The weight of Sterling Wesley’s fingers wrapped around my own is something inexplicable, but if I had to describe it, I would say that the feeling of our intertwined hands connected underneath the moonlit streets of Georgia could be compared to that of warm nest, ensuring the safety of the eggs inside, a comfortable place to reside.
The comfort should dwindle, should it not? When we’re out in the open not as friends but as lovers, blushes upon cheeks, smiles illuminated beside the streetlights above. We should be fearful of the comedown, lingering eyes and less than subtle remarks, and yet, I am not, and when I gaze at her, really gaze, I see the reflection of my own conclusions staring back at me through two blue pupils. She is not fearful either.
The air is cool outside the cafeteria, and I expect the comfort to subside when Sterling truly realizes the complexity of what we are about to do, awaiting the tight squeeze of her hand in mine, anxiety trickling down the corners of her mind and into her eyes, creating tears of worry.
It doesn’t arrive.
We are late to the dance by but a sheer thirty minutes having savoured the walk to this evening’s destination, as if we both understood that the moment would be engraved into our memories for the rest of our lives, and we wanted to ensure that it had enough time to paint the correct indelible picture. Whilst I believe that this has been achieved, it can just as easily be drawn over when we pull back the doors to the school, when it’s no longer just the two of us holding the brush.
Sterling Wesley turns to face me, an unreadable expression lining her features as her hand remains clasped in mine.
“We can do this,” she offers, the tight squeeze I had expected becoming a reality as she grasps my fingers firmly.
I gaze back without a single word, my thoughts speaking to me and only me.
The girl before you was nothing but an enemy once upon a time, a beautiful and yet dangerous creation that you could not touch despite an inexplicable desire to, as if drawn to the idea of getting burned, a hand lingering upon a fire basking in the warmth and being completely aware as to its instability.
But we are stable now.
With her eyes still fixated upon my own, I squeeze back, the corners of my mouth forming a delicate smile. We are stable.
The act is small but enough to inform her that I am ready, that we are ready to not only enter the dance, but to embrace this new chapter of our lives as lovers. When she is no longer facing me, and our bodies are anticipating the next move, I gulp back what resembles anxiety, and yet, somehow, I know in my heart that should I have undertaken the plan I had originally envisioned, in which I attended the dance with Luke, I know that this feeling would have been worse.
This is it. My final breaths in the dark. My final lie released.
We open the doors together, Sterling’s left hand and my right pushing towards it, our other hands still connected. A cacophony of noise greets us before the faces do, blaring music, voices near and far, shoes upon hard flooring. When the faces turn, the voices quieten, the shoes are no longer tapping away, and all that’s left is the music.
The eyes. The eyes hover towards the lower half of our bodies; two hands connected that somehow shouldn’t be. Or so it appears.
I await the inevitability of Sterling’s words. This was a bad idea. Let’s just forget this happened and leave.
The words don’t come, but rather, a pull of our bodies as she walks us directly into the middle of the dance floor, her heels against the tile overpowering the music, bursting through my ears as a wave of nausea hits me faster than any punch ever could.
When even heels against tile comes to a halt just as the noises that came before it, I freeze.
Sterling Wesley faces me once again, and in that moment, it is like we are but the only two souls here in the middle of the dancefloor, an empty room with but an unlikely pair to occupy it.
The hand that is not safely connected to my own wanders, removing a strand of hair in my face before pulling me closer to her. Our fingers separate as Sterling places her arms around my neck, and I, in turn, do the same around her waist. She sways me gently to the music, never once averting her gaze to see who may be watching, talking, laughing. She looks at me, only me. And I know that I could not look away even if I tried.
Nausea becomes ease, becomes content, becomes happy, and my smile finds itself almost irreversible upon my features, as if it will never leave me.
And then she moves in, and the smile becomes pressed against another, two pairs of lips finding their home just as our hands had done moments earlier. And even when she retracts, the smiles remain the same, irreversible. Almost.
“We faced the music,” I say, referring to the dance we had just shared as a song played blissfully in the background, “now what do you say we face the music?”
For the first time, Sterling Wesley averts her gaze from my own and takes a look around the room in observation. I allow her eyes to wander before my own do, taking in her features, desperate for a response in her expression to indicate what she might be witnessing. I press my hands tighter around her waist.
Her eyes find mine again a few moments later, and the nausea hits me once more.
That is until she smiles warmly, and I realize that my own smile has still not left me, despite the fear of what’s to come.
“Maybe you should look around,” she offers.
And so, I do, scanning the area with utmost haste, taking in the surroundings before me and…
There is nothing but normalcy. Couples tied together through limbs and lips. Stumbling bodies grasping one more cup of fruit punch. It is nothing, and yet it is everything all at once.
My eyes find Blair before my scan of the area is complete, dark blue dress, leather jacket worn proudly over slender shoulders on top, a black necklace with a silver charm falling perfectly over her figure. That same blue dress comes closer, closer still, until she surrounds our space, and I instinctively remove my hands from Sterling’s waist as if in subtle apology to Blair as to what she had just witnessed.
The girl smiles until her teeth expose themselves, pearly white indications of amusement.
“Unless those arms are retracting in order to get a drink, I suggest you put those right back where they were before Sterling has a tantrum.”
“Seconded,” Sterling comments, nodding to her sister in approval at her remark.
The arms in question, my arms, stay firmly planted for just a moment longer in deliberation as to the next plausible move. And then it hits me.
“How about you go get us all some drinks Miss I’m-So-Good-At-Art-And-Looking-Like-I-Belong-In-A-Music-Video and then I can commit to your request, hm?”
My face follows suit to my words in mock concentration, folding my arms in unison to my features, and for what I hope is the final time, I scowl at Blair before bursting into laughter alongside Sterling. There’s no need to act now. Not anymore. But it doesn’t hurt to say goodbye to the old April Stevens one last time.
“Someone’s bossy,” Blair mentions, her smile shining through the perceived rudeness of the remark in comic fashion. “Can’t wait to have the both of you shouting orders left right and center at home.”
My body warms at the idea of entering Sterling's home not just as a guest but as her girlfriend, the normality of it all no longer a distant wish but a reality.
“You love it,” Sterling acknowledges, ruffling Blair’s hair whilst she attempts to bat her away as if she is batting away a mischievous wasp.
“I do, really. Just…take care of my sister, okay?”
Blair’s eyes fall upon me, and the mask I had once worn falls away simultaneously, smashing upon the tile beneath, discarded forever.
“I will. Believe me, I will.”
With Sterling’s sister retrieving our drinks, we pick up where we left off, arms around my neck, hands upon her waist, and I sigh. Not because I’m frustrated at the idea of who I chose to follow this journey with. Not because I’m stuck on telling a girl about how I feel only to change my mind at the last moment. Not because I can’t be who I am. No, I sigh because I’m content. I sigh because I got everything I could ever want, and so much more.
Two pools of blue wonder electrify my senses, intoxicating my very being more than any alcohol ever could. When her lips form words, I almost don’t hear them.
“I love you, April Stevens.”
I am relieved that I heard them as we sway to the music, bodies pressed together firmly.
“I love you too, Sterling Wesley.”
The world is but an everchanging ball in space, shaped upon constructs and etiquette and shared beliefs. To some, the relationship that Sterling Wesley and I share is abhorrent, a flaw in nature, but, surprisingly, to a small religious school in Georgia, it is admissible, it is accepted. And whilst it is a small victory, it is a victory, nonetheless. A small school in Georgia is enough for now.
We are enough for one another.