. Right?
The night of Bliss's first game since Pash came back, Bliss was wearing her Hurl Scouts uniform and leaning against the wall in the kitchen.
"You're really not coming?" she asked.
Pash forced her gaze to stay on Bliss and not on her books. It was hard. Not because Bliss didn't look good - her hair in particular, bleached and long on top with the sides of her head buzzed - but because looking too long might turn into ogling.
She gave herself a break and picked up a book to wave it around. "I'm going to be in interviews all month. Can't let things slide."
Bliss didn't look mad. She looked mildly disappointed...and beautiful. But not angry.
"Well, I'll be thinking of you," Bliss said. She blew her a kiss, and Pash caught it.
When Bliss left, Pash let her head drop on her books, and she groaned loudly.
Still, Pash managed to hold Bliss off for three more weeks. And then she got a job.
"We have to celebrate!" Bliss said, squealing and hugging Pash hard enough that she picked her up a little when she heard. "Get absolutely stinking drunk."
"Yeah, okay, weirdo," Pash said with a laugh, batting Bliss away. Hopefully, the flush in her cheeks would look like excitement.
"Just you and me. We haven't had nearly enough you-and-me time lately. I won't even ask the team out."
The DGAB Plan flashed in Pash's head. She shook her head before she knew what to say.
"Not the team," she said, drawing out the vowels in team to give herself a couple seconds to think. Luckily, an idea came to her. "But there is someone I said I'd get drinks with when I surfaced."
"Great! Call them. You know the bar we usually go to."
The bar in question was the bar that Pash had realized she was really, really attracted to Bliss.
It was her second summer in undergrad, and her first summer staying with Bliss. Bliss had gotten a job in tech and dropped out of college, and she had been - and still was, damn it - making enough to pay off what few loans she'd gotten. In the meantime, she had a decent apartment with room for Pash, which saved Pash the indignity of going back to Bodine with her parents again when Bliss wasn't there.
The first thing Pash had noticed when they'd arrived at the bar was the ring on Rosa Sparks's finger.
"When did that happen?" she'd said, trying to gesture in a low-key way at Rosa's left hand.
Rosa had grinned as she'd bounced her pool cue in her right hand. "January. The wife's got work, or she'd talk your ear off about the wedding. We were all on skates."
"Wow." Rosa and Eva Destruction falling for each other was still one of Pash's favorite love stories. She'd turned around and lightly punched Bliss on the arm. "Why didn't you email me pictures?"
"Ow!" Bliss had batted at Pash like she had landed a real hit. "They're on Facebook."
"I deleted my Facebook, remember?"
"Oh, shit, I totally forgot."
Bliss had looked so genuinely worried about what Pash thought that Pash couldn't have helped giving her a break.
"I guess I forgive you," she'd said, with a fake eyeroll.
Bliss had brightened at that and kissed Pash on the cheek...
And Pash had felt it, like a flush and tingle throughout her body. She'd felt the kiss like she'd felt her first kiss with Mariah.
Bliss, oblivious, had wandered away to talk to the rest of the team.
"So it's like that, huh?"
Pash had thought shit so hard she was surprised the entire room couldn't hear it.
"Like what?" she said as innocently as she could manage.
"Uh huh." Rosa had neither looked nor sounded convinced. She'd crossed her arms. "You don't think I know a lesbian look when I see one?"
"Bisexual," Pash had corrected immediately; she'd done it enough at school that it was almost as automatic as breathing. She clapped a hand over her mouth, and Rosa cackled.
"Y'all work it out between yourselves." Rosa patted Pash's shoulder comfortingly. "I've got drinking to do."
The bar wasn't too different from that day. It was still mostly lit in red and smelled like beer and wasn't as pretentious or country-themed as a lot of the bars in Austin.
Bliss immediately ran to the bathroom, running with exaggerated awkwardness that reminded Pash of high school. She snorted fondly at Bliss and looked at the people milling around.
On that particular night, the bar wasn't filled with roller derby players. But it did have a familiar face.
Birdman was against the wall, looking more at ease with himself than he had when Pash had dated him. He looked happy to see her, too, wrapping her in a big hug when she got close.
"How have you been?" Pash asked.
"Good, good. You're looking at a district manager."
Pash gently pushed at him. "Shut up."
He blinked. "Uh. Thanks?"
"Working up the ladder! Congrats. That's big."
Birdman smiled, looking like he was slightly surprised by his own words. "It is, isn't it?"
She'd missed Birdman. She'd really loved dating him, but they'd broken up so Pash could go to college, and...
Oh hey. There was point four on the list.
"How's your love life looking?" Pash asked, leaning on Birdman. "You got a lady in your life?"
"You didn't hear? I've got two."
Birdman chuckled and pulled out his phone. On the lockscreen was a baby with Birdman's exact face, squished and round.
"Born in February," he said fondly.
"Oh, Birdman!" Pash hugged him hard. "A family?"
He looked proud again in that sheepish way he was so good at. Pash couldn't even be disappointed that he wasn't single. He seemed so happy.
"Then I definitely have to buy you a drink," she said, pulling him to the bar.
A drink turned into shots. Shots turned into tipsiness.
After a couple hours, Pash was swaying on her stool and looking around blearily at the bar. "Where'd Birdman go?"
Bliss laughed in her face. She didn't seem as...loose as Pash.
"What's so funny?"
"That's the third time you asked. He had to get home. Come on. We should get dinner and soak up some of the beer."
Hazily, Pash knew there was a reason she shouldn't. "I think I have work. Or something?"
Bliss laughed again. "Seriously, dude. Food. Water. Let's go."
Pash let herself be lead away. It seemed the sensible thing to do.
It was only when Pash was sobering up over tacos that she realized, with horror, that she was violating steps one and two of her plan.
Pash was sitting with Bliss on the balcony of their apartment. (Bliss had opted to get food to go, saying it was in case Pash had a bad reaction to the food. It was the nicer way of saying "so you don't puke your guts out in a restaurant".) That meant they were alone at a point that Pash hadn't planned. And, while Pash wasn't nearly as drunk as she'd been before, she was still feeling...softer than she was before she drank.
The conversation had mostly been innocent. Just talking about college and work and drinking. And then, with a diversion from Bliss, Pash knew she was going to mess up step three of her plan. And maybe her overall goal.
"I don't know how to say this," Bliss said, wiping her hands with a napkin. "I probably shouldn't say it now."
Pash stiffened. She was carefully looking at the apartment building across from theirs and not at Bliss. "Oh?"
"I'm going to sound like a jerk no matter how I say it."
"It's been, like, a solid year since you pissed me off," Pash said as casually as she could manage, poking the empty taco bag with a finger. "Can't be that bad, right?"
Bliss nodded solemnly. She was quieter than she'd been in a while, more like her high-school self than the woman she'd become. "I just...I feel like you aren't telling me everything going on with you."
"Which is fine!" Bliss adjusted her glasses. "You don't have to tell me everything just because we're best friends. But it feels like...I don't know."
Pash tilted her head to look directly at Bliss. "Like what?"
"Like you've drawn away from the world a little bit. I'm probably just being selfish because I feel like we're not as close as we used to be—"
"We live together."
"I know, I know. I told you I was going to sound like a jerk."
"You don't sound like a jerk." Pash exhaled. Point three, out the window. "You're right. I haven't been telling you stuff. Not because I didn't want to tell you. The timing never felt right."
Bliss nodded. "I just wanted to say that you can tell me."
Pash had never wanted to trash the plan more at that moment. She wanted to turn to Bliss and kiss her and find out, finally, what it was like.
But that wasn't fair. Bliss needed to know everything first.
With a hard exhale, Pash pulled out her phone. There were so many pictures she didn't put online. She didn't use things like Instagram or Snapchat because...well, she didn't tell anyone in Bodine or Austin about this. She didn't know about Birdman's baby, or Rosa and Eva's wedding, and no one knew about her life.
Her hand shook when she landed on a picture of her with Mariah. An awkward selfie, but intimate. They were snuggling on the couch, and Mariah was kissing Pash's cheek.
Pash handed Bliss her phone.
"She was my girlfriend," Pash said quietly. "We dated for two years, until she moved across the country."
Bliss stared hard at the phone. Pash couldn't wait to see what her reaction was.
She left the balcony, and then the apartment.
Pash wasn't too sure about her ability to drive, but their apartment complex had a playground, and it was late enough that no one was there. It felt good to sit on a swing and stare at wood chips and hope against all hope that Bliss didn't hate her.
She was so busy hoping that she didn't hear, initially, when Bliss sat in the swing next to her.
"So you're gay?" Bliss asked. "Bisexual?"
Pash laughed quietly. Bliss had had bisexual girlfriends. All musicians, oddly enough, but she didn't just date lesbians or anything. Bliss was probably the only person in her Texas life who would think of the word "bisexual" in a moment like the one they were in.
"Bisexual," she confirmed.
"'The timing wasn't right'?" Bliss didn't sound angry, exactly, but she didn't sound convinced.
"You had a lot going on." Pash laughed. "And I'm kind of in love with you."
Pash heard Bliss's breath catch. Pash tried to blink the stinging feeling out of her eyes.
"We'll come back to that," Bliss said, and her voice broke a little. She cleared her throat, and the next words came out steadier. "Is this why you deleted your Facebook? So I wouldn't know?"
"I thought it was." But the more Pash thought about the timing...no, she hadn't been into Bliss until the summer after she'd deleted her Facebook. It felt like ancient history at this point. "But I haven't told my parents, either. Or Birdman. I think the only person who knew in Austin was Rosa, and that's because she guessed."
"Damn," Bliss said. "How did you hold it in? I couldn't."
Pash remembered. Bliss had called her in a rush one night, saying she'd kissed a drummer named Maria at an end-of-season party and that she didn't think she was into guys at all, and Pash had just...listened, awed that Bliss would know herself so well and that she knew how to put what she was feeling in words.
She'd thought of that call more than once over the years, after she'd started dating Mariah. They'd never really gone out in their social circles at school, although people had known they were dating, and Pash had thought it was because they were busy, or because it was nice to have something away from everyone else, but neither was all of it.
"I didn't know how to say it," Pash said finally. "Don't know if I do now, either."
She felt Bliss's hand over hers, and she looked over to see Bliss smiling.
"I think you did better than you think," Bliss said.
Bliss took her home, and they curled up in Bliss's bed together. Bliss hugged her and rubbed her stomach and whispered how proud of Pash she was and how brave Pash was, and Pash cried. Happy tears. Relieved ones.
She fell asleep knowing that Bliss didn't hate her.
The golden light coming in through Bliss's cracked blinds woke Pash the next morning. Bliss was still in bed, looking at things on Pash's phone. Pash had told her before they'd fallen that she could look at all her pictures if she wanted, but they'd fallen asleep before that could happen.
"This is so cool," Bliss said earnestly when she noticed Pash was awake. "I always wondered what you were up to at school."
"Studying." Pash shifted into a sitting position. Her voice was still thick with sleep. "And some of what you were up to here. With fewer musicians."
Bliss laughed, and Pash couldn't wait any longer.
She moved against Bliss, feeling her warmth, and looked pointedly at Bliss's mouth. It was Bliss's turn to blush for once as Pash carefully took her glasses off and laid them on her side table.
"Yeah?" Pash asked.
Bliss nodded, looking dazed, and Pash kissed her, feeling the same things she'd felt five years ago, but times ten.
When she pulled back, Bliss laughed, touching her lips wonderingly. She nodded again.
"Yeah," Bliss said, and Pash kissed her again.