“C’mon where is it?”
Sunset growled, scouring her battlestation for a spare microphone. Her stream begins in less than an hour, and it wouldn’t do to have a late start just because she misplaced Wallflower’s mic. She checked the drawers beneath her PC, and found nothing. She checked the drawers above her PC, still nothing. Sunny was losing patience, fast.
“Where the fuck is the microphone!” she yelled, eliciting a jump from Wallflower, who was sitting timidly next to her. Sunset cringed upon realizing this and turned to her girlfriend.
“Aw, sorry hun, I didn’t mean to yell. I can’t find this stupid mic.” Sunset put her hands up to encompass the room. “Please tell me you might know where it is,” Sunset implored.
Wallflower surveyed the room for a moment. Then, she asked, with an almost imperceptible element of teasing in her voice, “Did you remember to take it out of the bag?”
She pointed to a large plastic bag filled with all sorts of gear they’d picked up at the mall. Not seeing any other option, Sunset got up from her chair and sauntered over to it, sorting through the contents. A few seconds later, she stopped. Letting out a sigh, Sunset picked up the box containing the microphone. She gave Wallflower a sheepish look, holding it up for her to see. Sunset returned to her chair, giving Wally a quick peck on the cheek before she sat down. Wallflower just giggled.
“I don’t know what I’d do without you, Wally,” Sunset cooed. She quickly took apart the container and got started on setting it up for use.
“Probably starve to death,” Wallflower replied.
Sunset blew a raspberry at her, and Wallflower chortled again. That girl could outlaugh Pinkie Pie. Well, maybe not, but she’d come pretty close.
“Anyway,” Sunset said, still working on the troublesome piece of equipment, “I’m really glad you decided to join the show tonight, Wally. You’re gonna love it.” Sunset looked up from her tinkering and immediately noticed something was wrong. Wallflower suddenly looked pensive, fidgeting in her seat. Putting her project away, Sunset took Wallflower hands in hers. Wally’s hands were calloused from countless hours spent using gardening tools over the years. They were bigger, too. Not that it mattered to Sunset.
“Wally? Hun, what’s wrong?” Sunset scooted her office chair closer to Wallflower, her hand tentatively rising to touch her, but Wallflower pulled back, as if she’d been shocked.
What on Earth? She’s never done that before. Now Sunset was getting concerned.
Wallflower didn’t respond immediately, biting her lower lip and looking away. I can’t do this. I can’t. I’m a freak, everyone’s just going to see a guy in a dress. I’ll just embarrass Sunny. This was a mistake. I’m sor-
“Wallflower, please, tell me what’s wrong.” Sunset pleaded.
Finally, Wallflower managed to calm herself down at least a little bit, if only because she saw how upset Sunny was getting. Taking a few calming breaths, she finally spoke.
“I’m sorry, Sunset. It’s just… Well, you see… I just…” Wallflower grunted, then smacked her forehead in frustration. “I can’t explain it! I don’t know how to articulate it all. I’m sorry. Can’t you use your necklace thingie on me?”
Sunset, still worried about what was wrong with Wally, nodded.
“Of course. But are you sure this is what you want? Whatever is bothering you must not be pleasant. I don’t want to make you do anything you don’t want to.”
Wallflower thought it over for a moment, and solemnly nodded, breathing in deeply from her nose, as if she were patching herself up for her rapidly approaching trip down Memory Lane.
“Let’s get this over with.”
Sunset pulled Wallflower’s hands gently, and squeezed. The geode on her necklace activated, and Sunset’s mind was sent elsewhere.
Sunset found herself back in CHS. The halls were bustling with her old peers, all making their way to class, the cafeteria or clubs. She could even see herself—her old angry, bitchy self—storming past Wallflower. Present-day Sunset cringed while Wallflower flinched at the very sight of her and held up a book so as not to attract her ire, with those two idiots of her’s in tow. Except Wally didn’t look as she did now. Her face was off. She could still tell it was her Player Two, but her face was more angular. No, this was the old Wally. She was scruffy, perpetually tired and miserable, and her sweater looked new, like she’d just bought it yesterday, but most of it was obscured by a faded hoodie, which she covered her head with as much as possible. She waited until the coast was clear and made her way to the cafeteria. Curious, Sunset followed her girlfriend’s past self.
When both of them stepped into the cafeteria, Sunset’s ears were assaulted by a cacophony of the usual voices and sounds. Students were engaging in conversation with their cliques, clanging of trays and tables, and the sounds of machinery blasting from the kitchen. Wallflower, true to her name, slunk closely along the walls as she made her way to a table on the far side of the room and quickly sat down. Sunset wasn’t quite sure what this memory had to do with Wallflower’s sudden anxiety. It all seemed normal. Mundane. As soon as she wondered, however, it became clear why.
Three students walked by and, noticing Wallflower, began chattering amongst themselves.
“Can you believe this guy? A tranny trying to be something he’s not? He’s probably just biding his time before he tries to rape one of us. Disgusting,” one spat out.
“I know,” another bitchy girl agreed. “He doesn’t even look like a girl. Look at his scruffy face. He’s so creepy.”
“Who even is he?” the third one, a jock with rather unfortunate facial features asked.
Wallflower pretended not to hear, but Sunset could tell it cut her more deeply than a sword ever could. She put her head down on the table with her arms covering her face, and Sunset could hear quiet, bitter sniffles. Despite knowing better, Sunset went to comfort her, but before she could the memory changed.
The room morphed into another one of the halls of CHS. Once again, students shuffling along, and Sunset realized that among them was herself, laughing and chatting with her six friends. Wallflower was at her locker, alone. As usual. She looked different from the last memory. Older. Slender. More feminine. Longer hair, a more rounded face, and she had a slight change of wardrobe. She ditched the hoodie and just wore her simple brown striped shirt and jeans. She still clung to the walls and lockers, trying her best to avoid attention. As she scurried to class, one student Sunset didn’t recognize bumped into Wallflower.
“Oh I-I’m sorry,” Wallflower stammered, and it was then Sunset noticed there was something clutched in Wally’s hands. ‘The Memory Stone,’ she realized. She was already prepping it to erase the social blunder when the student interrupted.
“Hey wait a second, you look familiar.”
Wallflower stood still, looking like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming semi. She started babbling, saying he must be mistaken and that he never met him before today, but it was of no use. The guy’s eyes widened and he pointed at Wally.
“I do recognize you! You’re Walter, aren’t you? What the hell are you doin’, dressing up and talkin’ like a girl?” He had a smile on his face, though Sunset nor apparently Wallflower could tell if it was genuine or not.
Instead of answering him, Wallflower simply turned and ran away, fleeing into a janitor’s closet and slamming the door shut. Given that this wasn’t reality, Sunset simply phased through the door to observe her girlfriend. Her heart ached for her. She would have embraced her, tell her everything was going to be okay and that she had people who loved her for who she was, but she couldn’t. This was all in the past, and she was just along for this awful ride. She couldn’t imagine how Wally must have felt all this time. As selfish as it sounded, she was also hurt that Wallflower never told her about any of this. Wallflower began crying, hugging herself as she sat on the floor.
“Why? Why is it people almost never notice me, and when they do it’s just to mock me? What did I do to them?”
Wallflower looked at the stone, the gears in her head turning.
“What if… what if no one remembered me—the old me… Walter…” she spat out her old name as if it were venom. “Walter’s dead. Now Wallflower gets to bloom. Not like anyone would notice. Or care,” she added. She clutched the stone in her hands, and activated it. A blinding flash overwhelmed Sunset, and the memory ended.
Recovering from the effects of the geode, Sunset and Wallflower both looked at each other, not quite sure what to say to the other. Wallflower managed to recover first.
“Sunset, I’m so sorry you had to see that. You shouldn’t have had to see that. I’m sorry.” Wallflower cried, tears streaming down her beautiful emerald face as she embraced her girlfriend. Sunset hated seeing her face sullied like that.
“No! No, don’t you dare say you’re sorry! You have nothing to apologize for, Wallflower. I’m sorry. For never knowing about what you went through all that time. I’m a terrible girlfriend.” Sunset hugged her back, trying her best not to cry along with her Player Two.
Wallflower gently placed her hand on Sunset’s arm, silently beckoning her to look at her.
“Sunset, it’s okay. I should have told you all of this long ago. I was just ashamed. I was afraid of going back to that time, having to relive the strange looks and comments.” Wallflower looked her in the eye. “Do you wanna know the fucked up part?” Wallflower said, letting out a dry, joyless laugh. “I was almost glad no one noticed me from that point on. I could just be me for the first time in my life.” Sunset suddenly looked guilty. She hated herself for ripping open those wounds with her gentle touch. “But what you did was for the best!” Wally quickly amended. “I needed to confront those things. They weren't healthy, and keeping everything locked away in my mind for so long.”
“It’s just…” she continued, idly toying with her pinkie. “I worry sometimes. I know you think I’m pretty, and you love me for who I am, but it still worries me. And what if the people on your stream say anything, what if—“
Soft lips silenced Wallflower’s fears. Wallflower was caught off guard this time but soon returned it, leaning in to the kiss. Several moments passed and they finally separated. Wallflower blushed.
“You worry too much, love,” Sunset murmured. She began peppering Wallflower’s face with kisses, speaking in between each peck. “You’re the sweetest, kindest, funniest and most beautiful woman I know, Wallflower. Don’t you ever think otherwise.”
Wallflower nuzzled Sunset, humming softly in gratitude for her girlfriend’s kind reassurances.
Sunset nudged her, clearly wanting her attention again. “Don’t worry about tonight. You don’t have to join me if you aren’t feeling comfortable. There’s always next time.”
“No!” Wallflower said, a bit too sharply than she intended. Sunset pulled back a bit, her ears ringing. Controlling herself, she continued. “I can do this. I need to do this, to show my true self publicly. I’m tired of feeling like I’m not good enough, like I’m not a real woman. I am, and I shouldn’t be afraid to express myself.”
Sunset smiled. A gesture that was so genuine and happy as she embraced her girlfriend.
“I’m so, so proud of you, Wally,” she said softly into her ear. Letting go of her, she grabbed that damnable piece of electronic gear. “Just let me get this thing ready and we’ll begin. I’ll make a gamer girl out of you yet.”
Wallflower nodded and simply sat back, observing her work on the microphone.
About fifteen minutes later, Sunset finally got it working and it was time to begin. She sat back as the stream began, her monitor displaying the Shimmer Code logo and her social media handles. As it did so, she grabbed Wally’s hand and squeezed.
“It’s gonna be great, hun. You’ll see.” Wallflower smiled back at her. Sunset immediately went into “show mode,” perking up and facing the camera. She gave a small wave.
“Hey everyone, welcome back to the Shimmer Code! Tonight I have a very special guest, my awesome girlfriend Wallflower! Give her a warm welcome everybody…”
Several hours later, Sunset began wrapping up the stream. She gave an exhausted smile to the camera.
“Well, that’s it for tonight guys. Thanks a lot of coming, and thank you very much for welcoming Wally with open arms. She was really nervous about coming on and I’m glad you all made her feel welcome. See you next time!”
Sunset quickly ended the stream, putting away her headset and controller and powering off her console. She turned to look at Wallflower.
“So, did you have fun?” she asked, hoping the answer would be a resounding yes.
Wallflower nodded. Everyone welcomed her with welcome arms, so to speak. For the first time in her life since falling in love with Sunset, she felt like people actually cared about her.
“I did,” she said, beaming. “I’d love to make this a regular thing. If that’s okay, of course!”
Sunset could only kiss her again. And again and again. She could barely muster the will to stop.
“I’d love nothing more,” she replied.