Blue Jeans and Sweatshirts, Deep Secrets and Hope 4, Harmony Ink Press, June 25, 2015
Holly McCormack has secrets. She’s started a support group for sexual assault survivors at her high school, but she was never assaulted. She’s also dating a girl, but she’s not a lesbian—at least not to the outside world—and that’s how she hopes to keep it. To top everything off, her girlfriend, Chastaine Rollo, is the most gorgeous girl at their school, and Holly is eating as little as she can because she thinks she’s “too fat.”
When hearing the stories of survivors begins to take its toll, Holly’s eating becomes even more of a problem. And as she struggles to hide her relationship with Chastaine from her parents, the stress becomes too much. But when keeping secrets has become second nature, it leaves her with no one to confide in.
I nibbled one of the carrot sticks while Chastaine took a bite of her chicken sandwich. After she swallowed, she said, “So what is going on? We got into an argument Friday, and then yesterday we said everything was okay. But you haven’t really talked to me since then.”
“You could have called me,” I pointed out. “Or texted, or IMed, or something. Instead of, you know, just wondering and then ambushing me in the hall.”
“I wanted to talk to you face-to-face,” she said. “Which wasn’t something I could do before school, since you didn’t show up at the donut shop. We were worried.”
“Again, someone could have called or texted.” I was kind of surprised Evan hadn’t. Usually he freaked out if I didn’t show up where he expected me to.
“Evan said maybe your parents were talking to you, so you didn’t leave your house early enough.” She shrugged. “He said to leave you alone, and I figure since he’s your cousin, he knows better than me.”
“I guess.” I put down the half of the carrot stick I hadn’t eaten yet and took a sip of water. “I left my house at the usual time. I just didn’t feel like sitting there with all the donuts and fattening drinks.”
“Okay.” She pressed her lips together. “I’m not going to start on that. Anyway, so are we good or not? I’m not sure what’s going on right now, but if you want to call this off, I’m fine with it. I wouldn’t be happy, but it would be better than wondering.”
“I don’t know.” I rubbed my forehead. “I mean…. Shit.”
She blinked a couple of times. “I don’t usually hear you swear.”
“There’s too much going on, and I can’t make decisions.” My voice broke. I pressed my hands against my eyes. The only thing worse than having a serious discussion in the school cafeteria would be crying there.
“Tell me,” she said.
I didn’t plan to tell her anything, but I started talking, and it all kind of poured out. “Nathan’s pissed at me because people are starting to guess that I’m seeing you, which means I’m not seeing him. And according to him, if I’m not seeing him, people will realize he’s gay. He doesn’t want anyone to know about him, so I’m supposed to keep pretending to be his girlfriend, which means no one can figure out about you and me. And my parents are making me go to a counselor. And you took over the support group stuff, which doesn’t really matter because it sounds like no one’s ever actually going to schedule another meeting anyway.”
I stopped. I was even closer to crying now, and if I’d kept talking, I wouldn’t have been able to keep the tears where they belonged.
“It’s okay,” she said quietly. “I know how you feel. Sort of. I know how it feels to have everything going to shit, anyway.”
I didn’t know whether she meant she’d dealt with worse stuff than me, or if she was genuinely being sympathetic. “Sorry.”
“Don’t be.” She glanced around then touched my hand. “You’re fine. So one thing at a time, all right? I want to help.”
“Okay.” I doubted she’d be able to do much, but if it made her feel better to try, I didn’t have any reason to stop her.