“No really, I am happy that you finally accepted yourself and all that, it’s just… I had this whole speech planned for this morning and everything! It was all emotional and shit. I spent all of the last two days on it!” Ellie said in a joking tone “It came from a deep place you know. My heart.”.
“You can still give your speech now if you want you know” I responded, giving her a little smile.
“No it just…. it just wouldn’t be the same” Ellie said in mock indignation, “are you sure he’s coming, though?”.
“He said he would, I see no reason why he’d lie. Bryan is just usually late.” Ellie made a face so I added “Eh, you get used to it”.
After that realisation I had had yesterday evening I realised that I shouldn’t lie to Chris about it all. If…. if I was going to continue being with him, which I think I wanted, he needed to know the truth. He took a bit more convincing then Ellie had needed, but in the end I managed to get across to him that I came from another timeline. Other than with Ellie I was able to say something much more comforting though. Yes, I am the same person, I just… don’t have all the same memories as the other Kiara has, though that’s apparently a temporary thing.
In the end he did seem to understand and he ended up joking about how sad he was that he actually hadn’t improved his Mario Kart skills after all. Then I’d texted Ellie because…. because I really wanted some back-up for what I was about to do. Chris kinda had his own school stuff to do today. He offered to just skip his later classes and come regardless, but I declined that offer. Partially because I didn’t want him to skip school on my account, but also in no small part because Chris being here probably reduced the chances of this working even further. We did promise to meet up afterwards. When I texted Ellie about what I had realised and what I wanted to do she sent me back one word: ‘’finally!”.
“Ah fuck, there he is, though he’s not alone. He brought his goons.” Ellie said, pointing towards the group approaching us from the other side of the park. I’d told him to meet me alone, though I suppose I hadn’t kept to that either. Still, bringing Nathan and his two cohorts with him felt like much more of a betrayal of that promise then me bringing Ellie. I was relieved when about twenty meters away from us he said something and Bryan closed the last bit of distance alone.
“Why the fuck are you wearing a dress?” he said, with the same disgusted look he’d had in his eyes yesterday. Had he always been like this? Have I just never been on the receiving end of it? I mean, sure, Bryan had some bad takes about politics and feminism and stuff before. There was the whole ‘’gamergate’’ shit he wouldn’t shut up about for months. But he’d never been like… hateful, right?
“I’m wearing this dress because I want to” I responded “Because it feels right”. I could hear my voice wavering as I said it. I decided to wear it to prove a point. I wanted to wear it. There was nothing wrong me wearing it. So I would wear it. I had expected Bryan’s reaction, but that didn’t mean it didn’t still hurt to actually hear him say it.
“What do you mean by that, Sean?” Bryan responded, putting extra emphasis on that last part. If hearing somebody referring to me as ‘Sean’ had sounded weird yesterday it now sounded downright hurtful, though the tone didn’t help matters.
“My name is Kiara” I responded curtly. As I said so I felt Ellie’s hand on my shoulder, giving me the resolve I needed to continue. I was definitely glad I had brought her with. “I’m here to tell you I’m not going back. You can either accept that this is me or…. or this is goodbye, Bryan.” I didn’t want to give him such a strong ultimatum. I’d known Bryan for so long, we’d been friends for so long. I just hoped this would change his mind, get him to be a bit more open about it all. Ellie was of course convinced he would not. With the way he’d been acting about all this I wasn’t that sure either, but I owed it to him, for all those years of us together, to at least give him a chance.
Bryan had never been very good at hiding his emotions, but for once I legitimately wasn’t sure what was going through his mind as his expression kept switching. First there was anger, then… sadness, I think? Then… disgust, that one was starting to become all too familiar. Then finally his face went right back to a determined sort of anger.
“This isn’t like you, I don’t know what she” he said in a disgusted tone, pointing to Ellie “has told you, but you need to remember the real you, instead of this gay shit. Sean, you-”.
“The ‘real me’ was a goddamn coward who was afraid of doing even the simplest things because of what other people would think.” I interrupted him with a fire that was coming from a place I didn’t know existed. I definitely recognized the startled look that was on Brian’s face now.
“The ‘real me’” I continued, “was so goddamn worried about what other people thought of her that she felt too scared to keep a damn toy, or show any sort of emotional vulnerability. She was so damn afraid of what others would think, that she hid everything she actually gave a shit about from the world, including hiding it from herself.” I realised I was all but shouting now, but it just felt so good to let it all out, finally “Well guess what, that ‘real me’ is gone, I refuse to be shamed into going back into hiding anymore, so if that’s all you are here to do you might as well FUCK OFF.” I said, not just to Bryan, but to Nathan, to my dad, to all those that had made me feel shame about things I have no reason to feel shame over. For all the missed opportunities, the years spent in hiding. I was done.
Now Bryan most resembled a dog that had just been struck across the face, but he quickly composed his face again into one of anger. “Why are you doing this? You are supposed to be my friend.”
“And I still can be. I’ll just look different and go by a different name” I tried to adopt a more reassuring tone. Maybe this could still be salvaged? But the anger in my voice was definitely still clearly there.
“That’s not…. You wouldn’t…. We’ll see about that…. Sean” Bryan said in a threatening tone, then he walked off and rejoined Nathan and the others, who gave me some pretty dirty looks as well.
“Okay, not gonna lie: that was pretty awesome to watch” Ellie quipped, breaking the tension I had built up.
I did it. I told him off. It’s over, I get to be free now. I realised that I was shaking slightly, when had that started? I just got to…. live my life now? As Kiara? I almost couldn’t believe it. Some voice inside of me still felt I was stealing somebody else’s life, but I had to remind that voice that this was me. I was this person, and would have been exactly the same if I’d grown up with my mom instead of the dad that had me break off a childhood friendship because of his standards of masculinity.
I felt almost a sort of emptiness inside of me, of all the things I just ended. Of the life that I was now never going back to. But it was overwhelmed by a sense of excitement for all the things I would get to do now. Still…. It felt like there was still something wrong, like I was forgetting something…..
This time I was the one waiting at my school’s entrance. I got to be the one to spot Chris in the crowd and walk up to him. This time, I did not hesitate when I was close. No more shame. No more over thinking my own desires. I pulled towards him again as our lips met. Right there, where the entire school could see me. It didn’t matter, I wanted this, I didn’t care if anybody thought it was weird, though nobody seemed to think so.
“How’s my lovely b-boyfriend doing today”. It still felt weird to call somebody ‘my boyfriend’, not bad weird though. Good weird.
“Pretty good” he answered in a playful tone, playing the repetition game with me, I suppose, “What about you though, how did it go?” he continued as his tone grew more worried. God I love his voice.
“Well enough I suppose. I told Bryan off, he refused to back down so I guess that’s it for the Bryans in my life.”
“You should have seen her” Ellie interrupted, apparently feeling like she’d given us enough space and that I didn’t tell the story dramatically enough. Ellie made a dramatic hand gesture “She like, really stood up for herself and totally stuck it to that shit. Gave him a whole moral beat down. He just looked like a sad lost puppy by the end”
“I wouldn’t quite say that. I mean, he was pretty spiteful by the end with the whole ‘we’ll see about that’ bit” I responded. Wait… was that… what I was forgetting?
Ellie continued into more depth to relay the events much more dramatically and heroically to Chris then I remembered them being but I couldn’t keep my attention on it as a creeping realisation hit me. He….. he still has the artefact! That’s what he meant with ‘we’ll see’ he’s gonna use it to…. Could he make it to where he had never shown me that artefact in the first place? I mean, in the new timeline that had never really happened so maybe not? But what if there was something else he could change? What if he changed it to where Saturday he’d kept me in his house all the time so I never met mom and Ellie and Chris? I wasn’t sure what he was going to do. But I realised he would definitely try to do something with that damn artefact to get me back to the way he wanted me to be. The way they wanted me to be.
“WHAT TIME IS IT?” I shouted to the shocked faces of Ellie and Chris who looked confused, not having been privy to my freak-out.
“Uhhhh, it’s about 3.30pm” Chris responded, as he checked his watch, “why-“
3.30pm, we used the artefact at almost exactly 4pm, 3 full days, it would be ready again at 4pm today, that’s what Bryan said. Fuck, his house is almost half an hour away “No time! We have to get to Bryan’s house NOW. I’ll explain on the way!
Bryan’s suburban home looked pretty much the same as it had Saturday, but my feelings towards it had definitely changed. I had spent so many days and nights in there, playing video games with my best friend. The very same ‘best friend’ that I was pretty certain was now going to try to ‘’fix’’ me against my will.
The three bikes in front of the house were another bad sign. It meant that Bryan wasn’t alone, which made the whole thing even more complicated. So much for just easily forcing him to give us the damn thing.
“3.55pm” Chris responded. We’d gone over here as fast as we could, my muscles protested against the effort, but adrenaline was keeping me going. I couldn’t go back. I wouldn’t go back. Not like this.
“So now what?” Chris asked, “Do we just ring the doorbell and talk it out or something?”
“Yeah, no” Ellie responded, “If he’s willing to go against Kiara’s wishes with this already, he’s not gonna listen to us at this point. Ringing the bell only serves to warn him we’re coming”
Luckily, being friends with somebody for years does give you some advantages, so I knew what to do. Bryan was not the most organized person and forgot or lost his keys all the damn time. Next to the house was a collection of flowerpots. I lifted up the little black plastic one hoping that Bryan hadn’t been smart enough to remove the thing before he went inside. He hadn’t been, the spare key was still under there.
“Okay, so here’s the plan. We go up to Bryan’s room, grab the artefact or destroy it, either works, and then get the fuck out of there.” I’d explained on the way there already how the artefact would look like and where Bryan’s room would be. My two partners in crime nodded in agreement, we were really doing this.
I felt my heart beating loudly in my chest as I put the key in the lock. I really was about to break into this place and try to steal something from Bryan by force. Is it still technically stealing if the object was stolen in the first place? If there was more time we could have just explained it all to the police and have them confiscate the damn thing. I should have thought about that yesterday, but I didn’t think….. I didn’t think about Bryan doing anything like that at the time….. I should have known though, should have realised earlier.
I opened the door and across the hallway I looked right into….. Nathan’s stupid mug, who looked pretty surprised to see us, as he’d apparently just been talking with his stupid goons. “You bunch of queers are not supposed to be in here, you know’’ he said, in his stupid mocking voice. Behind him his stupid friends were taking notice as well. Had Bryan told them about the artefact? I suppose they would help both if he did tell them and if he didn’t, so it didn’t really matter. Could I try reasoning with them? Probably not. I took some steps into the hallway myself.
I looked down at the three and with a heavy heart realised Bryan was not among them. We’d had roughly 5 minutes when we arrived, we must be down to 4 or even 3 now. “Get out of the way now Nathan, or I’ll make you leave”. I tried to make my voice as threatening as I could make it, which was not very. Truth be told the last time Nathan and I had fought, which was a couple of months ago, it had been close, but he’d probably won it all things considered, and I doubt years of estrogen therapy had made me a better fighter.
“Hah! Now there’s a good joke” Nathan scoffed “As if a tra-“
He was interrupted by Chris charging at him headlong. Nathan only just managed to put his arms in front of his head for a punch that was clearly aimed at his face. Good god, Chris is not messing around. Chris followed that blocked punch up with a kick that landed squarely in Nathan’s side, causing him to almost fall over if he hadn’t used the wall to steady himself. Chris was trying to follow it up with another punch but one of Nathan’s goons tackled Chris from the side. And Chris definitely has some fighting experience, sheesh. “Go! You only have 2 minutes left” Christ shouted at me, as he was trying to get out of the desperate grapple of the much lighter guy.
I roused back into action. The stairs, Bryan is probably up in his room again. I ran towards them and took the first steps, Ellie following right behind me, but then a hand grabbed my right ankle and the pull caused me to lose my balance. Fuck, Nathan’s stupid goons. I fell down painfully, my head hitting the stairway.
As I tried to recover from the pain I felt the hand around my right ankle loosen and I quickly pulled my foot away. Looking back the reason was obvious, as Ellie had apparently kicked him hard enough to give him more pressing things to do with his hands. Chris meanwhile seemed to have hurt the other goon badly enough he was lying on the ground, though Nathan had Chris in some sort of grapple. Ignore them, they’ll be fine, you don’t have the time.
With a heavy heart I raced up the stairs alone. I just had to hope that Ellie and Chris would be fine together.
As I ran up the stairs I spotted Bryan. Sitting in his ‘ergonomic gaming chair’ with the stupid light-up blue, his hand on the artefact. It was glowing purple, but luckily not as much as it had been when I’d used it before. I still have time, I think? Upon seeing me he got up, artefact in hand, “I’m doing this for your own good, Sean. If you just-”.
No time to reason this out. Tried that already and time is on his side. Instead I ran up to him in a mad dash, which seemed to surprise him, and I tackled him to the floor, the artefact falling from his hands.
In the old timeline I had fought Bryan many times. Not in this way. Not in the way were we really wanted to hurt each other. Rather, we’d been taking Judo together, and we were generally each other’s standard sparring partners. As such I had expected this to be easy. No offense to Bryan, but he never won those matches unless I let him. His technique wasn’t that bad, I was just bigger and stronger. Whenever there would be a contest of strength, it was like there was this extra reservoir of strength I could tap into, and unless his hold on me was *really* technically sound it broke right through it.
My tackle went off well enough, putting my weight into it. Then I put my arms and my full upper body weight on the top of his arms as he lay under me. He grabbed my arms and tried to pull them off. I couldn’t help but grin. He always tried this, but gravity was in my favour and…
But it wasn’t the same this time. What I was doing would have worked, easily, just a couple of days before. Instead, the chubby guy beneath me actually managed to push my upper body away from him with some force as my head slammed against his closet, as I realised how stupid I had been to rely on what would have worked before.
As I was recovering I realised Bryan was trying to lunge towards the artefact. No! I couldn’t get to him to grab him in time but maybe…
I wrapped my legs around his body and then I wrapped my arms around one of the legs of the closet and quickly pulled the two of us closer to the closet, away from the artefact. It worked, the tops of Bryan’s fingers just barely scraped the artefact before I pulled him away. Too close, much too close.
Bryan was pulling at my legs, trying to pry apart the hold I had him in. But leg muscles were stronger than arm muscles. When Bryan realised that as well he lunged towards my arms instead to break their hold on his closet’s leg.
At that point our fight devolved into a complicated mess of arms and legs struggling around. I bit his arms at one point, he pulled at my hair, which was also exceedingly painful and impractical in a fight. I couldn’t tell you what happened exactly, but at some point Bryan ended up on top of me instead. The full weight of his chubby body weighing down on me, his arms holding down mine in much the same way I’d tried before, though in this case I couldn’t break his hold.
Then he suddenly let go of my right arm, and lunged his arm to the side. When I realised what he was reaching for I reached out with my arm instead. Bryan just barely couldn’t touch the artefact. I just barely could. Sometimes there are advantages to being extremely tall. I touched the display, which lighted up with a familiar purple intensity.
I knew exactly what to change as the world again went out of focus.
As it went out of focus I felt a giant weight literally get removed from my chest instantly. When the world came into focus again I stood up, unhindered. Bryan was lying on the floor next to me, yammering, hands to his crotch. Nice. Worked like a charm. I simply made it to where I had done what I should have done in the first place. I had tried to overpower him, I never should have gone for that approach. A kick to the groin was all it would have taken.
The artefact’s display had gone dark again. Even if Bryan got up right now and took it from me, he’d have to keep it safe for another 3 full days before it became a threat again. Bryan looked in no hurry to get up and try anything of the sort though. Apparently alternate timeline me had kicked him hard.
I looked over at my former friend one more time. We’d been best friends for almost a decade. I had spent so many days in his room playing games together, joking together. Bryan looked rather pathetic, lying there, whimpering. It didn’t need to be like this Bryan. We could have still been friends. No sense in dwelling in the past. “Goodbye Bryan” I finally said, as I walked out of his room for what would probably be the last time ever.
As I went down the stairs I ran into Ellie, who was apparently coming up to help me. I simply held up the artefact and we went down together. There we found Chris, who was leaning against a cupboard, panting, though he didn’t seem to be seriously hurt. The same could not be said for Nathan, whose nose seemed to have seen better days. He was holding a towel to it to stop the bleeding and shot me a hateful look. His two goons were keeping a safe distance away from Chris, and backed away further when we came down the stairs.
“You got what you came here for?” Chris said, his voice sounded tired but otherwise as sexy as ever.
“Yeah” I responded as I opened the door.
Nathan apparently knew when he was beat, as he made no more attempts to stop us or even yell at us as we exited Bryan’s house. “So now what, do we hand it over to the police?” Ellie queried.
I looked at the artefact in my hand. We could do that. Send it to the police and hope that they would be responsible with it. Of course: Bryan’s dad had been police. That is how this whole thing started.
Looking back, I don’t know if what I did was the right move. The artefact had helped me after all. Maybe I would have figured out who I really was at some point in my life regardless, when I left for college and got away from my dad. Maybe not. In any case mom would not be there if it weren’t for it. It could have helped a lot of other people. Or hurt a lot of people.
I wasn’t really thinking about all those long-term implications at the time though. I just… wanted to be done with all. Be done with the very idea that there could be somebody who could take my life away from me. So I simply let the artefact fall out of my hand onto the stone floor, then raised my foot high and stomped on it with as much force as I could muster.
I am NEVER going back.
And there I left the thing behind. Its display broken in. A purple cloud was slowly escaping from it and evaporting into the air. That certainly lent more credence to the "magic’’ theory at least. Regardless, nobody was going to be using that anymore.
I looked over to my left to my best friend, and to the right to my boyfriend. So much had changed in my life with just one small change. So much can change for the better when you actually have people who support you instead of trying to get you to fit in. And for the first time in about as long as I could remember I really felt free. I was free.