After months of keeping everything bottled tight inside, Ellie knew that it was about time that she finally let the truth spill.
Ironic that she’d chosen her local Starbucks to make her confession, since its where she first met Dallas that fateful day months ago — by accidentally spilling her shaken sweet tea lemonade on the red-headed girl. A few awkward moments of “ohmygodareyouokay” and “shitshitshitnapkins” passed between the two girls before they realized they shared summer semester classes at the Art Institute of Virginia Beach just across the street.
In the time between The Spillage — as they had come to call it — and the end of the fall semester, Dallas and Ellie had become inseparable. They began sitting together in sculpting class, relaxing after evaluations with a glass of wine at Sonoma Wine Bar down by the fountain, digging through discount art supplies at the Michael’s across Virginia Beach Boulevard. All of it due to Ellie’s world famous slippery fingers.
It was time for their weekly catch-up session at the Starbucks — their Starbucks — and just before Thanksgiving break for the young, budding artists. Since the end of September, Ellie had found herself making little sketches of Dallas in her idle time: hurried pieces featuring the ginger girl gently wrapping a lock of hair around her fingers, her elegantly-manicured nails curled around a grande caramel iced coffee. It was like every one of Dallas’ features were a work of art come to life. Of course, these sketches never came to any fruition or were seen by eyes other than her own, but she just couldn’t dash from her mind the idea that she viewed Dallas as something more than just friends who were girls; she wanted to be girlfriends.
As Dallas’ lithe frame slid inside the large glass doors of the coffee shop, Ellie felt a wave of anxiety wash over her. She shouldn’t have been nervous; it was a bright, freakishly warm day for this city in the middle of November. That could only mean good things, right? That Dallas would be receptive to her confession? The plush artist had reserved their usual table in the middle of the farm of two-tops in the middle of the seating area, turned just so that the sun’s glare from the windows wouldn’t offend their eyes.
The two girls sat to chat as per their tradition. The more they talked, the more the anxiety spiking inside Ellie’s mind ebbed into a manageable level. Conversation easily flowed from topic to topic as per usual: the difficulty of their sculpting class, holiday art gallery openings down at the Oceanfront, crazy customers coming into their places of employment, and, of course, the happenings within their social circle. As the conversation drifted toward their friends and the smattering of drama, however, the anxiety found itself creeping back into her mind. Ellie’s gestures became more frantic as she spoke, which usually served as indication that she was growing uncomfortable.
Of course, knowing Ellie the way she did, Dallas picked up on this mannerism. She leaned over the table so she could softly ask her friend, “Are you doing okay? You’re flailing again.” Her barely-there eyebrows stitched together to convey her concern for her friend.
Being caught like this left Ellie doe-eyed, with her supple lashes perfectly framing her hazel eyes to exude the most innocent look. With a shaking hand, the girl pushed a lock of her thick, dirty blonde hair behind her ear. A titter of a laugh pushed through her lips. “Oh, I am? I didn’t realize! I must be nervous about evaluations next week!” A more genuine laugh escaped, leading Dallas to follow suit.
The ginger girl quickly sucked down her iced coffee, as she was want to do with anything with a straw. Knowing Starbucks had free refills for card-holding customers, she stood up and wandered over to the queue. While her friend stood in wait for her refill, Ellie nursed the grande caramel brulee latte in an attempt to calm her nerves. There would be no time better than now, when Dallas returned, to confess how she felt. While it might change things between them, all of the famous counselors and therapists always spoke about the merits of just letting out the truth. Didn’t Elsa in Frozen do better once she let it go?
‘Okay, deep breaths. In, out…In, out…‘ thought Ellie while Dallas eventually returned with her drink refill. Her eyes followed her friend while she pulled the chair back out and sat down. Once the girl was settled, the dirty blonde tightly gripped her red ombre cup and tight smile. “So, hey, you’ll never guess what I heard!” She opened vaguely so that her friend wouldn’t really be able to guess the direction of the conversation.
“What?” Dallas responded while taking a sip from her cup.
“So apparently one of our friends has a massive crush on you.” She accented the word ‘crush’ with little sarcastic air quotes with her fingers, emphasizing the ridiculousness of the whole scenario playing out. Ellie really couldn’t believe that she was finally doing this. “And before you guess, it’s not Cameron; he’s still totally enamored with Oliver.”
The ginger girl’s eyes fell in disappointment when she heard the latter part of Ellie’s news. She had kind of secretly wished the sculpting TA was paying attention to more than her failed sculptures during class. The young woman sighed, then took another sip of her drink. “Well, if it’s not Cameron, who is it?” she asked of her friend.
Ellie took a deep breath, brought the cup of lukewarm coffee to her lips one more time, and looked just to the right of Dallas’ head. She didn’t feel comfortable meeting her friend’s eyes while making her confession. After another awkward pause, she was finally out with it: “Um, it’s…it’s me.” Her voice was so soft that it was barely audible over the cacophony of the espresso machine and baristas calling out orders to the other patrons.
“I’m sorry?” asked Dallas, indicating that she hadn’t heard Ellie’s confession. She turned her ear toward her friend so she could catch it the second time around.
Ellie sighed once more and said again, louder this time, “It’s me. I have a crush on you.” She tightly closed her eyes, bracing for the impact of her friend storming away from the table in disgust. The girl gently pried open her eyes when a deluge of anger didn’t immediately pour over the table from Dallas’ side.
Instead, she observed her friend become suddenly interested in the structure of her cup. The young woman’s fingers gently gripped the forest green straw and pumped up and down, as if trying to dig to the bottom of the cup. For a moment, there was nothing but radio static collecting around the pair of girls; the air weighed heavy around the duo, laden with discomfort and anxiety due to Ellie’s confession.
A weak smile graced Dallas’ freckled lips. While flattering, she knew that she wasn’t able to return her friend’s feelings. At least, not right now. She met her friend’s gaze almost with pity as she replied, “I appreciate you letting me know. I just don’t think now’s the right time, you know? Finals are coming up, graduation’s in a few weeks…” She trailed off, feeling uneasy about listing off excuse after excuse to not sound like a horrible person by rejecting Ellie’s affections.
There was a smile, too, on Ellie’s face, but it didn’t quite manage to extend out to a full genuine grin. A hint of disappointment tinged her overall expression. “I totally understand. Different place, different time — I get it. I just thought…” The young artist swirled her cup around absently as she considered her next words carefully. “…I just thought I’d let you know. But this doesn’t change anything between us, right?” She tacked on the end bit as an afterthought, hopefully conveying that she was still interested in being friends with the other girl, despite her romantic inclinations. It happened all the time in movies, right?
“Oh, absolutely. Again, the time’s not right. But,” she paused, getting up from her seat and throwing out her cup into the bin just to her left. Dallas ran a hand through her hair, then picked up her car keys and phone from the table. The woman made sure to connect glances with her friend, still seated. “Maybe we can revisit this conversation once the excitement of graduation has passed?”
This time, the curve in Ellie’s lips grew to be something more real, more pure. “I’d like that. Thank you.”
Dallas explained that she had to be out to meet her brother at Bayside Recreation Center to pick him up from swim practice. After a promise that she’d text her friend later in the day, she was off into the hustle and bustle of the city. Meanwhile, Ellie lingered at their table for a few minutes longer, still swirling her cold coffee around in the cup. Maybe there was hope yet.