Tully is in high school when she realizes two things. One, her best friend Kate is the most beautiful girl she has ever seen. Two, Tully can never ever have her in the way she wants.
Tully is all sarcasm, walls up. Kate shows up in her life with a sledgehammer and immediately smashes those walls down, crumbling her defenses with every hug. Tully should feel threatened by this. She should run away and rebuild, but there is something about Kate that pulls her back in time and time again.
One day, the two girls are sitting in the sunshine. The tall grass waves in the breeze as it forms a border separating them from the outside world. The field is their own special place. There, everything is peaceful. Kate looks up at Tully with a shy smile. Her glasses are hanging off the precipice of her nose (as they tend to do). A small part of Tully wants to reach her hand over to Kate’s soft face and push her glasses up for her. She wants to cradle that face in her hands and lean closer and closer and closer until Tully and Kate become TullyKate (no space between).
Tully’s stomach drops when she identifies the feeling. It drops and it bounces back up again like a rubber ball. Nausea rises up in her throat but her limbs go tingly with electricity. She wants to run away. Yet, she wants to stay by Kate’s side, only inches apart, forever. She wants to lock away the feeling in a neat little box and never think about it again. Yet, she also wants to scream it to anyone who will listen.
She’s in love with Kate.
Over the years, Tully dulls the feeling. She can pretend it’s not there if she tries hard enough. Lying is an art and she’s fucking Picasso.
The lying works until it doesn’t, but Tully’s good on her feet and can pull back-up plans out of thin air. When Kate smiles that bright sunshine smile, a lump forms in Tully’s throat like a reminder. When Kate pulls Tully in close for a side hug and Tully gets a whiff of Kate’s vanilla perfume, Tully’s knees go weak. On nights where the ache grows louder in her chest, Tully goes out, finds some random handsome guy, and fucks him until she forgets. The forgetting never lasts long enough, but at least it gets her an occasional orgasm and a short break from her silly little feelings.
Sometimes, Tully stumbles into their shared room after a night out with a guy and finds Kate frowning. A quick burst of hope gives Tully a jolt. Maybe Kate’s jealous? Is that why she’s frowning? Tully lets herself wonder. She dreams about the possibility, holding on to it like a kid with a teddy bear. But, when Tully sees herself in the bathroom mirror, all she sees is a broken woman who Kate could never love. At least, not like that .
The years fade into decades and soon enough, Tully ages into her forties and rises into fame. She can buy anything she wants, but everything she buys just makes her feel emptier. Every day, she wakes up in a sky-high Seattle apartment, one anyone would practically die for, but it’s not enough. She’s unhappy. Tully’s luxurious apartment isn’t her home, Kate’s house is. Kate’s house is the home Tully wants to come back to at the end of the day. She wants to walk in, drop her keys on a table, pour a glass of wine, and collapse into Kate’s warm arms, chatting endlessly about the bullshit her job puts her through. She wants to wake up in Kate’s bed and cook pancakes with her, throwing small puffs of flour at Kate’s nose, and hearing her giggle along with the sound of their favorite coffee brewing.
Tully wants and wants and wants; she feels like she spends every minute on earth wanting. She would move Mt. Rainier with her bare hands if Kate wanted her to move it, fancy manicures be damned.
Kate doesn’t need Tully the same way Tully needs Kate. Tully’s learned to live with this truth. Kate has Johnny. Kate has Marah. Tully has never had a long lasting marriage. She has never had a kid, a family she built herself. Why would she? The only person she wants to do those things with is already doing those things with someone, someone who is not Tully.
Wanting it all is a lost cause, Tully knows, but when Johnny and Kate sign their divorce papers, Tully lets that dream creep in again.
Tully, Kate, and Marah grab brunch at a local cafe. For a moment, Tully pretends that the people across from her at the table are her wife and daughter, that they do this every Sunday as a family tradition, and they walk all over the rainy city sharing one measly umbrella for the three of them, cherishing their clumsy closeness.
It’s one of her cheesiest daydreams, that family brunch, but at night, Tully wraps the image around herself like a plush blanket so she can fall asleep peacefully.
They’re teenagers back from a bike ride, huddled together in Kate’s childhood bedroom. Tired from biking, they sit peacefully in silence until Kate speaks up, resting her head in the crook of Tully’s neck.
“Hey. Do you think you’ll ever want to get married?” Kate asks generally, gazing out the window at a cardinal in a nearby tree.
Tully looks over at her best friend, a girl with more light than a sky full of fireflies. Tully hums into Kate’s hair, thinking that Kate’s the only person Tully would want to marry.
“I don’t know… Maybe someday.”