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Catalina

Everyone knows that the nicest people you’ll ever meet are drunk girls in bathrooms, but Evelyn was sure that not everyone met someone like Catalina.

The bathroom at Rick’s frat house was unfinished and disgusting. The walls and floors were concrete, the stall doors hung loosely on their hinges, beer cans littered the floor and it reeked of booze and vomit. The worst part, however, was that the whole room was spinning. Evelyn tittered farther into the room, still clutching her red solo cup. The door banged shut behind her and the noise caused her to jump, sending the plastic cup to the floor, its contents spilling out and joining the puddle of questionable liquid she was too drunk to try to avoid. Her girlfriends had disappeared earlier in the night so she had been left to break the seal all by herself, while Rick, her guy friend…. Boyfriend?…Fuck buddy, if she were being honest, waited outside.

“What about the troll?” she muttered to herself, cursing her friends in her head as she brushed past another girl exiting one of the stalls. “Hermione got attacked by a motherfucking troll when she went to the bathroom by herself.”

She resisted the urge to vomit once she saw the stall, decided she needed to relieve herself more than she needed to avoid a possible toilet STI, struggled with latch on the door, yanked her skirt up above her hips, and plopped herself down on her toilet, knowing she was too unstable to squat above it. Her relief only lasted for a moment as she reached out to grab the toilet paper and hit the empty, metal rod instead.

“Damnit,” she muttered. “At least Hermione probably had some fucking toilet paper.”

“Toilet paper?” she heard a high pitched, girly voice echo through the concrete room. “Do you need toilet paper?”

“Yes, please!” Evelyn said, thankful for the semblance of dignity that toilet paper would offer her as she clutched her dress around her waist and her shoes became soaked through from the puddle on the floor.

A hand appeared under the door, fingers wrapped around a roll of toilet paper. Evelyn leaned forward and managed to grab it without toppling over, though the world was still spinning and she almost face planted on the concrete. She sat up victoriously, toilet paper in hand. It was single-ply, which Evelyn normally pretend to despise because of her mother’s high standards for literally everything, but now she was just grateful.  

“You good now?” the voice outside asked. It rose and fell in a beautiful lilt, stressing words in strange places that made them seem more magical, Evelyn thought to herself, or perhaps, she added in her head, I’m just super drunk.

“Yeah,” she said, remembering she needed to answer. She stood up and flushed the toilet with her hand, unable to imagine using her foot, like she usually did, without falling over.  She silently thanked God for sending her a Ron to save her from the toilet paper troll situation.

“You sure?” the girl asked. She was leaning up against the sinks, appraising Evelyn with a concerned smile. “You look a little wobbly.”

Evelyn stared at the sink for a full minute while she considered washing her hands but then she decided against it. She was an interior design major, not a nurse, she didn’t preach it, she didn’t have to do it. Plus it just looked like so much work and she just got so tired. She looked down at the ground. It suddenly looked very appealing. She started to sink to her knees, ready to be off of her unsteady feet. She should not have worn these shoes. Why hadn’t her roommate told her to put on something more practical?

“Oh no, you don’t,” the girl rushed forward and pulled Evelyn back up. Her arm slipped around Evelyn’s arms, around her back, and the other one went to Evelyn’s hip. “I wouldn’t even use whatever liquid that is as warfare against my enemies. Come over here.” She led Evelyn to the sinks and helped lift her up onto them so she was perched with her feet hanging over the side. “There ya go. You can rest there a minute. Who are you here with?”

“My… guy…. Well a guy,” Evelyn said, memories of said guy flashing back into her head. He was supposedly waiting outside the bathroom for her. “Rick.” Her eyes narrowed in alcohol induced suspicion. “You know Rick?”

She studied the girl in front of her. She was short and small, muscular in a way Evelyn wished she could be. Her hair was dark, cut short enough that it was shaggy in a cool way but long enough that it framed her face, drawing attention to the dramatic angles of her cheekbones. This girl better not know Rick, Evelyn thought, taking note of the cool brown jacket that hung off the girl’s slight shoulders. She’s way cooler than me.

The girl laughed, her nearly-black eyes closed so much it looked like she was squinting. Her laugh was almost musical. “I don’t know him, but trust me, he’s not really my type.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Evelyn tried to slide off the sink counter, pretty sure she was supposed to be insulted. “He’s not great but he’s alright.”

“I’m sure he’s great,” the girl said, putting her hand on Evelyn’s leg to keep her sitting still. “Are you here with any girls that can come get you?”

Evelyn wasn’t listening, she was thinking about Rick. He really wasn’t that bad, for a frat guy. He didn’t laugh at any of her jokes but maybe she just wasn’t funny. He was really busy all the time, but when they did see each other, they had a good time. At least when her mom called she could say she was involved with a guy, even if she couldn’t call him her boyfriend, because he wasn’t. And who cared if she pretended he, and the last three guys she had been with, were the same guy she went on a date with on New Year’s Eve? It just meant her mom thought his name was Josh. It wasn’t like she was going to meet him anyway, because things with Rick would be over soon. They were reaching the point where he was about to get bored of her, if the past was anything to base the present on. Before she could stop herself, Evelyn was crying.

“Oh, no, honey, don’t cry. It’s okay. I’ll take care of you. I didn’t mean that I wanted to pawn you off on someone. It’s okay, we’ll go find Rick.”

“No!” Evelyn wailed, though someone taking care of her sounded pretty great. “He can’t see me like this. He’ll hate me and he’ll leave me.” Why didn’t Rick take care of her?

The girl raised an eyebrow, like she was trying to hide her judgement and Evelyn wanted to resent her, but she couldn’t, because she was just so sweet. “I’m sure Rick loves you, and would be happy to see you in any state.”

Evelyn shook her head firmly, her bottom lip jutted out in a pout and crossed her arms over her chest.

“Fine,” the girl said, yanking the sleeve of her shirt out from under her jacket. She slipped it over her index finger and began wiping off Evelyn’s tears and her running mascara. Evelyn blinked in surprise but she didn’t pull away.

“We’ll get you all cleaned up,” the girl said, her voice soothing. “I’m Catalina, by the way. I’ll be your bathroom buddy. Wingardium leviosa.”

***

Evelyn got to the coffee shop first. It was a small place, right on campus, with varnished wooden tables and the distinct smell of fresh brew. She ordered a tea and sat down. It had been just a few days since the party and she was meeting Catalina for the first time since. They had ended up staying in the bathroom for close to half an hour, talking and laughing, and waiting for Evelyn’s puffy eyes to lose some of their redness. By the time they had left, Evelyn had sobered up dramatically and was fully aware that Rick had abandoned his bathroom post, without even knocking to see if she was okay, and was off with his fraternity brothers in a corner. The two girls had exchanged numbers before Evelyn had joined Rick and Catalina left to find her own friends. Evelyn was excited about her new friend.

Evelyn saw her enter the coffee shop and they waved at one another.

“Thank you so much for taking care of me the other night,” Evelyn said after Catalina sat down.

“Well, I can’t say no to a damsel in distress,” Catalina said, she winked at Evelyn over her coffee.

“Something you and Rick clearly don’t have in common,” Evelyn said, laughing nervously.

“Yeah, what’s up with you two?” Catalina asked.

Evelyn appraised her new friend, someone she didn’t know very well, someone who probably didn’t want to hear her complaining about self-created problems like Rick. What the hell, Evelyn thought, and she launched into a half an hour long rant about everything that was wrong with her newest fuckboy, and more generally everything that was wrong with males. Catalina listened intently.

Finally when Evelyn was finished, she summed it up with, “but I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you all of this.”

Catalina shrugged, “I don’t know, it’s interesting to hear things from your perspective. I’ve only dated one person seriously and there wasn’t anything wrong with her, we just drifted apart after she graduated.”

Evelyn almost swore her ears perked up like her own golden retrievers did when she hear the word “walk.” She was almost surprised when Catalina didn’t notice but she continued talking. Her, Evelyn thought. She dated a girl. Crap, was her next thought, she wasn’t nearly as profane when she wasn’t drunk. Does this girl think this is a date? That’s ridiculous, Evelyn concluded, pushing the thought from her mind. She had not stopped talking about Rick since they met. There was no way Catalina would think she was either interested or available. She tuned back into the conversation, the doubts permanently settled in her mind.

“Anyway,” Catalina was saying, “what Harry Potter house are you in? I’m a proud Ravenclaw.”   

***

Summer turned into fall and the temperatures dropped. Catalina became a fixture in Evelyn’s life, and for the first time she had someone to appreciate the fall with. They went apple picking, and admired the foliage, they carved pumpkins and did a group Halloween costume. At night they would procrastinate on homework and hide from the cold under blankets and enjoy chick-flicks.

“Thanks for warming my feet,” Evelyn would laugh as she stuck her ice-cold toes under Catalina’s thighs.

“Get your sadistic, Slytherin self away from me,” Catalina would squeal and jump and shove Evelyn off the bed.

“Thanks for being my hibernating buddy,” Evelyn would say as she passed Catalina the bowl of popcorn. “I swear, it’s like everyone else gets into relationships in the fall so they can do cute shit together. I tried to get Rick to go to a haunted house with me but then we went to a bar instead. Don’t tell my mom, though. She thought it was simply adorable that he protected me from fake ghosts.”

Catalina would pretend to bow and say “glad to be your backup choice, my lady,” and she would smile. Evelyn would pick up a sadness in her smile but she didn’t want to see it, so she would push it from her mind and focus her attention back on the movie.

Rick didn’t disappear from Evelyn’s life quite as quickly as she had anticipated. They continued to see one another on the weekends, usually for parties, then they would stumble back to someone’s room, occasionally going for breakfast with one another the next morning. It wasn’t the emotional fulfillment she had thought she wanted from a guy but whatever it was, it seemed to be working. He hadn’t dumped her yet. She was almost excited about their relationship. He had even called Evelyn his girl to one of his friends.

Her mom called her one evening as Evelyn was working on a model for one of her classes. She had chosen interior design because nothing else had struck her. Her parents were not thrilled about it but she managed to bring them around because it made her happy. It was more hands-on than she had thought it would be and she liked carefully designing things the exact way she wanted them and then constructing them with her own two hands. When the ringtone she set for her mother rang shrilly from her phone she put down her tools and answered it quickly.

“How is the boyfriend?” was the first thing her mom asked her.

“He’s good,” Evelyn said as she surveyed the tower she was working on, making sure it was straight. “I’m working on a model right now.”

“Ah, how nice,” her mom said. “How are classes going? I’m sure your father will want to hear.”

“Good,” Evelyn said excitedly. “We had critique the other day and the professor loved my design for a new chair. He called it inspired. It was the only one in the class that he liked.”

“A new chair?” her mother asked and Evelyn could practically hear the frown in her voice. “There are so many types of chairs, dear, why do we need a new one? Of course, we’re very proud of your accomplishments dear, but really, a chair?”

“Well, yes, but all the chairs had to be created at-”

“Of course, of course. But tell me, what are you and Rick doing this weekend? Anything fun planned?”

***

It was early in the evening but Rick’s frat was already crowded. The football team had won a pretty big game earlier so the majority of the campus had been drunk since 10:00am. Evelyn herself was quite tipsy already. Drinking vodka and lemonade of a Minute Maid bottle all day would do that to a person. Rick saw Evelyn and Catalina enter and came over to meet them.

“Pretty good DJ, huh?” he shouted over the music. Evelyn nodded her agreement as she slipped out of her fracket, the frat jacket she only wore to parties because she didn’t mind losing it.

“Here, let me take that,” Catalina said, reaching for the coat and then whisking it away to find somewhere to leave it.

“You wanna dance?” Rick shouted into Evelyn’s ear.

Evelyn nodded, confident that Catalina would find them since it was a pretty small space and they moved towards the stage where the DJ was set up, joining the mass of writhing bodies that were illuminated off and on in the strobe light. Rick stepped up behind her and Evelyn started grinding on him, her drink in hand. She felt his breath on her ear and swiveled her head around so she could kiss him.

“Damn, Evey,” he said, a nickname Catalina had started calling her that Rick had picked up on. “How much you been drinking? I could get drunk from your breath.”

“Shut the fuck up,” she laughed and kissed him again, her inhibitions sufficiently lowered that she wasn’t worried about what he might think of her. She tilted her head upwards, leaning the back of her neck on his chest and watched the lights dance on the ceiling as she danced on the floor. She took several long sips of her drink. She had told Catalina it was rum and Coke when she asked, but in all honestly it was mostly rum, she just didn’t want Catalina to worry. Sweaty bodies moved all around Evelyn as she swirled her hips to the music, pressing back into Rick when someone got too close.

“Watch it,” Catalina’s musical voice rose above the music as she knocked a beer clutching hand away from Evelyn’s head. It had been slopping dangerously, nearly spilling out onto the oblivious girl.

“Catty, you’re back!” Evelyn exclaimed, hugging her friend close, her voice was now reaching what Catalina referred to as her drunk octave, several degrees higher on the scale than her normal talking voice. “You always take such good care of me.” She pushed her body back onto Rick’s and starting dancing on him again, pulling Catalina with her so she was dancing with her as well. “You should take care of me like she does,” Evelyn shouted to Rick before she took another sip from her bottle.  

Evelyn couldn’t even picture her life without her new friend anymore. Yeah, she had other friends, she even had a roommate who shared the tiny square room with her, but Catalina was different. She laughed at Evelyn’s puns and proofread all her essays. Some mornings she would bring Evelyn a cup of tea because she knew she had class in one of the farther academic buildings and she wanted to give her something warm so her hands wouldn’t get cold.

The music was loud and the DJ was not as good as Rick thought he was. He had taken perfectly okay songs and made them worse by computerizing them. It was hard to dance to but Evelyn was so far gone that she didn’t really care that much.

“I’m going to grab a beer!” Rick shouted. He pointed at Catalina to get her attention, “watch her?” he asked and he pointed at Evelyn. Catalina flashed him a thumbs up and Evelyn was pushed forward onto Catalina. She staggered before wrapping her arms around her friend and continuing to dance.

“You’re drunker than you said,” Catalina said, disapprovingly.

“Catty, you always take such good care of me,” Evelyn shouted. “No one has ever taken such good care of me. Not my mom, not Rick, no one. I should date you!” She leaned tilted her head down and kissed Catalina’s bright red lips. They paused there for a moment, with the bass reverberating loudly and the flashing lights alternating between exposing them and hiding them. The world seemed like it was spinning to Evelyn and she was only partly aware of Catalina’s lips on her own. There was just so much happening. She was still dancing, her hands hung dangling over Catalina’s shoulders, the song changed.

“Lesbians!” a male voice shouted over the music.

Evelyn pulled back from Catalina a few inches so she could grin at the guy that had spoken and wave, enjoying the attention. She turned back to Catalina, laughing, but stopped herself when she saw her friend’s expression. She was staring at Evelyn, her eyes wide, her lips slightly parted. Pain was etched across her face.

“I gotta go!” Catalina said. “There’s Rick, he’s coming back now, stay with him, okay? I’ll see you later.” Then she turned and disappeared into the mass of bodies.

Evelyn tried to follow but Rick’s strong hands wrapped around her waist and held her back. “It’s okay,” she heard his voice but she was having a little trouble locating him. “You know what? I think we should just get you to bed, come on, let’s get out of here.”

In Rick’s apartment, she woke up troubled and couldn’t quite remember why. She blinked groggily and stared at the wall until she placed the source of her uneasiness. She moaned and buried her face into the blanket. It smelled like boy and cologne. It smelled good.

Yes, deep down Evelyn knew that Catalina was in love with her, and that she was maybe leading her on, but Evelyn argued with herself, she had made it perfectly clear that she liked men. She was sort of with Rick. She slept with him and complained about him enough that they were at least “a thing.” It wasn’t her fault if Catalina wanted to ignore that.

“No, no, no,” Evelyn muttered to herself. Rick was still passed out next to her in the twin sized bed. That was wrong. She was wrong. This was not Catalina’s fault. Evelyn had done this to herself. She should not have kissed her. They were friends.

She got up and put her hair into a messy bun. She slipped back into her jeans that Rick had helped her take off the night before. She looked down at the sleeping boy. Evelyn’s mom was so excited about this one. Evelyn had finally told her mom the truth, that Rick was a new guy, but that they had been seeing each other for a few months now but they were still together. Her mom had wanted to hear more about him and Evelyn couldn’t have told her the true stories, the stories of drunk midnight pizza and then falling into bed together, the occasional, painfully boring sober conversations they had the next morning, so she had made things up. She had told her mom stories about how he took care of her, helping with her homework and bringing her tea in the morning to keep her hands warm. Her mom had loved it.  

“He sounds perfect,” she had gushed on the phone. “We were worried there for a minute, Dad and I.”

“Me too,” Evelyn had sighed. She had been so worried that she was unlovable, that it wasn’t the guys but her.   

Evelyn left the room and Rick’s loud snoring. Just a few months ago Rick had been the best option. He was nice, he had taken care of her the night before. But not like Catalina does, the pesky, relentless voice in her head added. It wasn’t enough. He didn’t make her laugh or buy her green things because he knew her house was Slytherin and that the color matched her eyes. He didn’t want to go on cute dates or talk about literature. It wasn’t who he was, and that was fine, but it was who she was. It was who Catalina was.

Settle for Rick? Settle for Catalina? The completely rational third option that involved finding someone with the right personality and the right gender? Yeah, Evelyn thought as she let herself out of the apartment, and how has that been working? She pulled out her phone and called Catalina. She answered on the third ring.

“I’m sorry about how I acted last night,” she said.

“No, I’m sorry,” Evelyn said. “Do you want to meet up and talk?”

They met at their favorite coffee shop and once they had ordered their drinks they sat down at their usual table.

Catalina smiled sadly at Evelyn’s clothes, “is it yesterday already?” she joked. “Oh, by the way, I have your jacket from last night, it’s in my room, I meant to grab it. I figured Rick wouldn’t remember it.”

She was right, Rick didn’t remember it, but neither did Evelyn, and somehow it was just assumed that Evelyn wouldn’t even be the one that had to remember her own jacket. She felt a little insulted but she also heard the bitterness in Catalina’s voice and felt guilty for all the times she had complained about Rick to Catalina. She had gone out of her way to get sympathy from her friend, knowing she would react in all the ways that she wanted her to.  

“I’m so sorry,” Evelyn said, tears forming in her eyes. She had known. She had definitely known, but she had managed to suppress it and pretend it wasn’t happening so she could continue allowing it to happen. She had loved being wanted.

“I don’t know if we can be friends anymore,” Catalina said, her voice was small and sad. “I just… I don’t know if I can do it.”

Evelyn felt like her heart was breaking. “Please don’t say that.”

“Look, I know it’s not fair of me to put my own feelings first, but I really like you, I always have, and Rick, he doesn’t even appreciate you, and you won’t stop talking about him, and he treats you so awfully.”

“He’s not so bad,” Evelyn said.

“I don’t want to sound like a bitch, but I don’t think I can be the equivalent of your emotional boyfriend anymore, doing all the things Rick should be doing to make you happy when you just run off with him at the end of the night and I know you can never feel the same way about me. I thought I was fine with it, that we were just friends, but after last night I know that’s not true. We’ve both been fooling ourselves and I don’t think of you as just a friend. I’m sorry.”

Evelyn was trying really hard not to cry now. She couldn’t lose Catalina. She was her best friend, even though they had just been friends for a short while. She had never connected with anyone like this before. She wanted so badly to just say she was a lesbian after all, to date Catalina, anything so she wouldn’t lose her, but she couldn’t do that. The last few months had been the happiest of her college experience, having Rick on the weekends and having Catalina the rest of the time, but Catalina was right, she was using her for the emotional fulfillment that Rick wasn’t giving her, and that seemed incapable of giving herself.  

“Please, please don’t do this, Catty,” Evelyn wiped the tears from her eyes with the back of her hand. She was still wearing the short sleeved shirt from the night before and her skin wasn’t doing an adequate job of absorbing the salty teardrops. “I don’t know what I would do without you. Please don’t leave me.”

Catalina closed her eyes for a moment and bit her bottom lip. When she reopened them she reached out and began to wipe the tears off Evelyn’s face with her own sleeve.

“Don’t cry, I hate seeing you cry, and after how drunk you were last night, I bet you don’t have any water left in your body. In fact, you were so drunk, we could probably just forget last night ever happened, if that would make you stop crying.”  

Evelyn smiled through her tears, half ecstatic, half ashamed of herself. She wanted to tell Catalina that it was okay, that she shouldn’t be responsible for Evelyn’s happiness, but instead she said, “okay, are you sure?”

Catalina sighed sadly but smiled back, “I don’t think I could really lose you either.”

“I wish…” Evelyn wanted to say that she wished they could just be together, but it felt like that would just make the situation worse, and that wasn’t what she really wanted. She was slowly starting to realize that she didn’t want to rely on anyone else for own happiness.

“It’s okay, it’s okay,” Catalina said. “Let’s just pretend this never happened.”

Evelyn’s phone was on the table since it wouldn’t fit into the pockets of her skinny jeans and she had no jacket. It lit up and the vibration drew both of the girls’ attention to it. Rick’s name showed in big font and Evelyn cringed. He wanted to know where she went and if she was okay. He wanted to know if she wanted to come over and he would make her breakfast.

“He took care of you last night, then?” Catalina asked.

“Yeah. He did,” Evelyn said, ashamed that she appeared so desperate for someone to take care of her.  

“Good, you deserve someone who will make you happy. Go have breakfast with him, we can hang out later,” she stood up and pushed in her chair.

“Catalina…”

“It’s okay, really, go see Rick. Come over later and we can watch the game together?”

Evelyn nodded as Catalina left. Her phone lit up again, this time it was her mother calling. She hit ignore, texted Rick that she was sorry but that she wouldn’t be able to make breakfast, and then turned her phone off. She had hurt enough people for the day. She had disappointed enough people for a lifetime. She stared down at her now black screen and thought of all the chaos it connected her to, the chaos she was not in a state to deal with. If she kept it turned off she wouldn’t be able to get the notifications she had set on her calender to remind her of homework. Crap, she thought, it was almost time for critiques again. She needed to get a good grade but she had control over that, there was no chaos, only her design. She stood up and walked out of the coffee shop. She was going to go home, cook her own breakfast and finish her model. It was time to fight her own trolls.   

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