Story

Crush (Part 1)

It’s a sudden realization: the thought of Margot as a potential romantic interest. She doesn't feel anything  now, but she can see herself liking Margot in the future, as more than just a friend.

The rain begins to fall about an hour after Arya wakes up, and it only serves to make her morning even  worse. It’s a Saturday—there’s that, at least—so she can spend the day however she likes. She ends up  lying on the couch and staring at the empty ceiling for the entirety of the afternoon.

At six in the evening, she finally convinces herself to pee, and it is five minutes later that the doorbell  rings. She has no idea who is at the door, but there is one thing she is certain of: it’s nobody she wants to  see right now.

Tom’s smile doesn’t reach his eyes. He raises his hand in an awkward wave, and Arya’s eyes flicker to  Margot standing behind him. And that—that throws her off. Because she’s talked to Margot all of three times since she moved here, and they’ve all been polite, surface-level conversations; that was all it took for Arya to realize that while Margot was probably a great person, they had next to nothing in common, and wouldn’t end up being best friends anytime soon.

Tom, though, seemed to think otherwise, because what the hell was he doing here with Margot?

“Hi?” Arya croaks, her throat dry from lack of use.

“I know I didn’t ask you this beforehand but I was with Margot and I thought it’d be fun if I brought her  along too and now that I think of it, it was probably stupid, but—yeah.”

“Tom,” Arya shuts her eyes for a few seconds before opening them to speak again, “I don’t understand.  What are you doing here?”

She notices Margot’s lips twitch, like she’s trying to fight a smile. Weirdly, it makes something like pride  bubble up in Arya’s chest. Margot is still the cool kid to her, and making her smile isn’t easy.

Tom answers a second too late, his brows furrowed: “Oh. We were supposed to have a movie night tonight.  Did you forget?”

Arya blinks. Unsurprisingly, she had, indeed, forgotten.

“Oh—I—no, of course I didn’t forget. Come on in. Margot can stay, of course.”

“Thank you, m’lady,” Margot says, grinning as she enters the house. Then, more gently: “How are you  doing? You look exhausted.”

Arya shrugs, not knowing how to respond.

She knows that Margot can be very attentive, but somehow, it manages to throw her off. Her voice  is usually toneless, lacking any emotion, so to feel the warmth seep through was a surprise.

The night finds Arya in a corner, twirling her brown hair and counting the minutes until she’d be alone again. She catches Margot glancing at her a few times, concerned, but luckily, Margot chooses not to comment  on the fact that Arya is clearly not watching the movie that’s playing, and doesn’t even have the vaguest  idea what the plot is. Arya, on her part, chooses to ignore the way Margot keeps looking at her, pretending  like she hasn’t noticed anything.

It’s only eleven in the night when Arya looks at the couch to find Margot asleep, Tom drooling on her  shoulder.

The first emotion she feels is relief, but it fades away quickly, replaced by a sudden urge to get out of the  house because she feels like she’s suffocating.

The porch is as far as she gets, so she sits there, on the first step, trying to breathe steadily again. It’s  quiet, as it always is in towns as small as this, she supposes. There’s forest, trees, animals around her, she  reminds herself, and it helps in slowing her heart rate a little. There, bathed in yellow light, time seems to  have no shape or form—it simply flows, liquid gold, and Arya doesn’t know how long she’s been there for,  before she hears someone move behind her.

She starts, turning around at the speed of lightning. For some reason, her mind goes straight to home  invasion, even though she knows of the two people inside her house, sleeping on the couch at that moment.

Margot walks towards the doorstep, lighting a cigarette as she does.

She settles down next to Arya, her mouth turning upwards when she sees how surprised Arya looks. “Sorry.  Didn’t mean to scare you. I just needed a cigarette.”

Arya nods, looking away. She’s always hated the way cigarettes smell. She hears Margot take a drag,  amongst the sound of the crickets and a car honking somewhere in the distance. Arya’s never going to admit  aloud that it’s the cigarette that surprised her, but she doesn’t know a lot of people who smoke. It makes her  look at Margot differently.

“Are you okay, by the way? What are you doing out here?” Margot asks, after a few seconds of silence.  Her voice is low and a little rough.

“I needed to get out of the house,” Arya replies, a small sigh escaping her lips.

A smile tugs at the corner of Margot’s, “Well, you didn’t get very far, did you?”

It surprises a laugh out of Arya. Margot takes another drag of her cigarette, watching contentedly as the  smoke escapes her lips.

“I would offer you a cigarette, but I don’t think you’d smoke it,” she tells Arya.

Arya wonders, for a bit, if she should feel offended by the presumption. In the end, she decides against it. “I would never,” she answers and Margot smiles, looking satisfied.

“So? What is it? Do you miss home?”

Arya sighs again, “I do. But it’s not just that, you know. It’s suddenly just exhausting to be around people.  Everyone else seems to be having fun, and then there’s me. I can barely get out of bed these days and it’s  just… it’s never been this bad before.”

Margot puts her cigarette out as Arya speaks before turning towards her again, looking sympathetic, “I’m  pretty sure that anyone who looks like they’re having a good time right now is just pretending. I know I am.  It’s all shit right now, but it will get better, and I keep reminding myself that.”

“You’re not having fun?”

“I mean, I like talking to you.”

“Thanks, um. But no, I—do you feel like that sometimes? Like, you want to do things and experience life,  but it’s just so much effort that everything seems impossible? I don’t know, I mean I’m here, oceans away  from home, and I’m still the same person I used to be, if not worse.”

Margot’s shaking her head, “No, but that’s the thing, though. You’re here, aren’t you? You wanted to  experience more, so you took a chance. You had no idea what it would be like here, but you still decided  to come. And you may feel like a worse version of yourself right now, but you’re still learning something.

Your limits, if nothing else. Besides, you’re not here forever. A few months, and you’ll be out, whether you  like it or not.”

“I just—I expected I’d change completely, I guess. That I’d suddenly be cooler and spend my nights partying  or something. I’d have my life together.”

Margot chuckles, “Really? You thought you’d go partying in what’s probably the tiniest town in all of the  world? Wow. And also, if it helps, Arya, I think you’re pretty cool already.”

Arya fights a smile, succeeds, “Right, yeah. Maybe it’s time to go back inside.”

“But you don’t feel any better, do you? Sorry, I’m the worst at comforting people.”

Arya shrugs. The truth is she did feel calmer: she hadn’t talked to anyone like this in a while, hadn’t found  someone to listen to her quietly before they answered her.

“Okay, I do have one sure way to help you feel better.”

When Arya looks at Margot, she has a mischievous sort of glint in her eyes.

“Do you like popsicles?”

“Who doesn’t?”

“There’s an ice-cream shop about ten minutes away. It’s open all night. And the lemon popsicle is so good  it made me cry.”

Arya only realises she has been holding her breath when she exhales, “I’d love to, but I really can’t. I’m so  broke.”

Margot snorts, looking at Arya like she said something stupid, “Arya.”

Arya looks back at Margot, and this time, she fails to fight a smile. The look on Margot’s face can only  mean one thing: the popsicle is obviously on her.

+

On Tuesday, with nothing else to do, Arya finds herself sending a text message to Margot: hi, do you want  to do something today?

The sun sinks, darkness falls.

The message goes unanswered.

+

Tom and Arya decide to go shopping in the city on Friday, and it is between bites of cold pizza that Tom  tells Arya that Margot and him have been dating for over a month now.

He sounds nervous and a little bit enamoured when he talks about her, and Arya gets it. She also gets that  they’re trying to keep it quiet at the moment. After all, Margot only moved here about two months ago, just  a few days before Arya herself.

It’s surprising because until a week ago, Arya didn’t even know that Tom and Margot spent time together  at all—and now, this. But it’s exciting, all the same.

Grey clouds loom over their heads threateningly when they walk out into the open later. It  begins to rain five minutes later, and Arya is soaked, dripping from head to toe, by the time she gets home.

+

Her head is spinning, body buzzing with the warmth of too much alcohol, and if she stands up, she knows  she will fall.

Arya tries to look like none of this is happening, but she doesn’t think she’s pulling it off.

An invitation to a house party, a bunch of people she doesn’t fit in with, a night that seems never-ending  and a brain that never stops working. Add some alcohol in the mix, and suddenly everything is easier.

But then, there is the downside of feeling even lonelier than she usually does.

From the corner of her eye, she can see Tom and Margot whispering sweet nothings to each other. Arya  rolls her eyes at them, and that is the exact moment Margot chooses to make eye contact with her, suddenly  bursting into laughter.

“Are you okay there?” she calls out, eyes crinkled, and Arya nods, sheepish at being caught.

Margot’s eyes narrow, then, and she murmurs something to Tom before standing up. In a flash, she’s seated  next to Arya, leaning in to ask: “Are you drunk, Arya?”

“I just—I just need to eat something. I didn’t eat anything before getting here.”

Margot nods, “We’re leaving in a while, can Tom and I stay at yours for the night? I’ll make you pasta.” +

The next morning, Arya wakes up with a groan, to a hurting stomach. Her throat is parched, a dull ache  beginning to form there too.

A bottle of water sits on the table next to her bed, and she pounces on it like it’s the answer to every problem  in the world. She recalls Margot leaving it there, telling Arya she’ll be grateful in the morning.

With that one vague memory, the events of the entire night suddenly come back to her.

Arya remembers being unable to walk, her entire body weight against Margot as they stumbled home. She  had been loud and had laughed at several of her own jokes, none of which she can recollect, thankfully.  Margot, true to her word, had made surprisingly good pasta, and Arya had sat at the table and eaten it  by herself while Tom and Margot made out on the couch behind her.

After last night, their relationship strikes Arya as strange for a lot of reasons: Margot behaves like a different  person around Tom. She’s more giggly and feminine, agrees to everything Tom says and doesn’t seem  interested in talking to anyone else. If there’s one thing Arya has always thought about Margot, it is that  she’s independent and clever, but around Tom, Margot pretends like she isn’t any of those things.

When fifteen minutes later, Arya finally makes it out of her bedroom, she finds Margot seated on the  couch, watching television.

“Oh—I. Good morning?” Arya says, taking a step back.

Margot looks up, muting the television. She turns towards Arya, half-smiling.

“I see you’re finally up.”

“What time is it?”

“It’s past noon. Tom left a while ago, and I thought I’d stay because I didn’t know if you have hangovers.”

“I don’t,” Arya says, proudly, “I have stomach aches, but not the traditional ‘my head is pounding and I  want to die’ hangovers. I mean, I always want to die, so—”

Arya trails off, bashful. Margot looks amused.

“So, what are you watching?”

Margot snorts, “27 Dresses. But I’m bored anyway. Do you want to do something else?”

+

The beach is isolated, and it’s not the best place to be. There are sharp rocks jutting out of the ground  at every step, and the sea is choppy. Small cliffs surround them, and heavy grey clouds line up above them.

Arya is instantly in love.

“I found this place while exploring in my second week here,” Margot tells her, smiling nervously, “It’s  dangerous if you go near the sea.”

“Do you come here often?”

“Only when I need to be alone.”

They end up sitting a fair distance from the sea, and Arya finds herself unable to look away from the  cliffs looming over them.

“I always expect to come here and find the beach full of people, for some reason,” Margot says, “I’m scared  they’re all suddenly going to realise what they’re missing out on, and it won’t be just my place anymore.”

“Or you might just find me sitting here like I own the place, and regret that you ever showed it to me.” Margot snorts, “Nah, it’s you. I think we’re good.”

Arya trails a finger across the sand, beginning to work on the drawing of a flower. Margot reaches for the  bag next to her, pulling out a can of beer. She opens it before holding it out for Arya.

“Beer?”

Arya shakes her head, “I don’t really like beer.”

“You could’ve said that before we bought two cans,” Margot says. She rolls her eyes, but Arya knows she’s not really upset because there is the trace of a smile on her face.

“Oh. I thought they were both for you.”

Margot simply rolls her eyes again.

They sit there for a while in complete silence, apart from the crashing of the waves. Margot finishes her  beer just as the sun comes out unexpectedly. She puts her empty can away in the bag they brought, then  stretches.

Arya feels awkward for a few moments, not knowing what to say or do. She finds herself fidgeting, and  clenches her fists to stop. She’s aware, a minute later, of Margot saying something, but can’t bring herself  to focus on what is being said.

Arya opens her mouth to ask Margot to repeat herself, but stops when she turns to face Margot. She blinks.

Margot is holding up a pretty shell she just found, showing it to Arya, looking keen. That’s not what throws  Arya off, though: it’s Margot’s eyes, in the sun it looks somewhere between golden and green and grey. It’s not a  colour Arya can describe, at least not in that moment. All she knows is that it takes her a few seconds to  gather herself back together, and actually look at the shell.

It’s a sudden realization: the thought of Margot as a potential romantic interest. She doesn’t feel anything  now, but she can see herself liking Margot in the future, as more than just a friend.

The revelation hits her like a truck, and she wishes she could make the thought of it disappear. This is where  bisexuality always gets her: Arya can never tell if she’s attracted to a girl, or simply wants to be friends.  When the epiphany comes, it comes in full force and in moments that involve the sun and eyes that are  three different colours.

“Oh, it’s, uh, really pretty.”

“Do you want to keep it?”

When Arya nods, the first drop of rain hits her face.

+

The text from Margot arrives at seven in the morning, but Arya only sees it four hours later when she wakes up, fumbling for her phone.

It has been three days since she last saw Margot, and though they haven’t talked at all since then, Arya’s  potential crush has managed to turn into a real crush over this time.

Arya’s not too worried– she knows she’s got it all under control, she’s not in too deep yet.

Margot | 7:02am

hey there

Margot | 7:02am

good morning

Margot | 7:03am

are you awake?

Arya frowns, puzzled. It’s not common for Margot to text her, or anyone, for that matter, or at least that’s what she’s learnt of her over the past few days. Even managing to get a reply from Margot is noteworthy– this, a conversation  initiated by her, is unheard of.

Arya | 11:08am

i am now, sorry

Arya | 11:09am

all okay?

Arya waits with bated breath.

The day flies by again, with no answer from Margot.

This story was about: Bisexuality Sexuality

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Saachi Gupta is an LGBTQ+ activist, animal lover and the author of 'With Love, or Something Like That.' She is a strong believer in equality amongst mankind.
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