7 comments

LGBTQ+ Fiction Contemporary

The McDonald's is more or less completely empty, setting aside the sketchy-looking bald guy crammed between the humming soda machine and the smudged glass windows.


"Heard about that Lord Of The Rings reboot?" Laine says, casually messing with her matted braid.


"Complete bogus. Can't substitute Ian McKellen. Can't."


She strolls in to the checkout, smiling breezily at the deadpan fourteen-year-old behind the counter.


"Hey," She grins. "I'll have the twelve-piece nuggets and the medium fries, minus the salt. Less carbs, if you know what I mean."


Salt doesn't have any carbs, doofus, I try saying. But I'm pretty sure that, hypothetically speaking, I've lost the capability of speech.


"Drink?" He says dryly. She looks at the computerized menu above the counter. "Yeah. How about that pumpkin spice iced coffee? Hey, Janie?" "Huh?" "Anything you want to eat?"


I look up from my sneakers. There are more autumnal iced coffees on the menu than there are microorganisms in a human hair follicle. And honestly, the less food I eat, the better. "I'll have a diet coke," I say stiffly. "C'mon, Janie, I'll get you some fries or something."


Laine scours her handbag, looking for her credit card. "I'm not hungry," I lie. I have eaten nothing but a multigrain protein bar all day.


"Hey, can I get the large fries?"


"Laine!" It hurts to say her name. "I'm not hungry,"


She looks at me with creased eyebrows and tightened lips. "All right, Janie, all right." “So,” The kid’s hesitant to say anything, definitely deliberating over whether he should or not. “That’s the twelve-piece, the medium fries, and the pumpkin spice coffee?”


“Yeah,” Laine sighs, “And can I get a plastic straw?” He says it’s a five-minute wait, she tips him and checks out, and we circle around the soda machine and cram into a ranch-dressing- stained booth.


“I mean, I’m all for the climate-change-liberation thing, but the paper straws taste like fermented socks.” Laine carelessly leans against the seat.


Say something. Fifty seconds drag by before she speaks again. “Y’know, in California, these tables lit up.”


I stay silent, and suddenly the dryer lint stuck to my left sneaker is emphatically fascinating. “Like, with LEDs, I mean. It was crazy fun. Like . . . .”


“Uh-huh,” I say, and it’s dead silent, setting aside the static music coming from the loudspeakers and the infrequent hairball being hacked up by the bald guy. The sleep-deprived waitress comes by with Laine’s stuff and my diet coke, and she seemingly doesn’t care that the corny hat that she’s required to wear falls off her head when she leaves the booth.


Laine stabs her plastic straw through the plastic hole in her plastic cup.


“‘Pumpkin Spice Iced Coffee’, huh?” She says between cautious sips. “More like ‘Diabetes in a Cup.’ I can practically taste the calories I’m ingesting.”


Small talk. Again. Idiot, say something. “Laine?” “Yeah?” She inspects her medium fries, and I can tell she’s about to ask the kid at the counter for a calorie count.


“Laine, I’m sorry.” Coughing out the words feels like gargling with puke. Her eyelids lower.


“I really hope you’re sorry because you didn't take me to a McDonald’s with LED tables,” She sighs. I childishly stab at the ice in my coke, stupidly thinking that if I let four seconds pass without speaking, she’ll completely forget I said anything.


“I’m sorry, Laine,” I say again, stirring the ice with my straw. “Are we really doing this?” She lifts her iced coffee and sets it down after two seconds.


“Yeah,” I say, and my throat catches on the ‘h’. “I’m sorry.” I guess my speech capacity has limited itself to only two words.


“Stop saying that, Janie. I’m sorry I misinterpreted. I’m sorry I left that stupid cocktail party early. I’m sorry I didn’t know that . . .” She lets her head fall into her hands. “Janie, I want you to tell me what happened.”


“Okay,” I can easily interpret what happened. Why it happened is going to be harder. “Okay. Know how I hated every guy I dated? I mean, there was Wyatt, there was Will, and there was Shawn, there was Jacob . . .”


“I get it.”


“I know. I know.” Okay. Keep going. “And when Pat had that stupid cocktail thing, I thought, maybe . . .”


I check my lungs, which are surprisingly intact. I look at the carbonation sticking to the straw in the coke instead of her.


“Can I say something stupid?”


“Uh-huh.”


“I thought I wasn’t into guys anymore. I mean, I thought, like . . . I didn’t want to go out with guys anymore.” The left side of her head slams into the table with enough force to knock the straw from her plastic cup.


“I’m sorry. I’ll shut up.” I’m blinking back the newly-coming lukewarm tears that threaten to send me into hysteria. Idiot, don’t cry. Stop crying.


“Stop. Saying. That.” She says. Her face is completely flattened out against the table. “Keep talking.”


“Okay. . . And I guess I thought if I went to that dumb cocktail thing with you, instead of Wyatt or Shawn, I guess, maybe . . . I guess I thought it would be better that way.” Laine lifts her head half an inch.


“Yeah. But that doesn’t explain why you had to . . .”


“I know. I’m stupid. I’m being stupid. I’m sorry.” I swab the tears from my eyes with a napkin that could be mistaken for a sheet of cardboard.


“If you say ‘I’m sorry’ one more time I’ll stab your eyes out.” Laine mumbles. “Okay, okay, I’m s-” I catch myself. “Okay.”


Long pause.


“Janie, this sucks.”


“I know.”


“This really sucks.”


“Yeah. It does.”


Laine hesitates, pretzelizing her braid around her index finger. “I’m leaving,” She sighs, lifting herself out of the booth like a seventy-eight year old woman with clinical back problems.


“Hey!” I'm borderline hysterical. She makes a beeline for the swinging double doors.


“Hey!” I’m hit with a blast of sweltering midsummer heat the second I step outside.


“Laine!” She leans against the handicapped parking sign and lets me catch up with her.


“Janie, I-I can’t with this right now, okay?” “I don’t care,” I say, mopping up the fifteen gallons of snot my nose has conveniently decided to let out.


“Can we talk about this later?” She says miserably.


No. We. Cannot.”


“Then-then forget it, Janie. Just forget it.” And from the handicapped sign, I watch her cross the parking lot. Stumble into her Honda. Yank out her braid. Swipe at her incoming tears. Steer out of the parking lot and swerve into the interstate. I watch her car maneuver around the yellow-green trees. Maybe for the last time.

October 16, 2021 21:52

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

7 comments

Kendall Defoe
02:17 Dec 01, 2021

Wow...just...really, wow. I really want to read more of your work. Salud.

Reply

Nora K.
20:00 Dec 01, 2021

Thanks, Kendall! Means a lot.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Aman Fatima
07:25 Oct 25, 2021

Maybe it's just me but the ending was sad. There wasn't much description and in my opinion description wasn't needed. Also your dialogues were life like, I mean they felt real.

Reply

Nora K.
12:35 Oct 28, 2021

Hey, Aman! Thanks for commenting.

Reply

Aman Fatima
04:26 Oct 29, 2021

No problem. :) Keep writing great stories.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Deidra Lovegren
18:43 Oct 17, 2021

That last line got me in the feels. Oof... Amazing dialogue. Spot on.

Reply

Nora K.
21:00 Oct 17, 2021

And says YOU! Thanks for commenting, Deidra! Laine, Janie. Nothing says lack of creative ingenuity like corresponding names.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply