"Are you okay?" she mouthed. The music was too loud to talk.
No, I wasn't. She had just spent the last hour in an intimate embrace with an incredibly good-looking man with an incredibly sexy accent. Normally, I would be alright with this. Brooke was straight. However, a few weeks earlier, we had hooked up. For her, it had been a simple drunk kiss. For me, well… As a lesbian, naturally, I had to go and get all emotionally attached. And the worst part was that she was ashamed of it. We never spoke of it. Ever.
"Yeah, I'm fine," I said stiffly.
She pulled me closer.
"Why are you holding back from me?" she asked.
"I'm not," I replied, smiling sweetly, but obviously not convincingly.
She rolled her eyes.
"Hey you know that party the other day…?" she asked, obviously trying a different approach.
"Did you want to get with me then?"
Oh for Christ's sake. Why was I even letting her do this? I knew that she only wanted this when she was drunk. It was obvious that she wanted to kiss me, but I knew that she would regret it. But somehow… I just couldn't help it… I really wanted to kiss her too.
She slid her leg between mine. She had me.
"I guess I did."
"Well why did you flirt with all those boys then?" She sounded jealous.
I laughed, "I don't know, it was fun?"
"Why didn't you just tell me?"
"Because you're straight."
"You haven't actually told me that you liked me, so how do you know what I want?"
Fuck she really seemed to want this!
I stayed silent.
"Well do you like me?" She smiled.
"Of course I like you…"
It was at this stage that I could have added "as a friend" which would have saved my arse from a lot of awkwardness and hurt. But I did not.
I kissed her.
Where the heck was my self-control?
We were inseparable for the rest of the night. She told me how she thought boys were bad at kissing and how she liked girls much better, but only when she was drunk. We were effectively an item. We danced, very suggestively, together. We kissed. We stared into each other's eyes.
I knew, at the pit of my stomach, that it was all a lie. I knew it would all be over by the end of the night. It was like Cinderella - her drunken hours were her hours before midnight. I knew she would leave me as soon as the clock struck sober. It was terrible. I was taking advantage of her! Though it felt like she was taking advantage of me. None of that even seemed to matter; I was so happy for that short time. I hoped it would last, that she would still want me in the morning. I thought maybe, just maybe, she really did like me.
How wrong I was.
We decided to talk about it but managed to avoid the topic for the two and a half hours we conversed. She knew I liked her now, for sure. Which made it worse: I couldn't even smile at her at work, or say hello, without fearing that she would take it the wrong way. It was pretty impossible to avoid her at work as well, a small side-street coffee shop wasn't exactly the ideal place to be working with someone you have had unsuccessful intimate relations with.
It was a horrible thought, but I really wanted just once more chance, one more time when we were both together, after a few drinks, and Brooke might open up to me again. But this time, I would ask her if she liked me. I would not let anything happen. I'd just want a confession massive enough that we wouldn't be able to avoid it in the morning.
Then, one day, my Golden Ticket came in the form of, well, a ticket.
Shelley bounded through the door of work waving a piece of paper in the air.
"I just won eight tickets to the Summer Smash! You're all coming!" she shrieked.
Summer Smash was the biggest mid-summer festival of the year. It involved a lot of loud music, a lot people, and a lot of alcohol. I think, although internally, I was the most excited about the prospect of free tickets to Summer Smash of everyone.
The best thing about Summer Smash was that it was only in a week's time. Time enough to consider my plan, worry about my deviant intention, and then disregard all sense of moral decency. Obviously, it was wrong to interrogate Brooke after a few drinks, but what harm could it really do?
We met up for a few pre-drinks at Shelley's apartment before the festival. I decided that I would only carry out my plan if Brooke started to come onto me first. If she didn't, then I would assume that she had learnt not to mess with lesbians, because sometimes they fall in love with girls. I laughed at the hilarity of the thought. And I also couldn't help feeling a little bit pleased with myself when Brooke came and walked beside me as we made our way to Summer Smash.
"Hey, Alison," she chirped.
"Hi, Brooke," I smiled.
"Are you okay?" she asked, seemingly concerned.
"You know what? I'm ecstatic!" I said and I skipped ahead to thank Shelley for inviting me.
I knew I had left Brooke bewildered. I didn't want to make her upset, I just didn't want her to think that she could have me whenever it suited her.
A few bands into Summer Smash, as the sun began to sink, Brooke approached me again.
"Look, Alison, I'm not that drunk." She clearly was.
"Hi, Brooke, what's up?" I asked casually.
"We really need to talk, we haven't talked."
"Do we? I thought we were friends, and it was all fine?"
"No. It's not fine. Are you okay?" She asked.
She always pulled the "are you okay" card!
"No you're not."
"I actually am, are you okay?" I retorted.
Brooke was silent, and she sat down on the grass. I sat down beside her. She stared at the stage absently.
"Look, the other night…" she began.
"It was just a drunk thing, right? I understand."
She spun around and looked me in the eye.
"No! But it wasn't!"
She shook her head adamantly.
"Okay, so tell me, Brooke, what exactly was it?"
"I don't know, I like girls when I drink."
A drunk thing. I sighed.
"Do you like girls when you don't drink?" I asked carefully.
"Brooke," I pressed on, "Brooke, do you like me? At all? Because you really confuse me."
"You are nice to kiss."
I smiled, and answered gently, "I don't just want to kiss you when you are drunk, it's not right."
We were silent for a while, and we both looked toward the stage, watching the mass of people swaying and pushing, all trying to get to the front.
"I like you a lot," she said finally, "all the time. But I don't understand it."
She leaned in to kiss me, but I turned away.
"Alison…" she tried again.
"No!" I stood up and left her there.
Work on Monday was going to be interesting.
It was. I walked in, and everyone was normal - no one knew about my conversation with Brooke. But Brooke wouldn't look at me. She avoided eye contact the entire day. As soon as work finished, she was out the door. I would have followed her, but I had to stay to help with some extra dishes.
The next day was the same. When work finished this time, however, I followed her straight out the door.
She stopped but didn't look at me. I caught up to her.
"What do you want, Alison?" she asked brusquely.
"Brooke, wait, no, can we talk?"
"I know what you're going to say. You're going to repeat what I said on Saturday and make me feel like even more of a fool than you did when you left me sitting there."
"That upset me."
"Well you upset me when you turn from straight to gay at the click of a finger!"
"I don't!" she insisted.
"Well, what then?"
She looked around nervously.
"Can we talk about it somewhere else?" she asked.
We walked back to work and told Shelley that we would lock up.
We sat at a table.
"Alison, I'm not gay, and no matter what I say when I am drunk, I don't like you."
"Brooke, if this is just because you're confused, you can talk to me about it, as a friend."
"Alison, I'm not a lesbian!"
"Well why do you-?"
"I don't know! When I am normal, like this, like every other time, I just don't have feelings for you!"
"Well don't fucking flatter yourself, it's not like I like you either!"
I stormed out.
"Don't forget to lock up," I said angrily, and slammed the door.
God I hated straight girls when they messed with my head like she did!
It didn't matter how much she told me she was straight, I just couldn't believe it. It wasn't right! She must like me! Why would she keep pursuing me? Not many straight girls would do that, even if they had been drinking! And who the hell was I kidding? Of course I liked her. She was amazing. She was… She was Brooke. Brooke who could sing better than the singers on the radio. Brooke who secretly had an engineering degree tucked away. Brooke whose smile made everyone want to be her friend. Brooke who… Brooke who… I loved. What was I doing? I had just ended our friendship. I had slammed the door on her.
I tried to think straight. But all I could think about was the fact that every time she was drunk she would say that she liked girls, and that I had never actually told her that I liked her when we were both sober.
Damn it. She was right! I had never told her! I was scared that she was straight, and she was scared that she was gay! I had come so close to telling her how I'd felt, but instead I had told her that I didn't like her. Fuck.
I couldn't just go back there now and say, 'oh, actually, I do like you'… could I?
Shit. What else could I do?
So I went back.
Brooke was still there. She had her face in her palms and I realised that she was crying.
I opened the door and the bell chimed. She looked up.
"I'm not going away. Brooke, I don't not like you."
She looked at me like I was an idiot.
I rephrased it.
"Brooke, I really like you."
"But I'm straight," she sobbed.
"Maybe you are straight, but do you like me?"
"I don't know."
I went up behind her and touched her shoulders lightly. She shivered. I bent down and kissed her cheek, and she started crying again.
"I don't want to be gay," she said.
I ignored her and kissed her other cheek.
"I don't want -"
She went quiet as I turned her head and her cloudy eyes met mine.
"Brooke, I don't give a shit." I whispered, and I kissed her lips.
She closed her eyes and kissed me back.