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whenever i’m alone with you

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Mac and KJ finish their routes early on one cold October morning.

It’s not even 6:00 a.m. yet - it’s too early for them to head home and start to get ready for school, but too late to try and go back to sleep.

KJ watches as Mac lights a cigarette and stretches. She looks so pretty that it can’t be fair - who gave her the right to look so beautiful when it’s this early in the morning? She knows Mac hasn’t slept very well recently, yet she doesn’t have that tired look. She looks as stunning as she does any other time.

“You wanna go to the park?” Mac’s words snap KJ out of her thoughts, and KJ hopes desperately that she wasn’t staring at Mac (or if she was, that Mac didn’t notice). “It’s only a minute or two away and I don’t feel like going back home,” she continues, getting back onto her bike. “Can’t fucking stand being there.”

“Yeah. Sure.” KJ agrees, hopping on her bike and following behind Mac.

She’s right, it’s not too far from there. Maybe that should be a relief - she’s been biking around since 4am, after all - but there’s a part of her that loves to ride around with Mac. It’s always a playful competition of who can go the fastest, and when Mac wins, she always gets this cocky look and sticks her tongue out at KJ. Sometimes KJ lets Mac win because of how damn cute she is.

They decide to sit up on top of the jungle gym. It’s still super dark out, the stars shining above them. Mac’s looking up at them as she takes a drag of her cigarette. One of the many things KJ has noticed about Mac in the years that they’ve been friends is that she loves to look at the sky - it’s something cute that KJ would never dare mention out loud. Not only would it be weird to admit she notices so many mundane details about Mac, but she knows Mac would instantly become defensive and claim that she doesn’t. She doesn’t like to admit that she likes anything soft like that.

“How are things going at home?” KJ asks, half wanting to start a conversation and half being genuinely concerned for Mac, her comment about not wanting to go home still ringing in KJ’s ear. She’s always trying to avoid being home, whether she be staying after school or spending time at KJ, Erin, or Tiffany’s house. It’s mostly KJ’s, though - they are best friends, after all.

“Shitty as usual,” Mac grumbles. “You wouldn’t get it. You have parents who actually care about you.”

“I’m sorry, Mac.” KJ says, softly.

Mac shakes her head. “It’s not your fault.”

“I wish I could do something.”

“No one can do anything . Nothing’s gonna stop my parents or my brother from being shitty to me. I just gotta wait til I can move out.” She says, her voice breaking a bit. It sounds like she’s about to cry. “Alice doesn’t give a shit, either. She’s passed out half the fucking time.”

“You’re always welcome to stay with me, Mac. If things get really bad.”

“Your parents hate me,” Mac grumbles.

“They don’t hate you!” KJ counters. “They just hate that you smoke in the house.”

“Hey! I can’t help it.” Mac shouts, raising her hands up in the air. “It calms me down. I don’t care if you have a problem with it.”

“I don’t have a problem with it.” KJ tells her.

“That makes one person.” Mac groans, pulling her knees up to her chest. “I feel like everything I fucking do is criticized by every fucking person around me. Like, I can’t breathe around my dad without him yelling at me! And my brother won’t stop calling me a dyke —“ she stops, looking at KJ like she’s expecting her to be mad, “— no offense.”

“None taken.” It’s the truth. KJ’s gotten used to it by now, used to having a word thrown at her like it’s the only thing that defines her. “Why… why would he call you that?”

“I don’t know. Because I don’t like any boys right now, I guess,” Mac shrugs. She still sounds upset. “Not my fault all the boys at my school are disgusting perverts who just wanna see me naked.”

The thought of any boy getting to see Mac like that made KJ’s insides churn. She doesn’t voice how uncomfortable that makes her, of course. Mac would just snap at her that she’s no better than those gross boys. “I get it. A lot of boys are disgusting. Sometimes, like, I’m glad I’m a lesbian so I don’t have to deal with them.”

“Yeah. They are gross.”

They never really talked about KJ’s sexuality before. She’d been out to everyone for a while; Erin and Tiffany were both super accepting, but Mac seemed to ignore it. It was just a thing that they both knew was there but were too afraid to talk about. Or, maybe; they didn’t know how.

“But you’re not, right? You’re not gay?” KJ continues. Maybe she’s pushing it, and maybe Mac is going to respond by hitting her or saying something shitty, but she doesn’t. In fact, she doesn’t say anything.

Mac stays silent for a moment, turning to look KJ in the eyes. She looks back into the empty street before replying. “No. I’m not.”

She doesn’t sound like she’s telling the truth.



KJ cannot stop thinking about Mac.

It’s probably unhealthy to be so into someone, to be so enamored with someone that they consume almost all of your thoughts.

Even now, in Tiffany’s room, studying for a test — although they don’t go to the same school, they’re both taking the same class — KJ can’t get her mind off Mac and how good she looked this morning along with her odd behavior.

“KJ, do you have any idea what question 4 is talking about? I can’t find it anywhere in my notes.” Tiffany asks, not looking up from her work.

KJ’s mind is definitely not where it should be. Looking at the question, her mind draws a blank and she doesn’t even bother to look in her notes. “I think I have a crush on Mac,” she blurts, not one hundred percent thinking about what she’s saying, but it’s too late now.

Tiffany looked up from her history book, furrowing her eyebrows. “Wait, what?”

KJ sits up and takes a deep breath. There’s no going back now. “I said, I think I have a cru—“

“I heard what you said,” Tiffany cuts her off. “Just - Mac ? Homophobic Mackenzie Coyle?”

“I know,” KJ groans, falling back onto the bed and covering her face with her arm. “I’m so stupid, Tiff.”

She shakes her head. “You’re not stupid. You just… don’t have good taste in crushes.”

KJ sits up and throws her pillow at Tiffany, smirking. “Says the girl who has a crush on the goth high school boy.”

“Oh, come on,” Tiffany groans, but she’s smiling. “He’s cute. You just don’t understand him.”

“It’s that I don’t understand men or how anyone can be attracted to them,” KJ corrects her.

“Fair point. Anyway, I really think we should focus on studying for this class—“

“Tiffanyyy,” KJ whines, “We aren’t done talking about how I have a crush on my straight best friend.”

“Kaje, I wanna help you, but… I don’t know what to tell you. Mac’s kinda sorta anti-gay and I doubt she’d have a positive reaction to her best friend coming up to her and admitting she’s in love with her.” Tiffany says.

“I know.” KJ sighs, crossing her arms. “But, like, she was acting so weird this morning.”

Tiffany raises an eyebrow. “How?”

“We actually talked about my sexuality for once. She acknowledged the fact that I’m gay without calling me a dyke, and apparently her brother has been calling her gay, too.”

“Her brother is always calling her things,” Tiffany adds in, “he’s a dick.” She mutters the last part.

KJ continues on. “But then I said ‘but you’re not, right?’ and she looked at me and hesitated for a good five seconds before saying no.”

Tiffany’s eyes widen in surprise. “She didn’t even freak out?!”

“No, she didn’t. It was… really weird.”

“Maybe she’s finally becoming more okay with the fact that you’re gay.”

“I mean, just that would be great. But I could sense in her voice that she wasn’t telling the truth when she said no.”

“So do you think Mac is gay?”

“I…” KJ thinks for a moment. Could Mac be gay after all? There was a possibility, but Mac had been so anti-gay in the past. “I don’t know.”

“Don’t some gay people act really homophobic before they come out?” Tiffany asks, almost as if she’s reading KJ’s mind.

“Yeah, sometimes.”

“Maybe Mac could be one of those people,” Tiffany says. “Maybe she’s just trying to cover it up.”

“Maybe,” KJ sighs.

“I mean, has Mac ever liked a guy?”

“No, but you can’t blame her. Have you seen the douches at her school? They all smell like shit.”

“True. Has she ever mentioned finding a celebrity attractive, though?”

KJ thinks for a moment. Her and Mac had been friends for a couple of years now, and… no, she hasn’t. She had never talked about wanting a boyfriend or anything, or was interested in the “hot” guy actors that other girls talked about, either. Even Erin, who had little interest in dating, would mention finding celebrities attractive. “No, she hasn’t.”

“That’s a big hint pointing to her not liking boys,” Tiffany says, leaning back. “You may have more of a chance than you think, Kaje.”

“You think?”

“Well, don’t go straight up to her and try to make out with her tomorrow —“

“No! I’d die!”

“Yeah, so don’t do that! Just give it time. Things will work out.”

KJ falls back onto the bed and stares up at the ceiling. “I hope so.”

“Me, too. Now,” — she throws her notebook up to KJ — “can you quiz me on the effects of the civil war?”




Mac comes over after school one afternoon, a week after that early morning in the park. She’s visibly tired and upset.

She doesn’t say much to KJ when she comes in, just a simple hey and can I stay over tonight? KJ can never say no.

She knows how awful things are at Mac’s home, and how KJ’s house is a safe haven for her. Her parents don’t mind Mac staying there, either.

Mac walks in, her hands stuffed in her jacket’s pockets. “Are your parents home?”

KJ shakes her head. “Nah. Still at work until 6:00.”

“Cool.” Mac kicks off her shoes next to KJ’s, throwing her backpack down.

“Are… are you okay?” KJ asks, her concern showing in her voice.

“Nope. Never am. Can we go to your backyard?”

“Why?”

“I need to smoke.”

The fact that Mac’s learned not to smoke inside makes KJ smile a bit, but any positive emotion is overrun with worry for her best friend and her wellbeing. “Yeah. Okay.”

KJ leads her out through the back door, Mac instantly pulling out a cigarette and lighter and sitting down in one of the lawn chairs. KJ sits down next to her, not sure what to say or do.

KJ feels like shit for looking at her best friend and thinking lesbian thoughts when she’s so clearly upset. But there’s just something so beautiful about Mac and how she blows smoke into the air, looking up into the pink afternoon sky. KJ has to keep her eyes averted. Looking is dangerous, she’s come to realize. Looking leads to staring and staring leads to her falling more infatuated with her.

“Do you want to talk about it?” KJ asks.

“What’s there to say? I hate my parents and I hate my school and everything sucks — except for you. You’re the only thing that doesn’t suck.”

KJ’s body freezes up and she hopes to god that she’s not blushing. “Is that a joke about me not liking dick?” She smirks, trying not to show how flustered that comment made her.

Mac smiles but shakes her head. She doesn’t say anything.

“But, seriously, though… I’m sorry, Mac. You deserve better.”

She just shrugs. “It’s whatever, I guess. I don’t know. My dad and brother are getting worse.”

“What are they doing?”

“Their usual shit but worse.”

“They haven’t — they haven’t been physically hurting you, have they?” KJ hopes that Mac doesn’t get pissed at her for asking so many questions. She doesn’t want to be invasive, but she’s worried.

“No, thank fucking god. They don’t beat me. It’s more of just constant reminders of how shitty I am and screaming matches.”

KJ wishes she could understand, because maybe then she could help Mac out and give some actual advice, but she doesn’t. KJ’s parents are sweet to her and they almost never raise their voices. It doesn’t feel fair that someone like Mac has to live through all the bullshit that she does,  meanwhile KJ lives a nice and happy life in a middle-upper class neighborhood with parents who were so unconditionally supportive when KJ came out, who hug her before she goes to school every day, who are always making sure she’s having a good day. It’s not fair.

“He’s hit Alice before, though.” Mac continues, albeit a bit quieter. “Alice tells me I’m no better than him.”

“You’re not like him.” KJ is quick to interject.

“I’ll never be like him,” Mac mutters, seeming to not have heard what KJ said. It sounds like she’s trying to convince herself.

KJ wants to tell Mac all the reasons that she’s not like her dad - that she’s sweet and funny and pretty, that her dad will never be as fucking lovable as she is, that she’s smart and she’s got an actual future unlike him, who’s a 9th grade dropout.

But she knows she can’t. She doesn’t want to make things awkward and risk this rare moment of Mac showing her vulnerability. “You won’t be,” KJ says, softly.

Mac looks at her and smiles.

 

 

The evening goes by fast.

KJ’s parents get home soon after they go inside, happy as always to see Mac and eager to make dinner and provide a safe space for her. KJ’s mother almost sees Mac as a second daughter (Maybe she’s just happy that KJ has a close friend — when KJ initially came out, her parents were worried she’d be bullied by kids her age and would have a hard time making friends).

Mac flops down on KJ’s bed, wearing a pair of KJ’s pajamas that she borrowed. “I’m so exhausted,” she groans. “I can't fucking remember the last time I got a good night's sleep.”

“You can go to sleep, if you want to.” KJ tells her as she takes her ponytail out. It’s only 8 o’clock which is far earlier than she usually goes to sleep. Most nights, she’s hunched over her desk studying for some test or doing the piles of homework that her teachers assign her.

“You gonna stay up and do homework, nerd?”

KJ shakes her head. She would be worried about getting her homework done tonight, but it’s Friday and right now there’s something (or someone) in her room that’s more important to her than school could ever be. “No. Not tonight.”

“Don’t let your grades slip or your fancy private school’s gonna kick you out and you’ll have to go to school with me.”

“Ha. Your school can’t be that bad.” KJ knows that yes, her school is that bad, but the idea of going to the same school as Mac sounds… really nice, actually. Maybe then they both wouldn’t be as lonely.

“You have no idea.” Mac sighs, sitting up so her back is pressed against the bed’s headboard. KJ sits next to her, the sleeves of their shirts touching ever so slightly. Mac turns her head to face KJ. “Hey.”

“Hey?”

“You look good with your hair down. You should wear it like this more often.” Mac says, reaching out a hand and slightly running her fingers down KJ’s hair.

Maybe it’s the comment, or maybe it’s the gentle hair-touching, but KJ feels like she might explode right then. “Thanks,” she says, not sure how she’s managing to keep her cool. “I don’t know. It’s easier to keep it up, though. I don’t like getting hair in my face all the time.”

Mac shrugs. “I get it. Sometimes I wanna cut my hair even shorter.”

“Like a pixie cut?”

Mac nods.

“That’d look… really good.”

“You’re not just saying that?”

“No! No. You’d actually look —“ KJ has to stop herself from saying you’d look really hot because that’s not exactly the thing that purely platonic friends say to each other, “— really badass.”

Mac gives that smile that KJ has recognized to be a distinctly Mac smile that makes her want to lean in and kiss her so badly. “My dad would rip me apart for it, though. So would my brother. They’d have another reason to call me a dyke.”

“Oh.” KJ tenses up.

“Sorry.” Mac mutters under her breath, pulling her knees up to her chest.

“Why are you apologizing?”

“Dunno.”

“You don’t have anything to be sorry for, Mac. I don’t mind you saying dyke, if that’s what you’re apologizing for —“

“It’s not that. I… I don’t fucking know. Forget about it. I need sleep.” Mac grabs the bed sheets and pulls them up to cover herself. “Can you get the light?”

“Okay,” KJ stands up, walking over to the light. “You can talk to me about anything, Mac.” She adds, flipping the switch.

“Thanks, Kaje.”

“D’you want me to sleep on the floor?” KJ asks, realizing that Mac is already comfortable. They didn’t really share beds — not ever since KJ came out, at least.

“If you want. I don’t care.”

“I don’t really want to.” KJ hopes that comes across as I don’t want to sleep on the wooden floor rather than I want to sleep next to you, even if both are true.

“Then get in here.”

KJ can hear her heart pumping as she climbs into bed next to Mac. Mac’s usually opposed to sharing a bed with KJ. She’d call her a perv and accuse KJ of just wanting to get in her pants — which, okay, that last part may be true now, but it wasn’t always. And it’s not like KJ would ever have the bravery to make a move on Mac unless she was explicitly sure that they both wanted the same thing.

Mac turns over so they’re both facing each other, her green eyes piercing into KJ. Their faces are only a few inches apart, and KJ can feel Mac’s breath on her.

It feels like they’re about to kiss. Every part of KJ’s mind is telling her to lean forward and kiss her, dumbass. Maybe she would if she were brave — but KJ usually is brave. Not a lot scares her, truthfully. She can watch horror movies without flinching and wouldn’t be opposed to trying things that most people deem as horrifying.

Kissing another girl, though… that’s different. That’s a whole new realm of terrifying. Even more so than coming out in the first place. Maybe it’s because of how different it is to like a girl than a boy, and not in the aspect that she could be killed in other countries for liking girls. It’s that with boys, it’s obvious when the feeling is mutual. But with girls, it’s so hard to decipher platonic love from romantic. When does a friend calling you beautiful and saying she loves you stop being friendly and start being flirty? KJ isn’t sure. Maybe she’ll find out someday, but for right now, she’s left in her confusion.

Still looking at KJ, Mac opens her mouth to say something, but quickly closes it.

“What’s up?” KJ asks, not wanting Mac to feel like she needs to censor her thoughts.

She takes a deep breath. “I’m cold. Can I — you know what, nevermind.”

“What? Do you need another blanket?” KJ asks, raising an eyebrow.

“No. Not that.”

“Then what is it?” KJ asks, chuckling.

“Fuck. Okay. I’m gonna ask this,” Mac says under her breath, like she’s talking to herself. “Can you, uh… hold me?”

KJ can not be hearing that right. “You want me to —“

“Don’t make a big deal about it, dweeb.” Mac sighs, rolling over and schooching her back closer to KJ.

“I’m not,” and that’s a total lie because she genuinely feels like she may have a heart attack if Mac gets any closer.

“Good. Then… can you just…”

KJ slowly wraps her arm around Mac, holding onto her stomach and pressing their bodies together. Mac wasn’t lying - she is cold, but KJ doesn’t mind. Even if Mac was actually frozen, KJ wouldn’t stop holding her.

Mac’s hair tickles her lips, and it takes all of KJ’s power not to lean forward and press her lips against the back of her head. Her hair smells nice, too.

“This good?” KJ asks, practically whispering into Mac’s ear.

“Yeah,” Mac responds, her voice quiet. “Don’t… don’t tell anyone about this, okay?”

KJ wants to ask why, even if she already knows the answer. Maybe she just wants confirmation that her mind isn’t making this into something it’s not, but she’s not willing to risk this moment for anything. “Of course not.”

“Thanks. Goodnight, Kaje.”

“Night, Mac.”

It’s in that moment that KJ realizes how utterly fucked she is. She loves this girl. She’s in love with this girl, and that horrifies her.

 

They don’t talk about that night afterwards at all.

It’s not awkward between them, though, to KJ’s relief. They still get on as usual and they’re still them, but something has changed — or maybe KJ’s just more aware of things she wouldn’t have thought twice about before.

Like now. They’re at KJ’s house again, watching a movie that KJ isn’t even sure the name of — she’s never been a big fan of movies — and Mac seems to be adamant on being as close to KJ as possible at all times. Their sides are nearly pressed together. They could be sat anywhere in the couch, but they’re barely an inch apart. That’s gotta mean something, KJ thinks.

Her parents aren’t home, so they’re in the living room, sharing a bag of chips and sodas. Mac’s paying a lot more attention to the movie than KJ is, though.

It’s some scary movie. Mac seems to love them, but KJ doesn’t really see the appeal, as they rarely scare her — it’s just obviously fake blood and characters screaming, and what’s the point of a horror movie if it’s not going to be scary? Plus, there’s some forced romance and sex scenes (thank god KJ’s parents aren’t home) which KJ hates just as much as the blood and gore. Both are pointless.

But having to sit through a two minute long makeout scene with Mac so close to her… does things to KJ. Even if it’s a man and a woman and the shirtless dude kinda grosses KJ out, it’s still in the same nature of what she really wishes she could be doing with the girl next to her. With those thoughts, though, comes the guilt of thinking of her best friend like that. Her straight best friend. Or, her probably straight best friend.

“Ugh,” Mac groans, holding a pillow to her chest. “Why do they have to have hour long scenes like this? It’s fucking gross.”

“I know, right?” KJ agrees. “I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks it’s disgusting. The romance between them is so forced, anyway.”

“Well, of course you don’t like it. I doubt any lesbian would like to see straight people fuck.”

But you don’t like it either, KJ wants to say. Instead she just responds with a simple “Yeah.”

“The movie’s shit anyways.” Mac leans forward and grabs the TV remote off of the coffee table, hitting the off button. Leaning back, she turns to look at KJ. “Hey. Can I ask you something?”

“Uh, yeah. Sure.”

“Do they even make movies with lesbians in them?” Mac asks.

KJ is taken slightly taken aback. “Well, I mean… I don’t think there are. None I’ve heard about, anyway.” Braving herself for the answer, KJ adds in, “Why… why do you ask?”

“Just wondering.” Mac shrugs.

“Are you like…” No. She can’t ask Mac if she’s gay again. “... finally becoming okay with the fact that I’m gay?” That seems like a much safer question to ask.

“I was always okay with it, dumbass.”

“You were?” KJ asks, puzzled. “Then what was with you calling me a dyke or a lesbo or whatever for, like, an entire year after I came out?”

“I didn’t know what to do.”

“Well, it hurt, you know. It’s fine now, but…” KJ’s voice trails off. She doesn’t want to start a fight or even get into an argument.

“I was scared, okay?!” Mac says with a sudden hostility in her voice. As soon as the words leave her mouth, there’s a look of regret on her face.

KJ’s eyes narrow. “Scared of what , Mac?”

Mac throws her hands in the air. “I don’t fucking know! I was just scared.”

“Of me hitting on you?” KJ questions. The hurt in her voice is painfully clear.

Mac’s face falls. “No. Not of that.”

“Were you scared I was gonna turn you gay? ‘Cause, newsflash, my sexuality isn't contagious —“

“I was scared because I fucking like you, KJ!”

It feels like the whole world has gone silent. KJ just stares at Mac, her eyes blown wide and heart beating out of her chest. Mac… Mac liked her too? No. She couldn’t of said that. Could she of?

“Shit,” Mac mutters, moving back away from KJ. “I… I didn’t mean that.”

KJ jumps forward and grabs Mac’s hand, preventing her from moving any farther away. “Fuck, Mac. I — I like you too,” She says, not even thinking about the words that are coming out of her mouth.

Mac’s eyes grow wide and it’s at this point that KJ realizes the position she’s in with her. She’s… practically on top of Mac, one knee on each side of Mac’s thighs. Her head, though, is propped up pby the arm of the couch, leveling their faces and making it so damn tempting to just kiss her — until she hears a car pulling into the driveway.

KJ gets off of Mac almost as quickly as she got on her. “Shit. It’s my parents.”

“Hopefully they won’t notice how red your face is. You look like a goddamn tomato.” Mac teases. Leave it to Mac to make dumb slightly-insulting-but-not-really jokes less than a minute after she confesses to having a crush on someone. She’s probably right, though. KJ can feel the burning on her cheeks.

“Hey, you’re red too, idiot.” KJ says back, playfulling elbowing her.

“Am not. It’s just… the lighting.”

KJ rolls her eyes. “Sure it is.”

She’s not sure why it’s so easy for them to slip back into their normal, playfully mean banter right after such a big moment, but she’s glad they can.

There was a part of her that worried that by saying I like you too that she’d jeopardize their entire friendship and make it awkward, but now she realizes how ridiculous that idea was. They’re still them. They’re always going to be them, always going to be best friends who are kind of assholes to each other but deep down love (platonically or romantically) each other more than anything else.

Mac opens her mouth like she’s about to say something, but she’s interrupted by the front door opening and KJ’s parents walking in the other room.

“Are you… are you still gonna stay the night?” KJ whispers quickly.

“You want me to?” Mac raises an eyebrow.

KJ nods.

“Then fuck yeah I am. Now come on, it’s time to go bother your parents and ask them to make us dinner.”

 

 

KJ’s dad brought home pizza for them, which Mac was thrilled about. KJ’s just happy to have Mac there. It feels so natural to have her sat with her and her parents and eating dinner together, like Mac’s a part of their family.

KJ’s parents have always loved Mac, and KJ thinks that Mac loves them, too. They care about her more and are kinder to her than her own parents.

KJ’s trying to do her best to engage in the conversation without making eye contact with Mac. She’s doing everything she can to make sure her mind is not completely overtaken by thoughts of Mac and how her breath felt against her skin and the fact that they like each other, not to mention what’s going to happen when they finish dinner and go up to KJ’s room alone. Just the thought of all of the possibilities makes KJ shiver.

She usually loves to eat dinner with her parents, but right now, she’s waiting not-so-patiently for it to be over so she can run up to her room with Mac.

When they finally finish eating, KJ is quick to excuse herself and Mac up to her bedroom. Her mother warns them not to stay up too late, but lets them leave. KJ knows she’s being suspicious, but that’s something she’ll have to deal with later. Right now, she just wants to focus on the main issue at hand.

The two head up the stairs, KJ quick to shut the door behind them. She turns to Mac, who’s already sat on her bed and running her fingers through her hair nervously.

KJ takes a deep breath. “You — you weren’t just saying that? Like, you actually like me?” she asks, breaking the silence and stepping closer to Mac.

Mac is still avoiding eye contact with KJ, looking everywhere but at her. “Why would I say that if I didn’t mean it? I swear, Kaje.”

KJ raises her hands defensively. “I don’t know! I just… really didn’t think you felt the same way.”

Finally, she looks at KJ, sighing. “Well, I do.”

KJ sits down next to her, a good two inches between them. Somehow, it was easier to be physically close before tonight. Now it seems scarier. “So, are you like… gay, too?”

“I think?” Mac answers, her voice pained. “I don’t fucking know. The only thing I know is that I like you, and it’s…”

“Terrifying,” KJ finishes for her.

“Yeah.”

“It is for me, too.”

“But you’ve got parents who accept you and you’re actually confident about your sexuality,” Mac points out.

KJ shrugs. “I guess. I think it just got to a point where I couldn’t ignore it anymore.”

“I forced myself to ignore it,” Mac confesses, frowning. “When — when we first met… I really liked you, and I wanted to like — but everyone around me told me that liking other girls was wrong and bad and so I just pushed it down. Then you came out and I — I didn’t know what the fuck to do.” She’s stumbling over her words, obviously flustered.

“So you just… lashed out?”

Mac nods.

“I guess Tiffany was right,” KJ says under her breath.

Mac looks confused. “Wait, what?”

“Oh, I, uh, kinda told Tiffany that I liked you and she said that she thought you were so shitty to me to hide the fact that you were gay.”

Mac smirks, inching closer to KJ. “Then, yeah.  Tiffany was right.”

KJ, trying her best to be bold, slips her hand into Mac’s, intertwining their fingers. “Are you — you’re okay with this?” She asks, hoping she isn’t pushing it.

Mac nods. “Yeah. It’s a lot, but, yeah.”

“We don’t have to like, start dating or whatever if you’re not ready for that.”

“I... don’t think I’m ready.”

It hurts a bit. KJ wants to be able to call Mac her girlfriend so badly, but truthfully, she cares about Mac and her happiness above all else. As long as Mac’s comfortable, KJ’s comfortable. “That’s okay, Mac. We can take things slowly.”

“But…” Mac starts, looking away for a moment and taking a breath before continuing, “...I really like you.” She says it with so much sincerity that it hurts KJ’s heart a bit, but in a good way.

“I really like you, too.”

“But… I’m scared . Like, what’s gonna happen? What if other people find out? What if my family finds out?”

KJ shakes her head. “No one needs to know, Mac. This can just be our thing.” There’s something reassuring in Mac’s nervousness — it matches how KJ feels, like they’re both on the same page. They’re both caught up in a mess of feelings and teenage crushes while juggling both internal and external homophobia, Mac’s shitty home life, and just the general fear and uncertainty that comes along with being a girl who likes another girl.

“You promise?”

“I promise,” KJ assures her, squeezing her hand and letting Mac’s head fall on her shoulder. It’s so comforting and intimate in the most innocent way.

“KJ,” Mac breathes, looking at KJ more lovingly than she’s ever looked at anything before, “Can I kiss you?”

Fuck. KJ’s heart is pounding ten times faster than it should be. “Of — of course you can. But, I’m gonna be shit at it. I’ve… never really kissed anyone before.”

“I haven’t, either… but I really want to kiss you.”

“I want to, too. You have no idea how much I do.”

And with that Mac leans forward, slowly pressing their lips together. Neither of them have any idea what they’re doing and KJ’s well aware that she’s probably awful at it, but it’s really fucking nice. She can taste Mac’s chapstick and puts her hand on her arm, and Mac does the same.

Slowly, KJ moves her hand up to brush through Mac’s hair and rests her thumb on her cheek. Her skin is soft and her hair feels like silk. It’s all so perfect. Mac is so perfect.

She doesn’t want to pull away. She doesn’t want this to end — not now, not ever . Kissing Mac is everything she dreamed it would be.

If she ever had any doubts in her mind about her sexuality, they’re gone now. This is, undoubtedly, a part of her. She likes girls, she likes kissing girls, she likes touching girls. This girl in particular.

When they do break apart, KJ wants desperately to wrap her arms tight around Mac and kiss her again, but she also wants to just look at Mac.

She’s allowed to look and stare at Mac and admire every detail of her face — the freckles on her nose, the red blush on her cheeks, the way she’s looking at KJ. “Wow,” KJ eventually says, not even sure herself if she’s referring to the kiss or Mac’s appearance. Maybe it’s a bit of both.

“That was… really good,” Mac agrees, not being able to take her eyes of KJ. It’s a stark comparison to how she was practically avoiding any sort of eye contact earlier. “Can we do it again?”

KJ nods frantically.

This time it’s a bit easier. KJ is more prepared for the rush of emotions, how it feels to have Mac’s mouth on hers, and how painful it is when they break apart. It’s apparently painful for Mac, too, because as soon as KJ pulls away, Mac surges forward and presses their mouths together again, this time a bit more forceful. The anxiety is disappearing and is replaced by a deep want for each other.

It’s a messy kiss. Mac misses KJ’s lips at first and presses hers against the side of her mouth, their noses bump together a few times, and KJ really isn’t sure if it’s appropriate to use her tongue or not. Would Mac want that? She’s not sure, but there’s a lot of things she isn’t sure about. She’s going to have to figure them out eventually — her and Mac will —- but for right now, she doesn’t want to think about the future or what’s going to happen to them. She just wants this.

After what seems like a lifetime, Mac pulls away from the kiss and takes her turn to stare at KJ. She looks so lovestruck. “I’m a lesbian,” she blurts, and KJ can’t help but laugh.

“That’s one way to come out.”

“You can’t blame me. I just kissed the hottest fucking girl I’ve ever met.”

“You think I’m hot?”

Mac averts her eyes and her blush deepens. “Uh. Yeah. I mean — yeah.”

KJ’s blushing too. “I… You’re not so terrible looking yourself.”

Mac playfully kicks KJ, smiling. “But, like… that’s not the only reason I wanna kiss you and stuff.”

KJ raises an eyebrow. “What are the other reasons?”

“It’s cheesy.”

“I like cheesy.”

“No you don’t. Whenever there’s a romance in a movie, you spend the entire time complaining about the cheesiness.”

“Well, that’s because it’s always straight couples.”

Mac rolls her eyes. “So cheesiness is okay if it’s gay?”

KJ laughs and nods. “Yeah, so go ahead and be cheesy.”

Mac takes a deep breath and closes her eyes. “Okay. I think you’re really smart and pretty. You’re always nice to me. Even when you’re calling me a dumbass or calling me out for some stupid shit that I do, I know it’s never meant to be mean. You — you actually give a fuck about me. You listen to me complain about all the bullshit in my life and being around you makes me happy. Also you’ve got really pretty eyes and I love your hair and I really love kissing you.” Mac looks KJ directly in the eyes. “That dumb enough for you?”

KJ feels like she might cry and does everything in her power not to break down into tears — the girl she’s had a crush on for months and presumed she was one-hundred percent straight just confessed to her. Heart beating fast, she moves forward and kisses Mac. It’s more softly this time, and only for a few seconds before moving back. “Mac… you should’ve told me that sooner. I feel the same way.”

“I didn’t know how,” Mac shrugs. “I don’t think that I really even know how now.

“I don’t know how either, but… we can figure it out,” KJ leans forward and presses her forehead to Mac’s, “Together.”

“I’ve never — I don’t think I’ve ever liked someone like I like you before.”

KJ grins. “Me neither, but I know that I like you and I want this,” she gestures to the both of them, “more than anything.”

“I want this, too.”

“Even if we’re dumb and we don’t know anything and we live in a society that hates people like us — it’s going to be hard no matter what, I think.”

“And because of my parents,” Mac says softly. It’s more of a statement than a question.

“Yeah,” KJ agrees. “Again, we don’t — we don’t have to become girlfriends right now. I don’t think we need a label or anything. We can just be us .”

“Yeah. Okay,” Mac nods. “That sounds… good.” She slips her hand into KJ’s again, and presses a soft kiss to her cheek. It’s so gentle and loving in a way that she would have never expected from Mac before tonight.

It’s a reminder of everything that is good. It’s going to be hard for them — KJ knows that. They’re going to have to figure out how to manage homophobic parents and assholes at school and a world that wants them dead, and it’s going to hurt like hell sometimes and it’s going to be scary, but KJ isn’t worried. She’s not going to let anyone take this from her, ever. She loves Mac too much for that to happen.