Non-Binary Hall: Occupancy – 2
Noa Altwater – Grade 12 – Room: 1A
Ciel Woods – Grade 9 – Room: 1C
Noa sighed looking over the room assignments for the hundredth time. Three years ago, Noa’s freshman year, the Tri-County Unified High School opened enrollment to students of all gender identities. Previously the all-boys private school had dwindling enrollment numbers and was seeking to not just boost admissions, but to bring itself into alignment with the growing inclusivity of modern society. Out of three dorms, one was set aside for girls, and its first floor, only for non-binary students. There were options though. If a NB student wanted to be assigned a room in the boys or girls dorms they were given the opportunity to make that selection. Also, trans-male and trans-female were allowed to room in their gender specific halls. But this was the first time anyone other than Noa was taking residence in Non-Binary Hall.
Their comfort zone was going to be a lot less comfortable this year. They sighed again flopping backwards onto their bed. They hadn’t dressed for meeting new people. They raised their head just enough to look down at the care-worn t-shirt and basic blue jeggings they had thrown on. It was their “laundry day” outfit. Outside their door they heard two voices. One was quiet and hard to hear, the other was very masculine, and loud. Noa decided to at least slip on their sparkly platform flip-flops. At least this way, if Noa ended up actually meeting them today, they hoped to have a height advantage as these flip-flops edged them just under a full six feet.
They caught a glimpse of themselves in the mirror as they went to slip those on. They quietly decided to also grab a better top, something with color. Rifling through their clothes they found their bright yellow hoodie that they cropped for summer wear and threw it on over the t-shirt. They stood and took a closer look in the mirror. Not bad, they thought as they ran a hand through their hair and settled it down. Top to bottom, Noa’s look would probably confuse most people. Their naturally dark hair was in an undercut style with the top brushed forward and looming over their forehead. Hazel eyes that seemed to change color depending on lighting were outlined with minimal eyeliner and mascara. Body shape was boyish, mostly without curves, except the butt, but even it was minimal unless accentuated by the right jeans. They added a touch of lip gloss.
Deciding that now that they were ready in case they ran into new people, they grabbed their keys and their phone and left, locking the door behind them. Across the hall the door to 1C was open but Noa tried to sneak away unnoticed to visit their best friend upstairs. To spite their best efforts, they were stopped by the owner of the loud masculine voice heard earlier.
“Oh hey! You must be Noa in 1A?” The young man stepped out into the hallway and put his hand out to shake in greeting. “Name’s Marceau and this is my younger sibling, Ciel.” His other arm was wrapped around the slight shoulders of a petite teenager who was attempting to escape the embrace.
To Noa’s surprise, Marceau would never be intimidated by a six foot anything, as he was clearly at least six foot and five or so inches. A wide eyed Noa reached out to shake the offered hand, “Uh, yes, Noa Altwater. And,” they purposely softened the look on their face as they reached to greet the younger resident, “Ciel, it’s great to meet you.”
They stopped wrestling their brother long enough to reach out to Noa. They smiled at Noa, their green eyes lighting up. “Hi,” they said quietly and fidgeted with the hem of their shirt.
“Well, um, I guess I ought to unpack my own stuff,” the young man excused himself awkwardly, and waved to Ciel.
“Oh! Em!” Ciel called out, the loudest that Noa had heard so far, and it wasn’t even loud, “Y-your phone, it’s still…”
“Ah! Yeh, gonna need that.” Marceau stepped past his sibling to grab his phone from the room and then quickly removed himself from NBH.
Noa was not generally a fan of straight boys and it was hard to not show it on their face, but they tried, for Ciel. They held back their sigh of relief once the boy was gone, and instead asked if Ciel needed any help.
“Umm, yeh. Em said he’d show me the laundry facilities, but I guess he was in a hurry.” Ciel continued to fidget with the hem of their shirt and only glanced at Noa’s face, never really making eye contact.
“Great!” Noa exclaimed. “The other halls have a lot more people and a lot more rules, but here, we do what we want.” Noa smiled pleasantly. “Did you bring your own laundry soap and such?”
“Grab it, I’ll grab mine and show you around,” Noa kept the smile in place as they unlocked their room and slid in to grab their basket of laundry goodies. Back in the hallway Ciel was waiting with a similar basket. Noa nodded their head in the direction of the laundry room. “So each floor,” Noa started as they walked down the hall, “has their own laundry room. But because we’re the only two here, we can leave our laundry soaps and softeners and what not in the laundry room! On the other floors, there are issues with stealing and it used to cause a lot of fights. I am sure we can be respectful since it’s just us.” Noa shrugged as they turned into the laundry room which was situated about halfway down the hall and to the left.
Inside there were three washers and three dryers; one washer had an “out of order” sign on the lid. “So, this washer,” Noa started organizing their things one thing at a time on top of the broken washer, “has not worked, ever, I think. So I just use it to put my soap and stuff. If you’re ever desperate, just ask, I usually have plenty of detergent. My mom drops it off regularly.”
Noa watched Ciel put their items up. Ciel was short, maybe five and a half feet, with short blonde hair and bright green eyes. They were wearing a baggy t-shirt with some rock band graphic on it and baggy jeans and generic converse sneakers. Much less femme than Noa, but they felt they’d get along just fine with Ciel.
Noa smiled and gestured across the hall, “the kitchen is over here.” They walked into the brightly lit kitchen. To the right was a wall of cupboards, a sink, and a small oven and a microwave hanging over it. “Any dishes or cookware you can keep here. They really don’t want us cooking much though, but they also don’t want us keeping a lot of food in the rooms. Again it’ll be easier for us since it’s just us, but if you’re bringing friends into the hall, please remind them not to grab my stuff.”
“That reminds me,” Ciel spoke up, “why is this hall locked from the others?” They were asking about the electronic keycards used to get into Non-Binary Hall.
“Oh,” Noa looked away from the younger student, “there was a problem, I had my first year. I really appreciate them installing the lock, though. I’m sorry you’ll have to bear with it.” Noa felt their hands begin to shake so they hid them behind their back and pretended nothing was wrong.
“I don’t mind,” Ciel offered quietly. “It’s part of the reason I chose this hall. Although if they’d let me room with Em, I’d rather be there.”
“That’s your brother’s nick-name?”
“Uh yeh!,” Ciel brightened up. “I had trouble saying Marceau when I was young, so I just called him ‘M.’ The name stuck and even my parents called him by it.”
Noa caught the past tense of the last sentence but decided to ask perhaps another time. There were enough emotions floating around with the first day of a new school year looming ahead.