“There’s a lot of people,” I whispered to Gracie.
“Go on,” she whispered back. “They’re waiting.”
“It was your idea.”
I felt this wasn’t fair, but this was no time for an argument. There were 70 odd people gathered in the woods behind the school, waiting for someone to tell them what was going on.
I stepped up to stand in front of them, scared out of my mind, but not showing it. I had been acting for seven years. That wasn’t stopping now that I didn’t have to hide- I didn’t have to hide. I still couldn’t believe it, but now I needed to be in the moment. In the movement.
I didn’t stand up on a rock or anything, because I still didn’t feel like a leader, and I still didn’t want to feel like a leader, too much to deal with, too much responsibility. I took a breath and spoke as loud as I could still sound dignified. “Hi. Um, so some of you, actually, probably all of you in a town this small, know me, my, uh, name is Jamie Brookes. And, um, I’m-” I was going to say gay, ‘I’m gay’, but in the moment, I hesitated for half a second. The thing about coming out, to any amount of people, is that, even if you know you will be accepted, until the last moment, you know that you can take it back. And you know that you don’t have to, which makes it so much scarier. I would imagine it would be like asking for your girlfriend’s parent’s blessing of your marriage, or, better yet, like asking out someone you really like, and thinking they like you back, but not being quite sure. And you know that you don’t have to, but you want to more than you don’t. But sometimes, you don’t anyway. “A- senior,” I continued. “I go to the high school here. Obviously. Okay, sorry, getting to the point. This is my friend Dakota.” I glanced at them for permission to talk about their struggle, and they nodded. “They came out as nonbianary last week, but all of the teachers were ignoring it and misgendering them. Which isn’t fair. So we thought we wanted to do something to get back at them.” I thought it was a so-so speech so far. “So we thought of these ideas for a spirit week type thing, completely student organized, and completely within the school rule book, to show them that we’re here, we’re real, and this is not a phase. So um, yeah. But we need you. We need people to help us. We want to make New Redmen Public High the best it can be, and to do that we need people. We need lots of people. So I ask for each and every one of you to join or revolution. To make our school a better place.” I was dying on the inside. It was a terrible speech.
For the count of five there was silence, and I wondered if I had said any of that out loud. Then there was applause. Even Abbey gave a slow clap. I looked around, and smiled. Had I done it? Had I convinced them? Gracie gave me a thumbs up, and I walked back to my (were they mine? It seemed like they were) friends. Gracie hugged me, and I turned around, watching the people who I had somehow convinced with my misshapen half-speech.
Gracie walked up next and began describing our plan for the following week, and how we needed more money for the hair dye, and how this needed to be an absolute secret and- I stopped listening. I just sat down against a tree and- even if it wasn’t the most politically smart move, took out my book and began to read.
I had only been reading about a minute, when Abbey kicked me to make me stand. “What?” I hissed.
“People are staring at you. You’ve gotta look like you care what Gracie’s saying.”
“I do care.”
“If you cared you would be willing to live in this universe instead of some fictional one! Sheesh!”
I rolled my eyes and hugged my book protectively to my chest. I didn’t bother to try and describe my book, so instead I settled on glaring at Abbey.
Gracie was on to talking about Thursday- Past Phases day, and how they needed to be school appropriate and this and that. I was bored, but not exactly because it was boring. She had a way of just getting to the point with these things. It was more that I was bored because I was stuck between worlds, so half of me was still inside of my book even though I wasn’t reading. I zoned out, absentmindedly stroking the cover.
Gracie moved onto Friday, and was discussing the rules of Opposite Day, when I looked over and caught a face in the crowd.
I blinked, thinking I had seen wrong. But no, there she was. Standing towards the back, wearing a too big hoodie and no coat, even though it was like, 30 degrees out. My words echoed in my head. Make a list of every gay kid in this grade. In this school, actually Don’t leave anything out for personal reasons. Everyone.
And they didn’t disappoint. I took a breath, looking across the weird little grove. Meeting Shay’s eye. I couldn’t believe she was here.