How To Be Straight

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Leader

“Explanation. Now.” I said, sitting down next to my mother on the couch in our living room.

She laughed softly. “Let’s go for a walk.”

And so I shrugged, pulled on my coat, shoved my feet into a worn pair of boots, and walked outside with my mother.

“Explanation,” I repeated. “Now.”

“Okay, okay. I dated two girls in college.”

I gaped at her. I mean, I had expected this, based on what she had said yesterday, but I had never… I tried to imagine her- the her from the pictures- with a woman.

“One of them,” she continued, “cheated on me.” She took a sharp intake of breath, shuddering slightly, and it occurred to me that she had pushed their relationship down into the bottom of her chest, so she wouldn’t have to think about it, and now that she was bringing it back up, the wound was still as fresh as if it had just happened. “She was using me,” she said quietly, “to get back with her ex, who had dumped her.”

“And the other?” I prompted.

“She-” She hesitated and we walked in silence for about a minute. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

I decided not to press. “Does dad know?”

She laughed. “What do you think?”

“Okay good point, but…” I had so many questions, I knew I did, but they were swirling around my brain in such a matter that it sort of felt like I didn’t have any. “But… but what about that day?”

“What day?”

“When I was ten. And I said I wanted to marry Emily. And you freaked out.”

She laughed. She was laughing a lot for someone who was just confessing a deep secret. “You’re not the only chameleon in our family you know.”


“So that happened… how was you guys’s weekend?”

I was sitting at my usual table with the rest of Gracie’s friends, (It still felt like a stretch to call them my friends), chatting about how we can get more people to join our rebellion, but we had gotten sidetracked when I mentioned Baltimore and had ended up describing my entire weekend.

Dakota, who had been sitting in silence for a few minutes, suddenly spoke up. “Why don’t we leave a letter in the locker of every gay kid or ally in our school, explain our idea, and tell them to meet us behind the school tomorrow afternoon, or text us if they can’t but still are interested.”

“And threaten them if they tell anybody,” I added for good measure.

“That’s a great idea Dakota, and I’m going to choose not to comment, Jamie,” Gracie said excitedly.

“I meant like threaten to out them or something like that. Not kill them or anything,” I laughed.

“I’m not outing anybody,” said Abbey stubbornly.

“We won’t actually do it, we’ll just threaten them.”

“So what needs to get done to make this work?” Asked Sofie, breaking the tension between me and Abbey.

Everyone turned to look at me. After a minute, I realized they wanted me to tell them. I took a breath. “Dakota, Cecilia and Sofie.” I began, looking at the three of them, “you guys write a draft of the letter. Has to be quick, but persuasive, but don’t let it sound like we’re pressuring them. Gracie, Abbey, and Cecilia, I need you to make a list of every gay kid in this grade. In this school, actually. Don’t leave anything out for personal reasons. Everyone.”

“And where do you fit in Ms. Queen Of The Universe?” Abbey asked, glaring at me, even though I would’ve been happier anyway not being their leader.

“I’ll figure how much money we’re going to need and I’ll get it,” I said like it was the most obvious thing in the world, because Abbey had never liked me, and I refused to let her make me a fool.

Abbey rolled her eyes. “Of course you are,” she muttered.

I felt the need to defend myself. “Well I wouldn’t know where to start in figuring out who was gay and who wasn’t, and English is my worst subject so I’m not going to be any help in persuading people. Like it or not, we’re gonna need money, and I can get us money.”

The others nodded in agreement, with Gracie muttering something about my worst subject still being an 85, (It was a ninety), and so it was settled, and we left lunch that day with our different assignments.


That night I made a countdown. There were exactly 126 days left in the school year. 126 days wasn’t many, not in the span of the 6300 some days I’d been alive. 126 days until I could go to some school on the east coast- I had applied to several- and forget this whole mess. But… I wasn’t quite sure if I still wanted to leave. What if I didn’t want to forget this whole mess. What if I…

I shook my head. I had made it so far. I had made it so far only to lose my secret a few months from college.

From my ticket out of New Redmen, Ohio. But…

I shut my eyes, pinching the bridge of my nose between my thumb and forefinger. It may not solve the problem but it might make the pain go away. A little.

Gracie.

It was her. If she had never showed up, everything would be like it had been for multiple years. But was that good?

I went to the kitchen to get a glass of water. Maybe that would ease the headache.

I returned to my room hydrated, but not any more comfortable than I had been. Headaches I could deal with anyways. I had work to do. I had a budget to create. I opened my laptop, and searched up the prices of various temporary hair dyes for 45 minutes or so until I had nailed down the cheapest one within a 25 mile radius. Research had always been a forte of mine. I then moved on to figuring out how we were going to get that money. I had some in my bank account, birthdays and Christmases from rich grandparents mostly. That would cover almost all of it. If we got enough people, then we would only need to get a few of them to each donate like, three dollars and that would be the rest. But . Still, never underestimate the connections of a cute enby who’s lived here long enough to earn a few favors.

My mom entered my room. “Jamie, when was the last time you slept more than 3 hour in a row?”

I shrugged, not looking up from the document I was working on. “Sleep is for the weak.”

“Sleep is for the functional.”

I glanced at her. “If I slept would my head stop hurting?”

“I wouldn’t be surprised.”

I nodded, and lay back down on my bed. “Okay. Goodnight.”

She picked my still open laptop (I had never actually intended to sleep) up and started to walk away.

“Wait!” I called. “That’s mine!”

“Jamie. Sleep.”

I rolled onto my back. “I hate you,” I muttered at the ceiling, but there wasn’t any heart in it.

“Goodnight. Sleep tight. Don’t let the screen bugs bite. Oh wait, you are one.” She kissed my head and closed the door behind her, my laptop under her arm.

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