Chapter 4 – Bryan
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In my dreams I was Kiara again. I think? No, it felt wrong. I felt wrong. There were…. tears on my face, as I laid under the covers, head included. There at least I was safe, but I was afraid, so afraid.

There was a knock on the door, then a sweet voice “Hey. I read your letter, can I come in?”. Mom

“Okay” a voice emanating from where I was whined back. I winced, it sounded more like the voice I had had Saturday morning then the voice I had produced Sunday.

I heard the door open, then footsteps and then somebody sat down next to me I could feel her put her hand on the covers on top of me. “I’m sorry, dear. I should have known. The signs were there, I just…. didn’t want to see”.

“I’m sorry” the distinctly wrong  voice replied.

“You have nothing to apologize for sweetie. To be honest, I’ve always kind of….. wanted a daughter as well. Do you…. do you have a name yet?”

“Not really”

“Well, if you’d been born a girl. That is uhhh, I don’t mean….. I mean: if you had been born a ‘cis’ girl….” Mom’s voice went “How about ‘Kiara’?”.

-

I woke up to the blaring of my alarm.

It was way too early, but it always was too early on weekdays. I tried not to think too much about that dream. Where was it all coming from? Was I just making this up or were these…. memories? Was it the artefact’s doing? Maybe Bryan would know?

I took one of those white pills again. Ellie had said to take one every morning, and there wasn’t really any reason not to I guess. Then it was time to get ready for school. I tried to get through the shower quickly. Coming out of the shower cabin I couldn’t stop myself from taking a peek in the mirror though. There was again that feeling of…. attraction, to the shape looking back at me. Though that unsightly thing between her legs kind of ruined it a little. I tucked it away between my legs so it couldn’t be seen anymore. Much better! It almost kind of looked like I had….

What are you doing Kiara? I mean.  I mean: what are you doing Sean? Stop it! I grabbed a towel and aggressively dried of my body, trying to focus on anything but the feedback my body was giving about its shape. Then I put on the clothes Ellie and I had picked out together.

It was a set of cute shorts and a breezy t-shirt that showed off just a little bit of cleavage. Short and breezy, as the summer was coming in with a vengeance  the coming days. Honestly, putting on clothes wasn’t much of an improvement. I still had those butterflies in my stomach looking at my reflection. 

Next step was the mascara and stuff. The lipstick was easy, but I ended up screwing up the mascara the first two times despite Ellie’s teachings. I had the make-up remover Ellie taught me about close by to remedy my mistakes though. In the end it ended up looking at least okay. In fact it looked quite nice! I could see why girls went through all the trouble of applying this stuff. It had always seemed a bit silly, all that attention to looks that people had. I used to think that it was good that at least I wasn’t that concerned with such vain things. I guess I just hadn’t understood it because I didn’t know it could make me look like this.

When I got downstairs mom was already in the process of setting the table. I helped her and we talked a bit about school stuff. I told her a bit about the physics presentation I had later today, and she talked about her own lesson plan for today. She was apparently covering the world wars right now in her class, which she felt where too Eurocentric. Apparently the Pacific war or the impact on colonized people’s was barely even mentioned in the official lesson plan. As such she had made some modifications she told me about in detail.

What was also nice was that I didn’t have to worry about my voice sounding off anymore. According to Ellie Kiara had had a lot of trouble getting it to sound right. Due to Kiara  training the voice muscles it was now apparently easier? I didn’t really get it, but my voice sounded nice and right and that was all that really mattered.

“Oh hey, mom?” I decided to check something to be sure, “does uh, my makeup look okay?”.

“Hm, yes, looks good dear” Mom replied, filling me with a sense of accomplishment that I’d managed to do it well enough, “what’s the occasion? You usually don’t wear this much every day, right? Not that it doesn’t look good or anything.”

Wait, what? Did Ellie lie to me, should I not have bothered? “I just felt like doing it” I lied to mom. What’s her goal here? To cause me more issues?

The topic switched back to mom’s lesson plan as I finished up and put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher. While brushing my teeth I briefly considered taking the make-up off again. That would raise questions with mom though. Besides, it did look good so if it was on that was okay, right? Still, I felt a sense of betrayal. I thought Ellie was just helping me, but clearly she was trying to accomplish more. Get me to do more girly things or something. Maybe she thought that if I did I would feel too embarrassed to go back to being a guy or something? I mean, it was kind of strange, and dad would definitely disapprove, but after using the device nobody should know what I did, right? So I could experiment a little before I did so.

-

Mom had her first hour off so I took my bike and left before her as she took her turn with the shower. Same school, same house, same route, so not much different there. It almost felt weird how little had changed in that regard, though I was worried a lot about what school was going to be like now.

As I put my bike away in the familiar bike rack Ellie had already spotted me and was heading  towards me, apparently she had gotten there earlier. As she came close I noticed she was almost eye level. That can’t be right, Ellie is tall for a girl, but even yesterday she was still almost a full head shorter. Looking down I quickly discovered the reason: she was wearing some sort of platform boots with a heel that were adding like half a head at least if not more. It was kind of cool though, as it meant we were almost as tall as each other.

“Oooohhh, looking nice, gurl” Ellie went, “I have taught you well”.

I considered bringing up the fact that she had lied to me about the amount of make-up Kiara had worn every day, but decided against it. As it stands she thinks she’s successfully deceived me, but I know she hasn’t. That gives me the advantage. Besides, I still need her to help me for as long as possible. If she decides to get the cops after all It will all have been for naught. Nothing to do but play along.

“Thanks” I replied, probably a bit too curtly.

“So like, how are you feeling today? About everything?”

Ugh, she wasn’t going to let that go, was she? “Fine” I replied, then added “I feel like I have this more under control now. So uh, thanks for that.” I wasn’t lying with that. Even if she was trying something, her help with my voice especially had still been instrumental to helping me get through the four days without raising alarms.

“Yeah no problem, Kiara” she replied. She didn’t push further after that at least, for which I was thankful.

After that the topic turned to our presentation. Physics was our first class of the day, so we didn’t have much time until then. I wondered if my grade for this presentation would stay? I guess it wouldn’t, so it didn’t really matter how well I did. Still, depending on how this whole reality changing works it could maybe still have an effect for somebody? There was no reason not to give it my all at least.

-

When we got to the class most people were already there. I recognized most faces, but no Bryan. I asked Ellie whose face turned into a scowl and said we’d been placed in different classes after last year and that she would tell me more during the break.

 It was kind of weird just existing in class with all of my classmates. Saturday I had half been expecting that I would be laughed at wherever I went, instead everything was quite normal. Better than normal even: some of my classmates I barely knew, mostly girls, said ‘hi’. Brianne in particular, a girl whose name I had to brainstorm to remember, asked me how my weekend had been. I was relaying the parts of my weekend I felt I could share as Mrs. Jungerius entered the classroom and told us all to settle down.

I was kind of worried about the presentation, but became considerably less so as the first pair gave theirs. Simon and Mitchell weren’t the brightest kids in the class, usually just barely scraping by with 6’s, though Simon was apparently really good at languages. They managed to screw up their explanation of Einstein’s discoveries quite horribly. I didn’t want to think badly of them, I’m sure they tried hard, and clearly it was largely nerves for Mitchell especially, as he kept stuttering. It was nice though as it took the pressure off if that was the competition. To be honest, if it had been me and Bryan we would have barely prepared and not done much better. Bryan tended to derail any studying time into gaming time eventually.  But with Ellie and the preparation we had done yesterday I was fairly confident we could do better.

And when it was my and “Eleanor’s” ,as ms. Jungerius put it, turn we did do better. I started off a bit nervous, being in front of all my classmates looking like I did. But everybody acted like it was perfectly normal so I quickly found my confidence again. Plus, doing a group presentation you actually properly prepared for goes much easier than one you half-assed together. Who would have thought? Ellie did have to take care of most of the additional questions, as I had only really read about Marie Curie from the research she and Kiara had done for us, so I didn’t know much beyond the presentation.

Then it was Caleb’s and Sarah’s turn. Caleb had chosen a particularly tight shirt that showed off his muscles quite well. It was probably not a coincidence, Caleb liked showing off, and honestly I couldn’t blame him. With this hot weather though the shirt was basically clinging to him. It was quite good at distracting me from his talk about Niels Bohr. I had always felt this sense of jealousy or something about him. Longing I could look like that I suppose. Though right now I was further off than ever from achieving that. I wonder how he felt about the way I looked now?

No, bad Kiara!  I needed to remember who I was and not get too attached to this body.

I managed to keep my focus on the explanation of Bohr’s atomic model, which got considerably easier when Sarah took over. Where they dating, or just friends? I suppose it didn’t really matter. Just curious. I hadn’t really seen them together before, but of course that could just be due to the artefact, maybe they were together all the time here. I guess I could ask Ellie about it? Although then she might get the wrong ideas again…..

After that physics was already over. We wouldn’t get our grades until all the presentations were done, so that was kind of disappointing. I would never find out what we got. Still, judging by how it went I’d guess at least a 7.

Next was maths, which was boringly normal. It was just the teacher explaining a new theory, and then we had to do work on our own and do exercises with the book. The real surprise came when the teacher started handing out graded exams: I had an 8,7! I had always struggled with maths. And I was quite sure that in my original timeline I had bombed this exam. This did fuel the ‘’math tutor’’ theory about Chris. I wanted to ask Ellie about it, but the teacher had demanded absolute silence and I knew him well enough that any sound I did make could have me end up getting sent out of class. It would have to wait until after class. As class progressed though, I became aware of a much more pressing and concerning problem.

-

It felt like ages until the bell finally rang and I could finally gather up my books and notes as the teacher went on about the homework for next class.

“Yo Ki, do you want to go sit with the others for lunch or sit at our alone spot?”

“The second I guess, but uhm, Ellie, I have a problem” I replied. I didn’t really know what to do, maybe Ellie had some idea?

“What’s the issue?”

“I drank too much” I replied, hoping she would get the hint.

“Then…. go to the bathroom? You want me to go with?” she replied, clearly not grasping the extent of the problem.

“I know, I’m just afraid that the guys will think it weird, and no, I think you there would make it worse” I replied. I was already thinking about what the guys would say when I entered the bathroom. How did Kiara ever deal with this? I guess she just used the women’s of course, so she didn’t have this issue.

“Uhhhhh, what? Kiara…” Ellie said as she pulled me a bit away from our classmates heading towards the cafeteria, and continued in a more whispering tone “I would strongly advice you against going to the men’s bathroom, best case scenario you will make all the men extremely uncomfortable, worst case scenario is a lot worse. Kiara just go to the women’s. Nobody will bat an eye”.

“I can’t just go to the women’s’” I whisper-protested. She really wasn’t getting this “I get that Kiara could do that, but I’m not a woman”. It was my own stupid fault, should have gone before I left home. Why didn’t they just have gender neutral toilets in school? This entire issue would just be solved.

“What? YOU ARE THE SAME PERSON!” Ellie whisper-shouted back at me.

I wanted to protest more. We weren’t the same person, as it’s our experiences that shape us, and Kiara’s experiences had been quite different. Clearly Kiara was different from me, the evidence was right there on my chest. My bladder, however, protested against my desire to protest. I had to be rational about this. I had to pee. Ellie was right that the men’s restroom was a bad idea right now. That only left one other option, didn’t it?

-

Ellie led the way like I asked her to. Being just after class, there were several other girls already there. Nobody really looked at me for long or made me feel out of place. There was one open stall left that I went into while Ellie stayed outside. It was nice that I could just use a stall in peace at least. I had never been a fan of those rows of urinals that you were supposed to use as a guy. I had kept using the stalls for quite a while until my dad got mad about it and I relented. I didn’t really get it though, the privacy of a stall was just much nicer than being so exposed. Plus, I never got what was supposed to be the benefit of standing up to pee, was much nicer to just sit down and relax instead of having to aim it all.

I lowered the shorts I was wearing somewhat. At this point I still looked normal with the black underwear on. I almost didn’t want to take it off, maintain the illusion, but with my bladder as is that was obviously not an option. I lowered the underwear as it revealed the wrongness it was hiding. I sat down and did what I had to do.

Washing my hands I checked the mirror. There was a girl staring back at me. A girl in the women’s toilets. It is fine, just stay calm, you belong here. Ellie motioned that she was going as well now that she was there. I told her I’d wait outside. Standing around waiting in the women’s toilets still felt weird.

As I opened the toilet door I heard a familiar voice, the last voice I wanted to hear right now. It was tinted with more than a hint of disgust “I thought I saw you going in there, but thought that maybe I had seen wrong, but apparently not.” Bryan. I mean, it wasn’t as if he was wholly wrong that it was kind of weird, but I still really didn’t like his tone. I had to pee, and didn’t exactly have a lot of options.

“Hey Bryan” I replied, trying to get the conversation a bit more civil again and centred on topics I actually wanted to talk about “I was wondering about something about the artefact. See I have been having these dreams-

“Are you wearing make-up? And what’s with the voice?” Bryan interjected. Ugh, why was he making such a big deal of all of this? Didn’t he get that I had to keep up appearances? Worse yet, he was the only person that was going to remember this all after I’d changed it back.

“Uh yes, I’m trying not to let anybody on that anything is off, Bryan” I replied, annoyed now. “More importantly, I have been having dreams that might be memories of this timeline, could that be or are they just dreams?”

“Might be” Bryan replied “I’ve had some dreams like that I guess? And dad does talk sometimes about things that happened before he used it, so I guess? They are just memories though, don’t let them influence who you are, dude.”

Huh, so I guess after a bit I would actually start to remember all of Kiara’s life? That is kind of cool. It probably wouldn’t all come back to me before I had changed the timeline back already though? Would it stop when I changed it back? I felt a ping of sadness at that thought. It would actually be really cool to experience what Kiara has been up to for all these years.

“Sean” Bryan said. It was a weird feeling hearing that name now. Only two days ago that was my normal name, but now it felt weird and distanced, as if it didn’t really belong to me. “I am worried about you, all this girly shit you are doing isn’t normal-“

“I’m doing what I have to to keep up appearances” I interrupted him. God, why was he being such a huge shit about this? What was so bad about me using some make-up or using the bathroom? It might be a little weird, but I was clearly not hurting anybody, but he made it out to be the end of the world. “And you should call me ‘Kiara’ right now if you don’t want people to catch on”. Whatever, I am putting my foot down now. He didn’t keep his promise about not using any name anyway.

“Your name is Sean and I won’t call you anything else!” Bryan all but shouted, and I worriedly realized at this point several people were looking over at us.

“Her name is Kiara, dipshit.” a familiar voice said as Ellie came from the door behind me and went to stand in between us.

Bryan actually had to look up to her in those boots of hers as he turned around. Before leaving he added: “Whatever, tomorrow afternoon at around 4 the artefact will be ready again, so we can get this whole thing behind us.” as Bryan started walking away he added “see you then…. Sean”.

-

A little later Ellie had taken me to that alone spot she mentioned. It was a secluded little spot in the park next to the school I had no idea existed. She had wanted to talk more about Bryan, but I cut her off as I wasn’t really in the mood. Instead I relayed to her my dreams and what Bryan had said about them.

“So wait, your memories are coming back?” She said, and I was surprised at the pure joy in her voice.

“I mean, Kiara’s memories, yeah. What has you so happy about that?”

“It’s just…. I thought I had lost that side of you. That all of our memories that we shared together. All the little moments that we went  through together were now just in my head only” she replied, “I’m just… happy to know that you will soon remember them again as well.”

“Well….” I replied “only for as long as I haven’t changed the timeline and stuff”. She was going much too far with all of this.

“Of course, of course” Ellie said, sounding somewhat dismissive. She really did have some agenda, that much was clear. “Actually, Kiara, can I ask you something that has been bothering me? How did we…. why were we no longer friends in your timeline? What happened?”

I thought about that for a second, what had happened? I had been great friends with her when I was 9. But then puberty started to roll around. Wasn’t it simply normal that we’d grow apart then? Dad certainly seemed to think so. Well, at first he was trying to get me to make a move, but when it became obvious that that wasn’t happening…. Plus, Bryan had never liked Ellie so he didn’t want to sit with her either, which didn’t help. After thinking it over I finally replied “We just grew apart I guess? Started hanging out less. Isn’t that normal between boys and girls who grow up?”

“Are those your father’s words, or Bryan’s?” Ellie retorted.

“My own” I insisted, annoyed. As if I everything I said had to come from one of them….   

That seemed to shut down the conversation for a bit. Ellie looked to be slightly hurt and lost in thought. It didn’t feel good to end things here. “I’m sorry. It’s not that things haven’t been fun. You’re a great friend to have Ellie. If…. I mean: when things go back to normal I’ll try to be friends with you again, okay?”

“Promise?”

“Promise.” I replied, though I was unsure this other Ellie would appreciate my efforts I would at least try, I owed her that much.

“Thanks. It’s just…. you’re my best friend Kiara, and I don’t know where I’d be without your friendship. Just…. don’t let Bryan or your dad do your thinking for you, okay? Ask yourself what you  want, not what others think you are supposed to want” Ellie said with a weird half smile.

I was pretty sure she wasn’t talking about the friendship things anymore, but I didn’t feel like bringing that up to break the moment. Instead I just thanked her. Then Ellie realised it was actually already past time to get back, apparently the bell is barely audible in the alone spot so we had to hurry to our next class. We barely made it.

-

I had kind of expected the entire day to feel extremely weird, having classes the way I am now. Instead it was honestly not that much different from normal. English and history went by normally, though they were somewhat more interesting than normally. The only real odd moment out was when I didn’t realize until the third repeat that the old formal English teacher was calling out to me when he called for “miss McDowall”. I’d gotten quite used to responding to Kiara, but the new last name was still something to get used to. Then it was already time for the afternoon break. Only a little over 24 hours left until I had to go back.

Me and Ellie went to the same secluded spot again. I was just hoping for a simple lunch, but Ellie had other plans “So like, how do you like the way you are now?” She started. She was just not going to let this go, was she?

“Fine” I replied.

“No but like, between your old body and your new one, which do you prefer? And don’t give me the answer you think you are supposed to give to your dad or anything. I am here to support you, Kiara, I have your back, no matter the answer” Ellie said, with an intensity that made me distinctly uncomfortable.

I wanted to say my old body, to not play into Ellie’s weird ideas, but….. that would be a lie. And even if Ellie did have some agenda, I did trust her when she said she would still have my back. She could have already gone to the police couldn’t she? Taken away the only option I had to go back to normal. Besides, I might prefer this body, but it is for pretty wrong reasons.  So instead I chose my words carefully: “Between the two, I have to admit, this body is like, more attractive”.

I had hoped that would be the end of it, but Ellie wasn’t having that. “What do you mean, more attractive? You mean you prefer it over the other?”

Ugh, this shouldn’t be this hard to explain. “No, I mean like, I am more attracted to this body than the other one, you know, like that…”

Ellie looked at me incredulously, did she still not understand? “You mean like: physical attraction” she replied deadpan “Is that how you are rationalizing this, you are under the assumption that you are physically attracted to yourself?”

“Uh, I don’t know what you mean by ‘rationalizing’  but yes-

“Kiara, you are as STRAIGHT as a DAMN POLE” Ellie interrupted me.

“Uh yes, I said. Obviously. So hence why I am attracted to this body, right?”

Ellie gave a sigh of intense disappointment “No I mean like… you are straight. You are a straight girl, you are into men. Name like, one girl you have ever had a crush on.”

“Uhhhh”, I couldn’t think of many, but that’s because I just didn’t develop many crushes, right? Oh wait, thought of one, though she was fictional, but I remember really liking her, so I answered “the pirate lady from the Pirates of the Caribbean movie”.

Ellie smirked at that “You do not want to fuck Keira Knightley. You want to BE Keira Knightley. I want to fuck Keira Knightley. You want to be Keira Knightly and fuck Orlando Bloom”

“Ah yes, glad to know you know my own feelings better than I know them myself” I replied deadpan.

“I know this because you told me this yourself about a year ago, Kiara. You thought it was attraction but really it was a form of envy.”

“That was the other Kiara” ugh, she still didn’t realize the differences “not me.”

“Oh don’t even try that spiel” Ellie waved her hand dismissively, “I saw the way you were eyeing up Caleb this morning. You and half the other girls in the class btw. You were practically salivating.”

“I mean that was…. that was just… jealousy, you know” Ellie looked like she was getting ready to interrupt me again so I quickly continued to show her I wasn’t done yet “Look I didn’t want to bring this up. But… about three years ago somebody kept insisting that I was… you know ‘gay’.”

“Bryan?”

“No, Nathan” I replied. Bryan could be a bit unsubtle, but he would never act like Nathan had done. Heck, he had chosen my side in the end.

“So one of Bryan’s sad excuses of a friend.” 

“I guess? In my timeline Nathan and his gang were huge assholes and Bryan ended up breaking ties with them over it. But I guess if I hadn’t been there they might have stayed friends.”

“So then what?”

I would absolutely die before admitting this to dad or Bryan, but Ellie was probably okay with it. I mean, she was apparently a lesbian, though I already got that vibe Sunday. Actually, didn’t she say something about how she was going to marry this other girl when we were kids? “Like, Nathan kept insisting over a bunch of stupid silly things that I was gay, so I tried to watch, like, you know….”

“Gay porn?” Ellie interjected deadpan.

Uh, yes that. It didn’t really uh… ‘work’ for me” I replied. There. That was embarrassing as all get-up to say but point proven at least.

“Well, like…. of course it didn’t, you’re not gay, you are a straight girl. Just like…. what if instead of two men, it was just straight, but you were the woman?”

I wanted to reply, this was obviously plan part of her whole ploy. But for a moment I wasn’t really sure what to say. Well sure, in that case that ‘evidence’ does not fly, but I mean, I am still not…. And I mean, I can’t be a straight girl because when I look at this body, that feeling….

“You don’t have to answer me right now, Kiara. Just… think it over. Okay?” Ellie said before I could defend myself. “Besides, we gotta get to class now anyways”

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