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Here I Am

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"If you need a love that's true
Need someone to stand by you
Here I am, oh here I am, here I am"


Hannah looked across the table at her friends Millie and Willowdean. She liked that she could look Millie in the face and see all her soft, beautiful features, but part of her wished the girl had chosen to sit next to her, just so their arms and legs could accidentally brush against each other. Instead, Ellen was sitting next to her across from Will. There was no accidental touching between them. Even if there was, Hannah wouldn’t feel anything.

Ever since that day she overheard Millie talking about joining the pageant because her new hero Willowdean was joining, Hannah had been compelled to join too, though, at the time, she did not know why. She claimed she joined for feminist reasons, and to dismantle the whole show, but the usually standoffish teenager felt something when she started to spend more and more time with the group, and especially Millie, who she ended up spending a lot of alone time with. She even enjoyed all the pageant preparations, though she would never say that out loud, and started to take them seriously, though she still did things in her way, like wearing a suit during the formal portion of the show. She was not the ballgown type.

It was safe to admit that she considered Millie her best friend, and Hannah had never before been the type of person to allow people to get close to her, let alone get to best friend status.

Millie was innocent, she was perfect, she was everything. She deserved first place in the pageant, but damn if she didn’t glow when she got runner up. In Hannah’s mind, Bekah hadn’t been there and Millie won.

Despite not getting first place, people at school were finally seeming to treat Millie like she held queen status. Of course, there were still some guys being disgusting jerks, but a lot of the girls… well, maybe they weren’t all so bad. Hannah regretted spending so many years judging her fellow students and she was only now seeing that she had been wrong, doing to them what people always did to her. Her new friends, especially Millie opened her eyes to that. People were even coming up to her and trying to make conversation as if her being in the pageant suddenly made Hannah approachable, likable even. As odd as it sounded to her, Hannah had a feeling there were even a few students who thought she was cool.

“Han!”

Hannah jumped, realizing Millie was leaning over the table, waving a french fry in her face. Anyone else would have looked annoyed at being ignored, but Millie only looked amused.

“You haven’t heard a word we said, have you?” Millie asked.

“No, sorry. Hey,” Hannah grinned, “are you trying to feed me? How romantic. Don’t people normally do things like that with strawberries?” Millie’s hair always smells like strawberries. Hannah blushed, looking down at her phone, pretending to get a text to hopefully hide that fact. If she had continued to look at Millie she would have seen that the girl was sporting a similar flush on her cheeks.

“I was not trying to give you my last french fry. Who do you think I am?” Millie said, sitting back down in her seat. The fry she had been waving in Hannah’s face went in her mouth.

“Someone who loves her fries so much that she wouldn’t even share with her dear friend,” Will said in a teasing voice. Hannah glanced up, noticing Will giving Millie a pointed look, the girl nudging her in the side. There was something unsaid in that gesture, because Millie blushed, this time for Hannah to see.

Millie’s so cute when she blushes. What is Will trying to say to her with that look?

“No worries, I don’t need fries anyway. Keep your precious po-tay-toes.”

Boil ‘em, mash ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew,” Millie’s responded, with a giggle. Hannah loved the way she sounded when she was tickled.

Ellen and Will looked at the two girls with bewildered looks on their faces.

“Did you two have another movie night or something?” Ellen asked. “Last week, you were quoting-”

“Yep!” Millie interrupted. “Hannah showed me The Lord of the Rings!” She beamed. “It was very good, though too much fighting for my tastes. I wish there had been more romance.”

“You two are just adorable. It looks like Hannah has a nerdy side! Alert the press, Hannah likes more than metal music and horror movies,” Will said with a chuckle.

“Watch it,” Hannah warned, though there was laughter in her eyes. They were at the point where they could harmlessly tease each other. It was nice to have a group of friends you could feel so close to. She felt good, she was still herself, but also changed. No, not changed, not really, just finally opening herself to other people.

“Oh, and she showed me La La Land! She knows all the songs and-”

“Millie!” Hannah pressed her hands over her face. “Don’t tell them that!”

Ellen and Will burst into laughter, and Millie just looked at Hannah with a sheepish look on her face. Hannah continued to hide her face. I never imagined I’d be outed for liking musicals! Hannah wasn’t comfortable showing her softer, more feminine side, although anyone could like musicals, it was certainly seen as a more girly thing and Hannah had always been taught to be tough, anything but girly.

“What? I don’t see why it is embarrassing to like mu-”

Hannah reached across the table and put her hand over Millie’s mouth. “Shhh, not so loud. If it gets out I will have to give all my black clothes away and become a Bekah clone.”

“Bekah’s nice, but I'd prefer if you stayed yourself. I like you just how you are,” Millie said as she gently removed Hannah’s hand from her face. “You don’t have to keep saying Bekah this, Bekah that just because she got first and I didn’t. She’s pretty cool.”

“Okay, I get it, but you still should have got first place. You’re more beautiful and way sweeter, plus your singing voice is….”

“Well, gee this Hannah and Millie show is so much fun, but we third and fourth wheels should probably leave you two alone,” Will said, giggling with Ellen as the girls ran up to the counter to pay their share to Will’s boyfriend Bo.

Damn, I guess I’m pretty transparent. It was obvious that Ellen and Will knew how much Hannah liked Millie. Hannah had known she liked girls for a while, but Millie was the first person she had full-blown feelings for. Everything else before had been silly crushes based mostly on looks because she never got to know anyone.

“What is she talking about? Oh...” Hannah saw that Will’s comment had distracted Millie from what she told her earlier. The brunette was now blushing and fidgeting with a napkin. It was so cute and Hannah could hardly contain herself from flinging herself across the table and embracing the girl. That image in her head contradicted her cold, punk exterior.

“You think I’m beautiful?” They were both looking down, too shy to look at each other. Hannah knew why she was so flustered, but she couldn’t understand why Millie was. Is it weird for friends to say the other is beautiful? Surely not, girls are always clinging to each other and talking about how great each other look, not that I know much about having female friends. Oh no, did she guess I’m...is that why she won’t look at me?

“Y-yes.” Damn it. Why am I stuttering? “Of course you’re beautiful, Millie. Y-you’re the prettiest girl I know.” No, no, shut up, stop digging your grave deeper and stop stuttering like a fool! Get a grip!

Millie giggled. “Oh, quit it. You’re just being nice. You don’t have to say that.”

Hannah reached across the table and put a hand on Millie’s fidgeting hand, though neither looked up. “Yeah, I’m being nice, way too nice for a punk like me, huh? But I mean every word.” Millie moved her hand so that they were holding hands, though she didn’t say anything back. Hannah could see tears on her cheeks. Were they the good kind of tears? She sure hoped so. The last thing she wanted was for Millie to be upset.

“Oh, Mils, I promise I’m not pulling your leg. Don’t cry. I do mean everything. Y-you’re my best friend. I never imagined I would end up with a group of friends, you, Will, Ellen, everyone at Hideaway, even Bo and Tim.” She didn’t know Will and Ellen’s boyfriends well, but they were cool, even treated them like an instant friend when they were introduced to her and Millie. “Though you especially mean the most to me.”

“Why?” Millie asked. They finally glanced at each other. Hannah saw that Millie’s eyes were open wide and her cheeks were even more flushed than before.

“I’m not good at all this friendship stuff. I’ve never expressed myself well-”

“You’re doing a great job, but, Oh, Hannah, you don’t have to say why. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t ask you to prove your reasons for thinking that. You mean so much to me as well, and I am so happy that you think of me as your best friend. I’ve never had a best friend before.”

How about a girlfriend? Hannah was so close to saying that out loud, but she didn’t want to ruin the moment.

“And you’re so pretty, too. Prettier than all the other girls, for sure.” Millie’s voice was soft. Hannah could barely hear her and had to lean forward.

“What? That’s crazy. I’m not at all pre-”

“Stop, silly. If you want me to accept that you think I’m pretty, then you have to accept that I think you’re pretty.”

She’s got me there. Of course, she only sees me pretty in a friendly way. Ugh, I should just tell her, but I don’t want to lose her as a friend.

“Yeah, okay. Thanks. I guess I’m pretty hot, got that dark, mysterious thing going.” Hannah tried to flash Millie what she thought would be a sexy, brooding look, though she never did stuff like that, so she probably ended up looking constipated.

Millie giggled, squeezing her hand. “You’ve got a lot more than that going for you. Let’s pay and go somewhere more private.” Hannah doubted there was a romantic reason Millie wanted to be alone, but a girl could hope, right?

"Sounds like a plan." They paid, Hannah insisting on paying for Millie, much to her protests. Then side by side, hands almost touching, they walked out of the diner, toward Millie's car.

"My place or yours?" It was an innocent enough question, but it caused Hannah to choke on her takeaway drink.

"Yours, you've got a bigger bed... I mean for laying and watching a movie."

Millie gave her a look that Hannah could not quite read, though it gave her goosebumps.

"Okay, Miss dark and mysterious," Mille smiled, grabbed Hannah's hand and led her across the parking lot. It felt so natural holding hands. They had done it before, but Hannah tried not to read too much into it. A lot of female friends did stuff like that. Hannah had seen enough examples of that with Will and Ellen.

I like you. I like you. Hannah smiled and on impulse threw her arms around Millie as they reached the car. If her mom ever saw her this happy, she would probably make fun of her. Thinking of her mom caused her to quickly pull away, letting go of Millie's hand.

"Sorry." Hannah looked down at her lap after she got in the car and buckled up.

"You can hug me whenever you want to. It's okay to need them, sometimes we don't even know why. I can be that person for you if you ever need another." Millie reached over and put her hand on top of Hannah's.

"Thank you." Hannah didn't know what else to say. Nobody had ever been that nice to her before.


"Here I am, reaching out to give you love that you're without
I can help you find what you've been searching for
Oh here I am, come to me, take my hand because I believe
I can give you all the love you need and more
Oh here I am, oh here I am, here I am"