She's seven years old when she meets her. Blonde hair, blue eyes, kind smile. Layne is a goner.
"Do you have a purple crayon?" She asks, timidly. All the children are coloring pictures of dogs, houses, their families. Layne has chosen to color a carebear.
The blonde girl carefully rolls a broken purple crayon towards Layne with a wide grin. "Here!"
"Thank you. I'm Layne!" she matches the grin, scooting her plastic yellow chair closer to the blonde girl.
"Laur...en. Our names both start with the letter 'L'!"
"That must mean we're going to be best friends!"
Lauren wasn't wrong...for at least two grade levels. By third grade, Lauren becomes best friends with a girl in her class, Madison, and Layne moves away. Playground love doesn't last.
She's twelve years old at one of her first boy/girl parties. Pizza and ice cream aside, the group of about eight pre-teens are downstairs in the unfinished basement, gossiping and playing music on the stereo. The birthday girl's parents had somehow allowed the lack of supervision and it isn't long until someone is grabbing an empty bottle of coke from the recycling bin in the nearby garage.
"Let's play spin the bottle!" A redheaded girl chirps excitedly, gathering some of the kids into a circle. Layne winces uncomfortably. None of the boys at the party were ones she had wanted to kiss. She recognizes some of them as "cute," but kissing? No way.
Sitting down next to one of the boys, Sean, she looks at him nervously and he smiles awkwardly.
"You first, Layne!" Her insides clench up.
"U-um, actually I need to go the bathroom. You're the birthday girl, you first!" She forces a grin and bounds up the stairs, hearing some giggles in her wake. Once on the other side of the door to the basement, she sighs with relief and shuffles towards the bathroom.
A few minutes later she re-emerges, only to almost bump face first into one of the girls from downstairs waiting to use the bathroom. She's from another middle school, her name is Ashley? Or maybe Amber. She can't really remember. Deep brown eyes stare back at her.
"Oh, hi. Did you have your turn already?" Layne speaks, casually, hand gesturing towards the door to the basement.
Ashley or Amber shakes her head shyly, shrugging. "Um. No. I didn't really…expect this to turn into a kissing party." She laughs nervously and bites her lower lip. Layne finds it endearing.
"Me neither." Layne shifts her weight to the other foot and leans against the adjacent wall.
"Have you um...ever kissed someone before?"
"Well...actually. No." Layne admits sheepishly and shrugs.
"Me neither." The other girl is quick to respond, almost as if anticipating Layne's response. "Maybe we should um...practice?"
Layne's heart skips a beat. Although she's had these fleeting thoughts about other girls in her class, she always tempered them down. But now Amber or Ashley...Ashber...is staring into her face with big brown eyes and slightly parted lips.
"Okay." Layne nods slowly.
She's nineteen years old and in her second year of college when she meets David. True to her alleged type, David is blonde, shaggy, and in his last year of college. He's majoring in business and treats Layne well enough. But Layne knows there's something missing.
They're dating for two months when things finally reach their peak. David, to his credit, is respectful enough to not force the issue, despite the tightening of his jeans every time they "watch a movie" together in his dorm. Layne's always been observant, if not self-aware. Her new bestie Kendall has been describing all of her sexcapades in excruciating detail and Layne would have to be a nun to not wonder what it would be like.
So when the half-way point of their nightly shitty action movie finally rolls around, Layne rolls on top of her boyfriend and begins to grind her hips in just the way she knows will drive him crazy. She tugs suggestively at his jeans and he blinks for a moment, registering what's going on before quickly finishing the job, kicking them off and rolling on top of her.
Her heart races in anticipation, her body temperature rising. But he’s quick with removing her clothes, quick with pushing inside. It's not like how the movies portray it. There is no romance, no heated gaze. There's a brief second of pain, a few thrusts and grunts, and then nothing. David collapses on top of her, breathing heavily. Layne stares at the ceiling of his dorm room, the sound of explosions coming from the t.v.
They break up a month later.
She's still nineteen and it's only a week after David and her break up. She's at a house party where unfortunately, David is too. He spends most of the night pining over her from across the room, drinking out of a red solo cup and moping. Layne almost feels bad, except that it was the right thing to do and Layne knows it.
She especially knows it was the right thing to do when she unexpectedly runs into a friend from her biology class. Sarah. Although Layne has her suspicions about Sarah, these aren't confirmed until she sees Sarah making out with a random girl in the corner of the living room. Although the room is dark, drunken boys surround the pair and whoop and cheer. Disgusted, Sarah gets up, taking the girl with her. This isn't before stealing a glance over to Layne.
The following Monday, Sarah sits down next to Layne in the quad as Layne eats lunch.
"Oh. Hi." Layne smiles politely and continues to pick at her sandwich.
"Hey, I saw you at that party last weekend, right?" Sarah leans in, her low-cut shirt hanging dangerously lower than usual. Layne clears her throat.
Their conversation doesn't take long to devolve into what Layne saw, Sarah divulging that she is in indeed, bisexual, and casually strolling back to Sarah's dorm in between classes.
This time, things seem to happen as if in slow motion. This time, Layne is able to fully realize her emotions. Fully take in the beauty of the girl, the woman, in front of her (and below her, and behind her...). When she comes for the first time, it's like a light switch turns on. There it is. This is what she's been waiting for.
The light practically turns into a strobe light as they spend the rest of the afternoon together. David is a distant memory.
She's twenty-two when they discover the cancer. It's already in stage three and the oncologists have ordered chemotherapy. Layne receives the news during her last round of finals before summer vacation. Any focus on her accounting class goes out the window. All she can think about is driving to Salt Lake and seeing her Aunt Kathy.
Her professors are forgiving and allow her to take the majority of her finals online. She spends the bulk of the summer with her at her condo, taking care of her dogs, washing the dishes, doing the laundry. She watches as her hair begins to fall out. Watches as her lively, rock climbing Aunt's bones turn brittle and skin pale.
They give her a few months to live. She holds on for a year. When she finally gives in, Layne doesn't speak to anyone for a full week. Kate worries, but not enough to push. Layne has mixed feelings about that, but mostly she just cries.
When they hold the memorial, Layne doesn't listen to any of the speeches. All she does is picture her Aunt Kathy, wild hair, sparkling blue eyes, smiling. And so she smiles too.
She's twenty five years old when she meets her soulmate. Technology is an amazing thing when it brings you to that one person you can't live without. It's the morning after their first time - after many failed attempts - and Bree is fast asleep beside her in their quiet hotel room. Light streams in through the curtains, and Layne sighs, perfectly content.
Her mind drifts to all the times she'd said those three words before, and how none of them left her tongue the way they did when she said them to the woman next to her. None of those times did those words fill her up in a way that made her feel like she could just burst out of her body. Bree stirs slightly in her sleep, her lips pursing softly. Layne smiles, framing her face with her palm. Maybe if she could just stay in this moment forever, nothing would ever touch them. Nothing would ever tear them apart.
She watches her for a few more moments, reveling in the beauty of it all. Bree begins to wake, breaking Layne out of her thoughts. She sees the familiar smile form in her expression and Layne matches it. "Good morning, baby," she whispers, voice extra raspy. Reminders of last night. "I love you."