Looking back, there were always signs. To be honest, however, my sexuality was not something of which I was always aware. I did not one day create a chrysalis around myself and emerge the confident gay woman I am today. I had a few girls I desperately wanted to be best friends with in elementary school. I would let them borrow my favorite crayons and draw them pictures during inside recess. To be completely honest, I am assuming I had what was most likely a rudimentary crush on them. I, like many of the individuals identifying as or lesbian, gay, bisexual, or queer, thought I was straight.

Sure, I had one boyfriend in junior high, but that only consisted of the two of us becoming best friends who on occasion awkwardly held hands. It had only lasted a few months, and neither of us were terribly heartbroken when it dissolved. The two of us turned out to both be gay later in life anyway. After that relationship, I didn’t date anyone for a few years, but it was not until my sophomore year of high school that I began to strongly question my sexuality for the first time.

I became best friends with a girl a year older than me. Nicole’s life was nothing short of a tragedy. She had suffered monumentally not only at the hands of those who cared for her, but also herself. She did not love herself, and had the scars to prove it. I knew that her family would never support the love of Nicole’s life if that love happened to be a woman. I knew Nicole had told me multiple times about her being dragged into church, and that all of her fears and demons were supposed to be solved by some sort of higher power. I knew that she did not believe in a God anymore. Not after all of the sadness she had encountered. Once, when we were in Government, I followed her to the bathroom after she had told me about her want to empty her stomach the day previously. I was afraid that I was her strongest support system.

I wanted nothing more than her genuine happiness. I was there to help her feel better. By the time I had spent a few late nights holding her while she cried in my arms, I knew she was the only person I would ever want to hold. I remember during our first sleepover, I woke up to find her arms around me. “Spooning” was the term I had learned later. We slept like this for every sleepover following.

We would joke about getting a house together after high school, and adopting every stray dog on the street that looked our way. After we were married to men, of course. The more we talked about our futures, the more I found myself hoping that they would find a way to intertwine. I had never cared about someone in the way I cared about Nicole. It didn’t help that when a girl asked us during every P.E. class Nicole would humor her by winking at me, or playfully smacking my butt when I walked by her. That sure didn’t stop any rumors. I wouldn’t encourage them, but Nicole would not do anything to stop them. This was just enough hope for me to have.

Our nightly phone calls became my favorite part of my day. Except tonight. Nicole had been sleepy tonight. She was repeatedly drifting off, but did not want me to hang up on her. I heard nothing on the other end of the line. I pulled my phone away from my ear and checked the screen. Evidently, we’d held a conversation for an impressive hour and 23 seconds. I lied in the dark in my bed.

“It’s after midnight,” I said to no one in particular.

Only silence greets me. Silence, and a slight background hum.

“Nicole?” I asked

I listened for a response.

“I bet you’re asleep,” I continued, “You probably would have said something by now.”

I willed myself to press the red end call button on my phone, to get ready for bed myself. I don’t. I wait. A minute passes with no words spoken.

“I guess you really are asleep.” I muttered

I still have absolutely no ambition to hang up.

“I’m excited for Homecoming,” I smiled, “Well, the dance part, not so much the football. I could go without it.”

With nothing replying to me, I continued to speak.

“I guess you would know that about me, huh? I mean, we are best friends. My aunt asked if I had a date to the dance, and I said technically!” I laughed

I thought of how the Homecoming dance would unfold. Mainly fast paced, upbeat songs. Perfect for the more promiscuous to use when dirty dancing. Only a few slower songs would play. They don’t want the outcasts to be too alienated.

“We do look cute together, you know. At least, you look cute, anyway. I look cute only by being in your presence.” I said, only slightly kidding.

“What do you want to do when the slow songs play?” I asked

I waited for a response that I knew wouldn’t occur.

“We could sway. Or we could dance together, like a real couple, if you wanted to...” I murmured, “I guess enough people talk about us already. I understand if you don’t want to add anything to that.”

People had started talking about us this year at school. So, we hold hands in the hallway? Who cares? Apparently, everyone. It helps me feel more connected to her. Sometimes I fear she’ll float away. A smile is always stretched across her face. Her eyes are empty. When I’m with her, she tells me that feeling of emptiness fades. So I hold her hand. I hug her. Proudly. She tells me I save her. In reality, she saves me. That’s just how we are, Nicole and I.

“There’s something I’ve wanted to tell you for a while now,” I began, now hating the sticky silence. I took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. The only sound I heard was her soft breathing.

“I. . .” I couldn’t get the words out. “I love you. You are the most beautiful girl I have ever laid eyes on. I would treat you perfectly. Like you should be treated. I would be there for you. Always.” My voice caught, and I started to ramble on. “I think you feel something too, maybe. Sometimes you look at me, and all I want to do is lean in and kiss you. Kiss you like my life depended on it. You know something funny? You would be my first kiss.”

I sighed. I let everything I just let out sink in. I could never really tell her. I couldn’t face her impending reaction. Would she, could she ever feel the same way? Will I ever know? I checked my phone’s screen. We had now been speaking for an hour and 17 minutes. That’s long enough for a good night. Especially when one reveals their deepest, innermost secret.

“Nicole? Good night. Have happy dreams,” I yawned

A mumble answered me. I practically jump.

“He-Hello?” I stuttered

“Chelsea?” she asked

“Yes?” I squeaked

“I love you too.”