It was quiet, unreasonably so, seeing as Catra’s whole world was about to be thrown off its axis.
She wasn’t doing much, ruining her posture, buried in the depths of a beanbag. Adora had insisted on beanbags when they got the place, one pink and one orange. It never was spoken, but the pink one had always been Adora’s and the orange Catra’s. Their apartment, their lives for that matter, was full of silent agreements like that. Catra didn’t like to talk much about how she felt, which was what made living with Adora so easy. They kind of just… got each other. Not at first, though.
No, at first, Catra thought Adora was some spoiled rich girl prodigy. Needless to say she was pissed about their living situation, Catra couldn’t possibly believe that they would have anything in common. Catra had worked from the ground up, she’d gone from a nameless orphan to a scholarship student at the most prestigious university in Etheria. The idea of someone having everything just… handed to them, it made her blood boil.
But Adora worked hard. Hell, she worked harder than anyone Catra had ever met. Even though it was so easy not to.
Catra was tapping innocently away at her phone, refusing to admit that she was extremely uncomfortable. It was the first time in days that she’d had a moment to herself, so she let her mind wander. She may have even dozed off, if it wasn’t for—
‘CATRA, I NEED YOUR HELP.’
The door swung dangerously on its hinges, bashing against the wall noisily and causing Catra to flinch so hard she dropped her phone. She growled, Adora was always bursting in like this, usually about something trivial; like how she’d had ‘the best muffin ever’ for lunch, or she’d seen ‘the cutest dog in the world’ on her way home.
‘Adora, I swear to god—’ Catra warned, her voice not much more than an exasperated snarl.
‘No, no,’ Adora’s hair was up in its usual tight ponytail, and Catra could see she was practically glowing with glee. Catra looked away, ignoring the fact that her heart had skipped a beat. ‘It’s something good this time, I promise.’
She let out a sigh of defeat, ‘fine,’ Catra said, looking away from her phone. ‘What do you want?’
‘I came out to my parents!’ Adora announced, throwing her hands in the air, face split open in the widest smile Catra had ever seen.
Catra leaned forward, eyes widening in shock, ‘you came out…’ she cleared her throat, ‘you came out to your parents?’
Adora’s head bobbed up and down happily. Like a puppy, Catra thought.
‘They know you’re a lesbian?’ Catra stood up, walking tentatively towards Adora, who looked like she might spontaneously combust.
Adora tackled her in a hug, they fell to the floor in an entangled heap, Adora giggling uncontrollably. ‘They know I’m a lesbian!’ It was muffled into the crook of Catra’s neck, and despite herself, Catra ended up smiling too.
As she sat up, Adora adjusted her ponytail. ‘I take that it went well, then?’ Catra smirked, one eyebrow quirked.
That set loose another ripple of giggles, ‘they were great about it, Catra.’
‘I’m glad,’ Catra told her, she realised she was still smiling. ‘Wait… what do you need my help with, then?’
Adora’s eyes widened.
It didn’t fill Catra with confidence.
‘Ah, yeah,’ she shuffled uncomfortably, eyes fixed firmly on a spot on the floor. ‘About that…’ Catra narrowed her eyes, crossing her legs.
‘Spit it out, Adora.’
Adora shot her a look, I’m trying, it said. ‘Right, okay. You can’t get mad at me, though. You have to promise me that.’
Catra scoffed, ‘I don’t know what you’ve done yet.’
‘It’s nothing…’ Adora paused, worrying her bottom lip, ‘life-ruining.’
‘That’s promising,’ Catra remarked.
‘I came out to my parents,’ Adora began, refusing to meet Catra’s eyes still, ‘and they were super supportive. They said they had some suspicions. But they were really proud and were happy that I’d told them. So. Then they asked me about you…’
Oh god no.
‘Me…’ Catra repeated carefully, nodding her head and pretending she couldn’t see where this was going.
‘And then they said,’ Adora coughed, ‘they said, when do we get to have dinner with our daughter-in-law?’ This was getting almost unbearably predictable, ‘and I laughed it off… but then they mentioned you. They thought—think, they think you’re my girlfriend.’
‘Did you tell them that’s not true?’ Catra asked, annoyance raising audibly in her throat.
Adora smiled that cute, awkward smile that she did when she knew Catra was mad at her and was totally unfair because it always worked. ‘Not exactly.’
‘I was so wrapped up in the whole coming out thing, I didn’t really realise what I was saying. So yeah, yes, Catra. Yes, I told them you were my girlfriend.’ Their eyes met, Adora’s symmetrical diamond blue to Catra’s mismatched gold and turquoise. They stayed like that for a while, Catra searching for something in Adora’s face, anything that told her she wasn’t going to ask the inevitable question.
Eventually, Catra gave in. She sighed and closed her eyes, ‘what do you want me to do about it?’ She asked in that casual voice that made her sound like a jerk.
‘I think you know,’ Adora replied, sheepishly.
She let out a groan from the very depths of her soul, ‘so what? I pretend to be your girlfriend for a little while—’
‘A month,’ Adora interjected, ‘give or take.’
Catra laughed, not because it was funny, but because the very idea was ridiculous. ‘Okay, sure, a month. Then what, we break up? Do I move out? We never see each other again because of some lie you told your parents?’
‘No!’ Adora cried, clearly horrified at the suggestion, ‘we’d stay friends, and we wouldn’t have to do anything you didn’t want to. It would be the same, Catra,’ she shrugged, ‘just, with a different label on it. That’s all.’
Well, it really didn’t sound so bad, when she put it like that.
‘Mm,’ Catra hummed, ‘you can’t get all psycho on me, just ‘cause we’d be dating or whatever.’
She’d expected Adora to laugh, but instead she pursed her lips and turned away, hiding her face.
‘And,’ Catra’s eyes flicked up to Adora’s, her lips found their way into an easy smirk, ‘you gotta pay for each of the dates we go on, seeing as it’s your dumb lie we’re living.’
Adora went to protest, but Catra cut her off.
‘Those are my terms, Adora, take them or leave them.’ God, the words sounded ridiculous on her tongue. Catra wasn’t a ‘date’ type person. Sure, she wasn’t innocent, she’d go to a night club every once in a while and wake up with memories of piss-poor decisions she had made, but she’d never really felt the need for a girlfriend. Besides, there was no one she really wanted. She looked at Adora, who was weighing up the pros and cons of the deal carefully in her mind, pale blue eyes darting around like they did when she was thinking. Catra swallowed, throat inexplicably dry.
She couldn’t say she didn’t understand where Adora’s parents were coming from, it probably seemed impossible to them, that two lesbians could live together without dating. But, well, here they were.
And the idea of dating Adora wasn’t completely horrible, Catra decided. She could do a lot worse. Adora was toned and athletic, and tall enough for Catra to hang off her comfortably but not so tall that it was impossible for Catra to rest her head on her shoulder. Her eyes were sharp and piercing and sparkled when she got excited, which happened often. Her hair was the kind of dirty blonde that made Catra think of warm beach sand. Adora wasn’t… bad-looking, is what she was trying to establish.
‘Fine,’ Adora’s eyes met Catra’s with steely resolve, ‘so, from now on, we’re dating—at least in public.’ She held out her pinky, a gesture Catra found so juvenile she had to smirk.
‘Really?’ She glanced at the outstretched pinky finger. On a spur of the moment decision, and the instinctive need to mess with Adora at every given opportunity, she began to lean in, further into a space that was intimate, even for the two of them. Close enough so that as she looked up at Adora’s reddening face, she could count each faint freckle, feel the whisper of eyelashes on her cheeks. ‘Shouldn’t we do something a little more…’ she grinned, biting her lip to hold in the laughter, ‘romantic?’
She burst into peels of laughter, leaning away and hugging her sides. Adora looked shell-shocked for just a moment, proof of how innocent she really was, Catra thought. Then her face contorted into something of vague annoyance, but mostly embarrassment. She pouted and looked away.
‘Aw,’ Catra managed, between giggles, ‘is someone disappointed?’
‘Hardly!’ Adora scoffed indignantly, the baby pink hadn’t left her cheeks. Then she allowed herself to smile a little, ‘I’d say that was pretty convincing, anyway.’
‘Oh, believe me,’ Catra purred, ‘I plan on being convincing.’
Adora picked up Catra’s beanbag (one-handed, with ease, Adora was freakishly strong), and hurled it at her, but Catra carried on cackling just to spite her. ‘Shut up, or I’ll dump you.’
Catra feigned a scandalised gasp, ‘you’d never!’
‘Yeah,’ Adora deadpanned, making her way to the kitchen, ‘right.’
The street was dappled with sunlight and the air was warm enough to swim in, Catra was desperately trying not to notice how since summer began, Adora’s freckles had become a lot darker. If she didn’t notice it, she couldn’t think it was cute.
They’d just broken the news to their friends that they were ‘dating’, after much deliberation. They’d agreed that if they were to do the whole fake dating schtick, they might as well go whole hog with it. All too often in the movies, the façade was ruined by an oblivious friend who’d accidentally put their foot in it. They were keeping the whole operation relatively low-risk, Adora had agreed it was stupid to put any relationships on the line because of one tiny lie.
Tiny, Catra snorted.
‘Well, colour me surprised,’ Glimmer said, ‘oh wait, don’t. Because I’m not.’
Adora gave her a funny look, ‘what do you mean?’
‘It was bound to happen at some point,’ Glimmer shrugged, taking a long sip of her slush puppy.
‘You guys have undeniable chemistry,’ Bow added, a golden-boy grin on his face.
Glimmer and Bow were Adora’s friends before they were Catra’s, but Catra would often forget that. Just like Adora, Catra had initially avoided them because of their rich backgrounds, but once she and Adora started to hang out, it was inevitable that she’d get to know her friends. It wasn’t like Adora hadn’t given Scorpia and Entrapta a chance, so Catra thought it was only fair. She clashed with Glimmer at first, who was startlingly protective of Adora. Bow, on the other hand, was almost too friendly, overwhelming Catra with chit-chat. But she and Glimmer soon bonded over their favourite TV shows and movies, they both had an affinity for the action genre. Bow calmed down after a while too, he and Catra could now talk easily to one another and it turned out their shared a favourite band.
‘Pshh,’ Adora blushed, waving a hand dismissively, ‘no way.’
Glimmer narrowed her eyes, ‘yes way. It was cute… then it got aggravating.’
Catra smirked, she bumped Adora’s shoulder affectionately, ‘you hear that? We’re cute.’
‘And aggravating,’ Glimmer repeated.
‘Aww, I think it’s sweet,’ Bow cooed, ‘you two work so well together, like peanut butter and jelly.’
Catra leaned into Adora’s neck, ‘I’ll be peanut butter, you be jelly.’
Her shoulders hurt from carrying this whole goddamn thing.
Adora looked at her, cheeks pink and eyes wide. Her lips were turned up at the corners and one eyebrow was quirked, and Catra felt her breath hitch in her throat.
She turned away before Adora noticed how hot her face was getting.
Glimmer snorted, ‘wow, Catra. That was disgusting, even for you.’
‘Hm,’ Adora agreed, ‘it’s a miracle I don’t dump you right here, right now.’
Catra draped herself over Adora’s shoulder, ‘like you could.’
‘Oh, I could.’
‘Do it then, coward.’
‘Take that back.’
‘Why don’t you make me—'
‘Oh my God!’ Glimmer cried, ‘you’d think once you two got together the irritating sexual tension would go away!’
Catra smirked, ‘Adora doesn’t have a sexual bone in her body.’
Adora’s cheeks flamed a brilliant red, seemed all she could do these days was blush. It wasn’t like Catra minded, anyway. ‘Ha, that,’ she coughed, ‘that’s not true.’
‘Prove it, blondie.’
‘I will murder both of you with this straw,’ Glimmer threatened, brandishing her blue slush puppy straw, and the murderous look in her eye promised the threat was far from empty. ‘Don’t get me wrong,’ she continued, ‘I’m happy for you both, but you’re getting dangerously close to one of those couples.’
‘Those couples?’ Catra questioned, amused.
Bow answered for Glimmer, who took a long sip of her slush puppy, ‘you know, as soon as their back is turned everyone starts gagging. They go overboard with the PDA, their whole identity revolves around their shared Instagram.’
Catra felt her stomach heave, ‘we’ll never be one of those couples,’ she promised Glimmer, who gave her a satisfied smile in return.
‘Can we please change the subject anyway?’ Adora whined, ‘yes, cool, okay, me and Catra are together now. Let’s move on.’
Glimmer raised her eyebrows, ‘you don’t seem very chipper about it.’
Catra squeezed Adora’s hand. Hard.
Adora’s back straightened, ‘no, no, no, nope. No. Hah, no, that’s—uh, that’s not it at all. It’s just, like,’ Catra had to refrain from kicking her ‘girlfriend’ in the shin. ‘What’s going on with you two.’ Glimmer’s skepticism hung in her eyes for a moment, then it vanished.
‘The usual,’ she told them, ‘my mom’s getting on my ass about my plans again, she’s been extra pushy since I moved out. She calls me every day, you know. Every day, it’s like, mom! I live, like, two blocks away from you!’
Getting Glimmer started on her mom was always a decent way to distract her, she had hours’ worth of stories about how annoying her mom could be. But for all that, Catra knew that the two were closer than most families. She didn’t know the full story, but Glimmer’s dad had died when she was young and so her mom was understandably protective, deep down, Glimmer knew that. She just liked to vent. A lot.
‘But engineering is great, I’m honestly loving it. It’s a lot broader right now, but towards the end of the semester I’ll get to think about what field I really want to go into.’
Adora was nodding and mhm-ing at all the right moments, but Catra had completely zoned out.
‘What about you, Bow?’ Adora asked, politely. She was so good at that, being polite. That was convenient, because Catra definitively was not.
‘Ah, dance is dance,’ he shrugged, smiling, ‘my dad said it would be hard and it is, but my other dad said go for it and I did, so… I don’t know, I enjoy it, I just don’t know if I’ve got what it takes…’
Adora let him finish before reassuring him, building up his confidence in a believable way. Catra didn’t realise she was staring, but even after she did, she didn’t stop. Adora was always doing this—helping people. Catra often supposed it was because she’d never been in a situation where no one had helped her, and she’d always had something to give. Catra had grown up having to get everything for herself, which made it difficult to help others, to even understand why helping others was… well, important. Really, until she met Adora, she didn’t realise people need other people. She didn’t realise she didn’t have to be completely self-sufficient all the time. It was crazy, sometimes, to imagine what kind of person she’d have become without Adora.
That was good, Catra thought. She’d save that story for the parents.
It was Friday when Adora broke the news. Catra was studying, blissfully ignorant.
Adora had just come in and turned on the TV, some cartoon from the 80s, sitting with her legs crossed over the arm of the chair. ‘My parents want to meet you,’ she said, completely nonchalantly.
‘Your parents have met me,’ Catra replied, with very little commitment.
Adora clicked her tongue, and Catra smirked like she always did when she’d succeeded at being difficult. ‘You know what I mean,’ she sighs, sinking further into the chair, ‘as my girlfriend or whatever.’
‘Stop, you’re making me blush.’
Adora snorted extremely unattractively, Catra turned to her and grinned. Her heart was doing funny things again. She made an executive decision to ignore it.
‘No, like, there’s a party,’ Adora explained, her words were kind of slurred which meant that she was either drunk or tired. Catra knew that Adora didn’t even really like alcohol that much, and she had an extremely low tolerance to it. It was pretty funny actually, Adora only needed a couple of drinks to get pissed, upwards of three and she got wasted. Catra would never say it out loud, or even consciously think it, but drunk Adora was extremely cute. She was clingy and sleepy, and she kept calling Catra’s eyes ‘preeeetty’. Anyway, that was not the point. The point was that Adora was more likely tired than drunk. ‘But, like, a fancy one,’ Adora waved her hand dismissively, ‘they want us to go as girlfriends.’
‘Tuxedo-shirt fancy?’ Catra teased.
‘Maybe party’s not the right word,’ Adora wondered out loud, ‘it’s probably more like a ball.’
Catra stared at her, ‘a ball? Really?’ She was met with a non-committal nod, ‘Jesus, Adora, I keep forgetting how rich your folks are.’
‘They’re not that rich.’
‘Only rich people go to balls,’ Catra retorted, ‘I’ve never been to a ball in my life.’
‘They probably wouldn’t let you in,’ Adora remarked, clearly amused, ‘you have that young hooligan aesthetic. We’re gonna have to work on that.’
Catra looked up from her notebook, pulling a disgusted face, ‘you’re not serious about going, are you?’ She groaned, ‘Adora, it’s going to be so boring.’
‘Maybe,’ she shrugged, ‘but my parents asked. It would be rude to say no.’
Catra let out a demonic growl.
‘I understand that,’ Adora continued, ‘but they’re so excited to meet you. Plus, it means we get to have nice food. For once. I’ve forgotten the taste of everything that isn’t cup noodles.’
Catra could understand that. Food was a decent motivator.
‘Ugh, fine. You owe me so many favours,’ Catra lay back, folding her arms. She locked eyes with Adora, who was smiling slightly.
‘I do,’ she said, and Catra was surprised, ‘thanks, Catra. I know this is really annoying, but it means a lot.’
Huh, okay. Catra swallowed hard, trying to keep her face from heating up.
‘And we could both use the dating experience.’
Adora deserved the pillow that was flung in her face.
‘Huh,’ Adora took a step back to admire the pair of them in the mirror, ‘we don’t look… bad.’
They didn’t, truth be told. Adora was wearing this cute dress she’d found at a charity shop—a deep maroon colour with one of those swooshy skirts that grazed her shins. There was a bow tied at the back that they had both struggled with (ribbons were so fiddly) and it reached her neck in a halter top that showed off her sinewy arms and lithe shoulders. Her hair was done up in a ponytail, even now she refused to let it hang loose, but it was held up in a diamond slide that was the centre piece of the whole outfit.
Catra, on the other hand, looked… smart? She didn’t quite know how she felt about it, a pink shirt that Adora had picked out (Catra didn’t hate it, mind you), and a black tie left over from a wedding she went to a couple of years ago. Over it, a deep red jacket and matching trousers. She was worried it might look a big pantsuit-y, but she looked… proper. More respectable, Catra noticed, not like herself at all. It felt a little bit like lying, which Catra wasn’t opposed to, but she felt like she was pretending to be someone she wasn’t.
She also noticed that she and Adora… kind of matched.
That was a couple thing.
But we are a couple, for tonight, Catra reminded herself.
‘You look nice,’ Catra managed. She wasn’t sure why she said it, maybe because they would have to compliment each other if they were going to be convincing. Maybe she just wanted to.
Adora’s cheeks started to match her dress.
‘Shut up,’ she admonished, hitting Catra on the shoulder playfully.
‘What?’ Catra laughed, sitting down on Adora’s bed, ‘I mean it, and you better prepare for heaps of compliments tonight. We gotta sell it.’
Adora sat next to her, Catra became hyperaware of the space where their knees touched. Their eyes met for a second, before Adora’s drifted upward, and Catra noticed her mouth curved into a small smirk.
‘What’re you looking at?’
Adora grinned, nose creasing like it always did, ‘how is your hair always so messy?’
Catra scowled, side-eyeing herself in the mirror. Her hair was particularly bad today, sticking up at every conceivable angle, mismatched against her posh pantsuit get-up. ‘Should I fix it?’ She sighed.
Then Adora did the unimaginable, she reached up, running Catra’s hair through her fingers, smiling all the while. Adora didn’t meet her eyes, but said ‘nah, I like it. You should be yourself a little bit.’
Catra turned away, pouting, hoping Adora didn’t notice her reddening skin.
‘Don’t tell me you’re getting embarrassed,’ Adora accused, gleefully.
‘That’s cute,’ Adora teased.
Catra shrunk down into the duvet, ‘oh my god, shut up!’
‘I thought we had to sell it, Catra.’
‘I cannot stand you.’
It really is a ball, Catra realises.
Like, full on, Cinderella style ball.
It’s held in an old music hall Catra passed by a couple of times, which looked like a place plucked out of a fairy-tale. Lit up like this, lights of gold and silver painting the walls and ceilings, it looks even more ethereal. The main hall’s roof was entirely made out of glass, meaning the night sky was perfectly visible, and people were literally dancing under the stars. There was a pianist in the corner who produced music so fluently it’s like he was speaking another language, telling a story. People were wearing black tuxedoes and extravagant ball gowns of every shade of the rainbow, Catra immediately felt under-dressed.
‘Hold onto my arm,’ Adora whispered, Catra looked at her, startled, but obliged.
Adora’s skin was startlingly cold.
Catra was thankful that Adora took the lead, guiding the two around the ball room with something that felt close to grace. The air was heavy with conversation Catra didn’t understand nor could relate to; people who looked too airbrushed to be real talking about situations no normal person would have ever experienced.
God, Catra felt so out of place.
Like a mismatched sock.
‘Hi, mom, dad,’ Adora greeted, ‘you know Catra.’
Adora’s mom’s hair was a bleached blonde, cut short and messy—a style Catra had seen on a lot of the women here. However, she didn’t have the same quality, she seemed a little bit more real. The presence of wrinkles, prominent smiling lines, startled Catra, as she realised she’d seen them on so few of the other women. She had Michelle Pfeiffer lips, that turned upwards at the corner, making even her resting face look gleeful and somewhat mischievous. Her eyes were brown, unlike her daughter’s, brown like coffee granules and Coke. She wore a simple white dress that didn’t hug her figure, but looked comfortable and easy to move around in, long sleeves that draped over her hand and made her look a little bit like an angel.
Adora’s dad, on the other hand, was cut sharp, like flint. He had the same greyish tone to him, his hair a strong silver, his suit charcoal and serious. His eyes were piercing, but Catra found it impossible to decide whether they were blue or grey. His lips smiled easily, without effort, and just like his daughter, his nose scrunched up at the bridge. The way he walked, with hands clasped in front of him, his right arm offered to his wife, exuded a certain confidence as well as an intimidating sense of casualness that Catra herself tried to emulate.
‘Catra, dear,’ Adora’s mom addressed her so informally, ‘Jean, it’s been a while.’
Ah! Of course, that was her name.
She offered a steady, graceful hand that Catra shook uncertainly.
Adora’s dad (what was his name?) clapped her on the back, ‘Adora has told us good things about you, Catra. I’m glad she’s found someone who makes her so happy.’
Catra smiled, trying to act like she knew what she was doing, ‘I’m lucky to have her.’
Adora punched her on the arm, ‘shut up.’
‘What? I’m complimenting you.’
She turned away, ‘you’re being embarrassing.’
Jean and… Cliff! Cliff, that was his name. Jean and Cliff exchanged a knowing look before turning their attention towards Catra and Adora once again.
Jean grinned devilishly, ‘has Adora been studying hard?’
‘You wouldn’t believe it,’ Catra replied, ‘she’s out partying 24/7, I hardly get to see her.’
Jean and Cliff laughed, which sparked a flicker of pride in Catra’s chest.
‘Oh my god,’ Adora hid her face in her hands.
It wasn’t a long conversation, Jean asked them when they got together (they practised this, a week before Adora came out to her parents, she and Catra had been talking about how she was going to do it… one thing led to another and Adora ended up confessing, Catra followed suit), Cliff asked Catra her major, what she hoped to do when she got out of university (psychology, then she’d have to see, but she was interested in therapy of some kind). All of her answers seemed to be more than satisfactory to Jean and Cliff. At one point, Catra couldn’t help but notice the sparkle of approval in their eyes.
As they parted ways to ‘go mingle’ as Jean put it, Adora leaned in to Catra’s ear, ‘that was amazing.’ She whispered, Catra bristled at the closeness, but felt her heart warm all the same. ‘They love you; I don’t know how they’re going to deal with the fake break up.’
Oh, boy. Then.
Well, then Catra said this:
‘Maybe they don’t have to.’
Which was promptly and understandably followed by a ‘what?’
Catra panicked. Completely and utterly panicked, the words flew out of her mouth before she had time to think about them, about the repercussions. Her body functioned completely on its own there. God, she wanted to scream I DIDN’T MEAN IT I DIDN’T MEAN IT I DIDN’T MEAN IT but, and here came the kicker, she really did mean it.
Catra knew, on whatever level, that this was going to end like this. With her feelings coming out, why was this suddenly so complicated? Why couldn’t Catra just leave things as they were? Or, better yet, why did Adora make them do this whole stupid thing in the first place? If it wasn’t for her plan, they wouldn’t have been in this situation, their whole friendship wouldn’t have been on the line. Catra would be able to tell whether the fluttering in her chest was real or if it was just a side-effect of playing pretend. God, God, this was so stupid it was unbearable.
Because it was so. Goddamn. Predictable.
Catra could pinpoint the moment her life became a romance movie.
‘Forget it,’ she said quickly, ‘it doesn’t make sense.’
Catra tried to move, but Adora stopped her, grabbing her arm. Don’t touch me, please don’t touch me. ‘No, Catra,’ she moved slowly, with caution, ‘what were you going to say?’
‘Nothing, okay?’ Catra snapped, ‘look, I don’t even remember…’
‘You’re lying,’ Adora cut her off, taking a step back, her diamond eyes were mirroring the same panic Catra felt building in her stomach. ‘Catra, come on.’
‘I don’t want to tell you, Adora,’ Catra growled, shocked at the ferocity of her own voice. They were still being relatively quiet, so not to warrant any stares, but the distance between them was building. ‘Jeez…’
‘Just tell me what you want, Catra.’
Catra clenched her fist, ‘what? What do you want me to say? To go along with this whole thing until it stops suiting you, huh?’ She bit her lip, hating the prickle at the back of her eyes, because she knew it wouldn’t be long before the tears came. ‘Maybe… maybe I’m not as okay with this whole thing as you thought. As I thought. It’s all getting entangled and complicated and I don’t know if it’s me or—or if it’s… this weird, fake relationship we’re both pretending is so normal… I’m feeling all this stuff and I don’t know if it’s fake or real. I don’t know, okay?’ She swallowed, hard, trying to swallow the massive lump in her throat. ‘I don’t know what I want.’
Adora stared at her, wide-eyed, tears pooling.
‘Look, uh, I’m going to… I’m going to go to the bathroom. Just for a sec.’ Catra caught her breath, looking at the floor, ‘go mingle or whatever. Maybe tell your folks not to expect me over for dinner, yeah?’
‘I’ll just be a sec.’
Crying flushed out her system. It was almost like she was emotionally constipated, and crying washed all the crap away.
She sat in one of the stalls in the fanciest bathroom she had ever seen. She toilet roll holder was gold. Real gold or just painted to look like gold, she couldn’t tell. But it was still fancy.
The toilet paper also had these cute little hearts on it, which made Catra feel bad when she blew her nose into it.
It was the truth, what she had said to Adora. Weird, because she hadn’t even allowed herself to think that way, but she knew she felt it. She knew, also, that she liked Adora and she had for a while. Which was sad. God, she felt pathetic, snivelling in a bathroom because some girl didn’t like her back. But Adora wasn’t just some girl.
She was her best friend, her roommate, the only one she didn’t have to talk to when it came to feelings, because she just knew. Or, she did anyway. What kind of fool would go falling for someone that important? So much for a low-risk operation.
She hoped the damage she’d done to the relationship wasn’t irreparable, but she had just made a scene at Adora’s parent’s posh party. That wasn’t great. Of course, the relationship was probably salvageable. But Catra didn’t doubt for a second that the connection they’d had before would be lost, Catra had destroyed that the moment she’d asked for more. She really was an idiot.
The door opened with a soft creak. Catra froze on the toilet seat, lifting up her feet so no one could tell she was in there.
‘Catra?’ Adora called, ‘I know you’re in there.’
‘It’s been about forty minutes…’
‘I wanted to make sure you’re okay. Can you, uh, can you come out?’
Catra didn’t give herself away, instead hugging her knees into her chest and biting her lip, trying to stop the tears.
‘You’re really not coming out, huh?’
Adora let out a sigh, before opening the neighbouring stall. Catra listened as she lowered the toilet seat and sat down. Her silver flats were visible from the gap underneath the stall walls. Catra held her breath without meaning to.
‘Look, Catra, I’m sorry. What I asked you to do wasn’t fair. I know you agreed but it wasn’t a realistic thing to ask of anyone. I was really stupid to think it would work. I’m not trying to make excuses, but I was just so caught up in coming out, I wanted to have the whole thing. I wanted my parents to be proud of me, I wanted to be proud of myself and… and I guess I wanted a girlfriend. But it wasn’t just any girlfriend, Catra, I wasn’t using you to fill some whole in my life. You mean more to me than that. I think I wanted you, I wanted that relationship with you, and when the opportunity came alone to have it, real or fake—I just went for it.’
Oh, Catra thought.
‘Right, uh…’ Adora took a deep breath, ‘here’s what I know is completely real, I am a lesbian…’
Catra covered her mouth with her hand to stop a laugh escaping.
‘I am so, so sorry, so sorry it hurts.’
‘And, ha,’ Adora paused for a long moment, ‘I really like you. More than what we have now. Romantic-style. Uh, I think… I think that’s it. I just thought you ought to know that. You deserve to know where we stand.’ Adora laughed, but there was no humour behind it, it sounded sad and lifeless. ‘I really hope this is you, Catra. And not some random woman.’
Catra allowed both her feet to touch the ground.
‘Same.’ She said, simply.
‘What?’ Adora sounded so shocked, Catra pictured her almost falling off the toilet seat, ‘Catra, oh my god.’
‘I feel the same,’ Catra reiterated. ‘I, uh, I want to talk, for a second…’
‘Please,’ Adora practically urged, ‘go ahead.’
‘I never really talk to you about… how I feel, because it’s tricky and uncomfortable but—well, look what happens when I don’t.’ They both laughed a little, ‘I never talk about my stuff because… well, you always seem to just get it. So whenever I’m unhappy or, whatever, I rely on you to—I don’t know—know. I should have told you that this whole fake dating thing was making me… feel bad, I guess, but I expected you just to get it. When you didn’t, I just kind of went along with it. I wanted to make you happy and… I just liked being your girlfriend. But I think, maybe, I shoved all those feelings down so deep I thought that how I was feeling was just a part of the fake relationship… stupid, now, yeah. But, for a while I really didn’t know whether what I felt about you was real or fake.’ Catra took a deep breath, shaking, ‘now I’ve had some time to think it over. I know it’s not fake. I know I want you… romantic-style.’
Adora laughed, it lit up the air, Catra replayed the noise in her head again and again.
‘Can we get out of this bathroom, then?’ Adora asked.
Catra hummed, ‘my eyes are all puffy and gross. so I don’t know.’
‘Good thing I like-like you, no matter how gross you look.’
Catra laughed at that, ‘ew, that was cheesy.’
She heard the door to the stall next to her open and took a deep breath. She stood up, opening the door to whatever was real. Adora was on the other side of that door, and she loved her. Like, really loved her.
It was like the door couldn’t open fast enough.
Adora’s eyes were red, too, but just as shockingly beautiful as they had always been. Adora opened her arms and Catra eased herself into them, allowing herself a moment to remember this. How safe Adora’s arms felt, how good she smelled, how Catra fit so well against her—like they where parts made to fit each other, a jigsaw puzzle.
And then Adora kissed her, and nothing in her life had ever felt that right. In the middle of a bathroom, at her girlfriend’s parent’s party, she was more at home than she had ever been. It was so soft and so inarguably real that Catra couldn’t bear it. She broke it off, laughing.
‘I can’t believe our first kiss is in a toilet,’ she remarked.
‘I can’t believe I waited so long to kiss you,’ Adora replied.
Catra tried to hide her reddening cheeks, ‘that was cheesy,’ she said, but looped her arms around Adora’s neck anyway.
‘Mm,’ Adora hummed, she leaned in close to Catra, their noses touching. ‘Let’s make it real, then, Catra. Will you be my real-life girlfriend?’
It’s Catra who pulls in first the next time, but not before she’s said, ‘of course, you dumbass.’