I slept on and off that night with constant worry and fear clouding my every thought, both conscious and unconscious. I actually got very little sleep; I spent most of my night in a sort of state that was somewhere in the middle of conscious and unconsciousness. What little sleep I did manage to get was plagued by nightmares which were so close to reality that for most of the dream I didn’t know if I were asleep or awake. After the night I’d had it wasn’t really surprising that my nightmares were full of my fears of how people would reject me when they found out. My parents were there, as expected, but so was Mark and his family and almost everyone else who I’d ever known, which included Corrin and Cameron. To some degree or another I’d sort of expected Corrin to appear and treat me with the same revulsion and contempt as all the other faces in my dream had but I’d never in a million years expected Cameron to treat me the exact same way as everyone else, especially after how nice and accepting he’d been of me tonight. I think Cameron’s rejection hurt so much more than everyone else’s because I’d thought after the way he’d been with me that he was the only person left on my side. His rejection ripped through me and that combined with the other people’s reactions made my whole dream body ricochet with pain.
I was a complete wreck when I finally awoke, gasping for air that just wouldn’t make its way into my desperate lungs. Logically, I knew that my dream wasn’t real…but it felt so lifelike, which only made me feel even more terrified at even having to think about admitting to everyone what I was. Now that it was semi-out in the open and I was no longer denying it to myself I knew there was no way that I’d be able to keep lying to everyone else. I had never been good at the whole lying thing when it came to others and when it came to myself I found it nearly impossible. There was little to no chance that I was going to be able to hide this from everyone, especially my parents, for more than a couple of days; a week at most. I absolutely dreaded even having to think of telling my devotedly religious parents the truth. What would they think? What would they say? What wouldn’t they say? I think their silence would kill me more surely than any shouting that could ever come from them.
I sat shaking on my bed, close to tears, as my brain flooded with all my insecurities and fears. I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry out and for someone to come and comfort me. Most of all I wanted my mother to be the type of parent who would come and give me a hug when I was feeling down instead of making me bottle everything up inside. Unfortunately I had more chance of waking up completely heterosexual tomorrow morning than my mother ever showing me that kind of compassion. Speaking of my mother, I could hear her downstairs. That didn’t really surprise me seeing as I had heard my dad heading out to work a while ago. I had to get out of here! I couldn’t be waiting up here when my mother took it into her head to come and get me up. I couldn’t face her yet, not after everything that had happened last night. Everything was still too fresh and painful. I had to get out but…where could I go. I had no one I could turn to anymore. Sure, I could maybe go see Cameron but after my nightmare I was a little hesitant to even attempt to contact him, let alone actually see him. What if I’d just been imagining his acceptance last night? Was that possible? Was I just so desperate for some compassion that I’d imagined some from Cameron? What if my nightmare was the real side of Cameron? Surely not. He was my friend, or, at least I’d thought he was. Was I alone again? I lifted my shaking hand up to wipe some of the tears that had escaped from my eyes and were steadily making their way down my cheeks. I couldn’t do this! Why, oh why, couldn’t I just be normal? Maybe I could…No. It was far too late to go back to pretending.
My head dropped into my hands, shaking a little from side to side in denial.
“You’re nothing Raven-Jay. You’ve always been wrong in the head and you always will be” a quiet voice in the back on my mind sneered at me nastily.
“No, I’m not…I’m the same person I’ve always been” I whispered out loud without really meaning to.
“Really? You don’t believe that or you would’ve told your parent’s by now!” the voice whispered from inside my head. My hands uselessly went to my ears to try and block the voice out but the voice continues mercilessly.
“I do” I whispered brokenly. It was true…sort of. I was the same person I’d always been, at least I hoped I was, no matter how I felt about what I’d just discovered about myself.
“Tell them then” it sneered at me viciously, sounding more and more like my mother as it went on. My breaths came out in shaky gasps and I could feel the tremors that had begun rocking my body. I slowly brought down my hands from my ears and wrapped them around myself in one desperate attempt to hold myself together since I currently felt like I was going to shatter into tiny pieces any second now.
“Tell them and watch their faces fill with horror! Fill with revulsion! Watch them cast you out! Watch them tell you are dead to them!” no, no no, NO!
There was a sort of buzzing sound to my left but I didn’t understand what it was at first. All I could think about was the voice and how completely right it was. It took several more of those buzzing sounds for me to be able to pull myself out of my own head enough to realize it was my phone. No one really had my number so it could only be a handful of people that were calling me which made me extremely hesitant to pick up the phone, let alone answer it. I was still internally debating whether I should answer when it stopped ringing. I breathed a mental sigh of relief only for the darn thing to start ringing again only seconds later. Whoever this was obviously wasn’t gonna take no for an answer so I reached over to answer. My hand shook so badly that I almost dropped the phone. Without even looking at the screen to see who was calling I clicked answer and pulled it to my ear because I knew that if I’d looked I would’ve chickened out of answering altogether.
“…” I opened my mouth to say something, anything, but nothing came out.
“Are you there? R-J?” a voice asked from my phone, Cameron’s voice.
“What are you going to say Raven-Jay? What could someone like you possibly have to say? They’re not going to want to hear it anyway, not from you!” the voice started up again in my head, this time only louder and somehow more solid than before. It was hard to make out what Cameron was saying though because the voice in my head shouted over the top of him but somehow I was able to concentrate on the sound of his voice, calm and reassuring like always.
“Cameron?” I whispered, my voice coming out thick with tears. I tried, I really did, to make myself sound somewhat normal but, honestly, I was a mess and my voice showed that.
“R-J? Are you…are you okay?” Cameron asked quickly, his voice full of genuine concern and…maybe something else but in my current state I couldn’t be sure.
“I…I…” no matter how hard I tried no words would come out. What could I possibly say anyway? That I was fine? That everything was going great? No, that would be lying and I just couldn’t bring myself to do that, not to him, not anymore. He’d been there for me, and from the sounds of things he still was, but at the same time I couldn’t just blurt out how my whole world currently felt like it was crashing down around me. It didn’t matter what I would’ve said to him anyway because before I could even open my mouth to try and form some words again Cameron had already begun talking.
“I’m on my way, I’ll be there in about ten minutes, okay?” he spoke rapidly, already sounding like he was running. He hung up without giving me a chance to answer but that was fine with me because I really wasn’t sure what I would have said to him anyway.
10 minutes. He said it would take him 10 minutes to get here. Where was he coming from to be here in 10 minutes? Our town wasn’t exactly the largest but it still took at least 20 minutes to get into town and then another 10-15 minutes to get to Cameron’s apartment depending on traffic. 10 minutes? Oh no! That meant I had to get ready rather sharpish or risk my mother coming face to face with one of the people she hated most in this town. It took me a few precious moments to even make my body move from where it was huddled against my headboard but finally I was able to get up and riffle through my drawers to find something to wear. Without even looking properly, I picked the first things my hands landed on before I sprinted into my adjoining bathroom. I came to a complete stop when I saw my face in the large mirror above the sink. I didn’t recognise myself. My once vibrant blue hair had started fading and was currently sticking up everywhere; it must’ve come out of its holder at some point during my restless night. That was the only thing that was different about me though, I looked different, and my face thinner and paler, my eyes sunken with dark purple bags lining them and my eyes themselves…they looked beyond hopeless.
Cameron arrived exactly 7 ½ minutes after our phone call. Who knows how many speeding rules he broke on his way over to get here that quickly? It was beyond sweet of him but it was also kind of scary. What if he’d been hurt on the way over…because of me? I really was becoming the horrid person I’d feared I was becoming when I’d first started having these feelings. He didn’t honk his horn or even call me to let me know he was outside but I knew as soon as he pulled up, the familiar sound of his car gave him away. I took a few extra moments in the bathroom after he’d pulled up to make sure my freshly applied make-up covered the worst of the damage on my face. It was a snap decision to wear make-up today. It hurt my face, which was still tender from all my crying, but I couldn’t have let Cameron see me like that even if I’d wanted to. Another lesson learned from my mother; never let them see anything but perfection. Once I was sure my make-up hid everything I left the bathroom and made my way downstairs, grabbing my cell phone on the way past. My mother was in the kitchen when I came down stairs so luckily I didn’t have to even acknowledge her even though she called me as I made my way out the front door. I could easily pretend that I hadn’t heard her later. Hmm later? I wasn’t sure quite when later would be right now because as soon as I was out of my parents’ house I felt….I felt free. For the first time in my life I felt like maybe I could be my own person, without having to worry what people thought of me or how it directly affected them. It was a strange, disorienting but also exhilarating, experience. I’d never felt like this in my life. It made me feel sort of giddy inside.
Without a single glance back I ran towards Cameron’s car and slid into the luxurious leather seats. Cameron was waiting for me with his usual smile on his face but underneath that there was that same hint of concern he’d shown earlier on the phone.
“Are you okay?” he asked slowly, carefully, as if somehow, if he wasn’t careful enough, he’d spook me. I did my best to smile back at him as I answered. It was definitely hard but it felt a little easier and more natural than it had earlier.
“No, I’m not okay but I’m working on it” I whispered truthfully. I hadn’t quite realized what I was going to say to him until it was out but at the same time I’m glad I’d answered him honestly. At my words some of the tension left him.
“So, where to m’lady?” Cameron asked after a brief moment of comfortable silence between us.
“Just…away from here, please” my voice came out sounding more harsh and demanding than I’d intended but I was still a little nervous about the fact that my mother could still see me if went to any of the front facing windows. If she seen Cameron with me…I didn’t even want to think of what would happen.
“Anywhere in particular or is Madam fine with any random place?” he asked in a serious tone, his face completely blank before a large smile spread across his lips. He smiled widely at me and it wasn’t until then that I realized he was joking with me. For the first time that day a natural smile curled up the corners of my mouth. As I smiled at Cameron I felt a small bubble of happiness begin to grow inside of me. I was able to smile properly without faking or without feeling like I was dying inside the entire time. That actually gave me an idea.
“Just drive, I’ll let you know where to stop”
Without a seconds hesitation Cameron started the car and begun driving towards town. We talked on the way, mostly about small things that didn’t really mean anything. The entire time neither of us brought up what had passed between us last night and for that I was sort of glad. I knew I would eventually have to talk this stuff through with someone, so why not Cameron, but the truth was I was still terrified of his rejection. It was completely irrational, I knew that deep down, but it didn’t stop the fear from bubbling up inside of me, squishing the small amount of happiness I’d just begun to experience. The conversation begun to ebb a little on my part after we’d been driving for about fifteen minutes because of my self-doubts but Cameron didn’t push me and let the conversation between us flow away into silence. I felt bad for him. I wasn’t exactly the best company to be around today. Maybe I should’ve stayed home? No, I was honestly glad I was out with Cameron. He was a good friend and I wasn’t going to let my own problems and insecurities ruin that.
“Stop” I managed to say after a couple more minutes of driving. We’d missed where I wanted to go but this was better for parking anyway and we could just walk back. Cameron still didn’t seem sure of where I was headed but without a word he pulled into a free parking space and cut the engine. I took a deep breath to sort of steady myself for what I planned to do next. My parent’s would really throw a fit if they knew what I was planning to do next. Even that little thought of my parent’s brought my mood crashing down again. Whilst I was trying to compose myself enough to actually make myself get out of the car Cameron had already beaten me too it and had begun making his way around to my side of the car. It was his sort of gentlemanly routine to always open the car door for me no matter how much I’d protested. He did it so much that eventually I’d just stopped complaining about it. Seeing him do it again, after everything that had changed these past few weeks, made a small smile spread across my mouth. At last some things stayed the same.
“So where’s this special place you wanted to go?” Cameron asked once he’d opened the car door for me and helped me out.
“Uh, uh, uh, no telling. That would ruin the surprise” I was actually surprised to find my voice sounded less hollow than it had earlier. I was actually starting to feel the first little bubbles of happiness inside me. Cameron laughed at my lame answered.
“Let’s get going then. Wouldn’t want to keep your suitors waiting” He said through his laughter. I don’t think he realised quite what was coming out of his mouth at first because there was a moment when our eyes met and his eyes widened slightly.
“Crap! I didn’t…you know I…I was joking” he stuttered over his words, seeming really unsure of what he should say or do in this situation.
“Its fine, you idiot. I know what you meant” I laughed, pushing him slightly to show that I knew he was joking. It was actually really easy to laugh his joke off without feeling awkward or self-conscious which was a small miracle in itself considering my anxiety issues. He shot me a quick look but when he seen the smile on my face a similar smile lit up his face. We walked side by side, chatting at random for the couple of minutes it took us to reach our destination.
He seemed mildly surprised when I stopped him in front of Shute’s Tattoo parlour and Salon but he didn’t say a word, even opening the door for me to go in. I walked over to the desk more confidently than I actually felt but that false confidence was stripped away when the receptionist just stared past me.
“Excuse me?” I asked quietly, too shy to try and make my voice any louder. The receptionist was different from the one who was here the last two times I was. She must be new. She looked a lot like the owner so maybe they were related and she was just covering. She was also very rude. She just ignored me, instead preferring to stare blatantly at Cameron’s butt as he looked over the tattoo designs that there was no way he’d ever get. He’d already admitted to me that he admired me for getting the tattoos I had because he was too scared to get any of his own.
“I think I’m gonna get this one” Cameron declared after looking through about 5 of those wall posters or tattoo designs they had up on the wall. From where I was standing it looked like a dragon-type thing. I walked over to get a closer look and wasn’t really that shocked to find that yes, it was a sort of dragon thing. It was kind of weird looking though. Definitely something only Cameron would decide to pick. In all the time I’d spent with Cameron I’d quickly come to realise that he kind of had an eccentric taste when it came to anything creative like music, art and, I guess, that extended to tattoo designs. There was also a really nice design beside Cameron’s one that I liked and was thinking on getting.
“You, Cameron Connors, are going to get a tattoo?” I asked in disbelief. Surely I’d heard him wrong. He’d said countless times before that he was too scared to get one so what had changed?
“Hey, a man’s allowed to change his mind, y’know” he replied after a very brief pause, almost as if he’d read my mind.
“I know, I just thought…” I started to say before I was cut off, rather sharply, by the receptionist who was no longer at her desk but instead standing next to Cameron and me. I hadn’t even heard her walk over to us.
“I think you would really suit that tattoo Mr Connors” the receptionist batted her eyelashes at him. It kind of looked like she had something in her eye that she was trying to get rid of. It was actually a pretty funny sight. It stopped being so funny when she started touching him and rubbing her hands all over his arms.
“Maybe right here” she exclaimed as her hand circled his shoulder, pushing his t-shirt sleeve up as she did so. “or here” she giggled, pointing to his chest this time. Was she…was she flirting with him? No, surely nobody would be that obvious, right? I felt a little (read; a lot) strange watching the whole display. I could tell just by watching them that Cameron really wasn’t that into, whatever this was, as she was. He kept casting glances over at me with a worried look on his face.
“Um, yeah, I’m just going to…” Cameron mumbled, cutting off whatever the girl had been saying to him. He spoke softly, beginning to push her hand away from his chest after a final look over at me. He really looked like he didn’t want to be in this situation but the girl just pushed her hand back against his.
I was about to interrupt myself because Cameron was starting to look really uncomfortable but it turns out I didn’t have to because at that moment Gary Shute walked in the front door. Gary’s family owned this place and at the moment he was the only tattooist they had.
“Mins, back at your desk please” Gary drawled in his soft southern accent as he walked past us. He didn’t even look at the girl, Mins I suppose her name was, but somehow it was enough and she finally peeled herself off of Cameron and walked back to her desk. Cameron looked seriously relieved with the girl back where she belonged.
“So, Raven-Jay, what can I do for you today?” Gary asked from across the room, his back still towards me and Cameron.
“Um…I’m here to get another tattoo” I felt so awkward saying that as the words left my mouth. Obviously I wanted another tattoo otherwise why would I be here?
“Yeah, me too” Cameron chimed in, saving me from dying of awkwardness. I shot him a grateful smile and he smiled back down at me.
“Y’all better come through then” Gary called over to us, the southern twang in his voice really shining through. Without another word he walked through to the back room and followed him, followed myself, only seconds later, by Cameron.
The back room was brightly lit and held two leather sort-of recliner chairs with a small stool beside each of them. I sat down in one and Cameron hesitantly sat down in the other. I almost burst out laughing at him. He looked like the chair was going to bite him or something. This was probably the first time I’d ever seen Cameron really nervous or scared of something in all the time we’d known each other.
“So who’s going first?” Gary asked whilst he set up his equipment. I knew everything he was doing since I’d been here and done it all before but Cameron’s eyes were slightly wider than usual, especially when he seen the needle.
“Let the tough guy go first” I found myself saying without really knowing why. Cameron shot me a joking glare, at least I hoped it was joking, but he took it all in his stride and before long Gary had started to go to work on his weird dragon thing. He’d decided to get it on his shoulder after all but I tried not to think about how much influence ‘Mins’ had on that decision. Cameron flinched several times as he was getting done but for the most part he handled it pretty well.
It took Gary about 20 minutes to finish Cameron’s and bandage him up. Cameron turned and showed me his finished tattoo before Gary bandaged it up. It didn’t really seem to fit him but at the same time it suited him perfectly. It was unique and imperfectly perfect, just like he was.
Gary came over to me next. I’d decided I was going to get that design from the poster and when I explained it to Gary he was able to get a pretty good likeness to what I’d picked. I got it on my left wrist and I’ve really got to say, I really liked how it turned out. It sent a really good message, a message that I really needed to hear right now.
Live the life you love
Love the life you live