"Look, I know you and Jessie aren't that close, but is there any chance you might know why she is being so distant lately?"
"I don't know, the stuff with her mom has been hard on her. Maybe she figures you'll bring it up and she doesn't feel like talking about it."
"Are you sure that's all it could be?"
"Well," Grace begins, thinking back to her conversation with Jessie in the kitchen the day before,"nevermind, I think you should ask her yourself."
"I tried before class today, but she avoided answering me. What were you going to say?"
Grace looks around in the halls, sees they are alone, and takes a deep breath.
"I'm sorry, it might be my fault. I thought she knew."
"Knew what?" Katie asks, confused.
Grace looks away, slightly embarrassed.
"Yesterday, she mentioned the GSA meeting...and I brought you up."
A look of understanding appears on Katie's face.
"Oh no...I should have told her sooner. This isn't your fault. Do you know when she will be home from visiting her mom?"
"Probably around six, but that isn't the best time to talk to Jessie. She's usually upset after the visits and her dad is always worried because she'll refuse to eat dinner too."
"Okay, well thanks, Grace. I'll try calling first. See ya."
At a quarter to seven that evening the phone rings in the Sammler/Manning home.
Jessie is at the table and eating dinner, to everyone's surprise, including Grace who answers the call.
"Jessie, it's for you."
Jessie puts her fork down and stands up to retrieve the phone.
"Alright, who is it?"
Grace sees the change in expression on Jessie's face upon hearing Katie's name, but hands her the phone before she has the chance to refuse it. She delays bringing it to her ear, lifting it slowly.
"Hey Billie!" Katie replies with her usual pep.
Jessie isn't sure what to say and Katie notices the silence.
"Would you mind if I came over?"
Jessie looks down at her feet, trying to stay calm. She can't keep avoiding Katie because of a rumor...even if it might be true. Is that even the real reason she's avoiding her? Maybe she's scared for another reason.
"No, that'd be fine."
"Alright, I'll see you in a few."
Jessie hangs up the phone and returns to the table where her dinner plate is still half full. She empties what is left into the trash and covers it tactfully so nobody will question her later. Katie's house is not a long drive away so she walks into the living room, planning to sit on the couch to wait. Grace walks in, holding a book.
"That was a short phone call," Grace comments, sitting down and opening the book.
"Katie's coming over," Jessie replies, hearing a car outside and seeing its headlights.
"Good Luck," Grace offers, changing her attention to her reading assignment.
Jessie shrugs off Grace's statement as she hears a knock on the door, although she is curious about it.
She opens the door and invites Katie inside. Katie begins to walk towards the living room but Jessie redirects her to the attic that was converted into her bedroom. Jessie sits on her bed while Katie stays standing.
"You can sit down..." Jessie invites tentatively.
Katie is reluctant, but gives in.
"I'm sorry," Katie begins, looking directly into Jessie's eyes.
"For what?" Jessie asks, unsure what she is apologizing for exactly.
"Grace was telling the truth. I am gay...and I shouldn't have let you find out from someone else."
Jessie breaks their eye contact while trying to calm her mind down.
"If you don't want to be seen with me anymore..."
Jessie shakes her head and looks up as she wipes away a tear.
"No, I don't have a problem with it, with you. I never want us to not be friends. You're really important to me...I shouldn't have acted like such a jerk."
"I'm not mad at you, Billie. You're really important to me too...which is why it was stupid for me to not say anything. When Sarah started giving you trouble, that's when I wish I could have told you."
"So Grace was right about that too, you were in love with Sarah?"
"No, I didn't love her, but she was my girlfriend. I broke up with her after the play."
"Oh my god. It makes so much more sense now. She thought that..."
"I told her about you and Tad. Sarah has all these conspiracy theories though. Once she gets something in her head it's a lost cause to send in the reel to fish it out."
"Maybe she had this one pegged," Jessie whispers.
"What do you mean?"
"I never liked Tad. Well, I thought I did...and I was trying...before he kissed me."
"I knew you didn't seem that interested after the party. Maybe I was just using it as an excuse for my benefit, which was easy since he still talked about you."
"Sarah mentioned two other girls. I don't remember their names. She told me you were going to get sick of me, like you were of them..."
"Sarah was my third girlfriend. It's true, none of the relationships lasted long, but she was wrong about you. I feel like there's a lifetime of interesting things we could talk about," Katie explains, a bit nervous that realizing this might mean she feels something for Jessie that can't be reciprocated.
Jessie tries to hold back a blush, looking away just in case. She feels the same way about Katie but doesn't know what it means. There haven't been many close friends in her life so her judgment between what best friends feel and what someone in love feels is blurred.
"Sorry, that sounded kinda creepy, didn't it?" Katie apologizes, fidgeting with a thread on Jessie's comforter.
Jessie turns slightly to get more comfortable, her neck aching from having to twist to face Katie earlier.
"No, or if it is, then I guess we're both equally creepy."
They stare at each other in one of their typical quiet and intimate moments.