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forever going with the flow

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Stevie remembered when she was seven years old being chased by a neighborhood boy and she promised herself that she would never ever let another boy terrorize her. So, Stevie stopped right in her tracks and when the boy went to push her to the ground, she caught his shoulders and pushed him down into the dirt.

“Don’t chase me,” Stevie said to her peer. He looked up and she could see the tears forming in the boys eyes.

“Okay, jeez, freak,” he spat back at her. She didn’t seem to mind any attention to it and decidedly walked away from him to join her best friend who was at the swings.

“Why did you do that?” The girl said beside her, slowing her swing to a slow pace.

“He was being mean, Jesse.”

“He likes you, duuuh,” she said.

“Oh, ew!” Stevie made a face and started pulling on Jesse’s hand so she would get off the swingset. “Come on, let’s go play.”

***

“Stevie, just like, fuck him,” Jesse said while sitting at the vanity. She was applying some black eyeliner and messing with her hair. Stevie was lying on the bed, looking at Jesse’s reflection in the mirror.  Her brown skin always looked so soft and the curls of her hair framed her face perfectly. Stevie wished for a moment that she could touch it, or that'd she could have that kind of hair. She wasn’t sure of which one.

“Like, ‘ah fuck him!’, or fuck him?” Stevie said and then Jesse laughed. A loud, not subtle laugh that she always did. The kind of laugh that always got the corner of Stevie’s lips to pull upwards no matter how hard she was trying to keep a straight face.

“Like, fuck him, Stevie. Come on, he likes you! And he’s fucking hot!” She got up for a moment, went to the bedside table and dug around for a bit before pulling out a joint and a bright pink lighter. It was the one that Stevie had stolen from the gas station a few months ago, her heart felt full for a moment knowing that Jesse kept it. She smirked and put it between her full lips, not yet covered in lipstick. Flicking her thumb on the lighter and bringing it up to her face, the light illuminating her features and then she breathed in deep as she sucked in the smoke and blew it out towards Stevie.

“Caleb’s cool, I guess,” Stevie said, remembering they were talking about something. She took the joint from Jesse’s hands and took a long drag. The smoke seized her lungs but she felt warmer and less on edge already. She took another drag, breathing in deep, holding the smoke in a bit before exhaling and coughing slightly.  “I just don’t know if I like him.” She took another drag before handing it back to Jesse, their fingers brushing.

“Well, tonight at the party you can take him into some dark room and figure it out for yourself,” she smirked again before smoking, lips wrapped around the white paper delicately. She watched her lips closely, then her stomach started to hurt, so she shook her head when Jesse started to hand her the joint again. “Okay, you’re right. We should probably show up somewhat sober,” she said with smoke blowing out of her mouth.

“Are you gonna finish your makeup?”

“What do you mean?”

“You always wear that red lipstick when we go out.”

“Oh. Yeah, just last time I left a red ring around Craig’s dick and he was grossed out so I told him I wouldn’t wear it again.” She put the joint out and wrapped it in a plastic bag that was floating around her room, before putting it and the lighter back in her drawer.

“But you like that lipstick,” Stevie said, dumbfounded that Jesse would ever let a boy determine what she liked to wear. She was always carrying that lipstick around and reapplying it. It was from MAC and it was a deep red.

“Oh well,” Jesse said and then jumped a little when she heard Craig honk his horn from outside. Stevie’s heart hurt a little bit at the thought of not seeing Jesse in that lipstick. “Come on, lets go.”

They walked down the stairs, past Jesse’s parents who didn’t ever care where she went. The ride to the party was fine, Craig played rock music while Jesse and Stevie stuck their hands out the window and let their hair fly in the wind. It’s what they always did, no matter what the weather was. In the winter, they would have competitions to see who could last in the cold the longest. Stevie almost always won.

When they got to the party, Caleb immediately found Stevie and pulled her into a kiss. His lips were surprisingly soft and when she welcomed in his tongue, his mouth tasted like beer and cigarettes. He grasped her hips and she shimmied away from his touch.

“I need a drink,” she said. His eyes were a little glossed over, but they were still bright blue in the dim lighting of the house. She thought about her brown eyes and how much she hated them. She wished they looked like Jesse’s; golden brown and fiery with passion no matter what she was talking about.

“Yeah, what do you want? Beer?”

“Vodka.” Stevie was still feeling the weed from earlier but she was still too sober for her liking. He nodded and they threaded themselves between the crowd of drunk teenagers, heavy smoke and pounding music. They made it to the kitchen where he got some orange juice and poured, what Stevie considered, a shit ton of vodka into it–her favorite.

“There you go,” he handed it to her with a smile.

“Thanks,” she started to drink it, ignoring the taste and letting the warm feeling of the alcohol hit her hard. Someone came up behind Stevie and accidentally hit her shoulder and she groaned.

“Wanna go somewhere more chill?” Her stomach churned a little bit, then took a big gulp of her drink.

“Um, yeah.”

They made their way to an empty room and it only took ten minutes before Stevie pulled his hands away from her body and removed her lips from his.

“I’m sorry, I just, don’t um, wanna do this,” she paused. “Here.”

“Oh, okay. We can go somewhere else?”

“No, I think. I wanna go home. Sorry, Caleb.” She quickly got up and buttoned up her flannel and fled from the dark bedroom. The music was still blasting and it hurt her ears. She wished she had more vodka or weed, something to make her calm down. Stevie prided herself on being calm and collected, but right now she felt like she was on the brink of a breakdown.

She wanted to see Jesse, she didn’t wanna be surrounded by other sweaty sixteen year olds drinking too much alcohol and making out with anyone that would give them the time of day. She hated doing what anyone expected of her. That’s why she couldn’t make it work with Caleb, she kept telling herself. Everyone expected her to be with the cute boy that liked her and why should she do anything that someone else wanted for her? Pushing herself through the crowd, she finally felt herself breathe again when she made it outside.

“Stevie!” Jesse called from behind her. Stevie turned around to see her pulling Craig’s hands off of her and walking towards her.

“Jess, fuck, you’re here. I’m gonna go.”

“What, why? Caleb already gave it you to goood?” She laughed and her words slurred. Stevie’s heart hurt a little too much to talk about Caleb with Jesse.

“No, I left him in a room alone.”

“Bitch, he wanted you!”

“I don’t want him!” Stevie screamed at Jesse. Her face twisted and mouth hung open. Stevie didn’t ever yell. She didn’t raise her voice. She was stoic and cool. She drank vodka straight and told boys she didn’t give a fuck about them. She didn’t think about girls and their soft lips right in front of their face. I want you, her mind echoed to her. Stevie pulled at her flannel and ducked her head away from looking at Jesse.

“Why fucking not? He’s hot and not like the rest of these brain dead boys in Schitt’s Creek,” Jesse started to raise her voice right back. Which she did a lot, so Stevie didn’t blink. Stevie had made it halfway down the road now, only the sounds of feet on gravel and heavy breathing surrounded them.

“Because!”

“Tell me why, Stevie,” Jesse stopped the yelling and looked deep into Stevie’s eyes, grabbing for her hand. “I wanna know why.”

“I don’t fucking know,” she spat back. Jesse reached forward, bringing Stevie’s face close to hers and putting their lips together. Stevie’s entire body felt like it was melting or was on fire, she couldn’t decipher between the two. Stevie kissed back hard, putting her hands on Jesse’s waist and lifting her toes a little to reach her better. Jesse deepened the kiss, welcoming her tongue to Stevie’s. She tasted like vodka and juice too, hints of weed left in her mouth and Stevie thought it was way fucking better than the way Caleb tasted. Her body seized, realizing what was happening. Her stomach tightened and she felt like she was gonna puke, she immediately ripped herself out of Jesse’s grasp. “Fuck.” There was silence as they stood there for a bit, standing in the remnants of what just happened.

“Stevie, he likes you. He will be good for you. Just like Craig is for me.” Ouch. Stevie knew she was right. Caleb was cute, his eyes were deep blue and his dimples were always visible. He was beautiful, she knew that he was beautiful.

“Yeah.”

***

Stevie decided dating Caleb was good. He was really nice and liked the same bands as her. He would always let her pick where they wanted to eat and paid every single time. Jesse said that he would look at her when Stevie wasn’t looking and that they were the cutest couple she’d ever seen. She let Caleb kiss her, touch her and that summer she lost her virginity.

“Ah! Stevie, that’s big!” Jesse cried when Stevie told her. They’d just gotten back from a party and were still buzzed when they ended up piling into Stevie’s bed.

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Was it good? I feel like he’d be good.”

“Um, yeah, I mean it was fine. It wasn’t...bad,” she said hesitantly.

“It’s your first time, it’ll get better.” Jesse finger brushed Stevie’s and their sides were pressed up against each other from how they were laying in the small bed. There was silence and Stevie thought that Jesse may have started to go to sleep, but her brain was still wide awake and buzzing.

“How’s it suppose to feel?” Stevie whispered. It felt too intimate to say out loud, but she regretted saying anything because now Jesse was flipping on her side to stare directly at Stevie.

“It’s supposed to feel good.”

“Well, yeah.” Stevie rolled her eyes and Jesse smiled.

“The first time is always awkward.”

“Yeah,” Stevie says.

“Yeah.” There was more silence and Jesse was still on her side looking at Stevie. Her stomach hurt looking at Jesse. Her stomach was always hurting when she looked at Jesse. The vodka from earlier was still swimming around and it wasn’t helping the situation. Suddenly, a hand came up to brush away a dark hair from Stevie’s face.

“You deserve to feel good, Stevie Budd.” It came out quiet and achingly honest, two things that Jesse never was. Stevie’s body felt the alcohol and weed heavily, her insides a tangled pile of everything she was feeling. Jesse started to lean in closer to Stevie’s face; she could smell the toothpaste and the fruity shampoo coming from her. Stevie couldn’t help but leaning closer too. Their lips just barely brushed before Stevie jerked away.

“I do feel good,” she blurted. “Caleb makes me feel good. I think I’m gonna tell him that I love him before he goes to college.” Jesse’s face changed and it looked hurt, but it evened out into a smile.

“That’s really good, Stevie.”

“Yeah. Goodnight, Jess.” She turned over, closed her eyes tight and willed herself not to vomit. That night she dreamt of pink lips, soft skin against hers and scents of fruity shampoo.

***

Tequila and dark rooms were Stevie Budd’s best friend in college. She was taking classes at Elmdale Community College so she could appease her aunt at actually getting out of Schitt’s Creek and getting a higher education. She still helped around the motel and she wasn’t sure she would ever go past her two years there. Her aunt clearly needed her help at the motel; it was just something she was gonna have to fall back into either way. Nonetheless, the parties kept Stevie in Elmdale on weekends.

By the end of her freshman year, she threw back tequila shots like they were water. There were actually cool people in Elmdale, people she liked. People that seemed to like her. People that weren’t Jesse. She left Schitt’s Creek after graduation and they didn’t talk much anymore. Sometimes, Stevie would be weaving her way through a crowd and she’d hear a laugh that sounded like Jesse’s and her heart would stop. It was never her, though. She never thought about a Caleb even a second after they broke up during her junior year in high school.

Now, she was standing in a dimly lit kitchen surrounded by loud music and boozed up college students. A girl with a red flannel and short curly hair came towards her. She didn’t have any makeup on, her skin was glowy and her piercings glistened from the reflection of the light.

“Hi,” she said coming right up beside her.

“Hey,” Stevie replied. She took a swig of the mixed drink she was clutching close to her chest. She was sporting her own flannel and she thought she looked ridiculous compared to the girl standing achingly close to her.

“You live in Elmdale?” Her voice was smooth but strong, it felt nice to hear amongst all of the chaos.

“Hah, no,” she laughed a bit. “Schitt’s Creek.” The girl laughed and Stevie immediately smiled.

“Fuckin’ eh! Schitt’s Creek. People actually live there!” She laughed harder, but it wasn’t mean spirited. She said it was like an actual revelation and Stevie laughed alongside her. The girls words weren’t slurred but Stevie could tell from the flush on her cheeks and her mussed up hair, she’d been drinking too.

“You from Elmdale?”

“Nah, my brother is going to school here. Visiting,” she gestured to the room around her. Stevie nodded, not sure what to say. She took another swig of her drink, a little more this time. “I’m Taylor.” The girl stuck her hand out for Stevie to take it, so she did.

“I’m Stevie.”

“Nice to meet you, Stevie.” Her eyes glistened, they were golden brown. Stevie’s stomach lurched and she took another drink.

Somehow, they ended up in a backroom away from all of the noise.  Laying on the bed in the dark room, they talked for what felt like hours and minutes all at the same time. Stevie laughed and smiled and missed Jesse for a few moments. They drank some more and smoked a joint. It felt so warm in the room and Stevie thought she could live here. In this random persons home, in a room with a girl that she had just met. Suddenly, Taylor was leaning forward and bringing her hand up to Stevie’s face. Her mind was spinning, the alcohol and the weed clouded out all of her thoughts and she let it happen. She let it all happen. Their lips met and her mind exploded. Practically melting into this girls arms, her hands grasping at her face, her hair, her chest, her hips. Taylor leaned her back and rucked up Stevie’s flannel. Warm hands were on her stomach and clawing at her over her bra. It was all so desperate yet delicate and Stevie wanted to only exist in this moment. Her heart was racing but she couldn’t stop, not now, not when hands were laying gently on the button of her jeans.

“Is this okay?” Taylor tore her mouth from Stevie’s and looked up into her eyes.

“Y-yeah,” she choked out. So, buttons were undone and jeans were unzipped. Only a warm hand trailing down over a thin layer of fabric. A tentative finger met Stevie’s wet and warm heat, pressing down softly into the cotton. A soft moan escaped and she willed herself to be quiet. Taylor’s fingers made small circles over Stevie’s clit and she bucked her hips up gently, searching for more friction. She didn’t know what to do with her hands, what to touch, if she should touch. Instead, she kept them by her side pressing into the comforter below. Finally, Taylor brought her hand to the edge of the waistband of Stevie’s underwear and eased her fingers into her.

“Oh my fucking god,” Stevie said. This is what it was supposed to feel like, she thought. Then, she pictured the night in her bed with Jesse staring at her saying that she deserved to feel good. Tears started to prick at her eyes and pulled the hand away from her. “Stop.” Taylor looked up surprised.

“Oh, sorry. Did I do something wrong?”

“I’m not,” she paused for a long time. Too long. She felt like she was choking. “I’m not,” she whispered again.

“Gay?”

“Yeah.”

“You don’t have to be gay to get off,” she said as if it was the most simple statement ever. Stevie’s head spun some more and she had to get out of there. She immediately stood up, fixed her askew flannel and buttoned her jeans, grabbing her shoes on the way out.

“I’m really sorry. It was nice to meet you.”

She ran out the door and made her way to the kitchen. Less people were milling about when she was there before but the music was still blaring. She found the tequila and started to chug it until it burned her throat too badly to continue. Finally, she made her way out of the house and started walking back in the dark. She ignored the tears and pushed down the memory of how it felt when Taylor touched her. Stevie had walked what felt like a mile before she realized she was still in Elmdale and couldn’t just walk back to the motel. She tried to reorient herself to remember where campus was and start walking to where the dorms were. Frustration, confusion and shame were stabbing at her from every part of her body and she didn’t know who–no, where she was. Standing in the middle of a random road, she screamed. Loudly.

“What the fuck, what the fuck! WHAT THE FUCK!” Her throat hurt from screaming and she felt all of the alcohol coming up from inside her so she found herself hunched over the grass on a side of the road, puking her guts out. Tears were streaming down her face, alongside black mascara and eyeliner. Her body yearned for rest and water. Her heart yearned for someone to hold her. She yearned for Jesse to come back to her and tell her why she was doing the things she was doing. She yearned, deeply and painfully.

***

Stevie loved David. They argued and teased each other and really understood who the other was. Some days, she saw Jesse in him and either she would smile or she would just get sad.

They started having sex because that’s what both of them were used to. You like someone, you fuck. Someone’s in your life and you’re not sure how to define it or how you feel about it, you have sex and you don’t have to think about it. The sex is good, Stevie guesses. David surprisingly knows how the female body works. It’s still weird, it feels weird and they agree it should stop. Stevie tells herself she’s in love with David because she knows she hasn’t allowed herself to be this close with another person in so long. It scares her but she feels lucky to have him. She feels even happier when they are just friends and they get to stay in each others lives without any messy complications.

***

Jake is good. He is calm and kind and weird and treats Stevie well. They actually go and do fun, adventurous things and he doesn’t get mad when Stevie says she's too tired to have sex. She’s gotten good at telling men exactly what she wants in bed and she only has sex with the ones who listen. Jake listens and he’s getting exceptional at eating her out and Stevie thinks that that is enough for her. Even when David says they should all call it off, Stevie can’t manage to let him go because David is with Patrick now. She won’t say she’s lonely, she’s not. Just a woman who has needs and Jake satiates those needs; a warm body to hold when it feels too cold and sad in her apartment.

***

David and Patrick are so happy. Stevie can tell that they’re gonna move in together or get engaged and take giant leaps into an unknown future together. Her heart starts racing every time she thinks about how she’s never been in a relationship like theirs. Patrick had never been either, maybe she just needed to wait like him. But, Patrick was gay and had been waiting for a man. Stevie has had plenty of chances to find someone.

When Emir shows up, she thinks she just might have found herself the one. It’s comfortable and he’s more kind and funny than anyone she’s ever been with. Then he breaks it off. It should hurt more than it does. It didn’t really hurt, really at all. It felt like relief. She thought about what Jesse would think of Emir.

***

Stevie, David and Patrick were having a movie night at Patrick’s apartment. She got some wine and popcorn packets and arrived in front of the door, knocking a few times and waiting for it to swing open.

“Stevie! Hi, come in,” Patrick gestured for her to come in. He was wearing a classic blue cotton t-shirt and some grey sweatpants and socks. The TV already had Netflix pulled up and she could see popcorn sitting out.

“You’ve prepared,” she said dangling the popcorn and then setting it on the counter along with the wine.

“Hah, yeah, sorry. Thank you, though. I guarantee, it will get eaten.”

“Where’s David?”

“On his way back from picking up a shipment. He said it shouldn't take too long, but it’s David, so…” he trailed off and then started to get two wine glasses down. She made her way to the couch as he poured them their drinks, scrolling absentmindedly on her phone.

“Here you go,” he said handing her a glass and sitting down beside her.

“Thanks.”

They sit in silence for a bit as they drink and Stevie scrolls down on Facebook. Her breath hitches as she sees a picture of Jesse. With a ring on her hand. A big, shiny diamond ring on her left hand. God, Stevie forgot she even had Jesse on here. But here she was, looking at a picture of her with that fucking ring and a man kissing her cheek with a caption that read:

Engaged to my best friend in the entire world. I love you endlessly, I can’t wait to be with you for the rest of my life!!

“Oh my god,” she said under her breath and practically threw her phone on the table in front of her. Patrick looked at her alarmed.

“What happened?”

“Nothing. Holy fuck. Um, nothing,” she choked out. She felt like she was gonna cry. Everyone was moving on but her. Jesse was really getting married. She was getting married to a man.

“Are...you sure?”

“Why did you move here?” Stevie blurted. She always wondered how Patrick ended up here. Leaving behind an entire life, an entire relationship. To be in Schitt’s Creek. With David, ultimately.

“Oh! Um? I couldn’t be who I was there anymore,” he said carefully, clearly thinking about how to word what he wanted to say. “I got so stuck in the entire Rachel routine, I couldn’t see who I was.”

“What does that mean?” Her heart lurched again when she thought about that ring. Patrick looked at her sad and confused, but he continued on anyway.

“I thought being with Rachel was what I wanted. To have a family with her and just stay the same person I had been my entire life,” he was speaking more freely now. “But I didn’t want it. I’d been suppressing this part of me that was in me forever. I’m not sure why. There was a lot of shame and self hatred that kept it down–”

“Please stop,” she begged. Tears were threatening her now and she needed him to just shut the fuck up. And he did. She felt tears escape slowly and Patrick just sat patiently beside her. “She’s getting married.”

“Who?” He asked softly, not wanting to pry.

“The first person I loved.” She didn’t care anymore. She didn’t want to have to chug tequila to make the words easier to say or feelings easier to accept. Patrick was there and he understood in a way that no one ever had. “She’s getting married,” she said again. “To a man.”

“Stevie.” His voice was soft and full of care, it made her feel better. The floodgates were opening, nothing was holding her brain and heart back from releasing every pent up feeling and emotion she’d been hiding for years she couldn’t count anymore. She was sobbing, chest heaving and arms now linked around Patrick. She shook her head when she pulled back from his embrace and breathed in deeply. It was like she was breathing in new air she had never had before.

“Fuck, okay,” she said to herself. She wiped her eyes and flipped her hair, reorienting herself. Patrick looked at her with a soft smile.

“You’re an amazing person, Stevie.”

“I know.”

The lock turned and David burst in, clearly in a huff.

“That took way too fucking long, sorry,” he said dropping of his bag and keys. He came over to where they were sitting and placed a kiss on top of Patrick’s head. David stared at the two of them, but eyed in on Stevie.

“What?” She said, hoping her eyes weren’t too red and sad.

“Hm, okay, are you wearing one of my tops? You look like, literally a raging lesbian,” he said gesticulating his hands up and down her torso. Patrick just bit his lip with wide eyes and looked at her.

“Good, I hope so,” she said back teasingly and her heart fluttered while doing so. David just looked at her and Patrick, who had a grin on his face and was nodding softly to him as if to say, I know! FINALLY!

They sat and drank wine and Stevie didn’t say anything when David pulled up the LGBT section on Netflix. They laughed their way through a horrible lesbian romcom movie that never should have been made, but it felt good and Stevie felt a thousand times lighter than she ever had in her whole life. After the movie was done, David was in the bathroom while Stevie and Patrick were tidying up. They were at the sink when Patrick turned to her, a too earnest look upon his face and Stevie felt herself squirming again.

“I know what you’re going through. I’m here, if you need to talk.” It was so honest and sweet; Stevie knew that he meant every word of it. She considered unloading, telling every single moment of her life where she couldn’t just admit to herself why she felt so uneasy. She didn’t though, only nodded and held back more tears. Patrick smiled and pulled her into their second hug of the night, but even tighter. His arms completely wrapped around her neck and shoulders. Stevie held on tightly to his waist and she smiled into his chest. They heard the bathroom door close, but they stayed there in the embrace. Footsteps coming closer to them until they both felt David joining the hug.

“You look really good in my shirt, but I’m gonna need it back. Dry Cleaned.”

They all laughed and held on a little tighter.