Part II: Too. Much. At. Once
The next week passed in a blur, same old classes. Don’t get me wrong, it was interesting to learn everything. The only project I was really enjoying was the Civil Rights Movement project with Allison, although I knew we didn’t need an excuse to hang out it helped.
“So what should we focus our talk on?” they asked, looking over all the different parts we researched.
“I think everyone focusses on the big names like Martin Luther King but how about we look at the people who worked in the background?” I suggested.
“Like who?” Allison asked.
“There was Labour Unionist movement that really helped with the grassroots campaigning and getting the message out – maybe it’s something worth focussing on?” I continued, unsure of myself as I spoke. “I mean, it’s more personally related to you so I’m happy doing whatever,” I added.
“We could do, I mean they organised the March on Washington for jobs and freedom. It was a good example of white people using their privilege too,” they said.
“How about Bayard Rustin? Then we can throw in some LGBT rights stuff into our presentation,” I threw in.
“Yes!” they said, bouncing excitedly on their knees. “I’m so glad we’re doing this together,” they added, resting their head on my shoulder. I felt my body stiffen for a second before I relaxed. It was nice how comfortable they felt around me.
“Ugh, my joints are really playing up today,” they murmured, pulling away and trying to stretch it out.
“Do you want my help?” I offered.
“Yes,” they said somewhat sheepishly. I took their hand and let healing thoughts rush through them. I knew by now the expression they made when my powers were making them feel better. I could feel the warm thoughts they held for me. I quickly withdrew, not wanting to delve any deeper into their mind. At that moment the doorbell rang downstairs and we frowned at each other. We both left Allison’s room and glanced over the railing when Mr Martin walked in. Apparently he was doing a surprise inspection. We waited patiently as he looked around. He mentioned which rooms needed a tidy before going back to the front door. Letting an influx of people inside. I recognized my parents and raced to them.
“Mama! Papa!” I said excitedly. They laughed, pulling me into a group hug. At the same time I heard the others being surprised and relieved by their family, except maybe Allen. He looked uncomfortable as his mum hugged him. I glanced Allison’s way in time to see a girl I didn’t recognise kiss them. Okay, kiss was an understatement. Based on the way Allison returned it they were established. I pulled my gaze away and led my parents into the living room.
“What are you doing here?” I asked to distract myself.
“Surprise visit Dúlla,” Mama said, smiling at me warmly. “So this is where you live now?” she continued, taking in the spacious room.
“Yeah,” I replied, looking around. “Gosh, there are so many people. I feel underdressed…” I also needed a moment to myself. How stupid had I been, thinking Allison had feelings for me? I shook my head, reminding myself that humans and relationships weren’t always black and white.
“Well before you go missing for an hour we have something important to tell you,” Papa said, pulling my full attention.
“You didn’t buy another boat, did you?” I asked. Mama laughed while Papa looked mildly offended.
“If I want to buy a boat, I’ll buy one,” he muttered.
“You and Uncle Melvin bought one but you never go fishing with him,” I pointed out.
“Look, we’re not talking about fishing here,” he huffed. “We wanted to make sure things were likely to work out before we mentioned it, but your Mama and I have found a partner. His name is Jeremy. He’s really looking forward to meeting you at Christmas.”
“Wow,” I said. “Can I see what he looks like?” I asked. Mama was already finding a picture on her phone which she handed to me. “I’ll be careful,” I promised. We didn’t need a repeat of last February. He was tall looking with a round face, dirty blond hair and soft brown eyes, he looked like he might be mid-30s so a bit younger than my parents, not that it mattered.
“I can’t wait to meet him,” I said, grinning. “Right, I won’t be long,” I promised, standing up and heading to my room. I had just gotten to opening my wardrobe to look for stuff when there was a knock at my door.
“Come in,” I said, figuring it was Allen, he looked ready to run away.
“Hey,” Allison said, shutting the door behind them. I was not expecting them however.
“Tyrone’s being a bit gushy about the Itharii, figured I had a moment to see you,” they explained, sitting on my bed.
“Oh, right,” I said. “Your little brother,” I reminded myself.
“Yeah, how are your parents?” they asked.
“Okay, gushing about their new boyfriend,” I laughed. Allison stared at me for a moment, like they were struggling to add something up.
“Oh, I must’ve never explained. My parents are polyamorous. Their relationship is open so they see other people, although they prefer to see people together,” I explained. They didn’t say anything, their gaze wandering elsewhere as they got lost in thought. “Err, earth to Allison – everything okay?” I asked.
“Yeah. I just er, need to go back downstairs a sec,” they said.
“Oh, wait,” I said, stopping them mid-step. “Your, erm, your girlfriend seems really nice,” I said, feeling at least genuinely happy to them, even if it shot my chances to bits.
“It’s … complicated,” they murmured. “Sheila and I used to be together, and then we weren’t, but I guess there’s still something there.”
“Hey, you don’t need to explain it to me,” I shrugged. “Long as you’re happy you should do whatever you want.” Allison stood there, thinking. Then the door opened and Allen walked in.
“Oh, hey,” he said. “Sorry, was I interrupting?”
“It’s fine,” I said.
“Yeah, I better head downstairs,” Allison said, leaving the room quickly. I turned around and got back to work. Throwing a skirt and my constellation leggings onto the bed. I sieved through my tops, looking for my awesome black frilly one but it was hiding from me. Allen made a throat noise behind me and I turned, shooting him a questioning glance.
“What’s up?” I asked. Maybe he just needed to offload with his parents being about.
“Erm, are you, are you really going to wear that?” he asked.
“Was planning on it,” I replied, feeling the ahirs rise on the back of my neck. We hadn’t discussed my choice of attire since that first time and now was not the time for him to bring it up again.
“It’s just, well, my parents want to meet you, so I was hoping you’d, er, dial down that kind of thing,” he said.
“Why? I’m in girl mode right now Allen, so I’ll wear a skirt. Or maybe I should wear this,” I said, grabbing one of my more feminine dresses and spinning with it. I sent him a pointed look, daring him to challenge me.
“Look, I get it. You need to be girly right now, but you don’t know my step-dad. You’ll do us both a favour if you just dress in jeans and a shirt,” he pleaded. I clenched my jaw and sighed.
“Do your parents even know I’m non-binary?” I asked, making him laugh.
“I’ve not told them about anyone being LGBT here,” he said. “For your sakes,” he added.
“Sure, our sakes. Not to save yourself difficult conversations,” I shrugged.
“Don’t get on my case Sage. You know I don’t care about that stuff anymore-”
“Then why are you asking me to dress differently? Why are you forcing me into your male tickbox?” He let out a sigh and shook his head.