The twins had been grilling April’s mother for the past 20 minutes, which at first April found quite amusing, but now she was starting to get bored of their unrelated questions and just trying to keep up with all of the connecting branches of their tangents. Ellen was also trying her best to keep up with the girls, looking between the two of them as they rambled, and nodding her head when necessary, but when April slipped away into the family room for some quiet, Ellen followed.
The older woman sank into the sofa across from April, and they sighed simultaneously in relief.
“Phew, I love those gals, I really do, but heck can they talk.” Ellen mimes wiping the sweat off her brow and pulls two Fig Newton bars from her pocket, tossing one over to the shorter girl.
“Yes, they are very... enthusiastic.” April replies.
“So, you and Sterling huh? Told y’all you would make a good team.” Ellen says with a warm smile.
April panics for a split second, before realising that she doesn’t have to hide any longer. In fact, she never had to hide in front of Ellen, which she is now realising. Everyone she cares about knows her for who she really is, finally.
“Yeah. It wasn’t at all what I expected. Never did I think she would like me back. But I think there has always been a spark there, somehow.” The shorter girl says while looking over to Sterling, who seems to sense the eyes on her, and shoots a goofy wink back in her direction.
Surely it couldn’t be this easy. To just have her sexuality and her girlfriend be accepted with so little hassle. To have her father behind bars and out of her life. To just be free after all of the drama. All of it just seemed too simple and too good to be true, like there was a catch hidden in the small print somewhere, just waiting to trip her up where she least expects it. She was April Stevens; good things don’t just come to her without her having to earn it first.
April zones back into the world around her, and the pair sit in a semi-awkward silence for a moment, both just thinking about how strange a situation they had found themselves in. April starts to open the snack bar, but she pauses as a question enters her mind.
“How did you and my mother meet?” It was the one thing that was burning a hole in her mind, and it was clear she wasn’t going to get the answer while listening in on her mother’s interrogation.
Ellen almost chokes on her Fig Newton, not quite expecting to be put on the spot like that, but she recollects her memories while she finishes chewing. Her face softens as she remembers a certain day, when a certain woman, (or rather, girl, back then) stood at the front of the class and, honest to God, took Ellen’s breath away.
Atlanta, GA - Willingham Academy (10TH August 1993)
Bible study. Her second class of the day, and probably the most uneventful, but an opportunity to learn nonetheless. Not that Ellen hadn’t already read and studied the Bible multiple times in her own free time, but it was still interesting to hear other people’s interpretations and ideas, even if she didn’t agree with all of them.
She tapped her pen against her temple mindlessly as the minutes slowly ticked away on the clock above the whiteboard. But her attention was instantly redirected to the figure that appeared in the doorway, followed by the Principle.
The girl, who now stood front and centre of the class, was tall with auburn hair and deep blue eyes. Ellen’s mouth hung open and the pen dropped to the desk with a clunk, making the girl look at her and smile slightly.
Principle Denver introduced the girl as Angela Harrison, and Ellen replayed the name over and over in her head, thinking about how beautiful it sounded in her voice. She emerged from her thoughts as the girl sat down next to her, since it was the only available seat in the class, and boy was Ellen ecstatic about that fact.
It took her a moment to regain her composure and get her mind out of the gutter, but once she did, she introduced herself sweetly. “Uh, hi. I’m Ellen Johnson, lovely to meet you.”
“Ellen hmm? Suits you. I’m Angela, but you can call me Angie if you like.” She smiled as she got her stationary out of her bag for the lesson.
It was amazing how fast the young blonde had perked up since the arrival of this absolutely stunning new girl, and her day had definitely got a great deal brighter. But now she had to work hard to disguise her interest in the girl. Ellen had come to terms with who she was and who she was attracted to, but she didn’t think the rest of the school or her family would accept it just yet. And as beautiful as this girl was, Ellen didn’t know anything about her. The last thing she wanted was for this girl to think she was a creep and scare her away.
The new girl was smart, it seemed. She was in all of the same AP classes as Ellen, and since she was the first friendly face the girl saw, they were paired together most of the time.
Over the course of the day, and the 5 classes they shared together, Ellen had learned that Angie moved from Arizona because her father had got a promotion at work. She also learned that Angie missed her home and her friends, and felt as though she would find it hard to fit in. Ellen made sure to mention that Angie was welcome to hang with her whenever, only if she wanted too of course.
Ellen had found it hard to pay attention to anything other than Angela all day. She was beautiful, and her smile was so contagious that she couldn't help but smile back. She had a sparkle in her eyes as she spoke, and her hair was a deep shade of red that seemed to shine in the sunlight.
Angela was intriguing. She seemed like the complete opposite of someone who would want Ellen as a friend, but somehow the two of them had hit it off. She was friendly and fun, and had a great sense of humour.
Ellen wasn’t what people would consider popular. She spent most of her time in the library, getting ahead of her classes or reading the classics. She had a reputation for being a bit of a bookworm, but as long as she maintained her perfect grades, she didn’t care for other people’s opinions.
Ellen was shy. She didn’t like when people looked at her, and she certainly didn’t like to be in the spotlight. She had a great smile, but she didn’t like to show it. Kindness came naturally to her and she didn’t like to judge or participate in mindless gossip, she preferred to observe rather than engage.
Angela was different. Her grades were good, but she didn’t care about them. She didn’t seem to care about anything. She just rolled with the punches and went with the flow. This was new to the blonde, but she grew to appreciate Angie’s sense of adventure and desire for fun.
As far as conversation, theirs was going well. They had a lot in common considering how different they were, with the same taste in music and literature. That was until the topic turned to relationships. Ellen didn’t have a boyfriend, she didn’t want a boyfriend, and she had no interest in discussing any of the boys at the school.
At first, she was worried that this new girl would find her disinterest in boys off putting, but surprisingly Angela just replied with a simple “Good for you girl.” And swiftly moved onto a different subject. It felt good to hear someone share the same regard, validating in a way.
Over time, the girls grew closer and felt as though they could tell each other anything. Angela expressed her feelings of being controlled and pressured to find a relationship by her parents. They wanted her to settle down with a ‘good christian man’ and have children and live the so-called American dream. She resented the thought of being pressured into a relationship that she didn’t want, and she was haunted by the feeling of being trapped in the future. Ellen truly felt as if she couldn’t possibly relate to someone more.
The girls were talking over lunch, when Ellen felt a new presence at their table. She looked up to her left to see a tall, dark haired boy, carrying a football under his arm and a sickening smirk on his face. John Stevens, great.
He was one of the most popular boys in school, and had a reputation for being the school jock and the school ladies’ man. He was the worst kind of person, the kind who is popular just because he can throw a ball around or run really fast. He was a typical example of a small-town hero, but to Ellen he was a complete ass. She couldn’t stand the way he or his friends carried themselves, or the way they spoke to the girls.
Where Ellen saw a misogynistic and pathetic excuse for a christian man. Angie saw a golden opportunity. She thought that if she was dating John, then her parents would let her live her own life. Little did she know that being involved with John would only make her situation worse.
John and Angela had been dating for a few weeks now, and Ellen noticed how things had changed. Angela seemed to be more withdrawn and quieter, she didn’t have the same spark that she used to. Ellen knew that dating the guy was a mistake, and she knew that Angela felt the same way.
Ellen decided that she wouldn’t stand by and watch her friend become a shadow of her former self. She had to do something. So, she managed to get her friend away from her possessive boyfriend and led her to the fellowship office, to do what she never thought she would have the courage to do.
She told Angela that she was in love with her.
Angela was shocked. She tried to deny what Ellen had said, but when Ellen cut her off with a kiss, Angela seemed to be frozen in place. She could feel her heart pounding a mile a minute in her chest, but she started to kiss Ellen back. It took a minute before Angela pulled away and placed a gentle hand on Ellen’s shoulder.
“Ellen, I...” Angela started. Ellen looked at her with a mixture of hope and fear.
“We can’t do this, I’m with John.” Angela said. Ellen’s face fell.
“But you don’t love him, do you? You don’t even like him. He is destroying the beautiful person you are, from the inside out. Why can’t you see that?” Ellen pleaded.
Angela turned away, looking out the window. She had to suppress her own tears as she heard Ellen’s quiet sniffles behind her. Not being able to take the sound of a heart breaking for much longer, she turned around and embraced Ellen, holding her tightly.
“I love you too. But I can’t. I’m not brave enough.” Angela whispered, her voice breaking slightly.
Ellen pulled away from the hug, and looked Angela in the eyes, her own eyes full of tears.
“You are brave. You are so much braver than you think.” Ellen said, wiping away one of Angie’s fallen tears.
Angie looked at the blonde in front of her, knowing that they would be so much happier together than she ever would be while living a fabricated lie with John. But despite the tough exterior she portrays, she didn’t have the guts for the world to know who she truly was. Her li began to quiver as she looked Ellen in the eye once again.
“Don’t ever let him take your courage away from you. I’ll wait. I’ll always be here for you. And maybe, someday, we can be together.” Ellen said, smiling sadly, and kissing Angela on the forehead lovingly before walking out of the room.