I was at work when ACT scores came out, and when I got off, I picked up my phone to find that Terin had called me three times. I listened to the message he had left after the first call and logged into the ACT website to see my scores. I had gotten a 36! A 35 on math, but a 36 on everything else. When I got to the car, I called Terin. He picked up after one ring. “What’d you get?” he asked.
“What’d you get?” I teased.
“I asked first.”
I smiled as I backed out of my parking spot. “What was your breakdown?” “36 on everything except the English section. I got a 34 on that. I must have just made some stupid mistakes, because I practiced those a lot.”
“Yeah, the only thing that matters is the composite score, anyway.”
“So what was your breakdown?”
“36 on everything except math. I got a 35 there.”
“Nice,” Terin said. “I guess we both have bragging rights, but I think yours are more deserved.”
“Dude, not that many people get 36s, so we definitely have equal bragging rights. Did you tell your parents?” “Dad will be home soon, but Mom knows. She was really excited.”
“I bet she was.”
“You want to tell her about you?”
“You can tell her,” I said.
“Oh come on, no need to be humble. Bragging rights, remember?” I laughed. “Okay. Take me downstairs.”
Terin got up off his bed and went downstairs. I glanced at my phone as he handed the phone to his mom, who held the phone at an awkward, low angle. “Hi Cameron,” she said, smiling. “Do you have your scores, too?”
“Yeah,” I said. “I got a 36.”
“I’m so proud of you!” she gushed. “I knew you two would do so well.”
“Thanks,” I said, grinning.
“Any chance you’re applying to colleges near us?” “Sorry,” I said, turning into my driveway. “I can’t afford out-of-state tuition.”
“That’s okay, I understand,” she said. “I just wish Terin would think the same way.”
“You’re the one who wanted me to be ‘worldly,’ Mom,” Terin said from behind the camera. “I can get loans, and then I’ll pay them off when I start making money.”
“Student loans are no fun,” Mrs. Parker said. “You both remember that, okay?”
“Okay,” I said, smiling. “I’m home now, so I should probably go tell my family.”
“Thanks for telling me,” Mrs. Parker said, blowing me a kiss.
“No problem,” I said. “Good luck with your recommendation letters, Terin.”
“You too, Cam.” he blew me a kiss, barely holding in his laughter. I grinned and blew him one too. “Bye.”
I got out of the car and went inside, a smile on my face. My dad was already home, sitting at the kitchen table reading the newspaper.
“I have good news, Dad.” I said, taking off my shoes.
“Oh yeah?” he said, putting the newspaper down. I went over and sat across from him. “I got my ACT test scores back.”
“Were they good?”
“I got basically a perfect score,” I said. He grinned and got up to hug me. I stood up and hugged him back. “You get your brains from your mother,” he said, holding me by the shoulders and smiling at me. “She’d be so proud of you.”
“Thanks,” I said, blushing.
“We’ll have to celebrate. What do you say me and you go out for dinner?”
“Just us?” I asked.
“Okay,” I said. “Can I shower and change first?”
“Go ahead,” he said. “I’ll just finish reading the paper.”
I went back to my room, grabbed some clean clothes, and then showered quickly. When I got out, I combed my hair in the mirror and smiled at myself, until my eyes found my chest. My boobs would have to be next on my to-do list, right after calling Mr. Cayman and asking him to write me a recommendation letter.
I hadn’t talked to my dad about being transgender since our emails, and I wondered if talking about it in person would make him uncomfortable. As I got dressed, I started to get nervous, but I knew that I couldn’t pay for my surgery and college without him. Maybe this dinner was my opportunity to open a discussion on the subject.
We ended up at a Mexican restaurant. The waitress seated us at a booth and asked what we wanted to drink. My dad got a coke, but I went for water.
“Not a soda drinker, huh?” he asked.
“Not really,” I said. “None of my foster families kept it in the house.”
“Don tries not to keep it in the house, but I buy it sometimes. I just like it, I can’t explain why.”
“I like some. I’ve had it at restaurants, but mostly just with burgers and fries.”
Dad nodded. “You do like Mexican food, right?”
“I don’t really think I’ve had anything super authentic, but I’ve liked what I had.”
“I like their chimichanga here.”
“Never had one.”
“You can have a bite of mine.”
“Okay, thanks,” I said. I kept my hands in my lap so that my dad couldn’t see them shaking. How was I supposed to bring up the topic of getting my boobs cut off?
“Has work been going well?”
“Yeah,” I said. “It’s pretty boring compared to the museum.”
“I always considered museums pretty boring myself,” he said, laughing.
“I liked my co-workers and my boss, and giving tours was fun.” I said, smiling. “At the store I mostly just stock shelves and answer questions about the shelves I stock. Gives me plenty of time to think about other things, though.”
“Like all those tests?”
“It was just one test, and it wasn’t that hard,” I said, smiling.
“Didn’t you take another test before you got here? Some high school test?” “I got my GED, yeah. That was easy, too.”
“Then what is difficult?”
“I don’t know, higher level math and physics and chemistry. Stuff like that. Music is much simpler.”
“And it sounds better, too. You’re a good singer.”
“Thanks,” I said, blushing. “I had a good teacher.”
“Who was that?”
“Mrs. Parker. My last foster mom. She taught me piano at first, too.”
“You never called her ‘mom?’”
“No,” I said. “I don’t think I called any of my foster parents mom and dad.”
“Maybe this makes me a bad person, but I’m a little relieved to hear you say that.”
“That’s understandable, I guess,” I said.
“You’re just always talking to your last family, and you go to visit them, and you seem to really, well, love them. I just thought, maybe you’d be happier if you were with them.”
“Dad, don’t say that,” I said, reaching across the table. I put my hand on his. “I do love them, you’re right, but even they can’t replace my real family, okay? What I have is basically every foster kid’s dream: I went back to my birth family and they’re super nice and they love me. I wouldn’t give that up for anything.”
Dad smiled and nodded, and I saw a tear land on the table.
“It’s okay Dad, really. I love you guys.”
“I love you,” he said. “I just want you to be happy.”
I smiled and took my hand away from his. This was my chance. “Dad, you know how I was born female, but I’m living as a guy?”
“I do,” he said, wiping his eyes.
“There are certain things that I struggle with everyday because of that, like certain body parts and functions.” I stopped, resisting the urge to run to the bathroom and throw up.
“Is that why you kept your shirt on to swim?” he asked, his eyes welling up with tears again.
“Yeah,” I said, my voice sticking in my throat. “But… There is this surgery I can get that would make that specific problem better, and I think it would make me happier.”
“If it will make you happy, we’ll figure it out.”
“Really?” I said.
“Really,” he said, wiping his eyes again. “I just want to do everything right this time. Not everyone gets a second chance.”
I thought about what Terin had told me mere months ago, about how my parents deserved a second chance with me. “You deserved the second chance, Dad,” I said. “I wish I could have given it to you five years ago, when I was still a kid.”
“I’m just glad we found each other.” he said, smiling at me.