The Henna Wars(11)

It’s the only picture from the night that I really love.

And then I see a comment below the photo from Flávia’s account, and my smile widens.

Nice henna—your sis did a great job!

It’s the last day of summer and I’m spending it thinking about Flávia Santos, a girl I’m probably never going to see again. I’m pathetic.

The sun is shining outside, as if taunting me for being the kind of person who spends more time fantasizing about an unattainable girl than living her life.

“I don’t want to go back to school,” Priti groans, slipping into my room and plopping herself down onto my bed. Unlike me, she’s spent most of the day with her head buried in her books, at Ammu’s insistence. She’s a year younger than me, which means that this school year will be her first state exam. Every Irish student has to do them in their third year of secondary school.

“Well, that’s too bad,” I tell her.

She groans again, and turns to face me with a frown on her lips. “You’re so lucky to be going into Transition Year. Getting to do fun stuff. Trying different things. Getting work experience.”

“Yep, lucky …” The truth is that while the rest of the girls in our year have been bubbling with excitement at the idea of Transition Year, I’ve been feeling a sense of dread ever since I decided to go ahead with it instead of skipping ahead to Fifth Year. Transition Year is meant to be a year of doing practical things, of getting work experience and exploring the world around us, but I’m not sure I’m ready for the world yet. I much prefer stressing over exams.

“So, feeling prepared for your Junior Cert?” I know this will get a rise out of Priti. It always does.

She groans and buries her face in her hands, like I’ve just said the worst possible thing.

“Please, please don’t start,” she says. “Please, for this entire year, never bring up exams at all. I’ll have enough of that from Ammu.”

I can’t help but laugh.

“So what do you want me to do when it’s June? Just not speak to you at all?”

“You can speak to me,” she says. “But just … not about exams. You can just avoid it. Pretend there are no exams. Pretend that I’m off for the summer with you, too.”

“Okay, okay. No exam talk. Even though you didn’t exactly let up on that last year.”

“Are you nervous?” Priti asks then, looking at me with wide eyes. “About the results?”

I try to bite down the anxiety bubbling in the pit of my stomach and just shake my head. If I show my nerves now, Priti will be even more nervous going into the year than she already is.

“What’s done is done. Nothing I can do about it now, so there’s no point being nervous, is there?”

We spend the night ironing our school uniforms and getting them ready to go in the morning, sighing complaints about each and every thing we can think of to do with school.

As I’m in the bathroom brushing my teeth before bed, Priti leans against the doorway.

“You’re not going to … try and get somewhere with Flávia, are you?”

My mouth is full of toothpaste, so I just shrug.

“Because … I saw the comment she left on my Instagram photo and her Instagram profile and—”

I turn to glare at her, spitting out my toothpaste.

“Have you been stalking her?”

“It’s Internet stalking, it doesn’t count!”

“Priti, I saw her at that wedding and I’ll probably never see her again,” I say definitively, even though I’ve spent countless hours thinking about her since I saw her comment last night. The truth is, I did a little bit of Internet stalking of my own, and Flávia is definitely living in the vicinity. I even came up with a few scenarios where I could casually “accidentally” bump into her. I’m not serious about it—I don’t think. But I’m not going to tell Priti about that.

“It’s just, she seems like bad news to me.”

“You don’t even know her.” I stuff the toothbrush into my mouth once more, hoping that’s the end of that. But of course it’s not.

“I’ve spent a lot of time … perusing her online presence.” Priti nods proudly, like this is an admirable skill everybody should possess. “And I’ve learned a lot. Like … did you know that she had a boyfriend before?”

I frown. “And?” I try to be nonchalant about it, but the information sends my heart into a tizzy. Maybe she still has a boyfriend?

“So she’s most likely straight.”

“Priti. There are more sexualities than gay and straight. Just because she had a boyfriend doesn’t mean anything.” Although it can mean a lot.

“I’m just saying that she’s dated before. You haven’t. And she dated a boy. I’m pretty sure you’re not looking to date any boys and you just don’t seem compatible and she’s probably straight and I don’t want you to get your hopes up.” She’s breathing hard when she finishes, eyebrows furrowed in anger.

I’m not sure whether I should be mad or touched by her overwhelming concern.

“Nothing’s going to happen anyway. You’re worrying for nothing,” I say even as my heart sinks a little at Priti’s words. She’s most likely straight. I had no reason to doubt that she was; taking my hand at the wedding was nothing. Straight girls do that all the time. That’s why being a lesbian is so confusing.

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