A World Beside Our Own

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San Marino

I’m fortunate that we opened the portal facing the back privacy fence of the park. As we exit the other side, I hear voices, and I peer around the tree. There are about half of dozen children aged 8 to 12 playing here today. I had put on my illusionary face before we left the house, just in case we ran into someone sooner than expected. Last thing we need is a bunch of kids running around saying they saw an elf in a white tracksuit.

Lairelindë whispers a plan to get past the children without notice. With the level of power I now possess after my transformation, I can morph into an animal form. She disappears into my amulet. I think of my cat, focusing on her shape, and suddenly my world view shrinks. My senses change. I can smell so much better! And to think my Elven senses were already remarkably better than what they were before as a human! I look around; I sniff the air and listen. No one’s noticed us. I dash along the side of the fence toward the road. No one can see a black cat running between the hedge and the privacy fence. I wait till the coast is clear, and I have a good hiding spot before returning to my normal form. Okay, I need to try that again sometime! That was amazing! I pull out my mirror, making sure that my illusion is still in place, before I step out on the sidewalk and head to Kevin’s house.

I sent Emmya a message as promised. I made it San Marino and will soon be at Kevin's place. I put my phone away when I reach his place.

I knock on my best friend’s door and resist the urge to simply walk in like I used to. “Got it mom!” I can hear him call out.

He opens the door and suddenly looks at me, surprised. “Wow, you look even more beautiful in person!”

“Nice to see you too, buddy.” I grin. “Do I get a hug?”

“Absolutely!” he grins and I step forward putting my arms around his shoulders. He awkwardly gets his arms around my hips, coming dangerously close to my rump. I’m sure he was aiming for my waist, but my haversack is in the way. He looks at me, shocked. “Have you shrunk!?”

“By a few centimetres.” I nod. “They joy of hormones and loosing a third of your muscle mass.” I continue to smile.

“Well, at least your not so much taller than your girlfriend now, that’s amazing!” he shakes his head. “Come on inside, it’s cold out there!” he shivers. “Aren’t you cold only wearing a tracksuit!?”

“They’re thermals, my Holiday gift from the Montgomery family, I think it was a hint I need to get out more.” I giggle.

“That giggle of yours is so adorable.” He says affectionately. “Come, I need to re-introduce you to my mom.”

I put my haversack down by the door, then take off my shoes. We walk through the house to his mom’s craft room, and he clears his throat. She looks up from her sewing and puts down her reading glasses. “Mom? This is Simitathlas Rasmussen, the girl I told you about from my guild?”

“Oh! The girl that has the same name as her character, right?” She turns around and greets me.

“Nice to meet your Mrs. Smith.” I say politely.

“Please, call my Susan, I’m too young for a Mrs. title.” She says in that warm, motherly voice of hers I miss so much.

“Very well, Susan.” I smile. “Thanks so much for letting me finally meet Kevin in person.”

She looks at me. “You’re a little shorter than I expected.”

I giggle. “Kev said that to me at the door as well.”

“Come, lets sit down in the living room and get comfortable, or are you hungry already?” She asks leading us back to the front of the house.

“I had a huge meal before I left, I can wait, thank you.” I say politely.

“So, I hope you don’t mind my prying, but where does your name come from?” She asks as we sit down.

“My last name is Dutch.” I reply

“Which would explain your fair complexion.” She smiles. “But your first name isn’t Dutch….”

I blush. “This might sound a little silly, but my parents are huge geeks.” I start. “My name means ‘New Leaf’ in the Elven language. I thought it would be perfect when I created my new Elven Druid.”

“Elven?” she raises her eyebrow, and I nod without hesitation.

“Well, I suppose I’ve heard stranger stories.” She smiles, “So when did you two meet?”

“Oh.. Hm… Two years ago?” I look at Kevin and he nods. “We joined the guild around the same time. His mage kept getting ganked all the time, so I would hide with my rogue and wait for players to take the bait!” I giggle. “I’m not a huge PvP fan, but it was fun!” I grin.

“Only cause you weren’t the target!” He grumbles, nudging me as we’re sitting side by side.

“Didn’t Simon used to do that for you dear?” She asks Kevin.

“Simon?” I ask, playing dumb.

“Mom means Sanara, you remember her, right?” He says playing along.

“Oh… I miss her.” I say sadly.

“You keep calling the player her…” Susan frowns.

“Well, Sanara’s always been a girl to me… she had this really crappy mic that made her voice sound robotic…” I continue. “You mean… she wasn’t a girl in real life?” I should earn drama club points for this performance…

“Well, Sanara was a transgender girl.” Keven clarifies, “but she hadn’t started her transition yet when she disappeared.”

“That was never confirmed Kevin, quit making up stories.” His mom cautions.

“Only cause the Greenwoods wouldn’t let her!” Kevin gets angry. “I lost my best friend mom! It’s not fair!”

Kevin leans against me, and I instinctively put a comforting arm around him. “Shh…” I start. “I’m here for you now.”

Kevin puts his arm around my waist and pushes close against me, looking for comfort. I never realized how much he missed me till now.

Susan is quiet for a moment while she watches our brief exchange of affection. “Are you dating my son?”

I blush and lean my head against his to continue comforting him. “Well. Sanara’s disappearance really upset him…” I say giving him a squeeze and he snuggles in more. “Jarla and I have been trying to support him when we can.”

“Jarla?” Susan is confused.

“That’s Ruby’s character mom.” Kevin answers.

“You know, I’ve said you should date that girl, she’s so cute and smart, she lives just two blocks away…” his mother starts on and we both roll our eyes.

“What?!” Susan looks at our reactions.

“She’s queer!” we say together and then giggle.

“Psych!” I grin as we settle down. “While she may have had something for Kevin before he started blockers, it’s not the same anymore.” I say candidly. Oops, I think I was the only one who knew that… Specially the way Kevin stiffens against me.

“You know my son is transgender?” Susan looks at me, surprised.

“Yeah mom…” Kevin frowns. “I told you Boxing Day, Simia and I have shared a lot together.”

“So where do you live again, dear?” she asks me.

“My family lives just outside of Hillcrest.” I reply without hesitation.

“And you know Ruby is queer, because…?” Susan narrows her eyes.

“I’m bi.” I reply. “Jarla loves the sound of my musical voice, she keeps asking me to sing for her.” Which isn’t a lie… specially since my change.

“That and your giggle is absolutely adorable.” Kevin says affectionately.

“Your voice is a little high pitched for a girl your age, how do you manage it?” Susan queries.

“My aunt Lyric is a bard, and she’s encouraged me to keep signing in this range…” I start. “She says, with luck, I’ll be able to keep my voice in this range well into adulthood, like Angel Goodson.” I smile proudly.

“Amazing!” Susan says.

“How old are you? If I may ask.” She continues to grill me.

“15.” I smile. “Though most people mistake me for being younger than I am.” I smile.

“Ruby never would believe her till she showed us her school ID.” Kevin plays along again. I swear, we didn’t rehearse these lines, I hope our luck of being in sync doesn’t run out.

“So, are you looking to become an entertainer?” Susan wonders where my aspirations lie.

“While my teachers say I am a very talented artist, my father is trying to encourage me to follow him into politics.” I answer, which is about as close to the role of a Druid that I can think of.

Kevin raises an eyebrow to me, this is the first time I’ve mentioned this to him.

“Oh, really?” Susan probes.

“Oh, Mom!” Kevin says, suddenly getting an idea. “Speaking of artistic talent. She got the devs to give her a custom made avatar. Check it out…” he says excitedly, changing the topic.

He sits up and pulls out his phone to find a screenshot he’s made of my new avatar. I smile and pull my phone out and bring the closeup I made of my portrait from the family painting I made for Emmya this Holiday.

“See, check it out!” he says excitedly.

We both hand her our phones.

“Oh, that is amazing!” Susan’s eyes go wide. “They took this painting and gave you the avatar in the game?!”

“It was my Holiday gift from Rose Montgomery, she teaches Gym and French at my private school in Hillcrest.” I say happily.

“The Montgomery family are two of the developers for the game we play mom, it's incredible the type people that Simia knows!”

“The programmers of the game you play? Teach at your school?” Susan raises an eyebrow.

“Her wife Cassandra teaches me Math.” I nod. “She also teaches programming, but I won’t get that till next year.” I reach for my phone. “May I?” I ask.

Susan hands me back my phone, and I scroll to the celebration dinner and hand my phone back.

“This was a celebration supper we had.” I say happily. I bring myself to the edge of the couch so I can lean closer. “There’s Rose, Cassandra…” I start. “Their children Danielle, Paul and Ignacio are sitting beside me.” I continue. “Then there’s Melody and her wife Penny Rivers, Angel Goodson…”

“And all these women teach at your school?” Susan says astounded.

“Well, not Angel, she’s a performer, but she’s a close family friend.” I correct her.

“That’s a very exclusive school…” Susan says amazed. “Where is you father in this photo?”

“He was out of the country for this event,” I say sadly. “He travels a lot.” I continue. “I live mostly with my step mother Ashanna and her daughter Luna.” I point out my adopted family. Step parents are more believable than a rich foster family.

“What does your father do?” Susan doubts my cover story.

“He works for a foreign embassy.” I say without hesitation, I hope she believes that line…

Susan suddenly looks at me, surprised. “You have dual citizenship! No wonder you go to a private school!”

Kevin and I both relax, and hope that she has no more curve balls to throw at me.

Susan looks at Kevin. “Why have you not spoken to me about this girl before, dear?”

Kevin’s face is blank, and I blush. “Well, while we’ve known each other for two years, we didn’t start getting close till Sanara disappeared.” I explain. “There are 20 people in our guild, but it was our mutual lose that brought us together.”

“Your…?” Susan is confused.

“I lost my mother.” I say sadly, “It was sudden. Like Kevin, I know what it’s like to lose someone you are close to, and not be able to say goodbye.” I put my head down.

“Oh, honey, I am so, so sorry” She says putting a comforting hand on my knee.

I keep looking down; I don’t know how much more I can lie to Susan and not her catch on. “I’ve accepted my loss, but I know what the initial pain is like.” I take a deep breath, putting on my best sad face. “The past couple of months Kevin and I have become close as I help him deal with his.”

Susan gives me a pained comforting look, I got her speechless at this point. Phew I don’t know how much further I could have gone with this story and not mess something up.

“Oh!” She suddenly looks up. “Look at the time!” she gets up from the chair. “Let me make us some lunch.” She pats Kevin on the shoulder.

As she enters the kitchen, Kevin looks up and gives me those puppy dog eyes I know I can’t resist. “Can I snuggle with you?”

I take a deep breath, trying to bring up the willpower to deny him, but I smile. “Sure.”

I turn sideways and lay my head on the couch armrest. I bring my feet up to my chest and then stretch them out on either side of him. Kevin scoots a bit and then, conveniently, lays his head on my chest.

“Have I ever told you how amazing you are?” Keven says affectionately. “Where did you come up with all that?”

I shake my head and whisper. “I don’t know.” I bring my hand up and slowly stroke his hair. “I just started going on a train of thought and couldn’t stop.” I giggle. “Rose says I should have been a bard.”

Kevin moves his right arm so that it’s underneath me, allowing him to snuggle closer. “You are softer than I imagined you would be…” he sighs, “This is all real you, right? No plastic surgery?”

“100% flesh and blood, no silicon anywhere in my body.” I confirm.

“Rose says you should have been a bard?” he frowns. “If you’re not a bard, what are you?”

“I’m a druid, just like my toon in the game.” I grin.

“Now I know you’re pulling my leg.” He scoffs.

“What do you think I am? We’re in the same grade, silly!” I tickle his ear.

Keven squirms and I hold him firm and play with his tickle spot till he gasps for me to stop. “You’re the only one besides Ruby who knows that tickle spot!” He sighs as he settles down. “I admit I’ve had some doubt, but that seals it. You are the best friend I almost lost.”

I don’t know why, but on an impulse I lean down and kiss his forehead. “I’ve been going to school since I moved to Hillcrest,” I explain, as I go back to playing with his hair. “Rose had my new school copy over all my grades and credits. I didn’t miss a single day of class.” I say settling in more.

I look up and there’s Susan looking down at the two of us with a smile on her face. “It didn’t take you two long to get cozy….”

Kevin looks up at his mother with no guilt. “Simia is so soft and cuddly mom, I’ve been waiting to hold her in my arms for a long time now.”

“Cuddly or not, get up you two and come eat some lunch.”

I help push him off of me. When he’s standing up, I put my hand out, and he pulls me up off of the couch.

“Wow!” he exclaims. “For someone so strong, how are you so light!?”

I blush. “It’s complicated…” I reply and push him toward the dining room before he realizes that I’m lighter now that I was before.

Kevin motions for me to sit to his left, and I smoothly slide in my seat.

“You are very graceful and feminine…” Susan starts.

“My friends call me Simia for short.” I finish for her.

“Simia…” Susan tests the pronunciation, “it sounds as cute as you.” She smiles.

“All except Tarvis.” Kevin chuckles. “He simply calls you Sim.”

“Who’s Tarvis?” Susan asks us.

“Our guild leader.” We say together. We look at each other and start laughing.

“Do you two do that a lot?” Susan asks as it’s not the first time we say the same thing together.

“Probably more than we know, but with lag it’s hard to tell.” Kevin shrugs as he picks up his sandwich.

I take a bite of my sandwich and something tastes off. Susan notices my sour face. “What’s wrong?”

I look down. It’s ham. This is first meat I’ve had since October and it actually tastes gross. I blush when I realized I never warned Kevin about my new dietary needs.

“Oh, hmm.” I look up. “Sorry, I never warned Kevin that I’m a vegetarian.”

“I just thought you ate healthy.” Kevin says munching on his sandwich. “I mean, look how lean and fit you are!” He says admiringly.

“Did you want me to get you something else, dear?” Susan looks worried.

“No, it’s okay, I used to eat meat, just my new mother and sister are vegetarians, so I got used to their dietary habits.”

“You sure?” she says, concerned.

“I’m not a diehard, no meat advocate like they are, I’ll be fine. Just don’t tell them I cheated.” I wink.

Susan relaxes and starts eating her lunch with us. “I’ll remember that for the rest of your stay here.”

“First Harvest Day we had together after I moved in with them, I nearly went nuts, craving turkey! Now I don’t miss it at all…” I smile between bites.

We make light conversation over lunch, as his mother is curious what I study in school. I leave my darling little Fae out of the conversation; I don’t want to confuse her after she saw us cuddled on the couch.

As we’re finishing up eating, Kevin gets an idea. “Say, Simia, did you bring your laptop with you?”

I nod. “It’s in my haversack.” I grin.

“May we be excused mom?” he looks at her eagerly.

“Go on, you two.” She smiles. “At least you have similar interests.”

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