Written by Phoebe Lupton
Graphic by Simi Rao
This piece was originally published in ‘Pleasure and Danger’, Bossy’s 2020 print edition.
Yasmin wasn’t really reading. She flicked through the pages, trying to ignore the voices in her head, the voices that screamed:
“Nobody wants you.”
“You’ll never find love.”
“You’ll be alone forever.”
Yasmin’s book was a romance novel, and what a bloody awful choice that had been! She couldn’t help but feel jealous of all the fictional couples she’d met. It was always the meet-cute situation, always heterosexual, and nothing that Yasmin had actually heard about in real life. These books espoused the idea that you needed to find love – romantic, sex-driven love – in order to live a meaningful life.
Yasmin went to turn yet another page when, out of the corner of her eye, she saw a girl. The girl was looking at Yasmin the way guys had looked at her before – except this girl wasn’t creepy like those guys. She seemed… admiring of Yasmin. Appreciative. Intrigued.
They made eye contact for just a second. Yasmin’s body became unsettlingly hot, as if she was standing a metre away from the sun. She hated people staring at her. It felt like they were invading her private space, trying to crack through a sheet of ice to get to the water underneath. People who watched other people, who made eye contact with complete strangers, couldn’t be trusted, she thought. They always seemed like they were up to something.
Yasmin took another look at the girl and, lo and behold, she was coming towards her. Yasmin went back to her book and tried reading a couple of sentences.
Yasmin’s heart skipped a beat. She looked up, and there was the girl.
“Your hair’s really cool,” said the girl. “How do you do that intricate braid thing?”
She was small like Yasmin, but skinner, less busty. She had short blond hair and eyes like an overcast sky. She was dressed plainly; just a white t-shirt paired with navy blue jeans. Yasmin had a vision of the girl coming and sitting next to her, talking to her, maybe even…
No, don’t be silly, she told herself, of course you’re not going to kiss her.
Yasmin hastily pushed the thought from her mind. At the age of 20, she’d never kissed anyone. She’d come close, sure. But all the men she’d gone on dates with had turned out to be dicks, and all the women had turned out to be emotionally unavailable. So, alas, no kisses had arisen from any of her past endeavours.
Yasmin pulled herself from her daydreams and remembered that the girl had complimented her hair.
“Oh, yeah, thanks. I don’t know, my mum taught me how to do it when I was little. It’s kind of second-nature to me now.”
The girl smiled and gave a little wave.
Anna gestured towards the empty space beside Yasmin.
“Mind if I sit here?”
She wants to sit with me?
“No, no, come sit,” said Yasmin, a warm glow growing inside her, as if a ray of sunlight had penetrated her body.
Anna’s smile was wide and open, a blooming rose. Yasmin eyed Anna: why on Earth would this pretty girl want to talk to her? But still, there was something magical, something energetic about Anna that made Yasmin want to sit with her a little longer.
“What are you reading?”
“Oh, just a romance book. Love Like the Sun. I, um, picked it up from the first shelf in the library.”
She began to sweat. The book she had been reading for the past half-hour suddenly seemed shameful. A romance novel? Really? Now Anna would think she was some 20-year-old who’d regressed back into a 14-year-old Twilight obsessive, or had mentally aged to become a 54-year-old 50 Shades of Grey fan.
“Can I have a look?”
“Sorry?” Yasmin held the book tight to her chest. Anna’s smile faded away, and her eyes twitched.
“Oh, I just wanted to read the blurb. No worries if not, though.”
“Okay, um… sure. Have a look.”
Yasmin passed the book to Anna, who turned it around to read the back. A crease formed in the middle of Anna’s forehead as she read. Yasmin felt the sudden urge to touch it, but she willed herself to fight it away. Why would she want to touch this random girl’s face?
“I’ve not read this one,” said Anna. “I’ve not read many romance books at all. I do read a lot though, and I like most genres. I just feel like romance is a bit heteronormative, you know?”
Yasmin was feverish, burning up again. Anna was talking to her. Anna wanted to talk to her. Yasmin didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. She’d only ever dreamed about meeting someone like this, and now, it might actually be happening. Except she’d just ruined everything by babbling on about her dumb romance book.
“Oh yeah, I don’t really read much romance either. I mean, this one actually isn’t that good.”
“No, I don’t mind. Read all the romance you like. Sorry, I didn’t mean to sound judgemental.”
“Oh that’s fine, completely fine!”
“So, what other books do you like? Do you read a lot too? I love reading.”
“I love reading too. I love most genres. And I suppose I do like romance sometimes.”
“I mean, I do kind of get the appeal of romance. You get to live vicariously through them, if you know what I mean.”
“I definitely know what you mean! I haven’t been that lucky in the romance department myself, so…”
A silence ensued. Anna looked at her feet, now seeming shy. “Can we hang out?”
“Um, yeah, sure. But…”
Anna shifted closer to Yasmin. She was smiling again. At that moment, burning even hotter now, Yasmin knew that she had to say what was on her mind.
“Do you like girls?”
Anna’s face was pinker than before. She was glowing like a rose-coloured bulb. She laughed nervously and tucked a flyaway golden hair behind her ear. Yasmin felt an invisible string slowly pulling her closer to Anna.
“Yeah, I do. I haven’t dated any, but I definitely, definitely like them.”
Yasmin felt her heart begin to swell – a crackling fire, a wave coming in with the tide. Maybe this was what liking a girl – really liking a girl – was like. She had only just met Anna, but it didn’t seem to matter. And then, Yasmin knew she just had to do it now. She was going to do it now.
She kissed Anna right on the lips.
It was wonderful. Anna’s lips and mouth were sweet, like chocolate or cider. The energy between their bodies lit them up so that Yasmin felt it must have looked like they were glowing.
They pulled apart and smiled at each other.
“Wow,” said Anna.
Yasmin couldn’t speak. She was breathing heavily and sweating, like she’d just been for a run. But it felt so good.
“Hey,” said Anna. “Do you want to come to my place? We can… hang out a bit more.”
Hang out? A bit more? Yasmin almost wanted to say ‘no.’ But she could imagine getting to know this girl more. She could imagine sleeping with Anna, feeling her body right next to Anna’s. She could imagine loving her – not that she knew now if this was ever going to blossom into love. She didn’t know how much would come out of this, or even if their story would continue beyond this one day.
But at least she finally knew what it was like to kiss a girl.