Story

Crush (Part 2)

She feels self-conscious every time Margot turns to smile at her, and sulky whenever Tom and Margot leave her out of a conversation—which they hardly do, often even stopping their conversations midway to ask for her opinions.

Part 1

Tom and Margot come over for another movie night on Friday.

It feels different this time: Arya is more awkward, almost unable to formulate responses to the things Tom says. She feels self-conscious every time Margot turns to smile at her, and sulky whenever Tom and Margot leave her out of a conversation—which they hardly do, often even stopping their conversations midway to ask for her opinions.

It’s somewhat fun, despite how full and confused Arya’s brain feels. Tom nods off at half past twelve, head  against the cushion and mouth open.

Margot asks Arya if she likes the movie playing, and turns it off when she says she doesn’t.

“I didn’t like it much either, I was just watching it because he wanted to,” Margot shrugs, tilting her head  towards a sleeping Tom, “Do you want a drink? There’s lemonade in the kitchen, I brought it over earlier.”

They head to the kitchen quietly, Margot pouring them both a glass of lemonade each before settling on the  floor.

“You want to sit… here?” Arya asks, puzzled, as Margot makes herself comfortable. “Tom needs his sleep,” Margot snorts.

Arya still doesn’t get why they have to sit in the kitchen, but she’s in no mood to discuss it, so she simply  joins Margot with a shrug.

“So, tell me. How has life been since the night you got drunk?”

“You were there the next day.”

Margot laughs, and the soft sound of it makes itself at home in Arya’s mind. They both pause to take a sip  of the lemonade, and Margot sighs in appreciation.

“The lemonade is my favourite part of being here,” Arya says, honestly. Lemonade this good is tough to  find back at home.

Margot’s eyes widen in agreement and she nods earnestly, “I know! It’s so good! I almost want to take it  everywhere with me, but it’s pointless without ice.”

Arya nods, finishing her lemonade in one big gulp. Margot follows suit.

“I need a cigarette, want to join me outside?”

“No, I’m good. I hate the smell of cigarettes,” Arya admits.

Margot pauses, “Oh. Well, never mind, then. I’ll go smoke later.”

“Are you sure? I wouldn’t mind if you did go.”

Margot smiles, fond. Her eyes are warm, crinkles forming at the edges, “I’m sure, Arya. I’ll go if I want to.”

“I’m like, the kind of person that glares at the people who smoke on the street. Or I wrinkle my nose, to  make them feel conscious. That one doesn’t usually work, though.”

Margot looks like she’s trying to fight a smile, amused, “Glad to know, Arya.”

“I just really don’t like the smell of cigarettes.”

“You mentioned, yes. I do want to stop at some point, but it just seems kind of impossible right now. I’ve  been doing this forever.”

“I mean, I get that. I’m not going to argue with you over your smoking habits. Or wrinkle my nose at you.  I’m not usually very confrontational.”

Margot grins, “Again, glad to know, Arya.”

“I’m so non-confrontational that I once dropped out of a class after someone stole my eraser because my  mom told me I should ask them to give it back.”

Margot laughs, “Now, that I can relate to. I’m not confrontational, but I just really hate talking to people.  So if someone tried to talk to me in class, I’d probably drop out as well.”

Arya feels her forehead crease, “That’s strange. I wouldn’t take you for someone who doesn’t like to talk. I  thought you loved socialising.”

She looks up, and is hit by the full force of Margot’s affectionate gaze. It’s adoring, almost, and entirely  unexpected.

“The way she looks at me!” Arya will later find herself complaining to a friend over the phone, “It’s enough  to mess with anyone’s head. No one looks at anyone like that!”

Now, though, Arya simply blinks and looks away.

“I figured you’d think that, yeah. I just—I can manage being decent, that’s it. You wouldn’t know that I hate  half the people here. I can’t stand them. But you didn’t hear that from me.”

Arya smiles, raising her eyebrows, “How do I know you don’t hate me?”

Margot’s lips twitch, and she winks, “You don’t.”

Arya laughs weakly, just as they hear footsteps coming towards the kitchen. Margot sits up a little straighter,  eyes fixed on the entrance as Tom enters, rubbing his eyes.

“Hey there, love,” she smiles, extending an arm that he takes, sitting down next to her. “You were gone. I had no idea where I was when I woke up. Hi,” Tom says, pouting. Arya sighs, standing up. She’s going to need something stronger than lemonade tonight. +

The next few days pass by in a blur. Arya spends most of her time lying on the couch, managing to  feed herself and calling her friends now and then.

She talks about Margot sometimes, finding herself replaying their conversation in the kitchen that night over and over again. In her head, she sees them together—holding hands, touching foreheads, giggling over  whispered secrets at the beach.

She doesn’t have the energy to do much more.

+

Tom turns up at her place at eight in the evening one day, and they end up taking a walk together. He takes  her to a part of the woods that she’s never seen before, and they spend forever just sitting there in silence.

Finally, Tom speaks up, his voice breaking: “Margot broke up with me.”

It’s not what Arya was expecting, but she’ll take it.

“Tom, I’m so sorry. I don’t understand– why?”

The clouds in the sky begin to clear up as Tom speaks.

+

There is a vague plan in Arya’s head, and it includes Margot coming over. There are movies she wants to  watch, and company she wants to enjoy.

Margot readily agrees, and the plan cements itself with that. She decides to come in the afternoon, with lemon popsicles, and Arya begins to feel her excitement build up. She wakes up a little earlier than usual that morning, to tidy the house and prepare pasta. She hums to herself, watching the sun shine happily, and  for the first time, she feels some sort of connection to it.

Afternoon comes, with a text from Margot, and Arya feels her heart sink: rain check on today? a friend just  came over

Arya bites her lip as she texts Margot back: it’s okay, of course. She’d expected it, almost. At least she’s got extra pasta for herself now.

+

Arya | 1:08pm

will you be at the party tonight??

Margot | 1:08pm

i will !! are you coming?

Arya | 1:09pm

im considering it

Margot | 1:09pm

theres more lemonade. i’ll bring u pizza

Arya | 1:09pm

stillll considering it

Arya | 1:10pm

im sold

+

When Arya enters the party, she’s greeted by Margot forcing a glass of cold lemonade in her hand, and  pressing a kiss to her cheek.

Stunned, she finds herself frozen to the spot, but Margot doesn’t seem to notice.

“I’m so glad you came,” she says, eyes soft, “Follow me, there’s someone I want you to meet.” Margot turns, walking towards the backyard, but it takes Arya a few seconds to be able to move again.

The music is loud, already beginning to drill into Arya’s mind, and she decides that she would have regretted  coming here already, if it wasn’t for the enthusiasm of the person who just greeted her a few seconds ago.

The girl Margot leads Arya to, is standing in the corner of the backyard, smoking a cigarette. She’s tall,  dark-haired and is wearing a short, red dress with flowers all over it. She raises her hand in a wave when  she notices Arya and Margot walking towards her.

“Arya, this is Charlie,” Margot says, ruffling Charlie’s hair as she speaks, “Charlie, this is Arya.”

“Hi!” Charlie exclaims, extending a hand to shake. Her voice is raspier than Arya expected, “Margot’s always talking about you, it’s so nice to finally meet you.”

“It’s nice to meet you, too,” Arya says, and instantly regrets the way she says it: she doesn’t sound nearly  as enthusiastic and genuine as Charlie does.

To add to it, she’s never heard Margot talk about Charlie, and doesn’t know what to think of Margot telling  her friends about her. What did Margot tell Charlie? Did she say good things? Does she consider Arya to  be a friend? Did she even say anything—or is Charlie simply being polite? Arya tries not to think too much  about it, taking a sip of her now considerably warmer lemonade.

Charlie, meanwhile, turns to whisper something to Margot, who nods, whispering something back. Arya feels a spark of something that might be jealousy, in her chest.

“I’m going to be back in a sec,” Margot tells Arya, then, “If I can walk two steps without injuring myself,  that is.”

Arya forces out a laugh, realizing she’s going to be alone with a person she’s never met before, as Margot  walks away.

“Margot showed me this poem on your blog,” Charlie starts, and Arya has to tear her gaze away from the  subject of their discussion, “About basically… diaspora, and not fitting in—I can’t remember the name. But  I just wanted to tell you that I liked it very much.”

“Oh, um… thank you. I didn’t know Margot read my blog,” Arya stumbles for words as Charlie pulls out  two chairs for both of them.

“Of course she reads your blog, she’s always showing me things you’ve written,” Charlie scoffs.

“How do you two know each other?”

“Oh, I thought you knew! We live right next door to each other, it’s perfect! We first met when I was out  of cigarettes and saw her smoking right outside her house—super dramatic, I asked her for a cigarette and  we ended up talking for hours on her porch. I love her.”

Arya feels like she’s been doused in ice-cold water. Charlie talks about Margot like they’re dating. Is this  why Margot broke up with Tom?

“Oh– are you guys– are you both together?” she asks, trying to sound as nonchalant as possible, while her  heart thumps at an unreal rate.

To her surprise, Charlie barks out a laugh.

“Margot and me? Together? I wish!” she says, not sounding like she wishes it at all, “We’d make a gorgeous  couple, wouldn’t we? If only Margot swung that way.”

Arya frowns, a little taken aback.

So Margot is straight, then, contrary to what she’d been allowing herself to believe. Charlie doesn’t notice  the suddenly apparent disappointment on Arya’s face, too busy guffawing at the idea of her and Margot  being together—so Arya doesn’t make an effort to school it.

Charlie is about to light another cigarette, when something seems to stop her. She freezes, eyes flickering  to Arya, “I’m sorry, I just remembered! You hate the smell of cigarettes, don’t you?”

Arya nods, too dazed to form a proper reply, just as Margot stumbles back, deciding to wrap an arm around  her.

“I got you more lemonade, love.”

+

Arya is lying in bed after a long day, scrolling through Instagram, when she first sees the photo.

Unsurprisingly, the first thing that she thinks is that it serves her right, almost, for liking someone who isn’t  straight, even though she couldn’t have known that until two nights ago. Her next worry is the fact that she  read into things so much, and so inaccurately that she is now in bed with an uneasy, anxious flutter in her  stomach as she stares at the picture of Margot and her new boyfriend.

If there is one thing Arya has always been good at, it is letting her imagination run wild. And this time, she may have taken it a little too far. There’s no one else she can blame for all her hopes coming crashing down  around her with one simple photo.

She’d thought she had this crush under control, but she isn’t so sure anymore.

A message from Tom pops up a few seconds later, and Arya decides that she’s definitely not in the mood  to talk tonight: Did you see the picture Margot just posted?

Tom is worse off, she knows: upset, betrayed, a little heartbroken, maybe. But she deserves a night of self pity, Arya tells herself, before she gets around to comforting Tom. So, she doesn’t reply to him, instead  choosing to go through her chats with Margot, up until the very last unanswered text message.

Arya goes back to look at the photo at least twelve more times that night, before she finally convinces herself to go to sleep.

+

Things with Margot don’t change—not on the outside, at least.

They still talk when they’re together, and if Margot notices that Arya seems to look a little uncomfortable,  she doesn’t comment on it. She also manages to remain just as affectionate as she was before the new  boyfriend. Arya doesn’t ask about him, but Margot mentions him a few times, with bright eyes and flushed  cheeks. There are other times, while in a group, that Arya notices Margot wandering off to hidden corners  with a phone pressed to her ear.

Arya and Margot don’t always talk, mostly preferring the company of their separate friend groups, and  Arya finally feels like a part of something bigger than just her feelings for Margot. Even then, it’s always  nice when they do end up together, and it’s easier than Arya had ever imagined it would be, when she first  met Margot. Sometimes, she still finds herself stumbling for words or awkwardly nodding as Margot talks,  but those times are far between.

And while Margot spends a lot of time on her phone texting people Arya doesn’t know about, replies to  Arya’s texts are just as rare as they used to be.

Tom remains upset for weeks after, and sometimes, Arya finds it hard to spend time with him as he rambles  on about Margot for hours and hours. In the end, there’s nothing she can do about it, she reminds him, and  he just has to let it go in his own time.

She wonders when she’ll be able to take her own advice.

Sometimes, she feels her crush dissipate when she hasn’t seen Margot for a few days, only for it to come  back in full force when she sees her again.

It never stops being puzzling, and it doesn’t help that everyone else she knows seems to have equally  bewildering feelings about Margot. While they all enjoy her company, there is something about her that  they find unsettling, something they can’t quite put their finger on.

It’s at times like these that Arya feels like she’s stuck, fighting her way out of quicksand, but it only sucks her in deeper.

+

“I am planning on seeing you again, Arya, I don’t know about you.”

Arya cracks a disbelieving smile in response, and Margot rolls her eyes before punching Arya lightly. “You know I am,” she insists.

On a trip to a beach in the nearest city, Margot waved Arya over  after catching her eye, and they’ve been speaking—in sarcasm and retorts, mostly—for the better part of  an hour.

Arya has finished two bottles of beer in the time since, not without Margot’s constant, sardonic reminders  that she isn’t supposed to like beer.

“I believe you,” Arya says, knowing she doesn’t sound like it, “I just don’t want to think about when I  leave. We do live continents apart.”

Their time in the tiniest town in the world is coming to an end, and it won’t be long before they’ll be packing  their bags to go back home, after months of togetherness. Every day, Arya wakes up dreading the day it’ll all be over.

“I know, me neither,” Margot agrees, pulling Arya in for a sideways hug, “But I think it’s important to  know that this isn’t the complete end, you know. We will see each other again. You’ll see everyone here  again.”

Arya doesn’t know why she does it, but she asks anyway—and she can’t take it back once it’s out: “What  about your boyfriend? When will you see him again?”

Margot looks taken aback, and there’s a few moments of silence while she stumbles for words, before managing to speak again, “We—um—we broke up.”

Her eyebrows are pulled together in the smallest of frowns as she speaks, and she suddenly seems to find  the sand extremely interesting, unable to tear her gaze away from the figures she’s drawing on it with a  stick.

“Oh,” Arya says, not sure how to feel, “And are you—um, how do you feel? Are you okay?”

Margot laughs, and Arya can’t quite place the emotion it’s supposed to convey. It’s a little bitter, and Margot  doesn’t bother looking up when she speaks again, “I’m fine, trust me. It was just a mess, and I was tired of  it. Don’t feel a thing.”

Arya simply nods, deciding to not say anything else until Margot says something herself, which she does  soon, looking up at Arya again.

“Forget that, though. When are you having your going-away party?”

“Oh, I was thinking of having it next weekend, actually. Will you come?”

The question makes Margot chuckle—a genuine laugh this time—and Arya revels in the happy sound of it.

“No, Arya, I’m going to miss your going-away party,” Margot rolls her eyes, amused, “Of course I’ll come.  I’ll be there, whenever.”

Something about the statement makes Arya blush, and she quickly takes another sip of her beer before  Margot notices. It’s disgusting and she wrinkles her nose before speaking again, “And what about you?  When are you throwing your farewell party?”

“Farewell. How tragic,” Margot chuckles again, then lightly adds, “I don’t think I’m going to have one,  actually. There’s a lot of people here that I can’t wait to get off my back. You’re not one of them, though.”

+

The day of the party arrives. It is also Arya’s last full day here, and she feels a lot of  emotions—so many, in fact, that in the end, she doesn’t even know what she’s feeling.

Arya spends the morning and afternoon preparing for the party with a few other friends—balloons and a  cake, decorations to hang from the ceilings—her last party here has to be perfect. It isn’t exceptionally  huge, either: just a group of fifteen people or so, that she actually enjoys spending her time with.

She sends out text messages to all her friends to confirm if they’re coming, and does not miss the fact that  there is no reply from Margot. Everyone else says yes, and yet Arya feels a little low at the prospect of a  Margot-less farewell. She tries not to let it get to her, though, reminding herself that the party will be fun,  whether or not Margot comes. And besides, there still is a chance that Margot may come—she’s just not  very good at replying to texts.

It’s been a couple of days since Margot and Arya last spoke, however, and in the end, Arya can’t get rid of  the feeling that Margot isn’t going to be there. She avoids the thought, and looks out at the bright, sunny  sky, glad it’s a good day.

She is right, in the end. The party flurries by, and Margot doesn’t even bother to reply to Arya’s text.

Arya has a good time, regardless: there is good music, there are people she enjoys spending time with, there  are tears, and alcohol she actually likes. There is Tom, in a corner of the room, making out with a friend of  Arya.

It is only when everyone has gone home, lying in bed, that Arya remembers Margot again. hey, she texts, as one last attempt, missed you at the party, all okay?

The answer comes in a few seconds later.

hey luv, sorry i couldn’t make it, i’ll see u tomorrow at the airport x

There is nothing more: not a single reason, no attempt to sound genuinely apologetic, she didn’t even think  to inform Arya in advance.

It feels like a last reminder from the universe that Arya’s feelings are tragically one-sided, and Margot does not care.

+

“I—yeah, it’s weird that you’re leaving.”

Tom is standing at Arya’s door, in a huge, yellow raincoat. Arya sighs, thinking of all the times he’s been  there, and how it’s all over now.

He takes her suitcase, carrying it slowly with grunts and muttered complaints. It is Arya who finally shuts  the trunk as Tom starts the car.

With a sigh and one last look at her little house—her darling home—they’re off. Tom seems to be fighting back emotions, she notices, but doesn’t comment on it.

“Again, I’m sorry I can’t wait at the airport,” is the first thing he says once he’s able to speak, “I would’ve— I really would’ve stayed, but I can’t be late to work today.”

“It’s okay, Tom, really. Thanks for taking me, anyway.”

Tom shrugs, and it is followed by silence as Arya watches the town pass by. The silence is only broken  when Arya speaks again, a few minutes later, “I saw you with Rayna yesterday.”

Tom laughs nervously, scratching the back of his neck.

“Yep. That was a thing that happened,” he says, avoiding Arya’s gaze, “I just—I don’t know if I’m ever  going to get over Margot, but I can still try, right?”

Arya hums, a smile tugging at the corner of her lips, “Yeah. Yeah, you can.”

+

The rain softens to a drizzle as Arya watches, but the sky remains just as dull. Arya feels quite washed out  herself, as she stands there, inside the airport, having finished checking in.

Margot is the first to arrive to say goodbye.

Arya feels herself deflate when she sees her, relieved to finally have company in an atmosphere that always makes her anxious and tense. She feels on edge until she sees the way Margot is smiling at her.

It’s not until later that Arya realises that Margot had looked a little unsure and cautious, then, as she  approached Arya—probably because she was afraid Arya would be furious at her for having missed her  party.

In the moment, though, Arya doesn’t even remember the party. Nothing seems to exist except this terrifying moment right now, charged with emotions that Arya can’t even place. She’s finally leaving, after months  of growing to love a place—there are procedures and goodbyes and airport security to get through, she  doesn’t know what home will feel like when she’s back, if it’ll even feel like home anymore—it’s safe to  say that last evening’s party is tucked away in a corner of her mind that she won’t be looking for anytime soon.

“Hey, love,” Margot says softly, and pulls Arya into a hug, as if sensing the nervous energy emanating from  her, “How are you doing? You look nervous.”

“I am,” Arya says, “I might cry too, actually. I’m so stressed and sad and oh my God, I’m going to cry.” As if on cue, the tears spring from her eyes, and Margot pulls back, looking startled.

“I can’t do tears, oh my God, I’m so bad at this,” she murmurs, before tentatively wrapping her arms around  Arya again, and rubbing her back gently.

“So I take it you’re not doing that well,” she adds, and Arya thinks she detects hidden laughter in her voice. Arya finds herself laughing too, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand and pulling away. “I’m fine. I’ll be fine. It’s all under control,” she says.

Margot hums, giving Arya another light squeeze, before taking a step back to open the yellow bag hanging  from her shoulder. She rummages through it and pulls out a small packet, which she hands to Arya, looking  keen. Arya takes it, eyes questioning.

“I bought this for you a few weeks ago. I’ve been meaning to give it to you for a while, but I kept forgetting  it at home,” Margot says, squeezing Arya’s hand gently, “Tell me if you like it.”

“What—you—should I open this now?”

Margot laughs, a light sound, and Arya finds herself thinking that the way Margot looks at her sometimes  could very well be the end of the world.

“Yes, Arya, now,” Margot replies as her laughter lines make themselves at home below her eyes, “How was your party, by the way?”

The question is asked as an afterthought, and there is no apology or justification with it. Arya replies  distractedly, too busy trying to pry open the strings of the packet, “It was good. Fun.”

“I’m glad,” Margot says, then giggles as Arya sighs, frustrated, at her inability to open the gift, “Give that  here, let me do it for you.”

It takes Margot all of five seconds to open the packet, and she hands it back to Arya earnestly once the  strings are undone.

Inside is a delicate, golden bracelet, with two charms hanging from it: the first is a small yellow lemon,  with a single green leaf. Arya’s gasps at the sight of it. The second is a silver bottle with the  word ‘beer’ written across it. It makes Arya smile the smallest of smiles, and when she looks up, Margot is looking at her anxiously, both eyebrows raised in a question.

“Oh my God, I love it,” Arya exclaims, watching Margot’s shoulders relax as she says the words, “Where  did you find this? I love it so much!”

“I saw it somewhere a while ago, and it made me think of you,” Margot answers with a shrug, “I’m glad  you like it.”

“I really do, thank you so much!” Arya grins, opening her arms to hug Margot. Margot falls into them with  a laugh, and pulls away just as fast.

“That’s amazing. Again, I’m so happy you like it,” she says, and although there is a small smile on her face,  it’s almost imperceptible, and Arya recognises the reserved, emotionless facade appearing again, “So, I have to leave now.”

Arya feels her breath catch. She knew this was coming, she was prepared for this moment—she just didn’t  expect it to be so soon.

“Can’t you stay until my flight?”

Margot purses her lips, runs a hand through her short hair, “I wish I could, Arya, but I really have to go.” “Right, um—okay, then.”

Once again, Margot envelopes Arya into a hug. This time, they stay like that for more than a few seconds,  with Margot’s hand running through Arya’s hair. It feels like all the time in the world passes as they stand  there, breaths caught, doubtful that they’ll ever be here again.

Just when she thinks she’s out, Arya finds that she is waist-deep in the quicksand again, and it has managed  to choke up all her senses before she even gets the chance to breathe one last time.

“I hope you liked your gift, Arya,” Margot whispers, “And I swear I’ll see you again very, very soon.”

Arya doesn’t know how much she believes that. She doesn’t think she believes it at all. In her head, Margot  will always remain someone she has to get over, move on from, to different, better things.

To have her here, now, is inconceivable in itself—Arya doesn’t dare to imagine a future in which Margot  will stay—just as inconstant, perfect and undeniably intoxicating as she is today.

Arya doesn’t even realize when Margot is gone.

Outside, the rain continues to fall.

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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