The bell rang again, signaling that there was another customer to serve, and Dani found herself on auto-pilot for the twentieth time since starting her shift, “Hello! Welcome to The Mug, what can I get you?” She didn’t mind being able to turn her brain off, especially now that thinking about either roommate caused distress.
Simon won’t be mad. Isn’t that obvious? I’m just paranoid after what happened at home. Dani’s mind drifted from work. The memory was painful, but she had lost control of her train of thought.
A month before Dani moved in with Simon and Ryan, she had a traumatic fight with her family. Or at least her mother and father. Luckily, her younger brothers weren’t home when it happened. It began like one of the normal arguments that she would always have with her father.
“You have to finish school sooner or later,” her father would yell.
At least he isn’t complaining about my hair again, she thought. “Dad, I will! I just want to make sure I know what I’m doing with my life!” Usually after responding to her father, she would storm upstairs to her room, but that day was different.
He grabbed her arm and turned her to face him. “How long are you going to say that?” His eyes were warped by anger in a way Dani had never seen.
She shook free from him, “let go of me! It will take as long as it takes, okay? Let me go upstairs.” Her dad had blocked her exit path.
“No. Go sit down. Wait for me and your mother,” he said, pointing to the couch. “We are going to make a plan for you, or you’re done living here.” He walked upstairs, disappearing.
Dani could tell he wasn’t bluffing. He had threatened to kick her out before, but she knew he was down to the last of his empty threats. “Okay. Alright, fine. But don’t freak out when you don’t like what I say…” She glared at him and walked to the couch. With a deep breath, she sat down and awaited her mother and father’s return.
“Excuse me, miss? Could I get an extra straw?” The voice broke Dani from her daydream.
Oh, right. I’m working. She thought before looking around at who had asked for the straw. It was a middle-aged woman that must have been served by a coworker, because Dani didn’t remember seeing her before. Why is she looking at me? Dani looked around for the peer that the customer was obviously talking about.
“Miss? Please, mine fell on the floor.” The customer was staring directly into Dani’s eyes. There was no mistaking that she was referring to her.
Oh my god! Dani thought. She thinks...Wow! I pass? As a woman? She had not told anyone at work about her transition, and while she didn’t try to look masculine at all, she was too scared to present feminine at work. Her hair was pulled back, but she hadn’t worn make-up in public once, and her name tag still said “Daniel.” But despite all of that, this woman was here, seeing Dani for what she was. Thank you, hormones!
Dani grabbed a straw and handed it to the customer, “Sorry, here you are!”
“Oh, er...Sorry, sir. I must have misread your name.” The customer looked embarrassed, and slinked away to her table.
Damn, well at least part of me passes. Dani’s progress with vocal training had come a long way, but she still had no confidence to use the voice at work. Some day… She thought, before shaking it off and focusing on work for the rest of her shift.
“Simon, this past month has been so much fun.” Rachel said with a grin. She was sitting across from him at the table. They had decided to have a quiet dinner in her studio apartment to celebrate their month of dating. Or rather, Rachel decided and Simon went along with it, not caring enough to offer any ideas of his own.
“Yeah.” Simon’s words agreed, but his body was slouched, and he had spent the past five minutes stabbing a piece of broccoli with his fork. This did not go unnoticed by Rachel.
“Was work fun? Did you have to break up any fights?” Rachel asked.
“No, yeah, work was great. Everyone got along.” Simon responded without changing his posture, eyes still locked on to his plate.
“Well then what’s wrong?” Rachel set down her fork, and the clank drew Simon’s attention to her for the first time all night. “Are you mad at me?”
Wow, I need to get my head back into this, Simon thought. I’ll just explain that we aren’t going to work. She can do way better than me, and I...well, I’ll be fine. He cleared his throat to speak, finally responding, “No, not at all! You’ve been so great. I just...I think that-”
Rachel held up her hand, interrupting Simon. “Wait, you don’t have to explain,” she said. “I get it.”
Simon felt the tension inside of him start to die down. “Yeah? Seriously?” He asked.
“Yup. I’m nervous, too!” Rachel said.
Simon tilted his head to the side, and squinted his eyes. “Uh, nervous?”
“Yeah, and you don’t need to be embarrassed about your age. I’m a virgin, too, and I think it’s actually cool that you’ve waited this long.” Rachel reached her hand across the table, grabbed Simon’s away from his fork.
Uhh, what? Why does she think I’m a virgin? Simon thought to himself, as flashbacks of Ryan yelling “virgin!” at him as a default insult through the whole summer. Oh no. She really thinks…
Rachel continued with her speech. “I don’t want you to feel like anything has to happen tonight. There’s no rush.” Rachel squeezed Simon’s hand, and gave him a bright smile.
Well this would be really sweet if I actually was a virgin, Simon thought. And if I wasn’t about to break up with her two seconds ago. Simon wasn’t sure how to continue with his plan. He stammered for a bit, “Uh, well, see, I don’t want you to be held back by me, and-”
“Held back?” Rachel looked shocked. “Simon, not at all! I can wait as long as you need. It doesn’t matter when, as long as it’s together.”
Simon smiled back at her. God dammit.