Graphic by Shay Suban
This is the way the story ends:
Two girls, curled up together on a bed under black covers, eyes closed against the dim light reflecting off painted black walls. Smudges of pink lipstick kisses glow on a jutting collarbone. The room smells of bubblegum and cigarette smoke.
Two girls, legs stretched out over a threadbare carpet, feet pressed up against cardboard boxes full of secondhand clothes. The house is bare and a little chilly, but the girls lean together and share cell phone pics and gossip about silly classmates and scandalous teachers and their laughter gives them all the warmth they need.
Two girls, opening and closing dirt-colored lockers in a crowded high school hallway. The metal doors give off a tinny clang when they’re shut, and the sound is echoed a hundred times down the hallway, clang clang clang, as a hundred other students get ready for class, and there’s never enough quiet time to talk. But the girls talk anyway, shouting over the din about all the homework they didn’t do or that movie that was totally lame. There is still a reek in the air of all that cheap perfume that spilled, but it no longer smells of insults and hate. It smells of romantic restaurants and stolen moments and scowls that are just moments from cracking into loving smiles.
They won’t live happily ever after. They won’t be the high school sweethearts who grow up and get married. They haven’t fallen into deep, true, fairy-tale love.
There are couples all along the hallway making out, in clear defiance of the school’s anti-PDA rules. The two girls let their hands brush against each other as they dig around looking for textbooks and spare pens, but they don’t stop to kiss each other. Maybe they’ll do that at lunch. Maybe they’ll do that after school. Maybe they’ll just gaze meaningfully into each other’s eyes while picking at stale school hamburgers or flipping through flashcards. After all, they’ve got exams to study for.
This is the way the story ends: two girls in a high school hallway, worried about things. There are worse ways for a story to end. True, they won’t be together forever; they’ll tire of each other eventually, and one will go to college and one won’t, and one will go back to dating boys and the other will probably tease her for it, and maybe they’ll stay friends or maybe they’ll drift apart in the end.
But for now Kendra wraps her arm around Jaqueline’s waist and Jaqueline rests her arm on top of Kendra’s head because she’s just so short, it’s just so funny, and Kendra grumbles and stomps with her big old studded boots at the heels of other people’s feet. Jaqueline tugs her sweater sleeves down to her wrist and Kendra pops a giant bubble of gum. And before they go into the classroom, Jaqueline gives a quick peck to the top of Kendra’s silky cloud of white-blonde hair, and Kendra closes her eyes and nudges her forehead against Jaqueline’s bony shoulder.
And their fingers are twined together and they are smiling at each other and there are worse ways for a story to end.