Holding Hands, by Sharon
Updated: Sep 9, 2019
“There’s a family moving into the ward.”
I look up from my laptop and pull out an earbud. “What?”
“They’ve got a daughter, a little older than you. She’ll be in seminary with us. Can you help her feel welcome?”
“It’s February. That’s a rough time to move in. Of course I’ll help her feel welcome.”
I stumble up the stairs to our seminary classroom that happened to be my own dining room. There were six of us. Now seven. She has long blonde hair, a green outfit and green backpack, and even a green quad sitting on the table in front of her, looking well-worn and loved.
She answers all of the questions. I am amazed at her confidence.
The counselor’s office, the door swung open. She’s there with her father, talking about which of her classes will transfer. My sister and I poke our head in. “Welcome to the ward! Do you need any help?”
“Come play with us!”
I shake my head. I don’t like playing basketball with the young men. They’re rough, and it makes me self-conscious how bad I am. “No, I’m okay. You go.”
Even her basketball shorts are green. Her white tennis shoes squeak on the gymnasium floor as she scores.
Two days later, she finds me in library at school. “Hon. Can I tell you something?”
I move my backpack so she can sit down. “Of course! What’s up?”
“I just an amazing experience. I was talking to this guy in my class, and it made me think about this gospel principle, and I had an epiphany.”
We met in the library every day after that.
Months pass. The weather gets warmer. I have soccer practice and violin lessons. She has harp lessons and recitals.
One night, when we’re watching Inception, she sits close to me. She gently pulls me down to settle into her arms. I smile. I love physical contact. It how I receive love. I’m nervous. I’ve never cuddled with anyone before. It means nothing, of course, because we’re both females, but I’m still nervous that her parents will come in and get the wrong impression.
“You’re really special,” she tells me. “I’m so grateful that you’re my friend. I was so devastated to move here, but it turns out this is just what I was praying for.”
Her eyes are green as well. Her lips are slightly-heart shaped, the color of nude-pink. She put highlights in her hair. Her hoop earrings pull slightly at her earlobes. She looks beautiful.
The old church building is a circle. We walk and talk, arms linked, discussing the more profound aspects of life that other people our age don’t seem to care about. We discuss our favorite novels. She holds my hand. I tingle—a little. We’re both girls. So it’s okay. I can’t wait to do it with a boy one day.
Eventually the rest of the activities get out. The children are running to find their parents. One stops, looks at us. I say hello. We’re friends. The little child stares up at me, frowns, and asks, “Are you lesbians?”
I abruptly let go of her hand. My face is burning. My ears are hot. “No,” I said curtly. I go to an empty classroom. Tears fall. My friend followed me. “I’m so sorry,” I tell her, trying to mop up the tears.
“For…what…they said…” I’m distraught. I’m not even sure what lesbian means or implies, but I know it’s bad. I’m so ashamed.
She laughs. “I don’t care what they think or so. That doesn’t bother me. You’re absolutely fine. Never apologize to me.”
Two years pass. I finally join her at BYU. We aren’t able to room together, but we still want to see each other all the time.
She’s trying to help me be comfortable with sexuality, and feel better about myself. I smile back, not believing it, but appreciate how much she tries.
I hoist my backpack onto my shoulders. “Hello gorgeous. Leg day?”
“You know it. Gotta get a nice butt for those boys.”
“I found a new song I want to show you.”
She laughs and winks. She’s always been so confident, so happy, so full of adventure and imagination. I follow her into the gym, more quiet, subdued. The only reason I even have the courage to be here is because I’m with her.
“He’s cute,” I say, discretely gesturing at a boy across the room.
“Hot dang yes he is. Let’s go say hi.”
“Oh my golly, how are you? I know the break was only two weeks but I missed you. How was it? What happened?”
I laugh at her questions. “It was Education week. Which means I hid in my sister’s basement and reread Mistborn the whole time.”
She finally lets go of the hug. “You have makeup under your eye.” She fixes it. “Speaking of Mistborn, can I dress you up at Halloween?”
“Um…I don’t really like dressing up…”
She rolls her eyes. “Do it with me, you’ll look fantastic. Someone gave me a bunch of fabric, and I want to make you a mistcloak. You can be Vin. You’re small, you have the short dark hair, you’ll be perfect. Come on, please???”
I smile, embarrassed. “Okay fine. How was your break though?”
She smiles knowingly. “I met someone. We’ve already been on two dates.”
He is fantastic. He’s funny, bold, kind. There’s not a bone of toxic masculinity in him. He’s a hot nerd. He’s my new best friend.
She shows up in scrubs today—blue, tailored. She looks fantastic. She’s in her last year of nursing. He’s halfway through pre-med. They’re a perfect couple. I’m in love with them both.
“If you ever break up with her,” I tell him, “hit me up, alright?”
We all laugh. We get in the car. We’re going to a concert together. He drives.
She sits in the back with me. We hold hands. Life is perfect.
It’s the night before her wedding. I’m staying at her family’s house—the house is packed with people I don’t know.
Someone grabs my hand. I jump.
She laughs. “It’s just me, you dork. Want to sneak out to the hot tub?”
“I don’t have my swimming suit.”
“I have two. Pleeeeeeeeese.”
I smile. “Okay.”
The night is cool, the stars are bright. It’s quiet. I gently play with her hair, idly watching the steam curl off the still water. I never liked the jets.
“I’m going to miss you,” I say.
She laughs. “I’m just getting married, I’m not dying or moving or anything.”
I smile, a bit sadly. “I know. But it’s never the same, right? Once you get married, you have other priorities.”
She sits up and turns to look at me. “I’ll never do that to you. I promise. I still want to be your friend after I get married, and go to the gym together, and talk about everything. Okay?”
We shower, we get in warm pajamas, and after all the last-minute preparations are said and done for the big day, we go to bed. We’re sharing a queen-sized bottom bunk.
“I’m scared,” she whispers through the dark.
“What if this goes wrong somehow? What if he’s not the one?”
I laugh. “No. He’s perfect for you. It’ll be better than you can even imagine.”
I hear her shift in the bed, and then her hand finds mine and she snuggles close. “I’m so glad you’re here.”
She keeps her promise. She still spends time with me after they get married. I third-wheel more than anyone ever should.
We walk on campus together. She’s in the middle, holding our hands—her husband on one side, me on the other.
“I miss cuddling,” I say.
She laughs. “I discovered something about marriage. Now that I can fulfill my sexual desires, most of horniness has gone away. I don’t crave it anymore. Sorry if that means I’ve neglected you.”
He interjects, “I mean I’ll cuddle with you if she won’t.”
We laugh. “You’re fine,” I tell her. “And thanks. You guys are the best. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
She shakes it off. “You’ll find a man someday.”
They graduate. He’s going to medical school halfway across the country. “Call me!” she says, and hugs me for a long time. Then she lets go, and climbs into the moving truck I helped them pack.
I wave them goodbye, excited for their new journey in life, but said that I won’t get to be there for it anymore. Maybe I can go to grad school near them in a couple of years?
They’re in town for a weekend, and make time to take me out to dinner. We go dress-shopping. They’ve always been able to make me look fabulous.
I call her on her birthday. I haven’t seen them in a year. They got a dog—the kind of dog I’ve always wanted. He’s beautiful. I wish I was there.
I look at my phone. A missed call. It’s from her.
I don’t call back.