“Hey, Hey.” Ruby says, “It’s going to be alright.” She reaches over and pulls out a tissue and dabs at my cheek. “I can’t believe you look so beautiful with so little makeup on.” She says, noting that she’s not picking up any foundation with what she’s doing.
I take a shaky breath and let it out. “I have waterproof mascara on too, it’s going to take more than a few tears to make that run…” I smile finally My smile drops as I my keen hearing picks up Chris and Susan arguing.
“I shouldn’t have come here.” I say sadly.
“Maybe we should go to my place after supper, let Kev’s mom cool off.” Ruby offers. “Worse case, bring your stuff with you and I’ll ask mom if you can stay at my place tonight.”
“You’d do that for me?” I say, my smile lifting.
“I miss my funny, quirky best friend. Now that you are here, is it selfish for me not to want to let you go?” She looks into my eyes. “Your eyes look different.” She says, examining my face. “And I love what you’ve done with your hair.” She combs her hand through my curly hair. She gets dangerously close to my ear, and I pull away. “What’s wrong?” she suddenly looks worried.
I shake my head. “The process has left the sides of my head sensitive.” I answer. “It’s still uncomfortable to the touch.”
“Is that why your face isn’t as round anymore? Just how many changes did your body undergo?” She says almost worried.
“You could almost say that I was reborn. They changed everything that I was, to give me the body you see in front of you.” I reply with a weak smile.
“So, you’ve been, like, stretched, and put back together again?” Ruby says in amazement. “That’s why you’re shorter while your arms are longer for someone your height? Still trying to figure out how your increased strength only looks like muscle tone.” she says, caressing my arm.
“I go to the Gym Fridays, Tai-Chi on Monday, mixed Aikido and Taekwondo on Thursdays - outside of my regular Gym class in school….” I list my exercise schedules.
“Geez, they training you to be a secret agent or something?” Kevin says amazed.
I smile. “No, but I’m finally getting better at volleyball.” I say playfully, causing Kevin to chuckle.
“Oh, I missed you so much!” Ruby says and hugs my right side so that her body lays across mine where she’s sitting on my left. I put my arms around her and hug her tight.
I can feel Ruby’s body tense a bit. “Simia, what’s on the side of your head?”
“My ear?” I respond.
“Since when does your ear go that high?” she frowns. She hangs off my neck and brings her other arm around to touch my actual ear..
“The illusion just changes how you appear, it never changes your true features.” Lairelindë responds. “Someone as close as she is now, will still be able to feel your true face through the veil.”
I get worried suddenly. “Please Ruby, don’t touch those, they’re very sensitive.” I plead. She doesn’t stop, I bite my lower lip to stop the moan from escaping my lips.
“I can feel something there, but I can’t see it.” She frowns.
“Okay, get off, that’s too close.” I pull her off me and deposit her back where she was sitting “Well, it’s clear that I can’t even hide this from you two..” I frown. “Kevin, ask how much time we have till supper?” He hesitates. “I won’t do anything else till you get back, promise.”
He nods and heads down the hall. He comes back a moment later. “15 minutes.”
“I don’t think that’s enough time to tell you everything.” I frown thoughtfully. “I’ll tell you, just it’ll take over 15 minutes to explain. Mom & Dad can’t know what I’m going to show you. They would totally freak out!”
“Simia, you are scaring me.” Ruby says sitting away from me.
“I’ll tell you after supper, honest.” I say insistently.
“Is it bigger than a secret agent?” Kevin is still stuck on that.
“Way bigger.” I reply.
Susan calls out for us to wash up. And so we do, sharing the sink as we’ve done so many times over the years. We giggle and flick water at each other. I’ve always been taller than my friends. Kevin, having been a girl before blockers, isn’t that much taller than Ruby. Now that we’re all around the same height, I feel like we’re on more even ground.
We excitedly talk about our characters as we walk down the hall, and Susan first looks at me, then relaxes as she sees the way I interact with my friends. Kevin comments on how there’s rumour of a new patch coming out next month. I tell them it could be Travis’ team is working on that one, Rose hasn’t hinted on anything new to me lately.
“I will never get over how you know the dev team Simia, what are they like?” Ruby looks at me adoringly.
We’re each reaching for garlic bread, as Susan is dishing up our plates. “How much do you eat, Simia?” she asks as she hands Kevin his plate.
“Can I actually have a half-portion more than Kev?” I ask politely.
“You’ll be able to eat all that?” Susan raises her eyebrow.
“I could probably eat more, but I’ll leave some for the others.” I wink, causing my friends to laugh.
“Simia was just telling us how, on top of gym classes in school, she works out, does Tai-Ci, Aikido and Taekwondo.” Keven says amazed. “No wonder you’re only in game late at night!”
“Well, that would account for the lean muscle on her arms, how much can you lift?” Chris enquires.
“I can lift twice my weight, but Aikido is like Yoga. It stretches the muscles and increases coordination, giving me a leaner muscle mass than simple weight lifted would.”
“She could lean back and deposit me on the bed like I would my pet!” Ruby gasps. “Anyway, about the Devs!”
I smile, once Ruby’s stuck on a subject, she won’t let go of it.
“Okay. First of all, Rose….” I have Ruby’s full attention.
“Rose is a modern-day bard.” I start. “She’s friendly, funny, affectionate, sensitive, and will always know when something is bothering you. You’ve seen her artwork in the game, well she’s also composed most of the music in the game as well! And they say her code to some of the best in the industry!” I praise my favourite foster aunt. “In gym class, she is tireless! My sister and I are the few people who can keep up with her and only cause she’s been my personal trainer this year. If you struggle or can’t keep up, she totally switches gears and becomes soft, supportive and will do everything she can to see you improve. You never feel like a failure around her.”
“Rose was actually one of my sponsors during my transition. She helped set up my doctors, my voice coach, got me into the school she teaches. She also took charge of my legal battle, so that my foster family to take over as my new legal parents. She helped with my legal name change. Now that my operations are complete, she’s helping me change my gender markers. She has done so much to help me become the happy, healthy and successful girl you see today.”
“Wow!” Kevin drops the meatball he was eating.
“Her wife Cassandra is the ultimate geek, and probably the more strict of the two.” I move on to my second favourite person. “She teaches me math, and she has this way of explaining complex math, that everyone in class is understanding it. We get along really well, like me, she totally thinks outside of the box. I get to see her less though, as she’s the primary care for their family.”
“They have three totally level headed kids.” I continue to cut my noodles. “Danielle is three years younger than we are, she’s literally the spitting image of Rose, it’s incredible!” I exclaim, as I take a small bite of my noodles. “Paul looks like his sister, and the youngest, Ignacio, looks so much like Cassandra, you can tell he’s a Gallo!”
“How do they have three children?” Susan gets curious as I shovel in a mouthful of noodles and sauce. I take a meatball and hand it over to Kevin.
“Well, Rose is a transgender woman herself.” I say after I swallow. “She’s helped several homeless and run-away transgender teens like myself over the years. But unlike me, she kept her bottom parts so that she could have a family… I don’t know how she does it.. I hated that part of my body.” I say with disgust.
“What about the other devs?” Ruby probes for more.
“Oh, well, Travis Scott and most of the other devs live down in Birch Creek, I’ve not met them yet. BCC stands for Birch Creek Computing. Rose says that she’ll happily make a personal introductions come Mar Con in the spring. It’s during Spring Break this year, so I’m totally coming back to the city for it!” I munch on some garlic bread. “I’ve only met Rose and Cassandra as they are personal friends of my mother, Ashanna.”
“You’ve not met them before this Simia?” Chris probes.
“I, well, I wasn’t a very social person before I completed my transition. Outside of attending school, I closeted myself for a long time till I could get everything completed.” I say sadly. “My physical training is Rose’s way to get me out of house and be more social.”
“That is such and amazing story.” Susan says. “I now understand why you were so hesitant to tell the truth early today, dear. I’m sorry I made you feel uncomfortable. Just, our Kevin hasn’t had a girlfriend before. I just wanted to know everything about you.” She says apologetically.
“Only to find out I still have to keep some secrets.” I say drinking some root beer. “I wish I could tell you more, but this is about as public as I dare get with my life - for my protection.”
“I’m understanding that now.” She says in a motherly tone. She watches me shuffling my meatballs to her son. “You’ve really grown a dislike of meat, haven’t you?”
“I haven’t eaten red meat in so long, it now tastes… wrong.” I say apologetically.
“Hey, what you don’t want, I’ll gladly eat!” Kevin grins, causing Ruby and I to giggle.
“I just wish I knew who you were..” Susan says. “You sort of look familiar.”
“Oh, I look nothing like the frail little dorky boy I used to be, and I’m glad to put that chapter behind me.” I say firmly. “With hormonal replacement, I lost a third of my muscle mass, and a few centimetres in height to go with it. I would have been taller, lean and pretty flat compared to what I am now.”
“Right. Sorry.” She says and goes back to eating her supper.
“If my being here makes you feel uncomfortable, Ruby has offered me to stay at her house…” I offer. “You took a big risk taking someone you no longer really know into your house. I can understand if you are having second thoughts.”
“No, I’m the one who’s being improper here.” She says firmly. “The parent support network told me I would come across transgender children who would refuse to disclose their past, and that they actually see it as cruel for me to push you like this. I’ll stop, dear. Please, don’t leave on my account, Kevin seems to be quite fond of you.”
Kevin blushes. “Was it that obvious?” Ruby pokes him. “Hey!” he growls. “I’ve never met a feminine girl who’s probably stronger than I am! Simia is the most incredible person I’ve ever met! And I thought she was amazing in the game. She said meeting in person would be worth it, and I’m glad I have.” Kevin is thoughtful for a moment. “So.. You take martial-arts training under Rose? She’s your sensei?”
“Actually, the instructor for my martial arts is called your Sabom, Sensie is for Karate and Judo…” I correct him.
“Right.” Kev says. “So I noticed when you got here, you have a staff attached to your backpack.”
I nod, “As I go into my blue belt in the New Year, my Sabom will start teaching me in how to use the bo staff.” I smile. “The staff was a gift this year, so I just want to bring it everywhere I can. I’m really excited and looking forward to it!” My eyes sparkle.
“So, umm.” Kevin hesitates.
“Despite my martial training Kevin, you and Ruby are still way more butch than I am. Before my transition, I was constantly bullied for being too girly. Rose's training has given me the self-confidence I needed. I can finally defend myself and no longer fear being the victim. It’s very liberating when you can finally feel safe to go outside.”
“Oh.. Wow. That’s really cool!” Kevin says in amazement.
“I wonder if they have anything like that around here?” Ruby ponders out loud.
“You sound like you’re becoming a very strong young woman, I’m sure your Mother is quite proud of you.” Chris smiles, taking a drink.
“Out of the story you told me today, is your father really a diplomat?” Susan asks, “I just want to know, I will not ask for names…”
“My godfather is a diplomat. I was mostly telling the truth.” I tell her. “When I started my transition, outside of Rose’s support, I've had two families that sponsored me.” I explain. “I didn’t want to go the traditional route, so it meant everything I was doing came out of pocket for private doctors.” I let that sink in. “I live with my adoptive mother and sister. It’s their last name I took when I legally changed all my documents.”
“Okay.” Susan comments as she finishes her garlic bread.
“The other sponsor family wanted to stay anonymous. So, I call them my godparents. “They are the ones that I’m finally going to get to see for four days on the New Year. I guess they just want to get to know the person who they have been funding all this time.” I finish my bread. “I talk to my godmother a lot, but I’ve only briefly met my godfather once. I was honest in that he wants me to follow his career. He says that - with everything I’ve done - I show merit in doing what he does when I graduate high school. He is a foreign diplomat, they don’t live here. I’ll be flying for the first time, and I’m so excited to visit a new country!” I beam as I scoop up the last of my noodles.
“My adopted family has an odd nocturnal life, as they own a nightclub.” I look at my friends. “It’s something my friends have really enjoyed.” I smile. “When I was still living with my birth parents, I was under a really strict curfew. I was never online after 10. My Internet was limited, they always had to know where I was. The more I pushed for my wanting to transition, the worse they got! So I ran away from home and my online presence completely disappeared. I stopped gaming, I deleted all of my old social media and online accounts. I’m pretty sure everyone thought I was dead. I was gone a long time.” I look at Kevin and he nods. “When I finished getting all of my legal information changed, I finally came back. Kevin and Ruby were ecstatic to see me again. It has been so great reconnecting with them, I feel I still have an anchor from my old life. But reconnecting with them has a price.” I say sadly. “I mention this last bit so that you can understand better why I need to be secretive about my life.” I look at Susan. “Despite everything I have done, to start my life with a fresh start. I’ve heard rumours that my birth family are still trying to find me, even though they no longer have a legal right to. They can’t find me, ever. I don’t want to see them again. I should have left them thinking I had died, but I really missed my friends.” I look at Kevin and he smiles.
Susan toys with her noodles a bit and then gives me this mother smile. “That now all makes sense, and I’m sorry I’ve pushed you dear. You weren’t trying to lie to me, you’ve had that scripted response so that you could give a fake history to erase the real history you are still hiding from. So, I’ll stop asking you to dig up your past.” She takes a drink. “You are safe here, please stay the night.”
As we finish up supper. Susan announces that she’ll be in her craft room if we need her. Chris is going into his office, to the TV is ours when we want it.
“Thank you.” I smile. “We’re just going to have a talk and then hopefully we’ll be able to watch a movie or two.”