Maya rushed to English so she’d have plenty of time before class started. When she got there, Charlie was already there sitting at her desk. Maya walked up and decided to assert her dominance by sitting on Charlie’s desk to get her attention.
“Well, hello there,” Charlie said, seemingly unperturbed. “Feeling awfully forward today, cute stuff?”
Maya started stammering as heat rose in her cheeks.
“I just wanted to say hi,” Maya insisted, unable to look directly at Charlie.
“Well, I can appreciate someone with a bold streak,” Charlie said.
Maya bit her lip and started to blush even harder. She hadn’t thought this through. Charlie definitely had the upper hand here.
Then the bell rang and Charlie looked a little disappointed.
“Oh dear, we don’t get to talk anymore,” she said. “Disappointing. We’ll have to meet up later.”
Maya made it back to her desk and sank into her chair. She was feeling warm. The teacher stood up and began talking, but Maya couldn’t pay attention through her thoughts about Charlie.
Later, when they were well into class, Lily leaned over and started talking to Maya.
“Hey, so… are you free to hang out this weekend?”
“This weekend? Not really. Me and Brielle are going to get our hair done tomorrow, finally. Maybe next weekend?”
“Okay, we’ll shoot for that. I’d love to spend time with you outside of class for a change.”
Maya felt heat start to rise in her cheeks, but she pushed the feeling down. Was Lily even attracted to girls? Charlie had actually shown some interest. Maya couldn’t go around crushing on every girl in her class. It felt weirdly… predatory, and Maya didn’t like it.
“So you like anime, right?” Lily asked, snapping Maya out of her trance.
“I was wondering, then,” Lily said, seemingly chewing on her words, “if you wanted to join the anime club after school? I’m in it, and some of my friends are in it. You’d be more than welcome.”
“That might be fun,” Maya admitted. “I’ll have to ask Brielle if she’s interested.”
“Oh, okay… but I was kind of thinking that this could be something we do together, without her? But, I mean, you can invite her. That’s fair.”
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m just not entirely uncomfortable doing something like that without her.”
“I’m just… not super-comfortable around a bunch of people I don’t know, okay? I’d like my sister to be there.”
Lily looked disappointed.
“Alright,” she said. “I guess I can’t make you. I just thought it would be fun.”
“I’m sure it will be,” Maya agreed. “Just… I gotta make sure Brielle is interested.”
They fell mostly silent after that. Sometimes Maya or Lily would ask what the other thought about a particular anime, but the conversation was mostly over. When the bell rang for their next class, Lily and Maya exchanged a brief goodbye. Maya hung back for just a moment to wave at Charlie, who winked back at her. Maya rushed out of class so Charlie wouldn’t see her blush.
At the end of the school day, Maya and Brielle were the first to arrive at the parking lot. They kept an eye out for their friends while Brielle leaned up against the hood of the car. What was taking everyone else so long?
“I’m excited for this,” Maya said, practically bouncing on her heels.
“Yeah, it’ll be nice to hang out with our friends outside of class again,” Brielle replied. “Don’t know why it has to be girls-only, though.”
“You wish Eric was coming along?” Maya asked, smirking.
“I spend a perfectly healthy amount of time talking to Eric,” Brielle said. “So what if I want to hang out with my best friend outside of school?”
“I think it’s cute,” Maya said quietly.
Brielle grumbled under her breath, but Maya could see that she was starting to blush.
“Look who it is.”
The new voice came from a slim boy with a square jaw, who walked up to the girls and folded his arms.
“What do you want, Lucas?” Brielle asked, bristling.
“Honestly? I guess I just want you to know, Jackson, that not everyone buys your little sob story.”
Brielle stood up straight and took a step toward him.
“You’re not a girl, Jackson. You’re a boy with a diseased mind,” Lucas said. “If you thought using magic to pretend to be a girl was going to fool everyone, your brain must have really been divided in half.”
Maya groaned and pressed herself up against the car. She felt cornered. This was exactly what she’d feared would happen to her.
Brielle wasn’t having it, though, and retorted, “Why don’t you tell us how you really feel, Lucas? And not just whatever your father shoveled into your mouth to spew out at us later?”
“I don’t need help from anyone to see what kind of freak you are, you pervert,” he seethed. Then he turned to Maya, who was breathing heavily, and asked, “Are you okay with this? Being a freak accident because of his mistakes?”
“I’m not a freak…” Maya mumbled.
“Don’t talk to her, Lucas!” Brielle cried, taking a few more steps forward.
Lucas held his ground, though, and folded his arms.
“You can’t stop me from talking,” Lucas sneered. “I know my first amendment rights.”
Brielle curled her hands into fists and took another step forward.
“Brielle, no!” someone cried.
Amelia ran up and grabbed Brielle’s hands, stopping her from going any further. Several other girls ran up to surround her and glared at Lucas. He didn’t move.
“Brielle,” Amelia said, “Brielle, your sister needs you right now.”
Brielle looked away from Lucas and toward Maya, who was pulling at her hair and struggling not to cry, then nodded.
Amelia turned to Lucas and said, “Nobody wants you here. Why don’t you go?”
“Public property, babe. Why are you trying to defend this creep?”
Amelia stormed right up to Lucas. He didn’t flinch, but she got right up in his face and snorted. After a moment, Lucas broke eye contact and started walking away.
Brielle walked over to Maya, who had sunk down to the ground and was still pulling at her hair.
“I’m not a freak,” Maya mumbled.
“Of course not, honey. Nobody thinks you are.”
“He just said it.”
“He’s wrong. He knows he’s wrong. He only said it to mess with your head.”
There was some quiet muttering among the group, and Amelia said, “Maybe we should postpone the trip.”
“No!” Maya cried, wiping away her tears and forcing herself to her feet. She had to grab onto her sister for help. “We’re doing this. I’m not going to let him ruin my day.”
It was agreed. Brielle insisted on driving Maya alone, so the other three girls got into Amelia’s car with her. The drive to the mall was heavy and quiet, like Brielle was afraid Maya was so fragile she might break again.
I suppose that’s fair, she thought to herself.
When they reunited with their friends outside the mall, they were laughing among themselves. It seemed like the incident with Lucas had been all but forgotten. When they saw Maya, she made sure to give them a big smile to show she was alright.
The first place they went to was a makeup salon. As soon as she entered the door, Brielle shuddered. Despite her bad mood, Maya had to giggle.
“Okay, Maya,” Amelia said, holding up a tiny bottle of eyeliner, “I’m going to show you how to apply this and then you’re going to copy what I do on the other eye, okay?”
Maya nodded and tried to sit still. Beside her, Brielle was listening to the salon attendant fill her in on the basics of applying foundation and concealer. Brielle was shuffling uncomfortably, but did pay attention.
Before the spell, as Jackson, they hadn’t really dived too deep into makeup tutorials online. It had made them too dysphoric. Since then, Maya had been the only one to really take to makeup, and Brielle only occasionally allowed Maya to practice on her when nobody was going to see.
Once Maya was done with her flimsy attempt at eyeliner, she leaned over to ask, “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” Brielle muttered, but she was eying her reflection in the mirror warily.
After they had been upsold a little more than they actually needed, the group made their way to a clothing store. Maya tried to listen into the conversation, but she was fighting a dizzy spell and it was hard to focus. She smiled and nodded along, though, determined to keep them from worrying about her.
“This would look great on you,” Amelia said, thrusting a dress into Maya’s arms.
“And these shoes go perfectly with that,” someone else said, holding up a pair of wedges.
“Are you sure?” Maya asked, taking the shoes. “This doesn’t feel like my style.”
“Trust us, sis, it’s going to feel like it was made for you.”
Maya locked the door to the dressing room and took a moment to just stare at her reflection. This was it. This was the experience she’d been waiting her whole life for. She was one of the girls. It was perfect.
A small bout of coughing interrupted her thought, but she was able to get it under control after the sixth or seventh cough.
“Hope nobody catches anything from me,” she muttered, stripping off her top.
When Maya emerged from the dressing room, it was to a round of applause from her friends. She couldn’t help but blush and cover her face from embarrassment. They were right; it felt like it was made for her.
Brielle emerged from the other dressing room, also in a dress but standing awkwardly.
“I don’t think it looks good,” she said quietly.
“It looks fine,” Amelia said, and there was a spattering of agreement from the rest of the girls. “You should get it.”
“I don’t know if I’ll ever wear it.”
Maya leaned in and whispered, “Don’t worry. If you don’t, I will.”
“Oh, she’s going to wear it,” someone said.
“No more than I have to.”
“Oh, come on.”
“It looks great on you.”
“If you give it a chance, you’ll love it.”
Brielle looked down and clenched her jaw. Maya, seeing what was happening, placed a hand on her shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze.
“She doesn’t have to wear it if she doesn’t want to,” Maya said.
Brielle gave her a grateful smile in return.
After they had changed back into their clothes and paid for their purchases, the group agreed to sit down for coffee. They found a coffee shop and gathered around a table with their drinks of choice. Brielle sat there quietly while everyone talked, and Maya could tell that something was wrong.
“Hey, can I talk to you for a minute, alone?” she asked.
Brielle nodded and followed her out of the coffee shop. They found a bench and sat down, surrounded by people milling about their daily lives. Brielle sat hunched, with a faraway look in her eye.
“What’s wrong, Brielle?” Maya asked.
Brielle sighed and explained, “This… today is the first time since the spell that I feel like I don’t really belong. Up until now, I’ve been able to ignore the fact that I’m not all that girly and just enjoy being a girl. But now it’s really obvious that I don’t fit in. Not like you do, Maya.”
“Brielle… you don’t have to be girly if it’s not right for you.”
“I know that,” Brielle admitted. “On some level, I know that. But not being able to fit in with the girls… I feel like I have dysphoria all over again. Like I’m a faker and I’m never going to be one of the girls for real. And—” There were tears in her eyes. “—and I know what it’s like to be the odd one out. I’m the wealthy black trans girl tomboy. I get that I’m not always going to belong. But I thought… I thought I’d feel like I belonged with my friends.”
Maya wrapped her arms around her sister and gave her a tight squeeze.
“Brielle, you’re completely valid and I love you for who you are. And so do all of your friends. They just aren’t used to how much of a tomboy you really are. They’ll get there. They accepted me and they’ll accept you.”
Brielle sniffed and grinned.
“Thank you, Maya,” she said.
“Hey, what’s up?” Amelia asked, walking up with their other friends in tow. “Is something wrong?”
Brielle pulled herself up straight and stood up.
“Nothing’s wrong. You guys want to keep going?”
Dinner was already out of the oven by the time Maya and Brielle finally made it home. They dropped their bags off in their room and returned downstairs, Brielle stomping the whole way down, and grabbed themselves each a plate. Their parents were already eating at the table when they sat down.
“Maya, Brielle,” their dad said, quietly acknowledging the two.
“How was the trip to the mall, you two?” their mom asked.
“It was fun,” Maya said. “I got to try on all sorts of new makeup.”
“Did you enjoy it, Brielle?”
Brielle nodded curtly in response, barely looking at their mother.
Their father asked, “And so what are…” he took a short breath, “our daughters going to do this weekend?”
Maya answered, “We booked a hair appointment for tomorrow. Otherwise we’re just going to hang out at home.”
“I wish,” their mother said, “that you girls would find something to spend your time on outside of sitting around at home. A hobby or something. Weren’t you going to learn guitar? We could sign you up for lessons.”
“But only if I agree to go back to ‘being a boy,’ right? That’s your only condition?” Brielle asked, not looking up from her plate.
Their mom and dad shared a long glance, then their dad said, “We’ve talked a lot about it, Brielle, and we’ve realized that we have to accept this is the way things are now.”
Brielle froze. Maya stopped eating and watched the scene unfold in front of her. Slowly, Brielle lifted her head and looked at their parents.
Their mom continued, “We know that things can’t just go back to the way they were, and while we’re upset that you didn’t wait for us to agree before rushing in, we’ve come to terms with the fact that you’re a girl now regardless of whether we were ready for it or not.”
Everyone was silent. Maya could see the gears turning in Brielle’s head. Brielle opened her mouth, then closed it, then opened it again, searching for words.
“I… thank you,” she said, tearing up.
Their mom placed a hand on Brielle’s and gave it a gentle squeeze.
“Of course, sweetie.”
The tension seemed to melt immediately. Brielle stopped eating like she was determined to get out of there and started to really enjoy her food. The conversation was lighter and Brielle even occasionally laughed at one of her dad’s dumb jokes.
Maya was frowning. Their parents hadn’t actually apologized for anything they’d done. Memories of the first few weeks they had spent at home came back to her. The memory of Mom pleading with Brielle to magically turn back into a boy came back to her. And a faint anger began to stir within her.