Sophie would wonder later, whenever she tried to reflect on what they’d both seen that day, why she hadn’t felt more shell-shocked. People would swap horror stories with a bizarre air of pride, conjuring images of falling to their knees, falling on the floor, elderly parents seizing their arm in unadulterated terror. Overall, the kind of trauma a therapist would have a field day with, if the concept of therapy hadn’t been rendered pretty much impossible. But Sophie had only been conscious of a feeling of pure dread, seeping its way into her bones.
She turned to Lizzy, and saw that dread mirrored in the panicked crease on her brow. Sophie longed to smoothen it with her finger, to soothe her girlfriend somehow, but what good would her touch be in the face of what she was convinced was some kind of biblical end of days?
The blue sky, now entirely empty of clouds seemed to crackle at the edges, as though it was holding its breath for the next unthinkable thing. Sophie felt it too, the hushed sensation of bated breath as though she was about to step on to a stage. It was as though the curtain had risen on something she couldn’t even picture. Lizzy physically shook their head, as though snapping herself out of panicked inertia and grabbed Sophie’s arm tight.
“I think we should go inside. I don’t…I don’t like this. I don’t think we should be outside.”
She pulled Sophie through their front door and slammed it decisively, as though that would shut out any indication that the world had changed. Inside, perhaps they could pretend that their metaphorical sanctuary, their castle, could protect them from reality for a while.
“Lizzy, what the hell?” Sophie muttered, crossing the room to wrap her arms around her girlfriend. She squeezed her eyes shut until she saw stars, desperately trying to pretend that nothing out of the ordinary was happening. Lizzy was silently shaking around her. Sophie longed to stand there together for longer, perhaps for hours, enveloped in some kind of safe denial but she knew that if one of them didn’t move now, they never would. She reluctantly eased Lizzy’s arms away, feeling the absence of warmth immediately.
“We should probably switch on the news or something. Then at least we’ll know. We’ll know and we can find out how they’re sorting it.”
She crossed over to the television on unsteady feet and switched it on.
Once, when they’d been sixteen and half drunk on shitty Echo Falls, they had first acknowledged how unsustainable their situation was. They’d both counted themselves as being officially together for over a year by then, if you didn’t count the years of confusing homoerotic tension which Sophie did not, thank you very much. She was lying with her head in Lizzy’s lap and she loved them so much she quite seriously thought there was a danger she’d die from it. She sat up unsteadily, ready to pronounce this to her poor, slightly more sober, girlfriend, when Lizzy took her hand a little gravely.
“You know, my mum asked me again why I keep sleeping over at yours every weekend.” she said quietly.
“What? You’ve been staying at mine since we were five!” Sophie responded with the indignancy of the very drunk.
“I know but babe I genuinely think she can tell that something’s different. I don’t know how but every time I mention you she looks at me like I’ve just waved our sex tape in her face or something. It makes my skin crawl.”
Sophie sighed. She knew the feeling, knew the weird accusatory tone that her dad had perfected as well. But hearing Lizzy acknowledge it, seeing the crease in her brow even as she remembered what her mum had said, felt like a punch in the gut. Sophie was more partial to simply pretending that the realities of their small town life didn’t exist when they were together, that their relationship existed on an entirely different plane of existence.
“She can’t know for sure though surely? We’ve been so careful and you know Thomas said he’d cover for me if anyone got too annoying about it. I can’t see them finding out any time soon.”
Lizzy sighed, looking utterly unconvinced.
“But eventually they’ll have to. I mean what’s our plan here for after high school? Just stay closeted forever?”
Sophie’s breath hitched a little.
“You see us together after high school?”
Lizzy smiled and slightly swatted her on the arm.
“Shut up. I thought you knew that.”
Sophie kissed her then, quickly.
“We could just leave. We’d feel safer if we weren’t here.” she whispered as she pulled back.
They had. They’d felt so safe for a while, that Sophie had almost stopped waiting for the other shoe to drop. She’d almost shaken the feeling that their escape was too good to be true, that their beautiful little flat and their beautiful little life could be taken away in an instant. Somehow, she’d managed to feel settled, to put down roots and all of the other cliches that she’d never really believed in before. She knew that Lizzy felt the same. They’d flourished here, and yet as the television flickered into life and they were greeted with static instead of a reassuring news reader, Sophie felt the same sinking unsurprised dread as before. It made her sad, to realise how much she’d been expecting things to go wrong, how unsettled she’d truly been. As the static roared, Lizzy scrambled for the remote and switched it off, before turning to Sophie, love and worry in her eyes.
“What the fuck do we do?”
By Hannah Eglinton.
A Queerativity Tale is a Queerativity original story updated by a new Queer Artist at the beginning of each month. If you are interested in writing an issue for A Queerativity Tale, please email [email protected] or fill out the Get Involved Form.