I definitely wasn’t up for discussing coming out anymore, so I joined Guillermo and Chastaine kneeling at the coffee table and started trying to design a card for Natalia. I wanted to do something in her favorite color, but I didn’t know what it was. I pretty much didn’t know anything about her.
I didn’t like that. If she hadn’t told me about what happened to her, I probably wouldn’t have talked to her at all. I was trying to be her friend, but it was mostly because of what she’d told me. That kind of sucked. She was a nice person, and I wished I’d talked to her more in the past. But the kids in Mr. Houseman’s class had mostly been in a separate classroom since elementary school and only joined the rest of us for things like art, gym, and lunch, and I didn’t really know any of them.
I wished I could do something about that, but right then, I had way too many other things on my mind. I knew Mr. Houseman chose a few seniors every year to mentor his students, so maybe I would talk to him about doing that next year. By then, the rest of the crap in my life might have let up a little.
When Aunt Imogen got home, Chastaine and Guillermo left. I wanted to leave too. Aunt Imogen wasn’t a big fan of company after work, especially if she’d had a stressful day. But I didn’t want to wait too long to talk to her about Chastaine and me. That would have only given me more time to get anxious about it.
She kicked off her boots at the door and sat on the armchair beside the couch. “Are you staying for supper, Holly?”
“It’s up to you.” I hesitated. Now that she was there, I had no clue how to bring up what I needed to talk about.
Evan took over, because he was Evan and that was how he did things. “I told you Holly wants to talk to you about something.”
“Yes, and that’s why I asked about supper. If you two are hungry, we can eat while we talk.”
“I’m not hungry,” I said. I kind of was. My headache was worse, I was dizzy, and my stomach kept growling. But I wasn’t sure I’d be able to eat even if I wanted to. And I wasn’t completely sure I wanted to.
“Okay, well, I am.” She leaned back. “I’m happy to help with whatever’s going on, Holly, but I’m tired and hungry, and that’s going to make me a little cranky.”
“So let’s make this fast,” Evan said. “Mom, Holly needs help figuring out how to talk to her parents about something.”
“Okay.” Aunt Imogen looked at me. “What’s going on?”
“I have a girlfriend.” There wasn’t any way to ease into that information, so blurting it out seemed like the best way to start. Even though as soon as I said it, I wished I could take it back.
Aunt Imogen’s expression didn’t change a bit. “As in you’re dating a girl?”
“Yeah.” I stared at her. Even though she accepted Evan, I’d expected her to kind of flip out on me. Or at least react somehow.
“I thought you had a boyfriend,” she said.
“They were faking it.” Evan touched a finger to his lips. “Sorry. Not my story to tell.”
I was kind of relieved he’d interrupted. “What he said. Nathan and I weren’t really going out. It was a cover.” I decided not to tell her Nathan was gay. Even though I was pissed at him for throwing me under the bus, that didn’t give me the right to out him.
“I see.” Aunt Imogen held up her hand, exactly the way Mom did when she wanted me to be quiet while she processed something. The same way I did, for that matter. “Okay. You’re dating a girl, but everyone believes you’re dating a boy.”
“Not anymore,” I said. “He got mad because people were saying I was cheating on him with my girlfriend. They didn’t know the truth, but they assumed. He kept going off about how people would think he was gay if they knew I was, so I told him to tell everyone he broke up with me. Except I guess he said I was the one who broke up with him, which is just giving everyone more reason to think my girlfriend and I are a couple. I mean, we are, but it isn’t like we wanted everyone to know.”
“Some people can’t handle their own lives,” Evan muttered.
“Do you want to tell your parents because you’re ready to, or because you’re afraid they’re going to find out from someone else?” Aunt Imogen asked.
“The second one.” I sighed. “Everyone talks to everyone in this town. You know that. Someone’s going to say something in front of their parents, and their parents will know mine, or it’ll go through a few other people first. But they’ll hear about it one way or another.”
“Parents are usually a few steps behind the grapevine, but most things get out eventually,” Evan said. “I agree with Holly. They’re going to hear about it sooner or later, so it’s probably best if they hear it from her first.”
“I agree too,” Aunt Imogen said. “Holly, first things first. I want to make sure you understand this isn’t a bad thing. No matter what anyone says. You’re who you are, and if you’re brave enough to be that person, that’s good.”
“Thanks.” I wasn’t sure I completely believed her, but it was nice to hear anyway.