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Butterflies

Chapter Text

"And then my soul saw you and it kind of went, ‘Oh, there you are. I’ve been looking for you."

Iain Thomas

 

Xanthe paced back and forth in front of the entrance of Melbourne Zoo, watching waves of people enter and exist as she waited for Yashvi to arrive. She wanted the day to be perfect and spent close to a week preparing for it- what she was going to say, what they were going to do, what she was going to wear and what her hair was going to look like to the point where she'd gone from store to store, trying on multiple outfits to find the right one. The one that would exhibit a "wow" response and she finally found it. It was a white, sleeveless dress that reached just above her knees with a think, dark blue belt around the waist and was covered in blue butterflies of various shades, sizes and species. Combined with her white runners, for walking long distances and her hair done up in a ponytail, with several strands hanging down. They were originally going to leave Ramsay Street together and go to lunch before heading to the Zoo. Making a full day of it but the plan had suddenly changed when Yashvi got a call, early that morning and rushed over to tell her the plan had been put on hold and she was going to have to meet her at the Zoo. 

She been waiting for hours, arriving early so she would be there to meet Yashvi when she got there and she thought her nerves would be getting the better of her by now. That she’d have butterflies in her stomach and panicking that Yashvi wasn’t going to turn up but instead, she was completely calm. She was relaxed and comfortable, happy and safe, the way Yashvi always made her feel, even if it was just thinking about her. It was a feeling that made her smile and was what she felt the day everything changed – when she looked at Yashvi and saw someone who had become more than a friend. Someone she wanted to be with, who she liked being around and who made her day just a little bit brighter by being in in. It was a lovely feeling, freeing in a way and one she hadn’t experienced in a long time. 

She took a deep breath and turned around, just as she spotted Yashvi walking towards her in the distance and as she stood there watching her, she smiled as Steph’s words made their way into her head.

“Just follow your heart.”

Those words had become a mantra – calming her down, making her feel at peace and happy and it helped knowing someone could understand, that they could help her make sense of what she was feeling. Reminding her that she didn’t need to have all the answers. That she didn’t need to understand everything about herself and what she was going through in order to be happy and that she could still be with the person who made her smile again, no matter what their gender was. There was plenty of time to figure out her sexuality and she shouldn’t stop herself from being happy or being with someone who made her happy because of that. Yashvi did that.

She continued watching Yashvi as she got closer and closer to her, unable to take her eyes off of her. She looked so beautiful and stood out, even as the waves of people surrounded her, almost drowning her out. She was wearing a white ying yang singlet with a thin black, fish net jumper on top of it coupled with her black broken up jeans and her hair was braided into two subtle half pigtails, which she noticed she Yashvi turned to look behind her with a black choker to set it off.

“Hey.” Yashvi called out, smiling as she approached Xanthe.

“I’m sorry I’m late. I couldn’t get away.”

“No, no that’s… it’s fine. You’re here now.” Xanthe smiled softly as Yashvi tilted her head to the side, looking at her.

“Oh, wow. You look amazing.”

“Thanks.”

“Ready to go in?” Yashvi asked, pointing to the entrance.

“Yes.” Xanthe smiled, as she pulled out her ticket and they both walked towards the entrance.

They slowly made their way through the entrance and into the Zoo. Passing Otters, Tigers along with a swam of people and various facilities as they made their way towards the Butterfly House. Walking inside, side by side and gently brushing their arms against one another as they looked at each other, smiling and then looking ahead. Passing through the secondary doors to continue into the House, looking at the various plants and trees, both on the ground and overhanging and they slowly made their way to the centre as Yashvi stopped, looking up and smiling as her eyes widened.

“Oh, wow.” Yashvi whispered to herself. “It’s so beautiful.”

“It is.” Xanthe said gently as she watched her, smiling.

Yashvi’s face softened as she looked down. “You don’t really see them anymore though, do you?”

“What’s that?”

“Butterflies. It’s like they all just… disappeared.” Yashvi said sadly.

“Yeah… It’s only a matter of time I guess before this…” Xanthe gestured widely, looking around. “it’ll be the only place you can see them. But… it will make it all the more special when you do.” Xanthe said softly, smiling.

“I suppose it does.” Yashvi said softly before taking a deep breath. “So… which ones are your favourite? The blue ones, by any chance?” Tilting her head.

Xanthe looked up, confused as Yashvi pointed to her dress and they both started to laugh gently as Xanthe shook her head.

“Kind of a giveaway, isn’t it?”

“Just a little bit.” Yashvi whispered, as she started to approach Xanthe, but stopped when her phone started to ring. “Sorry.” She took her phone out and looked at it, breathing a sigh of annoyance. “Oh, it’s my dad. I should take this.”

Xanthe shook her head and waved her hand at Yashvi, indicating at her not to worry as she placed the phone next to her ear and started to walk away.

Hey dad, what’s up?”

Yashvi asked as she turned back to look at Xanthe, watching her as she looked around the House and smiling as multiple butterflies landed on her – focusing on her to the point where she missed the majority of what her father said to her except for the last part.

“…and it’s a disaster. You’ve gotta come home now, Vi.”

“What?” Yashvi called out, annoyed. “I can’t come home.”

“Why not?”

“Because… I’m on a date.”

Shane’s eyes widened. “Oh…”

“Yeah, oh.” Yashvi said unimpressed as she rolled her eyes.

“Who is it?”

“Dad!”

“Do I know her?” Shane smiled, asking happily.

“Goodbye.” Yashvi hung up the phone, placing it in her pocket as she slowly walked towards Xanthe.

“Sorry about that.”

“It’s fine. Is everything alright?” Xanthe asked concerned.

“Nothing that can’t wait.”

Yashvi smiled as she looked at Xanthe, who nodded before stretching out her arm to look at the butterflies that had landed on her and her eyes becoming more and more alive the longer, she watched them.

“What is it about butterflies that you love so much?” Yashvi asked as Xanthe looked at her, smiling before turning back to the butterflies.

“The thing about butterflies is that… they basically start life as a caterpillar and then… well, they can either die or they can be reborn and if they are – they become a beautiful butterfly.” Xanthe smiled peacefully, as she continued talking softly. “I love that because it’s a fresh start – a new beginning to life. I mean, it takes a while but… if that’s who you’re supposed to be, you’ll get there eventually and when you do… it’s like you’ve… you’ve finally woken up to who you’ve always been. Who you were meant to be all along but you just needed… a push to get there, I suppose?”

Yashvi said softly. “I’ve never heard you like this before.”

“Oh.” Xanthe whispered concerned.

“No, it’s nice.” Yashvi said reassuringly as she smiled. “Seeing you this happy and being here… you with when you’re like this.”

“Well, there was a time when I…” Xanthe said sadly. “I never thought I would or could ever feel this way again to be honest but this place, it’s always kind of been my safe space.” Xanthe smiled. “My happy place – it was the one thing that, that is still mine. I wanted to come back here for months and… being here, with you and watching all of this… there’s just so much love and happiness and joy here. It’s so freeing. It’s… it’s heaven.”

Xanthe said softly, her eyes widening with happiness as her looked up at the butterflies flying around her head and smiled before turning to look at Yashvi in the face and gently grabbed hold of her hand, catching Yashvi’s attention.

“That’s what I feel when I’m with you. You’re my butterfly.”

Yashvi’s eyes softened as she looked at Xanthe, smiling as she took a step forward and gently lent in, kissing Xanthe as butterflies flew around them.

Chapter Text

Three Months Earlier 

Xanthe sat on the couch in number 30, her fingers intertwined and resting on her lap as she leant forward, looking in the direction of the door and waiting for Steph to come home so she could talk to her. She'd been trying to figure out who to talk to about her feelings for Yashvi and her sexuality from the moment she realised there was something more than friendship between them but she couldn't work out who the right person was. Especially since there were other things she needed to talk about as well. Things she didn't want those closest to her to know about. So, when Sonya approached her earlier than morning and asked if she was able to look after Nell for the day or at least, until Steph came home, she jumped at the chance. 

One, because she didn't have anything else to do with her time. She wasn't working. Wasn't at school and didn't have anyone to spend her days with, especially during the week. Two, because Nell was someone she enjoyed being around. Her innocence was refreshing and it gave her a sense of peace that she was longing for. And three, because in that moment, Sonya just mentioning Steph's name made her realise that Steph was someone she could talk to about her feelings, her thoughts and her struggles. She was an option that she hadn't even considered before that moment. She and Steph weren't close and they barely interacted in all the years she'd lived on Ramsay Street but in a way, that actually made the idea of talking to her easier. 

She'd been with Nell for hours. They'd done each others hair. She'd put Nell's hair into high pigtails and Nell placed plastic flowers, which someone had hid in a plastic bag at the back of the cupboard under the sink in her hair. They'd eaten sandwiches and ice cream and gone on to play with her dolls and a toy truck, which had the front wheels broken off before tiring herself out and falling asleep on the floor. Which is where she'd been for just over an hour because Xanthe didn't have the heart to wake her up nor try and move her, so she simply covered her with a blanket and placed a pillow under her head. 

The front door opened and Steph walked in, carrying multiple shopping bags and holding one out to catch the screen door to prevent it from slamming shut, guiding it so it gently closed and then proceeded to walk through the lounge room and into the kitchen. As she passed Xanthe, she smiled and mouthed "Hi" at her as she placed the bags on the kitchen counter and started to unpack them. Xanthe continued sitting there, looking up at Steph and smiling as she tapped her fingers repeatedly on her knees and took several deep breaths. She hadn't thought about how she would talk to Steph about this but decided that a direct approach was the most effective. 

“Steph…”  Xanthe called out, catching Steph's attention as she turned to face her, smiling. “Could I ask you something kind of, um…" Xanthe spoke softly, clearing her throat and coughing multiple times. "personal?” 

“Sure.” Steph nodded, briefly looking at Xanthe before walking towards the fridge to put the groceries away.

“Did you always know that you were bisexual? That... that you were attracted to women?” 

Steph's eyes widened suddenly as she turned, still crouched down in front of the open fridge to face Xanthe, who was leaning forward, her lips pressed together and forcing a smile. Steph smiled, turning away from Xanthe in an attempt to mask her surprise. She licked her lips and took a deep breath, nodding to herself as she pushed herself up, closing the door and walked over to Xanthe, sitting on the couch opposite her. She wasn't surprised by the question itself, especially coming from Xanthe. She'd seen her and Yashvi together enough times to realise there was something more to their relationship. The way they looked at each, the gentle holding of hands - even from afar, it was undeniable. She was surprised, however by how direct Xanthe was in asking that question and that, of all people she asked her. As she sat there, she tried to find the right words to say, as to not make the situation awkward or uncomfortable. The fact she wasn't close enough to Xanthe to know how to approach her, if she had already come out or was working through her sexuality made it harder but she knew she had to say something. 

"Um... " Steph took a deep breath as Xanthe slowly lent forward. " No. No, I didn't. Belinda was the, um... she was the first, actually." Steph smiled. "The first woman I'd ever had feelings for... that I was ever in love with." 

"Did you... I-I-I mean, did you question it?" Xanthe asked, her voice subtly shaking. "You weren't confused or... or anything?" 

“No. Well, I mean, I'm sure that... that some people do question what they're feeling or are confused," Steph gestured, throwing her hands out in front of her. "especially if you don't realise until you're older but... but, that wasn't my experience. In my mind, all I did was... I was just falling in love with someone who happened to be a woman."

“But there were other women in your life. Before Belinda, I mean. Why was... What made her different?” Xanthe inquired, softly as she tilted her head to the left and squinted. 

"I don't know. I just..." Steph shook her head and shrugged her shoulders as her gaze moved away from Xanthe and she spoke softly. "I never felt that way before. Not with a woman, anyway. Maybe... I don't know. Maybe, I've always been attracted to women but never felt that strong of a connection before or… I mistook it for friendship… there are a lot of possibilities, I suppose. All I know is... it was like a piece of me came alive for the first time when I met Belinda." Steph's eyes widened as she smiled, overcome with happiness . "I also know that... you don't need to understand everything that you're feeling or need to have experienced it before, for it to be real. Being something new doesn’t invalidate it." Steph looked over at Xanthe, whose eyes had softened and she was gently nodding her head.

"Why do you ask?" Steph asked, softly and smiling at Xanthe reassuringly. She already knew the answer to the question but she didn't want to impose or push things in case Xanthe wasn't quite read to talk about what she was feeling and allowed her a way out, in the event that she wanted or needed it as well as presenting her with a chance to talk openly with her, if it was what she wanted to do. 

Xanthe took a deep breath and looked up, smiling at Steph. There was just something about those four little words that, coming from Steph felt different. It made her think about how she would have felt if someone else asked her that question and she realised she probably would have brushed it off but, she actually wanted to talk to Steph. She wanted to open up and be honest with her and she felt comfortable enough with her to do it. 

"It's, um..." Xanthe said softly as she started to blush. "It's Yashvi." 

"You like her?" Steph asked, smiling

Xanthe's whole face lit up, her smile stretching from ear to ear. "I like her."

"Is it... is it serious?"

"I think so. Maybe?" Xanthe squinted as she questioned herself, momentarily uncertain about her feelings before shaking her head, snapping herself out of it "Yes! Yes, it is." Xanthe started giggling. "You know, being with her... it's... it's amazing. I love being with her - around her and having someone in my life who... who understands me. Who gets me and where I'm coming from and who I can talk to and it just..." Xanthe's eyes lit up. " It’s such a beautiful feeling. Freeing even. I feel free when I'm with her. 

"Then..." Steph smiled. "Just follow your heart." Steph's words caught Xanthe's attention, snapping her briefly out of her blissful happiness. " I mean it, Xanthe. Look," Steph took a deep breath and sat forward. " you don't have to understand what you're feeling to be happy. Sexuality is ever changing and it can take time to really grasp but that shouldn’t hold you back from being happy and sometimes, you just need to take a chance." 

Xanthe smiled and nodded. Steph's words were everything she wanted to hear and more. They helped her in a way she hadn't considered but hearing her say outright that she doesn't have to have everything figured out, it was like a massive weight had been lifted off her shoulders. She hadn't wanted to admit it but she was nervous, worried even about how to identify - if she was a lesbian, bisexual or pansexual and that it was something she needed to have figured out before anything else happened but knowing she  didn't need to attach a label to herself, that there was plenty of time to understand what she was feeling and that she could fall in love without having all the answers just made her smile. 

It was also when it hit her, that she might be falling in love with Yashvi. She already knew she cared and liked her as more than a friend but the realisation hit her like a freight train. It was like she was seeing everything in a different light. That she shouldn’t be held back from taking a chance, that she could still be happy and in love and figuring out her identity. But it was those words “love” and “happy” that really stuck with her and her smile faded and she was slowly being overwhelmed with a sense of dread, sadness and self doubt. As though, no matter how much she wanted it, there wasn’t anything good associated with those feelings and it was something she was unable to shake and no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t get herself back to how she was feeling only moments before.

Sitting there, her lips started to tremble and she clenched her mouth shut, her teeth pressing together so hard that it physically begun to hurt and tears slowly filled her eyes. She placed her palm over the left side of her face, turning to shield herself from Steph as a single tear fell down her cheek. Steph was taken aback at the sudden shift  in Xanthe's behaviour - how quickly she had gone from being overcome with happiness and joy to being incredibly pale and in tears. She stood up, walking over and sat beside Xanthe. 

"Xanthe, what is it?" Steph asked, softly as she placed her hand, gently on Xanthe's left shoulder. 

Xanthe took a deep breath, in a bid to regain her composure and turned to look Steph in the eyes as she whispered. “I’m scared.” 

“It can be hard, especially when you don’t know if they feel the same but..."

“It’s not that… at least I... I don’t…" Xanthe was blinking repeatedly at rapid speed as she started questioning herself. "What if this isn’t real? What I'm feeling for... for Yashvi? What if I take a chance and... it's not real? It's never been real? What If I'm just seeing something that isn't there?" Xanthe closed her eyes as her breathing stagnated. " What if this is all in my head?"  

"Xanthe..." Steph shook her head, squinting and asked softly. "What... where is this coming from?" 

“It’s just, since Finn…” 

Xanthe's voice broke up as she closed her eyes and shuddered. Just hearing his name, actually saying it out loud made her feel sick to her stomach. Finn changed everything. He ruined everything. Her life. The way she saw the world and the people around her. Herself. Her family. Her relationships. Her future. Her education and career. Everything was gone and even after all this time, she hadn't managed to get it back and just hearing his name, thinking about him was enough to bring everything back to the surface. Was enough to completely erase every ounce of joy she felt and make her doubt everything she was so sure was real. 

It reminded her that every person she'd been close to before he came into her life was now someone she couldn't bare to be anywhere near anymore. Her family had become people she forced herself to sit with for dinner and then the first chance she had, she got out of there. Whether that be just sitting in her bedroom or wandering around - it was just easier to not be around them. What happened with Finn wasn't there fault. She knew that but she couldn't help but feel that they saw this as Her fault. That if she'd been smarter, talked to them or hadn't been gullible, things would be different for her. She wouldn't be where she is now and whenever she was around them, she could hear them thinking it - how stupid she was. 

It was the same with her friends, her relationships. She didn't want to be anywhere near Ben or Piper or Elly. They'd all meant so much to her at one point but now, they were just associated with Finn - he was a part of those relationships now and she couldn't be near them without thinking about him, being reminded of what happened. She was reminded that Piper saw Finn's behaviour as being concerning and unprofessional, that she'd assumed that Finn had done something to her. She was reminded that she tossed Ben and their relationship aside because Finn made her think it was the right thing to do, that he wasn't something she needed in her life and she was better off without him and Elly, that she knew what Finn was capable of, what he had done to her and didn't support her or even care because Finn had become more important to her. 

It also didn't help that they were associated with Erinsborough High. That school, her education had become the same as all of them. They kept trying to convince her to go back to school. That she shouldn't give up on her education and her future but none of them seemed to understand what that place did to her. What it had become. It like Finn was still there. Like an infection that had taken hold of the place - seeping into every classroom, every corridor, every single aspect of that place. It was like he never left and everything was tainted to the point where she couldn't even step foot in there. She couldn’t go anywhere near it. Her motivation, her love and interest in everything had vanished. Even her dreams of being a nurse. 

Something happened with Finn, something that destroyed her aspirations of being a nurse, of helping people. It was the thing that made her realise that, if she hadn’t been so determined to help him than she wouldn’t have ended up in that position. But, it was more than that. The day she saved him, she thought she was doing the right thing but once reality set in, she hated herself for it. There were nights where she lay awake, thinking to herself that one day, Finn would be walking around free. That he would be able to do to someone else what he had done to her and Elly and Susan and so many others whose names she didn’t know. Once those thoughts rose to the surface, she realised how much better it would have been if she’d just let him die that day. Then she would have nothing to worry about and it would have been so easy for that to happen too, that made it worse. No one knew she was there and she could have said that she’d run off when he tried to attack her and hadn’t gone back. That she didn’t know he had collapsed and no one would be able to prove otherwise. She could have had her life back and she hated herself and him for thinking and feeling that way. How could she be a nurse if she regretted helping someone? Saving their life? What if it happened again but with someone else? She couldn’t trust herself that she would make the right decision. 

Xanthe closed her eyes and took a deep breath, trying to push the thoughts out of her mind as she attempted to explain to Steph why she felt that way. "Since Finn... I never thought I'd be happy again. Like, it wasn't possible..." Xanthe whispered, as her voice broke up. " wasn't real. He tainted everything." She recalled through gritted teeth, her lips quivering in anger as she spoke slowly, articulating every word. "Every single thing that I had, that I... that I loved, cared about. It's... all of it is gone. Because of him. He did this to me! He... It's like he broke something inside of me - he took something from me and I'm just... 

Steph whispered. "Xanthe..." 

"I don't have anyone else, Steph. Not anymore. Except... Yashvi." Xanthe said softly, closing her eyes as she shook her head and squinted, trying to rid herself of the thoughts making their way into her mind. "What if that's why I feel this way? What if it's because of him? What if I only like her because... because she's all that I have?" She whispered, sadly. "I mean... Finn didn't do, he didn't..." Xanthe gestured to herself, her body as her hands shook uncontrollably and she scrunched up her face in disgust, as though she was about to be sick. " but I just can't bare the idea of men being near me - touching me. Yashvi is the first girl that I've...  What if I've just misread the situation and... I've been wrong before. I was... I was wrong about Finn! About everything that happened. He used me, played me and I thought I loved him, I thought it was all real and it wasn’t and... How can I trust myself? How can I know that I’m not making a mistake. Some days... GOD!" Xanthe screamed out in anger, holding the sides of her face and took several deep breaths, in an effort to calm herself down. "W hy am I still thinking like this? I'm supposed to be over it by now!" 

Xanthe started crying, closing her eyes and moving her hands to her mouth and then her chest as Steph moved closer, placing her arm around Xanthe and resting her head against Xanthe's head. "It's okay, Xanthe. It's okay." Steph whispered softly, trying desperately to find the words to help her.

"Trauma... it doesn't have a time limit."

Chapter Text

Five Weeks Earlier

 

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? 

Where do you see yourself in 15 years? 

"Alive? To all of the above?" Yashvi laughed to herself as she sat on her bed, one leg tucked under the other before shaking her head and letting out a sigh . "No, I can't write that." 

Having to answer these questions got her thinking about the future, about her future. Where she saw herself in years to come and what she wanted to do with her life when she finished school at the end of the year. Footy was still on the table. She wanted to continue with it as long as she could and if she could go pro - make it all the way to the AFLW, it would be a dream come true but she also wanted more. She wanted to do more with her life and having been there for Xanthe. For Jay, Ben and Kirsha and Olivia made her realise she wanted to help people as well. She wanted to be there for them and protect them. 

She'd ruled out joining the police, despite Mishti's encouragement as well as going into law or medicine. They just weren't for her - weren't areas she was interested in being involved in but there were two options she'd thought a lot about. The first, social work and the second, counselling. Both allowed her to help people like herself: People of Colour and the LGBTQAI+ community. 

Help them. Protect them. Support them. Look after them. And do so in a way that she had been her entire life, especially from her mother. She knew why she did it, even when it frustrated her (which was almost all the time) or was so overbearing that she wanted to run. Her mother just wanted to protect her from the reality of the world, from seeing what it was really like and wanted to make sure she didn't face the same world that she had to at her age and  that was something that so many people didn't have. 

And her mum was a big reason why she felt she hadn't struggled, as much as she thought she would, with who she was. With her sexuality. It had taken her a while to realise and understand but once she did, it was as though all the pieces just fell into place. She knew who she was and she was happy, comfortable and loved herself for it. 

There was a difference between knowing who you are and saying the words, admitting it out loud to another person - telling another person that  you're gay and not knowing how they might react. If it'd change the way they looked at her. Changed how they treated her. It was a big part of why she had kept this to herself. Why she hadn't told anyone yet, especially her family. She was scared of what might happen next. She'd heard too many stories. Seen it at school, in Burk and even in the street itself. When someone came out or in some cases unfortunately, were outed by others, they either got the supportive family or they got the homophobic ones (like Olivia, her mum threw her out onto the streets when she found out she was a lesbian. Luckily, Leo agreed to let her stay at The Backpackers for free for as long as she needed it). 

She already knew, from their reaction to Jay telling them he was trans that he family was opened minded - accepting but the problem was she didn't know if that acceptance applied to her too. She'd learnt not to assume that that accepting and loving one person, their sexuality or gender meant you accepted everyone. The Brennans showed her that and Mark was the worst when it came to this. He accepted Aaron and David. Both their sexuality and relationship but treated Steph (probably why Steph dumped him after a couple of weeks) and Chloe appallingly. It wasn't hard to figure out why, especially after she'd overheard some of the things Mark and Aaron were saying one day and weeks later, Steph blasting them in the streets over it. Saying that all the men in that house hated queer women before she punched Mark in the face, breaking his nose.

That was on the back of her mind. What had her worried. 

Did they love her as much as they loved him?

Jay had always been the favourite. They loved him. Adored him. He was perfect to them - couldn't do anything wrong and it was like that from the moment he was born and after he came out as trans, they were just a nightmare. Suffocating with this never-ending love and care and protection (which she understood, the people back in Burk were as closed minded as you could get).

But she was different. 

Her relationship with both of them was different. 

It was strained. 

They were both supportive, protective and loving when the time called for it or she needed them but the rest of the time, their relationship was fractured and no matter what she did or how hard she tried to do the right thing, she just always seemed to end up disappointing or letting them down. She just never managed to get anything right with them. To be the daughter they actually wanted and since Kirsha's accident, it'd been worse. Especially her relationship with her father. She knew, despite what he said that he still blamed her for what happened. He'd just never actually admit it to her face but she'd overheard him talking to her mum, talking about how he disliked her - the person she'd become and that moment, months on still cut deep. 

As she sat on the bed, she heard a knock at the door which caught her attention as she looked up to see the door partially open and Shane, stick his head in and smile at her, the phone in his hand pressed against his left shoulder. 

"Hey." Shane whispered. "I'm ordering the take out now. Did you want the usual or something else?" 

"Where are you ordering from?" Yashvi asked. 

"The Waterhole."

"Just the usual."

"Okay." Shane said, as he put the phone to his ear and turned to close the door.

"Dad?"

Yashvi called out, suddenly which stopped the door from closing as Shane looked back in. She didn't know what it was or why not but there was something that made her feel like it the right time and that, out of everyone she should tell her dad first. That if anyone was going to reject her, i would be him and she would be ready for it. And considering how bad their relationship was already, there was no concern that this might make things worse between them. 

"Can you..." Yashvi paused, taking a deep breath before licking her lips. "Can you... can you stay? Please? I need to tell you something important." 

 

*

*

*

 

Yashvi paced up and down her bedroom. 

Pausing to say something before looking at her father, his back hunched and his brows furrowed as he leaned forward on her bed, confused about what was going on before she shook her head and continued pacing.

She'd decided to come out before she'd thought about what she was going to say or  how she was going to say it and whether she should start at the beginning or just dive right into it. Tell them she was a lesbian or gay or only interested in girls (whatever the right word was for herself, she hadn't worked that out) or explain that, for years, she'd believed she liked boys but there was always something awkward about it. Something off like, it wasn't a real feeling. SImply a way of making people like her. Of looking cool because it was what every other teenage girl seemed to be doing. So, she did it too but it always felt wrong. Uncomfortable even. Especially when things started to get close and personal which made her realise she wasn't actually interested in them at all. At least not like that. 

Shane's eyes followed her. 

From left to right and back again as he tapped the tips of his fingers on his right knee. "Vi..." Shane whispered, nervously, catching Yashvi's attention and stopping her in her tracks. "Is... Has something happened? You're..." Shane chuckled. "you're really starting to scare me." 

"No! No, it's... sorry. It's fine. There's absolutely nothing to worry about. I'm okay. I'm... No, actually I'm pretty great." Yashvi smiled.

"Okay." Shane breathed a sigh of relief. "That's go-"

"I'm gay!" The words flew out of Yashvi's mouth before she had to a chance to think or stop herself, leaving her stunned. "I'm... dad, I'm a lesbian." 

Yashvi nodded, her lips pressed together as she blinked, repeatedly before whispering to herself. "I'm a lesbian. Ha!" She let out a laugh as her eyes lit up and she was unable to contain how happy she was and how freeing, just saying those words out loud made her feel. But her smile faded the moment she turned and realised her father was still there, sitting on the bed watching her in silence. Unsure of what her father was going to say or how he'd react. 

"Dad?" 

Yashvi whispered under her breath, her eyes following Shane as he stood up and approached her. Placing his arms around her and pulling her into a hug. Letting out a massive deep breath as she relaxed, closing her eyes and smiling again as she let herself sink into his arms. 

"I love you, Vi."

Shane whispered, smiling. 

He'd known or at least suspected this for a while now but thought it was best not to say anything. At least not until Yashvi was either ready to admit it herself or in case he was wrong. He wanted this to be hers to tell him if and when she was ready to and when that moment came, he was going to make sure he was prepared and reacted in an appropriate way. That he knew what to say and more importantly, what not to say as to avoid hurting her. 

He'd enrolled, under an alias of Marcus Puffer in a group chat for LGBTQAI+ people and posed the question to them of what did their parents, who were supportive and accepting of their sexuality say to them when they came out that they wished hadn't been said. The main thing that upset so many was their parents responding with "I know". One person said it made them feel like their coming out was irrelevant while another felt undermined when they were at their most vulnerable. That their parents made them feel like their coming out wasn't that big of a deal while others said it made them feel more at ease because they didn't feel like they were expected to explain anything to them.

Weighing it up, he came to the conclusion that he shouldn't say anything about knowing, at least not yet. All he could do was make sure Yashvi knew he loved and accepted her for who she was and that she felt loved and accepted, no matter what. And he'd already made so many mistakes over the years, he wanted to make sure it never happened again. 

"That's..." 

Yashvi said, softly as she pulled away from him, looking up at him. She wanted to ask if that was it or if he had something more to say. Questions he wanted to ask her before shaking her head and smiling. 

"Nothing." Yashvi continued smiling as Shane smiled back at her. "I love you, dad. Um..." Yashvi took a deep breath. "Dad?"

"Yeah?" 

"Do you think you could tell mum and Kirsha for me, please? I want them to know. I just don't want to go through this again. And just keep it in the family... at least for now."

Shane nodded. "I can do that." 

"Thanks dad." Yashvi smiled and lent in, wrapping her arms around him. 

 

*

*

*

 

"Dip? Kirsh?" 

Shane asked and signed as both Dipi and Kirsha sat on the lounge, in complete silence. He didn't want to beat around the bush. Didn't want to wait or delve into this too much. This was Yashvi's story to tell, not his so he wanted to relay the information and then take a step back. He'd called them both into the room just over 10 minutes ago and asked them to sit down because he had something important to tell them both.

"Yashvi has, um... Well, she's asked me to tell you both something. It's something that, um... well, she wants this kept between... um, well between us, okay?"

Shane said, both verbally and signing as Dipi and Kirsha looked at one another, confused and concerned and then back at him, nodding. 

"She's a lesbian!" 

Dipi sat there, unresponsive as Kirsha watched her. She hadn't taken her eyes off her mother, concerned about her and how she was coping with the news but realising there was nothing she could do, she turned and looked around the room. Smiling half-heartedly and tapping her finger on her knee before shrugging her shoulders and putting her right hand up, as if to ask a question. 

"I already knew that." 

"Yeah, me too." Shane chuckled as Dipi looked up at him, shocked. "But, um... we won't tell Vi that, okay?" 

Shane signed to Kirsha as she smiled and nodded, standing up and leaning towards her mum as she placed her hand on her shoulder which caught Dipi's attention as she spoke softly. "It's okay, mum." Kissing the top of her head before she turned and walked out of the room, Shane watching her before he turned to look at Dipi. 

"Dip?" 

Shane asked as he reached across, attempting to hold Dipi's hand as she retreated from his touch and stood up, walking around the couch and towards the kitchen counter. Placing her hand on her stomach and pressing against her clothes as she closed her eyes. Tears rolling down her left cheek as she clenched her teeth together while trying to maintain her composure and stop herself from completely breaking down. 

Dipi was at a loss. 

Unable to think or react or even know how to react to what was going on. She was trying desperately to focus on Yashvi, on being happy for her and supporting her but her thoughts, her guilt was pushing itself to the surface. Leaving her feeling as though she'd failed her. That if they'd been closer over the years, if their relationship wasn't strained or things were better between them than she would have noticed what was going on and Yashvi wouldn't have felt like she couldn't approach her. Like she couldn't open up to her.

"Where was I?" Dipi said softly, her voice strained and breaking up. 

"It's not like... like I wasn't paying attention. Like I don't pay attention. I... I have been but, I mean, why didn't I see what you both saw? What did you and Kirshie see that I didn't? I don't understand how I missed this? I should have seen the signs. I... I saw them with Jay. I knew it was coming. I was ready. I was prepared for it but with Vi..." 

Dipi closed her eyes as her lips begun to quiver and she placed her jittering hand over her mouth. "I failed her." 

"You didn't, Dip. You... you haven't." Shane got closer, standing behind her as he gently placed his hands on her shoulders. .

"Then why didn't she come to me? Why didn't she tell me what was going on? What she was going through and how she was feeling? She must've... she's been alone this whole time - I could have been there for her but... I mean, why else would she have you do it?" 

"She just... didn't want to go through that all again. That's all."

"THAT'S ALL?" Dipi yelled, her voice screeching as her eyes momentarily were overcome with anger as she turned around to face Shane, who took a step back before taking a deep breath. "No! She... she thought I would reject her and if we were closer she would know that I would never, ever do that."

"I know."

"If we were closer she would have come to me." 

"I don't think that... me and Vi..." Shane looked down, sadly. "we aren't that close either. Not anymore anyway so it's... that's not it." 

"Maybe..." Dipi sighed before taking a step towards Shane, her brows furrowed. "How did you know? I mean..." Dipi chuckled, briefly. "God, Shane! You're the least observant person I know. I always... ALWAYS have to tell you everything that's going on in this family!" 

"Well, not everything." Shane whispered to himself. 

"About the kids, Shane, okay? I'm... We're talking about the kids here!" 

Shane took a deep breath as he turned, walking towards the door frame before he stopped. Standing there for a few moments before he turned to look at Dipi.  "After Jay... I guess, I realised that I needed to pay more attention. Look out for the little things - signs that..." Shane looked away from Dipi, whispering. " I don't know." Shane cleared his throat. " I just said so many awful things, behaved so badly with Jay and... I mean, the things I said to him... I shouldn't have..."

"You were a bigot, Shane! Let's just... just leave it at that, alright? Jay... he's forgiven you." Dipi forced a smile while her eyes filled with rage. " He's moved on. Let's just..."

"You haven't though, have you?" 

Shane's lips quivered as his voice broke up while Dipi clenched her teeth together, closing her eyes and looking down, in an attempt to maintain her composure and stay calm before looking back at Shane, her arms folded and her face void of any emotion.

"This isn't about me or how I feel. It's about Yashvi."

"Yeah. Sorry." Shane took a deep breath. "I'm just saying... If I'd noticed he was trans earlier, I wouldn't have said any of that. At least, I'd like to think I wouldn't have and I didn't want to make that mistake again. I wanted to do the right thing this time. I wanted to make it right. That's something you've never had to worry about, Dip." Shane smiled at Dipi, talking softly and in awe of her. " You're always there for them. You... you love and care about them no matter what. I wanted to be more like that." 

Dipi nodded as she looked down. "We all have room for improvement, I suppose. I need to do better, especially with Yashvi. I need to fix this - our relationship."

 

*

*

*

 

"I'm gay." 

Yashvi texted Jay as she laid on her bed, waiting to see who was going to be the first person to knock on her door. She hadn't wanted to speak to her mum or Kirsha but knowing Jay was so far away, that the only contact she'd have with him was over the phone and could avoid any awkward conversation with him by simply not looking at her phone which made it easier to tell him. She and Jay had their moments over the years but they had never been close and he always felt more like Kirsha's brother than hers. If anything, they were more like two strangers who just happened to live in the same house.

As she lay there, she felt her phone vibrate next to her and hesitantly picked it up and looked at it. " Congrats!!! :D Hope we won't have to fight over girls now bcos u rn't hot enough 2 beat me :P"

"Smartass!" 

Yashvi rolled her eyes and shook her head as she put the phone down on the bed before her eyes widened and she sat up in response to the sound of knocking at the door. Needing a moment, she took a deep breath and smiled. "It's okay. You can do this." She whispered to herself. 

"Come in." 

Yashvi called out, waiting for the door to open and see who was standing behind it before there was another knock. "I said..." Her brows furrowed as she realised it must have been Kirsha knocking. "Oh!" S he got off the bed and walked towards the door, opening it and gesturing for Kirsha to come in. Kirsha took a few steps into the room before turning around and facing Yashvi, who was standing with her back to the doorway, fidgeting with her fingers as she nervously awaited Kirsha's response.

"Are you okay?" Kirsha signed. . 

"Yeah. Yeah, I am. I actually feel pretty good."

"I'm glad." 

Kirsha responded, smiling. 

If her father hadn't told her not to say anything about already knowing, she would have said more to Yashvi. Would have asked her about Xanthe, for one and if they were in a relationship. She and Jimmy had both realised some time ago that she clearly liked her as much more than a friend. It was obvious to anyone who looked at them and especially at the way Yashvi acted - like being around Xanthe just made her come alive. Light up in a way she'd never seen before. It was beautiful. 

But she didn't want to say anything that took away from Yashvi's coming out, that made this moment about someone else or asked her too many questions that she might not want to answer at this point. 

"I'm really happy for you." 

Kirsha signed before approaching Yashvi, placing her arms around her waist and resting her head on her shoulder as Yashvi smiled and hugged her back.