My phone pinged; I picked it up from my nightstand, unlocked it, and looked at the message I’d just received.
I sighed deeply.
Patrick and Lena didn’t say anything, they just nodded in acknowledgement. Like a condemned criminal walking to the gallows, I got up from my chair and walked downstairs, to meet my mother and siblings; they were waiting for me in front of the dorm.
“Uh… Hi,” I greeted them.
“Hello, Theo,” Mother said. She made no move to hug me, which surprised me – the last couple times I’d seen her, she was really touchy-feely: this time, she seemed… Distant. Peter and Leah too just looked at me, without answering my greeting, but I could see a turmoil of emotion in their eyes, which I was sure was reflected in mine.
“This way,” I said, and walked right back into the dorm, my family following closely behind me. In short order we were back where I’d started, room 206; I opened the door and walked inside.
I waved my hand around. “This is my room. Well, mine and Patrick’s.”
Patrick was still sitting on his bed, beside Lena, and he nodded politely.
“Seems comfortable, if a bit cramped,” my mother remarked, glancing around the room. Then she focused her gaze on my friends. “Oh, you’re… The two who were with Theo in that picture, weren’t you?” she asked.
“They are,” I replied. “Patrick and Lena. They’re my best friends.”
Patrick nodded again; Lena, on the other hand, didn’t move, but was staring right at Mother, a stony expression on her face.
“Well, Patrick, Lena, if you’ll excuse us,” my mother continued. “I’m afraid my children and I have something to discuss, as a family. Would you mind giving us some time?”
Lena turned to me; she inclined her head slightly, in an unspoken question. I nodded. She nodded back. She and Patrick got up, and started to walk towards the door. When she was passing by my mother, however, she paused, and looked at her straight in the eyes; I could see fire burning in her gaze.
“A word of warning,” she said. “I care about my friend very much. Much more than you can possibly realise. If you say or do something out of place…” She raised her hand, and pointed a finger at my mother threateningly. “Well, you better fucking watch yourself.”
Without waiting for a reply – which wasn’t forthcoming, my mother was too stunned to answer right away – she flung the door open and marched outside, followed by Patrick, who gave me a glance as he closed the door behind them.
Mother looked at me. “She’s… Intense, isn’t she?”
Despite the situation I was in, I smirked. “You have no idea,” I replied. Then I took a deep breath. “Okay, you’re here to talk. So let’s talk.”
I sat down on my bed, and she sat down on Patrick’s; my siblings, unexpectedly, sat down on my bed on either side of me, and Peter put a hand encouragingly on my back. I was grateful for the show of support; still, I didn’t know where to even begin talking with my mother, so the silence stretched on. Several minutes went by, with none of us breaking the silence; I was staring down at the floor, while I could feel she was looking straight at me.
“Well, aren’t you going to say anything?” she asked finally. “Like, for example, explaining why you went to an abortion clinic with… Lena and Patrick.” She paused. “Is she your girlfriend, by the way?”
“She’s not,” I replied. “And before you ask no, she’s not dating Patrick either.” Yet, I mentally added. I’d been so busy worrying about myself over the past few days that I hadn’t had time to try and proceed with my plan to push the two of them together; but can you blame me?
“Okay,” Mother continued. “So Lena got pregnant after having sex with her boyfriend, she went to the clinic, and you and Patrick went there to support her. Did I get it right? But then, why did you pay for it?”
I sighed. “No, you got it wrong,” I said, looking up at her. “Lena wasn’t pregnant, and she’s not dating anyone in any case. And I already told you, I didn’t go to the clinic for an abortion.”
“Why then?” she said. “Why did you go to… That kind of clinic, if not to get someone an abortion?”
I sighed again. “Mother, despite what you might have heard, Planned Parenthood doesn’t just do abortions. They have a whole range of things they do, lots of services they provide.”
I didn’t answer, and I looked away from her. Again, the silence stretched on, but only for a handful of seconds.
“Such as?” Mother asked again, more insistently. “What services do they provide? What did you go there for? God, Theo, what is it that you’re not telling me? That you feel you cannot tell me?”
I could hear by the tone of her voice that she was getting upset; she seemed to be on the verge of tears – of sadness, or of frustration, I couldn’t tell.
“I mean, it can’t be something terrible, some deadly sin,” she went on. “And the fact that you’re not telling me is really hurtful. Do you really think I would think less of you for… Whatever it is? You’re my son.”
I snorted out a bitter laugh. “Yeah, right.”
She seemed to be taken aback. “Theo? Are you really suggesting I would… Disown you, or something?”
“I’m not,” I replied, then thought for a moment. “Or maybe I am. We’ll revisit that later. It was the last thing you said that made me laugh. ‘My son.’ You see, that’s the problem, I’m not your son.”
I looked straight at her, trying to gauge her reaction; she was really surprised, and seemed to be thinking about what I’d said.
“What do you mean, you’re not my son? Of course you are, I gave birth to you,” she said.
“Of course you did,” I said. “But I’m not your son, I’m your daughter.”
She blinked. “Come again?”
“I’m transgender, Mother,” I answered, putting emphasis on that word. “Even though we live in the South, even though we’re sheltered, you must have heard the word before. You must know what it means. I’m not a boy. I was never a boy. I’m a girl, mom.”
She was completely stunned, looking straight at me. I took the chance to continue speaking.
“I don’t blame you for not noticing it. I didn’t notice it myself until very recently. I thought I was a boy my entire life, but when I realised I’m not, that I’m actually a girl, I felt such… Relief. You have no idea how it felt. But now…” I sobbed, and I realised tears were streaming down my face. “Now everything… I need to be a girl, Mother. I need it. And I need you to love me, as I am. Please. Please.”
I put my face in my hands, and started crying. My siblings gave me a comforting hug, from either side of me, and I was grateful to them for that.
There was silence for a while, punctuated only by my sobbing.
“Then, you went to the clinic for… That?” my mother said. My face still in my hands, I gave a small nod.
The silence stretched. For several minutes, this time. I was bracing myself for rejection.
Finally, I heard Mother take a deep breath. “Theo--”
“Allie,” Peter cut her off.
“What?” Mother asked; surprise was evident in her voice.
“Allison if you really must,” Leah added. “But she prefers Allie.”
“We did,” Leah said. “Ever since she came home for New Year’s.” There was a tinge of challenge in her voice, an implied what are you going to do about it? tone I’d never heard her use before.
Again, silence. My face was still in my hands: I couldn’t bear to look at my mother right at that moment.
Then I felt my brother stand up, and someone else – a heavier weight – sit down in his place. I shrank away from Mother, but then I felt her wrap her arm around my shoulders.
“Allie,” she whispered. She leaned against me. “Allie. Did I…” She took a deep breath and continued. “Did I ever tell you about your older siblings?”
I looked up at her in surprise, tears still in my eyes. “Older siblings?” I asked. “But… I was the first born.”
She shook her head, a sad smile on her lips. “Your father and I had two more pregnancies before you. Neither went past the fifth month. There were… Complications. And we almost lost you, too; I couldn’t exert myself, I was basically bedridden for almost five months. But then, you were born.”
She sighed. “We’d wished for a child so hard. We’d prayed to God so many times. We’d almost lost all hope. And when I held you in my arms for the very first time, I felt… Love. So much love. Right at that moment, I promised to myself I would cherish and protect you for as long as I could, no matter what.” She looked at me. “This is what family is all about. Family is being there for each other. Family is love.”
She gulped. “I have loved you ever since I first looked at you. I loved you as my son,” she said. “It… It may take some time. It may take some adjustment. But I’m sure I can come to love you just as much as my daughter instead.”
I looked her in the eyes, for the first time that day. “Then you’re not mad at me?”
“Oh, I am quite mad at you, young m-- young lady,” she replied. “Because you thought you couldn’t talk to me about… This.” She smiled. “But I forgive you.”
I burst out laughing, and I hugged my mother, tears – of relief, this time – streaming down my face; Peter and Leah quickly joined the hug. We were still for a while, just basking in the familial love.
“By the way, Mother, I like girls,” Leah piped up.
Mother looked at her in surprise for a couple seconds, then started laughing. She turned to Peter: “Do you have some deep, uncomfortable secret you wish to reveal, too?” she asked.
“Nah, I’m good,” he said, laughing along with her.
This day had turned out to be better than I thought it would. Much better in fact. My family – my close family, at least – accepted me. I would have no problem going back home as myself, and when I came back to college, I--
My face fell when I remembered the predicament I was in. The fact that I still risked to lose my athletic scholarship, and the chance to attend college and see my friends – especially Lena and Patrick – with it.
My mother noticed the change. “What’s wrong, Theo?” she asked.
“Allie,” my sister corrected her.
“Allie, right,” Mother said. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s… College,” I said. “I’m here on an athletic scholarship, remember?” She nodded, and I continued, “Well, I’ve talked things through with the coach, but there’s still a chance – a pretty big chance – that by transitioning I would lose the scholarship. Which would mean I won’t have the money to stay here at Bradford McKinley.”
My mother blinked. “Oh, that’s no problem then. I’ll just sell the house.”
I felt my mouth fall open. “W-- What?” I exclaimed. “You’re going to do what?”
“I’ve been thinking about it for a while. I already have some offers on the table, but I think I can get some more money out of it if I haggle,” she continued. “Then I can just buy a small apartment, something cheap, and use the rest for tuition, there should be enough to pay most of your way through college, with a significant amount left over for you two,” she said, nodding to Peter and Leah.
“But… It’s your house! Father’s house!” I protested.
“He left it to me in his will.”
“But it’s been in our family for generations! It has been owned by the Parkers for centuries!”
“And that’s why it’s a historical building, and worth quite a bit of money,” she said. “And besides, there’s a lot of space we aren’t using, and I…” She took a deep breath. “I know perfectly well that once you three graduate college, you won’t come back to live with me. You’ll go out on your own, and live your life, and that’s perfectly fine. And I don’t want to be left as an old crone, living on her own in a big, empty house.”
I thought about my only living paternal relative. “But what will Uncle Adam say?”
“Fuck what he says, and fuck him,” Mother replied. When she saw Peter, Leah, and I look at her in shock – it was the first time we’d ever heard her use the word fuck – she continued, “He didn’t help us over the years, he was always disapproving of how we handled things, he tried to pit the two of us against each other by giving me that picture. He may be upset I’m selling the house, but honestly I couldn’t give a damn about what he thinks.”
I didn’t say anything, I just leaned over and hugged her tight.
After a while, we broke the embrace, and she looked at me. “Is there any place we can get something to eat around here?” she asked. “We’ve been driving most of the day, and I for one am absolutely famished.” Peter and Leah nodded in agreement.
“Yeah, there is,” I said. “If you’re okay with a café, there’s a really good one not far from here, we can go there and have…” I looked at my watch. “A late lunch together.”
She nodded. “Okay, let’s go. Ask your friends Lena and Patrick to join us.”
“Lena and Patrick?” I asked, quizzically.
“I’m not stupid, Allie,” she answered. “I’ve realised the two of them have been helping you through… This thing. Otherwise, why would they have come to the clinic with you? This way we can show them everything is okay, and I can get to know the people who’ve been taking care of my s-- of my daughter.” She smirked. “And perhaps I can convince that fierce girl friend of yours not to murder me in my sleep.”
I laughed, pulled out my phone, and sent Lena and Pat a quick text.
The lunch was entirely pleasant; we had some nice conversations while eating some tasty food, and by the end, surprisingly, Lena and my mother had become fast friends; Mother thanked her and Patrick profusely for being there for me when she couldn’t, and made them promise to keep helping me, to which they nodded and replied, “Always.” Which stung a bit: while they might have meant it right at that moment, sooner or later we would part ways. It was just the way life works.
After the meal we split up: my mother and siblings had been on the road since early morning, so they wanted to get some rest before going back home the following day; I was going to walk them to their motel.
Before we separated, Lena turned to me. “Allie, when you’ve said goodbye to them, would you mind coming back to your dorm room straight away?” she asked.
“Yeah, sure. Why?” I replied, puzzled.
“It’s just…” she and Patrick exchanged a glance. “The two of us have been talking, and there’s something we need to discuss.” Pat nodded in agreement.
I looked at them for a few seconds, then smiled. They’d finally figured it out! “Sure! It’ll be about half an hour, then I’ll be there.”
“Great,” Lena said. “We’ll be waiting.”
True to my words, about a half hour later I arrived at my dorm room. I was about to open the door, but I hesitated; I could hear a muffled conversation inside. The voices were clearly Pat and Lena’s, but I couldn’t clearly make out the words. There was something about “right choice” and “she’ll see” though.
My feelings were… Conflicted. On the one hand, I was really happy that my friends had figured out they were attracted to each other. On the other, that would mean they would start to spend time alone, without me being there, and the thought made my heart sink.
I took a deep breath, knocked on the door, and entered without waiting for a reply; it was my dorm room, after all. Patrick and Lena were sitting on his bed, holding hands. I smiled at the sight, a sad, shaky smile.
“Okay,” I said, plopping down on my own bed. “You said you had something to discuss?”
The two of them glanced at each other, then nodded. “Yes, actually,” Lena said. “We kinda have to… Talk. About us.” Patrick nodded in agreement.
There was a brief moment of silence as we looked at each other, then I spoke up. “That’s great, actually!” I exclaimed.
“It’s… Great?” Pat queried.
“Yeah, it really is,” I continued. “I mean, you two are just perfect for each other.”
“We are…?” Lena said.
I nodded. “Of course. I mean, you’re both a bit thick, no offence, it took you a lot of time to figure out that you liked each other. But it’s awesome that you discovered your feelings.” I took a deep breath, that was halfway a sniffle. “I mean, it will come to absolutely no surprise to any of our friends when you two start dating. And of course I’m a bit sad that we’ll kinda have to split up our trio. But I’ll be fine, don’t worry about me.” I breathed in again, and that time it was kinda a sob rather than a sniffle. “I’ll be fine,” I repeated.
And, for the second time that day, I realised I’d started crying without even noticing.
Lena and Pat had twin expressions of dawning horror on their faces, as I wiped my tears on my sleeve.
“You know--” I began again.
“Allie. Allie, stop,” Lena said, a tinge of panic in her voice; Patrick got up from his bed, stepped over to me, and wrapped me in a hug.
“Stop,” he said, too. “You’ve got it wrong. We’re not going anywhere, not unless you want us to.”
“You’re… Not?” I asked.
I could feel him nod. “No, we’re not,” Lena said. “Now, please, take a deep breath and calm down, and we can discuss this.”
Shakily, I nodded. Patrick released the hug, and sat beside me on the bed.
“But I don’t understand,” I said. “You’d said you wanted to talk about you.”
“No, Allie,” he said. “When Lena said us, she meant us. All three of us.”
My eyebrows rose in surprise. “What…” I began; then I looked between the two of them. “What do you mean?”
“You’re not wrong when you say Pat and I have feelings for each other, Allie,” Lena replied. “I really do like him, and the feeling is mutual.” She exchanged a knowing look with Pat, then continued: “What you don’t get is that we also have feelings for you. Both of us.”
I was confused. What was she getting at? “What do you mean?” I asked again.
“She means,” Pat interjected. “That I like you both. I like Lena, and I like you, Allie.”
“And I like both you and Patrick,” Lena concluded.
My eyes widened in surprise; I just kept staring first at one of them, and then at the other.
“But that’s not how things work,” I protested. “You can’t just like two people the same way, at the same time.” I paused, thinking about my own feelings. “Can you?” I whispered.
“You can, actually,” Pat said. “Ain’t no rules in love. Ain’t no rules that says you can’t…” He took a deep breath. “That you can’t love two people. And that they can’t both love you back.”
That was it. Realisation dawned on me.
I loved Patrick. And I loved Lena.
I loved them both.
I was in love with my two best friends.
“And that’s why we’d decided we would like to try dating,” Lena said.
“Dating?” I asked.
“Yes, dating,” she nodded. “Me and Patrick, you and me, Pat and you. All three of us. At the same time.”
I blinked in surprise. “At the same time? You mean we’d be… What? A trio? A threesome?”
“A throuple,” Patrick said with a smile. “That’s the technical term.”
“But… How does that work? Can that work?” I asked.
“It can,” Lena answered. “It’s a bit of an… Unconventional relationship, but it can work. I have some friends who have been in a loving, stable, long-term, three-way relationship for several years now.” She paused. “True, things may be difficult. Society might not understand. And it will take hard work and communication among ourselves.”
She stood up, walked over to me, and grabbed my hand. “But I’m willing to try. I’m going to try and make it work.”
“Me too,” Pat continued. “I’m willing to try, for the sake of my two favourite girls in the whole world.”
Lena smiled at him, blushing a bit, then the two of them turned to me.
“What about you, Allie?” she asked. “Are you willing to try?”
I didn’t even hesitate.
“If it means I get to be together with you? With both of you? Yes,” I replied breathlessly. “Yes. I will absolutely try.”
“Good,” she said, and she wrapped me in a tight hug, soon joined by Patrick.
As I sat there, basking in the warmth of my two best friends, my two partners, my newfound family, there was no doubt.
I was in love.
All was right with the world.