Just like that, Christmas Day was done.
My visiting family started packing up, and before I knew it, we were waving goodbye to them as they left early to spend the rest of the holiday break back home in Toronto.
My younger cousins Steph and Timothy were particularly sad to leave, but both of them got excited at the promise that they could see Faith again the next time they came to stay in the city.
“Next time, we’ll bring robots!” Steph chirped, slinging her purple backpack over her shoulders. “Steph,” Timothy looked confused. “We don’t even have robots.” Steph waved this off like it was no big deal. “My point still stands!” I laughed, and bent down. “C’mere, you two goofs.”
The twins ran forwards at the same time, both throwing their arms around my neck in a tight hug. I was going to miss having the two troublemakers around. They never failed to make me smile.
“Come to Toronto soon, ’kay?” Steph pleaded. “Yes!” Timothy agreed enthusiastically. “We can play more hide-and-seek!”
“Ooh! Can Faith come too?”
“Yes, can she? Please?”
I straightened up, shaking my head. “Sorry, guys. That’s not up to me.” I chuckled. “Besides, she’s not family.”
The twins looked at each other, than at me as though I had just asked them to dive into an acid pool. “I don’t care!” Timothy said firmly. “I’d still want her to stay even if she’s not!” “You only met her just a couple days ago,” I reminded him. He crossed his arms, frowning. “Well, I liked her. And you like having her around too.”
“Yeah!” Steph added. “I really liked her too!”
“And tells good stories!”
“And is nice!”
They both gave me unflinching stares. “So ask her anyways! OK?”
It was strangely eerie when they did that, acting in synch with one another. I shuddered and held up my hands in surrender, but laughed a little.
“OK, alright! You’ve made your point.” I scratched my head and sighed. “OK, tell you what: next time we come down to Toronto, I will let Faith know, and see what she says. Sound good?”
The two exchanged another deep look before looking back up at me. “Good!” And they gave me identical grins.
I laughed, and gave the two each one last tight hug. They waved as their van pulled out from our driveway, Steph pumping her arm so hard it was as if it was the last thing she would do.
The next day, I had my friends over while my parents went out for dinner, and we exchanged presents, with no shortage of giggling, hugs, and shouting genuine “Thank you!”’s and “I love it!”’s to one another.
It was a major haul this year: rhinestone earrings from Layla, shaped like little soccer balls, a miniature painting of a brightly dressed woman dancing from Crystal which she bought in Turkey, an Avengers poster from Willow, which I fangirled over immediately, and a friendship bracelet with little blue forget-me-nots from Liz, which was supposed to be part of a matching set of some sort.
Faith was quiet for most of the exchange, looking apprehensive with her own gift. When she finally handed it over, I gasped. It was a beautiful Harry Potter-themed necklace, hung on a delicate silver chain with a gleaming Golden Snitch as a locket. When I unfastened it, the Snitch swung open to reveal the words “I open at the close.” written in tiny black calligraphy.
“Thank you, thank you!” I beamed at her, immediately fastening it around my neck. “Where did you get it?”
“Online,” She mumbled, tugging at the ends of her hair. She was wearing a red sweater today, which was a change from her usual dark clothing, and a dark red bomber hat which she had pulled over her hair the instant Liz had handed it to her. She had also held off from so much dark makeup, wearing only a thin layer of eyeshadow, nothing too conspicuous. The difference made her look shockingly far younger than she really was.
“I...um. I had some money saved up, so I ordered it from the States. Took a while to get here though, so I was afraid it wouldn’t get here on time.”
I was touched. She didn’t have to go through the trouble of shipping it online, and it must have cost a fair amount.
“Well, thank you. It’s beautiful.” I grinned. “I love it.” I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her in close, feeling her tense up, then relax, laying her head on my shoulder.
It was only when Willow cleared her throat and suggested we get on with the gift exchange did we separate, but my face still felt warm.
Each one of my friends were happy with the gifts I had gotten them, with Layla gushing about how cute her new necklace was, to which Liz rolled her eyes and asked if it was true she had really forced me to buy it for her. Layla huffed, put on the necklace and flipped her hair, denying the accusation. I waited until after she turned away, distracted by the cute shirt Crystal had gotten from Willow and gave Liz a subtle nod in answer to her question.
When it came time to give Faith her gift, I was nervous. I hoped so badly she would like it. I noticed Liz raising an eyebrow as I handed it over to her, wrapped all in red.
“This is for you,” I said, as she began to unwrap it, turning it over in her fingers. “I...spent awhile thinking about what to get you, so--uh. Here it is. I hope you like it.”
She unwrapped it to reveal the present I had employed Liz to help me with.
Inside was a navy blue satchel, with a Doctor Who print, in the style of the police box TARDIS. Liz and I had spent an hour in Hot Topic, the comic book store, and the anime store near the mall picking out the best pins from all of Faith’s favourite shows and books to pin to the bag, which now gleamed proudly with everything from Merlin to Batman to RWBY.
It was just the right size for her sketchbook, which I thought was a bonus.
I could see her eyes light up as she took in all the pins and the designs, trailing her fingers across the logos. She looked up at me, then cradled the bag in her arms, hugging it tight to her chest. “Thank you,” She whispered. “It looks...amazing. Thank you so much!” She threw her arms around my neck in a motion so quick it startled me, but I didn’t hesitate to return the hug. She felt warm, and her hair smelled sweet, flowery.
“Liz helped a lot too,” I added, when we broke apart. Liz looked pleased with herself, but held up her hand. “Just with the names of the anime. Otherwise, it was pretty much all Lucy.”
Faith smiled at her. “Thank you, Liz. It’s incredibly cool.” She chuckled. “I’ll refrain from hugging you as I know how you feel about personal space.”
Liz shrugged. “OK, maybe just once.” At my stare, she shrugged and said, “It is Christmas.”
Faith gave her a ginger hug too, which Liz returned, her movements just a bit stiff like it was an unfamiliar motion. But the moment itself was still very sweet.
We had dinner, then all sat on the couch in a jumble, Willow, Crystal, and Layla on the couch, Liz curled up in the soft chair beside them, and me on the couch armrest with my legs on top of Willow and Crystal’s, while Faith sat on a big pile of cushions and rested her head against my side.
All in all, it was pretty comfortable, and no one was complaining--well, until we started trying to figure out what to watch.
Two and a half hours of Inception later, we were all pretty satisfied. Layla of all people had been the one to suggest it (with support from Crystal), which I still found funny that it was one of her favourite movies, but she really wasn’t the typical cheerleader most people thought she was. She adored thrillers and mysteries. It was also the reason she was so completely into Sherlock. But who wasn’t?
The consulting detective was a phenomenon.
We had all been maxed out on all the typical Christmas movies anyway, so the complex dream thriller had been a refreshing change.
We put on Doctor Who next, at Liz and Faith’s request, and sat back as the 10th Doctor faced the Master, the Family of Blood, and the Weeping Angels.
It was so late by the time we got through all the episodes and started binge-watching Buffy (per Willow’s request) that we all started dozing off. I was having trouble keeping my eyes open.
Faith, who had been curled up underneath a blanket for most of the time, had succumbed to the warmth of the house, and had fallen asleep with her head pressed to my hip.
I almost didn’t even notice when my parents walked into the room to see us all in a heap in the living room, adjusting the lights from a dim setting to a bright one.
“Well, this is a sight.” My mother commented dryly. Dad chuckled, shaking his head. “Hello, girls.”
“Mom! Dad!” I sat up, Faith making a noise of complaint as I dislodged her head from where she had been resting. “How was dinner?”
“It was fine, dear.” My mother smiled, but her eyes lingered over the disgraceful clump my friends had made on the couch, and towards Faith most of all, who had squeezed her eyes shut and nuzzled back into the comfort of my side. It was like being company to a large, grumpy black cat, which only made the whole thing more cute in retrospect.
“That’s good,” I said lamely, suddenly very self-conscious of how Faith was now practically spooning me as a personal pillow, murmuring something soft under her breath.
Mom’s lips pressed into a tight line. She looked as though she was about to say something, but my Dad made some excuse about having to go put away takeout and change, and she followed suit.
“...Awkward,” Liz said out loud, sitting up in her chair. The others nodded their agreement, while Faith just continued snoring softly, her head now on my lap. I sighed, personally agreeing with Liz myself. After a moment, I reached down and stroked stray hair out of Faith’s eyes. She just kept on sleeping, like she hadn’t had the chance to in years.
“Ask her out already.”
“Excuse me?” I looked up from where I had been reading next to Willow, who just shrugged. We were hanging around in the library beside the school, checking out some books. Liz was apparently waiting for a ride from her mom here in the meantime. I was secretly starting to wonder if she was stalking me. She crossed her arms and gave me this deadly frown.
“You heard me. Ask her out on a date.”
“Who?” I asked before I could think. Willow winced sympathetically as if reading my thoughts.
“That book shelf over there.” Liz said sarcastically. “Who do you think?”
“I mean, it is a pretty nice bookshelf,” Willow pointed out, making me snort out loud.
Liz rolled her eyes. “I’ll give you a hint: she’s about five feet, always wears black. Draws a lot and yells at you if you interrupt. Gets stared at more often than most of the boys in the school?”
“Now that’s just untrue,” I claimed. “I’m pretty sure I would notice that.”
“Not if you’re the one doing all the staring,” Liz said deviously, a smirk growing on her face.
Beside me, Willow covered up what sounded suspiciously like a chuckle.
“I don’t know if you know this, Liz,” I said very carefully. “But I don’t usually ask my friends out on dates.”
“Not even Faith?” I was surprised to hear Willow speak so bluntly.
“Great, are you in on whatever twisted fantasy Liz has about us now?” I shook my head in exasperation.
“It’s not a fantasy.” Liz said solemnly. “And it’s the end of the first week back. You should totally ask Faith out this weekend!”
“We already hang out a lot as it is,” I reasoned.
“You know what I mean,” Liz insisted. “Out on a date. A sappy romantic date.”
I shook my head again, incredulous. “Dude, I don’t know what kind of delusion you’re having, but leave romance or whatever out of it.”
“You know you want to,” Liz retorted. “You two are so dramatic it’s like watching one of those gooey soap opera shows.”
“God, I hope your mom picks you up soon,” I groaned.
“Screw you." She said unblinkingly. "Anyway, you know I’m right.”
“Yeah,” She said stubbornly. “For one, you guys spend time a LOT of time together.”
“She has a point there,” Willow commented. I glared at her pointedly which she replied to with a simple shrug.
“So?” I said. “Friends can spend a lot of time together.”
I paused. Was that really true? I mean, sure, Faith and I did see each other most of the time, but it was because that’s what best friends do, right?
“Really?” Liz continued skeptically. “And do friends tell each other how beautiful they are?”
“I really liked her sweater! It was cool!” I protested, recalling the moment she was referring to. Faith had worn the neatest sweater with a collared shirt, designed to look like Spider-Man’s suit. “And her hair looks cute in pigtails!”
“Do friends normally drop everything and sprint five blocks at the mention that their friend is feeling sick?”
“I was really sick,” I countered. I had caught a bad cold during the last few days of the winter break. Faith had rushed over to hang out, despite me telling her I was probably too contagious to hang out. “And Faith lives really close to me anyways. She had soup and stuff she wanted to share...” I trailed off when I noticed the stares both Liz and Willow were giving me. “So?” I challenged. “Tomato soup is amazing.”
"Oblivious,” Willow muttered. “Totally oblivious,” Liz agreed.
"And,” She leaned in with a blindingly evil smirk that told me my doom was near. “Do--just friends--kiss each other on the cheek before they leave?”
Willow looked up on that one, looking definitively startled. “You guys kissed?”
“On the cheek!” I snapped, embarrassed.
“So do ‘friends’ normally do that?” Liz asked nonchalantly. She was truly evil.
“I--I, uh,” I stuttered. She had me on the spot. “It was a gesture of friendly affection?” The answer was not supposed to end up sounding like a question. Liz crossed her arms, triumphant. “That’s what I thought.”
This was becoming too much, again. Bad enough I was still very confused about whatever I felt towards Faith, but now it felt like Liz (with minor assistance from Willow at the moment) was trying to push me into one direction without listening to what I had to say.
I stood up angrily. “OK, look. This whole ‘game’ of yours was funny at first, but now it’s starting to get annoying, and kind of offensive.”
Liz looked taken aback at the statement. “...Sorry, I didn’t mean to--”
“Yeah, well, of course you didn’t,” I said coldly, my temper flaring. It had been a very conflicted past few months, and whatever Liz was trying to do was getting on my last nerve.
“It’s fine if you want to ship people in real life or whatever, as long as they’re OK with it. But this is getting--” I paused to think, throwing out my hand in frustration. “--just weird, and I’m not sure if I’m comfortable with it, to be honest.”
Liz continued to look shocked, while Willow kept on reading with a concerned frown, but didn’t speak.
“Anyways,” I checked my watch and groaned inwardly. My mom was expecting me back at the house before 4:00, and we had been checking out books for much longer than I realized. She was gonna be pissed. “--I gotta go. See you tomorrow.” I nodded stiffly at Willow and gave Liz one last glare before walking out of the library doors, my backpack swinging violently over my shoulder.
By the time I started on the path to get back to my house, I was even angry at myself, for letting my emotions get the best of me. I shouldn’t have blown up at Liz like that, even if she was being damn nosy and pushy. I shouldn’t have taken it out on her.
It was just...there was always this feeling I got that held me back from admitting the true extent of what Faith meant to me.
It had gotten worse since my mom had come home, especially with her strict expectations and that whole stupid lecture about ’relationships’.
Oh sure, she could go walking out of my life whenever she wanted, but when she returned it was like she expected me to go along with absolutely whatever she wanted, even if I hated it.
And besides...there was that whole matter about sexual orientation. Gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, queer...none of that had ever really bothered me until now, until after I had reunited with Faith. I had pushed it to the back of my mind, but with Liz’s bugging about that whole “ask her out on a romantic date” thing, the subject was becoming increasingly relevant.
I didn’t like labels to begin with, but still...I was actually having a hard time figuring out just what I identified as anyway.
I already had a pretty good guess of what my mom would want me to be: “Heterosexual, and nothing more.” My dad, on the other hand probably couldn’t care less about it, as long as I was making decent life choices and not getting pregnant or doing drugs.
And as for my brother...well, I had seen how that had turned out. And I wasn’t sure if I wanted that to happen again. But even so, I was certain he would be a little weirded out at first, but would ultimately be completely fine with whatever I was, as long as I was happy.
So what was I, then? Straight, gay, bisexual?
To be honest, none of my friends would probably mind either...but I didn’t want them to treat me any differently. We had come a long way as a society (or so we claimed), in terms of sexuality and identification, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t still a kind of social stigma around it. It was just the way it was, the way certain people felt.
Either way, I didn’t know if my friends would treat me the same way. They were all great people, and I felt comfortable with them, but...I still wasn’t entirely sure how they might react.
But then again...I wasn’t into guys, not really. I had never really been ‘attracted’ to them like other girls I knew were. One of my memories as a little kid, maybe about 6 or 7 years old had been watching Mulan, or maybe The Little Mermaid, and telling my mom I wanted to kiss the princesses. She had said, “I think you meant you want to kiss the princes, isn’t that right, sweetheart?”
I remembered being confused about it, because I was pretty sure I had had the right idea at the time, but my mother had insisted it was the princes I really liked. After all, girls couldn’t really kiss other girls, right? They were meant to be with boys. That was just the way it was supposed to be. Wasn’t it?
I never met any princes, but growing up I did take notice of the girls in my school more often than not. I mean, sure, guys could look cute, and be friendly, but I mostly thought of them as friends. And girls were good friends too, or at least I thought they were supposed to be.
At least until I had bumped into Faith Lin. I couldn’t help just thinking maybe that was when everything had changed.
So was I straight? Probably. Maybe. Guys looked cute, after all.
Or maybe, I admitted silently, as I kicked a rock along the sidewalk leading up to my house.
Just maybe I already found my own princess after all.