The first thing to go wrong is a flat tire. The first thing to go wrong before that was Amelia dying, and before that, the entirety of last summer. But in terms of our graduation road trip, the first thing to go wrong is a flat tire. We’ve never taken a road trip before, but it’s been a month since Amelia’s funeral, and that’s what we thought we were supposed to do: get away, honor her memory, and carefully peel away the layers of grief that had settled on us like a second skin. 

The blowout itself isn’t momentous; I’m going fifteen over and think I hit something, and we veer sharply to the right onto the graveled shoulder of I-84. Skylar screeches my name and grabs my forearm, claws digging in, and the earth thump-thump-thumps beneath us. When I ease us to a stop, Skylar lets out a watery breath. 

“I think the tire blew out,” I say. 

“Maybe this is a sign,” Skylar says. 

I keep my hands on the steering wheel and feel lopsided. It’s times like this that I realize how many things I didn’t notice when Amelia was around to buffer. Skylar worries about blame, sees signs, and gets emotional; I imagine the things I could’ve hit and wonder if Skylar notices the half crescents she left behind on my forearm. 

I finally unbuckle my seat belt. Skylar’s cheeks are red, blond hair mussed up slightly from the impact of the headrest. We’ve only been on the road a day, and we’ve already sped past all the landmarks that hold our memories to get to the ones that don’t know us yet. I thought that would be the worst of it. 

“It’s not a sign. It’s a flat.” I squeeze her hand, her fast pulse kick-starting my own before I pull away again. “I’ll change it.”

* * *

Within the hour, I change the tire the way my old neighbor taught me when I was thirteen. That was after we gave up playing basketball in his driveway together because I would always beat him, but before my boobs came in and I lost patience with him subsequently treating me like a Girl. 

When I was fourteen, I was so sick of them—my boobs, I mean—that I asked Skylar to help me bind them with a long bandage one night. Amelia was in bed with mono, and it was just the two of us. I remember feeling like an idiot as I twirled toward her and she pulled tighter and tighter until she tucked the end in between my ribs. I felt shy in a way I had never felt around either of them before. It wasn’t like we hadn’t seen each other naked, but there was something about her fingers, the way she took care to be delicate with the rough, ribbed bandage, like she didn’t want to scratch me. 

Three years later, when a girl I met at soccer camp offered to show me how to bind my chest safely so it wouldn’t irritate me while I was running, that shyness came with a shiver and a sort of dawning that didn’t feel so much like a realization as it did an inevitability.

As I work, Skylar strolls down the shoulder away from me, hands in her pockets, as if she’s out walking on a mild summer’s day instead of in sweltering heat. Her long hair stirs a little in the breeze, lifted and rearranged by invisible fingers, maybe Amelia’s. The wind in Idaho blows hot, and I’m relieved when I replace the hubcap and we can get back to blasting the AC on the road.

“If we pass a town, we should see if we can find a psychic,” says Skylar. “See if that was a sign.”

“It wasn’t a sign,” I repeat.  

I watch the road. There isn’t much to see, just some modest hills on either side that look like giants sleeping under pale green and orange blankets. I would have picked a more scenic route, something with winding curves and mountains and trees, but Amelia and Skylar decided on the route months before graduation, so that was the plan we kept. 

Eventually, the sun sets, and we come to a town an hour later. I’m not tired yet, but I still don’t like driving in the dark, so I pull off the interstate. A sign welcomes us to Hempmont, population 2,047. I wonder whether it’s someone’s job to come out here and paint over the numbers every time someone’s grandma passes away in her sleep or a lonely businessman shoots himself or a seventeen-year-old girl dies in a drunk-driving accident the night of her graduation.

We find a motel that has probably never lit up the NO in its vacancy sign, and after we splash our faces with water in the yellowy bathroom, Skylar insists we find a bar to celebrate the first stop on our road trip. It’s one of my favorite things about her, that everything with Skylar is a celebration. I never used to drink due to cross-country, but I already have a scholarship to Stanford and it’s only June, so we set out on foot. The first place we come across doesn’t have a name, just a large illuminated sign that reads bar. In the blackened window, there’s a peeling sticker of a rainbow flag that’s been rubbed mostly away with time. We aren’t carded when we order two rum and Diets, and soon Skylar strikes up a conversation with two men down the bar from us who are taking shots to celebrate one’s thirty-seventh birthday. For the first time since we left home, Skylar seems like herself, fast-talking and faster-drinking. 

They introduce themselves as the Nguyens, Nicky and Devin—not legally, but essentially—and they’ve been together for ten years. As they tell us the story of how they met, my spirits cautiously begin to lift. It’s a balancing act, enjoying the foreign lightheartedness and dodging the shadow of guilt that comes with it. When Devin wants to know how long we’ve been together, the balance tips. We aren’t together, Skylar clarifies right away. Our best friend recently passed away, she says, and we’re taking a road trip to get away for a while. 

“She was my girlfriend.” Skylar’s tone is an impressive cocktail of pride, defensiveness, and heartbreak, the same lethal mix she held at her disposal through Amelia’s funeral. “Naomi’s straight.” 

Devin and Nicky nod and look at me with something one shade away from sympathy.  

“But the three of us, we’ve been friends since elementary school,” I say.

“So we’re just taking the summer to reflect together.”

“We’re going to Pride in New York.” 

“It was going to be me and Amelia’s first.” 

“Bless your souls,” say Devin and Nicky. 

The story we’re telling is both true and not. On a factual level, it’s correct, but there are holes and half truths that Skylar either doesn’t know or ignores. She doesn’t tell Devin and Nicky how the three of us were a package deal from the moment our parents first let us run around outside in the street of our cul-de-sac. I don’t explain how I came back from soccer camp at the beginning of our senior year bursting at the seams with my realization, only to find that everything had unraveled in the space of two-and-a-half months. I don’t explain the shock I felt in my gut when they dropped a bombshell on me at my welcome-home party: that they were dating. Girlfriends. “It just makes sense,” they said to me. “We think we’ve loved each other all along.” 

We also don’t explain the after. How everything was the same but not, like my life had been recast halfway through the season and the new actors played their roles extremely well. Or how suddenly, none of it mattered, or how it shouldn’t have, at least. Graduation night, a single car crash, a high school cliché. 

That would be a lot to dump on two strangers at a bar.

* * *


The next day, we drive out to Balanced Rock County Park, Skylar sour and nursing a hangover in the passenger seat. Originally, we planned on a three-week trip, a zigzagging path from Seattle to New York. It was possibly the most impractical way to get from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and Skylar was intensely proud of it. Our path plummets from Palouse, Washington down to southern Idaho, then rises back up to Yellowstone. Later, it will swoop from Chicago up to Niagara Falls before landing us safely in New York. The map is an effigy of her Sagittarian spirit, peppered not only with national landmarks but hideaways and oddities along the way. For every Mount Rushmore, Skylar planned stops at macabre sculpture parks, ancient drive-in theaters, and several World’s Best Hamburgers. Even I have to admit it’s a thing of beauty, and I worship at the altar of efficiency. 

Balanced Rock looks how Devin described it to us—“Really something in an Idaho way”—like a mushroom perched precariously on a pedestal with only a kiss of contact. It’s a monument out of a surrealist painting, a badly beaten red-and-orange hourglass ready to split in two. I crane my head back and take in the impossibility of it. 

“Amelia would’ve loved this,” says Skylar finally, maybe two or twenty minutes later. 


“Don’t you think she would have loved this?”


I can feel Skylar’s wounded gaze. I’ve felt it coming for a while, her need for some sort of heart-to-heart gaining momentum with each mile. She wants us to embrace and share memories and cry, really cry, in a way that she probably has only been able to do alone so far, but I can’t. I can sit in silence and find comfort in knowing we’re probably thinking the same things. I can even appreciate the security in sensing my loneliness and longing and guilt and grief brushing against hers. But I can’t sit under the scorching Idaho sun and weep. Once I start, I worry I won’t stop. Or worse, that alongside the tears will come words, accusations, confessions, barreling out before I can stop them. 

“Is that really all you’re going to say?” Skylar asks, glaring at me now instead of the rock. 

“She definitely would have loved this,” I agree, lowering my voice when I see a couple coming up the trail. 

“I’m just trying to have a conversation.” 

“About what?” 

“About Amelia.” 

“Okay,” I say. “What about Amelia?” 

“What do you mean, what about Am—” she starts, but then her face crumples, and she shakes her head, tears leaking out of the corners of her eyes. 


“Forget it,” she snaps. 

“I actually don’t know if Amelia would love this place,” I try after a long beat. I smile, just barely, thinking about it. “I mean, I used to drag you guys out into the forest with me, and she always wanted to go back inside.”

“Remember that one time after the storm when we were, like, twelve, and you smeared mud on our faces and called yourself Mother Earth and us your children?” 

“And Amelia lay on the ground and said, ‘Well, if I’m a child of the Earth, I’m going to be a rock, so wake me when this game is over,’ and I—Skylar.” She’s crying again, silently, with a palm pressed hard over her mouth. “Skylar,” I say, alarmed, reaching out to touch her. 

Again, she shakes her head, and this time, she sounds not just frustrated but angry when she says, “No! I just want to cry, okay? You don’t have to comfort me every time. I just want to be able to cry about it.” 

“I know. I know, I’m sorry.”

“Do you, though?” 

By now, the couple has started posing for pictures, laughing and passing a phone back and forth. If I could find it in myself to really share with Skylar what I’m thinking, I would say that this colossal thing reminds me of us: Skylar, the larger-than-life piece that could topple over at any moment; me, the solid rock bearing the weight; and Amelia, the narrow stem keeping them connected.

“Fuck. I just miss her so much,” Skylar whispers. 

“I know, I get it.” 

“No, you don’t. We miss her differently.” 

I don’t know what to say to that. The woman before us stretches her arms out, rock looming in the distance, as her partner shifts to capture the perfect picture. From where we’re standing, I can see the optical illusion: her palm flush against Balanced Rock, one steady push away from shattering it into meteorites.

* * *


I make it halfway through the trip before I have to ask Skylar to take over driving. A brief shadow of emotion darkens her face—hurt or anger or simple surprise—but then it’s gone. “Let’s just grab a room at a motel for the night. I’m beat.” 

I don’t argue. I just get back on the road and get off at the nearest exit to an anonymous South Dakota town, where we buck and rumble down a pockmarked road to another Holiday Inn. They’ve all started to look the same by now, liminal monuments to the lost. Skylar requests a room with twin beds from the faceless figure at the front desk. When she falls asleep that night, her face slowly unpinches itself like a flower unfurling, all of the pain she’s held since Amelia’s funeral melting away to reveal the girl I knew, the mischievous and beautiful and unpredictable thing I’ve seen at countless sleepovers. 

I should be used to the distance by now, but the space between the two twin beds is a chasm. There was a time when we were all part of an amorphous, glorious thing, constantly shifting and orbiting around each other in various formations: who shared the bed and who got the couch at sleepovers; who sat in the middle at the movies; who had to sit alone on one side of the booth at Burgerville. 

Before that summer, all of our constellations were well worn. Skylar-me-Amelia. Me-Amelia-Skylar. Amelia-Skylar-me. Me-Skylar-Amelia. 

Then: Amelia-Skylar. Me.  

And then: Skylar-me. 

And now, not even that. 



Two twin beds and miles of stained motel carpet between us.

Something tightens in my chest and crawls up my throat, and I brace myself and wait. Grief always feels like such a faraway and intangible concept, especially in comparison to the roar of jealousy and anger and heartbreak. It lurks in the corners, skulking around in the shadows. Sometimes I try to tempt it to come out by saying the words like a spell to make them real: Amelia is dead. Amelia is dead. I catalog what it means in concrete terms: Amelia is dead, which means that I will never see her again, which means I will go to college and meet new friends, and eventually I will reach a point where no one in my life knew her, this girl I loved, who used to be my best friend but who died. 

These are the moments when it comes closest to sinking in. When I imagine a world where Amelia only exists in memory, memories that can and will fade and shift, that’s when I can feel my grief scratching against the door I’ve shut and locked around her death. But I don’t even know where I put the key.

* * *


The second thing to go wrong is the engine. It’s foreshadowed by a series of clunks and whines until finally, steam begins to leak from under the hood, and I roll onto the shoulder of the road just a few hours outside of Chicago. There was a time when we were afraid that our itinerary was packed too tightly, that we hadn’t left enough time to really experience all we planned on seeing. Now, though, we ghost in and out of the most notable places in the country like we’re window-shopping. Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, Mount Moriah Cemetery, Nebraska Sandhills, all ticked neatly off our list, and I barely remember any of them.

A car speeds by, too close and too fast, and Skylar lets out a surprised cry. When I look over, she has her face in her hands. 

“I think the engine’s just overheated,” I say. 

“This whole trip,” she says miserably. 

We sit in silence as I Google around to see what to do next. After a bit of bickering about whether we should try handling it ourselves, we trudge into town and find a mechanic instead. Our car won’t be ready until tomorrow, the young jumpsuited guy tells us. It should be a quick job, he says, but his dad is in Chicago for the night, and trust him, it’s his dad we want working on our car. He smiles and shrugs with a well-worn explanation ready: Small towns, you know? 

That night, we linger outside a Stop & Shop until Skylar finds someone willing to buy us beer by flashing her white-hot charm. Back at the hotel, she goes dim again, and we drink and say nothing, and in between saying nothing, we speculate halfheartedly about what will be waiting for us in New York. 

We’re tucked into our twin beds, having run out of excuses to be awake, when her voice permeates the darkness.



“Can I come over there?” 

For a moment in the dark, beer-dulled and tired, I’m at Skylar’s house. We’re merely at another sleepover at that magic hour when barriers fall and things get deep, keeping our voices down so we don’t wake Amelia. Amelia always fell asleep first. 

“Of course,” I say.  

There’s the sound of her mattress squeaking, and then my bed shifts, Skylar’s knees knocking clumsily into my side. I concentrate on my breathing as we shift and settle into position, pressed together precariously on the narrow twin bed, knees wedged between thighs. Unlike our full beds back home, there’s nothing keeping us from falling. 

Eventually, my erratic pulse calms, and I manage to wade into the murky gray water between sleep and waking. Slowly I drift, and then I begin to slip, and as I’m about to go under, something yanks my consciousness back to the surface. My eyes snap open to darkness. 

But I can feel it, Skylar’s face hovering close to mine. For a minute or a hundred, I don’t move, but there’s no denying that we’re both awake, our self-conscious breaths giving us away. 

Skylar is shaking slightly when she finally bumps her lips against mine. 

It’s tentative at first. She’s lonely, I know, and I can feel Amelia’s ghost standing beside our bed, seeing my longing cloak Skylar’s grief, but then it’s all white noise, all hesitance gone. There’s desperation in her kiss, her bite, her grasp, and I kiss through the slowly dawning awareness that she’s guiding me toward her self-destruct button. But I have to come up for air eventually. It’s not just loneliness. With Skylar, it never is. 

“Skylar,” I say, and she jerks away, hair forming a curtain around us. 


“I don’t want you to—”

“Don’t want me to what?” 

“When you’re upset, you always…” 

A beat. Then she rolls off me, her weight gone from the mattress a second later. “Forget it. It’s not that deep.”

“Skylar. I only mean—” 

But she’s already back on her side of the divide. “Just forget it.” 

The next morning, she’s typing furtively on her phone. Sensing somehow that I’m awake without looking up, she says, “We obviously have to skip Niagara. Everything’s fucking cursed.” By her calculations—which as far as I can tell are based on nothing but hope—if we floor it and limit ourselves to two stops, we will make it to our hotel around midnight, leaving us enough time to get a good night’s sleep before Pride.  

“That sounds like hell. Can’t we just drive until we get tired, crash whenever, and then head into New York in the morning? The parade doesn’t start until what, noon?” 

“I’m not risking it.” She hops off the bed, still not looking at me. “I’m going to go check on the car.”

* * *


The third thing to go wrong is hard to pinpoint, because suddenly, everything is wrong. The car isn’t ready until one, and I get so sleepy after eight hours on the road that I insist on switching or stopping. There’s a small fight in the parking lot of a gas station, another night in twin beds. Several long, long hours on the road, slowly inching into the city through traffic we’d been too distracted to consider. 

By the time we enter Manhattan, the roads are swimming with overflow marchers straying from the route, dressed in rainbows and wearing flags as capes, on some other plane of existence I can’t access. 

Skylar’s silence is worse than her lamentations. I want to tell her to get out, to just go join the parade on its march toward Greenwich Village while I find a place to park the car. She has already decided that I don’t belong, so she can go on without me. But we know we’re too late even before we ditch the car with the valet at the Gramercy Park Hotel and walk a half hour down to the end of the Pride parade route. When we get there, the street is all leftover foot traffic, sounds of after-parties rumbling the city around us. 

Skylar stands in the middle of Christopher Street with her back to me. Flyers and confetti and glitter and crushed cans stir at her feet. I drift over to her side, but she jerks away before I even touch her.

“No.” She shakes her head, hair thrashing around her face. “Stop.” 

“Stop what?”

“Stop comforting me. You don’t get it. This whole time, you haven’t—you still don’t get it.” She bends to pick up a flyer, a crude advertisement for a Pride after-party at a club called Xstasy, which we would’ve cracked up at on another day. “She was supposed to be here. This was supposed to be our first—” She gestures around. At the ground, at the city, at everything. “We were supposed to be here together.”

I try to remain gentle. “We all were.”

A strangled cry of frustration bursts out of her. “Would you stop trying to—I know we both lost her, I know. And I know you think I’m selfish for focusing on grieving my relationship instead of our friendship, but I need to, okay? I love her, and I need to be sad about that, and I wish you’d just support me instead of butting in and pretending you know what I lost.” 

“You’re so determined to make this all about you.” 

“Me? You’re the one who’s determined to be a victim. Even before she died, our relationship was all about you. About making sure you didn’t feel left out.” 

“You did leave me out. You guys were in your own little world. You…”

I could give her an entire catalog of all the moments I squeezed between my fists and clamped between my teeth over the past few months. Number the days I trailed after them, pushing my feelings deeper and deeper every time they held hands, kissed, revealed a new inside joke. The sleepovers when I woke up to them sharing a sleeping bag or sitting out on the back deck at three a.m., kissing and drinking stolen vodka. The questions they didn’t ask even though they should’ve known to. 

I could tell her that we were all everything, together, for so long, but then they got to figure it out together, and I had to figure it out alone.

“No.” Skylar shakes her head. “You distanced yourself from us.” 

“I didn’t.”

“And you still are. This whole trip, I’ve been alone.” 

Eyes smarting with tears, I say, “Either I’m some needy third wheel or I’m a distant asshole, which is it?” and Skylar goes, “Somehow you managed to be both.” 

Someone shoulders past us, saving me from my own shocked silence, and I remember myself. Feel the street beneath my feet and the muggy city air. 

Fighting with Skylar, I know, is always a losing battle. That’s a lesson I’ve learned over and over again. So I do something I have never done before, that Skylar used to do to us: I turn and walk away. 

My fake ID doesn’t get me into Stonewall, but a few blocks down, a bouncer waves me into a small bar with an understanding smirk. I go straight for the bathroom, bypassing an unruly line with a stream of apologies that sound more like pleas and vault into the first stall that opens up. I barely manage to latch the stall door before tears, sudden and hot, spill out. My shoulders shake with them, and I clap my hand over my mouth to stop the sound that vibrates from deep within. 

Now that I’m crying, really crying, I want it give in fully; I want sobs to overcome me, and I want to drown in tears. I want to beat my fists against the filthy stall door, scorched in spots and swarming with names and cryptic promises in ink. I want to yell that it’s not fair for Skylar to blame these fault lines on me when they’re the ones who changed the rules. They’re the ones who never noticed that my whole foundation shifted beneath my feet that summer. I want someone to calm me down and tell me that I’m right, that we were all soul mates long before they decided to start kissing. But the only person who would do that, the only person who always knows what to say, the only person who soothes us when we fight is Amelia, and Amelia no longer is, she was, so instead I cry into the palm of my hand until the door rattles. 

Someone is rapping their knuckles against it. 

“Heeey, are you okay?” 

“One second.” I swipe at my eyes. 

“No, take all the time you need. I’ve been there.” 

Another voice chimes in. “Whoever she is, she’s not worth it!”

That only makes me cry harder, and the whole cycle starts over again. Finally, all these tears, all for the wrong reasons, and Skylar isn’t even around to see them.  

Eventually, though, I run dry. Open the door. When it swings inward, several women and femmes preening at the mirror turn toward me, vibrant and worried, and they shuffle to make room for me at the sink so I can splash water on my face. 

The person whose voice I recognize as the one who knocked on the door, a willowy butch with a shaved head, leans beside me. “What’s up, baby? It’s Pride; no crying allowed.” 

“I missed Pride,” I say. “We got here too late. Everything—” But I drop off, edging too close to a crack in my voice that I’m afraid to open. 

Noise erupts, laughter and coos and opinions clamoring over one another, a cacophony of drunk-girl magic swallowing me whole. 

“What, the parade?” someone says. “The parade isn’t real Pride.” 

“There’ll be soooo many Prides.” 

“You are gorgeous,” yet another adds. 

“We need to be friends.”

“Just hang with us.”

“Come on, tell us why you’re crying.” 

This last sentiment, an invitation, sends an expectant hush over the audience. I don’t know what to say—at this point, there are so many whys knotted together that I can’t imagine untangling them and translating them for anyone but Skylar and Amelia. 

“Is it a girl?” someone asks knowingly. 

The door swings open.

“Excuse me, excuse me,” someone says over the din. “Have any of you seen—oh.” 

It’s Skylar, shouldering past the barricade of girls at the entrance, magnificent in her anger, jaw set and hair sticking to her flushed face. She stops short when she sees me at the center of everything. 

“Is this who made you cry?” someone asks, crossing her arms and angling her body in front of me. If this is all it takes to make friends and garner their loyalty—some alcohol, some tears—then maybe I have a chance to find a new Skylar and a new Amelia in college after all. 

Skylar’s face reddens. To me, she says, “Can we talk?”

A hand falls on my shoulder, grounding and firm. “A few of us are going out to The Garden after this,” Shaved Head says pointedly. “It’s more of a lesbian hang than this shit hole. You wanna come?” 

I meet Skylar’s gaze and watch the question play out on her features before something sharper hardens over her hesitation. “Naomi isn’t gay.”

Words pile up in my mouth—That’s what you think, you don’t know anything about me—but the fight in me is gone. Because there isn’t anything else to say, I say, “I am, actually.” 

“You are what?” 


Skylar’s face pinches up. “This is just so typical,” she says, and she storms out of the bathroom before I can even turn the words over in my brain.

The volume in the bathroom amps up again, and I’m not sure if it’s because everyone fell silent to watch our scene or if the static in my ears drowned out everything but Skylar. Someone says, “Fuck her. Come with us,” and I’m tempted to bask in their unparalleled kindness and their alcohol-infused spirits. Part of me thinks that everything will be okay if I just go with them. I can experience the life that’s waiting for me. I imagine the feeling of belonging, how jealous Skylar might be if she saw us leaving together. I imagine her seeing me dancing with a girl, maybe even kissing one, and realizing all at once how she has never really seen me at all. 

Outside, it’s dark. Skylar is sitting on the curb, elbows to knees, and I hesitate before sitting next to her, heart contracting in my throat. 

“What did you mean back there?”

She shakes her head. “I don’t want to fight anymore.” 

“No, tell me.” 

“Just, I worried this would happen. I know you felt left out, that it was hard seeing me and Amelia have something that you couldn’t be a part of, but come on.” 

“Wait, what?” 

“You don’t have to pretend to be something you’re not.”

I dig through her tone to find the sharp-toothed bite that would suggest she’s going for the jugular. But there’s nothing there except concern. 

I choke out a helpless laugh. “Skylar…” 

“What?” she snaps, eyes flashing at me. 

We stare each other down. Me, imploring and weary. Her, braced and stubborn. When Amelia was alive, there were so many moments when I felt the words bubble up, a coming out wearing every possible mask: a confession, a retaliation, a weapon, a plea. And now, here’s a chance to savor how it feels on my tongue. To finally say the words.

But then something wordless passes between us, a language I wasn’t sure we were still fluent in, and I can tell she doesn’t need to hear me say it anymore. 

She ducks her chin to her chest, expression washed out in the glare of a streetlamp. “Why didn’t you tell us?” 

I want to say, Why would I? Again, all the wounds I’ve kept open and raw prickle. Skylar’s giving me an opening to show them to her one by one. But I’ve exhausted myself. It’s so much easier to fight than it is to grieve, but I don’t want the kind of love that keeps score.

I lift a shoulder, let it drop.

We breathe side by side. The city around us continues to exist, dark and alive and an entirely different sort of majestic than the natural wonders we’ve seen so far. Three girls, handsy and covered in glitter, ask us to take a picture of them, and then again when the framing isn’t to their liking. A guy stumbles out of the bar and heaves over the curb until something splatters onto the pavement. We don’t look. Another person waves a large Pride flag in our faces, a flash of rainbow in the dark, and asks us if we lost it. “It was just in the middle of the street,” she tells us as we shake our heads no, and she drapes it over our shoulders anyway. The girls from the bathroom drift by at some point, laughing and talking over each other, and don’t spare us a second glance. 

Finally, I say, “Amelia would’ve hated this.” 

Skylar smiles sadly. 

“Yeah, yeah she would’ve. But she would have come for us.” 

It’s the first time in a long time that “us” refers to the three of us instead of just them, and I wrap myself in it, tight and bittersweet. I lean against her, tentatively at first and then allowing my head to droop onto her shoulder. The flag slips off us with a whisper and pools around us on the sidewalk. 

I ask, “Do you want to go dance?” 


“Do you want to go inside and dance with me?” 

“Don’t you think we should talk?”

“Later,” I say, and she lets me lead her back inside, to the center of the crowded dance floor. Later, we will stumble outside, and we will say our apologies, and things still won’t be better, not yet. She can unburden her grief onto me, and I will finally learn it, and I can collect the fragments of myself that I kept from them, and she will learn me, and we will miss Amelia. We will probably talk about the kiss, and I will probably agree that it was just a weird night that meant nothing but our shared loss. Maybe eventually I will tell her otherwise. But then, maybe I won’t. Maybe I was just jealous, or maybe I was a little in love with them both. Maybe it doesn’t matter how I describe what we were.

Around us, everything’s noise and damp clothes on sticky skin as we wrap ourselves in the sounds and smells of the summer night. We dance with each other and with other people, and the tempo swings up and down, drawing us close and pushing us apart. My feet and my heart are heavy still, but they lighten as I watch Skylar slowly become red-cheeked and alive, more than she has been in weeks. And when Skylar catches my eye, we know it’s time to go back to the hotel together. It’s the height of the night, the crest of the party, but that’s okay. There will be other Prides.

{ Edited by Trisha Tobias. }