“What, Jade?” my mom calls from downstairs.
“I need to talk to you about something!” I shout.
“Come down here, I can’t hear you!”
I run down the stairs. The bright lights of the kitchen outline Mom’s silhouette as she bustles around. “What’s so important that you had to scream it across the house?” She wipes her hands on her jeans.
“This.” I wave a neon yellow flyer in the air.
She blinks and backs up a step to read it. “Prom’s a month away?” she gasps. I nod, confused. She wails, “You waited until just now to tell me?”
“I just got the paper today,” I try to appease her.
“Less than four weeks away,” she mutters, half to herself. “We need to go to the mall, but there might not be so many dresses left, and you need to find the perfect one...” She’s close to hyperventilating.
“Mom, calm down,” I order. “I have plans to shop for dresses with some girlfriends on Sunday.”
Her panic recedes slightly. “Alright,” she says. A beat of silence. “Do you have a date?”
Her eyes widen. “Jade!” she squeals. “Who?” she asks, dancing around me. “Brady Johnson? Elijah White? Wait, I know! Hunter DeVino!”
I shake my head. “You wouldn’t know them.”
“Ooh, a secret boyfriend? I hope you’re planning to tell me who he is soon!” She winks.
I roll my eyes.
She continues, undaunted. “I know I’m being embarrassing, but I’m just so excited! You know, I was crowned prom queen my senior year!”
“I know. You’ve only told me about a hundred times,” I sigh.
“Maybe it runs in the family!” she says.
I snort as I head back upstairs. “Definitely.”
My mom has no idea what she’s talking about. Me being crowned queen is as likely as Mom never telling her senior prom story again. Everyone knows Tracey Miller’s going to win the tiara. As captain of the cheer squad and most popular girl at my school, it’s no surprise.
I’m one of the least likely candidates for prom queen. Beside the facts that I’m not rich and don’t have boys slobbering over me, I’m not in the popular crowd. I hang out with the outcasts, the “gay freaks who suck all the life out of school”, according to Tracey. I have real friends, though, so I don’t care what some shallow brat says.
She’s technically not wrong about the gay part. I wasn’t lying to my mom when I said I had plans with some girlfriends. I only stretched the truth a little. There’s only one girlfriend, and she’s not what my mom thinks “girlfriend” means.
I’ve known I was gay since ninth grade, but no one else did until the year after. Halfway through tenth grade, I came out to Sammi, my best friend. I had just started eleventh grade when I came out at school.
Coincidentally, that was also the same time Ash moved here. We met in the gay-straight alliance club at school. I remember the first day we met. Ash walked right up to me and said, “Hi, I’m Ash. I moved here from Chicago and I’m a lesbian.” I was speechless. The boldness of that statement just completely blew me away. That and her good looks.
We quickly became inseparable, getting closer every month. I didn't ask her out until October of our senior year, though, because I’m a chicken. And when I did, I asked her over text. She simply replied, “What took you so long?” We’ve dated for seven months and we’re still going strong.
Being openly gay with my friends is a different matter than coming out to my parents. I’m not sure when I’ll tell them. Maybe my wedding. At the earliest.
I’m pretty sure Mom would have a cow if she knew Ash was my girlfriend. Ash knows I haven’t come out to my parents, so she acts like any girl best friend whenever she comes over. It means a lot to me that she would leave my coming out at home entirely up to me.
I suffer through two hours in a Nordstrom dressing room on Sunday, trying on dress after dress. I’m drowning in chiffon and lace before Ash rescues me, helping me to pick out a deep red strapless with a sweetheart neckline. She buys a baby blue empire dress with a plunging v-neck.
Sitting in the backseat of her car in the parking lot, I admire our haul. “I love this color, Ash. It compliments your skin.”
She mock-pouts. “Just my skin? What about my stunning personality?”
I laugh. “That too.”
We sit and talk for an hour, interrupting our chatting with a makeout sesh once in a while.
“My parents are trying to guess my prom date,” I gripe. “My mom is really into it.” I roll my eyes dramatically.
Ash gasps and covers her mouth. “Jade!” She looks at me in excitement.
Startled, I say, “What?”
She leans in closer. “Did you come out to your parents?” Her eyes dance with eagerness.
“Oh,” I exhale. “No, no I didn't.”
Ash sits back. “Oh. I just thought... You said your parents were trying to guess your date...” She fumbles for words.
I wave her off. “It’s fine. They’re just...” I trace the seat. “They never once guessed a girl.”
“Do you want them too?” she asks gently.
I shrug. “I dunno. I... ” I sigh. Then I look up at her, trying to hold in a giggle. “They guessed every single guy on the football team.”
She snorts. “Well, obviously. They’re so hawt.” She sounds exactly like Tracey Miller.
We look at each other and burst out laughing.
“I love you,” I tell her.
“I know.” She tosses her hair haughtily. As I lean in for a kiss, she whispers, “Me too.”
Prom night, my mom bugs me endlessly about my “secret date.” I give a vague answer every time she asks. As I’m heading out the door, high heels on and car keys in my fist, she stops me one last time.
“Jade, why didn't you invite your date over?” She gives me a stern face.
“Errands. They had to go straight to the school after.” My foot is halfway down the first step.
“But there’s going to be no pictures of you together,” she whines.
“I’ll get some at the dance,” I promise. “Now, can I go?”
She sighs, but nods. As she starts to pull the door closed, I say, “Wait.” She pauses. Just say “I’m gay.” Two words.
“Are you okay?” Mom looks concerned.
“Mom, I...” I swallow, hard.
The words are on the tip of my tongue. I struggle to push them past my lips. “See you later,” I say instead.
Mom smiles. “Have fun!” The door shuts.
When I get to the school, prom’s already in full swing. Lights flash between the cracks of the gym doors. A tap on my shoulder has me spinning to face Ash. “Hey,” I say.
“What’s up?” she asks. I shrug. “You didn't tell her.” It’s not a question, but I shake my head anyways. “That’s okay,” Ash says, pulling me in for a kiss. She tugs me toward the gym. “You don’t have to worry about that here.”
Prom’s a blur. When the last slow song comes on, Ash and I move onto the dance floor. I put my hands on her shoulders and she clasps my waist.
“I’m not sure I’ll be able to come out to them anytime soon,” I confess.
“It’s okay,” she murmurs. I just nod. My throat is tight.
“Seriously,” she continues. “If you come out tonight or in twenty years doesn’t make any difference to me.” She tilts her head down for a slow, sweet kiss.
“Thanks, Ash,” I whisper. I lay my head against her shoulder and we sway to the music.
Ash’s parents call her when we’re leaving the gym. “Did you have fun?” I hear her mom ask.
“Yup,” Ash replies.
Her dad chimes in, “I bet you slow danced with a ton of hotties!”
“Dad!” Ash exclaims. She looks at me with an apologetic glance. “I have a girlfriend.” She ends the call. “Parents,” she says, shaking her head.
I hide a smile. “See you at school.”
She waves as we part ways.
Heaviness settles into my stomach as I walk to my car. It takes a while to figure out what it is. Hearing Ash and her parents talk so lightly about her having a girlfriend made me a bit jealous too.
I’ve made up my mind.
It’s late enough that my parents are in bed by the time I get home. I stand outside their door, hand poised to knock. I take a deep breath.
The lights are off, which is good. I don’t want to see my parents faces when I deliver the news. I never knew that it’d be so hard to say two little words.
But it is hard. I steady myself with another deep breath. I know I want this.
And my parents need to know.
“Mom? Dad?” I knock on the door. “I need to talk to you about something.”