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Whose Got A Beard That's Long And White?

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“Harper’s a lesbian, Abby’s her girlfriend.” Sloane blurts out and there is a deafening silence as all eyes fall on Harper. She glances around and her gaze moves to her parents before she scoffs out “she’s lying! I am not a lesbian!”  

From behind Sloane, Harper can see Abby’s face drop and she is backing away slowly, making her way out the front door. Abby feels the brisk cold air engulf her face and it sends a shiver down her spine as she saunters away from the Caldwell Mansion. Feeling a piece of her heart fall at every step she takes further away from that house and the person she thought was the love of her life. She only makes it as far as one of the parked cars tucked away in the extra-large driveway before her tears were running down her face and she lets out a gut-wrenching sob.  

It is not long before she hears footsteps approaching her she fails miserably to hide the tears. The voice spoke but it was not one that she was expecting, “so that was a complete shit show back there huh?” Riley’s voice laced with sarcasm with a hint of concern. She wiped away the tears that have been freely falling and finally looked over at Riley, who was holding out a jacket. Abby didn’t realize she was visibly shaking until the warmth of the jacket wrapped around her shoulders.  

They both stood in comfortable silence until Abby was ready to talk, “she was my person, or I thought she was. She told me that coming home with her this Christmas was going to make me love it again. For the first time, since my parents passed, I almost believed her. I was excited that I was going to meet all the people who made my favorite person in this whole world. I thought that it would be this perfect fairytale Christmas. How can she claim to love me, as much as she says she does, when all she does is hide the life we built together?” Riley listens intently, empathizing with Abby, as she knows all too well the feelings of being on the opposing side of Harper’s lies. “I'm sorry, this can't be fun for you to hear, considering all` the bullshit that you already went through with Harper.”  

Riley finally speaks up, “I don’t want to be cliché bitter ex and say ‘I know what you are going through” blah blah blah because no one wants to hear that nonsense. You are right though. I do know that feeling better than most. I know what it’s like to be Harpers dirty little secret. But honestly, I have had a long time and plenty of therapy to get over it. However, I will tell you one huge lesson I did learn. Harper not coming out to her family and her friends, that has absolutely nothing to do with you. She just needs to-” 

She was cut off by a familiar voice approaching, “stranger lady here is right, it has nothing to do with you. Sorry, I didn’t want to eavesdrop anymore got kinda lonely. Abby, I still remember when you told me your coming out story. It’s amazing, how supportive your parents were, and I wish that every story had an ending like that. Everyone has their own version of this story, and some are more devastating than others. You should know all too well, that key moment, right before you say those words, the ones that you can’t take back, that is a scary moment, and it takes every ounce of courage in your body to say it. Just because Harper is afraid to say those words right now, doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you and it doesn’t mean she will never say them out loud.”  

All three sets of eyes are now brimming with tears, as John’s words flow effortlessly out of his mouth. Each word truer than the last. It takes a moment for them to compose themselves when Abby finally breaks the silence, “I hear what you're saying, I do, I guess I just want to be with someone who IS ready. Not someone who has hid me, lied to me and omits crucial details of her life from me. I feel like I don’t even know who she is anymore. I surely don’t recognize the person I have seen the last few days”   

John nods, “and that is completely okay. We all want things on a different spectrum and maybe right now, you and Harper aren't on the same one. After that whole debacle and you running out, I managed to grab your things, figured you didn’t really want to go back into the hours of horrors after all that. One of the sisters helped me. Not the mean one, the really perky one.”  

John turns to Riley with his hand extended for a shake, “hi, I'm John, the best friend. Who might you be?”  

Riley chuckles, and goes to shake John’s hand, “Hi, I’m Riley, Harper’s high school ex and current Ally of this whole situation.” 

John raises his brow, “ahh you are THAT Riley, Abby told me some stories, sorry about that. We don’t really keep secrets.”  

Abby clears her throat, “anyways, Riley, thank you for coming to check on me but I think it’s time that John and I get out of here before secrets start spilling.” she goes in to shake Riley's hand but ended up giving her an awkward handshake half hug thing. John just chuckles at their awkward interaction.  

“well, safe driving. You have my number. If you happen to contract any weirder illness’s or just need an ear to listen, call me. John, nice to meet you.” she nods politely at him. 

“pleasures all mine Blazers.” John retorted back.  

With that being said, Riley retreated towards the house, before reaching the door, she turns her head back to watch the other two slowly disappear into the night.  

The car ride back to Pittsburg was mainly silent with the occasional muffled sniffles coming from Abby. John was sympathetic and would sometimes reach over and tap his hand on her leg for comfort. The closer that they got to the apartment, the harder it got for Abby to breathe. She realized that she uprooted and moved into Harper’s place and now that the two are on the out’s, she has nowhere to go and nothing to really call her own. While she was dealing with her inner turmoil her best friend spoke up.  

“you can just stay with me until you get things figured out. I can hear your brain gears turning from all the way over here. I will just save you the trouble of denying and say that you don’t really have a choice in the matter.” 

“thank you. You know. For driving out all that way and saving me from that family. For putting me up and just for being a good friend. I honestly don’t know how I could have gotten through any of this without you.” 

“I mean I AM pretty great. Although, it seems like I might not be the only one in you corner though. What about that lady friend you were talking to? Riley is it? What's the story there, because there is definitely a story. She followed you out that house faster than I could blink.” 

Abby cracks a hidden smile at the mention of the dark-haired doctor, “there is absolutely no story there except that she happened to be the only normal person I had met over the past few days. Something about her makes me open up and it was a nice distraction while Harper was off doing god knows what." Abby's voice cracked at the mention of her girlfriends(ex?) name.  

It was late by the time they had made it back to the city, John just opted to take her back to his place and they would deal with the rest of the world tomorrow. Neither of them spoke much when they got to his apartment, only a few words of how she could just take the spare bedroom and a joke about how she shouldn’t be alarmed if he sleepwalks in the nude. Sleep didn’t come easy to the blonde, her phone had strings of missed calls and texts from Harper, that she just couldn’t bear to open yet. One text that she did happen to read and contemplated answering was from Riley.  

Riley: Keep your head up Holland. Here if you need a friend. Hope you made it back safely. 

Abby: thank you. Home safe. 

The text showed  read  barely a minute after she sent it. There were those dreaded three dots that showed that the dark-haired girl was responding. But they quickly disappeared without a reply. Without thinking Abby sent another message.  

Abby: still up Bennett? You know I can see you reading my messages and typing... 

Riley: didn't think you would reply to be honest. Just wanted to check in is all. Is that weird? Are we those type of friends? Are we even friends? What’s the rules on this? I only skimmed through the lesbian handbook. 

Without missing a beat, Abby smiled again about something pertaining to Riley for the second time that night.  

Abby: aren't you supposed to be the doc? I mean, reading, studying and even the occasional teaching should be in your blood. Good thing you have a FRIEND like me to give you cheat sheets on Lesbianism 101 

Riley: well look at that, turns out we CAN be friends. Teach me your ways professor Holland. Why are you still up? 

Abby: I could ask you the same thing. I have way too much going on in this brain to even think about sleep. What’s your excuse?  

There wasn’t an instant reply, instead, Riley’s name flashed across her phone screen and she cleared her throat before answering, “He-Hello?”  

“to answer your question, I couldn’t sleep because I was worried about my FRIEND. Plus, the hospital had me on call for a lot of night shifts before the holidays so it’s kind of hard to readjust.” 

Abby stuttered for a moment, caught off guard that the doctor had called instead of opting for text, who even calls anymore? “uh yep yah, I can only imagine how difficult that must be to deal with. But you know I'm not some fragile little china doll, you don’t have to worry that I will break at any given moment. You don’t have to constantly check on me” Abby mentally smacks herself, that came out super rude.  

“sorry, maybe it's just the doctor in me, always worried about something.” Riley laughs and that did something to Abby’s stomach. A feeling that she quickly put to rest.  

“all good here. Yep. Just your typical run of the mill heartbreak. Nothing that thousands of people don’t encounter every day. I will probably start self-medicating with booze within the coming weeks.”  

There was silence on the other end, maybe the other girl had hung up? Fallen asleep? Got bored to death? The blonde was about to say something when Riley finally spoke, “you don’t have to do that you know? At least not with me. You don’t have to belittle your own feelings. What you went through, it sucks. No one understands that better than I do. Just know that your feelings, they’re valid. You can feel upset, sad, mad, everything in between. I know it isn't a good time of year for you, considering everything you told me about your parents and how Christmas makes you feel. This is a safe space. But by all means, if you feel that self medicating with booze will help, I will not be the one to get in the way of that.”  

All the tears that Abby had held in, broke like a dam at the floodgates settled. She let out a gut-wrenching sob that tore through the silence of the small room like a tornado. She clutched her chest as though if she didn’t hold on tight enough her heart would break right out. She cried for what seemed like an eternity and when she exhausted herself and the tears dried on her face, she looked at the phone to see that the other girl was still on the line. She called out in a raspy voice, “Riley? 

The other girl spoke quietly, “I’m right here.”  

“I'm sorry about all that. I guess I held in more than I was willing to admit to myself. Why ARE you still here? Not that I’m not thankful but, we’ve barely known each other for a few days. Yet here you are comforting me as if I've known you a lifetime.” 

She hears a sigh on the other side, “you needed someone and something in my gut just told me to step up. When Harper denied herself in front of her whole family and all her friends, that part hurts. I saw the same look on your face, that same look I'm sure was plastered on my face when she did the same thing to me all those years ago. At that time, I had NO ONE. I mean no one. All my friends were her friends, and they all took her side. How badly I wanted someone, just ANYONE that I could share my feelings with. I would have been fine if I had someone to just tell me that everything was going to be okay. Maybe I would have healed sooner.” 

“thank you” was all Abby could think of to say back. Exhaustion crashed over her and before she knew it, she had begun to drift off to sleep. All she heard was a soft “Merry Christmas Holland” before her body succumbed to her slumber.  

A loud ringing jolted the sleeping girl awake. Her headache immediately kicked in, a hangover from her crying. With her eyes still closed, she reached around for her ringing phone. When she finally found it, she looked at the phone through squinted eyes  Harper.  She clicks the decline button, not wanting to talk to her just yet. Instead, she goes to write a new message, ‘Merry Christmas Bennett. Thankful for you in times like these.’ before locking her phone and letting herself drift back off to sleep.