She touched my ear during Algebra. She touched my ear, and I didn’t dare look at her, but the tingle stayed long after her fingers had gone. After class, she leaned to whisper, her warm breath dancing across my already sensitive skin. I know, but it doesn’t matter. She couldn’t know. She meant something else. Maybe that I cheated on the last quiz, glancing casually at her paper for answers three and fifteen. She knew. What did she know?
Later, I slammed into my house, tossing my bag on the floor.
Dad 1 offered cookies and asked if I wanted to talk. Dad 2 made a cup of tea.
I flopped down on a kitchen chair. There’s a girl. I think she might like me.
They oohed and aahed. There’s hope for our little Pikachu yet, Dad 1 exclaimed.
I took my tea and left them in the kitchen, giggling to themselves.
I’d never been afraid of being queer, or bi, or whatever the hell I was that allowed me to love whomever I wanted to love. I grew up with the dads, after all. And my mom was in love with a man who lived with his wife and his wife’s lover and the lover’s ex-husband.
But Emma’s hair was perfect, and she wore the right clothes and when she walked into the classroom, everyone looked at her. She read Jane Austen and had perfect handwriting. She had exactly one father and one mother and one excruciatingly well-behaved little brother whose face was never dirty.
On Monday, I wore plaid pants and a short-sleeve button front shirt, the blue one that made my arms look even scrawnier than ever. I stole Dad 1’s favorite bowtie. It had little whales on it. My mom bought it for Dad 1 on the fifteenth anniversary of the day I was conceived. Kind of a gross and weird thing to celebrate.
I love that tie, Emma whispered while we graphed linear inequalities. Emma got straight A’s. She smelled faintly of lavender and her hair was so long it sometimes brushed against my arm when she shook her head.
She touched my ear and now she loved my tie. I picked up my pencil. What do you know? I wrote, with trembling fingers. I didn’t want to ask, but I had to know. My handwriting looked shaky and small like my grandma’s in the infrequent birthday cards she sent, the ones she always addressed to Alexa no matter how many times I told her to call me Alex.
Emma took my pencil, her fingers lingering for a moment on mine. Her parents were normal. I’d seen them. Her mother had the kind of perfectly frosted blond hair that only came from the most expensive salons. Her dad was hearty and liked to shake people’s hands. They went to church on Sundays and her father played golf with my Dad 2’s boss.
I know you like me, she wrote. I like you, too.
I scrawled back the first thing that popped into my head. What about your parents? What the fuck was wrong with me? The most perfect girl in the world liked me and I was thinking about her parents.
She touched my ear again. Let’s worry about them after our first date.