The following is a YA short story about Hannah Black and Marina Ziegfield, black lesbians and childhood friends who must come to terms with internalized homophobia and their feelings for each other.
Derek Black and Richard Ziegfield were perhaps unlikely friends in 1990s suburbia, the former a blue voting, honest insurance agent, the latter a red voting, dicey divorce lawyer, but the connection between their two families was solid. Their only daughters, Hannah Black and Marina Ziegfield, would go on to form the bond of a lifetime, though it took a couple rough turns at the start. Despite this fact, they have always loved each other.
It’s an evening in January, 2016, when Marina realizes that she’s been in love with Hannah her whole life, and that’s why she’s such an asshole all the time. Marina holds her red cup full of Coke in the bay of her kitchen, watching as Hannah’s cousin’s friend, Yael Ashkenazi, relentlessly flirts with Hannah across the room.
Marina is overtly jealous, watching Yael take Hannah’s hand, admire her rings, and why won’t Marina just officially come out already? It’s not like anyone at school is convinced, the more she fails to turn off her Snapchat location when she’s out with a known lesbian from another school. But Marina’s dad is conservative and an alcoholic, the “fun” kind, or at least, it seemed fun when she was young, the do-it-all dancer he became when severely inebriated.
But the older Marina gets, the more she realizes that her dad is slowly letting things go, that there are broken parts of her childhood that she’s been blocking out. This year, the mortgage hasn’t been paid up for several months, for no reason other than that Richard Ziegfield loves staying up for four days straight, work-crazy manic, destroying things in his path.
Marina knows her mom started sleeping with someone else years ago to avoid the oncoming storm, that behind closed doors, they act like strangers who just happen to live together, so this is what Marina has also learned to do: avoid the truth and act like nothing gets to you.
Some things really get to her, though. Things like Yael’s not even that good looking, generous inches shorter than Hannah, and why is she wearing a suit jacket, a full on bow tie, and black dress shoes to a house party? With no socks? Didn’t Hannah’s cousin say she goes to Bridgerton, the most prestigious high school in Chapel Hill?
Some loaded preppy girl, as if Marina doesn’t sometimes secretly wish she was one of those, shouldn’t be swooping in on Hannah during this, their senior year. This was the year that Marina always thought, if she and Hannah dated, would be the start of the next two most important years of their lives: where are we going to college? Where are we moving to? If you pick the dream house, I get to pick the campus. We’re staying together, no matter what.
While Yael and Hannah’s cousin talk up ahead, Marina takes the chance to finally grab Hannah’s ear. Nudges her best friend in the side with an elbow, grinning, says,
“So why’s this chick dressed like she’s going to the goddamn opera, am I right?”
Hannah snorts, playfully swats Marina’s elbow, then says in her ear, low,
“I think she looks good.”
It takes two more months, of Hannah and Yael going on dates, of Marina trying to be nice to Hannah’s new good friend, but never really able to let the snark stay off her tongue, of Marina and Hannah continuing to stay close, though Hannah’s phone is off, often, when she’s with Yael, before Hannah and Yael are full on girlfriend and girlfriend, out and proud, all over Instagram.
Marina knows she didn’t shoot her shot hard enough, or ever, really. She could’ve been honest, sat Hannah down on the old tire swings where they’ve spent hours, some nights, in Hannah’s front yard, and told her how she felt, straight up, no bullshit. She could’ve confessed that she wants more than friendship, wants to love Hannah for the rest of her life, wants to be gay and out and proud, but she’s afraid her father will think it’s stupid, or a phase, or maybe even hate her, for political reasons.
She didn’t say any of it, because Hannah should be free. Free to choose what she wants and how she wants to spend her life, without having to feel guilty for Marina’s insecurities.
Marina knows the old adage: if you love something, let it go, if it’s meant to be, it will return.
She just doesn’t know if Hannah knows how much she loves her.Continue reading