30: Sleeveless Hoodie
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I was in class the next day, thoroughly bored out of my mind, when my phone buzzed in my pocket… and then didn’t stop going off. Oh no, what had happened? I hadn't spoken to Mum about any of my problems last night, mainly due to nerves, so nothing had changed there. Brook and I were still awkward with each other, and Maddy hadn't said a peep since yesterday.

So who was blowing up my phone? I pulled it out and checked, knowing full well that the professor of my current class didn’t give two shits.

Elsie was added to the group chat.
Brook was added to the group chat.

Eric: O M G. YOu two, have you seen the views!!!

Brook: on what?

Eric: Our video of elsie! It’s exploded!

Brook: no shit that’s great

Oliver: it’s sick, so many people love it!

Eric: I feel like we should be giving you a cut of the ad revenue for this elsie, it’s crazy. Our channel has gotten over 100k subs in the few days since we uploaded it!

Brook: please do! She really needs the cash. Transition aint cheap even when you skip the meds part

Eric: alright, elsie, hit me up with some details in DMs, that video is going viral as fuck

Oliver: don’t forget the part about how they want to see you on the channel again! Practically crawling down our throats for it

Eric: dude phrasing

Oliver: oh i know

Wow! They were going to give me money for the video? I quickly opened my bank app on my phone and copied the details to Eric, the switched back to the group chat.

Elsie: Thank you so much!!! I loved doing it so I’m game to come back for another video if they still want me and stuff!

Eric: Oh they want you back alright! Let’s do it! What about friday afternoon?

Elsie: Definitely!! Brook will you come?

Brook: Phrasing again lol, but yeah I’ll be there

Elsie: Mow! Omg!

The group chat continued after to buzz away after that with some banter and back and forth about plans, but the broad strokes were sorted out, so I put my phone away again and turned back to my class.

After that class was over, I left and moved towards the next one feeling incredible. I was going to get money! For skating! It would probably only be a little bit, but still, that was awesome. Eric and Oliver were so damn cool. I was happy to have guy friends who accepted me too, trans lesbian and all.

I was walking between buildings when I saw a sight that confused the absolute shit out of me, as well as setting my hackles up. The bully girls from before were walking and talking with my cousin, Hazel. The girl who, along with her brother, had outed me to my parents. Something about that was incredibly fishy.

I hurried after them, pulling up the hood of my sleeveless hoodie in a probably fruitless attempt to keep them from seeing who I was. It didn’t really matter by the looks of things however, they were too busy talking among themselves.

The topic of conversation was currently some guy I didn’t know, but it turned quickly in the direction I had been dreading.

“Are the rumours working? Did that teacher kick him out?” Hazel asked eagerly.

“Nah. She went and turned like, social media war on us, got some friends to show her making out with her friend or whatever. Apparently they’re dating?” one of the bully girls said with a weary sigh.

Holy shit, what? They were talking about me! About the rumours! No way… surely it wasn’t my cousin who’d spread the rumours? Also, the misgendering hurt, sending a little stab of pain into my chest. Goddess Hazel was an awful person.

Getting my phone out as quick as I could, I began to record, using my powers to bend the space between them and the mic on my phone so that it would get what they were saying clearly.

“He’s a man, call him that… but what? Which friend? He only has one,” Hazel said derisively.

Another spike of pain at the misgendering, and I felt like walking right over there and… I don’t know. I don’t know what I would do, but it would be angry.

“That Brook slut,” the other girl shrugged, uninterested. “They were making out right in front of us the other day, it was gross. Lesbians are fucked up in my opinion. Then they went on some gay dude’s skateboarding youtube channel and now everyone thinks the rumours are wrong. Talk about gay agenda.”

“The slut is bi isn’t she? I heard she fucked that Frasier guy last year,” the first bully girl asked in that typical gossipy tone.

“Oh yeah that’s right Nicky! Still gross though, I bet it’s just a thing to get guys,” the second girl scoffed. “Or maybe she just can’t get what she needs with girls.”

“Well how are we going to get to him then?” Hazel almost growled angrily, ignoring their talk about Brook’s sexuality. “He’s a fucking embarrassment to my family. My parents and his parents say that the earlier we can get him off to be fixed, the better.”

Fixed? What did that mean? Would they try and take my body? My gut turned to the darkest ice as I realised that with Emerged roaming the world now, it was theoretically possible that there was someone out there who could turn me back. I’d like to see them try though! I would rather die than let that happen. I’d fight them. See how they could do anything with their entire chest crushed down to the size of a marble. I would absolutely kill to keep my feminine body.

“I don’t know, does it even matter? Just pretend he doesn’t exist like everyone in my family does about my cousin,” Nicky, first girl shrugged.

“Our family doesn’t do that, we stick with our family even if they are the worst of the worst. Everyone can be saved,” Hazel said haughtily.

“Suit yourself I guess. Alesha and I have class, so good luck thinking of ideas,” Nicky said, apparently not invested all that much in my downfall.

Before any of them could turn and find me following them, I closed the flattened space between them and my phone, then turned and walked in the other direction as fast as I could. There was so much to think about there, and I got most of it on a recording.

My anxiety was stuck on the idea that they might try and take my body away. I needed to tell Mum right away, and I did so, pulling out my phone and sending a text saying we urgently needed to talk.

Mum: What’s wrong Elsie? Do you need me right now? Mum form or Hero form?

Elsie: I caught my cousin talking to some girls from uni. She was the one spreading the rumours. She talked about my family wanting to “fix me”. I got it all on recording. I’m worried they want to take my body away!! I’ll kill all of them if they try. I’m sorry, but I will.

Mum: Honey I wouldn’t blame you at all. It’s okay. If you have it on recording, we can use that in court… but I’m not inclined to be particularly above board here. Especially if it was them who snuck onto my property and took photos of us. I’ll get back to you about plans tonight alright little one?

I felt tension ease from me as she took charge of the situation, feeling a small smile spread across my face. Mum loved me, she would protect me. I thanked her and said that yes, I would see her tonight.

 

****

 

I had decided to try cooking for Mum so that she’d have a meal when she got home, and I might have even done well. Mostly well. I’d made homemade pizzas, because we both loved them, but I’d left them in slightly too long as I got distracted by having the weirdest normal conversation of my life with Maddy. We talked about all sorts of things, like games that were coming out and how she’d swapped out of the class I was in. It was nice, but it was hella weird.

“Well, something smells interesting in here,” came Mum’s weary but warm voice as I stared at the edible looking but ever so slightly singed pizzas.

“I burned it,” I whined, looking up from the pizzas.

Moving over to wrap me in her arms, she murmured, “It looks perfectly edible dear.”

“Thanks,” I smiled, looking up from within her embrace. “I tried to make it how you like it, but I’m not sure it worked out so well.”

“Like I said, I’m sure it’ll taste fine,” she chuckled, leaning over to look at it. “Why don’t you go and wash your hands while I set this out on some plates?”

“Okay,” I agreed, leaving her embrace to go and find the bathroom.

When I returned, Mum had a plate for me on the coffee table, the TV on low volume. She was sitting with one leg over the arm of the couch in a position that simultaneously looked very uncomfortable and very comfortable at the same time. Holding it in one hand like she was a waitress, her plate was up in the air as she munched away on her first piece of pizza.

Looking up at me from the couch she gave me a sheepish smile. “Sorry, long day and I’m damn starving. Thanks for cooking.”

“That’s why I did it,” I grinned, feeling the warm glow of happiness bloom in my chest.

I went over and sat down next to her, grabbing my plate, then realising we had no water, so I put it back down and got up again. I walked over to the kitchen unit and looked back towards her.

“Do you want water or wine?” I asked.

“White thanks,” she said, smiling up at me from the couch. “You can have some too if you want.”

“Nah…” I started to decline, before remembering the topics I wanted to bring up. “Nevermind, I think I do need some.”

“Right, rough day with that family of yours. The terrible one, not the good one we’re making here,” she smiled kindly.

“Yup,” I sighed, pouring us both half a glass of wine and grabbing a jug of water just in case too. Wine virtually never actually quenched my thirst, and pizza was a thirsty food.

When I was back down and biting into my first piece of pizza, I glanced over at Mum to find her watching me consideringly.

“What?” I asked worriedly.

“Thinking about how that pit of human garbage you came from could have produced someone so incredible,” she told me with an honest expression. “And maybe considering turning that pit into a crevasse instead.”

“Wouldn’t you get in trouble if you did that?” I asked, surprised.

“Yeah. In all seriousness though, I think I’m going to use some… friends of mine, to make their lives far too busy to worry about little old you,” she told me earnestly. “I might be a hero, and bound by those rules, but I know some people who aren’t.”

“Really? Who?” I asked eagerly. I really wanted to know about Mum’s hero life.

“One’s feathered, one’s fluffy,” she said with a cryptic grin. “They’re off somewhere else right now, but the feathered one owes me a favour and I know of a cheeky little shit of a rifter who can help.”

“That sounds ominous,” I said with a grin.

“Yup, don’t worry about any of this. Now that we know who the enemy is, we can fight them. I’ll take care of it, although I could use that recording you took,” she told me with a compassionate smile.

“Right… I’ll send it now,” I said, wiping my hands on my skinny jeans and getting my phone out. I emailed it to her and then put it back into my pocket. “Sent”

She hummed approval and we turned to the TV for a few minutes. Well, she was watching it, but my stomach was tying itself in knots about the question I wanted to ask. I wanted to ask about love, about how it was meant to feel, but… it was such an emotional topic, and what if she said that yes, I was in love with Brook? What then?

“Spit it out,” Mum sighed, placing her empty plate down and picking up the remains of her wine. “You’re getting worked up over something.”

“What does love feel like?” I blurted almost desperately.

Mum’s eyebrows rose slightly and she asked, “Well, that depends on the type we’re talking about here.”

“Romantic,” I mumbled into my rapidly cooling last slice of pizza.

“Well in that case… It’s difficult to explain an emotion like that, but it comes in stages. Infatuation burns fast and hot, you find yourself drawn to the person like a magnet and it’s difficult to think about much else other than them. Then things start to cool down a little, you notice that they aren’t as great as your crush-blind eyes first thought. This is the hardest part in a relationship for a lot of people,” she told me, her eyes going distant. “Sometimes as the veil is lifted, you realise you were overlooking some dealbreakers that are too much for you to overcome.”

“That… sounds hard,” I said softly, looking internally at myself for a moment. “I think… I think that Maddy and I didn’t make it past that part.”

“I think so too,” she nodded sadly.

“What happens after that?” I asked, with a sneaking suspicion that I knew already.

“If you learn to respect each other and compromise, if you can work past those unforeseen problems, you move into a deeper love, it’s… it’s difficult to explain. I’ve only made it to that stage once myself, and I lost it,” Mum said, going quiet for a moment as she looked like she might cry. I wriggled over and leaned against her to give her comfort, earning a grateful smile from her.

“You might not feel like you need to be around someone every moment when you’ve got a mature love for them. I don’t mean mature in an adult sense, but I mean it in the sense that this is the type of love that long term relationships are built on. You love them simply for who they are, for their whole, despite the problems you’ve worked to overcome. It’s a deep, slow burning love, but it can spark up in moments of passion to remind you of the early days too. Honestly I’m doing the whole experience a disservice by trying to constrain it with words,” she said wryly.

Oh shit. Oooohh shit. Crap. Time for a question… “Mum, would feeling like that for someone… being around them, would it make you feel calm and safe? Like... you can go without them, and you don’t feel the pull so much like you said… but at the same time, when you’re with them, it feels like you haven’t been breathing and you only just realised it?”

“That’s one way to put it,” she nodded thoughtfully, considering me. “Do you have someone like that?”

“Maybe,” I mumbled, feeling my heart trying to crush itself.

I had been so fucking dumb. I had been… incredibly dumb. My mind was moving at the speed of light right now, but I still felt like I couldn’t catch up with all the thoughts and implications that my little realisation had brought on.

I loved Brook. Not just that though, but I had loved her for a very, very long time. Looking back to our early friendship, and the way we’d been practically glued together at the hip during those first few weeks. Then she’d sprung her crush on me, and I’d freaked out… but I hadn’t freaked out because she had a crush on me, or because I didn’t feel the same way.

I’d freaked out because I didn’t want to be in a relationship. More specifically, I didn’t want to be in a relationship as a guy. I’d shoved her into the friend box so hard that she’d stuck there ever since. Until I had Emerged. Our friendship had been shaken up, and she bounced out of the friendship box a little, and each interaction between us had seen her moving just a little further out.

The first kiss in the skate park… she’d fallen out completely at that point, and my raw need to be with her had seen my anxiety spiking to levels that had landed me in her room time and again. Sure, there were other reasons that sparked those attacks, but in the end, I was so high strung because I was torturing myself simply by continuing to push her away.

“Hey... there there,” Mum was saying, her arms wrapped around me. “It’s okay. It will work out.”

“I don’t know,” I sobbed, coming back to my body and finding myself crying desperately. “I’m in love with Brook. I’ve been in love with Brook for so damn long I didn’t even realise it… my stupid… my stupid dysphoria hid it from me!”

“That’s fine, you’ve realised it now. You can do something about it. The future is brighter now,” she murmured soothingly.

“Why… why is the world so fucking awful?” I cried, vaguely waving my hand around. “They force us to be this thing… normal, and then when we aren’t normal, or we can’t be normal… it takes us so damn long to figure ourselves out, we’ve missed half of our lives! Spent it just trying to exist, trying to survive the onslaught of relentless and crushing… normal.

“You’re right,” she whispered sadly. “It’s beyond shit. You know that it took me until my second year of college before I realised I was gay too. I did exactly as you described, trying and failing to shove myself into the normal box like all the other girls around me, but I couldn’t. I wasn’t the same shape as them.”

“I hate them,” I blurted, feeling anger and outrage boil up within me. “I hate them for doing this to us.”

“Don’t hate them dear,” she chided me softly. “They’re working under the same weight too, they just have a much easier time of it. Terrible people and the history of society crushing down on them the same as us.”

“Can I be angry at them?” I asked weakly.

“A little,” she chuckled. “Just don’t be too harsh. They’re just as ignorant as you were at the start of your journey, but they were never pushed to learn through the need to survive like we were. If they refuse to learn when confronted with your suffering though? Those ones you can hate. Scare ‘em with a black hole or two huh?”

I giggled and nodded, “I can do that. I think I did actually, my father wasn’t expecting to be thrown around when he tried to hit me.”

“Excellent, that’s good,” she said with a note of amusement and a kiss to the top of my head. “And what about this Brook of yours? Will you do something?”

“I don’t know… I’ll try? I’m scared,” I mumbled anxiously. “I said no so many times… what if she says no back?”

“I don’t think you’ll have to worry about that,” she smiled.

I wasn’t so sure, but I had to try right? I had to tell my dumb, anxious mind to get fucked and I had to go and try… but later. Maybe… definitely. I should try. I just had to figure out the right time, and the right place and… no. I needed… shit. I was so lost. Maybe she’d realise it if I kissed her enough?

 

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