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During the course of their twenty-year career, Tegan and Sara have sold over a million records and released eight studio albums. They have received three Juno Awards, a Grammy nomination, a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, and the 2018 New York Civil Liberties Union Award.

From HIGH SCHOOL by Tegan and Sara Quin. Copyright © 2019 by Tegan and Sara Quin. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster Canada, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Handout

When we got inside, I should have done homework, but I went straight to the basement, where I used Mom’s computer to write secret letters about the girl I liked. It was still a shock to feel desire for girls, addictive thoughts that stole hours of my time at school and in bed before I fell asleep.

Girls had always been interested in Tegan and me. They sometimes followed us home from school or watched us at choir practice. As a twin, I was used to being stared at by people, but this was different. I started imagining them observing me, even when I was alone. I wanted these girls to look at me; I wanted to be seen.

Tegan came into the office and flipped on the television. “What are you writing?”

“Nothing.”

I always told lies to protect her from what scared me, but this one I told only to protect myself. I printed what I was working on and walked upstairs to my bedroom, where I stashed the pages deep inside the torn-out gut of a stuffed animal. A few months earlier, Mom had come into my room and read a few lines of a letter I’d accidentally left in the printer tray downstairs. It was addressed to my best friend, Naomi.

“Do you like Naomi as more than a friend?” she asked, saying each word carefully.

My arms and cheeks went numb. “I just wrote the words to see what it would feel like.”

Her face softened, and she placed the paper next to me on the bed. “You know, when I was fifteen —”

“Mom, I don’t want to hear again about how you kissed a girl at boarding school!”

She flinched. “Well, in the future, if you don’t want people to read your thoughts, then don’t leave them where everyone can find them.”

A few weeks later, Tegan found my stash of letters, pulled them straight from the gut of my hiding place. “Stay out of my shit!” I hollered at her, ripping the papers from her hands, then slamming both our bedroom doors so hard the windows rattled. I cut each page into strips and threw them in the garbage. Then I called Naomi and told her what I’d done.

“I wish you hadn’t thrown them away. They were so beautiful.”

“No one in this house respects me or my privacy!”

I knew both Mom and Tegan were trying to figure out what was going on with me. But the harder they looked, the more I wanted to retreat. I was afraid of being caught in a trap.

I wasn’t just kissing girls.

I was in love with my best friend.


When I met Naomi on the first day of grade nine, I had never seen a girl quite like her. The short skirts and tall, striped socks she wore in a rainbow of colours became my obsession. Because she was sequestered with her French peers in private classrooms, I caught only glimpses of her and her best friend, Christina, in the hallway between bells. Her walk was more of a march, and her heavy backpack was like a turtle’s shell, always pulled up high on her back. When she smiled at me, my reflex was to place my hands out in defense. I met her gaze and later searched those moments endlessly for meaning as I succumbed to the intricate fantasies unfolding in a constant loop in my mind. My grades plummeted.

Basketball tryouts gave Tegan and me an excuse to finally meet her. She bounced over to us with her hand out: “Hi! I’m Naomi!”

She seemed so confident. I felt off-balance, giddy. We were the same height, and when I spoke, she leaned in close to my face. Her entire head snapped back on her neck when she laughed.

Our team was awful, but tournaments on the weekend meant sleepovers and sleepless nights eating cookie dough and lying together in her brother’s waterbed. Eventually, the sexual tension between Naomi and me was increasingly hard to mask, and I began to leave Tegan out of our sleepovers. We watched Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction with our legs draped across each other and found reasons to hold hands or stay locked in eye contact. We exploited the intimacy acceptable between girls of our age with sleepovers every weekend and marathon phone calls that stretched into hours each night after school. Our handwritten notes became so numerous that we grew bolder and began to collect them in colourful folders. But despite the pleasure of it all, my feelings were far from simple.

One night, alone in my bed with Naomi, I admitted how guilty I felt about excluding Tegan from our hanging out. “I feel so bad for her.”

“I get it,” she said. “Christina says she feels like she never sees me anymore.”

It was during one of those conversations that Naomi slowly drew me across a line I’d never dared to cross before with a girl. After months of unbearable tension between us, she suddenly reached out in the dark and ran her thumb along my lips and my ear.

“Is this okay? I’ve wanted to kiss you for a very long time.”

After the kiss, I wordlessly disappeared into the bathroom. I sat on the edge of the bathtub waiting to throw up, and eventually did. Splashing water and a glob of toothpaste into my mouth, I quietly climbed back into the bed and under the covers.

Later, in the dark, she said, “I still like boys.”

“I do, too,” I said. Only after the words left my mouth did I realize this was a lie.

In the following weeks, I didn’t want to do more. “I just like kissing you.” I’d repeat it like a warning.

“But I want to do more,” she replied one night. And, so, like with our first kiss, she led me exactly where I wanted to go.


“I’m so sorry,” I whispered through numb lips when I walked through the door of Naomi’s house hours later. Her cheeks were pink, warm. Her hair was done up in Princess Leia buns, my favourite of her intricate hairdos. I knew she’d done it special for me.

“You must be hungry,” she said. We went to the kitchen where she made me a sandwich. I picked at the food, not yet ready to put anything into my stomach. I looked pathetic, and she led me upstairs to her bedroom where we lay on her single bed and talked.

I told her the story of our night over and over again, my eyes spilling tears onto her pillow. She was laughing, catching my tears with her thumbs. Sliding her leg between mine, her green eyes watched me as I drifted off to sleep.

It was the sound of the door that woke me up. Naomi’s mom’s face appeared and then disappeared back into the hall. Naomi woke up, too.

“Your mom was just in here. She saw us."

Naomi said nothing, but she flipped over and opened the door.

“Mom?” she called down the stairs.

“Just seeing if you girls were home safe!”

“It’s fine,” Naomi said and rolled back over to face me.

When Naomi called the next day, she was crying. “After you left, Mom asked me what we were doing sleeping like that. She saw us on the bed holding each other. She said girls aren’t supposed to do that.”

I felt dizzy. “What did you say?”

“I told her we’re just best friends, and sometimes we cuddle.”

“And …”

“She said you couldn’t sleep here anymore.” Naomi broke down into sobs.

Tears sprang to my eyes. I wrapped the telephone cord around my wrist until the veins on my hand swelled with blood. “I’ll talk to my mom. Maybe she can talk to yours?”

“Okay.”

Downstairs in the living room, I sat on the couch next to Mom. Her lap, as always, was guarded by our male cat, Taz. I reached out and pet his back, and he began to purr softly. I didn’t quite know what to say. “Can I talk to you?” I asked.

She pointed the remote to pause Days of Our Lives. “What’s up?”

“Yeah, so, Naomi’s mom saw us, sleeping. On Naomi’s bed together. Her single bed, like close together.”

The conversation jerked and started. It felt honest when I repeated, “We are just friends. We weren’t doing anything!” because we hadn’t been doing anything—on that day. I didn’t consider it a lie when I promised her that if I were gay, I’d tell her. Because I didn’t think I was gay.

She sighed. “I’ll call her mother.”

“Thank you!”

I went upstairs and quickly called Naomi with the good news.

“I think it’s going to be okay,” I said.

The words she spoke next sounded flat in my ears: “I think we need to go back to just being friends.”

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