When Yolanda is 17 years old, she learns there are more than two options.
Before, she’d always believed there were two categories of girls: the girls who, preferably, only fell in love once, and the girls who used boys to have fun and didn’t fall in love, or at least not by choice.
She knew which side was favored by society, but she’d never paid that much mind. She had two best friends, after all, and they could both be neatly categorized in either of the two boxes. She loved them too much to ever judge either of them for something like that.
There was Regina, whose name translates to Queen, which might possibly be the only good thing her parents have ever given her. Bright Regina. Fearless Regina. Born for sunlight. She knew what she wanted, and it had never been one boy, a husband, boyfriend, holding hands on Valentine’s Day and meeting the family. Her mind was too free to be held back by a man who’d want her glued to his side and kept in his bed every night.
Sometimes, Yolanda was worried for her, but most of the time, the only thing she felt in regards to her friend was admiration. For some reason, although there were three of them, it had always kind of felt like Yolanda and Regina were separate from Mylene in ways she couldn’t quite describe.
Her second friend, was Mylene Cruz, who also knew what she wanted. (Sometimes, it felt like the only person who didn’t, was Yolanda herself.) There were a number of things on her list: more than this, a future singing in the spotlight, and Zeke by her side. Even when she pushed him away, Yolanda had always known he was the one for Mylene. The girl who fell in love with a boy who adored her right back.
Even though Mylene’s first love would really always be music, a part of her heart belonged to Zeke forever.
And then there was Yolanda. For seventeen years, she’d always assumed she fit into the same category as Mylene. The way Regina went from man to man, had never sat well with her, always bothered her in a way, inexplicably. Something not quite right with the image. And so, she’d assumed she must be of the same kind as Mylene. One day she’d fall in love with a boy and that would be it. She just hadn’t met him yet. Right?
And if that never really sat well with her either, she just shook that off. Where else could she possibly fit?
Dizzee’s seeing Thor now, his artist white boy. Yolanda had been -- not shocked or uncomfortable or disgusted when he’d told her -- but surprised, maybe, a little bit taken aback. It’s not like she’d never heard of men who preferred other men, but it had never been more real than whispers or negative sermons, never applied to a real person she knows standing before her, someone she loves. And seeing it all happen before her eyes, rearranges some things she thought were true.
Anyone who spends more than two seconds with Dizzee and Thor can tell they’re made for each other. If Dizzee is the radio they keep at the salon, Thor is the channel that’s finally clear and free of static, playing the exact song that’s been on your mind for days. They get each other, even when they’re still mostly a mystery to everyone else.
She can’t imagine spending time in their company, and still being able to believe that their relationship is anything but absolutely right.
She hugs her brother and smiles at Thor and starts thinking and reprocessing some things.
The light is reflecting off every single thing in the dark room, the music is pulsing like a heartbeat through Yolanda’s body that’s moving like it has a mind of its own. The noise and the heat and the movement are emptying her head one beat at a time and soon enough, it feels like she’s floating. Somewhere far, far away.
She has her girls dancing next to her, although she’s lost sight of Mylene who was talking to someone last she saw her, but Regina’s close as always. Her silver dress is flowing like water off her skin and her hair is as much a dance partner as any real person would be.
Earlier, back at home, Yolanda had put blue, shimmery eyeshadow on Regina’s lids and the color winks at her each time she closes her eyes. Her lips and her legs in those heels, her neck…
Yolanda flickers hot all over and it’s suddenly getting near impossible to tear her eyes away from the girl in front of her.
It’s like Regina notices her eyes on her, because then her smile is slipping a little, and she’s getting closer and if Yolanda were to just reach out, she’d be able to --
‘Hey, beautiful’, she can barely hear over the music, but it’s still loud, too loud when Regina turns her head to the speaker, pushes herself into the decidedly male hands draped over her hips like they somehow have the right to be there.
Behind her, she feels another pair of hands mirror the action she’s witnessing and she roughly pushes them off.
She must’ve dreamt all that came before then. Puzzle pieces are falling into place, though, and she’s not so sure she likes what they’re beginning to spell out.
It’s a few weeks later. She can’t sleep. Outside her door, someone walks by. When she goes to inspect, she finds Dizzee, not looking very happy to be found out.
‘Where are you going?’, she asks him, suspicion in her voice, maybe a bit too loud.
He shushes her. ‘A party.’ She slides her eyes over his outfit, painted nails. Silver eyeliner. Glitter. ‘Don’t tell mom and dad.’
She wouldn’t, but she supposes that’s just what you say when your little sister catches you sneaking out in the middle of the night, and even if she did, she doubts it’d be a big deal. Their parents have slowly been accepting the fact that Dizzee’s growing up and there’s nothing they can do about it. That trying to keep him safe and locked up, will only push him even further away.
She can play with this, though. Taking another look at the way he’s dressed, she makes her decision. ‘I won’t if you let me come with.’
It’s like nothing she’s ever seen.
Dizzee had warned her beforehand this would be the kind of place free people went to be free, that she shouldn’t expect the kind of party she’s used to, but it hadn’t prepared her for this.
There is color everywhere. Flashing lights and costumes and the laughter of people who spend most of their life hiding but don’t have to here. She sees people who could be men or women or somehow both at once, neither of the two. There’s boys wearing makeup and girls entangled all up in each other, dancing people who have their eyes closed like their mind isn’t tethered to this earth anymore.
People who look like art.
‘Beautiful, isn’t it?’, Dizzee asks, and she realizes she must have been looking around awe-struck, written on her face that this is new to her. All she can do in answer is nod.
Dizzee introduces her to Thor and some other people she doesn’t know the name of, all looking as unique as all the others, like the truest version of themself. When a woman with big, beautiful curls and a skin-tight dress walks by and glides a hand over Yolanda’s shoulder before walking off with a wink, Yolanda lets herself really feel it, lets her true feelings erupt in her chest without ignoring them like she usually does.
She finds she likes the girl’s soft touch, and her lips around her smile, likes the fact that they’re girl hands, likes it a thousands times more than feeling the unsolicited hands of men in dark clubs.
It’s still not completely right, though, because she also finds that, while she was wrong about a lot of things, she wasn’t wrong in thinking there are people who have fun with others’ touch, and people who fall in love. Yolanda would still put herself in the second category, except it’s about ten times more terrifying now.
She tries to shake the fear, though, at least for the time being. This isn’t the sort of place meant for being afraid.
She loses herself in the music and dances with all kinds of people, feeling like maybe this is where she belongs, where she can be free. Her every-day life will be meant for letting her mind wander to fantasies and feelings most people wouldn’t understand, and in places like these she’ll be able to live them. It doesn’t need to be part of the rest of her life. She’ll just have to learn to be someone who fits in the first box, too. No one will have to know.
But suddenly, the song changes and Mylene’s voice rains down over them, with her and Regina’s backing vocals, drops of silver rain on their skin. So unexpected, yet perfect, Yolanda can’t help tilting her head back as if bathing in the liquid sound, and letting out one, bright, delirious laugh.
Maybe it doesn’t have to be the real world, and then this one like a dream. Maybe she can combine the two, find a way to have both at once.
Regina would love this place, she thinks, before her thoughts are overpowered by the music.
Once outside, when it’s still dark enough to get through the streets unnoticed, Yolanda falls into step with one of Thor’s friends.
‘So, what’s your secret?’, she asks.
Yolanda isn’t sure what she means, but it’s a night for truth and decides to say the first thing that comes to mind.
‘I’m in love with my best friend.’
It feels strange, admitting something out loud when it’s only the first time you’re admitting it to yourself. The girl laughs in sympathy.
‘We’ve all been there, boo.’ She slings an arm around Yolanda’s shoulder. ‘Figure out if she feels the same and if she doesn’t, move on. Don’t waste precious time living a fantasy.’
And so Yolanda tries to figure it out. It’s not like she’s so full of hope for her feelings to be somehow, impossibly, reciprocated, but she can’t help it. She’s always been an optimist. There’s probably a 98% chance she’ll have to move on eventually, but those 2% are enough to keep her going. Ra Ra would probably tell her any number is valuable and honestly, she doesn’t think she’s ready to let go of the fantasy quite yet.
And so she watches Regina, differently than she used to before, because it feels like she’s been watching her since the beginning of their friendship.
But no, this time she’s not admiring or subconsciously pining. This time she’s looking for reactions, for the way she interacts with the world around her and how that compares to the way she acts around Yolanda. A few things Yolanda takes note of, like how Regina’s laugh sounds louder when it’s been pulled out by one of Yolanda’s remarks. The lingering way she touches her when they’re dancing around the salon and how she takes her hand sometimes for no apparent reason. How when they’re performing, it’s like her eyes never leave Yolanda’s face.
A thousand small things that seem so heavy when Yolanda’s feeling optimistic, but are so easily written off as nothing when she can’t help feeling hopeless, which is really most of the time.
It goes a bit like this: Yolanda notices these things Regina does when it comes to her and how they’re different from how she is with others, even Mylene, and she convinces herself it has to mean something. She used to do those things, too, before she was even aware of the reason why, after all. But then, aren’t best friends supposed to act differently around each other? It doesn’t have to mean there’s more just because Yolanda pushed it a bit farther. She has to remind herself Regina isn’t that way with Mylene, though, and the circle is round and the spiral can start all over again.
She wishes someone could just tell her what to do, give her the truth up front. Normally in a situation like this, she’d talk to Regina, but that’s obviously out of the picture. Turns out being in love with your best friend is not as fun as you’d expect it to be. Definitely would not recommend. Not that it was ever much of a choice. It’s been inevitable since the day Yolanda saw her smile and, even then, not knowing anything, knew it was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen.
In the end, it all comes around to what Yolanda admires most about Regina. It’s about her, after all, and who best to take after when trying to find a way to bring this to a good end? She doesn’t need to ask for her advice, she knows her well enough to figure out what it would be on her own.
What Regina would do, is not think about the consequences too much, knowing that living in uncertainty hurts more than anything. Regina would think of the worst case scenario and then dismiss it as unrealistic. She’d tell herself the worst thing that could happen, isn’t the worst thing that’s ever happened to her, that it’s too important to give up just to have a peaceful state of mind.
And so, one day, they’re in Yolanda’s bedroom, twenty minutes before they’re supposed to leave for a gig, turn into the Soul Madonnas. It’s now or never, she tells herself. At least if it goes wrong, she won’t have to watch Regina leave. She wouldn’t desert Mylene like that for anything, not for something Yolanda did.
‘Hey, Gina?’, she eventually manages to get out after taking three deep breaths. Regina turns around from where she was applying silver eyeliner. Yolanda moves to stand right in front of her. The lights are low, the sun having slowly set and neither of them thinking to turn on a light to replace it. They’re both wearing a long white dress and in this light, question clear in her eyes, Regina looks like an angel, not that she wouldn’t laugh at being called that.
Sometimes, in between all her high heeled shoes and larger-than-life presence, it’s easy to forget she’s not actually taller than Yolanda is. She’s barefoot, now, toenails still painted purple from where Yolanda had done them a few days ago, and Yolanda can look her right in the eye without having to move her head at all.
It’s never quiet in the Bronx, but right now her own heartbeat is all Yolanda can hear, thudding in her ears like a drum to the beat of all her strongest desires and fears.
Regina is still just looking at her, patiently waiting when she’s not normally a very patient person.
Yolanda breathes out a laugh, her only way to release some tension and tentatively reaches out to tuck one of Regina’s locks behind her ear, the tips of her fingers lightly grazing the soft skin of her cheek and she thinks this might be the last time she’s allowed to touch her in any way. That thought alone is almost enough to make her back out. Regina’s touch has been a constant for so long, Yolanda’s become dependent on it and she doesn’t know how she’d deal with it if it was ripped away. It’s as intrinsically and naturally a part of her as singing is.
And then, suddenly, she’s leaning forward and Regina sharply breathes in, but she’s not pulling away, and now Yolanda knows what her lips feel like against hers. She pulls back too fast, before she’s fully taken it in.
Regina pulls her back in, and this time her hands aren’t shaking so much it’s the only thing she can feel. She registers more than just her heart, and stomach in disarray, and overpowering nerves. Instead, those things make place for the realization of how soft Regina’s lips are, her smell so close and all around, her hair tickling her face, and more than anything, the intense happiness building inside her like she could cry, dance, laugh and never stop all at once.
Regina’s hands are on her hips and cheek and everywhere, and Yolanda’s have a mind of their own, exploring uncharted territory they’ve finally been given the key to.
They’ve been kissing for hours, five seconds, her whole life it feels like, but it’s not enough when they part. It’s more than okay, though, because now she gets to have Regina’s forehead against hers and the smile on her face. The clock tells them there’s two minutes left before they have to leave. Yolanda can’t stop smiling.
Regina whispers: ‘I’m so happy you did that.’
They kiss again.
Yolanda never feels as connected to Regina as when they’re singing. Doesn’t matter if it’s on stage or in her room just the two of them, but when they are, it’s almost like they can read each other’s minds. It’s always been like that, harmonies straight from heaven, and two girls who know each other inside and out.
She never thought it could feel even better, but it’s like, now that they’ve kissed, now that there’s one more part of each other that used to be unknown but isn’t anymore, it almost feels like they’re one.
Everyone knows Mylene is the star on stage wherever they go, but Yolanda doesn’t mind. She doesn’t think she wants a life in the spotlight anyway, and she’s pretty sure Regina doesn’t either. It’s fun for them, and freeing, but it doesn’t feel like breathing, not the way it does for Mylene.
Mylene is the star, and The Soul Madonnas are there to lend support, but right now, with Regina’s eyes on her, Yolanda feels like the whole world is watching, a little bit like she’s floating and a lot like she’s going to burst from feeling. She can’t stop grinning, and on Regina’s face her expression is mirrored exactly.
They don’t have to keep eye contact while they’re singing, but it makes it easier to play off of each other, understand each other’s intention and mood. Before Yolanda went on that inner journey, that’s what she explained it as anyway, now she thinks it might be for other reasons. Regina’s eyes are never on her for as long as they are when they’re performing, and if she had to do it without, part of the appeal would disappear for her. She doesn’t care about the people she doesn’t know watching, doesn’t care about the cameras, the screams and flashing lights. All she’s ever wanted from life is to spend it smiling, and she does so about fifty times more when Regina’s looking at her.
A performance usually goes by quickly, the adrenaline turning minutes into seconds, blink three times and it’s over. This particular performance takes a little bit longer, though. On one hand, Yolanda can’t wait for it to be over, so she can feel more than just Regina’s eyes on her, but on the other, she doesn’t think she’s ever felt this peaceful in her life. She’s not nervous like she usually is, not overwhelmed by everything happening around her. She’s right where she’s supposed to be, next to girl she’s in love with, having fun and through their connection, serving as a pair of wings to her best friend. What else could she possibly need?
Regina moves her body to the beat in that white angel dress, and winks at Yolanda before she’s really going for it. She doesn’t care who’s watching, as long as she gets to dance to good music.
Yolanda blushes and has to look away for a moment to compose herself, because she’s convinced that anyone watching must see exactly what she’s feeling on her face right now. She also can’t be sure she won’t burst into laughter because of the joy she can’t contain, and she’s meant to be singing. Mylene would not appreciate that.
And then the show is over and they’re being led backstage, and they’re jumping on each other, Mylene shining and smiling as bright as the white of her dress. The three of them hug, and maybe Yolanda would like it to be just her and Regina as quickly as possible, but this is still one of her favorite feelings in the whole world, that post show high telling them they can take on the whole world, that one day they’ll be at the top.
Quickly enough, Mylene is whisked away by some music people wanting to talk to her, and while they’re still surrounded by crew people everywhere, finally they’re alone again. Or as alone as necessary.
They don’t kiss, don’t even really touch much, besides their clasped hands between them. They don’t really talk at first either, eyes conveying more than words can describe right now, until Regina breaks the silence. ‘Wanna go home?’
All Yolanda can do is nod and laugh.
I just wanna paint the town. I don't wanna hide my love. I just wanna hold your hand and be the one that you think of. When you need a holiday, when you wanna drink rosé. I just wanna paint your toes and in the morning kiss your nose. Cause when I'm with you I don't feel afraid. Maybe this love will indoctrinate. I echo every word that you say. The way you feel, yeah I feel the same way. Remember the night when I combed your hair. I hope I didn't freak you out when I stared. I donate my truth to you like I'm rich. The truth is love ain't got no off switch. So if the walls come tumbling down. And if the ocean really does drown. And if my memories never come back. I'll still remember when we were first was naked at. Picture our faces and new oasis. When we made love we left many traces. Just like the blush that’s on your cheeks. Deep inside we're all just Pynk