Nikki took another drink from her bottle. The party was small and intimate, no more than twenty kids and everyone seemed to be having a good time. Everyone but Nikki who was currently sitting in the corner, sulking and drinking by herself. But when had she ever sulked? Normally she was the life of the party but tonight she couldn't shake her emotions. She hadn't spoken more than three words to Brittany since their kiss. She knew her blonde friend wanted to talk, she could see it in the way her big brown eyes danced around Nikki's face whenever she caught her staring. But Nikki knew there was no point in talking to Brittany until she had admitted to herself that she did in fact have feelings for her.
But as Nikki watched her from the corner of the room, she couldn't help but get impatient. Brittany's blonde hair was gathered into a messy ponytail, her bright smile seemed to be permanently plastered on her angelic face, and she was flirting with a group of guys from their class.
"Fucking hell," Nikki swore to herself as she watched the group. Brittany didn't want any of those guys, but no one apart Nikki would know that just from looking at them. Her friend's hands were on her hips, feigning offense at something one of the boys said. But that didn't last long, Brittany's laugh could be heard from across the room as she playfully shoved the boy in the arm.
That was about as much as Nikki could handle. She stood up quickly, her chair toppling over behind her, and stumbled toward Brittany. The sound of her chair falling must have caught Brittany's attention because their eyes locked and Nikki could see the confliction in her stare. But she could only smile. Tough love, she thought to herself, tough love. If Brittany refused to admit her feelings, than Nikki would just have to force them on her - or at least get the rest of their class on her side.
Nikki pushed past the boys and stood in front of Brittany. The short blonde looked up her with timid eyes and opened her mouth to speak but before any words passed her lips, Nikki was kissing her. She could hear the gasps and giggles from the other students, quickly followed by cheers of approval from the boys Brittany had been flirting with. But Nikki barely registered any of this, all she could focus on was the girl in her arms. Brittany hadn't even tried to pull away but was kissing her back with what felt like relief.
As soon as Nikki felt their kiss turning indecent, she pulled away. Brittany's face was flushed pink, her lips slightly swollen, and she was unsteady on her feet. Nikki smiled down at her as Brittany opened her eyes. The entire room had gone silent, most realizing their kiss had been more than a drunken party stunt intended to grab the attention of the male population. But Brittany didn't seem embarrassed or angry. She smiled back at Nikki as if she had just won some great prize.
"Let's get out here," Brittany whispered, taking Nikki's hand and leading her toward the door. The blonde didn't even look around to gauge the reactions of her classmates. She knew they had seen it, seen the undeniable connection between the two girls. And, for the first time, she no longer cared what they thought.
She had seen the way Sterling had been staring at the girl she assumed to be his ex earlier that evening, the love and the longing he felt for her. And she had seen the way Laila had responded, as if she wanted nothing more than to jump into his arms and stay there forever. It was the exact thing that Brittany felt every time Nikki was around. But Brittany was exhausted. She was tired of running from her feelings, tired of pretending to be something she wasn't.
When Nikki had kissed her, Brittany knew she had been defeated. She knew she had given up the game and was no longer living a lie. She didn't mind, though. As hard as the next few months, maybe years would be, at least she was being honest. She didn't know how her parents would take the news, she didn't know how her friends back home would react. But at least she would have Nikki.
The two girls held hands as they walked out of the party and into the cold winter night. The snow had started to fall and there was already a light dusting on the sidewalks and streets.
"Thank you," Brittany said, glancing up at Nikki who was smiling triumphantly.
"For not giving up on me."
Nikki didn't speak for a moment, the snow crunching under their feet and the slight wind shaking the trees were the only sounds they could hear. She didn't want to ruin the moment but there were things that needed to be said. "It's not going to be as difficult as you think. I know you're scared, but you don't need to be."
"You obviously haven't met my parents or my older brother," Brittany said with a forced laugh.
"They'll get over it," Nikki promised.
"How did you tell your parents?"
Nikki laughed at that. "I didn't need to tell them anything. They had it figured out by my 12th birthday."
"Were they upset?"
"Not at all. I mean, they love me, they know I'm happy."
Brittany nodded and then fell silent. Holding Nikki's hand as they walked through campus, although terrifying and incredibly liberating all at the same time, was making her unbelievably happy. Did her parents know, could they sense that she had been hiding something, holding a part of herself back? But what they believed, what they had always known, was about to be shattered. They would be blindsided, confused and upset.
"You don't have to tell them right away, you know?" She heard Nikki saying as she led Brittany to one of the dormitories. "I mean, you can tell them whenever you're ready."
"My brother will tell them before I do if he finds out."
"How would he know?"
"You'd be surprised…" Brittany started to say but then quickly changed her mind. "I guess he hasn't been around that much lately. I have some time."
Nikki paused in front of a door and turned to face Brittany. She had snow in her hair which looked like glitter under the light of the street lamps, her cheeks were still pink and her eyes, although clearly nervous, no longer held that confliction which Nikki had grown so accustomed to seeing.
"Come inside. We can talk about it some more."
Brittany smiled and nodded, no hesitation visible in her pretty face. The girls walked into the dorm room and Brittany looked around. There was a large common area with four adjacent bedrooms, all of the doors closed.
"We have to be quiet. My roommate doesn't like visitors after ten o'clock," Nikki whispered, walking toward one of the closed doors. She opened it quietly and Brittany slipped inside. Nikki's room made her smile. There were pictures all over the walls, some snapshots and some charcoal drawings of New York City.
"Can I ask you a question?" Nikki asked.
"Of course," Brittany was still looking over everything in the room.
"How long have you known?"
Brittany smiled and looked over her shoulder at Nikki. "How long have I known that I like girls? A little over a year I guess. Why?"
"Just curious," Nikki answered quickly.
"Her name was Sarah," Brittany offered. "And I thought something was wrong with me when I first realized I was attracted to her. But I pretended it didn't mean anything until I figured out she liked me too."
"How'd that happen?"
"She kissed me," Brittany said with a laugh.
"That would do it." Nikki laughed as well. "So what happened after that?"
"My brother caught us and I begged him not to tell our parents. I didn't answer her calls and then I moved here and met you."
Nikki's eyes went wide. She had liked other girls before, other girls had liked her, but this was different. This wasn't some sexual experiment, some form of rebellion against overbearing parents. This felt real.
"Nik, I know that I'm stupid and shy about all this, but I want you to know that I don't care what happens from this point on as long as I'm with you. You're exactly what I need and, even though I am absolutely terrified, I still want you more than anything."
Nikki felt her emotions getting the better of her and she closed the space between them with two large steps, kissing Brittany before she could see the tears start falling. Never had a kiss meant this much to Nikki, never had she been so ready to give herself completely to another girl. Their lips moved against each other and their tongues danced as the two girls held each other in a tight embrace.
"You'll have to go slow with me," Brittany said as Nikki started to kiss her neck. "I'm new at all this."
"I know you are," Nikki pulled back and smiled. "We can go as slow as you want."
With that, Brittany smiled and pulled Nikki's face back to hers. No longer did kissing a girl feel forbidden. The rush that Brittany felt wasn't from the act of doing something illicit, but rather from the act of doing something that felt right. Nikki felt right and the two girls fell asleep that night each prepared to face a new reality in the morning.