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“I was supposed to go to California,” Tia says. It’s roughly one in the morning, the two of them on the couch. Kent’s head is in Tia’s lap and he starts a bit, like he was almost asleep.

 

“Wha-?”

 

“My full name is Cynthia Faith Carter. I just realized we’ve been living together for two years and I never told you my full name.” Tia laughs a little. There’s a panicked edge to it and Kent knows that whatever point Tia’s trying to get to won’t be happy.

 

“But yeah. I was supposed to go to California. I’d heard stories, y’know? About how accepting it is and the LGBT population and shit. Maybe I’d even go to college there.” She’s talking to herself, mostly. Kent sits up slowly and then switches them around, so Tia’s head is in his lap. He cards his fingers through her hair while she pulls her thoughts together.

 

“Sorry, I’m not making any sense, am I? You remember you asked me a while back how it was so easy for me to come out to the whole world?” Kent nods. “I just did it ‘cause I figured I could handle whatever they threw at me.” She pauses. “I came out to my parents a couple weeks before my seventeenth birthday. They told me they didn’t raise me to be a… to be like this. When I told them I couldn’t help that I was gay, they put me in conversion therapy. It was-” Tia frowns. Her chin wobbles. “It was hell, Kenny. It was the worst thing I’ll ever experience.

 

“My grades in school were alright, but they weren’t enough to get a full ride anywhere and my parents made it clear they wouldn’t fund me. So I got a job and babysat and walked dogs and I saved up money and when I was eighteen I left. I just left. I finished school, technically, but I missed graduation. I don’t know what my parents did with my diploma.

 

“I wanted to make it to California, but by the time I got here I barely had twenty bucks. I figured I’d stay a couple months, maybe, long enough to make sure I had enough money, and then I’d finally get where I wanted to go. You know what happened, though?”

 

“What?”

 

“You happened. I saw your job offer and I thought, ‘hell yeah I wanna get paid to sit around with some cute cats’ so I contacted you and… I never left.”

 

“I’m glad you didn’t leave,” he says. Tia turns her face into his stomach and mumbles something into his shirt.

 

“Didn’t quite catch that, T.”

 

She moves her face so she’s not muffled. “It’s my mom’s birthday.”

 

“Oh.” Kent doesn’t know what to say.

 

“I was named after her. She’s Cynthia Ruth. Everyone calls her Cindy, though. It’s cliché, but Momma was my best friend. And I haven’t said a word to her in three years.”

 

“Do you want to?”

 

Tia groans, hands coming up to cover her face. “I don’t fucking know. It was great for almost seventeen years, but then she couldn’t look me in the eyes for months because apparently I’m not the little girl she raised anymore. A year ago I’d’ve told you I’d suffer through conversion therapy forever if it meant she’d love me again. But I dunno. I’m happy now, with you and the team and everything. I just… I wish she… I don’t fucking know, Kenny. I don’t know anymore.”

 

“Do you want my opinion?” At the redhead’s shrug, he continues, “I might be biased, but honestly? She can go to hell. If she can’t love all of you then she doesn’t deserve to be a part of your happiness.”