Tamika Wood’s Birthday Party

& Other Stories by Le Kendall


I don’t really know why I kissed him. It’s not like I’d planned it in advance or anything. I mean… I had thought about it.

And I thought: He might kiss me back. Which was a terrifying thought but also an exciting one. It would probably cause problems but I’d deal with them later.

And I thought: He might push me away. He might be disgusted. He might call me the sort of names Mum’s boyfriend calls me. My father doesn’t use the same insulting words, the slurs. But it’s always been clear he disapproves of me for overlapping, if not identical reasons. So Alan Sebastian might be disgusted by that, by me. He might recoil away from me. That would probably be for the best.

Maybe if he pushed me away and made it clear how disgusted he was by me that would help me stop thinking about him that way?

I like him so much. I like the way he thinks about things. I like the way he looks down and slightly away from me when he’s listening intently. I like the way that every time he talks he says exactly what he means. And I like that he doesn’t seem to have any expectations of me or preconceived notions of what I must be like. I like the way he’s unabashedly himself and he doesn’t care what people think of him. Some people think he’s weird and standoffish. Some people think he’s arrogant and some people think he’s shy. But none of that seems to matter to him at all. I don’t think it’s that he doesn’t notice, or even that he doesn’t care. He just knows there isn’t anything he can do about it so he might as well just continue to be the way that he is. He thinks about things, Alan Sebastian. And if you ask him why he did something he always has a reason and, well, it’s true that the reason doesn’t always make a lot of sense the way most people would have thought about it. But he doesn’t just… do things like I can’t seem to stop myself from doing things. Without thinking at all. People think he’s oblivious and he misses things but I think the thing is that he notices a different set of things to most people.

I wish I could be like that. I wish I didn’t care. I tend to just… react to things. Over-react. When I’m scared or overwhelmed I lash out. When Alan Sebastian is stressed or doesn’t know what to do he just does nothing. I always seem to make things worse.

And all of that is okay, I think. That’s allowed.

But then.

I like the way his brown hair flops over his glasses and his wide blue eyes. I like the way how sometimes when he smiles it’s only with one side of his mouth. I like the shape of his hands and the shape of his mouth and when I am very close to him I like the way he smells. And I think that I shouldn’t like those things about him in the way I do and I think that I should probably try and stop.

Sometimes if I think too much about kissing him I kiss somebody else instead. Somebody who is a girl.

So when we were talking and he smiled at me and I’d had enough to drink that I felt warm and safe but not so much that I could really feel it. I reacted.

And in the moment that I kissed him I wondered if he’ll kiss me back or push me away and needed to find out, I needed to know either way.

But he didn’t do either of those things.

My mother used to ask me “What were you thinking?”. I miss her a lot now that I have moved to my Dad’s place but I only really miss the way she was. Not the way she is now.

I never knew how to answer, really. “I wasn’t” I would say but that’s not true. I’m always thinking. I can’t turn it off. It’s just that the thousands of things I’m thinking aren’t always related to what I’m doing.

I was always getting in trouble at my mum’s place. Not always from mum. One of her interchangeable boyfriends. The teachers. Other parents. Whoever had decided it was their turn to look out for me.

I was never good enough and never doing it right and never thinking enough about the right things and never measuring up to their standards of attention or behaviour and I tried, I really did, because I didn’t want anyone to think my problems were Mum’s fault Because then they’d take me away from her and it would be all my fault.

It’s better now that I live with my Dad . It’s easier. He doesn’t chide and criticise me for every little thing. I think he wouldn’t even care if I got into a fight again. He’d probably even approve. Steve did too which was weird because he made it clear he hated me and everything about me… he’s kind of like my Dad in some ways. He uses different words, different insults for me, but they mean the same thing.

Dad only has one real expectation of me and it’s very straightforward and it’s very clear. So that’s fine, obviously. Also the best part is that I met Alan Sebastian. He doesn’t do stupid things without thinking about them. I can’t seem to stop myself.

The worst is when I realise I’m doing something stupid and I panic and react to my own panic by doing something even fucking stupider.

When I was little I could tell Mum anything and everything and she’d always stroke my hair and make it better. Now I tell Alan Sebastian almost everything and he doesn’t stroke my hair and he doesn’t usually even say much but he listens and when I say “wait, what was I just talking about?” he always reminds me.

But I can’t talk to Alan Sebastian about kissing Alan Sebastian. Somehow I really had thought that kissing him would somehow make me stop wanting to kiss him but it didn’t help at all. I want to tell him it’s okay and I didn’t mean anything by it and I shouldn’t have done it and he should forget it but I can’t because Alan Sebastian can tell when I’m lying and it makes him very uncomfortable.

I don’t want to make Alan Sebastian uncomfortable. He’s the only person who doesn’t make me feel like I’m failing to meet some unreachable expectations. When I’m with him I can’t see that unfathomable gap between who I am and who I should be. I’m just me and he’s just him and when it’s just the two of us I… actually like the person that I am.

Even though my Dad only has one real expectation of me and it’s very straightforward and it’s very clear. It’s still unreachable.

Don’t be fucking queer.


Alan Sebastian’s never really had a friend before. Not a friend that wasn’t me.

For a long time I was Alan Sebastian’s only friend. I was all he needed. I was the one person who liked and understood him and even though I told him sometimes that he was boring and I was sick of him and that he should get some actual friends I didn’t realise I didn’t mean it until one day, he did.

I’d seen Scott at school before and I knew who he was. But I wasn’t one of the many girls that he flirted with and apart from the flirting the kids at school seemed to separate pretty thoroughly along gender lines. I didn’t have any classes with him so I didn’t really know him.

That first day that Scott came over to do homework I couldn’t understand how Alan Sebastian could stand him. He never shut up and kept calling Alan Sebastian “Al”.

“It’s Alan Sebastian,” I corrected him. “He doesn’t even like it when people call him Alan.”

“I know,” grinned Scott.

“Bibby?” I asked Alan Sebastian. I wanted to make sure he was really okay.

“Don’t Bibby in front of people, Michelle.” Alan Sebastian said. “It’s embarrassing.”

That hurt. It hurt especially because it’s exactly what I’d said to Alan Sebastian when he tried to speak our secret language in front of my friends.

I looked at Scott. “He really likes you.” I told him.

“I know,” Scott grinned again.

He stole my brother from me and I hated him at first. And then I thought. Maybe if we got together I would get my brother back. And when I got to know him better he didn’t seem so bad.

He’s good looking. He has curly blonde-brown hair and dimples in his cheeks and his smile lights up his whole face.

And he’s usually with my brother but when I saw him at Tamika Wood’s birthday party that night he was alone. I’d had just enough to drink to make me brave.

So I kissed him.

And he kissed me back so eagerly and confidently that I assumed he’d been waiting for me. And it felt good to be wanted. I thought he liked me too.

But I guess boys really are only after one thing because he couldn’t really look me in the face afterward. He acted like it had never happened and so did I.

Until I couldn’t.

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