When Regina thinks of her childhood, the same memories always drift to the surface of her mind. When she closes her eyes she sees her dad coming home looking half-dead, ragged, smelling of smoke and misery. She sees the way her mother always tried to take care of him and Regina at the same time, how she tried to protect Regina from the horrors she had to witness and how she never truly succeeded. When the horrors live in the same house, there’s no way to hide.
There are a lot of bad memories she’d rather not dwell on. She tells herself there’s no use focusing on the bad when she’s trying to go through life and make the best of it.
There are good memories to think of instead.
She remembers her mother’s bright smile when Regina said something stupid, like little kids do. She even faintly remembers the way her dad was before; she’s pretty sure he liked music and telling stories, but the memories are blurry and unclear, overshadowed by the dark.
What she remembers best, though, from the good, is the time she spent with Mylene and Yolanda. Spending her days at the Kipling’s, so much that she felt more at home there then she did in her real home. She felt a little guilty about that, but not enough to stop doing it.
Most of all she remembers Yolanda and how her eyes always sparkled sweetly.
Since the beginning of their friendship, Regina’s known that her relationship with Yolanda is just that little different than it is to Mylene. She loves the two of them and loves spending time with both of them, but whenever she looks at Yolanda she’s always gotten this sense of peace and beauty. She doesn’t know how to explain it, but when Yolanda smiles or laughs at something Regina says, her heart swells and all she wants to do is reach out and –
It’s nothing, she figures. Just something that comes with the knowledge that she’s her friend and how grateful she is for that. If she doesn’t feel that strongly when Mylene looks happy, then that probably has to do with the fact that they don’t spend as much time together or that their bond is not as strong. It’s not something she thinks of too much. It’s the way it is and she won’t try to change that.
So they go on with their lives. They go to Les Inferno and if the mixture of the bright lights and Yolanda’s make-up bring out her eyes a certain way that knocks all the air out of Regina’s lungs, then that probably has to do with the intoxicating atmosphere and air in the club.
Mylene finds a producer, he lets her down, the girls find out some things about Regina’s home life she never said out loud.
Mylene, stop acting like you’re gonna save me
And she means it. Mylene may have a dream, to get out of the Bronx and build herself a better life, but Regina doesn’t have a dream like that. And Mylene can’t do anything about that. It is what it is. And that’s that.
(Later that night, when she’s lying in bed, she thinks of the sparkle in Yolanda’s eyes whenever she finds something funny and she lets herself think that if there’s one thing in this life that has the power to save her, it would be that sparkle. She doesn’t try to understand what that means.)
Mylene gets her song and suddenly it’s not just Mylene with her dreams and Regina and Yolanda. It’s Mylene and the Soul Madonnas.
Regina and Yolanda are one, they’re the soul Madonnas. They belong together and the feeling of being one with Yolanda is overwhelming. Their voices melt together and create one wonderful string of sounds, making Regina’s heart beat to the rhythm of Yolanda’s high notes and her hand moving to the beat.
It’s one day, however, when she realizes friendship might not be what she feels and it’s a little scary. Because she knows it should be wrong, but at the same time she remembers all the really wrong things she’s done and deep down she knows this doesn’t compare at all. This feels more right than anything she’s ever felt and anyway, it’s not because other people think it’s wrong, that she should agree or listen to them.
It’s Yolanda herself who makes her realize that, no surprise there.
The moon casts a light over the bed where Yolanda’s lying and the glow turns her into something ethereal. Regina would compare her to a goddess if she didn’t realize she’s the realest thing in her life right now. Between Set me Free being such a success and the girls living the dream, Yolanda is still the same and a constant in Regina’s life. It’s comforting.
Regina is lying on a mattress, next to the bed. A place she’s been occupying since forever, it seems. Sometimes she wishes she could crawl up the bed and nestle her head in the crook of Yolanda’s arms like she did when they were younger and small enough to fit in the bed.
From where she’s placed, Yolanda’s face, turned to the other side, is visible. She’s looking out the window, obviously thinking of something. Regina wants to ask her what, but she doesn’t want to disturb the serenity of the moment. She’s content looking at Yolanda like this for now.
Lately, it seems all Regina does is want things. And yet she never goes out and make those things happen. She wants and wants and wants, but every time she stops herself from acting on it without even knowing why. Her instinct does weird things at times.
Then Yolanda turns her head and the silver light turns her eyes into gold and, once again, Regina is filled with that same sense of beauty. Like she just knows, nothing will ever be as pretty as the sight of her best friend. It’s confusing and a little scary, but mostly it’s certainty.
‘Gina?’, Yolanda says then and her voice is so small and devoid of the confidence it usually holds, Regina would do anything to make the usual joy in her voice reappear.
‘Yeah’, she answers, because this is important, she knows and trying to lighten the mood isn’t the way to go right now. Listening is. Yolanda excels at that, while Regina is stronger when it comes to making someone’s worries disappear, but clearly it’s the time to take over Yolanda’s role when there’s no Yolanda to listen to Yolanda.
‘I think – ’, she bites her lip, before continuing, looking away again as if emerged back in thought, ‘ I think I like girls.’
Regina’s heart flutters in her chest.
‘I think I like girls the way I should feel about boys. Like Mylene feels about Zeke, you know, like you feel about boys. Except I don’t, I think I feel that about girls?’
Her voice is so scared, like she’s afraid Regina’s going to tell her she’s bad, like Yolanda could ever be anything but an angel. She’s still worrying her bottom lip between her teeth and her eyes facing the wall in front of her seem to have a wet sheen on them, but Regina can’t be totally sure. It doesn’t matter, though. The shiver in her voice is enough to tell her how much Yolanda is feeling.
‘Is that – Is that wrong? Do you mind?’
And it breaks Regina’s heart, because of course she doesn’t. Of course not. How could she ever think that? Yolanda’s always been there for her, ready to share her home and family, sharing her time with Regina. She’s the one who pulled her back into the light, reminded her how beautiful the world is whenever she forgot sometimes. And all that by smiling. By throwing her head back and laughing like she wants the sound to reach the sky, pushing the melody back into heaven where it came from in the first place.
‘Nah, of course not’, Regina sits up on the mattress, extends her hand and interlaces their fingers. She squeezes. ‘I don’t care. You’re still my girl. For life, remember?’
And when Yolanda gives her a smile so radiant it would be blinding to the untrained eye, holding her hand isn’t enough anymore. She climbs up the bed and with a little bit of shoving and giggling and moving, she manages to make herself a place on the bed. They fit almost as well as they used to do.
‘Thanks’, Yolanda whispers.
‘Don’t thank me’, Regina answers.And with the relieved breaths of Yolanda falling asleep next to her, something settles inside Regina. Something she didn’t dare to acknowledge before, but now that Yolanda has, she thinks maybe she can too. It’s not exactly the same thing, because there are boys and she still feels the same things for them. But now she’s pretty sure she feels those things for girls too. One in particular.
People always assume Regina is brave and reckless, because she makes herself out to be like that. She has a shorter temper than the other girls and isn’t afraid to voice her opinion. But people are wrong, because right now, Yolanda is braver and stronger than she’s ever been or ever will be.
She looks down at her best friend and her lashes are fanned out on her cheek, casting long shadows on the silver glow from the moon and she thinks she’d really like to kiss her. She finally lets herself realize she’d really like to kiss her and hold her close and play with her hair. But she doesn’t. She’s asleep. And anyway, just because Yolanda likes girls, doesn’t automatically mean she likes Regina. For all she knows, Yolanda still just sees her as her best friend.
She trusted Regina enough to tell her this, though, and for now that’s enough. It’s more than enough.
One evening, they’re getting ready to go out, the record player in the corner of Yolanda’s room playing a familiar song and Regina can’t help but sway her hips in time with the brush of color she’s applying on Yolanda’s eyelids. Ever since she realized how she feels about her, being this close is both a blessing and curse.
On one hand, she’s able to smell Yolanda’s sweet, flowery scent. She’s able to admire her features up close, she can touch her face while doing her make-up and the proximity makes her heart flutter like a little bird, ready to leave the nest and take a look at the world in a broader way.
On the other hand, all those things also mean she has to resist the urge to grab her neck and press her lips to Yolanda’s and find out if her lips feel as silky soft as they look. It’s difficult and she’s not sure if she prefers not being this close to Yolanda ever again as to not feel the undeniable urge or if that torture is worth the images she conjures later at night, when she’s alone and frankly feeling a little guilty but not caring enough to stop it.
‘Done’, she says and Yolanda’s eyelashes flutter prettily when she opens her eyes.
Definitely the last option. Being able to admire her unreacheable beauty is definitely worth the torture.
Earlier, when Yolanda was doing Regina’s hair, Regina nearly caught fire. How she never noticed how good Yolanda’s fingers in her hair feel before today, is a mystery. No, that’s not right. She did notice how nice it felt, she just failed to understand why.
Yolanda takes a moment to admire her makeup in the mirror with a little smile on her face that seems to be permanently drawn there. She catches Regina’s eye in the reflection and smiles a full smile, big, radiant and again Regina is reminded of an angel in its full glory, rising above everyone else and illuminating this otherwise drab world.
She gets up from the chair and takes in Regina’s outfit and the way her eyes go up and down her body make something inside Regina burn, ready to escape and take them all with it.
‘We ready to go?’, Regina asks.
‘I am. And you -- ’, once more she takes in Regina. At this point, she thinks Yolanda is doing it on purpose. ‘I did your hair, so it’s perfect obviously’, she lets out a little laugh. ‘Your makeup looks amazing. Your outfit is on fleek. You look fabulous, girl.’
‘Don’t I always? And so do you’, Regina takes Yolanda’s hand and twirls her around. ‘You should wear this dress more often.’
A new song starts playing and after exclaiming that she loves this song, Yolanda starts bobbing her head and swaying her hips to the music, one arm in the air and dragging Regina with her.
Regina crouches her knees, comes back up and laughs along with Yolanda, for no other reason than the fact that they’re here and they’re friends and they’re having fun, dancing carefree.
Then, a wave of confidence hits her, the likes of which found her on the laps of men in clubs and in Little Wolf’s bed and almost everywhere in life really. She’s missed that wave, crashing and strong, dangerous and destroying good things sometimes, when the weather isn’t ideal, but safely bringing her to the shore, most of the time, and turning into something pleasant that leaves pretty shells in its wake.
It’s been hiding for a while now, around Yolanda. Scared of rejection, something she never feared before. She knows she has the looks to attract men all around her whenever she wants, is well aware of the eyes on her everytime she walks past a group of boys. And even is she didn’t know, rejection coming from strangers wouldn’t faze her.
But with Yolanda, it’s different, she knows Regina. It’s not just her looks that matter, it’s her, entirely. She’s not so confident Yolanda would accept her. And rejection coming from Yolanda would hurt her, so so much, she realizes. It wouldn’t only be extremely disappointing, she’d probably lose the friendship too and she doesn’t want that.
That’s why she’s been scared. But right now, there’s something in the air, maybe it’s the song that talks about taking what you want and making the most out of life, maybe it’s Yolanda’s smile directed at her and her eyes never leaving hers. Maybe Regina’s just tired of pretending and acting like someone she’s not, of hiding what she’s feeling. It’s getting heavy to carry around, her shoulders are tired of the weight and her lips are exhausted by the effort it takes to stay shut.
When Yolanda comes closer to lay her hand on Regina’s hip, ready to dance together like they’ve always done, it feels like an invitation, a chance. Regina pulls her closer, too and clearly Yolanda isn’t bothered by this, it’s nothing out of the ordinary.
Regina takes a deep breath and tries to catch Yolanda’s eyes. When the soft brown lock with hers, she blinks, swallows and kisses her. Lightly presses her lips to Yolanda’s, as soft as a whisper, the bat of an eyelash, a tear sliding down a cheek.
She retracts her head, but doesn’t manage to go far, because then she’s being pulled in again, with a hand on her neck and the press of Yolanda’s lips, harder this time. When her lips part and their mouths slide against each other, sweet as biting in the fresh flesh of a strawberry in summer, an explosion of light manifest behind her eyelids, sparks dancing. It’s… overwhelming.
Never has any touch elicited this reaction from her, her body warm all over, but still she shivers when Yolanda puts her fingers in her hair and goes through it. She wants to keep doing this forever and ever, only stopping to take a breath maybe. Sometimes.
When they finally do pull back for air, a grin is lit on both their faces, a light in Yolanda’s eyes that seems to burn, always, comforting and warm like a candle.
‘I’ve been wanting to do that forever,’ Regina admits, then, her voice stronger than she feels inside. She’s a little breathless, but apart from that her voice doesn’t show any signs of emotion except for wonder. inside, though, she’s falling to her knees, not being able to hold her own weight, she’s taking Yolanda with her and kissing her again and again. She’s hyperventilating inside, but outside she doesn’t allow herself that kind of emotion.
‘I’ve been waiting forever,’ Yolanda replies, making Regina’s heart stutter.
‘In other words, we could’ve been doing this since forever?’ It’s so stupid, so stupid, so much time lost.
Yolanda doesn’t reply, simply kisses her again, placing her lips where they belong and seem to fit perfectly. It’s not as sweet as it was before, hungrier, her hands pulling at Regina’s hair a little. Regina lets out a little sound at that, surprised, and, without breaking the kiss, pulls her on the bed with her. Into a dream she’s been drawing forever and finally gets to live.