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It was close to midnight as Rose sat against the headboard of her bed with a pillow in her lap, playing with the frayed edges of the fabric. She listened to the murmured hum of a too loud television next door. The darkness in her room only briefly chased away by the headlights of passing cars shining through her window. Everyone had left hours ago, right after eating the food her grandfather prepared. Kenny had intercepted her grandmother before she served the cake, for which Rose was grateful since it would have dragged it on even longer. Although Rose had tried to pretend like nothing was wrong after Claire had taken off with her mom, the party goers sensed the tense vibe since both girls had returned to the backyard sniffling and wiping at their eyes.
Rose kept replaying the moment Claire walked in on her and Vanessa kissing. The look of anguish and betrayal Claire had given her was heartbreaking.
“It’s just because you’re happy to see her, right? Because you were worried?” Claire had asked, her voice breaking. “Please just tell me that and I’ll pretend it never happened. Poof, gone, all is hunky-dory again.” She’d smiled, weakly, desperately.
But Rose had been at a loss. She was never good at being put on the spot. Her throat had felt like there was something lodged in it, preventing her from speaking. She didn’t know what to say even if she could speak. She looked back and forth between Claire and Vanessa. Rose adored Claire. Claire was so sweet, and cute, and admittedly a little dorky but so unapologetic about it that Rose admired her for it. Claire had this way of making everything seem brighter, like a human ball of sunshine. But then there was Vanessa who knew her. Rose had always felt so at ease with Vanessa, like she could say absolutely anything and Vanessa wouldn’t think she was an idiot. There was this inexplicable connection between them; everything just fit.
Claire had taken Rose’s hesitation as her answer and that’s when she started getting angry.
“Rose she abandoned you! I was there. Don’t I mean something to you? Was I just a replacement?”
Rose had widened her eyes at that question. “What!? No! You’re not a replacement, of course I care about you. It’s just, Vanessa and I . . . we . . . um,” she’d then looked at Vanessa for an answer, trying to figure out her feelings.
“I’m sorry Claire,” Vanessa had said, stepping towards her. “I didn’t mean to hurt you, I love Rose. There’s just something undeniable between us.”
Claire had looked at Rose for confirmation, and obviously interpreted her answer from Rose’s inability to refute what Vanessa had said, then took off. Her body was hunched in on itself, her shoulders shaking with the sobs she was trying to hold at bay.
“Claire wait -,” Rose had moved to go after her, but Vanessa caught her arm.
“Let her cool off, you don’t want to follow her into the group of birthday barbeque bashers.”
“I just don’t want her to think I don’t care about her, that I don’t want her to be my gir-,” Rose had cut herself off. Mentally kicking herself, she looked at Vanessa, apology in her eyes. It’s not that she didn’t want to be with Vanessa, but she’d also grown to really care about Claire. She wasn’t sure if it was love yet, but she knew it could be. And didn’t she owe it to herself and Claire to find out? As Claire had pointed out, Vanessa left her before, what if she changed her mind again? What if the discrimination and homophobia proved to be too much for her?
“You still want to be her girlfriend,” Vanessa had said. It was a statement, not a question. “Um, okay then. I’m just uh, gonna go. I guess I’ll see you later.”
“Vanessa don’t -.”
“Goodbye Rose.” And she’d walked out the door leaving Rose with her thoughts. And she’d only come up with one conclusion.
I don’t know what I want.