“I’m a boy.”
The confession came suddenly, in the middle of breakfast. The silence that answered was deafening. Probably should have seen that coming. That wasn’t how I had planned for that to go at all. But, in typical me fashion, once I was up there and everyone’s attention was on me… the words just came out like vomit. Even left a sour taste in my mouth. Mom dropped the wooden spoon she was using to stir the porridge, hand over her mouth to cover a muted gasp.
“And I want to be called Luka.” While the statement itself was like a breath of fresh air, somehow the scene of my mother and little sister staring at me like dears in headlights was a punch right to the gut. I don’t know how many seconds passed, but it was too many seconds. Then my mom opened her mouth, and my heart lurched. I didn’t want to hear what she had to say. I couldn’t. There was only one option.
I scurried out the door faster than they could blink. I don’t know if it was embarrassment at my sudden outburst, or the fact that I wasn’t really prepared to hear their answer. At least, not as prepared as I thought I was. Mom called out after me, but I didn’t stop walking until I made it to the bus stop. Was it cowardly? Maybe. But you try coming out to your mom on the morning of your 16th birthday.
I wouldn’t recommend it.
“Did you tell them?” An annoyingly perky voice from the other side of my locker made me jump in surprise. I groaned as I slammed the locker door shut, shuffling a multitude of books in my arms as none other than Abbey May grinned at me with her cheeky little face. She flicked her curly red ponytail over her shoulder, her excitement all too noticeable.
I turned and started to walk in the other direction. “Yeah.”
She wasted no time catching up to me, expression suddenly warping. Her brow furrowed, and she hugged her books closer to her chest. “And… did it… did it go ok?”
I sighed, pinching the bridge of my nose. “I don’t… I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?”
I shrugged, not even bothering to make eye contact. In fact, I would rather look anywhere than at her face, because I knew exactly what she was going to say. I’d known Abbey since grade school, and she was probably the only person who didn’t put up with my crap. “Well… I kinda… Ran out the door without waiting for their answer.”
Abbey grabbed my shoulder, causing me to stop walking. “Luka!”
I shrugged her hand off. “What? I was scared, ok? I… I came out and I saw the look on my mom’s face and it was like… it was like my world ended right there. I couldn’t take back what I said. It’s not every day you tell your family that you’re trans.”
Abbey shifted on her feet, heels clicking on the tile floor of the school’s hallway, and she let out a breath. “Well… I’m proud of you. That took guts.” She nudged me, a playful smile tugging at her lips. “Look on the bright side! Now that they know, you don’t have to hide yourself under overalls and baggy shirts.”
“What’s wrong with overalls and baggy shirts?” I asked, looking down at my black overalls, red oversized shirt, and thick black hiking boots.
She laughed. “Seriously, Luka, you need to branch out with your gay boy fashion.”
I rolled my eyes, and I would have said something if a rogue skateboard hadn’t come careening down the hallway into my ankle at that exact moment. I stifled a yelp, limping a little as I searched for the idiot that let their skateboard run loose—until I noticed who it was.
He was saying something, but I couldn’t quite make it out. All I could see was that fluffy blonde hair bouncing, his little freckles, those soft lips.
“..ey… Hey… Hey!”
I snapped back to reality when he was in front of me.
“Sorry, man, my grip slipped.” He bent over to pick up the board and my voice locked in my throat. It was him. Caleb Park. AKA the most gorgeous guy in the entire school. And he called me man.
It only then occurred to me that we had been starring at each other silently for a solid 15 seconds.
Abbey nudged me, and I cleared my throat, thankful for her assistance. “Yeah, yeah… just a little bump. Nothing to worry about.” I tried to ignore the fact that my voice totally squeaked.
He nodded. “Cool, I’m glad you’re not hurt. You’re… Luka, right? We have chem together.”
My heart skipped. “Oh, uh, yeah… chemistry.”
“Sweet. Well, see you around Luka.” Caleb picked his skateboard up and walked away, hair bouncing in that way it always did, and I’ll admit, I stared a little.
Abbey had to snap her fingers in front of my face to get me out of my trance. “Earth to Luka! You’re going to be late.”
“Caleb Park knows my name.”
Abbey rolled her eyes. “Yeah, yeah, alright loverboy. You’re going to burn holes through him if you keep staring. Come on. Let’s go.” She started pushing me in the direction of our next class, and I reluctantly let her.
Caleb Park knew my name. My name name.
Best birthday ever.
The dream quickly ended when I had to face the harsh reality of going back home. Going back home meant facing what I had done that morning, and facing what I had done that morning meant facing the fact that my family might not accept me the way I wanted. The look on my mother’s face… I know she and dad had always wanted a son, but maybe this wasn’t the way she had always imagined it.
I cracked open the door, and mom was there, sitting on the stairs, head in her hands. She gasped, head snapping up when she heard me. She opened her mouth to say something, but hesitated.
I could feel the blood drain from my face. This was it. She was about to say the very words I didn’t want to hear.
“We need to talk.”
And there they were. She slowly stood up, reaching out a hand in my direction. I recoiled. “I-I, uh… I’m so tired. I just want to take a nap.” I pushed past her and made my way up the stairs as quickly as I could. I could hear her calling out to me, but I pretended not to as I slammed my door shut and dove into my bed, burying my face in my pillow. Sure, it was cowardly running away from my mom like that. But I wasn’t thinking about that. I was thinking about my dad. How I never got to tell him. And how I wished he were there to be a part of the conversation. I turned to my nightstand, staring at a picture of the two of us together. The last picture, when I was 10. “I’m sorry, dad. I’m not the daughter you wanted me to be.”
I don’t know when I fell asleep. It wasn’t like I went up to my room actually intended on taking a nap. It was my sixteenth birthday! People usually spend that day celebrating, and here I was taking a damn nap. I groaned and sat up, rubbing my eyes a little as I pushed myself out of bed. I walked across my room to the closet, planning on just giving up and putting my pajamas on, calling Caleb Park knowing my name the highlight of my day, and going to bed for real—when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.
Or… I think it was myself.
I was a scrawny kid, usually, there wasn’t a bit of fat on my body, but suddenly it looked like I had gone to the gym every day for ten years straight. And I had aged about that much too, judging from my height and general appearance. The scare jaw, broad shoulders, muscular arms and legs… But there was one thing I couldn’t stop staring at: my chest. Specifically, the top surgery scars. I turned to the side, and sure enough, I was completely flat. “What the f—” I clamped my mouth shut, clasping my hand over it for good measure. That was not my voice. Well, it was, but it was… huskier. The way I always wanted it to be.
“Mom… Mom!” I cried, rushing out my bedroom door and to the stairs. “Mom!” I yelled again, and she appeared before me, at the bottom of the stairs. She looked the same as always, definitely not ten years older and buff. So, what was going on? The question left my lips as soon as the thought occurred to me.
She sighed, hand on her cheek. “Oh dear, this is what I wanted to talk to you about. You should come sit down.”