Jessica Bhaduri opens up about her sexuality and her crush.
Alexander Bhaduri #3
Noon of June 1, 1999; 30213 Haytham Avenue, Portland, New York
Jessica Bhaduri sunk into the soft plush of her mattress, twiddling brown curls around her right index finger--clinking her pink hoop earrings every so often--and staring at the ceiling of her bedroom. She twiddled and thumbed the hems on her loose, acid-washed jeans, grinding her teeth, clenching the hem of her oversized white T-shirt. Her breathing, though quiet, had a sharp edge to the end, so each inhale was harsh and jagged. Droplets of sweat fell down her cheeks and chin to land on her chest.
She only had four days until the party. And she didn't know if she was ready.
She didn't know if she'd ever be ready.
Sighing, she turned her head to her right. Immediately, she flinched. Her fear, her insecurity magnified a thousand-fold when she noticed the picture on her drawer. In the picture, she stood, smiling, in front of the Taj Mahal. Her arm was around the shoulder of a much shorter and rounder girl.
Olivia's family was very close to Jessica's. They often went on archaeological digs together and lived across the street from each other. In fact, Olivia's grandmother watched over the Bhaduri house while they were gone, often surprising them with brownies or cookies when they came back. Jessica had known Olivia for more than five years and, in that time, came to adore every aspect of Olivia's being: her boundless energy, her inventions, that encyclopedia of engineering that was her brain, her giggles and freckles and round face and those warm eyes that danced in the sunlight.
Two years ago, Jessica, hoping against hope that Olivia would one day understand how she felt, realized why she felt her heart snap and pang in her chest every time she saw Olivia's blonde curls.
Two years ago, Jessica, hugging her mother who, despite not knowing who her daughter was crying over, whispered that it was going to be okay, learned what it meant to be bisexual.
Two years ago, Jessica, her face adorned with braces and pimples, realized she had a crush on the blonde, chubby girl across the street.
Coming out to her family hadn't been all bad. Far from it.
Jessica smiled slightly. Her mother, the person she trusted the most to tell first, accepted and loved her without the slightest hesitation, as she'd hoped. A few weeks afterwards, she told her father. He had nodded and asked if the steak he was grilling looked down enough. It caught on fire moments later. Alexander, however, then only nine years old, had the best reaction the next day: "That's cool. What's for dinner?"
She knew it wouldn't be easy forever. She was fully aware of how gay and bisexual and trans people were treated in most of the country, how casually they were abused and mistreated. Outside of a few places in states like New York and California, it would take decades for the rest of the country and the world to catch up with Portland, New York.
That wasn't her only fear, however. She doubted Olivia would treat her any worse. But...what if Olivia said "No"?
Olivia was far from the only person Jessica found attractive. She'd noticed plenty of cute boys and girls in Portland. But Olivia was the only person Jessica knew. She barely knew Brandon Duke or Sam Whitaker or Joey Lee, despite them living in the same city as her, and she certainly didn't know Brad Pitt or Winona Ryder. Olivia was someone who'd discovered long-lost pieces of civilizations alongside her, cuddled with her whenever her brother went missing, provided a space for her at every party or special occasion. Olivia was the only person to lighten her soul with a laugh, to fill her from head to toe with warmth with a smile.
Olivia was magic. The others were nice fancies: fleeting but not real.
Jessica sighed again. She made her decision. She reached over to the Mickey Mouse telephone and typed in the Rhodes family number.
I'M PROUD and happy for you, Jessica." Mrs. Bhaduri was grinning from ear to ear in the at the bottom of the banister.
Jessica, reaching the bottom of the stairs, managed a weak smile. "Think she'll say yes?"
"We can hope," said Mrs. Bhaduri, walking out the door alongside her daughter. "And if she doesn't, hey, there's plenty of other girls and boys."
'Would they even take me?' Jessica thought to herself before pushing it away. Aloud, she said, "I guess."
Perhaps noticing her daughter's discomfort, Mrs. Bhaduri took Jessica's hand, rubbing it with her thumb. They were at the curb of the road now, facing Olivia's house.
"You're gonna be okay, Jessica. Trust me."
Jessica's smile was more genuine this time. "I love you, Mom."
"Love you too, pumpkin."
With that, Mrs. Bhaduri turned to walk into her house. Jessica watched her for a while before taking a deep breath and letting it out.
Let's do this, she said to herself.
She crossed the street and knocked on the door. A thin fawn-skinned African-American man, scarcely taller than Jessica, with strawberry blonde hair opened the door.
"Hey Jessica!" he said. "How ya doing?"
"Pretty good, Malcolm," she said, walking in. "How's Coretta doing?" Olivia's parents were the only adults that Jessica dared call by their first name.
"She's alright," Malcolm replied. "Went across town to visit her mother this morning."
A voice from upstairs said, "Did the door just open? Is that Jessica?"
Olivia stampeded down the stairs, jumping off the last step to bounce towards Jessica. Jessica's heart snapped and panged again.
Olivia, like both her parents, was short--six inches shorter than Jessica, in fact. She was very chubby, with a heart-shaped face, rotund cheeks and a round tummy that stretched her yellow T-shirt. Her frizzy blonde hair hung down past her chin, exposing her dark brown roots. She had brown skin a shade darker than Jessica's and nice, pink lips pulled into a warm smile.
"Hey Jessi!" Olivia chirped.
Hold it together, she's just a girl, she's just a girl...nah, she's a goddamn queen...
"Hey Liv," Jessica said, trying--and probably failing--to sound casual.
This was a terrible idea, I should play like I'm sick or something--why are her hands covered in oil?
"Hey, what's that stuff on your hands?" Jessica asked. Admittedly, it was a weak segue from saying "Hello," but she was willing to do anything to delay the inevitable.
"Hmm? Oh yeah, I got a little grease on my hands while I was working on my next project!"
"Mind showing it to me?"
"Sure!" With that, Olivia grabbed Jessica's hand and dragged her upstairs. Internally, Jessica sighed in relief. This should buy her some time to get ready and spit it out.
"By the way," Olivia's voice snapped Jessica back to reality. "I love what you're doing with your hair! It's even prettier than usual!" She ran a finger through Jessica's shoulder-length brown curls.
Jessica's cheeks burned a hot scarlet, and she looked down a little.
That's just something all girls say to each other. It doesn't mean anything.
"Thanks, I started using a new conditioner," she said, forcing herself to look up and smile.
Maybe it DOES mean something. Maybe she's just shy around girls like I am. ... Nah, Olivia would never be shy. It probably means nothing. I hope it means something.
They reached Olivia's workshop, a small unfinished room just next to her bedroom. Every inch, nook and cranny of the room was filled with models, blueprints and tools. Jessica spotted multiple prototypes of grappling hooks, engines, computers, anything mechanical you could think of.
In the middle of the room was a wooden table, groaning under the weight of a massive metallic contraption, now spluttering and screeching and spewing oil. A few blueprints and drawings of a winged machine with a small engine adorned the entire room.
"How's the jetpack going?" Jessica asked, recognizing the machine.
Olivia jumped up and down, letting out a happy squeak.
"Oh my God, I'm almost there!" Olivia danced over to the table. "Leonardo's sketches have been super helpful!"
Years ago, while on an expedition with the Bhaduri family, Olivia had uncovered many of Leonardo da Vinci's codex pages and blueprints. For her initiative and help in uncovering these pages, the Italian archaeologists hosting the expedition allowed her to copy many of Leonardo's pages for her own research.
"Basically, I took the basic design of Leonardo's flying machine," she said, pointing wildly at the sketch of a wooden and paper glider, "and decided to complete it. For his machine to have worked, Leonardo needed a constant flame source underneath the wings. I figured that, instead of a flame source, I could attach a propulsor engine to the frame. Also, instead of raw silk for the wings and pine for the frame, I want to use metallic microlattice for everything. Strong as titanium and super light!"
Her hands trembling with anticipation, Olivia whipped out another sketch. "This is my design of the engine. I'm trying to find a way to make it lightweight but still have enough thrust to give someone a good lift into the air."
Jessica smiled. God, Olivia was wonderful. Drop dead gorgeous with a mind that would change the world. For a moment, she wondered if she was worthy of someone like Olivia.
She frowned. Olivia noticed.
"Are you okay?" she said.
Jessica nodded. "Yeah, I'm good. Actually no. No, I'm not good. C-can we sit down somewhere?"
This wasn't fair! Why did she have to feel self-conscious right now? Why was this so hard?
Olivia nodded and led Jessica out of the workshop into her own bedroom. After spending so much time in the workshop's golds and reds, the warm yellow of the bedroom walls, matching Olivia's shirt and hair, was more than a little jarring. Moving a Winnie-the-Pooh doll to the side, Olivia sat Jessica down on the yellow comforter of her bed.
Olivia took a seat next to Jessica.
"What's wrong?" Olivia said, looking up at Jessica's face with concerned, brown eyes. For a moment, Jessica stared into Olivia's wide, soft looking face, from her plush lips to her broad nose speckled with adorable freckles to her concerned, crooked eyebrows. Jessica noticed that Olivia's T-shirt had a pink frilly trim with little red dots, that her tummy formed adorable rolls as she sat, that she was talking again wait what was she saying--
"Huh, what was that?"
"I was asking if you were okay. You were sorta staring at me for a second."
Okay, no turning back now.
"Liv," Jessica's stomach told her to make a run for it, "please don't judge me or think I'm weird or h-hate me or anything."
"Okay?" Olivia raised an eyebrow but did not question her.
Jessica, wrenching her eyes away from Olivia, clenched her fist. "I'm ... bisexual. And I like you. A lot."
Silence. Jessica could almost see Olivia tearing up, explaining that although she liked Jessica as a friend, she didn't see girls that way. Or worse, she was gay or bi or whatever ... but was into someone else. That would be the nail in the coffin, knowing that Olivia would be in love with some other girl, no doubt prettier and smarter and better at talking to people than Jessica ever--
Wait. Why was Olivia laughing?
Olivia, her head pulled back, rocked the entire room with her bubbly giggles. The laughter became louder and louder, until she was audibly gasping for breath. She rolled off the bed and hit the floor with a thud.
Jessica was flabbergasted. "Is what I said really that funny?"
Olivia took deep breaths, wiping away a few tears from her eyes.
"S-sorry Jessi," she said, her voice still a little high. "It's just ... I'm really relieved."
"Alright," Olivia took a deep breath, "now that you've come out to me, I can come out to you. I'm a lesbian, and I like you too."
Jessica's mouth opened, a perfect O, letting out a few nearly suppressed squawks of astonishment. Olivia ... liked her?
"You're serious?" This had to be a dream.
"You're not screwing with me?"
Jessica pinched her arm. The sharp pierce of pain told her this was real.
Olivia liked her back.
"Th-this is--like, I don't know what to--" Jessica kept starting and stopping her sentences, over and over again. "OH MY GOD, you're so--I love so much and--"
"Shhhhhhh," Olivia cupped Jessica's face (Jessica let out a little squeak) and pressed her forehead against Jessica's. "It's cool, Jessica. It's cool."
Jessica giggled. "Yeah, yeah, I know. I'm cool now."
It was weird for the energetic, manic Olivia to have to calm down the shy, introspective Jessica. Not that Jessica minded. Her heart was light and warm. Pictures of them walking down boulevards, hand in hand, danced through her mind.
"So," Jessica tried a sly smile. "Girlfriend and girlfriend?"
Olivia matched Jessica's smile. "Yeah. Girlfriend and girlfriend."
The two stared into each other's eyes for a few moments, brown orbs of warmth and compassion peering deep into one another. Then, as though of one mind, they moved their lips closer together until they met in a kiss.