Gretchen was sitting on her bed, back against the headboard. Her attention was lost in her phone. Karen was lying down next to her, her feet at Gretchen's head, staring at the ceiling.
"Do you ever feel like characters who are always having a hard time in their shows . . . " Karen paused as she searched for the right words. "Like, if they get parodied on a different show or someone writes some sweet fanfic about them where good stuff happens . . . do you feel happy for them? Like the characters are aware that they're getting a reprieve from their terrible lives and they're safe, so they have a chance to relax before they have to go back?"
Gretchen looked up from her phone. "That doesn't apply for real celebrities when they get parodied. Why would that apply for characters?"
"Because they're fictional, duh."
Gretchen blinked, wondering how, after all these years, Karen's non-sequiturs still managed to leave her speechless. Finally, she took a deep breath and put her phone facedown on the bedspread. It was now or never. "Karen?"
Say it, Gretchen thought. Say it out loud. Then, whatever happens, at least it's over.
But she couldn't speak.
Karen lifted her head and looked at Gretchen. She was looking at the bedspread, but she clearly wasn't seeing it.
Knowing her best friend had a tendency to get lost in her head, Karen got up and sat next to Gretchen. She grabbed her hand and put her head on her shoulder.
The girls sat in silence. Karen knew that Gretchen would talk when she was ready.
"Karen?" Her voice was a whisper.
She heard Gretchen take a breath. "I think . . . I'm gay."
Karen swallowed back her immediate first response of 'and?', knowing that now probably wasn't the time. She'd known Gretchen was gay for almost as long as they'd known each other. So she'd had time to plan the best, most fitting response for her.
Karen wrapped her into a bear hug and squeezed her tightly. She heard Gretchen choke back a sob and, in response, she rocked her side to side gently. Gretchen started giggling, which turned into full-on laughter. Karen rubbed Gretchen's arms, pleased her goofiness had had the desired effect.
"It's the rule of two," Karen said.
Gretchen smiled, well aware of Karen's 'rule of two'. "How so?"
"You're gay AND amazing. You're brave AND smart. You're beautiful AND kind." She took Gretchen's hand again. "You're discovering new things about yourself AND you're the same old awesome person you've always been."
Gretchen squeezed Karen's hand, her eyes filling with tears again. "You're so smart, Karen."