Updated: Jan 17
I jump out of bed so fast I trip over my own feet and almost fall on my face. I run into the bathroom, pull off my pajama top and stare in the mirror.
“Holy shit it’s real.”
I’m feeling the exact opposite of what I usually do in the morning. It’s like the terror, but turned upside-down and inside-out. It makes me laugh.
So little has changed, but it makes a huge difference. The dark hairs that had begun to grow on my face, chest, and arms are now fine and colorless. My nose, jaw, and brow are slightly smaller, not as they were before puberty but a softer evolution of it. And most significant, my body fat is in completely new places. My thighs are thicker, and on my chest…two small, sore, itchy breasts. The shape of my body feels unbelievably right, like putting on a perfectly-sized shoe after walking miles in one a little too small.
Then I look down at my pajama bottoms. There’s a bulge. Shit. Of course I still have those.
It doesn’t feel as bad as it used to. I wonder if my body is making estrogen now, and that’s why I feel so light and warm. I can work with this, I think.
I’m just coming out of my guest-suite-turned-closet when Dad thunders unannounced down the stairs. There’s no time to hide; he turns and sees me. I cross my arms over my chest instinctively.
The light is dim and at first Dad squints at me. “Oh, who…?”
I don’t speak, knowing my voice will betray me.
“I’m sorry,” he says. “Didn’t know.” And then: “Wait, Luca? What the fuck?” And he switches on the light.
I’m blinking and trying not to cry and my mind is racing to find a way to explain this.
“You promised you’d take it slow!”
“I know! I don’t…I mean…I had the strangest dream last night. I don’t know what happened.”
“How can you even get breasts overnight? Is this some sort of black-market thing?”
“No! I promise I just woke up like this! I thought I had a weird dream!”
He stares at me, shamelessly, clearly not believing. “I have to leave for work, I’m going to stop by the store on the way home so I just wanted to check if there’s anything you need. Text me if there is. We’ll talk about this later.”
The way he says that last sentence feels like the first drop on a roller coaster. He leaves and I collapse in bed sobbing.
After a few minutes I relax, the warm feeling comes back and I’m not as scared. I am certain I was visited by a powerful being in the night, and I’m even more certain of what I asked for. Dad is religious, so why not tell him I was visited by God, and granted my deepest desire? It wouldn’t really be a lie, would it? He’ll think I mean his god, of course, but who am I to say she wasn’t? An all-powerful god could appear to me in any form, and such a being would also know how to earn my trust.
I need Aylen. Without my mom she’s the only person I can trust to help me process this. I grab my phone and shoot her a text. Her response comes within a couple minutes.
Morning sis <3 Do you have energy for emotional support?
Think so, I also need to talk, u ok?
Yes, mostly. I can come now and give you a ride to school.
Do it, I’ll make pancakes
Ok, see you soon
I run into my closet to pick out my clothes for the day. My first thought is to go as feminine as I can, but with the new developments I don’t care as much anymore. I choose my most comfortable pair of jeans and one of my mom’s tight t-shirts with an abstract design like a painting.
I’m conflicted about hiding my chest. On one hand, it’s very new, unfamiliar, and I’m as anxious as I am excited. I’m afraid I look more like a twelve-year-old than most girls my age. On the other hand, the thought of Ben seeing the new shape of my body makes me shiver and laugh, and something deep in my belly aches terribly. I want him to see.
The end of the private road where Aylen lives has a sign advertising fresh and smoked salmon for sale one mile ahead, where her family runs a popular local food market. Their double-wide manufactured house, near the river in a community with about a dozen others, is surrounded by planters full of all sorts of edible plants. When I open the door of my truck, I immediately smell pancakes and syrup and coffee.
Aylen’s dad is sitting on their porch reading a book. I give him a timid wave as he looks my way, then he gives me a wide grin and stands up, leaving the book on the chair.
“Hey Luca,” he says. “How are you?”
“I’m great Mr. Ancaten.”
“Good, you look happy.”
I just smile shyly at my shoes.
“Aylen’s pancakes are hot and muy bueno, get in there!”
I’m relieved he didn’t comment on my appearance. The house smells like a diner, and Aylen sits alone at the kitchen table with a tall stack of pancakes in the middle.
“Good morning!” she says. “Perfect timing, I just sat down.”
I join her and slide two fluffy pancakes onto my plate. I’m reaching for the syrup when I notice she’s staring intently at my face. “What?” I ask.
“I…uh…Luca? Did you buy black-market hormones?”
“Then how the hell?”
I take a giant bite of pancake to avoid answering for at least another thirty seconds.
“I guess I’ll start if you need a minute,” Aylen says. “So, dad got a really good job offer at UW in Seattle. We’re moving this summer and I’ll probably start dual credit classes next year.”
I finish chewing and swallow. “Moving…to Seattle?” Suddenly my eyes fill with tears and I cover my face with my hands. The emotions are way more intense than I know what to do with.
“Yeah but I’ll probably move back after college.” She touches my forearm. “We’ll stay in touch, Luca. And we’ll be able to visit, it’s not that long of a drive.”
I rub my eyes and take a deep breath. “I don’t know why I reacted like that. I’m happy for you.”
“Happiness and sadness aren’t always separate. Of course I’m going to cry about it too.” She leans back in her chair. “Now, please explain what’s going on with you, because I’m about to explode with curiosity!”
“Seriously? You have titties now and you don’t know what’s going on?”
I nod. “I mean, I know something happened.” I recount what I can remember of the dreamlike experience, which leaves Aylen speechless for a minute while I silently finish my food.
“Clearly you were…” she says, before she’s quite ready to continue the sentence. “Clearly your body is running on estrogen now. You smell completely different.”
“You think so? That’s what I figured. I feel different too.”
“I feel…like I just took off a heavy backpack. The tension and fear that was constant before is gone. And I think my emotions are more powerful.”
“That’s fascinating. Are you okay? Like, stable?”
“Yeah? I guess. Change is scary even if I want it.”
There’s a loud thud as a door slams into a wall, and Aylen’s two younger siblings come speeding around the corner into the kitchen. “Pancakes!” they shout.
Aylen laughs. “Help yourself, we’re off to school.”
The staring is getting to me. They always look away when I glance in their direction, but everyone is definitely staring. My classmates are more overt with it than the teachers, and Jude most of all. He barely takes his angry eyes off me all day, but doesn’t say a word.
I do like Ben staring at me, though. I tell him about what happened when we have a few minutes between classes, and he doesn’t seem fazed at all. In fact he seems really happy for me, and I cannot stop thinking about kissing him.
At lunch I eat quickly and then go outside with Aylen and Ben. We take a short hike through the woods behind the school to our old secret hideout, a small clearing among a thick grove of young hemlock trees that have grown up with us. Usually these woods feel safe and unchanging. Today it’s different, like instead of just me, the whole world has changed around me.
Ben and I get ahead of Aylen, and when we arrive in the clearing he taps my shoulder.
I look up at him and we make eye contact for longer than I’m used to.
“You’re so pretty,” he mumbles.
“So…so are you.”
He giggles and so do I. Then he asks, “Can I kiss you?”
Without thinking I nod and lean close to him. He smells like moss and wood smoke and spray-on deodorant. I wrap my arms around him; my chest bumps against his ribs. There’s a spark of pain in my breasts that takes my breath away but I don’t care, I tilt my head back and his lips touch mine and I press my body against him. Closer, I want to be closer, I want him to pull off my clothes and touch me…
Suddenly he stops and straightens up as footsteps approach, but I still cling to him.
“Oh don’t mind me,” Aylen says with a laugh. “Please continue!”
Ben gives me a sheepish grin and we make out while Aylen picks flowers and sticks them in her hair. Then we all sit down and talk until it’s time to go back for afternoon classes. I don’t want this to end, I wish we could all stay here forever and never grow up.
As soon as school is out Ben and I get in my pickup and I drive us to the riverside park in town. The La Gula taco truck is there, and we get a snack before wandering down to my favorite bench right by the water.
“Today was my first kiss,” I tell Ben.
“Really? I figured you would’ve kissed someone before.”
“Did you like it?”
“Yes.” I lean into his side and he puts his arm around my shoulders. “I loved it.”
“I’m glad. I was nervous but I loved it too.”
The shrill cry of an osprey catches our attention and we watch it dive for fish a few times, until it catches one and flies off to its nest.
“Did you see how Jude was looking at me today?” I ask.
“Yeah, dude has issues.”
“Maybe he’s jealous.”
“Or he’s just a bigot. Probably best to ignore him either way.”
“I want to feel good about myself, but everything that makes me feel better makes people like him so angry. I don’t understand.”
“Neither do I. Some people just hate us because we’re different from them, and we have to figure out how to be happy in spite of it.”
“What if the happier I get, the more I get punished for it? I don’t want to just trade one type of trauma for another.”
Ben shrugs. “I don’t know, Luca. But you don’t deserve that. I know Aylen and I would do anything to keep you safe.”
“Did she tell you they’re moving to Seattle this summer?”
I rest my head on his shoulder with a sigh. “I’m scared. Everything is changing and I need my mom.”
“How are things with your dad?”
“It’s complicated. Like, he’s trying, but also he has ideas about how things should be done and he gets mad when I’m too independent.”
Ben nods. “My dad is like that too.”
Something small and hard strikes the back of my head and I duck with a yelp of pain. “Faggots!” a voice shouts behind us, as a couple more rocks fly by.
We turn to see Jude and a couple of his friends. “What the fuck?” Ben says as he stands.
“Y’all should be shot,” Jude says, hurling another rock that barely misses Ben’s head.
There are a few other people nearby, but they all walk away. I start panicking.
Ben grabs my arm. “Let’s get out of here.”
We run along the path back to the parking lot, with the bigots following us the entire way. As we jump into my truck and leave, they continue shouting and making obscene gestures. I’m shaking so hard I can barely hold onto the steering wheel.
“Did they follow us from school?” I ask, struggling not to cry so I can see where I’m driving.
“They must have.”
“How can I ever go back? They want to kill me!”