Little Happy Secrets

By Melissa Leilani Larson

CLAIRE: When December rolled around I was sick to death of Provo. Of the valley, of the pollution, of stupid California drivers, and the fact that you can’t buy a Coke on campus that has caffeine in it. Don’t people realize that there is actually a difference in taste between the red can and the gold can? I was looking forward to going home like you wouldn’t believe, just for the change of scenery. But aside from my four-month-old niece, nothing at home felt different, other than the fact that I couldn’t see Brennan on a daily basis. I was walking under water; I could see everyone, and they could see me. But reaching out to them was so hard, like there was something between us at every step, at every juncture. Somehow I smiled and laughed with everyone else, but all the while I was thinking about Bren. She and Carter were planning to visit both sets of parents over Christmas break, and that usually means a certain something is going to happen. Just a matter of time, right?

My sister was never someone I confided in, not really. I mean, she’s three years younger, and growing up our conversations involved ear-shattering decibels and usually some kicking. But I figured if I told Natalie, the freak-out level would be so much lower than with Mom or Dad. I mean, since the one person in the world I would normally tell was the object of my—um, obsession? Affection? Never mind.

One morning, around six-thirty, I go downstairs to the kitchen.

(NATALIE is there with a baby in her arms.)

NATALIE: You’re up early.

CLAIRE: Force of habit. What about you?

NATALIE: Can’t say no to Grace.

CLAIRE: She’s lovely.

NATALIE: Isn’t she? Here, take her.


NATALIE: Of course. Look out, she likes hair, playing with it and chewing on it and pulling it out.

CLAIRE: …Hey, Nat, can I ask you something? It’s going to sound cheesy and stupid—

NATALIE: What is it?

CLAIRE: How did you know, about Tom? That he was—the one?

NATALIE: You’re right, that is cheesy.

CLAIRE: Was it something about him, or what?

NATALIE: He snores. I never thought I could marry a man who snores. Thing is, he sleeps so well. He’s got one hand kind of flopped over, and his mouth is open just a little. Looks kinda like a puppy.

CLAIRE: What about before? Before you were married or engaged, even. I mean, how did you know you wanted to date him?

NATALIE: Why? Is there someone? Someone you’re thinking about?

CLAIRE: …You could say that.

NATALIE: That was a heavy sigh. Is he hot?

CLAIRE: Um. I don’t know.

NATALIE: You don’t know if he’s hot?

CLAIRE: Deep breath. This is a time for Gutsy Me. Be gutsy, screw the thoughtful.

I think I’m in love with someone that I shouldn’t be.

NATALIE: Really. Who? Cardinal rule: never date your roommate’s ex. Someone else’s boyfriend?

CLAIRE: She’s enjoying this. She’s actually—she tries to joke about it.

NATALIE: It’s not someone’s husband, is it?

CLAIRE: Natalie, no.

NATALIE: Then who? You’re either attracted to someone or you’re not. It’s really not that complicated.

CLAIRE: I think—I don’t know.

NATALIE: How can you not know? Look, are you going to tell me or—

CLAIRE: It’s—it’s a her. It’s Brennan.

CLAIRE: She just looks at me, and I look down to find Grace staring up at me. Those little eyes…

NATALIE: You don’t know that. I mean, you’re not—

CLAIRE: I think I am—


CLAIRE: Tell me what to do. I don’t know what to do.

NATALIE: Don’t you mean, what you shouldn’t do?

CLAIRE: Um, the baby is—

NATALIE: Is she—?

CLAIRE: I don’t know, she just started—

NATALIE: Here, give her to me.


NATALIE: Have you said anything to Mom or Dad?


NATALIE: Good. Don’t. I mean— I have to—

CLAIRE: And she’s gone. We manage to avoid each other for almost two days. Not that I’m trying too hard to be found, or that we were ever super close in the first place. When she’s ready, Natalie finds me at the piano.

(CLAIRE picks out a few notes from “Angels We Have Heard on High.” NATALIE joins CLAIRE: They play together, but the song quickly disintegrates into barely recognizable chords and the sisters share a laugh.)

NATALIE: When was the last time you went out? With a guy?

CLAIRE: Freshman year. I went dutch to dinner and a movie with McKay Swim. We worked the same shift at the Bookstore.

NATALIE: So you were dating.

CLAIRE: McKay? Um, no. He told me I wasn’t the kind of girl he’d marry.

NATALIE: He said that? After one date?

CLAIRE: BYU is a weird place.

NATALIE: Yeah, it can. And that was your freshman year.

CLAIRE: Five years ago.

NATALIE: That was your last date?

CLAIRE: Yes. So I’m a social reject. What’s your point?

NATALIE: Why haven’t you asked guys out? You need to be assertive. Put yourself out there and someone will—

CLAIRE: This is me, Nat. When have I ever put myself out anywhere? I would much rather stay in, thank you very much.

NATALIE: Look where it’s got you.

CLAIRE: I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t wake up one morning and pray, “Father in Heaven, please make me gay.”

NATALIE: Is that supposed to be funny?

CLAIRE: Would you rather it were true?

NATALIE: Maybe you just haven’t met the right guy. I mean, you and Brennan have always been close. You’ve spent so much time together that it’s not really a surprise that you’ve formed, um—an attachment.

CLAIRE: You sound like a page out of Jane Austen, minus the gentility.

NATALIE: What does that even mean?

CLAIRE: It doesn’t matter. The point is, I haven’t even thought about guys in a long time. I haven’t thought of them as hot or cool or even— I just haven’t.

NATALIE: There has to be something you’re doing wrong.

CLAIRE: What? Tell me, what? I’m not a bad person, am I? I study and I pray, I try to go to the temple every week. I do my visiting teaching, I fast, I pay my tithing. I served an honorable mission. I believe in everything I’ve always believed in. I just—feel differently.

NATALIE: So, Brennan… Have you thought about—kissing her?



CLAIRE: Thinking or kissing?

NATALIE: Never mind.

CLAIRE: This doesn’t make me— This isn’t a sin, all right? To love someone…

NATALIE: You’ll find the right guy.

CLAIRE: Who is going to marry me?

NATALIE: Someone. You’re so smart, and talented. You’re beautiful—

CLAIRE: It’s not the same. You’re my sister. It’s different when you or Mom or Dad says it. Or Bishop Gates, even. It’s never a guy, on a date or whatever, telling me because he likes me or, Heaven forbid, loves me.


CLAIRE: Never. I’ve never had a serious relationship with a guy, Nat. I’ve gone out with a few, but only once or twice.

NATALIE: …So because guys don’t ask you out, you think you’re a lesbian.

CLAIRE: I hadn’t thought of it in exactly those terms, and suddenly it all seemed foolish, and fake, that I was putting it on myself, like I was changing coats despite the summer heat. Did I make it all up? Have I simply spent so much time with Bren that I can’t imagine spending time with anyone else? Maybe I just—like her so much that I always want to be in the same room with her. Was I just jealous that she and Carter had each other while I was destined for an eternity of third-wheel-ness?

Brennan called. On Christmas Eve, from her Mom’s house in Mesa. Hearing her voice was really— Wow.

BRENNAN: Hi. How’s Oregon?

CLAIRE: Fine. Arizona?

BRENNAN: Gorgeous. Seventy degrees and holding.

CLAIRE: Oh, don’t tell me that.

BRENNAN: Can I tell you something else instead?

CLAIRE: Deep breath, here it comes.

BRENNAN: Carter’s asked me to marry him.

CLAIRE: If you couldn’t tell, Christmas was kind of a disaster.

BRENNAN: It’s cliché, I know, but I so want to get married in June.

CLAIRE: Was she in love with him? I hadn’t known what I was going to major in after a year and a half. Could she know after four short months that this was the man with whom she was meant to spend eternity?

BRENNAN: Claire, you’re my best friend. Be my maid of honor. Please? …Claire?

CLAIRE: …Sorry, I think my cell is— It’s snowing and— I’d love to. Of course I will.

I’m a terrible person, I’m a liar, I lied. The last thing in the world I wanted was to be a bridesmaid. But I knew she wanted me to say yes, so I said yes.

About Melissa Leilani Larson

Melissa Leilani Larson’s plays include THE EDIBLE COMPLEX (seen by 15,000 children in 40+ Utah schools), PILOT PROGRAM (Plan-B Theatre), LITTLE HAPPY SECRETS (Salt Lake Acting Company Fearless Fringe), MARTYRS’ CROSSING (Edinburgh Fringe), and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (Miami University Ohio; first commissioned by Brigham Young University), among others. FREETOWN won the 2015 Ghana Movie Award for Best Screenplay and the Utah Film Award for Best Picture. Mel's current work-in-progress, SWEETHEART COME, was a 2016 O’Neill National Playwrights Conference semi-finalist. Mel is the Dramatists Guild Ambassador for Utah, a member of the Plan-B Playwrights Lab, and a 3-time Association for Mormon Letters Drama Award winner. She holds a BA in English from BYU and an MFA from the Iowa Playwrights Workshop.

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