“I -- I don’t know, Mills,” April said. She sat on the edge of Violet’s bed while her girlfriend was in the shower. It was noon and it had been two days since she’d left her house. From what Kat had picked up, her parents had been flaking on making sure she was okay. There had been a demand for her to come home, but the fact that she was a legal adult made it so the school couldn’t just hand her over. When Ms. Lopez had been informed of what had happened she had nodded stoically. She’d then given April a dinky old backup phone, asked them all to come back next week, and had then shuffled them out of her office while she took care of some business. They’d heard her yelling into her phone through the double doors. An hour later, April had received a text from Ms. Lopez on her ‘new’ phone that she was legally allowed to stay on school grounds until a permanent solution was found.
But now they had to wait until Friday, and April had been spending most of the past few days crying. Despite their awful response, she still cared deeply about her family and being rejected so thoroughly had been a stab to the heart. Kat, Millie and Violet had taken turns making sure she was okay, making sure she was washed and dressed and dragging her to classes. After two days, she seemed to be doing a little bit better, and while Kat would’ve liked to claim partial credit, it was pretty clear that sleeping in the same bed as Violet had given her something tangible, literally and metaphorically, to hold on to. But Millie and Kat had decided that she needed something extra. They were barely adults, but being on her own was forcing April to be an adult very quickly, and the others had decided that normalcy and companionship away from her parents’ home was an option. Violet, who saw her parents only from time to time, agreed.
So they’d scheduled a double date. “It’ll be like starting a new tradition,” Kat had said optimistically. “Just the four of us, we go get dinner, watch a movie, have drinks after. It’ll be cozy and you’ll be among friends.” Millie had squeezed her hand, and the smile she’d shot Kat had made the girl blush. “A-and besides, you need to get away from campus. We have the rest of the afternoon off. So why don’t we take you two shopping and then grab something to eat?” April wasn’t so sure, but even she’d agreed that there was nothing wrong with trying to feel better, and upgrading her wardrobe wasn’t the worst prospect in the world.
Just then Violet had come back in wearing a towel. After a month, she’d figured out how to tie it together so it didn’t slip off. She’d gotten dressed behind a room divider and came out from behind it looking suitably ruffled, wearing a summer dress that made her look like a snack. Kat had shot her a smile that was full of sharp teeth. “And then you can give me back my bras, Vi.” Vi looked a little guilty, but she met Kat’s gaze and stuck out her tongue. She’d gotten some hand-me-down clothes from her mom and some emergency underwear, but half of it had been on loan from Kat.
“You offered, nerd.”
“How dare you use the truth against me,” Kat returned. She saw April smile in the corner of her eye. It was good to see her perk up a bit, and it wasn’t long before they’d managed to get her dressed enough to go shopping. Once she was out of the building and off-campus, her mood seemed to brighten up even more.
They sat in pairs on the bus. Kat, as ever, was still a little overwhelmed by the fact that Millie was holding her hand. Her hands were warm, but dry and soft. They shared a quick kiss, Millie nudging Kat’s nose with her own a few times, playfully teasing her. Kat resisted making a noise of protest in public, but only barely. After a few seconds, she nodded at Violet and April. They’d be on the bus for another twenty minutes, and April had already fallen asleep with her head on Violet’s shoulder.
“I’m... proud,” Millie whispered. Kat understood why. They’d found themselves and each other in a very short amount of time, and they’d both… Kat couldn’t find the right word. ‘Relaxed’ wasn’t quite right, because they still had a lot to worry about, especially now. But where they’d both been not only wound tight but had seemingly experienced the world almost reluctantly, there now seemed to be things, positive things, small things, that could cheer them up and make them smile. They both smiled now, and it was beautiful to see.
“I am too,” she answered Millie. “They look good together. If a bit clumsy.” She grinned. They’d done a lot of practicing, but the girls still occasionally knocked their heads together when they both went in for a kiss. They’d also tried to tease each other once in a while, and it had always gone hilariously.
April had made a mistake on an exercise the day before while studying, and, as she was leaving the room to get snacks from the kitchen, Violet had blown her a kiss. “That’s why you’re the cute one,” she’d blurted out as she’d rounded the corner. A few seconds later, Violet had stormed back in, murmuring “Sorry!” over and over again while kissing April’s entire face. It was cute seeing them try to figure out how to relationship, but for the most part, they were being honest with each other about their feelings, considering each other, and being affectionate. All things considered, Kat thought, they were doing very well. She looked at Millie. Millie looked back.
“I love you,” she said.
“I love you too,” Millie returned.
“I think we look pretty good together too,” Kat said. For a second, she was confused, because Millie didn’t answer. Instead, she went through her purse, and retrieved her blackest lipstick and applied it. When she finally made eye contact with Kat again, it was that sideways glance that made Kat feel like she was being preyed on by a large cat.
“Babe,” Millie said, and kissed Kat softly and deeply, passing on the lipstick. She pulled away and cleaned up the smudges around the now-stunned Kat’s lips with a finger. “We look amazing,” she concluded. Kat squeaked in unison with the brakes on the bus, and Millie took her hand to guide her out the door. Violet and April followed closely behind them, also holding hands. Kat would probably have found the whole thing adorable, but her brain was still stuck booting up.
Shopping for clothes was something Kat had often found bothersome, and when Millie had first come to her with the idea, she’d scrunched up her face in a way that Millie had called adorable. It had earned Kat a kiss on the nose too, and while she’d been blushing, Millie had explained to her that some things were a lot more fun if you took your time and, more importantly, your partner and friends. “You can sit on the floor of your living room, roll an egg back and forth with your friends and it’ll still be fun,” she’d said. Kat couldn’t bring up any objections to that. And, after all, this was more for April’s benefit than her own.
And they had a pretty good time, all things considered. Initially, April had some trouble relaxing. She’d clearly been stuck in her own head, but after a while of actually getting to be excited about dresses, she had slowly started to thaw somewhat. She and Violet had been hesitant to spend money, for obvious reasons, but this had all been in the name of cheering up, so Kat and Millie fronted some of the cost for essentials and for the most part, they had enjoyed playing dress-up in stores until dirty looks by the staff had forced them to move on.
Kat had been happy to see her best friend try out new styles. When she’d first been transformed, Violet’s style would have been most easily described as post-bargain-bin hoodiecore. But now that she’d had a chance to try new things, it was clear that she was beginning to veer more towards a sundresses-and-big-hats aesthetic, the effective cuteness of which was exacerbated by the fact that she was shorter than the others. By contrast, April had gravitated towards a combo of jeans and jackets that seemed to play off Millie a little bit, though nobody had mentioned it. Kat and Millie had shared a meaningful glance, but the advantage of meaningful glances, Kat had learned, was that they were easily disguised as gay ones.
After a lot of shopping, banter, teasing and gay nonsense, they sat down in the food court, putting down a few bags. They weren’t full, but they did have some clothes Millie and Kat had insisted on buying for the two girls, and some accessories they’d tried to secretly buy for each other.
“How are you feeling?” Millie said with a smile, managing to look cool and relaxed even when eating a burger, a feat not many people could pull off. Millie and Violet looked at each other and the smile that bounced between them warmed Kat’s heart.
“I needed this,” April confessed, and she took Violet’s hand. “Thank you. All of you.” She made a show of looking around the table.
“Of course,” Kat said, and she knew she looked silly, trying to smile reassuringly while shoving too many fries in her mouth at the same time. She was pretty sure it got the message across, regardless. “This was more fun than I thought it was going to be, I’ll be honest.”
“Told you,” Millie said, giving her a greasy kiss on the cheek. “There’s going to be time to worry tomorrow. But if we can’t do anything today, we might as well make the best of the time we have, right?”
“Thank you, Gandalf,” Violet said, bowing her head dramatically, and Millie threw a curly fry at her.
They decided against catching a movie at the mall theatre. April had clearly ran out of energy to be around random strangers, and Kat squeezed Millie’s arm to draw her attention to the slowly deflating girl. Kat and Millie both pretended to be tired, and after a few minutes they were on the bus again on their way to campus, sitting a little closer together. It meant not being able to be as openly affectionate -- Kat didn’t want to make the others uncomfortable -- but it did allow her to make sure the other two were okay. Violet and April hadn’t been out in the open as much in the past month, and though they’d clearly managed to focus on getting to be girls-out-shopping-together, that clearly wasn’t going to last forever. April was already dozed off on Violet’s shoulder again, and Violet needed the occasional nudge against the knee not to lose herself in her own head.
Kat and Millie dragged the two depleted girls to their dorm room. The summer sun had gently begun to set, and Violet and April were both almost sleepwalking, and needed the occasional steering to keep from bumping into benches or other students. No school-wide announcement had been made -- and if it was up to Ms. Lopez, none would be. The fact that the two girls had decided to stay girls after the end of the bet had spread throughout the school. Other than the occasional glare from some misguided, exclusionary soul, their fellow students had picked up what they’d been putting down. They were much more accepting of someone trying to find themselves than they’d been about two loud-mouths trying to one-up each other. Especially if those two were also very cute together.
Kat briefly considered putting on a movie in the room, but decided against it. She wanted to be around April and Violet, making sure they were okay, that they didn’t spiral into self-doubt and fears, but they were so tired they were most likely to pass out as soon as their heads hit the pillow, so she and Millie got them to the dorm room and then quietly closed the door behind them as they left.
Millie took Kat’s hand as they walked across the now-mostly-quiet campus. Kat looked at her. Millie looked back. “I had a great time today,” Kat said. “I was wondering if you’d like to… Y’know…”
Millie smiled warmly and squeezed her hand. “I’d love to,” she said, and they didn’t say anything more as they walked to Kat’s room.