The harbor, the aquarium, and the Mexican restaurant
I was cooking breakfast when Sara and Lisa came down around eight. Their small kitchen smelled like blueberry pancakes, which was the only thing I knew how to make. They smiled sleepily when they walked in, and said something about it smelling great, and made themselves coffee, and then I offered them plates, and tried to stay out of the way while they got ready for work and left. Lisa asked me if I’d be fine on my own, and told me that it would be better if I stayed in the house, because I wasn’t used to the city, and it was dangerous, and I nodded, and we agreed to talk when she got home. At nine they left, and I waited a full three and a half minutes before leaving the house, leaving behind a note that I was restless and had to stretch my legs in case they came home. I would be fine.
I left the house, marking it on an app on my phone that would help me find it again if I got lost, which was likely. I headed toward the harbor, walking along the water on a little ledge like I was a child. I walked along, poking into random thrift stores, restaurants, anything that caught my eye. I walked for miles, thinking that when I was an adult, I might want to live here. Having so much water nearby was so nice, and it was just the right temperature, cold, but not freezing, definitely better than New Redmen. I was contemplating what I wanted for lunch when a text came in from Shay.
Shay: Half hour out. Where do you want to meet?
Let’s meet at the aquarium, I replied. Which car are you in?
Getting her answer, I took 20 minutes finding my way to the famous aquarium, staring up at it, and then sitting there waiting for her for another five minutes before she drove up. I waved, and the car stopped. She stepped out, blonde hair waxing in the sun. Wearing these dark sunglasses, she looked kind of out of place here, and if I didn’t know better, I would say she was from California. A ditsy little blonde. Luckily, I knew better. I took a breath, and walked up to her. “Hey.”
“I can’t believe you drove all of the way up here for me.”
“Of course. I’d do anything for you.”
“Shay, I’m sorry.”
“Me too. I was so scared of…”
We stood in awkward silence for a minute. “Wanna get lunch?” She asked.
“Where do you want to go?”
“I have no idea. I haven’t been here since I was like nine.”
“Okay. Hold on.” She pulled out her phone and spoke into it. “Find me a good italian restura-”
I shook my head. I still had bad memories of italian food.
She deleted that and spoke again. “-a good mexican restaurant near me.” She looked to me for conformation and I nodded.
Her phone directed her somewhere, and we walked there, it was about a mile, chatting like… well, like old friends. Which we were.
It began to snow, which I guess it was cold enough for, but it was only a light flurry. We walked together, chatting about this and that, and entered the restaurant, ordering our food. We sat in silence for a second before she asked, “So you need a favor?”
For a second I had no idea what she was talking about, but then I remembered. The boycott union thing. We really need a name for it.
“Okay so you know that, uh, that girl Olive?”
“Mhm. She sits with you, right?”
“Yeah. Well, they’re actually not a she. They’re nonbianary, and their name is Dakota now.”
“Okay. Should you be outing them like that?”
“I think they’re just out to everyone. They were wearing one of those pins.”
“So all the teachers were ignoring it. Except Ms. Cryann.”
“So we were all joking around,” I noticed that her face looked sad for a second at the mention of we. “And we started talking about, like, boycotting school, forming a union, I know. It’s weird. But then we realized, why not. Like, why shouldn’t we do something about this. They can’t just not call Dakota by their pronouns. It’s not fair and I don’t want to have to tolerate it.”
“So where do I come in?”
“You have pull.”
“You can convince other people to help.”
“You can help us. Without you, we have no case. We have no people. We have no way of convincing them. If less than like, half the grade minimum joins, no one will listen.” My phone buzzed and I declined a call from my mom for the 47th time that day.
“Jamie, I can’t.”
“You have to. It’s the right thing to do. You know that. Shay, you can’t-”
“Jamie, it’s different for you. Your parents will come around. Or forgive you. Or create a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ situation. Mine will disown me. I won’t have a life anymore, Jamie. I can’t, Jamie. I can’t, Jamie.”
“Not that I’m counting or anything, but that’s the fourth time you said my name in thirty seconds.”
“It was the fifth,” she whispered.
“What if I promised that no one would find out. What if we just… I don’t know. You have to, Shay. You have to.”
She sighed. “Anyone who’s unsure, bring them to me, and I’ll tell them to do it, and if they rat on me, I’ll tell some secret of theirs.”
“What if you don’t have a secret?”
She chuckled. “I think you’re forgetting who I am.”