The dock was empty when we got there, and we had to wait for the last ferry to arrive. Sidney entertained himself staring out into the water, and the drunkies collapsed onto a bench. I was lost in thought still, imagining Leila, imagining how the night would’ve gone otherwise, imagining what it’d be like if she was here now.
Anastasia noticed me zoning out and grinned. “You look so happy right now.”
Now everyone’s attention was on me. I couldn’t hide the smile.
“What happened?” Aaron asked.
“April kissed a girl tonight,” she practically squealed. “It was so steamy!”
“Barely,” I said. My face must’ve been red. “It was, like, one kiss.”
“Dang!” Aaron said. “We leave you alone for five minutes!”
I laughed. “I didn’t plan it.”
“I was totally gonna make fun of you for not having fun with the rest of us and you had the most fun.”
“I mean, I didn’t roll around in the grass while drunk.”
Anastasia laughed. “You could’ve if I didn’t stop you.”
Definitely red, but I didn’t want them to think I was completely uncool. “She was cool. She said she knew you.”
“Everyone knows me.” Anastasia gave a little hair flip. “I think I’ve seen her around.”
“I didn’t know you liked girls,” Sidney said.
I gave a shrug. “I didn’t really know either.”
“Right on!” Aaron said and offered me his hand in a high five. He never does this. Normally Sidney and him do their own thing and totally ignore me, even when we’re just hanging out around the house. He says I’m a baby, even though I’m only a year younger than him. I guess beating him to a first kiss made him rethink that, or he was just drunk.
“That’s totally awesome,” he said. “You gonna tell mom and dad?”
I shivered again in the cold. We could see the ferry in the distance, cutting clean lines across the bay. “I don’t know. I haven’t really thought that far ahead. It’s sort of a brand new development.”
“They don’t care,” Anastasia said. “And if they do, just move in with me and the dads.”
I shook my head. “You would freak out if I moved in with you. One time I borrowed a dress from you and you went on a rampage.”
She waved a hand. “I never.”
Aaron returned to Sidney’s side. I stood next to the railing, away from them, watching the ferry get closer. I’d been basking in the glow of my first kiss, a great night out, a positive interaction with my immediate family. I hadn’t ever thought about liking girls before, but I hadn’t really thought about liking boys either. Mom and dad wouldn’t care, but it’d be weird to tell them, right? How do people know for sure? Do they look at someone and know? I’ve never crushed on anyone, not really. Actors and actresses, maybe, but that’s not real. I glanced at Anastasia, who’s told me about a few of the boys she’s fooled around with. She didn’t get anxiety over that sort of thing. She knows what she wants.
Do I know what I want?
The ferry came and picked us up, and the sky was lightening around us as we trekked back up the hill to the house. The boys went inside immediately to crash, but Anastasia tugged on my arm.
“Was that totally uncool?” she asked. “I didn’t mean to out you like that.”
“No, no, it’s fine.” I hadn’t thought about that either. I didn’t feel ‘out’. Does that mean anything if you were never ‘in’? “I would’ve told them anyway.”
“Okay, cool.” She breathed out. “I’m excited for you! You got your first kiss! With a cute girl in a club! It’s so cool.”
“I know.” I giggled again. The excitement still vibrated in my skin. “It’s definitely a story.”
She smiled. “I can figure out her number and stuff. You’re out here often enough.”
“No.” That hadn’t occured to me. A chance encounter in a dimly lit club was exciting and dangerous. Holding hands as we walked to the coffee shop sent a different sort of tingle through me. “Don’t worry about it. It is what it is.”
“Okay,” she said. “I’m gonna crash.”
“Yeah.” I followed her up the steps. “Me too.”
As soon as I laid down, the energy came out of me. When we were kids, Anastasia and me would cram into a bed together, but I just wanted to pass out, so I took the couch. The buzzing in my head faded out. It barely felt like I’d been asleep at all when the comforting smell of coffee invaded my nostrils. I heard movement in the kitchen, quiet voices, a door opening and closing. I moved my legs as I felt someone beside me.
Uncle Lance, I realized. Despite how exhausted I felt, I lifted myself back, offering a sleepy good morning.
“How late were you guys out?” he asked.
I shrugged. “Is there a good way to answer that?”
He sipped his coffee. “Did you stick to the island or the mainland?”
“Mainland,” I murmured.
He nodded. My sleep brain considered that he probably knew exactly what Anastasia got up to, or at least more than she thought she let on. Aunt Mira told me enough stories about their childhood to know they got up to just as much trouble as we did tonight.
“Hey, Uncle Lance,” I said. “Can I ask you something?”
He looked at me. “Of course.”
“When did you figure out you were gay?”
A long sip of his coffee. I could see the gears working in his head. He was silent for a minute, and then he held his coffee in both hands as he leaned forward.
“We had this talk with Anastasia, you know,” he said. “When she was way younger. Quentin probably never had to sit you down and tell you why you didn’t have two dads.”
I waited. Anastasia hadn’t ever told me that. I doubt it’d be a capital issue either way.
“It’s personal,” he said. “No matter how soon or how late. I always knew I didn’t like girls, but it wasn’t until I met Ellis I knew why.”
“Was it him specifically?” I asked. “You met the right person, and that was it?”
“Not entirely.” He swirled his coffee. “I’d started noticing boys before I met him, but he sealed the deal.”
I picked at the hem of my skirt. “You weren’t ever confused?”
“No,” he said, like he’d made a decision. “But it’s not always like that.”
“‘Cause it’s like girls are super cute, but boys are too, I think.” I tried to think of all the boys I knew, but most of them were related to me. “And just because I kissed one doesn’t mean I can’t kiss the other.”
He smiled at me. “It must’ve been a good night.”
My face went hot, but I pushed on. “Maybe I am gay and I like boys as a concept? Is that like a thing?”
He held up a hand. “You’re sixteen, April. You’ve now kissed a total of–”
“One,” I murmured.
“–one person, which is as many as I have, admittedly, but still a small number. Maybe you’re bi, maybe you’re not. It’s okay to be confused. It’s okay to try things out. As long as you’re comfortable with it.”
I chewed on my lip. It didn’t seem like anyone else in my family was confused about anything. Sidney and Aaron knew what they wanted for their whole lives. May and June were still babies and had more of a handle on what they wanted than I did. Mom and dad lived a picture perfect life, and Aunt Mira had gone through a rough patch, but all she had to do was focus, and she’d solved all her problems. It’s like they just knew, while I’m over here struggling to figure it out.
“Did you ever–” My voice was so small, and I pretended it was because I was tired. “Did you ever feel scared?”
He leaned in like he was telling me a secret. “Terrified. You’re great-aunt had a wife and adopted a kid, and I was still certain your grandma and grandpa would flip out. And sometimes, when no one knows, you can get to pretend it’s not real. If you’re not sure, it can give you time to figure it out.”
“It’s not mom and dad I’m worried about.”
His face softened. “It can be rough. Mira beat up so many kids for me.”
I stifled a smile. I did know that. “I guess I’m worried about feeling like a liar, maybe? This was exciting and new, but what’s if that’s all it was.”
“Don’t overthink it,” he said. “And don’t be afraid to try things. Just, you know. Safely. Don’t do anything you’re not comfortable with. All that jazz.”
“You’re pretty cool, Uncle Lance,” I said.
He tipped his cup at me. “That’s what every old man wants to hear. And if you want to crash upstairs, go ahead. No judgement.”
I trudged up the stairs, pulling off my boots and tights before I climbed beneath the covers of their bed. I was too tired to think on it any harder, but the anxiety that’d placed itself in my chest was lighter. I went to sleep and dreamed of pink hair.