Dani and Simon stood on the damp sidewalk as they watched traffic flow through the intersection. It must have rained earlier, Dani thought, although she hadn’t noticed it while they ate. Works for me. She stuffed her hands into her hoodie pocket and appreciated that the layer of overcast was saving her from the late-summer sun. The cars finally came to a stop, which allowed them and a few others to cross over to the park.
The group dispersed, with Dani and Simon lagging behind. There was a main path at the entrance that split into many different walkways, allowing the pair to find a route with few others along it. Once it seemed everyone was out of earshot, they resumed their discussion.
“So, what is it like?” Simon asked. “You know, to switch your hormones around?”
“Well to be honest with you, it’s pretty hard to explain,” Dani said. She turned her head down toward the sidewalk as she tried to piece together a good answer. “Okay, well to start, there have only been a couple big changes. It’s more like a million small things changing in tiny, subtle ways.”
Simon nodded, and looked eager to keep listening.
“Out of the big changes, though, the first thing I noticed was this kind of mental relief,” Dani said. “It’s as if I was wearing a pair of shoes that was too small, but I didn’t know it. So after a while my feet started to hurt, and I had no clue why. Eventually, I got used to being uncomfortable and just accepted it. But then, at the end of the day, I took off the shoes and realized how uncomfortable I was the whole time, and that it didn’t have to be like that.” Dani took a deep breath. She couldn’t tell if Simon understood what she was saying at all. “It’s like that, but instead of shoes it’s complex sex hormones, and instead of lasting a day, it was my entire life.”
“Wow,” Simon said. “That sounds terrible. I can’t believe you had to deal with that all along.”
“Hey, it’s not like it’s your fault. Besides, us hanging out was always a nice distraction from it.” She smiled at her friend.
They passed by a drinking fountain, and Dani held up a finger.
“Oh, hold up a sec’,” She said. “It’s getting kinda hot out.” She jogged over to the fountain and began to drink.
Simon laughed. “Maybe stop wearing a hoodie all the time? That might help with the heat.”
Dani lifted her head from the water stream, and wiped her mouth. “Yeah, uhh, the deal with that is…” How do I say this without sounding like a weirdo? She thought. “Remember how I was talking about ‘big changes’ with hormones?”
Simon looked confused for a second, but it wasn’t long before a look of realization popped up on his face. “Oh!” He shouted, perhaps louder than he meant to.
Dani noticed a quick look at her body from Simon, and wasn’t sure how to feel about it. “Yeah,” she said. “Good thing it’s almost Fall, right?”
Simon still looked a bit bewildered. “Uh, yeah. For sure.” His face finally returned to normal, and the two started walking again. “Oh, wait! That’s why you wouldn’t swim all summer!”
“Yup,” Dani said. “It was actually torture watching how often you guys went to the beach.”
“You know Ryan. His main motivation for going to the gym is how he looks without a shirt.”
The two shared a laugh, and Dani actively suppressed a slight blush. Simon was still under the impression that she was asexual, and she didn’t have the energy to ‘come out of the closet’ twice in one day. She mentally chuckled at the thought of coming out as straight. What a world.
“Speaking of Ryan,” Simon said. “Are you planning on telling him? Or like...I mean he might notice if I start referring to you as ‘she,’ you know?”
Dani sighed. “I know. But you know him better than I do. Would he even be cool with it?”
“Well he might not know anything about the topic, but he wouldn’t get mad or anything. Ryan really did become a different person after he moved out. He’s not the bigot he was in high school.”
“Okay. I’ll tell him soon. But could you not say anything that would out me before I do?” Dani’s eyes pleaded with Simon.
Simon smiled. “For sure. It’s your life, and your secret to tell.”
Dani would have thanked her friend, but instead felt a weak tug at her sleeve. She spun around, scared that someone was going to try and hurt her. Instead, she found a very young boy standing behind her.
“Miss? Can you help me?” he said. He looked terrified, and his voice was sniffly. “I don’t know where my mommy went.”
Simon had turned around at this point, and knelt down to speak with him. “Hey, it’s okay buddy, where did you see her last?”
Dani was frozen. Okay, so he called me miss. But that was when he saw me from behind. Maybe he realizes now?
The kid was explaining to Simon what happened while Dani panicked. Something about running to catch a bug and then getting lost. His speech became less coherent as he talked, and tears started to take over. Then it was Simon’s turn to panic.
“Hey, woah! Listen, we’re gonna find your mom! Just, uh,” He looked up at Dani and threw up his hands in utter confusion.
Dani took a deep breath. Alright, I wanted real life practice, and now’s my chance. She adjusted her throat, taking into account everything she had been training for the last few months. She knelt down next to Simon and put her hand on the lost kid’s shoulder.
“Hey, hey hey hey, don’t worry, it’s gonna be alright,” she said. But not in her usual voice. Simon quickly turned to look at her. She was using her ‘girl voice’ that she had worked on all summer. All her missed beach days were being put to use, finally.
The child’s crying slowed a bit, and shifted to just a rapid series of sniffles.
“Your mom is looking for you, too, okay?” She continued, happy with how she sounded. “So how about you grab my hand and we find her.”
The kid nodded and held on to her hand. “Okay,” he managed to say.
As Dani stood up, she noticed Simon kept looking at her with a slightly confused look. But there was something else on his face. Maybe he was impressed? I did stop the kid from crying after Simon set him off, Dani thought. She knew it was probably that he just wasn’t used to her sounding like that, but that didn’t really let her know if she was pulling it off or not. For all she knew, he just heard a funny voice and was looking because of that.
She shook her head. Right now, we have to help this kid. Then I can be insecure all I want.
Even though the child was crying while trying to explain what happened earlier, Simon was surprisingly able to understand what he had said. There was a part of the park with a dense patch of trees, and he had been playing in it when he lost sight of his mom. Dani didn’t want to move from where they were, not knowing if that was technically kidnapping or not, so she sent Simon to go scout. Within a few minutes, Simon showed up with the kid’s mother.
“Oh my God, thank you two so much!” She said as Dani let go of the child’s hand and his mother took it. She looked sternly at him. “What did I say about running around by the trees?” Her son didn’t seem to care, and just hugged her leg. She smiled and looked at Dani. “Honestly, thank you. I was a minute away from calling the police when your boyfriend found me and told me what happened. Sorry if he bothered you too much!”
“Oh, uh, I mean,” Dani was going to explain that Simon was not, in fact, her boyfriend, when he interrupted her.
“He wasn’t a bother, we’re just glad we found you as fast as we did,” he said.
“Yeah,” Dani was finally able to form words. “He was very polite, actually!” He’s just going to let the comment slide. No harm, I guess? I’m sure we’ll never see her again.
The woman looked down at her kid, and patted his head. “Alright, we need to get home, now, right kiddo?” She looked back at Simon and Dani as she began to leave. “Thank you, again! Enjoy your walk!”
They waved back before turning their attention to each other.
“Boyfriend, huh?” Dani said playfully. She knew Simon was dating this girl named Rachel, and had seen her a few times around the apartment. Before she moved in, Dani thought Simon didn’t like Rachel, but he seemed crazy about her now, so she was happy for him. But that wouldn’t stop her from ribbing him a bit.
“I just figured it would be a hassle to correct her,” he said. “And what about your new voice? How did you do that?”
“Practice. Like, hours and hours of practice,” she said. And a good amount of crying and despair.
“Well it definitely paid off.”
“Thanks. I didn’t actually know if anyone would buy it.”
Simon opened his mouth to speak, but instead looked up. “Oh, nice. The rain is coming back.”
Sure enough, a drizzle was building in the park, and Dani looked around to see people gathering under trees and some of the pavilions. “Ugh, we need to get back to the car,” Dani said once she remembered they were parked at the diner, still.
“Let’s head back before we get drenched.”