I stood in the pool of lamplight outside my work - a thrift store run by a Baptist church I attended - and tried to explain myself to her. Jamie's childlike frame, golden hair and miraculous beautiful blue-with-a-ring-of-gold eyes captivated me, as ever, but tonight that feeling was accompanied by a terrible sinking in my stomach and the bad taste of dread in my mouth. I didn't think she would see things the way that I did.
"Jamie, you're a beautiful girl and you know I love messing around with you, but don't you think we could have something more? Do you think you could see me that way? I mean, I'd really like to be with you, and not just, you know, the way we have been."
I glanced in through the glass front of the store. Most of my co-workers had left, but I knew Diamond and John, my manager, were discussing something in the back. Looking back to Jamie, I saw that she looked torn and upset.
"I mean, just think about it, please. I don't expect an answer right now..."
Jamie shook her head. "No, you don't get it. I don't think we would work. I'm always here for you, but only as a friend. A lot of girls get crushes on the girls they figure their sexuality out with. It's not unusual... and I think that's what's happened with you, nothing more."
Her face twisted. It was hurting her to say this, because she knew it was hurting me.
"And Cherie, I think until you get your emotions under control we should try not to do anything else. Just friends for right now, okay? I don't want to hurt you any more."
I couldn't say I hadn't expected it. But it definitely wasn't what I'd wanted. On the other hand, I could see the sense behind what she was saying.
"Deal," I said. "Are we still on for next Wednesday, though?"
"Of course, love!"
Jamie put her hands on my shoulders and stood on her tiptoes to kiss me. I hugged her. She ran to her car and drove off. Suddenly, I felt exhausted - and not because I'd just worked a full day. I ran my hands through my hair and leaned against the brick wall as I waited for Diamond to get done talking to our manager. Unfortunately, I didn't have to wait very long. They were just on the other side of the glass.
Diamond looked shocked. Her narrow Christian upbringing hadn't prepared her for this, and I knew she still saw the world in black and white. Being gay was a sin, right? John, on the other hand, looked displeased - to the point of anger.
He opened the door, and I knew I was fired before he opened his mouth. "Cherie, are you dating that girl?"
"No sir." It was the truth.
"Please don't lie to me. I don't want to have to fire you. You're a good worker." At that point, I knew that even if I lied and said I was straight, I couldn't continue working there. I just couldn't.
"No sir, I'm not dating her, but I wish I could."
"Cherie, I'm sorry to say this, but you know that doesn't fit in with the image we keep here. I'd like to say I was willing to let you stay on."
"I understand, sir."
"You can pick up your last check tomorrow."
I glanced at Diamond, one of my best friends. She was in shock. She'd known Jamie was a lesbian, but my sexuality appeared to have given her system quite a shock. It was shame. I'd had a little crush on her for a long time. Sadly, I knew she'd be even less likely than Jamie to see things my way. "Are you ready to go?"
She nodded. We silently got in my car. Diamond looked like she was re-arranging the entire world inside her head.
About halfway through the drive, I knew I had to say something.
"I hope you don't think any less of me now."
"No, no, of course not." She fell into silence again.
We were silent until we reached her house. She gave me a weak grin and went inside.
A few years later, I was attending my junior year at a local university and interning at a major publishing firm in the editing department. I'd forgotten my feelings about Jamie, though we were still friends. She was right, of course. Girls do get crushes on their first female lovers. It had happened to me - from the other side - a few times since then. I hadn't gone back to church, even though I still believed in, and loved, God. I found that more often than not, I couldn't stand His Christian followers.
As I was walking in between classes on a sunny May afternoon, I suddenly saw a familiar face.
"Diamond!" I hailed her.
Her face broke into a grin and she came jogging over and hugged me. "How have you been?"
"Pretty well, I'm interning at a publishing company now and I've only got another year of school. And you?"
"I'm well, I'm well. Look, I have to run, but how do you feel about coffee on Tuesday at noon?"
"Sure. At Ippolito's?"
She scampered off. Diamond looked as good as ever, but something was different about her. I shrugged it off and kept walking.
I strolled into Ippolito's, scanning the crowd for her face. She waved at me, and I adjusted my messenger bag and hurried over. Greeting her, I set down my bag and quickly got a cup of tea.
"So!" I said cheerily, stirring the milk into my tea.
"So... Um, there was something specifically that I wanted to talk to you about."
That got my attention. "Oh, really?"
"Yes... Maybe a bad memory, sorry to bring it up, but do you remember the night John fired you?"
The twisting feeling suddenly returned to my stomach, but she didn't look like she was judging me anymore. "Yes."
"Well," She was getting excited. "That really changed a lot of things for me... I started to see life, see people, in a different way. I still believe in God, but... sometimes there is more than one side to a story."
"Well, uhh... I started to look at myself in that new light... and I looked a lot different than I used to." She took a breath. "And I started to think, maybe I'm not who I thought I was."
"Cherie, I think I'm a lesbian."
That floored me. I choked on my tea. "You what?!?"
"I didn't know it at the time, but I really had a crush on you back then... I mean, of course I don't know how you felt about me, but... I can't believe I'm saying this... Would you..."
"Help you figure it out?"
"No, I know already. Would you go out with me?"