First things first, you need to find a straight best friend. No, not just a straight friend. A best friend. Not those girls from your Algebra I class, and not the girl who talks to you about anime in P.E. They’re your friends. But you need a best friend. You meet her freshman year, in your chorus class. You’re walking there, silently brooding over the fact that you couldn’t audition for a higher choir when she passes you in the hallway. Head down, rushing to the classroom. You think you recognize her from orientation. When you walk into the classroom (it smells like a musty closet and doesn’t look much better), you get a better look at her, and you think you might be in love. She’s wearing cat ears and short shorts, with rainbow socks going up to her thighs. She sits cross-legged on the faded, once-red posture chairs, and hunches over. She’s holding a book. She’s everything you have ever, ever imagined, and she just has to be a lesbian. You talk to your friends in other classes. You find out her name. It’s badass. She's a badass. You wish you could work up the courage to talk to her, but you’re painfully shy and she seems to be the same. You spend most of your classes staring at her in the reflection of your phone screen and you memorize the prints on her graphic tees so you know what she likes. When you feel creepy, you look straight ahead at the Beatles poster on the wall. You think about talking to her. You wish you could talk to her. You continue your life. You see her at auditions for Annie. You wonder who she’s auditioning for. You audition for Hannigan. You get cast as an ensemble member because you are five-foot-one and don’t know how to act. That’s okay. She’s in the ensemble too. This could be your moment. You finally talk to her in February, one month before the show opens. It’s lunchtime at an eight hour long rehearsal, and you happen to end up sitting next to her. With a breath for courage, you utter the words that will change the course of the next six years of your life. “Hey. I like your boots.” They’re studded and belted and have chains on them and they’re just as cool as everything else about her, but that’s not what you’re taking stock of. Instead, you’re staring at her face as she smiles and thanks you and becomes the most important person in your life. You sit next to her in chorus the next day. The room is still musty and looks the way that vomit smells, but you don’t notice it because you talk to her the entire period. You don’t look at the Beatles poster at all. You casually mention that you might be bisexual, and she breaks your heart by telling you that her church doesn’t really support gay people, and her tone tells you that she agrees. Well. You’re still pretty sure that you’re in love with her, but it’s okay! You’ll be friends. And you are. You walk to rehearsal with her, and you stand next to her during warmups. She tells you about all of her dream roles and her favorite musicals, and you tell her about your favorite video game and the plots of your various fanfics. Neither of you really understand what the other is talking about, but you’re equally enthusiastic all the same. You sit next to her in chorus the next day. And you talk at rehearsal. You find common ground and you settle on it together. You almost miss the cue to go onstage. You sit next to her in chorus the next day. And you talk at rehearsal. You ask her what it’s like to be vegan, and she marvels at the amount of fun-size bags of cheese balls that you can consume in one sitting. You sit next to her in chorus the next day. And you talk at rehearsal. It turns out that she actually thinks you’re pretty funny, and you ask her the story behind the cat ears (something about overgrown bangs and force of habit). You sit next to her in chorus. And you talk in between scenes on opening night. You choreograph dances together and pirate The Phantom of the Opera during intermission. By closing night, the chorus teacher can hardly differentiate you, and you think that’s a good thing. A great thing. You think she might be your soulmate. Platonically. Maybe you can help her sympathize with the struggles of queer people, but she says she isn’t gay, and you can’t change that. And that’s okay. You sit next to her in chorus. The next year, you get into the Concert Choir. She’s in the Girls' Ensemble, and you miss her every single class. The musical that year is Aida. You try on her cat ears. You’re inseparable. That summer, you turn sixteen and invite her to your birthday party, along with eight other friends. Two never show. The other six pair off, but you don’t mind, because you get to spend time with her. You go on every damn ride in that indoor amusement park. It turns out that she likes to spin the teacup around as fast as she can, just like you do. By the time you get off, she’s holding your hand to keep you from walking into a wall. She notices your pronoun bracelet, asks why you never told her, and promises that she’ll support you no matter what. At the end of the night, your entire family thinks that you two are a couple, and she’s the only good thing about that party. She takes a picture with you before she leaves, the only person who thought to do so, and you’ve never looked happier. You try not to think about holding her hand. You try not to think about those feelings from freshman year. You don’t see her again until September, but that doesn’t matter. You think about her. All the time. She’s in the Concert Choir with you this year, and you immediately go to her side. She’s your best friend. And you’re still in love with her. She cut her hair over the summer, and you’re starting to think there might be a chance. You audition for the school play in the fall. It’s Cinderella. You meet two new friends at auditions: a boy and a girl. The boy is a year younger and was in the same choir class as you last year. He’s annoying and you can hardly stand him, but he gets along well enough with your straight best friend. The girl is a freshman and she just moved here from the midwest. You like her backpack and you watch the same shows. She seems nice, and she reminds you of yourself when you were quiet and new. You go to homecoming with the six other friends that came to your birthday party, but this time, you leave them. You see your straight best friend walking in by herself (wearing leather pants and a black vest and her cat ears) and you can hardly breathe, and you’d much rather be with her anyway. Neither of you really like dances, so you sit together in the hallway outside the gymnasium, singing musical soundtracks together. She holds your hand, she hugs you, and you’ve never, ever been more certain that you were in love with her. You think you might tell her that night. She tells you she likes the boy. They dance the last song together and walk out of the gym together. You go to dinner with the six friends you came with and you try so, so hard not to cry into your tomato soup. You go home and try to write a song for her while you shower. Maybe nothing happened. Maybe there’s still hope. You’re two lines in when you get a three-paragraph text from her that tells you every sordid detail about how the boy asked her to be his girlfriend and how she said yes. As her best friend, you’re happy for her. As the person who has only just recently come to terms with the fact that they’re still hopelessly, madly in love with her, you’re heartbroken. You hate the boy more than anything. You spend more time with the new girl because you can’t stand to watch him fawn over your straight best friend. That’s your job. That should have been you. It’s early December when you’ve finally had it. You tweet something that’s meant to bait the new girl into talking to you, and she does. She becomes your first ever girlfriend. You usually eat lunch with your other friends in the gym or the cafeteria, but the new girl makes you sit on the floor of the choir room with her. It turns out that this is where your straight best friend has been sitting for lunch the past two years. You look past the smell and the wildly-fluctuating temperature to be with her. You don’t even care that you’re sitting on the floor. A week later, your straight(?) best friend breaks up with the boy. You’re stuck with your girlfriend. Every time you kiss her, you catalog all the ways she isn’t perfect. The boy is your friend now, and he talks to you about how things went wrong. You silently note everything you could have done better for her. If only she weren’t straight. The musical that year is Footloose. You don’t spend enough time with anyone. The rest of the year is a haze. It’s awful. You tell her in July. You’re still with you-know-who, and you feel like you’re cheating, but you can’t keep it in anymore. You tell her through a poem. She writes one back. By early August, you’ve created your own language. The whole friend group goes out to dinner for your girlfriend’s birthday. You hold her hand, but you only look at your best friend. You’re the last two to leave. You stand outside the closed cafe, getting rained on, and looking at each other with something in your eyes. Neither of you talk about it, but you know what it is. You almost forget to text your girlfriend that night. You end the relationship five days later. Three days after that, you go to the boardwalk with your best friend. You hold hands. You ride the Himalaya until you’re nauseous. She kisses you on the cheek and smiles when you buy strawberry ice-cream because you “just feel pink” that day. She makes you feel pink every day after that. In September, you hold hands. You walk into the choir room and you don’t care about how it smells or how it looks because this is where you met her, this is where you fell in love with her, and this is the safest place in both your lives. You sit next to her and tell her that you love her. She says it back. One day, during the typical lunch on the choir floor, she gives you her cat ears. She doesn’t wear them anymore, anyways, and you probably were more attached to them than she ever was. It’s July now. You’re in the trunk of your car with the backseats down to give you more room to lay. Music plays softly and you pass a water bottle back and forth. Both of you are sweaty and red, but neither of you care. You tease her about freshman year, about cat ears and short-shorts and thigh-high socks, and how bad she was at acting like she was straight. She apologizes for taking so long, but you don’t mind. You promise each other forever. And even though you’re both still young and stupid and trying to navigate a life that neither of you expected, you think you can make it.
Beeper Peddle is a writer and healer living on the East Coast. She lives with her partner and their beloved soul puppy. Beeper writes about sorrows, lies, and deep loves. When you read her work, you will dip down into her heart and end up in all manner of body parts. Should you find yourself reflected in these words, it is merely coincidence; however, it does not surprise her you share the same heart. Find her at bethpeddle.com and @beeperpeddle on Twitter and Instagram
N.L. Rivera is currently an undergraduate student pursuing a B.A. in Writing Arts at Rowan University in New Jersey. Their work has been featured in several on-campus publications such as the upcoming Spring and Fall 2021 editions of Avant Literary Magazine, and the Spring 2021 edition of Spotlight. Their writing focuses mainly on celebrations of queer love and identity, as well as stories of their Latin American heritage.