Kayla dropped her school bag and immediately flicked on her computer. She was eager to see if Tony was online. She had met Tony by accident three months earlier, when she’d mistyped a friends IM address, but she’s glad she did. Tony had become one of her best friends, and she was always excited when he was online.
Soon, her computer emitted it’s usual welcome chime and Yahoo Messenger loaded. Kayla’s excited mood was deflated when she saw that he was offline. Kayla sighed, and started on her trig homework.
She was about two thirds of the way through when she heard the chime of an incoming IM.
tonydove: Hey cupcake!
Kayla put her math book off to the side and pulled the keyboard out so she could type
kaylacupcake; Hey Tony. How are you today?
tonydove: not bad, got lost on the trains today
kaylacupcake: Oh no! Did you at least get unlost?
tonydove: Of course
tonydove: im back home now
kaylacupcake: Was it scary?
tonydove: not really
tonydove: it was like it didnt even feel real
tonydove: nothing has seemed real in the last few days
tonydove: except for you...
Kayla’s heart skipped a beat. That was probably the most romantic thing a guy had ever said to her.
kaylacupcake: I’m sorry?
tonydove: dont b, probably just the depression meds doing their job
tonydove: was school fun at least?
kaylacupcake: It was fine, my lab partner didn’t show. She like disappeared over the weekend or something.
tonydove: that sucks
kaylacupcake: Mom’s calling for dinner.
Kayla had dinner with her family. She enjoyed the meal, and she loved her parents, and even her bratty little sister, but she kept wishing she could get back to talk to Tony. But by the time the food, chatter, and dishes were all done, Tony had logged off.
As Kayla finished her homework and slipped into bed, she wondered what Tony was like for real.
Tony felt bad for leaving the chat so suddenly. He had gone downstairs to see if his parents had made dinner yet to find that they still weren’t talking to him. They’d had a really big fight Friday, and they had been giving him the silent treatment since. Since Sunday, they wouldn’t even make a plate for him for dinner. He made a bowl of ramen in the microwave and took it back up to his room. Three could play at that game.
He logged off of Yahoo because he didn’t think it was fair to complain to Kayla about his parents, which he knew he would end up doing.
Kayla’s alarm woke her with a jolt. She slammed the snooze button, but climbed out of bed anyway. She looked into the full length mirror on her wall and thought about the dream she’d just had. She’d dreamed herself making out with Antonia, her lab partner from school.
“I’m not a lesbian,” she told her reflection. And really, she wasn’t. She didn’t notice the girls the way she noticed the guys. But for some reason, her dreams had featured Antonia more and more in the last few weeks.
She changed into her school clothes and headed for the bus stop, grabbing a pop-tart from the pantry on her way out.
The bus ride was boring as usual, but the monotony was abruptly shattered when she arrived at the school to be greeted by Missy, her best friend. “I know why Antonia hasn’t shown up all week.”
“She’s only been gone three days, that’s not ‘all week’.”
“She attempted suicide,” Missy continued, unabashed. “Apparently she jumped off Overlook Bridge Saturday morning. She’s still alive, but she won’t wake up.”
Tony got up and went to school, as he usually did. As usual, nobody even paid attention to him. But he guessed it was a nice change from the usual sneers and violent looks he used to get.
The only person he really minded ignoring him was his lab partner. He’d taken a fancy to her, but she acted as if he didn’t exist. She’d started doing all the work for both of them this week.
He turned around to check the clock, and he noticed something outside the windows. Two senior boys were throwing punches in the Quad. The girl who sat two rows up from him noticed it at the same time and told his teacher. The entire class ran to the window to watch as the teacher ran outside to break it up.
The fight was over quickly. One of the boys split when he saw the teacher, the other boy was grabbed by school security and lead to the vice principle’s office.
When the bell rang, he followed the crowd of people heading toward the buses. When he chose a seat right next to his lab partner, he said, “You know, you have to talk to me some time. We are working together.”
But she didn’t respond. She didn’t even glance at him, so he rode the rest of the ride in awkward silence.
Kayla was glad to be home. As usual, she couldn’t wait to jump online and tell Tony all about her day. He wasn’t on when she got on, but there was some offline messages waiting for her. They were timestamped about 10 minutes ago.
tonydove: Hey, bbs
tonydove: im gonna c if my parents are done being stupid yet
She left him an offline message in reply.
kaylacupcake: Ok, I’m going to take a shower. Talk to you when I get back.
Tony went downstairs to talk to his parents. He really hated this silent treatment that they were giving him. It seemed like that’s all anybody gave him anymore. He was very glad for Kayla, at least she talked to him. He wished he could meet her in person.
He checked the kitchen and the living room. Then went back upstairs to check their bedroom. They were not home.
He went back to his own bedroom and signed back onto Yahoo.
tonydove: Kayla, you there?
kaylacupcake: Yeah. Did you sort things out with your parents?
tonydove: not home. can we talk?
kaylacupcake: What do you need to talk about?
tonydove: not online, in person
Kayla smiled at the screen. She had wanted to meet Tony, but she didn’t want to scare him away. She knew they were in the same city, but it was a big city with lots of high schools, so he probably didn’t go to her school.
kaylacupcake: Yeah, I’d love to meet in person? Where?
tonydove: Starbucks on Main and 5th?
kaylacupcake: I’ll head over right now.
tonydove: What are you wearing, so I know who you are
kaylacupcake: I’m wearing a light blue shirt with Hello Kitty on it.
tonydove: ok. im in a plain black shirt, blond short hair
tonydove: ok c u soon
Tony’s account went offline, and Kayla’s did the same. She left a note for her mom saying that she’d gone out with a friend, and that she’d be back in about 3 hours, then headed for the bus stop.
Tony thought about leaving a note, but decided it wouldn’t matter anyway. His parents didn’t care about what he did. So he grabbed his wallet and started walking.
Ten minutes later, he arrived at Starbucks and chose a table facing the door. He planned to order when Kayla arrived, but for now, he would just wait.
It wasn’t a long wait before a teenager with a blue Hello Kitty shirt walked in. He knew the girl from school. He sat right next to her every day in Chemistry, and she hadn’t spoke a word to him all week.
He stood up and met her at the door. “Why are you ignoring me?” Tony asked.
She didn’t answer. She ordered a grande hot chocolate, and ignored him completely for the next half hour, no matter how hard he tried to get her to respond to him.
As Kayla took the last sip of her drink, she looked at the clock. “I guess he’s not coming,” she admitted to herself.
She waved a friendly goodbye to the woman behind the counter and headed out to wait for the bus. It wasn’t even a minute before it came, and soon she was back home.
As she stepped into her room, she couldn’t help but cry a little. She really cared about this boy, maybe even loved him, and he had just stood her up on their first meeting. She was beyond angry, she was furious.
She logged back into Yahoo, with the full intent to yell at him until he crawled under a rock and died, but before she could even type a word, a message came in from him.
tonydove: why did u ignore me @ sb?
tonydove: did i do sumthing rong?
kaylacupcake: I didn’t ignore you, you stood me up.
tonydove: wat r u talking about
tonydove: i was rite in front of u
kaylacupcake: What are you talking about?
tonydove: here, call me
tonydove: it’s hard to explain on yahoo
tonydove: just give me a couple secs to get downstairs
Kayla wasn’t sure why, but she did believe him that he had not intentionally leave her standing.
kaylacupcake: calling now
Tony went downstairs to the kitchen phone to talk to her. His parents had made it home, and his mom looked like she’d just gotten very bad news.
“Mom, Dad, we need to talk. But first I need to take the call that’s about to come in.”
His parents continued to ignore him. He stared at them, flabbergasted at their insistence that he wasn’t there.
The phone rang.
“Hello” a middle-age female voice answered the phone. Kayla noticed right away that she sounded tired.
“Hi, my name is Kayla. Tony asked me to call,” she explained. “Can I talk to him?”
“Antonia isn’t here right now. She’s in the hospital. The doctors say she might not ever wake up.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. But I’m looking for Anthony, not Antonia.”
“Then I think you have the wrong number.”
“Oh, well, sorry to bother you.” Kayla hung up the phone thoroughly confused.
Tony’s eyes went wide at his mother’s conversation with Kayla. The name “Antonia” rung a bell in his mind. Memories came flooding back. An entire life trapped in a girl’s body, and eventually, his (her?) suicide.
“But it wasn’t suicide,” he realized. “She’s still alive, in a hospital.”
Things started falling into place in his mind. He rushed upstairs, taking them two or three at a time.
There was a message waiting for him on his computer.
kaylacupcake: Did you give me the right number?
kaylacupcake: I got a woman who didn’t know who Anthony was.
kaylacupcake: I think it was the mother of my lab partner
Tony started typing furiously, pounding out the realizations.
tonydove: i am antonia
tonydove: i dont no y, but im here
tonydove: thats y no1 can c me
tonydove: my body is in the hospital
tonydove: i am in a coma
tonydove: and …
tonydove: i think i no how 2 bring me back
Kayla read his posts with skepticism. She found it a little too strange.
kaylacupcake: Why are you just telling me this now?
tonydove: i didnt no
tonydove: it was mom saying “antonia” tat brought back the memories
tonydove: will you help me?
Kayla thought for a moment before she replied.
kaylacupcake: Ok. I’m not saying I will, but, if I did, what would you need me to do.
tonydove: just tel my mom 2 call me by my real name
tonydove: tell her to call me Anthony.
Kayla picked up her phone and pressed redial.
“Hello?” a male voice answered this time.
“Sir, my name is Kayla. I am one of Antonia’s friends. And I think I know why she tried to kill herself.”
She heard the man sigh. “All right, why?”
“Because she wanted to be a boy. I know her as a boy named Anthony.”
“You mean like a lesbian or something?”
“I don’t really know, and I don’t understand it, but I’d like you to do something. I need you to call him Anthony, and ask *him* to come back.”
“And why would I do that?” the man demanded.
“If it works, you have your child back. If it doesn’t, no harm done, right?”
Tony climbed into his dad’s car with him as his dad drove to the hospital. It was clear his dad didn’t believe a word Kayla had said, but he was willing to try anything. Tony was sure that his dad loved him, more than anything in the world.
When they arrived at the hospital, the dad checked in with the nurse at the front desk, then went straight back to one of the ICU rooms. Tony followed steps behind, but the shock of seeing his female body lying on the hospital bed hooked up to so many machines was overwhelming. He had to step out of the room and breath.
Kayla sent another IM, but Tony’s account had switched to Away mode, so she knew he wouldn’t get it right away.
kaylacupcake: I did what you asked me to do.
Tony heard his dad through the ajar door. His dad was praying to God to get his daughter back. He was promising Tony that he would be a better father, and that he would always be there if she needed to talk. He blamed himself for his daughter’s suicide attempt.
“Look, I don’t know if this will work, but I’ll try anything,” his dad was speaking directly to Antonia’s body now. “I don’t know if you can hear me, and I don’t know if you’ll care, but I need you back. Anthony, you can be a boy if you want to; I promise to help in any way I can, if that’s what you need. But I need you to wake up.”
Tony’s perspective suddenly jarred. He was no longer standing in the hall listening; he was lying in a hospital bed, looking up at his father. He could feel his eyes flickering open, and the light burned them, but it was a good burning. He felt his father’s hands let go of his own hand just before he was wrapped in a tight hug, or at least as much of a tight hug as was possible in the hospital bed.
“Oh, Antonia, I was so worried,” his dad cried.
“Please, don’t call me Antonia,” he struggled to say the words, but they needed to be said. “My name is Anthony, or Tony. Not Antonia.”
His dad nodded and hugged him even tighter.
Two months later, Tony and Kayla found themselves at the same Starbucks on 5th and Main.
Tony had made a very fast recovery, and an even faster transition. His parents gave him everything he needed to be a boy. He had a whole new wardrobe of boy’s clothes, and a binder for his chest. They even promised they’d find a way to pay for breast removal for his 17th birthday.
“Have I told you how lucky I am to know you, recently?”
“Only about every hour or so.”
“Have I showed it recently?”
“How do you -”
She was cut off abruptly as he leaned across the table and touched his lips to hers.
“I have wanted to do that since the first day I saw you in Chemistry class.”
She leaned across the table and kissed him back, deeper than their first. “So have I.”
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