Brittany held her phone in her sweaty palm. She had never been this nervous before. It felt like the worst stage fright she had ever experienced - probably because she knew she wasn't putting on an act. She was telling the truth. She quickly hit the send button but then snapped her phone shut as soon as it started to ring.
"Not yet," she said to herself. "Just a few more minutes."
She stared down at her phone and debated throwing it across the room. But she knew she had to do it. She had to tell her parents. They deserved to hear it from her instead of Will or someone else. She was about to dial the number again when she heard a knock on her door. Slowly standing up from her bed, she walked to the door and opened it, her confusion only mounting as she saw Nikki standing outside.
"Hi," Brittany said, barely recognizing her own voice which was laced with hesitation. "What are you doing here?"
"I wanted to let you know that I think what you did was really fucking lame. But I can also imagine how scared you are right now and, even though I can barely stand to look at you, I don't want you to go through this by yourself."
"Thank you," Brittany said, glancing at the ground beneath her feet and opening the door a bit wider for Nikki to step through. "I was about to call my parents."
"Really?" Nikki sounded surprised and flopped down on Brittany's bed. "Guess I have good timing then."
"I have no idea what I am going to say to them," Brittany admitted, still unsure if Nikki being in her room was a curse or a blessing.
"You say: 'Mom, I like chicks.'"
"Thank you. That's so incredibly helpful," Brittany said with a small laugh.
"Look, they are going to be upset no matter how you break it to them. After you hang up, they'll sit around and think about it all day, so no matter what you say to them, they'll find their own conclusion."
Brittany frowned and stared at Nikki. The girl was probably right. Regardless of what she told them, she knew her mom would cry and her dad would over analyze everything she had done or said since the day she turned three. So she took a deep breath and sat on the bed next to Nikki, opening her phone and dialing the number.
"Hello?" Her mom's voice sounded cheerful and Brittany winced.
"Hi, Mom. It's me."
"Hey there, Britty. How are things?"
"Fine," Brittany murmured. Of course her mother would call her by her nickname, the one Will gave her when she was born because he couldn't pronounce her full name. "Is Dad there?"
"No, he's out getting new snow tires. I swear…" But Brittany wasn't listening. She shook her head at Nikki who was giving her a questioning look.
"Just do it!" Nikki hissed at her, showing support but no sympathy.
"Mom," Brittany interrupted her mother. "I have something to tell you."
"What is it, sweetie?"
Brittany's throat and lips went dry, she felt as if she had swallowed a pitcher of sand. But she managed to choke out the words, "I've met someone."
"You have?" Her mom sounded thrilled. "What is he like?"
"It's um, he's not…" Brittany stumbled over her words but felt Nikki take her hand and give it a gentle squeeze. She looked up into her eyes and felt a surge of strength. "She's great, Mom. She's amazing." Nikki's eyes went wide and her mother didn't say a word.
"Please say something," Brittany said, staring at Nikki.
"So you've made a friend? Is she in one of your classes?" It was as if Brittany could hear the denial in her mother's voice.
"Yes, I met her in one of my classes. But she's not just a friend, Mom. She's something more because we share this unbelievable connection which I can't even start to describe. She means so much to me. I…I think I love her, Mom."
Nikki's mouth stretched into a smile and she brought Brittany's hand to her lips and gently kissed her knuckles. Did this mean that she would forgive her? Brittany could only hope but Nikki's anger seemed to have dissipated along with Brittany's anxiety. She wasn't in this alone.
"Sweetheart, I'm sure this is just a phase…" her mother was saying and Brittany finally cracked a smile.
"It could be just a phase, Mom. But right now, it's my life."
Nikki raised one eyebrow and gave the phone a questioning glare.
"I'm just…I'm trying to understand this, Britty. How long have you known this girl?"
"We met on the first day of school."
"And, is she the first girl you've…" But her mother couldn't finish the sentence.
"No. There was one before her, but not like this. She didn't mean anything compared to Nikki."
"Nikki?" She heard her mom take a deep breath, as if hearing the name made it real.
"Mom, I know you are going to have questions for me, I know that you are going to be upset. But I wanted to tell you because I love you and I want you to be happy for me. You have no idea how hard this was for me. You have no idea what I have been through to try and convince myself that what I was feeling wasn't real. I've done horrible things to try and keep this a secret from you and Dad, to try and deny it myself. But I'm done with that. I'm done with pretending."
There was a long pause and Brittany held her breath. Nikki sat absolutely still by her side.
"You know that I love you, Brittany. You know that I'm proud of you. I don't understand this yet, but that doesn't mean…" A sob broke her mother's words and Brittany could feel the tears trickling down her face. "It doesn't mean that I love you any less. And I do want you to be happy."
She breathed a sigh of relief and smiled through her tears. "Are you going to tell Dad?"
"I haven't decided yet," her mother said in a firm voice. "But if I don't, I'll be there with you when you tell him over Christmas break."
"What a lovely present that will be."
A small laugh could be heard coming from the other end of the line. "You should get some studying done," her mom reminded her. "You have a big week ahead of you."
"Finals will be easy compared to this," Brittany sighed, knowing she still had her father to contend with.
"I love you, Sweetheart."
"I love you too, Mom."
Nikki's lips were on Brittany's before the phone had even closed. She was reaching for her with passion and impatience but Brittany didn't mind. She felt as if a tremendous weight had been lifted off her shoulders, she felt almost invincible.
"This doesn't mean that I'm not still angry," she heard Nikki saying in between kisses.
"I know," Brittany answered, her breathing starting to accelerate. Nikki hadn't reciprocated her feelings although she now knew all of them. Yet Brittany didn't think she cared at the moment. Pulling away, she smiled at Nikki and held her at arm's length.
"I meant everything I said, you know?"
"I know," Nikki answered, not yet ready to commit to those exact words but was clearly well on her way. She smiled at the blonde and then stood up, too excited to sit still for any longer. "I seriously wish that finals weren't next week. We both have to study but all I want to do is stay here with you."
Brittany laughed. "We can go somewhere public, like the library or the computer lab and study."
"I don't think I'd be able to keep my hands off you, even in public," Nikki admitted and Brittany blushed. "I'm proud of you, Brit."
Nikki smiled at her and then glanced at the stack of text books on the desk, a looming reminder they would have to part soon if they wanted to pass any of their exams. But a framed picture sitting indifferently on the corner caught her eye and she picked it up, examining what she had always known to be there, but had never taken the time to really notice.
"Who is this?" Nikki pointed at the photograph, her eyes darting between Brittany and the picture.
"That's me and my brother at his high school graduation."
"The brother who wanted Laila?"
Brittany nodded, still ashamed of what she had done.
"What's his name?"
"Will, he's a senior…"
"Holy shit!" Nikki swore and slammed the picture back on the desk.
Nikki took a deep breath and looked around frantically. "I'm pretty sure he drugged my roommate last night."
Brittany laughed at Nikki's dramatics. "Will drugged Laila? I seriously doubt Will would…"
"Not Laila. Luanne. But it was meant for Laila." Nikki started to pace the floor, everything falling into place. Brittany's kiss with Sterling, Will's obsession with Laila, the two finally connected. "When you said your brother made you kiss him, I didn't even think that Will could be…"
"Oh my God, you're being serious. Look, Nikki, no offense, but you don't even know him. He's really not the type of guy who would drug someone."
Nikki shook her head. "We don't know who else it could have been."
"If you were at a party, it could have been anyone."
Nikki shook her head again and then stopped pacing. "Can you call him? See where he is?"
"You really think…"
"Brit, please! You owe me. You owe Laila."
"Fine," she conceded and opened her phone again. "What am I supposed to say to him?"
"Anything! Tell him that you told your mom and see what he does."
"It will make him rather angry," Brittany said in anticipated amusement.
Nikki rolled her eyes and started tapping her foot as Brittany dialed the number. They waited in silence for him to answer.
"What?" They heard Will hiss as Nikki reached for the cell and put it on speakerphone.
"Hey, Will," Brittany said in a cheery voice. "How's it going?"
"Fine." There was venom in his voice and neither girl believed him.
"What are you doing?"
"Nothing. What do you want?"
"I told Mom."
There was a slight hesitation. "You told Mom what?"
"I told her everything. About Sarah and about Nikki."
"Well, congratulations. Why the fuck would I care?"
Brittany looked up at Nikki who was frowning at the phone. "You could be happy for me."
"Why the hell would I be happy for you? You've ruined everything! Laila is back with her boyfriend and you've fucked me over with this one, Brit."
"Laila and Sterling are back together?" Brittany felt a small amount of hope seep into her cluttered head. "How do you know?"
"It doesn't matter."
"Will, how do you know?"
There was a small, cackling laugh from the other end of the phone which made Brittany's skin crawl. She had never heard her brother sound so evil. "I just watched him leave her room a few minutes ago. I've gotta go."
"Will, what are you doing…" But the line went dead and Nikki and Brittany could only stare at each other.
"I know," she interrupted Nikki. "Let's go."
Nikki didn't wait for Brittany to grab her coat. She was out the door and running down the hallway, Brittany only a few steps behind.