'Untitled'

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
Key aspects of Craig Miller's life, physically male with a gender identity of a female.

Submitted: April 23, 2016

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Submitted: April 22, 2016

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Infantry

Silence is shattered by a screech from a babe covered in blood and vernix. It is a sound of discomfort, provoking action in the adults near. A flurry of movements, of words, and the small being is wrapped in a snug blue blanket, captured tight in a world of embraces and whispers.  

“Craig.”

A spoken gift, meant to last forever, to shape the child’s life for what it is to be. The babe raises small arms, pudgy fingers curling expectantly, reaching blindly for a guardian whose role is to care and nurture, to raise and trust. A long, nimble finger is captured in the fist, and a mother’s touch eases the babe into a peaceful sleep.

 “A strong name for a strong boy,” a voice whispers, acting as a lullaby, and a calloused finger strokes the babe’s cheek, joined by the delicate touch of a woman who sits petite and small, curved and soft as she cradles the slumbering child. There’s an innocence in the air, touching the shoulders of man, woman and child, not to be disturbed or shaken.

A camera is lifted, words beckoning a smile.  A flash later saves the first memory for a lifetime of reminiscent. The photograph is printed and tucked into an album of white pages, a single teal moon sewn onto the front. It’s perfect, everything is perfect, and everything will stay perfect.

A small house, settled on the outskirts of a growing suburb, has a chipped wooden fence framing it. A mess of shrubs and uncut grass, minds having been elsewhere the past couple of months, greets the small family as they walk down the brick path. A red door greets the babe tucked in a navy ergo, but the smell is a repulse, of fresh paint and plaster. Inside, beside the door, sits a stack of documents, discarded in the rush to the hospital. A cricket bat leans against the opposite wall, beside a doorway which opens to a room untouched and unlived in.

With light blue walls, navy curtains and an immaculate cot, the bedroom is tidy and sweet. The monitor on the small white table gets a workout in the first few hours of having a new resident, the low-cut bench losing its freshness shortly after, and the first deposit of something new follows. A festival of blues is celebrated shortly after the arrival and gifts of all colours, except one, are presented, filling the empty shelves in the bedroom.

 The babe is raised to believe that the identity blessed upon him is a condemnation for his mutated future. A future where it is perceived that no individual can rely upon anything other than their anatomy to identify them, a future where the absence of cognisance sharpens the knife of ignorance, ready to strike the unsuspecting.

 

 

 

 

Eight

A child sits alone on a log. His eyes, dark and furtive, reflect the flickering flames which beckon the attention of the other children who run around, screaming and giggling, guided by the hazy moonlight. The scent of burnt marshmallows wafts through the air, the shocking contrast of bitter and sweet, pink and white goo slipping from sticks. Communal chatter goes up with the embers and smoke, and unity is accomplished.

Unlike all those children, Craig Miller is conserved and quiet. He watches the activity around him, his bottom lip hurting because his teeth have ripped the thin layer of skin off twice now. His eyes are on Mother as she is showered with gifts of all sizes, of all colours, particularly pinks and creams and floral patterns. Craig’s fingers tremble imperceptibly as adults around him speak gleefully of the little girl in Mother’s stomach, the mistress of all these gifts. It’s believed she will grow to look as Mother does, bright and bubbly, soft and placid, respectful and passionate. Everything a girl should be.

“Craig, son, come and say hello to somebody.” Craig shifts his gaze to Father, who stands dark and tall beside him. Behind him stands a boy who may be a little shorter than Craig, but not enough for there to be a large age gap. Nodding, Craig stands, and Father rests a palm on his shoulder, giving him a slight push towards the boy. “Samuel is the son of your Godparents, Ronald and Janise, they’ve just moved here from England. Samuel will be starting at your school next week.”

Craig eyes Samuel warily, not quite sure what to think about this boy. Samuel grins and holds out a toy-- a car toy, to be exact. Blinking, Craig’s attention is captured and he shuffles away from Father, sitting back down on the log, but this time not alone. Samuel appears pleased with his new friend, and leans forward, placing the car on Craig’s lap.

“My mum bought it for me, isn’t it cool?”

Craig doesn’t respond right away, tracing his fingers over the shiny metal. He finally manages a nod, a slight inclination of his head that Samuel would have missed if he wasn’t watching for it. Samuel’s grin widens, and he shuffles closer to Craig, who is transfixed by the object on his lap. He has many cars in his bedroom at home, but they are all little things, while this is bigger and looks really, really cool, just like Samuel said. Samuel appears pleased and takes the car from Craig’s lap.

“Want to race?” Samuel stands up, already looking around for a clear patch of grass in the dark. Craig follows, slower. Samuel places his car on a flat patch of grass, and looks expectantly at Craig, who frowns.

“I don’t have a car.” Craig stops beside Samuel and looks around. The children weren’t running around anymore, their parents having gathered them up to share stories about babies and Craig’s unborn sister and how precious she would be, especially with a brother like Craig. Craig bites his lower lip, returning his attention to Samuel, except Samuel is gone, walking over to woman who Craig vaguely remembers from when he was a little younger. Samuel pesters her for a moment, and then a little girl appears, holding a car similar to Samuel’s.

“This is my sister, Ashley,” Samuel introduces proudly as he tugs the girls hand, bringing her toward Craig. “She has a car you can borrow, but it has girl germs.” Samuel crinkles his nose, turning to Ashley, who passes her car over. It has pink floral stickers on it, and the windows are painted purple. Samuel continues to crinkle his nose as Ashley passes the object to Craig, but Craig isn’t sure why Samuel’s so disgusted. He doesn’t mind the colour or the decorations.

The two of them set their cars down, kneeling on either side. Samuel sends Ashley a little way away from them, and she marks the finish line. Samuel catches Craig’s eye, and once the word ‘go’ is shouted, the two of them are off, hands on the car and bent awkwardly at the waist as they race over the uneven terrain. Samuel, despite being shorter than Craig, is fast, and he passes Ashley first, punching the air in triumph. Craig comes to a stop and lifts the car, handing it to Ashley who thanks him, her voice soft, before she turns and runs off to her mum and dad.

Samuel turns to Craig, grinning from ear to ear, and Craig would be lying if he said it wasn’t contagious. Beaming, Craig walks to Samuel who stoops to pick his car up. When he straightens, he shrugs at Craig.

“I’m not that fast, but you run like a girl.” It’s said so nonchalantly that Craig almost misses it, but he notices the tight squeezing in his heart, and the sudden wave of nausea that hits him. Swallowing, Craig hastily replaces his fallen grin with a tight-lipped smile.

“We should race again sometime,” Craig suggests, and Samuel nods hurriedly, still grinning. The two of them part ways when the night ends, but as the sparks from the fire drift into the night sky, a friendship kindles.

Samuel is eagerly accepted at school the next week. He sits with Craig during their classes and plays soccer with the boys at lunch time. Craig doesn’t play much, he prefers sitting on the sidelines, but Samuel has since engaged him in the sport, and now Craig finds himself enjoying it, especially the mud. Mother doesn’t appreciate it quite as much as he does, but his Father encourages him to continue, and even takes Craig to the park after school every day to practice.

It’s Craig’s favourite time of day. Particularly when they play Boys vs Girls, he loves running up and down the field, mud and laughter flying through the air. It’s on one of these days that everything seems to go wrong. Craig is running along the field, kicking the ball, and there are boys around him calling ‘I’m open, I’m open.’ Craig’s blood is pumping with adrenaline and he’s grinning against the wind. He goes to kick the ball to a boy a couple of meters away, when a girl seemingly appears out of nowhere.

Her name is Taylor, she’s in the grade above Craig, but she’s barely taller than him. Her arms, long and skinny, catch Craig around the waist, tackling him to the ground and Craig hastily pushes himself back up. His head is wheeling, everything’s gone blurry, but it only lasts for a minute, as he pushes himself back up, Taylor crinkles her nose at him and pokes her tongue out. It goes against everything Craig knows about fair play, and he acts on impulse, his palms coming up and shoving her in the chest. Taylor stumbles, and there isn’t any more laughter buzzing the air around.

Craig sits on the plastic chair in the school office, his legs swinging back and forth and his knuckles white from where they grip the plastic arms. The lady behind the desk is continuously glancing over the rim of her glasses with disapproval, but Craig ignores her, his eyes on a small speck of dirt that sits on the floor in front of him. When the door opens and Father walks in, Craig doesn’t say anything, only stands, still sullen as he lifts his backpack from the floor and trudges behind his parent.

“What happened?” It couldn’t possibly be a question; the school had called and explained what happened already.

Nonetheless, Craig responds, “I pushed somebody… but they tackled me first!” Defending himself was a must, because it wasn’t his fault, not entirely.

“They?” Father questions, and Craig feels his cheeks heat and swallows. Father doesn’t push because he knows Craig will elaborate, it’s just a matter of waiting. They slide into the car, Craig with his backpack on his lap, and he hugs it tightly to his chest. Father pulls the car into gear, and Craig watches the road roll by. It isn’t until they are halfway home that Craig urges his flush down and he glances at Father through his peripheral vision.

“It was--” Craig licks his lips and crinkles his nose, knowing that he was in the wrong, but not able to accept it, “--a girl.”

Father’s eyebrows jump and the car slows to a stop as he pulls it to the side of the road. Craig tightens his grip around his backpack, biting his lower lip and lifting his gaze to the man who… doesn’t look angry, but disappointed. It sends an unwanted ache to Craig’s chest, and he reaches up to rub at it, still eyeing Father.

“You pushed a girl?”

Craig sighs, giving a slight inclination of his head. “Yes.”

Father inhales through his nose, resting back in his seat, his arms a tense line and his knuckles white as they grip the steering wheel. Craig doesn’t hold his breath, although he would like to. Instead, he watches as Father appears to have an internal battle, until he exhales, the tension seeming to rush from his body.

“Craig, you can’t--”

“I know,” Craig quickly says, tightening his hold on his backpack. “I know, I’m sorry.”

“You will have to apologise to her.”

Craig blinks, wondering if she will have to apologise to him, too, but he already knows the answer, so he nods. That appears to be enough for Father, who offers a strained smile and then revs the engine once more. Craig awaits the wrath of Mother, heavily pregnant and not needing the extra stress, but when Father turns the car down a different street, Craig is confused.

They pull up outside an ice-cream shop and Father is willing to buy him a whopping two scoops in a cone for his honesty and for his ability to stand up for himself, even if it was under bad circumstances. Craig doesn’t object and happily licks the melting goodness in front of him. Father watches him, not smiling, but not scowling either, and Craig thinks it must be all right for him to be himself.

 

Nine

When Beth is born, it is absolutely terrifying. Craig, an only child for nine years of his life, is suddenly dumped with a responsibility that seems too big in such a restricted world. Beth is demanding and reproachable, wailing non-stop and demanding the attention of Mother and Father, two figures who had solely been his since birth.

Craig likes sitting by and watching as Mother fiddles with a piece of pink fabric and some purple buttons and turns something flimsy into a gorgeous dress, he likes watching as Beth is dressed in pinks and frills, when Mother and Father design her nursery to look almost identical. He doesn’t know why his stomach twists, though, when Mother tells him that little girl’s need their space and that Craig shouldn’t be venturing into Beth’s nursery.

“I like the colours,” he tells Mother one day, whose only retaliation is to take him by his hand and pull him to his own bedroom. She sits with him on his navy bedspread, his hands tucked in hers and their eyes connected.

“This room is designed for a little boy,” Mother explains, “like yourself.”

Craig doesn’t like that much, but he doesn’t protest. Instead, he nods and asks if Samuel can come over to play. Luckily, Mother says yes, and when Samuel and Craig go outside to play with a soccer ball, she goes into Beth’s nursery to lock the chest of drawers, tucking the key away up high.

Craig and Samuel play for a long time, kicking the ball back and forth, and Craig laughs when Samuel catches it with his head, head-butting it toward him. The two of them aren’t aware of the time, but when Mother comes out to ask if Samuel would like to stay for dinner, they head inside. Craig, covered in mud and grass, disappears into the bathroom to wash his face. While looking for a cloth, he stumbles across a clear container filled with wondrous colours, pinks and reds and purples and all the colours of the rainbow. Craig slides the lid from the top and plucks a couple of reds and purples, depositing them in his bedroom, under his pillow.

It’s confusing the next day when Craig shows up to school with fingernails covered in alternate colours. A lot of girls wear chipped nail polish on a daily basis, so it’s only expected Craig could, too.

Apparently not, though, for Craig finds himself sitting on the plastic chair in the office, his legs swinging and his knuckles white, but for an entirely different reason. His eyes are on the black spot from the first time he was in this seat, but it looks bigger. Craig frowns at it, ready to shuffle off his seat to scrub it away, when Father storms in, the door slamming against the wall from the force, and Craig jolts.

Craig is both confused and disappointed when Father takes him straight home, no detour to the ice-cream shop. He’s even more shocked when he’s sent to his bedroom immediately after removing the red and purple polish.

The next day a couple of Craig’s peers look at him weirdly, dodging him as they walk into their classroom. Craig isn’t sure what’s wrong with them, so he rushes to the bathroom. Standing in front of the mirror, Craig squints at himself, reaching up to tap his head, but he is both shocked and relieved to find there are no horns protruding from his skull and that his head is nicely rounded like it should be. He gave the same treatment to the rest of his body, turning around to look at his back, making sure he didn’t miss a tail or wings. There was nothing, though. Nothing that differentiated him from all the other little boys in class.

 

Sixteen

Craig is out shopping with Samuel, the two boys having been pestered by their respected parents to buy Christmas presents. It isn’t boring, but it’s not fun either, and Samuel protests when Craig drags him into a store full of dresses. The two of them rifle through gowns, long, short, curvy, plain and textured.

“This is stupid,” Samuel grumbles, dragging a dress from the rack and holding it in front of himself, but Craig rolls his eyes and doesn’t say anything in response, instead looking at the gown Samuel holds like it’s a disease. “Our mum’s don’t care about dresses, why can’t we just buy them perfume?”

“We can if you want,” Craig shrugs, grabbing a dress from the rack, looking down at the frills that frame the bottom, his fingers running along the silky material.

Samuel steps up beside Craig, staring at the mirror in the corner of the store, and Craig turns to look, as well. He holds the dress up in front of him, and his breath catches in his throat. He can’t describe the feeling that washes over him, only that he wants this dress, he wants to feel the material on his body… The sensation is so powerful his knees almost buckle until he gains control of himself. Clearing his throat, Craig returns the dress to the rack, running a hand across his shirt, as if wiping any remnants of the silk from his skin.

Samuel arches a brow at him, but doesn’t comment, and Craig is thankful as they leave the store. He remembers something similar happening to him a couple months back, he’d been out with Mother who wanted to buy make-up. Craig had watched as she picked up different coloured lipsticks and blushes, and he’d been hit with a longing that he couldn’t identify, like he wanted to apply it to himself, the same way he had when he was eight. Craig had excused himself to the bathroom, where he stood and splashed himself with water until the urge disappeared, and then he just stared at his reflection.

“Craig?” Samuel’s voice makes Craig blink, and he turns to look at his friend. Samuel looks conflicted, biting his lip and diverting his gaze, but then he catches Craig’s eye and he sighs. “You did the thing again.”

Zoning out, or ‘the thing,’ as Samuel puts it, happens occasionally. Often when Craig’s attention is caught by something that Samuel would call ‘girly.’ It makes the other boy uncomfortable and Craig wishes he could stop, but he isn’t sure how. It isn’t like he chooses to like the flowers in his front yard, he just thinks they complement the house, and he definitely doesn’t choose to enjoy baking with Beth, he just likes bonding with his sister.

“Sorry,” Craig does his best to concentrate on Samuel as they head to the perfume store, and Samuel looks pleased as he picks up the first one he comes across. Craig takes his time, though, picking up an open one and spraying it to his wrist before sniffing it. It smells like mulch and Craig crinkles his nose, placing it back and going to the next one. He’s three down when Samuel coughs, loudly. Craig lifts his head to him, his forearm raised to his nose.

Samuel raised an eyebrow, “what are you doing?”

Craig mirrors his look, standing up straight and dropping his arm to his side. “Testing them?”

Samuel stares at Craig for a moment, and Craig thinks he won’t say anything, until he splutters, “why?”

Craig frowns, “it’s what people do.”

“No,” Samuel shakes his head, “no, man, it’s what women do. Just grab one and be done with it.”

Craig isn’t sure he likes the way Samuel said ‘women,’ but he doesn’t comment and instead picks up one of the ones he’s already smelt, the one that smells the best, a little bit like sweetened apricots.

After purchasing, they go to the News Agent to buy cheap gifts for their dads, Craig doesn’t spend as much time looking around, and instead reaches for the first mug he sees, one that says World’s Best Dad. Samuel looks at magazines, specifically car ones, even mentioning an engine type to Craig, but Craig doesn’t understand what he’s saying so he shrugs and nods. It seems to be enough because Samuel also nods, tucking the magazine under his arm and following Craig to the cash register.

They go back to Craig’s house afterward, stashing the gifts with the two they already bought for their sisters. Samuel throws himself onto Craig’s bed, rolling onto his back, tucking his hands under his head, and the movement causes his shirt to stick to his abdomen. Craig blinks, pressing his palm to his own stomach, which is flat but not firm and he doesn’t think he ever wants it to be solid the way Samuel’s is. Craig doesn’t realise he’s staring until Samuel pushes up on his elbows, levelling an unreadable stare at him.

“What are you doing?”

Craig startles, lifting his eyes to meet Samuel’s. “Pardon?”

Samuel narrows his eyes, “what, are you gay?”

Craig frowns, taking a step away to settle on his desk chair. He’s a little taken-aback by Samuel’s tone, but he stands his ground. “No.”

His friend hums on the bed, pushing himself into a seated position before propping his elbows on his knees, still staring at Craig. “You know, we never talk about girls.”

Craig shrugs, “they don’t interest me.” Which is true, he doesn’t often feel the tug of want toward girls, a lot of boys talk about how they can’t help it, yet… Craig can help it, but not because he’s--

“So, you’re gay.”

“I’m not gay.”

Samuel holds his hands up in surrender, warding off any attack Craig could issue, “look, I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but it would make sense.”

Craig stares at him, “excuse me?”

Samuel shrugs, dropping his hands and rocking forward on the bed. “You are obsessed with make-up and nail polish and all those really girly--”

“I’m not gay.”

“Fine,” Samuel snorts, “than what are you? A girl?”

Craig feels winded, but he doesn’t respond, and Samuel doesn’t push.

 

Seventeen

The dress swirls and bunches as Craig stares at his reflection, reaching a hand out to clasp the fabric and swish it with more ferocity. The fabric is a perfect fit for his flat-chested figure, the bottom of it dropping away in elegant waves. Craig feels like royalty, the dress complementing his physique, almost imagining his reflection truly is that of a princess, physically and mentally.

The thought gives him chills. He’s often thought about it, about being something else, because it would make sense, but Craig is also uncertain and nervous and merely thinking about being something else makes him feel nauseas. So he doesn’t. Except, every now and again, these thoughts violate him, ruin the positive self-image he’s skilfully constructed over the years, and Craig is left wondering.

He holds a camera in hand, and there’s a slight tremble evident. He has to do this, though, needs to take a photo of his reflection, to have physical evidence of him attempting to be something… somebody else. This photograph, if he takes it without losing confidence, will cement this memory as a given, rather than a mere part of his imagination. He’ll be able to stick it in the teal album given to him at birth. If he presses on this button, if the click goes off, the world will appear brighter, filling Craig with contentment for a couple of hours, a rush of adrenaline pumping through his blood when he remembers that neither Mother, Father nor Beth know of the happenings in his bedroom while the door is closed.

Craig stares at his reflection for a moment longer, dreaming of the next time he could sneak into Mother’s wardrobe to steal the gorgeous, purple pastel gown. Craig sighs, squeezing the camera and without a second thought, he presses down on the button. A click sounds and his photo is saved and suddenly he’s not feeling too sure. The camera slips from his hold and it falls down, down, down, thumping against the carpet and Craig jerks, staring down at it. He swallows, his heart pounding so hard he can almost feel his sternum vibrating. Beside the camera is a black smudge, identical to the one in the school office, and Craig drops to his knees, picking up the camera while hastily rubbing at the mark.

It doesn’t go away and Craig grinds his teeth together, shaking his head and standing up. He stumbles, almost dropping the camera, but manages to get to his laptop, plugging his camera in without a hassle and when the photo comes up, his breath catches. His mind goes blank. Swallowing a couple of times to ease the sudden dryness away, Craig hits print, and as the printer beside him stirs to life, spitting out the image, Craig thinks he may faint.

Everything blurs together as Craig grabs the photograph, he’s too busy flipping it over and applying glue to the underside to hear the quiet knock on his bedroom door, too busy grabbing his teal album with the moon sewn on the front to notice the door-handle twisting and a face peering in. It isn’t until the door clicks shut and a small, gentle hand touches his arm that Craig jolts and curses and slams the album shut. Not that it matters because he’s still wearing the dress.

Beth stares up at him, eyes wide, confused and Craig isn’t sure he can continue looking at her. He almost turns away when Beth speaks, her voice soft, quiet, almost inaudible.

“What are you doing?”

Craig swallows, and his eyes sting and mist over but he blinks quickly, turning his head away. He takes a second to compose himself because this is his little sister and she’s always looked up to him, and this could be the moment where she turns and flees and forever hates him. Treading carefully he swings himself around to face her, unsure whether he should be reaching out to touch her, but Beth takes his hand, continuing to stare up at him.

He wants to pass it off as playing a game of dress up, but it isn’t that simple and it never will be. So, he does the only thing he can, he tells her the truth.

“Beth, I--” But how could he tell her the truth when he didn’t even know the truth? Inhaling deeply, he tried again, “Listen, Beth, sometimes people feel-- sometimes people aren’t who they-- sometimes people identify-- I mean, um, oh.” He barely resists tugging at his hair, instead taking another deep breath to settle his nerves, but it was difficult because he never expected to be in this predicament. 

Beth continues to stare at him, and Craig can’t identify the look in her eye, whether it’s one reserved for finding a hero, or losing a hero. Craig isn’t sure if he can handle either one. He knows that he can’t let it go, though. If he wants anybody to understand, to accept, it’s going to be Beth. With that as a motivation, Craig swivels around on his chair, pulls his hand from Beth’s and props his elbows on his knees. He catches Beth’s eye when she looks like she wants to run away, but she stays. Craig is so proud that she stays.

“Beth, sometimes the physical person doesn’t match the mental person.” No, that sounds terrible and inaccurate and all types of wrong. Craig pulls a face in distaste and tries again. “I mean, sometimes the person you look like isn’t the person you are.” It seems like a better way to put it, but Craig isn’t too sure.

Beth, much to his relief, gives a slight, almost hesitant nod. She’s wary, but she’s sweet. Craig knows she will understand.  He opens his mouth to go on, but Beth cuts him off, raising her palm. Craig doesn’t flinch, because that would be stupid. This is his baby sister.

Beth continues to hold her palm up, and she doesn’t say anything, which makes Craig nervous. Her eyes flicker, and her hand curls before it drops to her side and she continues to stare at Craig, wetting her lips to ease their cracked state before they move.

“So you’re not a--” Beth cuts herself off, seemingly confused as she stares at Craig, blinking owlishly.

“I’m not…” Craig hesitates, “Beth, I don’t-- I’m not… I’m not male.”

Beth doesn’t reply and Craig’s heart pounds against his breastbone. Saying it seems to have made it real and Craig isn’t sure the bile in his stomach will stay in his stomach. He wishes he could take this whole day away, to wake up and not put on the dress, to go and hang with Samuel… or to do anything other than what he did.

Craig inhales slowly and looks down at Beth, who’s staring at her hands. She fiddles for a minute, until she lifts her head, her eyes dark with determination and Craig isn’t sure what to think by it when she leans forward, her arms swinging to wrap tightly around Craig’s neck. Craig startles and falls forward but catches himself. Beth doesn’t appear concerned by his lack of balance, and instead tightens her grip, pressing her cheek to Craig’s shoulder.

“You’re still my-- my sibling, yes?” Beth’s voice is muffled against his shoulder, but he hears loud and clear, and a slightly hysterical, relieved laugh passes his mouth. Craig rests his hands on Beth’s shoulders, pushing himself up and Beth takes a step away, her eyes on Craig’s face, flickering.

“Yes,” Craig gives a shaky nod, “yes, Beth, I’m still Craig, I’m just--”

Beth beams, cutting Craig off, and he exhales loudly, sitting back in the chair. Beth moves forward, scrambling onto his lap. It’s difficult because Beth is wearing her own dress, pink and frilly and it’s catching under her knees as she pulls herself upright, her arms going back around Craig’s shoulders. Craig briefly thinks he should lock his bedroom door, should stop any unwanted eyes, but then thinks against it because Beth is curled up tightly, her forehead against his shoulder, and he can easily pass this off as playing dress-ups with his little sister.

 

Twenty

A spring morning, the sun high in the sky, the air crisp as heels click on cement beneath a matching pair of black mules, leading to a smooth, shaven calf. A white, knee-length skirt complements a black cardigan with the buttons done up, and there is a white scarf wrapped loosely to hide the Adam’s apple from curious eyes.

The figure, a man by nature, a woman by fact, comes to a halt at the bottom of a concrete staircase when a loud, piercing chime rings through the air. A pair of manicured fingers dip into the bag hanging from one of the broad shoulders, withdrawing a small buzzing mobile.

“Hello?” A voice, lower than what would be expected, resists snapping into the receiver. The resentment of a life lost, a life hidden, a life of being forced to be somebody else, is painfully obvious and onlookers flinch, but make no comment.

“Craig?” A small voice inquires, uncertainty painting her words.

“No,” painted red lips sigh, “No, Beth, not Craig.”

There’s silence on the other end, and heels click as they begin ascending the staircase, her stride steady and confident. She comes to a stop at the top of the staircase, looming glass doors greeting her, a small accomplishment in comparison to the one about to be achieved.

“But Craig-- I mean…” Beth’s small voice stops, breathing loudly. She swallows audibly, nervousness and worry and a lot of different emotions making her voice thick. “What… what do I call you if not… if not Craig?”

“You can... you can call me--” There’s name, but suddenly she’s not confident, suddenly she’s uncertain. Licking her lips, she comes to a stop in front of the large glass doors. She stares at her reflection, catching sight of a black smudge on her cheek. It’s an imperfection and with an exhale, she reaches up to wipe it away, her voice low as she does so, “I’d like you to call me Alice.”

The black smudge comes off, and Alice exhales, a weight seemingly lifting from her shoulders. She almost forgets she’s on the phone, until Beth answers, her voice a little strong.

“Alice? Okay. I-- I like that, Crai-- Alice.” Beth stops speaking for a while, and Alice listens to her breathe. It’s a calming noise, reminds her that despite what’s about to happen, she still has a life with those who accept her for who she is. “Um, S-Samuel wants to talk to you… is that okay?”

Alice doesn’t have a chance to respond before there’s a commotion on the other end of the line. She sighs, reaching up to brush her hair back, the locks longer than they used to be, but not long enough for her liking just yet. She doesn’t want to buy a wig, though, because she likes her hair, the deep chestnut colouring and because it’s healthy and strong.

“Craig?” There’s heavy breathing on the phone. “Listen, man-- I mean…”

“Alice.” It’s not said unkindly, but she would like for Samuel to accept her as she is.

“What?”

“I want you to call me Alice.”

“Alice?”

“Yes.”

Samuel doesn’t say anything, and Alice isn’t sure she expects him to. With an exhale, she turns and makes her way inside, pushing against the large doors. There’s a desk in the middle of the room, and digging through her bag with one hand she withdraws a pile of documents, prepared to hand them across to the lady on the other side.

“I can do that.”

The words make her falter, and she comes to an abrupt stop, a couple meters from the desk. The lady behind the desk raises an eyebrow at her, but Alice pays her no mind, her attention on the phone.

“Pardon?”

Samuel makes a noise that’s indistinguishable, and it takes a moment for him to say anything. When he does, though, it’s with a confidence that he was lacking earlier on.

“You’re my best friend, this isn’t going to change anything. If you want-- if you want to be known as Alice, I’m going to call you Alice.”

“Thank you,” and she means it with all her heart. She looks at the lady opposite her and takes a deep breath. “Could I call you back?”

She switches the phone off at Samuel’s confirmation, and hands the documents to the lady, who stares at her and then down at the papers, lifting an eyebrow. It’s a request to have her name permanently changed, to enable physical evidence claiming Craig Miller is no longer, and instead is to be referred to as Alice Miller, no exceptions. 


© Copyright 2017 Paris C. All rights reserved.

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