It always struck me how Maggie says she lived with “an aunt” for three years rather than “my aunt”. Maggie’s aunt took her in because yes, kicking her out was a harsh move on her parents’ part, and yes, no child should have to live on the street, and Maggie’s always been a good girl even if she is…that way. But will she put up with that nonsense in her house? Hell no.
So their relationship is very conditional. Her aunt takes care of her, cooks her favourite meals when she misses home, tends to her grazes when she gets beat up at school. She loves her. But she doesn’t accept her. Every night she prays for her, every other week she asks if Maggie’s met any nice boys at soccer, and when Maggie wears baseball caps at the table, she tugs them off her head and groans, “Ay, mija, te ves como un chico”.
But Maggie’s desperate, and she’s grateful, so she toes the line, studying every night until she falls asleep at the kitchen table. She gets a partial scholarship to college, gets in early at 17, and it’s there that she meets the first openly queer people she’s ever seen in her life. The first time a girl kisses her, in the dark at a movie, she cries because this is wrong, I’m wrong, yet she’s never felt anything come so naturally to her, and her heart flutters without permission, and when Holly’s thumb grazes her cheek, something inside her finally unclenches its fists.
She starts sleeping over in Holly’s dorm and, naturally, starts borrowing her clothes. She’s never had the freedom to experiment with her style, living on cousins’ hand me downs and already walking Blue Springs with a target on her back. At first she only wears Holly’s red flannel to bed - never out - because what if somebody hurts her again, what if this time she doesn’t make it out alive. And while Maggie thinks Holly looks cute as hell with that shirt tied around her waist, a lifetime of racism tells her only pretty blonde white girls can pull off that look anyway, that she could never rock it even if she tried.
But eventually, Maggie gets the courage to wear it to thanksgiving dinner at the campus LGBT centre, clenching Holly’s hand the whole way there. Soon after, Holly catches her toying with an old hat in her room and buys Maggie her first snapback for Christmas, complete with a National City Giants logo in honour of the city she wants to work in someday. It takes a while for Maggie to get used to wearing it, but once she does, slipping it over her head feels as warm and empowering and terrifying as Holly holding her hand.
Years later, Alex comes across an old hiking photo of Maggie and another friend, and laughs “Oh my God.”
Maggie groans, blushes. “Give me a break, it was college.”
“No, it’s adorable. You were such a cute baby gay.”
And Maggie can’t help but smile a little. Because yeah, she’s outgrown the snapbacks and found better fitting flannels, but she’ll never forget those years experimenting with how she presented herself, figuring out who she was. How throwing on a snapback made her feel brave on days she felt she didn’t have the strength to be brave. How she’d notice a girl in similar clothes on campus and give her a knowing smile that said ‘I see you’.
“Yeah,” she chuckles, smiling down on the photo in Alex’s hands, feeling a swell of pride for her younger self as intense as pain. “Yeah, I guess I was.”
“Ah, Arya. You have a wildness in you, child. ‘The wolf blood,’ my father used to call it. Lyanna had a touch of it, and my brother Brandon more than a touch. It brought them both to an early grave.” Arya heard sadness in his voice; he did not often speak of his father, or of the brother and sister who had died before she was born.