21. (Un)likely Outcome
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“Coming!” Sarah called out, rushing down the stairs to get the door. Someone had rung the bell, and her mom hadn’t come home from work yet, and so the task of answering the door went to her.

Pulling it open, the pleasant smile she’d been wearing quickly evaporated once she took in the person on the other side of the threshold.

Erin had seen better days. Her eyes were red, she was wearing ill-fitting clothes, and she bore the most miserable expression Sarah had ever seen. A few stray tears were running down her cheeks, and it looked like she was holding back sobs, one arm hugging her midsection and the other holding her backpack tightly. She was also breathing heavily, as if she’d been running for a few minutes.

Snapping herself out of her stupor, Sarah acted on instinct and wrapped up Erin into a tight hug. That seemed to be the last straw for her friend, as she broke down into fresh tears, quietly sobbing into Sarah’s shoulder.

Sarah pulled her friend inside the house without breaking the hug and did her best to close the door while leading Erin towards the living room. Once she’d taken Erin’s bag off and set it to the side, they sat down on the couch together, Sarah doing her best to console her friend, rocking her back and forth while gently rubbing her back with one hand.

“I-I can’t-“ Erin tried to articulate between her sobs, unsuccessfully.

“Shh, it’s alright, take your time,” Sarah said, her voice calm and comforting. “I’m here, it’s going to be okay.”

As she was doing her best to soothe her friend, Sara’s puzzled mind was doing its best to figure out what was going on. Something had obviously happened, and she was preemptively putting the blame on either Becker or Erin’s parents. She was pretty sure Erin didn’t have any other friend she didn’t know of, and the list of suspects was thus pretty slim. Of course, a total stranger could have done something to upset her friend, but that wasn’t as likely. Seeing her friend in such a state made her heart ache, and she wanted nothing more than to know who was responsible for it.

It took a few minutes for Erin to regain control of her emotions. She’d stopped sobbing, and only the occasional sniffle could be heard. Taking a deep breath, she tried putting some order back into her mind, before opening her mouth and telling everything to Sarah.

There actually wasn’t much to say, but what Erin related was enough to make Sarah’s blood boil. By the end of her story, Erin had once again broken into tears and was shaking lightly, which didn’t help Sarah’s mood at all. Seeing her friend like that brought both empathy and anger to her mind.

“I’m so, so sorry, Erin,” Sarah began, her voice pained. “I promise we’ll think of something. At the very least you can stay here, I’m sure mom won’t mind.”

“Thank you,” Erin replied in a small voice, pulling back a bit so she could try to smile at her friend. It was obvious to Sarah her friend was anything but fine, but seeing her try to smile was enough to momentarily quench the anger in her heart. She smiled back, putting as much warmth into it as she could.

“I’m going to get you something to drink, okay? You must be thirsty. Stay on the couch, I’ll be right back,” Sarah said, slowly unentangling herself from her friend and making her way to the kitchen.

Grabbing an empty glass, Sarah realized she hadn’t even asked her friend what she wanted to drink. Shrugging, she decided water would do for now. She placed the glass under the tap, turned it on, and started thinking again as it was filling up.

Now that her mind had cleared a bit, she could see how complicated their situation had just become. Erin didn’t have an identity, and she was sure her mom wouldn’t just accept that her parents had kicked her out of the house. She would try to contact them, to do something, and would discover nobody knew who “Erin” was.

She would also recognize something was up if she decided to contact their school to let them know she was Erin’s guardian for the foreseeable future. They wouldn’t know who Erin was either, and let her know as much.

Sarah was snapped out of her thoughts by the last sound she wanted to hear. Outside, a motor was rumbling, progressively getting closer to the house. Snapping her head towards the window, Sarah rushed towards it and saw her mom’s brand new car approaching. Crap. Guess she’d better think of something very quickly.

Idly grabbing the glass of water from the sink, Sarah hurried back towards the living room. As she made her way into the room, she quickly noticed Erin wasn’t sitting down on the couch anymore, but was looking out through the windows, her two hands loosely grabbing its edge. As she heard Erin come back, she turned her head, apprehension and fear written all over her face.

Sarah gave her what she hoped was a reassuring smile before holding out the glass of water for her. As much as she was trying to project an aura of confidence for her friend’s sake, she couldn’t for the life of her think of anything to explain Erin’s situation to her mom.

- - -

The front door opened only moments later, revealing Lisa Ritter, Sarah’s mom. She was wearing a heavy coat and carrying grocery bags with her. Before she even had the time to fully enter her home, her eyes darted towards her daughter and her friend, and she paused mid step.

“Sarah? And Erin, dear, are you alright?” She asked with concern, worried about Erin’s disheveled state.

Discarding her bags, she made her way to both teens. Erin was looking away, shame, or possibly guilt, on her face. Her daughter, on the other hand, was staring at her, with a bit of worry in her eyes.

“What happened?” She asked with the same concern as before.

Sarah opened her mouth and closed it, seemingly unsure of what to say, before she finally steeled herself. “Erin got kicked out of her house,” She simply answered, putting an arm around her friend.

Sarah’s mother stayed silent at that, unsure how to respond. After a moment, she decided the best course of action would be to make sure her guest was alright.

“I’m sorry this happened to you, hun, you can of course stay here for as long as you need,” she said, embracing Erin in a hug.

“We can talk about what happened in a moment, I just need to get these groceries inside. Go have a seat on the couch, Erin, Sarah and I will take care of it” She said reassuringly, and walked back where she’d left her bags on the ground.

Erin wanted to protest, to say that she was fine and wanted to help, but a single stern look from Sarah’s mother was enough for the words to die in her throat. As she sat down on the couch, Sarah hurried outside towards the car and starting pulling bags out of the car’s trunk.

Once the groceries were taken care of, Sarah found herself sitting down next to Erin, both of them facing her mom who was sitting across of them, on the other couch. She’d also taken the time to make everyone hot chocolates, as “serving water to guests in such cold weather isn’t appropriate”, which had prompted an inconspicuous eyeroll from her daughter and tiny laugh out of Erin.

“Now, what exactly happened, both of you? Why were you kicked out, Erin?” She asked softly, doing her best to not make this sound like an interrogation.

“I’m not sure if they actually kicked me out,” Erin replied in a tiny voice, looking away. “I’ve been going out more and more, staying with friends and doing stuff, and they really didn’t like it. They said I was supposed to study more, even though my grades are pretty good. Not long ago I finally snapped and screamed that I’d had enough, and I think it really shocked them. Then today, when I arrived home, my car was missing and my room was empty. There was just my bed and wardrobe left. They took everything I owned and I don’t know what they did with it. I didn’t know what to do so I ran away,” she laughed sadly, her voice wavering. “Just because I wasn’t cooped up in the house like I used to. Knowing them, they probably think I’m doing drugs and going to become homeless or something like that.”

“That’s not it though,” Sarah chimed in abruptly. “They’ve been treating her horribly before that, they-“

“Alright, calm down Sarah, I believe you two.” Lisa Ritter said, pausing to think about what she’d just learned. “Unfortunately, Erin is still a minor, so I’ll have to call your parents and tell them you’re staying with us,” Sarah’s mother said apologetically, eyes shining with sympathy.

“Do you really have to? What if they refuse to let her stay?” Sarah pleaded.

“I’m sorry girls, but I have to call them. They might contact the police and report Erin as missing otherwise. As for convincing them, leave that to me, I don’t think it’s going to be a problem,” she winked.

Sarah looked helplessly at Erin and saw her staring at the ground, pensive. Her mother was right, they had to contact Erin’s parents, which left both of them trapped in a very complex situation. Try as she might, Sarah couldn’t find any way to get out of the impasse they’d corned themselves into.

While Sarah was desperately looking for an excuse, Erin took a deep breath and looked at her friend’s mother, apprehensive. She opened her mouth a few times, before finally gathering the courage to speak up.

“If you’re going to call them, we…I have to tell you something,” she said, a tremor in her voice.

“What is it, dear?” Sarah’s mother asked, now even more concerned.

“I’m transgender,” Erin said quickly, flinching a bit and starting to speak again before she could be interrupted. “My parents don’t know, though, so you can’t call me Erin when you’re talking to them.”

“You’re…Oh,” Miss Ritter stammered. “Well, that explains your clothes. I shouldn’t have said that I’m sorry. I’m so sorry Erin, I didn’t mean to force you to come out like that,” She said, tumbling over her words with a surprised yet sad expression on her face.

“It’s fine, you couldn’t have known,” Erin smiled timidly. “My legal name is Ryan.”

“Alright, I’ll call them and let them know you’re staying with us,” she said, quickly regaining her composure. “Sarah, why don’t you go and help Erin settle down while I’m doing that?”

Once Erin had given one of her parents’ phone numbers to Sarah’s mom, Sarah, who had incredulously watched the whole conversation unfold, snapped out of her shock and led her friend upstairs.

 With both teens safely behind the closed door of Sarah’s room, Sarah let out a sigh of relief and let herself fall on her bed.

“That went so badly,” she moaned, covering her eyes with her hands.

“It could have been way worse,” Erin countered, sitting down next to Sarah. “I just feel guilty about lying to your mom, she’s super nice.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean, hiding magical powers is exhausting,” Sarah complained. “I can’t imagine how you’ve been doing it for all these years.”

“You get used to it, but I was talking about the trans thing,” Erin said idly.

“What do you mean?” Sarah sat up, looking at Erin questioningly.

“Telling her that I’m transgender when I’m not. I wish we could just tell her what’s actually going on.”

“Are you serious?” Sarah asked in a tired voice, staring at her friend.

“What?”

“No, never mind, I should have seen this coming,” Sarah said, a mix of a groan and sigh escaping her mouth. “We really need to talk about some stuff at some point, though, this is getting ridiculous. Now come on, let’s go get whatever you need. Did you bring a toothbrush?”

Erin was a bit confused by her friend’s exasperation, but decided to let it slide for now. Standing up, the two teenagers left the room and gathered everything Erin would need to comfortably stay the night, and most likely for the foreseeable future.

Once they were done, Sarah’s mom greeted both of them with a pleased smile as she told them Erin’s parents had agreed to let her stay for now. Erin was baffled and very curious to know how she’d managed to convince them, but all she received as an answer was an enigmatic smile and a wink.

No matter how she did it, Erin remained impressed. In her experience, convincing her parents of doing something they didn’t want to do was nigh impossible. They obviously always knew better than anyone else. Still, Erin was just glad she didn’t have to go back, and she wanted nothing more than to forget about the day’s incident, even if only for a little while. The memory of her nearly empty bedroom still sent shivers down her spine. She didn’t even want to imagine what living in there would have been like.

Smiling, Erin joined Sarah on the couch. She felt very lucky to have her as her friend.

Announcement
From now on, chapters will be posted a week in advance on Patreon, a big thank you to the people who pledged!

Also I made a Discord server, if people are interested, so you can come and talk about stuff. We'll see how it goes!

The coming chapters should be really interesting. I'm really excited, things have been steadily accelerating and now we're hitting all the big turning points that have been stuck in my head for months. Hope you enjoyed this chapter, and thank you for reading!

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