A chance encounter at a lesbian bar gets Maya closer to her college crush, Layla, who is an exciting, charismatic leader of a lesbian activist group. Maya falls hard for Layla, but soon discovers she's at the forefront of a dark underground political subculture.
At the same time, Maya begins to develop feelings for her coworker, activist civil rights lawyer Melanie. When the group takes political activism into violence, Maya must make the choice between her past and her present, between right and wrong, and between her heart and her head.
“Maya,” he says. “This is our newest addition to the firm, and my good friend from law school, Melanie Rodriguez. Melanie, this is Merri’s assistant, Maya Dorian.”
I stand to shake Melanie’s hand over the cubicle wall. She’s got a firm grip and sincere smile as she greets me, and I notice her ocean-blue eyes glancing down at my rainbow bracelet. She raises an eyebrow and nods slightly, acknowledging. I nod back. It’s one of the tells. “Yes, I am,” we are both saying without saying.
“Very nice to meet you, Maya. Merri and Josh have both told me wonderful things about you.”
“Nice to meet you, too,” I reply, my voice nearly an octave higher than Josh has ever heard it.
I take a deep breath and try to keep myself from blushing.
“Mel was in her last year at Brooklyn Law when I was in my first,” Josh continues. “She used to help me study. She graduated third in her class.”
“You’re too kind, Joshy,” Melanie grins, bowing her head modestly.
“You’re the only reason I got through Property Protection,” Josh fires back.
He turns back to me.
“Mel moved off to Chicago after she graduated to work at a big-time firm. She won the civil suit for that gay hate crime case that was all over the news last year, the one with those two boys. Remember that?”
Of course I remember; no matter how far away these things are, they always buzz through the community like wildfire and become the talk of the gay bars, as these stories hit just a little too close to home. It could be any of us at any time, and we all know it. Two seventeen-year-old boys in a park, beaten and shot, all because they were holding hands. The defendant got life without parole for two counts of murder, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, and two counts of hate crime. The news headlines blazed about the whole thing, lauding the team of lawyers. Not only is the guy rotting in prison, but he was a very rich man, and the civil suit that was found in favor of the boys’ families was enough to start a major foundation in the boys’ names. The Michael and James Foundation now provides support for LGBTQ victims of hate crimes, and their families.
“No kidding, that was you?” I say before I can stop myself. “I didn’t know I was in the presence of a celebrity.”
And the truth is, I can’t help being just a little star-struck. I am suddenly a different person -- a side of me is showing that Josh and the rest of my co-workers never see. I am awake, alive, alert; three things that Buddhism mandates we be at all times, even during the most menial of tasks. Try as I might, I haven’t been able to be all three of these things at the same time at work, until now, given the extenuating circumstances. I’m even getting ahead of myself, feeling my cheeks get hot as Melanie tosses her head back and laughs heartily, before shooting me a smoldering look. Josh smiles and raises his eyebrows at me.
“That was me,” she confirms in a throaty alto. “But both of you are making me out to be way more impressive than I actually am. It wasn’t just me -- I had a great team, and a badass paralegal.”
I’ve learned everything I need to know about Melanie to know I’m attracted: she’s smart, ambitious, successful, confident, and gorgeous. Just my type, too -- smart, powerful butches get me going in a way no one else can.