17 ~ Enter Entirely
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“Um,” I said. “Wrong room, sorry!”

I hoped to god it wasn’t the wrong house. Mentally cursing Mark for somehow leading me astray, I shut the door as quickly as I could and tried to make my escape. But then I remembered that if I made too much noise, they could probably hear me downstairs, so I awkwardly slowed down to soften my footsteps.

Which meant the girl had plenty of time to leap up, open the door again, and chase me down. I was barely halfway down the hallway when she grabbed my arm and dragged me back to her room. Before I could protest, I had been practically thrown onto the bed. 

She stood in front of the door, hands on her hips. I wasn’t going to get out that way.

Jeez, why did I always end up getting dragged around and pushed up against walls and stuff by girls. I wanted to be the girl doing that.

Um. Guy doing that, I mean.

No, wait, then it seemed kind of creepy and violent, instead of kind of…

You know what, I was getting off track, and should really stay focused on the current situation. Like, you know, the girl shooting daggers at me with her eyes right now.

“So let me ask again,” she said, shaking me out of my thoughts. “Who are you?”

“I’m— I’m just looking for my friend. Wrong place, I guess! Ha ha.”

She did not laugh.

“Does this friend have a name?”

I had to stop and think about that. It was hard to answer, wasn’t it? I couldn’t exactly say Cerise. But I wasn’t sure that I could say Bex either. And I had no idea what her given name was, even if I had been willing to use it.

At a loss, I took the moment to size up the girl in front of me. She was tall, taller than me, and looked to be maybe a year or two older, too? The book she had been reading still sat on the bed, but it was some kind of incomprehensible medical textbook. But most of all was the girl’s eyes - she had these piercing hazel eyes that were currently doing their best attempt to drill a hole right through me. I recognized those eyes. This wasn’t Bex, but…

“This is the Eccleston residence, right?”

Her eyes narrowed, but she gave a slight nod.

“I’m looking for your…”

Oh, shit, I probably shouldn’t say ‘sister’ either. What was the word?

“Sibling,” I finished, after a totally-not-suspicious pause. And then I tried my most convincing friendly smile.

She did not look particularly satisfied with that answer or convinced by the smile. “And how do you know my…” She trailed off, imitating my awkwardness. “Sibling?”

“We’re friends, like I said. We’ve been talking online.”

Her eyes flashed. Shit. That probably sounded sketchy, didn’t it?

“I mean, we go to school together, and they didn’t show up to class today, so I was worried and wanted to check on them. If you could just point me in the right direction, we can talk for a bit, and then I can be on my way. No problems.”

Some problems,” she said.

I gulped. “Oh.”

She gave me one more long, studied glance, as if she was weighing something in her mind. And then she clapped her hands together, her face transforming into a cheerful smile so fast that I was left with a bit of whiplash.

“But nothing we can’t solve. My… sibling got into a bit of an unfortunate disagreement with Dad, and so they’re grounded for the time being.”

I frowned. “But they’re in, like, college.”

“No kidding. That’s my dad for you. But don’t worry, I have a plan.” 

“Oh,” I said. “I like plans.” 

Suddenly this whole thing seemed to be going way better than it had a minute ago. It’s a good thing I could think so well on my feet.

“You’ll love this one.” She positively skipped over to her closet, and then dug through it, looking for something. A moment later clothes came flying my way, something hitting me in the face.

“Um.”

I smoothed out the fabric, trying to figure out what exactly it was. This wasn’t a shirt, there weren’t, like… sleeves. This was… a skirt?

UM.

Her head popped out of the closet, a cheshire grin on her face. “Put that on, I’m finding you a top. I’ll just pretend you’re one of my friends who’s visiting to study for class, and you’ll get a chance to talk with… with your friend at dinner.”

My mouth opened and closed, soundlessly. I finally found my voice. “I can’t do that! Can’t I just be a friend who’s a boy?”

“A boy? In my room?” She rolled her eyes. “Like Dad would ever allow that. Trust me, it’ll be fine. You’ll make a cute girl.”

I looked down at it and then back up at her, my face feeling hotter than the temperature of the sun.

She smirked in my direction. “Of course, if that doesn’t work for you, I could probably sneak you out the back again. But my sibling is locked up in their room and won’t be down until dinner.”

I stood up.

“I— I—”

I looked at the door. And then I looked at Bex’s sister. And then I looked at the skirt.

“I’m going to need you to turn around and not look.”

She clapped her hands together, grinning broadly. “Can do.”
 
 
 


 

   
  
A few very awkward minutes later, I had changed clothes entirely. First, there was a camisole that fit pretty well, and then over that, a fuzzy sweater that was a bit big on me. I guess given her height, it made sense that Bex’s sister’s clothes would be too large for me. But it meant the sleeves were so long that they kept slipping over my hands. Though honestly I kind of found that to be comfy and adorable.

Oh, and, uh, I was wearing the skirt. It was, um, black and fairly plain, but it did this kind of swishy thing where it flared out when I moved, and...

Look, if my hips were kind of moving back and forth, it was just because I was nervous.

Bex’s sister grinned at me. “Perfect.” She neatly folded up my guy clothes, and then sat the stack over on her desk, near the window that overlooked the backyard.

I looked down, frowning at the way the sweater fit. It didn’t feel perfect. Shouldn’t I have, like, something filling out the front of this? That thought gave me some complicated feelings that I had to ignore. But aside from the skirt, this outfit wasn’t, like, super girly. Would this actually even be convincing? I bet I could wear something like this normally with jeans.

Actually, Avery and Jenn both thought I was trans. I bet I could wear something like this with a skirt normally, too. You know, for their sake. Not mine.

Yeah. That might be good. Even if… I looked down again, and touched the front of the sweater, still feeling… wistful.

Bex’s sister cleared her throat. “But since we have some time still to kill, why don’t we get to know each other better?”

I swished the skirt back and forth a bit more. You know, I sort of expected it to be more awkward than this really was. Sure it felt a bit unfamiliar, but not bad at all. Kind of nice, even. I wasn’t sure how to walk in this, but it couldn’t be that hard, right?

“…Because I’m still trying to put a few pieces together,” Bex’s sister continued. “And would appreciate you answering some questions for me.”

“Oh, uh, sure?”

When I looked up at her, she wasn’t as sunny as she had been a minute ago. For a moment, I felt like a weird bug suddenly finding itself under a magnifying glass. But then her expression brightened again. “For instance,” she airily said, “what’s your name?”

I froze. Once again I found myself abruptly put on the spot. I probably should have been expecting this, but I had been distracted by…

Huh. Swishy.

Okay, after getting momentarily lost in playing with the fabric of the skirt again, this time I smoothed it out neatly beneath me and sat down on the bed, hoping that would keep me slightly more focused. I kept my knees close together though, sitting up straight and dignified. I wasn’t going to just, like, be rude and gross and manspread-y.

“What was the question again?” I said, hoping that’d buy some time.

She was watching me, her head tilted to the side. “Your name.”

“Oh, right.”

Well, if I said ‘Grickett,’ she probably wouldn’t believe me, right? Who has a name like that? But the thought of saying ‘Greg’… Okay, I mean, I was on a mission here. I should be undercover! I had no reason to believe I should trust this girl, even if she was Bex’s sister. I knew for sure that other parts of her family were unsupportive. And in that case, I was fine with using a fake name, right?

“Gwen,” I said.

She blinked. And I suddenly realized a bit too late that while a fake name made sense, I hadn’t been wearing girl clothing when I first saw her. She was the one who had dressed me up this way. So she was probably expecting a guy’s name. Fuck.

“It’s short for, um…”

I mean I couldn’t say Gwendolyn. …Gwen…nifer? Gwinifred? …Penguin? Oh god there was no way out of this, was there.

“Gwen,” I said, biting my lip.

“Your name is Gwen, which is short for Gwen,” she said, eyebrows raised.

Well, there was no way around this but through. “The second Gwen has two Ns?” I proposed.

Bex’s sister smirked. “Okay, Gwen-short-for-Gwenn, it’s nice to meet you. I’m Hannah.”

And though I was suddenly blushing, because she was clearly teasing me, I smiled.

“So, Gwen, you said you were talking to my sibling online. Just what did you two talk about?”

“Oh, right…”

As I paused, considering my options, Hannah drifted over to the window. I guess she was getting used to me taking thirty seconds before answering even the simplest questions. While I pondered, she clicked the latch and pushed the window open, letting in a breeze.

I shivered a bit.

“Anime,” I said. “You know.” That was safe.

She kept staring at me.

“Um. And… football?” Uh oh. Wait. Why did I say that.

“Oh, of course.”

I grinned in relief. “Yup.” 

“And one other thing… You wouldn’t happen to know exactly why my sibling got in trouble and is grounded, would you?” Hannah leaned back against her desk, where my old clothes still sat. She absent-mindedly toyed with the sleeve of the shirt, looking down at it.

“No idea at all,” I said. 

“Because I couldn’t help but overhear some of the argument, and it sure sounded like Dad borrowed the old laptop and talked to someone, and that’s where everything went wrong. You really don’t know anything about that?”

I took a breath, and let it out slowly, trying to disguise my shaky nerves. “Nope. That’s all news to me.”

“Uh-huh.” 

She picked up the bundle of my clothes. Oh, were we done here? I stood up.

“I don’t understand you, Gwen. You’re like… a mystery, scrambled up into an enigma omelette, smothered in secret sauce.”

“What?”

“But I do know one thing for certain,” she said. “You’re lying to me.” And with that, she casually tossed the bundle of my clothes out the window.

I let out a startled yelp, and dove forward, but it was way too late. I watched in vain as my shirt and pants fluttered down into the backyard.

ding ding ding

In sort of a daze, I picked my phone up off the bed and saw a few new messages.

Mark: YO
Mark: I THINK I JUST GOT HIT IN THE HEAD WITH YOUR JEANS
Mark: WHAT R U DOING?????

I shot him a quick text, telling him to go back to the car because this seemed like it was going to take longer than expected. And it wasn’t like I felt any more capable of explaining than that… But if this really was going to be a disaster, I wanted the other three to at least get out okay.

When I looked back up at Hannah, she had dropped the facade of sunniness, but still looked to be… contemplative. Not malicious like I expected.

“Maybe we can try the whole questions thing again. And maybe you can actually be straight with me this time.” She paused for a moment. “Honest. Honest is a better word.”

“I— I don’t understand.”

“Hm.” She leaned back against the desk again, crossing her arms. “You see, after the whole mess with Dad, I talked to my sister, and I managed to drag the whole story out of her. At least her side of it. And from everything I heard, I was convinced that someone on the internet had set this all up as a joke at her expense. It was just all too good to be true. Right?”

My mouth was completely dry. “Right,” I said, barely audible.

“But I never expected to have someone suspicious as hell show up in our very house. At first I thought, okay, that confirms my worst suspicions. You actually are some friend of hers - or some particularly cruel person pretending to be a friend. Maybe you were just too cocky and wanted to see the destruction you had wrought first-hand.”

I shook my head, staring down at the floor. “I— I didn’t…”

“But if that were the case, why go along with some dumbass plan that would never work about pretending to be a girl to fool my dad?”

Oh. 

Oh.

“I’m sorry,” I said quietly. “I should have known…” 

She was right: I should have known that would never work. I mean, obviously. How could I pass as a girl that easily? How could I pass as a girl at all? I tried to keep taking steady breaths, but my eyes were burning again, and I was barely holding back a sob. But I had to be strong. I couldn’t break down here, not now.

She didn’t seem to notice my distress. “Which, by the way, I can’t believe you actually just put on my clothes with basically no argument. Who does that??” She paused. “Who just has a female name ready to go, even if I didn’t ask for it?” Then she looked over at me, and her face softened for a moment. “If you’re some cruel troll, why are you about to cry in the middle of my bedroom?”

“I never meant to hurt Cerise,” I mumbled. “I swear. I think it sort of started out as a prank, but...”

She stalked across the room towards me, and I found myself backed up to sitting on the bed again. She leaned in, eyes narrowed. “Tell me the truth.”

I let out a small noise, still trying to maintain my composure. “Okay. You’re right. I was lying. I’ve been talking to your sister about being transgender, because I wanted to help her. I swear. And yes, it was also my fault your father found out. But I never meant for that to happen. I just really fucked up, and by the time I knew what was happening, it was too late. So that’s why I’m here, to try and fix it. If I can.” I paused. “A-and my name isn’t really Gwen, it’s… um…”

It was just too much. The tears started flowing, and my words were cut off by a hiccup as I tried to keep from just totally sobbing.

And then I felt Hannah’s hand on the top of my head, as if I was some small animal she was reassuring.

“No,” she said thoughtfully. “I’m not sure the part about the name is a lie.”

“What?”

“Or, well, at least I’m not the one you’re lying to, here.”

I didn’t understand. She and I were the only ones here, who else could I be lying to? But I got distracted, because she was now kind of gently scratching my head and it felt weirdly good. …I wonder if I told Jenn how soothing that was, if she’d do it for me when I got really upset.

“Okay,” she finally said, pulling her hand back. I made a small whimpering sound, but it was just out of surprise. “I believe you, Gwen. I’m still kind of pissed because my sister is hurting a lot, but I believe that you’re trying to help. And it seems like you're working out your own stuff too."

"H-how do you know..." I rubbed at my eyes with one of my too-long sleeves. "I don't understand. Your dad is so... But you're..."

She rolled her eyes. "I'm a grown-ass adult and it's not 1950, as much as my dad wants to think it is. And plus I've spent like the past twenty-four hours looking at trans websites on my phone because I'm super worried about my sister."

"Then what are you doing still living here? How does that work?"

"It's for her sake too." Hannah's lips twisted into a frown. "I put up with a lot of shit from Dad, because I know that if I don't, he'll take it out on her. But... Well. What exactly was your plan here?"

“To get Cerise out.” I knew that much.

“And then?”

I let out a long breath. “I’m not sure. I just know it’s not safe for her here. We can work out the rest as we go, as long as we get her away from her father.”

“Oh, Gwen…” Hannah said, her voice heavy. “It’s not going to be that easy. She’s trapped, but not physically. It’s more than that. I feel like if she wanted to, she could just walk out that door. And I would cheer her on. But… Dad has her so fucked up, like… emotionally. Mentally. He’s got her so that she can’t let herself be who she wants to be.”

“What?”

“It’s complicated.” She let out a deep sigh. “Like I said, if it wasn’t for her I would have left here years ago. But I don’t want to leave her behind. Mom already did that, and sis has never forgiven her for it. I’ve been saving up, trying to get the money for us to get an apartment somewhere together, but I’m not even confident I can convince her to move out with me. She hates my father, but he’s got a hold on her too. She’s desperate for affection and validation from him, and he knows that and uses it like a weapon. It’s…” She shook her head, grasping for the words. “Fucked up.”

I sniffed, and then wiped my face off as best as I could. I steadied myself, trying to put my anxieties behind me and gather my strength for what was necessary.

When I spoke, my voice was louder again and newly determined. “I need to talk to her.”

“You really think you can change her mind?”

“I don’t know. But I have to try.”

Hannah’s eyebrow raised as she looked me over. “You really mean that, huh? You’re serious.”

“Deadly serious.”

“Okay, then.” She let out a chuckle. “Okay. Despite all the odds, I kind of believe you might be able to do it.”

“Then help me, let me go talk to her.”

She tapped one finger against her chin. “But that’s the hard part. She’s locked herself in her room. I managed to get her to let me in for a bit, to talk about everything, but then she shut down. I don’t think she’ll answer again.”

“Just let me try,” I said. “Do you think you can distract your dad long enough for me to convince her to let me into her room?”

Hannah nodded. “I can try.”

“Then we have a plan.” I smiled. “A simple one, this time. No way anything can go disastrously wrong.”

She stuck out her hand. We shook on it, both grinning a bit at the formality.

“Just let me go down first, and give me a few minutes,” Hannah said, walking to the door. She turned to give me one last glance. “The most important thing is just that we keep you out of sight.”

And that’s when the door opened behind her. Her father stood on the other side, peering in.

“Hey honey, I heard voices up here, and I just came to check and make sure everything was okay—"

His eyes slid over to look at me, still sitting on the bed, staring back with eyes wide.

"Uh, who is that?”

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