When Alice is five, she is the happiest child ever. She has her mum and daddy who are so caring and loving. She goes to a primary school where Ms. Anderson tells children of her age exciting stories about different birds and flowers. When mum comes to school to get Alice home, she always asks her how her day was. Dad always kisses her goodnight and calls her “my little princess” when he is back from work. On weekend mum, daddy and she go to the park. They walk, relaxed by astonishing amount of green surrounding them, pass the lake and feed ducks. Mum recalls how daddy and she met here ten years ago and suddenly they are both laughing. Alice does not understand why but she loves it. She loves them. Definitely, when Alice was five, she was the happiest child ever.
Alice is six and a half years old when she meets Jackie. Jackie is short for Jacqueline, Alice’s mum says. This name is charming, and so is Jackie. They meet at the playground near to the park. Alice had never had proper friends before. She liked her classmates but never was close with any of them. Why would she be? She has her mum and dad, isn’t it enough? But with Jackie it does not feel this way. Alice wants to be her friend. Jackie is kind and generous and her smile is gorgeous. She is funny and Alice thinks that she would make laugh even daddy’s colleagues with their constantly gloomy expressions. Alice does not have a chance to challenge it, though. Whenever she invites Jackie to her house, daddy is not there. He only comes home in late evening and, after he kisses her goodnight, mum shuts the door into her room, and they talk in the kitchen for a long time. Loudly talk. Alice does not know why but she is scared. She holds the teddy bear Jackie gave her closer and falls asleep. The next day everything happens again.
It is Alice’s eighth birthday and she is upset only a little. Daddy is at work. Not that it is something new to her. Daddy is always at work. When he comes home, he does not go into her room anymore. He and mum do not argue now, they just do not talk to each other. This day is special for Alice but, obviously, daddy does not care. Mum looks sad but she is trying to smile. It is fake, but Alice instinctively feels that she should comply with mum’s game and smiles too. She smiles when Jackie and her mum, Mrs. Denver, come in but this time her smile is sincere. The day goes good, though. Alice enjoys every second of it and she likes her presents. She almost does not notice daddy’s absence. Almost.
Dad comes home very late, so Alice is sleeping already. She wakes up to loud voices in the kitchen, her parents passionately arguing. She does not understand a single word of what they say and soon her head is aching. When she finally falls asleep, exhausted, the loud voices are still there. The next morning mum tells her that dad is going to live apart from them but it is okay. The word ‘divorce’, which her mum repeats a few times, is stuck in her mind forever.
Alice is ten and she spends with Jackie more time than ever. Mum is busy with work now that they live alone, just two of them. She still cannot get on well with her classmates, so school feels overwhelming. Nevertheless, she does not complain. She likes her classes. She does not need to like people around her to gain knowledge. And she likes Jackie; Jackie is enough company for her. Alice likes spending time with her. She still is the best person Alice has ever met. No one in the world cared for Alice as she did, no one in the world made Alice care for them as she did. Maybe also mum. Alice cares for her mum very much too. Only now, two years after the divorce, she starts looking better and Alice is pleased with this. It feels like they are eventually moving on. Alice tries not to think if she really wants to move on.
Another thing Alice learned at her ten is that girls are actually supposed to be attracted to boys. All girls at her school talk about boys they like, her mum keeps asking her if she fancies any guy from her classes, even Jackie smiles shyly and blushes when the ginger guy from their neighborhood passes by. It is starting to get on Alice’s nerves. She cannot understand what so attractive they see in boys. Boys are a good laugh but nothing else for her. She wants to thank the ginger guy, though. Jackie is even more beautiful and cute when she blushes.
When mum tells twelve-year-old Alice that her aunt Lindsey, cheeky and only eight years older than Alice herself, is going to stay at theirs for a week, Alice is delighted. Lindsey is sarcastic and brash but it fits her just well. Alice likes her. Then mum tells that Lindsey is going to come with her girlfriend and leaves Alice puzzled. Lindsey is a girl, how can she have a girlfriend? She stays confused the whole day, Jackie asks her a few times if everything is alright. It is pleasing that she cares so much. In the late evening, Alice curls up around her mum on the couch and cautiously starts talking about Lindsey. “How can she be with another girl?” she blurts and blushes immediately. Her mum smiles slightly and gives her a thorough lecture on sexualities. They decide to sleep on the couch, not bothering to go to their bedrooms. The word ‘lesbian’ stays in a lead position of Alice’s mind until she falls asleep. It is a second life-changing word in her vocabulary. And Jackie has beautiful eyes, too beautiful to be real. If Alice could have a girlfriend, she would choose her.
Lindsey comes two days later. She is accompanied by a gentle gorgeous girl named Darcy, who Alice likes at first sight. Lindsey and Darcy look and act like a couple, holding hands, and kissing (not in front of Alice, though), and cuddling and using cute names. Alice accidentally thinks that it looks more natural to her than all straight relationships she had ever observed. She is intimidated by her own thoughts yet excited.
Alice is fourteen and she knows now for sure that the word ‘lesbian’ is more than applicable to her. She is a lesbian, she fancies girls and, much worse, she fancies Jackie. She does not tell it to anyone, especially not Jackie. Alice is afraid. She knows mum will understand, but will Jackie? She does not care about anyone else, it is only mum and Jackie. She feels terrible because she cannot share it with them. It is not right, not honest to them. She becomes more and more anxious and nervous, makes scenes without any reason and feels as if her whole world is crashing.
And of course, her dad decided it was the best moment to remember of her existence. When Alice gets a text from an unknown number for a first time, she is surprised. She understand that it is her father almost immediately and she wants to laugh at how ridiculous his “How is your life going, sweetie?” sounds after six years. The last time they talked was six years ago. She does not laugh, though. She cries in her bedroom until she is so drained that she falls asleep. Mum asks her why she spent all evening in her room when she walks in kitchen next morning, and Alice says that she had a lot of homework. She does not tell mum about dad and does not respond to his text.
Dad keeps texting her, even tried to call once (Alice hung up) and it is so not on time. There is a tension in her relationships with Jackie, a big tension. Jackie thinks that Alice does not trust her and she is offended. She tries not to show it but Alice can feel it. She does not know what to do. If she tells Jackie what she feels, there is a chance Jackie will go away from her life and will never come back. If she does not, there is still a chance Jackie will go away from her life and will never come back. In the end, Alice decides to tell Jackie about dad. She hopes it will fill her mind for a little.
Now dad is officially texting her for two months. He seems not to care about the fact that Alice never responds.
It is Alice’s fifteenth birthday and it is already a good enough reason to hate this day. Alice did not like her birthdays since when she was eight and the divorce thing happened. But she is determined to make today better. She wants to confess to Jackie, not her feelings right now but at least her sexuality. She is nervous and does not how Jackie will respond but she will do it, no matter what. Now or never, she is too tired of hiding herself. She thinks about coming out to her mum too. If everything goes well, she will tell her immediately.
Alice does not celebrate her birthdays, so there is no cake or presents from mum in the morning. She tried to make Alice like this day again for years but it has yet to happen. So she does not remind her daughter of the day, she does not want to bring on another quarrel. There were too many of them recently. School goes surprisingly good for Alice. She is still not on good terms with her classmates but she learned not to mention them. She enjoys science and history but not people around her. After classes, she walks to the park, where Jackie is supposed to wait her. On her way, she tries to find the words Jackie will understand. She does not want to think about what will happen if Jackie does not accept her.
Alice is in her room, exhausted and lost. She cannot even cry any longer, it is like she has no more tears. She should have known. She should have known by the way Jackie reacted to all of her hints. She should have known by the way Jackie snorted at Lindsey and her girlfriend. But she did not notice these things and now she is left all alone. Maybe not all alone, but Alice does not have Jackie anymore and it hurts. She remembers how wide Jackie’s eyes went when she told it. How she repeated that it could not be truth. How in the end she shouted at her in the middle of the park and then ran away. She does not want to remember it. Her hands are shaking but she does not care. Mum saw her coming in, with wet from tears face. She is standing by the door into her bedroom and keeps calling for her. Alice is too scared to come out. In both meanings.
Alice does not know how much time passed by. She cannot fall asleep but it is dark outside, so it is probably night already. She does not want to shift even to watch time. She told mum that everything is fine and she just had a rough day at school. Mum did not seem to believe but let her alone anyway. Alice is grateful for this. She should stop lying to mum, though. Her phone buzzes. Maybe it is a text from Jackie. Maybe she thought about the event too and now she is sorry. When Alice gets her phone, she winces of despair. Dad. She started to respond to his texts half a year ago. Now they have little conversations, usually going a bit awkward, almost every day. She still did not tell mum about it. She realizes that the later she says, the worse mum will feel, but she is a little coward, so mum is not aware yet. Alice also learns that it is two p.m. and mentally howls. She has no idea how she will wake up for school tomorrow.
Dad asks her if everything is alright. Firstly, Alice does not understand why he would ask such a thing at two p.m. She goes through their talk and understands that she sent one of the ‘Please, respond’ texts to him instead of Jackie. She tried to connect with her all evening, unsuccessfully. Now she has to justify herself to dad. She invents a good story of how she typed a wrong number because of a dog passing by. She almost sends it but deletes the whole passage and just writes, “I’m gay”. Will he, with his oaths of loving her no matter what, react the way Jackie did? Will he give up on her? “Thanks for telling me,” she receives in a minute, full of tense waiting. “Do you still love me?” Alice bites her bottom lip before sending it. The moment of truth. “Of course I still love you. Sometimes you are so silly, Alice. It does not matter who you are, I will always love you”. Alice smiles for the first time in all evening and spends ten minutes just staring at the words. She hesitates but eventually sends, “I love you too”. She decides that she will come out to mum in the morning and tell her about dad. And maybe she should find some new friends. The ones that will love her the way her parents do. No matter what.