“I told you to stay out of my room!”
The Mom-creature rolled her eyes, pursed her lips and perched the bridge of her nose against her fingers. What was she trying to say; that she was disappointed in me, or that she didn’t want to start another fight?
Stacks of clothing landed into the suitcase, enough to last a week, along with pair after pair of shoes. They had to take up the most space, and I still hadn’t packed the vitals; make-up, toiletries, school books. It was bad enough that I had to leave my computer at home.
“Would you please be reasonable for one minute,” she pleaded. “You’re blowing this way out of proportion.”
I stopped, flailed my arms and squawked at her. “You came into my room without my permission! While I wasn’t here! Do you have any idea how violated I feel right now?”
“Justin, please stop acting like it’s the end of the world.”
“And stop calling me that! My name is Kaira! Kai-ra! Okay!?”
My screaming was loud enough to set off the neighbor’s dogs. Whatever; she wasn’t listening anyway. I turned back to the suitcase and threw the last of my things into it. Zipping it shut was more of a battle than I would have liked.
“All I did was put your clothes back in your cupboard,” she hummed. “No snooping or any of that business.”
“My boy clothes,” I told her. “Did you ever think there’s a reason I didn’t want them?”
“Maybe you don’t right now, but what are you going to do when you stop experimenting and you want to have a normal life again? I’m not going to buy you a whole new wardrobe because of a sudden whim.”
Knuckles tensed and balled white. Gods, how I wanted to fly.
“This isn’t an experiment,” I choked. “This is who I am. Mom. I’m a girl. I don’t want those things anymore. I want you to listen and stop pushing me to places where I don’t want to go. I know this is hard for you-”
She threw up her arms and walked to the door. “I’m not going to fight about this. You don’t appreciate it right now, but you will change your mind; and when you do we’ll still be here.”
“I’m not going to change my mind.”
“Yes, you will,” she said. “You think you want this, but believe me, being transgender is a lot harder than it looks.”
“And I suppose you know this from years of first hand experience?”
She stopped, contorted her brow, and spoke through deliberate, even breaths. “Justin, people like that are judged. They are mocked. They are not loved. Everything about them is artificial, and they think what they’re striving for is happiness, but it’s not. They live very difficult lives, and that’s not something that you want.”
Words evaporated into thin air as cold enveloped the room.
“Is… is that really what you think of me?”
“You’ll grow out of this soon,” she said, “and in the meantime it’s okay for you to play with your identity. It’s a part of growing up, and I know that’s painful, but things will get better, I promise.”
Her words sizzled under my skin and burrowed deep. Maybe I shouldn’t have let her get to me; maybe I should have been thankful that I wasn’t out on my butt the first time I was caught in a dress. There were so many other kids in my shoes who weren’t so lucky, and yet-
The suitcase rolled on its wheels as I dragged it down the hall. The few strides to the stairs couldn’t pass quickly enough.
Tears rolled over the wall and down my cheeks. “I have to go.”
“Justin, you don’t have to-”
“Stop calling me that!”
Moments later I was out the door marching down the garden path. At the end was the beetle with Tanya sitting in the driver’s seat. She watched intently as I approached, dragging a hoarse-looking mother behind me.
“Tell your mother to message if she needs help with board,” Mom called to Tanya.
I glared and challenged her to say something. Instead she lifted her palms, forced a smile and told her “sure.” Tanya had no problem stepping into my battles; I guess my mom was the exception.
The trunk closed on the suitcase and I flew into the passenger seat. No time for goodbyes; I couldn’t stand to look at her.
Tanya turned the key and started to drive. In the rear vision mirror my Mom lingered by the road, arms crossed, and watched until disappearing from view.
I lay back and fought for oxygen.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
I sunk into the chair and sighed. “Yeah. Guess so.”
When the silence wore thin I reached to the back and flipped on the radio. News bulletins whispered over the airwaves.
“-last night’s disappearance of Deborah Downes, the fifth in a string of suspected abductions in the last two months.”
The beetle pulled to the curb and Tanya laid her gaze on me. “Seriously, KC, are you okay? I’ve never seen you and your Mom go at it like that.”
I shrugged. “Guess we’ve never had anything serious to fight about before.”
The radio prattled on: “police are urging citizens to stay indoors between the hours of eight pm and six am, and if at all possible to travel in groups of two or more.”
Tanya reached for my hand and squeezed. “You’ve always got a family with us, you know.”
I smiled; not a really smile, but she probably wasn’t expecting one. “Yeah, I know. Thanks.”
On any other day it might have been a blessing.
The beetle pulled back onto the road and continued the journey. It was only a few blocks, but home had never felt so distant.
To be continued…