I turned my face up to one of the many paintings on the wall. It was one I kept coming back to over and over again. The bright splashes of color called to me, reminded me of my own work.
When I was a little girl, Mom would bring me to the art gallery whenever we had a girl’s day. While Dad and Nathan were playing with worms or hitting balls—whatever it was they’d done together—Mom had told me about art. The history of it, the passion behind it. Even at home, I’d happily spent hours sitting quietly, just watching her paint. It had mesmerized me—the way she seemed to see the picture hidden in the canvas.
I’d wanted to keep them all—I loved each and every one, after all. One day, I’d even told her as much.
“Art is like love—it’s meant to be shared,” Mom had told me.
Of course, as a little kid, I hadn’t realized that those paintings were keeping us all fed. Dad made music because he loved it, not because it paid well. Mom never made it “big” but she’d done well by selling artwork to friends and local businesses. More than I’d ever done.
“Theresa. Theresa. Theresa.”
I blinked and pulled out of my thoughts. I turned to find my supervisor frowning at me. “What?”
“You’re supposed to be showing the artwork, not admiring it.”
“Sorry, Angie,” I replied sheepishly. More or less, I enjoyed working at the art gallery. It sure as hell beat flipping burgers and most of the other things I was actually qualified to do. But I often got distracted by admiring the pieces I was supposed to be selling. Admiring, and dreaming.
When I got home late that afternoon, I found Mom upstairs at her easel. Though she and Dad had converted my childhood bedroom into a studio for her when I was in high school, she still seemed to favor working on the upstairs landing.
I sat down and watched her for a while, like I had when I was little, before I asked, “Mom, why didn’t you ever try to get recognized? I mean, your paintings are beautiful. You could’ve had a real career.”
Mom turned to look at me, put down her brush, and wiped her hands on a rag. She lowered herself onto the sofa next to me. “Fame was never what I wanted. Call me old fashioned if you want, but I always wanted to be like your grandma.” She smiled softly, remembering the woman I’d never gotten to meet. “I wanted being a mom to be my career. I got very lucky because I was able to do that; a lot of people don’t get that chance.”
She studied me for a minute. “What about you, Theresa? Your work is remarkable. You should already be in galleries.”
I could lie. San Myshuno was a big place where everyone was trying to succeed. I could easily tell her that I’d tried my heart out, submitted pieces to every gallery I could find, done everything I could but still hadn’t gotten my name out there. It would be believable.
But it wasn’t the truth.
As much as I loved art, as passionate as I felt about it, I’d never felt good enough. I’d come close so many times to trying to show my work to a gallery only to chicken out. Maybe my lack of fame was why Peter had dumped me; perhaps he’d hoped to have a famous artist as a girlfriend instead of the nobody he’d ended up with.
I shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess my stuff just isn’t that good.” I stood up. “I’m going to go check on Zury.” I fled downstairs.
At the sound of the final bell, I hurried out of the classroom and headed downstairs. I didn’t stop at my locker or wait for Zoe; I hadn’t for days now. I just…My head was a total mess.
Downstairs, I glimpsed Zoe’s mom’s car at the front of the line. Like the pussy I was, I ducked into the boys bathroom to wait until the coast was clear. Then I slunk out onto the steps to wait for Mom to pick me up.
I was being an idiot and a coward—I knew that. But everything was so fucked right now. Had I just imagined being attracted to Zoe and other girls? Was I really into guys at all? God, I was just…there wasn’t a good enough word for whatever I was. “Confused” just didn’t seem to cover it.
At home, I got out of the car only for Mom’s voice to call me back. She looked at me, concerned. “Are you okay?”
I grunted. “Yeah, why?”
Her frown deepened. “You don’t seem okay. Did something happen? Maybe with Zoe? Did you two break up?”
“No, we’re fine, Mom. Nothing happened.” I shrugged. “It was just a crappy day.”
“Alright,” she said slowly, disbelief in her voice. Fortunately she didn’t press it further. “I’ve got to get back to the restaurant for a few hours. You know the rules.” Yeah, yeah. I was in charge. No parties or booze or sex yada yada.
I turned and went into the house. I banged around the kitchen, half of me actually wanting something to eat, the other half just wanting to vent a little frustration by violently opening and closing the cabinets.
The doorbell rang.
“Jaz! Get the door!” No answer. He was probably playing a game upstairs.
I skulked to the front door, and my stomach twisted into knots when I saw Zoe on the other side. I wanted to run away now, but she’d seen me; I could hardly pretend I wasn’t home. Reluctantly, I opened the door to her glaring face.
She shouldered her way inside. “If you want to break up, you could at least have the balls to tell me.”
Immediately, it felt like I’d been punched. I deserved that; I was being a dick. “I’m sorry I’ve been acting weird, Zoe. I don’t want to break up.”
“Then what the hell is your deal? You’ve been avoiding me for a week. We didn’t even have a fight.”
“I know, I’m sorry.”
“Stop saying you’re sorry!” She glowered at me—God, she’s cute when she’s mad, I thought—and gave my shoulder a shove. “Just tell me what the fuck is going on.”
How could I possibly tell her what was going on? I’d never admit that I had a crush on another girl much less a guy. “I’ve just…I haven’t been feeling like myself lately,” I said lamely.
I must’ve looked pretty pathetic because her expression softened some. She reached up and touched my cheek. “Is that really it? Because you can tell me if—if something happened. We could work it out.”
My heart squeezed in my chest. I really was the luckiest guy in the fucking world to have a girl like her. I took her hand. “I’m sure,” I said with actual confidence. “I don’t know why I’ve been such a jackass.”
She smiled then, bright enough to light up the whole house. “Well, if you’ve just been feeling wonky, I know exactly how to get you feeling better.” She leaned up and kissed me with a sudden passion that went straight to my pants. “Are your parents home?”
It wouldn’t have mattered to me if they were. Feeling lighter than I had in weeks, I pulled her into me and led her up the stairs.
A while later, I rolled onto my back, breathing hard. There was no way that I could feel that good with her if I was gay.
But I bet I could if I was bi.