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Authors: Zoe Lynne

Finding Ashlynn

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Chapter One

 


H
I
,
I’m Ashlynn,” the new girl said. “People call me Ash, though. I’m seventeen. I’m, er—ah, um—questioning, I guess. Is that the right word?” She paused and tilted her head to the side, as if she were taking a second to consider what she’d said. Then she added, “Oh, and I play bass in an all-girl punk band.”

Ashlynn shrugged, and one of the spaghetti straps of her purple camisole slid down her slender arm. She didn’t stop fidgeting with her fingers long enough to fix it. She didn’t look around the room to see if anyone was checking her out. If she had, Jenna would’ve been so totally busted.

The new girl had caught Jenna’s eye the moment she crossed the threshold and stepped into their cramped meeting room. She had a style unlike anything Jenna was used to—purple hair, ripped, faded jeans, big black boots, long silver chains hanging down her chest. She screamed of danger and spontaneity, not the routine safety Jenna structured her life around without fail. The idea of such thrills piqued Jenna’s interest immediately.

Jenna had never seen her before, and she’d been coming to these Friday-night meetings for close to ten months already. She knew everyone in the group by name, age, sexual orientation or lack thereof, what they liked to do in their spare time, and their other little quirks. Jenna remembered everyone and everything, and she wanted to know this new girl… with a passion.

The florescent lights hanging from above made the highlights in Ash’s indigo hair shimmer. The bright shade of the straight-as-a-board locks hanging around her face made her eyes a stunning pale blue. She had one of those silver rings in her nose—a septum ring, if Jenna remembered right. Normally, piercings were a complete turn-off, but it looked cute hanging over Ash’s heart-shaped lips.

And Jenna was completely, totally, and utterly mesmerized.

The adviser looked at Jenna, who’d been so lost in the new girl she hadn’t realized it was her turn to introduce herself.

“Oh, um… sorry. I’m Jenna. I’m seventeen. I’m a lesbian and I fancy myself a writer.”

She grinned, proud of herself for using words most teenagers would never dream of. It gave a little more credence to that whole “writer” thing she’d been trying to pull off since elementary school.

Now the new girl was staring at her.

Silently wishing the floor would open up and swallow her whole, Jenna bit down on her bottom lip. Ash smirked. There was something wicked in the way she watched Jenna, something naughty and exciting, maybe even a little curious.

They continued to go around the room. The kids introduced themselves. Jenna already knew most of them. The transgender kid who went by Stella away from home was one of her very best friends. Poor Stella had to pack her backpack full of her Friday night clothes and drive to Jenna’s house to change before heading out. She’d said if her father caught her in a dress, she would be kicked out. No question about it. Jenna’s mom had offered more than once to let Stella stay at their house, but Stella wasn’t ready to have her parents turn their backs on her. So she continued to keep her secret.

“Does anyone have any questions before we start?” the adviser asked.

Ash’s cheeks turned pale pink as she slowly eased her hand into the air. She stopped with her fingers just above her multi-pierced earlobe. The adviser nodded toward her and gave her a
go ahead
look.

“Is everyone here, like… you know, out or whatever?” Ashlynn asked.

“Not everyone,” he responded. “Some people are.”

“Is there any way we can talk about that or…?”

“Sure. Who wants to talk about coming out?”

None of them raised their hands. There were probably twelve kids in the room, and Jenna only knew of three of them actually being out—Jenna being one of them.

“I can tell my story,” she quietly said, though why she volunteered, she wasn’t sure. Jenna absolutely abhorred talking in front of groups. “My coming-out wasn’t bad or anything like that, so I don’t know how helpful I’ll be.”

By the look on Ash’s face, she didn’t care if the story was helpful or not. She actually looked relieved that someone wanted to talk about it.

“That’s cool,” the adviser said. “Not all coming-outs are bad.”

He tossed a little red pillow over to Jenna. That was their “talking pillow.” Whenever someone wanted to seriously address the group, they were given the pillow and everybody was supposed to quietly listen until the person talking finished. It worked most of the time—okay, maybe some of the time was a better estimate.

“Well, I….” Jenna cradled the pillow against her stomach, looked around the room, and when she caught Ash staring, she lost a lot of the confidence she’d had before. “I came out the night of my sixteenth birthday,” Jenna nervously began. “My girlfriend at the time had been one of my best friends since seventh grade, so I guess it made sense for us to hook up. We were pretty much inseparable. We finished each other’s sentences. We shared all our clothes. And neither one of us had any interest in talking about boys.”

“Is that how you knew you were…?” Ash asked, but her voice trailed off before she actually managed to choke out the big L-word.

“Sort of,” Jenna said. “I mean, I knew, but didn’t
know
. If that makes any sense. I knew I thought girls were pretty and all, but I didn’t know for sure until we actually kissed each other. It was a stupid dare, but I didn’t know how much I wanted a girlfriend until I realized how much I liked kissing my best friend.”

Now she
really
had Ash’s attention.

“I’d told Laney I wanted to come out to my parents. She was so freakin’ scared. She swore if I came out to them, they would put two and two together. She thought they would figure her out too and tell her parents. I told her they wouldn’t, but she totally didn’t believe me.”

Looking over at Ash again, Jenna paused for a second. Apparently, Ash was completely into her story, because the girl had her big blue eyes glued on Jenna as if she was the next incarnation of Lady Gaga or something. It unnerved her a bit, made her wish she hadn’t started the story. From the way Ash stared, though, Jenna immediately came to the conclusion that Ash’s parents didn’t know anything about her sexuality or the fact she questioned it. It sincerely appeared as though Ash had come to the youth group for answers, not looking for a date like some of the other kids.

“Laney got so freakin’ mad at me,” Jenna carefully continued. She noticed a slight tremble in her voice, noticed her palms starting to sweat, but she kept going anyway because she felt as though Ash
needed
to hear this. “I told her I felt like they needed to know. I mean, what if they’d caught us kissing or something? Wouldn’t it be better for them to know than find out like that?”

A few people mumbled in agreement.

Ash didn’t open her mouth and didn’t blink her eyes.

“After Laney left that night, I went back downstairs and found Mom and Dad sitting on the couch watching TV. I asked them if I could talk to them, and they didn’t hesitate to turn their attention to me. They even went as far as to turn the television off.”

Jenna could already feel her mouth getting dry. That happened every time she had to speak in front of anyone, even a small group like this one. She had the worst stage fright ever and didn’t understand how anyone could get on stage and perform. Just knowing Ash could do something like that simply because she wanted to make Jenna twice as curious about the purple-haired cutie-pie who’d stumbled into their little world.

“How did you tell them?” Ash asked

Picking up the can of Diet Coke on the table beside her, Jenna thought about how the words had finally come out of her mouth that night. She could never remember all the particular details leading up to the moment she’d finally said, “I’m a lesbian,” but everything else sort of just stuck with her. Most of all, she remembered how her parents had stared at her for more than a few silent, uncomfortable minutes before actually reacting to the news.

She took a sip of her drink. It’d warmed a bit in the time it’d been sitting on the table waiting to quench her thirst, and it burned as it rolled down her throat. Condensation collected on her hand, which did nothing for her already sweaty palms. After she set the drink back down, she rubbed both hands over her jeans, then clamped them together in her lap.

“Honestly, I just looked at them and told them I was a lesbian. Then I gave them a minute to process it.”

“Were you scared?” Ash asked.

“Nothing scares her,” Stella said, giving Jenna a wink.

“I was terrified,” Jenna said.

A few people laughed softly. The sound eased some of the tension in the room.

“So how did they react?” It was Ash speaking again.

She now sat on the edge of the couch, legs crossed ankle to knee. She wore those stupid skinny jeans Jenna hated seeing teenage boys wear, and these huge black boots that had seen better days. Every single finger had a giant silver ring on it, and both wrists were covered with thick leather bands. The whole getup looked really cute on her, though Jenna would’ve hated it on anyone else.

Ash worried with one of the threads hanging off the ripped denim exposing her kneecap. She twisted it one way, then the other, back and forth, back and forth. Watching those long, slender fingers work so furiously had Jenna hypnotized. Then someone cleared their throat and brought her back to the here and now. She glanced over and found Stella giving her a knowing grin.

Jenna sighed.

“They didn’t say anything at first,” she admitted. Her voice had lost a lot of the confidence it had before. “I watched my mom start to tear up. She did a good job holding back her tears, though. Daddy tensed. He sat up straight as a board, like he usually did when he went into all-business mode. I thought they were about to tell me to get out of the house.”

“But they didn’t… right?” Ash asked.

“No, they didn’t.”

“Jenna’s parents are amazing,” Stella said. “Her mom is really active in PFLAG.”

“What’s PFLAG?” Ash spoke again.

Her interest in everything was pretty astounding. Most kids came to these meetings just to have a place to hang out. Some might take something away from their Friday nights from time to time. For the most part, though, it was something to do, just like going to the mall or the movies, because they were all too young to go to the clubs and the bars.

The LGBT community center had become their club.

Thankfully, one of the advisers filled Ash in on PFLAG and what they stood for. She didn’t seem as interested in that as she had been in Jenna’s story. Even though the adviser spoke directly to her, Ash kept looking over at Jenna, as if she only wanted to hear what Jenna had to say.

“Did they ever freak out?” Ash finally asked.

“Honestly, I don’t know. Daddy told me he loved me no matter what and he would stand behind me. He said he was proud of me and always would be. So it worked out fine. I never asked them how they felt. I was just thankful they accepted it.”

Chapter Two

 

T
HE
more that Jenna girl talked, the more Ash wanted to know about her. Jenna was the first “out” lesbian Ash had ever met… well, besides her singer friend who seemed to flip-flop back and forth between dudes and chicks. Robbie was a party girl. Jenna, not so much. Clearly. She looked like the type who spent all her hours studying, the type who made perfect grades and joined school clubs—the absolute opposite of Ash.

Jenna was the first girl Ash wanted to get to know intimately. Not only because Ash felt an immediate, intense attraction to the other girl—she was hot as hell—but because Jenna interested her. She seemed deep, the kind of “deep” Ash appreciated and never really got from people her own age.

Ash shook her head and sat back in her seat, dragged both legs into the chair until she was sitting in a lotus-like position, and folded her hands in her lap. She put on her best attentive expression, but she kept finding herself lost in the sound of Jenna’s voice. It sounded magical and harmonious, like birds singing. Jenna’s voice made Ash want to fall into a daydream and not wake up.

People kept asking Jenna questions, and she kept answering them without fail. Ash watched and listened without saying a word. She stared at the other girl—her kind smile, her warm eyes, the way her hair reminded Ash of milk chocolate, and the way her skin reminded her of billowy cotton—very tan, billowy cotton. Jenna seemed really sweet, and she spoke with compassion, with intelligence and conviction. She came across as the kind of girl people looked up to and counted on, the kind of girl Ash secretly wanted to be. Ash had been hiding behind an
I-don’t-give-a-damn
façade for so long, she doubted she could ever be
that
kind of girl.

“Okay, guys,” one of the advisers said as he walked back into the circle of teenagers, clapping his hands together to get their attention. “They want to close the center. Does anyone have anything else before we call it a night?”

A chorus of voices said a unified “no.”

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