It was hard to focus on studying at the best of times. Bonabelle was wonderful and lovely and everything for putting up with her poor academic habits, and she was trying to be better about it. She really hated being such a burden to her friend. So, she found herself sitting in the library staring at some books. She wasn't really reading them, she wasn't even sure which book she was actually looking at right now. Other things were going though her head. Focusing was hard.
Looking up from the book, she glanced around the room trying to break out of the mind-numbing funk. She didn't really need a distraction, distractions were the opposite of focusing. She needed... her eyes blazed with light and hope as they landed on someone making their way through the library. Evelyn. She needed Evelyn. Giddy with delight, she forgot all about her books on the table and found herself almost next to the older girl without realizing she had moved.
"Evelyn!" She nearly shouted out, but remembered she was still in the library just in time. "Hi. Sorry. Do you...?" Oh, how to phrase this? How to ask? She blushed a bit at the thought. "Umm... I mean... I have.." Nonono, that wasn't right. She stopped and took a deep breath. "Do you have a few minutes?" She tried to smile in a friendly manner, but it may have come out more on the nervous end of the spectrum. "I've got some.. questions..." She hesitated a bit more, "About.. umm... boys." She could feel her face heat up and turn red as she said it.
Evelyn was being a good and responsible student pretty often these days. Between Heinrich's need to be an especially good and responsible student and Ness' tendency to do that just because it was Ness, Evelyn had had a good academic run over the past few years anyway. However, advanced classes were extra hard, gardening club and gaming club took a chunk of her time in general, and she had a lingering general anxiety about the shapeshifting mist that knew intimate details about her parents and injuries. As a result, studying had gone from important to essential, and she had to really focus on dedicating her time to it. She'd always enjoyed the library, but now she went even if she didn't have explicit plans to meet Heinrich or Ness. Often, she'd find them there anyway, but it was nice to be found there sometimes too. In this case, though, it was Valentine who found her.
The girl seemed very nervous but not in a way that made Evelyn think she was about to have to rat her out, so she just raised an eyebrow until Val got to the point. Then, she grinned. "I definitely have a few minutes to talk about boys," she said, hating that it came out a bit more Teen Vogue than she meant it to. The truth was, Evelyn just liked talking about romance and one of her favorite people happened to be a boy so that made it extra easy. Also, she'd learned as a younger student herself at one point that talking about boys was often a very important and very lacking area of education.
She followed Val to wherever the girl was most comfortable having this discussion and then cocked her head, a wry smile on her face; it was a measured decision because if this was some bad news about something a boy did, Evelyn did not want to start out smiling and make Val feel bad about it. However, Val didn't seem that kind of anxious, so Evelyn took a gamble and settled in. "What would you like to talk about?"
Something of a strange smile stretched across Valentine's face when Evelyn stated that she could definitely talk about boys. It was something of a grin that Valentine didn't think was quite appropriate. She tried to fight it, but lost and nearly ended up giggling for reasons she couldn't explain. There had just been something about the way Evelyn had said the words that made the situation seem... different? Odd? More grown-up than she had been ready for? This was something older girls did, they sat and talked about boys? Was that what she was doing? Was that what she wanted to do? Yes. No. She didn't know! What should she be doing? Was this a thing good girls did? Did they talk about.. boys?
Mulling it all over while shaking her head a bit she lead the older, more experienced girl back to her table. It wasn't exactly far off the 'beaten path' though, and she had no idea what sorts of things they might talk about. So, she grabbed her notebook (that may have had Stanley's name written on it in a few places), clutched it to her chest and wandered farther off into a corner somewhere leaving the rest of her books behind.
She found some chairs and sat. The nervousness plain on her face. Evelyn looked calm and collected, Val had no idea how to begin and was glad when Evelyn started. Even though her question didn't really help much, it broke through the thoughts and emotions swirling about inside her. She took a breath, "I'm.. I'm not really sure." She began slowly. "I'm just not sure how this all is supposed to work I guess?" There was a hopeful look in her eyes as she wished Evelyn could make things simple. "Stanley asked me out last term and we've been spending some time together..." she paused again to consider her next words. "I'm just not quite sure what all I should be doing. What does a good girlfriend do?" There was another question tickling the back of her mind that she wanted to ask, but could she? Should she? She might get an answer. She might get a right answer. She might even have to act on that right answer. Then what?
Author Needs CW For: Audism and abelism, anti-LGBTQ+ themes, assault.
I'd give 'em a 5/10 average but 10/10 when you find a good one.
by Evelyn Stones
"Dude," Evelyn said with another grin, letting out a breath of air as she leaned back in her chair. "Same. I still have no idea what I'm doing." It was odd how much easier it felt to be human these days. There had been a time that she'd asked Kir almost exactly the same question but for a very different reason - especially if Valentine's demeanor was anything to go by - and there were days that the person she'd been then felt very far behind her. Some days, they were the same still. But most of the time, Evelyn wasn't who she'd been even just a few years previously. "I think that's the point though; if you're doing it your way, then you're doing it right, because that's how you find the right person." She cocked her head a little. "I'm bi," she disclaimed, remembering the word that Ness had taught her and she'd quietly kept in the back of her head as a self-identifier, although she wasn't sure she'd ever said it outright before. "But I've only dated Heinrich. Still, I think it's probably the same no matter what."
That probably wasn't true. There were some things that she could think of that made cis boys very different to cis girls, even if she wouldn't admit to anyone but Ness that she thought of that. And maybe Heinrich, but he'd have to admit he thought of the opposite stuff too and it would be weird maybe. Or good? She put that thought aside before the library could start feeling too warm.
"Someone told me once that like . . . if you're with someone and they don't like how you're doing things, you might be doing stuff wrong, or you might just not be the right person for them and that's okay. That doesn't make either of you bad people or anything. So don't worry about doing it wrong." Evelyn wrinkled her nose. "That came out more cynical than I meant it. It made me feel a lot better to hear that but the person who told me told me that when I just liked Heinrich and I wasn't sure if he liked me back," she admitted, blushing.
Evelyn took a breath because she was pretty sure she was being basically completely not helpful, and tried to re-center her thoughts on what Val had said. Stanley was a Pecari so Evelyn was at least vaguely acquainted with him but not so well as to know what sort of boy he was or read more into anything Val had said so far. "Do you like spending time with him?" she asked. "Like . . . do you want to figure out what a good girlfriend should do because you like him and want to do your best by him? Or because you're trying to figure out the rules of a game you're not sure about yet?"
As she paused to let Valentine consider and give an answer, Evelyn thought of her own doings as a girlfriend. She wondered sometimes if she was doing it the right way, but she also knew Heinrich liked her and she liked him. It was sort of easy to do nice stuff for him or think of reasons to spend time together because it was the natural response to the squishy feeling in her stomach when she thought of him. Of course, she'd also known Heinrich longer than Val had known Stanley, unless they'd been friends before coming to Sonora, and that probably helped too. It was weird to think that she might know enough about something to be able to help anyone else with it.
22Evelyn StonesI'd give 'em a 5/10 average but 10/10 when you find a good one. 142205
Valentine's stomach sank a bit as Evelyn admitted she still didn't know what she was doing either. But, she didn't look disturbed by that fact, so she did feel a glimmer of hope at the same time. "Doing it your way?" She asked a little confused, was she doing it her way? "Which way is my way?" As soon as the words slipped from her mouth, she giggled. "Do I need a rock and a boulder?" She blinked, just a bit startled when Evelyn said she was bi. Last year she wouldn't have known what that meant, but hanging out with Ness, Evelyn and some of the others had taught her some things that weren't necessarily on the school's curriculum.
Evelyn liked girls and boys? Without really noticing, that statement triggered a sort of self-evaluation in herself. Did she? No? It was hard to say, she liked Stanley... but she also liked Bonabelle and Lavender and Alexander and Philippe and Evelyn and Ness and... everyone. Well, at least everyone she'd gotten to know so far. She didn't get much farther in her analysis before Evelyn was speaking again. Her next statement and question hammered a bit hard on that question that she still wasn't sure she wanted to ask. Yet...
Valentine sighed, her expression drooped, "I..." she stalled out, fighting to figure out what she wanted to know, how she wanted to respond. The battle finally gave way to answering the questions to keep beating around the bush. "I like spending time with him... but..." her voice dropped in volume as if she was admitting a terrible thing. "I'm not sure I like spending time with him any more than I like spending time with anyone else. I don't know..." she looked pleadingly at the older girl, "What are the rules? How should this work?"
2Valentine DuellThat can be tricky though, can't it?149005
"You might," Evelyn laughed, feeling bad that Valentine felt so stuck. "I just mean that some people who have boyfriends are going to be really excited about giving gifts, or really excited about snuggling, or really excited to spend time together but maybe are a little more reserved. I mean, think about your friends. They're all your friends, but they all do friendship their own way, right? It's the same for being someone's girlfriend I think."
Evelyn's heart went out to Valentine when it was so clear the girl was struggling. It also brought back thoughts she tried not to think about in terms of 'best' friends and favorite people and things like that. She considered, not sure she'd ever thought to quantify it that way. She enjoyed spending time with Heinrich, but it wasn't necessarily that she enjoyed it more than she enjoyed spending time with Ness, was it? It was just different. She didn't want to kiss Ness' face off for one, and intrusive thoughts about ways to spend her free time with Ness didn't come up. At the same time, she hadn't really had to choose between spending time with Ness or Heinrich and could most often spend time with both, or make plans to spend an equivalent time with both. If that weren't the case . . . she tried to imagine having to choose between spending winter break with Ness or with Heinrich and she cringed inwardly as she realized she knew the answer to that question. But it was not about time still, it was about the difference; she was hoping to have a life with Heinrich at some point, whereas she was hoping to have Ness in her life but not necessarily make a life together. That seemed like a heavy distinction to suggest a second year make.
"Honestly," Evelyn began slowly, "I think it's different for every relationship. But I also think maybe it's different with time? Like . . . when I think of Heinrich . . . I . . . well, I wanna spend my life with him," she said, putting to words a thought she'd mostly kept to herself before then. It was odd to say out loud and it felt very big and very scary, but somehow in a good way. She stifled a little smile at it, feeling very warm. "We were started getting to know each other during my second year, but I wasn't thinking about that stuff then. I thought about how I'd feel if he wanted to date someone else and it made me sad. If Ness or Gary or someone wanted to date someone else, I'd be happy for them and I wouldn't be sad that they didn't want to be with me. Sometimes, for some people but not everyone, it can also be like. If you wanna kiss 'em and stuff. But not everyone wants to kiss or is ready to and that's okay too. Some people never do and some people have reasons they don't want to and that's okay," she added. "I don't think there are rules but . . . Well, you haven't actually said you like him yet." Evelyn cocked her head, wondering what was going on behind her small friend's big eyes. "It's okay too if you wanna be friends until you're more sure, or if you want to date and see where it goes. It can be good to communicate that though so that you're on the same page."
Valentine smiled weakly as Evelyn laughed. She was pretty sure she didn't want to throw a rock at Stanley from behind a boulder though. Even if she was intentionally trying to miss. As her older, more mature and experienced friend talked, Val nodded along half-hardheartedly. She know of some of these things, Bonabelle was a much different type of friend that Lavender. Stanley was a different kind of friend than Alexander. But those were friend things... Stanley was her boyfriend that should mean something a little different, shouldn't it? It meant he wasn't really part of the 'friends' group anymore, didn't it? But what did that actually mean? What was this relationship they had?
When Evelyn kept talking about her and Heinrich, she could feel the struggle intensify inside her. Evelyn wanted to spend her life with Heinrich. That was the point of boyfriends, right? That was what she wanted. Wasn't it? Did she want to find the person she wanted to spend the rest of her life with? Was it Stanley? Some feeling tightened up her midsection at that thought, but she wasn't sure what it was. She turned a bit red as Evelyn brought up kissing. She couldn't quite picture herself kissing anyone, well other than Mama and Papa. Hugs were good though, she liked hugs. She wasn't sure what to make of that now that Evelyn brought it up, she said not everyone wants to... and she'd always figured that given everything else that kissing would probably be a thing that she did, but right now it just seemed kinda weird. Maybe she just wasn't ready? But if she had a boyfriend, should she be? That was a thing... right?
Val looked down when Evelyn pointed out that she hadn't actually said that she liked Stanley. Hadn't she? Maybe not. Did she? Another something twisted in her stomach. "I like him." She said rather uncharacteristically slowly. She did, but did she like him any more than anyone else? Did she like him like a girlfriend should like her boyfriend? "When he first asked me out, I was so excited." her eyes shone a bit with the memory. "Aunt Giselle had said I had some 'admirers' here, and then came Stanley! She'd been right!" She sighed slightly, "It was fun, we hung out, held hands, and sat together. It was exciting that someone wanted to be with me so much." Her expression fell a bit, "Over break I got the feeling that Papa wasn't quite as excited as I was." She shrugged weakly. "I'm just not sure."
Evelyn's suggestion of talking to Stanley about it was a perfectly logical, reasonable, responsible one. It terrified her. She liked talking to people, but... what if Stanley didn't feel the same? She didn't want to make him sad. Maybe they just needed some more time. She gave Evelyn an attempt at a genuine smile. This conversation hadn't really gone the way she thought it might. She was less sure about things than ever, so she tried Evelyn's experiment. How did she feel if Stanley went to date someone else? Evelyn had been sad, she was.... She tried to think of Stanley and Bonabelle holding hands and snuggling together and nearly burst out laughing. That just didn't work at all in her head. "Sorry," she apologized quickly and tried again, this time with Lavender. She couldn't really see that working either, but at least for the sake of the experiment her brain rolled with it. "I'm trying to see what I'd feel if he was with someone else." She shrugged, neither her heart nor gut complaining at the thought. "If I don't feel sad," she asked, "Is that a bad sign?"
Evelyn watched Valentine's face and wondered if this is what she'd looked like when she talked to Kir about Heinrich. She doubted it because her problem had been a bit different, but there was still something that struck her as similar, and she wondered if Kir had felt this ridiculous playing grown up as she did now. Of course, Valentine obviously knew that Evelyn was not a real grown up, even if she was seventeen now, so she hoped it wasn't quite the same. She'd been older herself when she talked to Kir, too, and that might've made a difference of the whole thing.
"It's okay to not be sure," Evelyn said softly. "Or to not be ready, or to not have grand plans just yet. It's okay to just want to have fun." She thought of clarifying that fun should only be had if the other person also knew it was just for fun, but didn't feel like that was something Valentine needed her to add. "It's also okay if someone admires you and you admire them back, but it's just not the right fit, or not the right fit right now," she added, a little more quietly. There were people she'd met that she was pretty sure, in another lifetime, she would've thought differently about. People who's spirits just hummed at one frequency too far away from her own. It was easy to imagine the little ways life would have had to be different for those things to work, but they didn't because life wasn't any different, and that was okay. She wasn't going to lose sleep over those things, especially when the life she had was what made her hum at a frequency that worked with Heinrich, and she really really liked Heinrich. She wouldn't want to change that, even if it meant accepted all the things that had made them hum together. "You just don't seem happy," Evelyn admitted with an empathetic grimace. "I want you to be happy and be with someone who makes you happy."
She smiled when Val laughed about whatever mental image came to her first but was quiet as she gave the younger girl space to think for another moment. Thinking, she knew, was hard. It was definitely not her favorite thing, but then she'd gone and made friends with a bunch of Aladrens and here she was. She shrugged though when Val formulated a question after the whole experiment. "I don't think it's bad for two people not to be the right fit," she said. She wasn't sure if it was frowned upon to give advice that was essentially suggesting a young couple breakup, but she was also not about to tell Valentine to stick it out just because. She'd seen bad relationships and they didn't serve any real purpose unless you were a high society snuff bag and even then, Evelyn would argue, there were better purposes not being served. "And I don't think it's bad not to be super jealous even if you are the right fit. Maybe it just means that you're comfortable. But . . . well, maybe it means that Stanley is just a really good friend, and that's why you like spending time together."
There was some sort of weight that Valentine felt lifting when Evelyn told her that it was okay to not be sure. She wasn't sure. She wasn't sure about a lot of things. She was pretty sure that 'grand plans' sounded like a good thing, but wasn't at all sure what those plans should be. She was just beginning to get the uneasy feeling that Stanley may not actually be a major part of those plans and she wasn't sure how she felt about that. Everything was just.... confusing. She listened to the older, wiser girl talk a bit more and then cringed a bit at Evelyn's observation. Was she happy? Yes? Did Stanley make her happy? The thought of him squatting down in the line of first years in Herbology struck her again. Was that a cute antic or...? Or what? She didn't know.
"I... " she wanted to say something, but she wasn't sure what. "I don't know what would make me happy. In stories it's always so clear. There's a spark or a feeling or... something." her voice drifted off and she got a mildly annoyed look on her face. Real life didn't work like stories and fairy tales. She knew that. But... "When did you know it was just Heinrich for you? How did you...?" Again she cut herself off. Evelyn had already mostly answered that one... and that answer hadn't worked for her.
Valentine slumped back into her chair with a thoroughly disgruntled look on her face. "Let's say, purely hypothetically that Stanley may possibly not be the 'right' one. What should I do? What if he thinks I am his 'right' one? What if he doesn't? What if no one does?" That thought frightened her. She remembered the talk she had with Bonabelle earlier. What if she wound up old and alone as well because she was just everyone's 'friend' and nothing more to anyone?