The pain has been growing in my back for a while now. It’s only in the past couple of minutes that I really began to notice it, though. I stretch my arms above my head, linking my fingers and just luxuriating in the feel of my body. It isn’t that I hated how my old body felt, but it was beginning to get old. The aches and pains of life were getting to me. Now…I feel so full of energy. It’s the best feeling in the world, even better than the feel of my breasts on my chest, and a smile just blossoms on my face. My arms are still hanging toward the ceiling when a voice interrupts the zen feeling I have.
“Who are you really?”
“What? I’m your boss.”
“You may be able to fool everyone else, but you don’t fool me. Stuff like this doesn’t happen.”
I look at Randal, shocked. “You doubt I have the authority…”
“You are just a woman, and so you have no place here. This is a guy’s business.”
“It’s video games, Randal.”
“Yeah, and it requires logical thought, not emotional connection. You can deal with people, sweetie, but you can’t fool me into believing you were ever a man, especially a man’s man like Cray.”
Randal is one of the people that I didn’t hire. He came from another company, by way of a year unemployed. Steve thought him enough a steal that he hired Randal without ever discussing it with me. Until this moment, I never doubted that choice.
“Be very careful what you say next, Randal,” I say very quietly. There is a slight quaver in my voice, and by Randal’s smile I think he sees it as fear, not the anger it represents. Too many men read shaking as fear. I’ve always shaken more in anger than fear, but Randal has never seen me angry. Now that I’ve almost completely rooted out my depression, it seems that my emotions are so much closer to the surface. This anger came from nowhere. I got up from behind my desk and moved toward him. I can’t keep my hands still, and keep clenching my fists.
Randal completely misses it, though.
“You listen here, missy. You’re too young to be what you claim. No one will ever take you seriously, but if you play your cards right…”
“What?” He’s actually trying to sexually harass me? I’m visibly trembling at this point. I can feel the white hot point in my gut that is burning away everything but his face. I don’t remember the name of my former assailant, but Randal is a perfect target for the rage that has recently taken the place of all of the fear that I ever felt about that man.
Nature abhors a vacuum, and filler thy name is Randal.
“Oh, I think you know what I mean.” He moves toward me and pins me against the desk. For a moment I feel panic. I’m a teenager again and he’s going to rape me for the first time. I feel as he puts his knee between my legs, trying to force them apart.
Unfortunately for him I’m not a teenager anymore.
“Randal, this is your last chance. Back off now, or suffer the consequences.”
“What are you going to do little girl?”
In answer I bring my knee up into his boys…hard. He collapses onto the ground. I don’t let up. I kick him twice in the balls, hard. When he pulls his knees together and curls into a fetal position, I begin to kick him in the head, the back, the ribs, anything that I can reach. I hear something crack, and then it’s repeated like a gunshot in a staccato echo as I continue to kick him. Even when he relaxes I continue to kick him. At some point I began to cry and I just keep kicking him.
Some arms pull me away from the lump on the floor and for a moment I struggle, trying to get at the next assailant.
“Liadan, relax, it’s just me. He can’t hurt you, relax.”
I turn into Steve and just cry. They’re big wracking sobs that drag the emotion out of me. I have no control over anything and the strength goes out of me. I feel his strength as he lifts me off the ground and takes me to the couch in my office. He lays me down there, and I feel him begin to rise. Blindly I reach out for him, not wanting to let him leave me. I can’t handle it.
He sits back down and I just sob into his back. I can hear him talking to someone through my sobs, and wonder idly who it could possibly be. It’s not enough to get me to really come out of the fugue I am in, but the curiosity is there. He stops talking and just wraps me into his arms, and the last of my tension leaves me. I fall asleep at this point, loosing track of the world around me. The dream that comes shows me events different from the ones that occurred; Randal has pinned me to the desk, and he is ripping off my jeans. I can’t act. I am frozen to act. My legs won’t move, and I can’t think. I scream, and arms enfold me. I push against them, and again Steve’s voice is calming me, letting me know I am safe.
I’m sobbing again.
I’m fitfully dosing again, afraid to fall completely asleep. When I’m awake Steve can protect me, but asleep I’ll have to face the demons alone. Someone enters the room, and Steve begins to rise, but I pull him back to me.
“Stay with me.” I murmur.
“Liadan, we have to leave. The officers want to speak to us.”
“This piece of shit tried to rape me, I put him down. There’s nothing to talk about.”
“Ma’am, we’re going to have to ask you to come with us.”
I’m being pulled away, I hold tightly onto Steve, not wanting to leave him. I can’t handle leaving him right now. I begin to whine, a low sound in my throat.
“Look, go take a look at the surveillance video. The offices are also wired for sound. You’ll be able to see exactly what happened. We’ll cooperate completely with you in this.”
I feel myself shutting down completely. There’s nothing I want to do, nothing that feels like me anymore. I was so sure of myself just a few minutes ago. How could I have been so foolish? Life won’t let me be happy. There must be someone who can help me. I pull out my phone. There is only one person who I need to talk to now. I dial the phone and hand it to Steve. “Ask her to come, please. I need…please.”
That is the last that I can say before once again I completely lose touch with my surroundings. I’m being lifted up, and held in someone’s arms. There aren’t any tears left in me, so I just lie there in wordless agony and listen to a heartbeat.
It is slow and steady and lulls me into a sense of peace. I drift off into a dreamless sleep. There is a sense of presence in the room, that pushes into my subconscious, but it isn’t enough to wake me up.
“Ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you to get up.”
“Officer, may I ask your intention?”
“We need to arrest her. The video shows that she clearly over-reacted.”
“Really, that’s what you see? You do realize that she is a rape victim?”
“Not tonight. She was raped, repeatedly, over the course of six months as a teenager.”
“Who are you?”
“Her court appointed psychiatrist, Doctor Karen Waters. She was remanded to psychiatric care when she tried to kill herself.”
“You mean she’s chipped?”
“Yes. She is.”
“Oh…then…well…ma’am…Dr. Waters, we still need to take her.”
“She is not in a state that I can comfortably allow you to take her.”
“I don’t think you have a choice.”
“No, officer, you don’t have a choice. I am a court appointed psychiatrist. She is in my custody from this moment until she is arraigned.”
“If you’re sure…”
“I am. Thank you for your concern, officer.”
I fade out again, and the world goes away. I think I’m being moved but nothing matters to me. There are car doors closing, and sense of movement again, but Steve is with me, so I am relaxed, if not happy. There is a sense of emptiness in me, as if all of my emotions, my thoughts, my self has been drained out of me.
I wake up, and sunlight is coming in through a window. It’s not my window, and the surroundings are unfamiliar to me. There is a subdued elegance to it, and I really wonder where I am. The door opens to allow Dr. Waters into the room.
“Good morning, Liadan, how are you feeling?”
“Feeling?” The question makes no sense to me. It should, but there is no connection between me and the words. I struggle to make a logical connection to them, but there is nothing there. I tell her this, “I don’t understand what you’re asking me.” My head is stuffed with cotton, and the world is detached from me.
As I wake up a little more, I realize what she is asking.
“I feel nothing, Dr. Waters.” I want to cry, but there aren’t any tears left in me. I want to scream, but I can’t. The scream is caught in my chest and will not come out. I am nothing. I feel nothing.
“It’s a good thing I intercepted those officers last night…” she begins, but a tone interrupts her. “I’ll be right back, Liadan.”
She leaves me in the room, and I get up and shuffle to the window. I look out onto the expanse of lawn, and I want to feel something. I want to recapture that sense of peace I had last night, but I can’t. It’s gone like any hope I had at a good life. I’m going to jail for the murder of that piece of scum, all because he tried to rape me.
The scream comes then and I collapse to the floor. It is primal and I wonder at it coming out of me at all. It isn’t the sobs from last night, but I feel the impotence in it. I feel like clawing out my own eyes so I never have to look at the happy people around me. I want to destroy my ears so I can’t hear the lies they tell themselves. There is no happiness in this world. It is a fantasy we build for ourselves in order to live with the horror that reality brings to us on a daily basis.
Time loses all meaning as I sit there in the corner. There are jagged edges in my mind that I almost gleefully probe, just to feel something. The pain of what might have been keeps me captive. The shattered hopes and dreams that were offered to me for a brief moment bloody the future and leave it a desiccated corpse of might have been.
The light is no longer streaming in through the window when Dr. Waters finally comes back into my room. Steve is with her.
“Liadan, I need you to get up. We have someplace to be.”
“Yes, Dr. Waters.”
“Steve, could you get her cleaned up?”
“I think it is best if you do it. She needs to feel someone who loves her doing this. It’s can’t be impersonal right now.”
“But…” He blushes profusely, and a hint of a smile brushes my lips. He is embarrassed to see me naked. An impish thought to strip off the gown I am wearing strikes me. Before I can do more than take two handfuls of material his hands clamp down on mine.
“Oh no you don’t, Liadan. Let’s at least get you to the bathroom first.”
That seems to have cured him of his embarrassment, at least for the moment. He leads me down the hall, and into a large communal bathroom. I can’t do much more than drag myself along beside him. I wonder for a moment where I am, but only for a moment. I’m alone with Steve, and he is supposed to see me naked. The same impish thought strikes me and I pull off my gown and am out of my underwear as he turns on the water. I feel nothing at the act, and the action is enough to have drained what little life drove me to it.
I stand there passively waiting for him to turn and look at me.
He tests the water for what seems like forever before he is satisfied and then turns toward me. “Lee…”
That is as far as he gets before he catches site of me. Shock registers on his face, and he turns the brightest crimson I have ever seen anyone become. He shifts his pants uncomfortably, and for a moment, panic seizes me. I know what he wants…but then he has pushed me into the water and is wiping me down with a washcloth.
Part of me wants to feel his hands on my body. That part of me is sending signals to places I only recently acquired. I tingle.
Part of me is afraid of what he would do if he was touching me. I know that he only wants one thing, that’s all men have ever wanted of me. They want to screw me and throw me away.
No, not Steve, never Steve. It’s all I can do not to
Eventually I relax and take some small pleasure in the act of being washed by the man I love. I want to help him, to do something to assist…to take him into me…somehow…but I can’t. It takes all of the energy that I have to just stand there, and I wonder for a moment if I am drugged.
He finishes cleaning me, thoroughly but gently, and then dries me off. He takes a clean gown from a rack next to the showers and helps me to dress. His arms go around me as he guides me back to my room, and I lean against him. I wish, in this moment, that the nanites had taken more height. I am taller than him. How will I ever be able to fulfill the role that society expects if I am so much taller than he is?
I want to put my head against his chest as we are walking, but I can’t.
I sit down on the bed when we get to the room, and someone is brushing out my hair. I smile a bit again as the feelings released by the brush course through me.
“Well, at least you no longer look like a mad-woman,” Dr. Waters says. “Randal will survive, so at least there’s that. They are still considering charging you with grievous bodily harm, but I’m trying to get them to drop that charge.”
I turn to see a woman standing at the doorway. “Yes, Wendy?”
“You need to call the district attorney’s office, something about Liadan’s case.”
She rushes out of the room, and I watch her go in amazement. I’ve never seen her move that quickly. Steve guides me over to the bed and he maneuvers me so that he is half holding me. I get the opportunity I missed earlier to lean my head on his chest, and I feel like smiling. I like this. I look up into his eyes and see him looking down into mine.
A smile plays at the corners of my mouth. He is everything that I need and everything I have ever wanted. I don’t know why I couldn’t tell him before, but I’m ready to say yes now.
“Liadan,” Dr. Waters says from the door, “I have some good news.”
“Yes, it seems that they are, at least in the short term, dropping the charges against you.”
“What? But, I mean, video and…and…”
“The DA doesn’t want the political shit-storm that charging you and the person who assaulted you would cause in an election year.”
“Charging…” I’m usually not this slow, but today my mind just can’t catch up. I’ve sat up on the bed, hoping that changing position will help me to adjust my mental attitude.
“Randal is being charged with multiple cases of sexual assault. His DNA has been connected with a number of cold cases.”
“How can DNA be back so quickly?”
“Where do you think the technology for the complete rewrite you went through came from? They’ve been working on ways to detect DNA with nano-tech for years. They’ve got the complete profile down to a couple of hours now. With the nature of the case, they rushed it.”
“Oh, that’s right. I never told you. You are XX karyotype now.”
“Look, that is beyond even my knowledge. The company has sent me their material so that I can at least continue to help with your treatment. I’ve passed it on to your GP as well, and it is part of your medical records.”
“What does this mean?”
“It means that medically speaking, you are normal.”
“What is normal?” I say as sort of a side comment to myself.
“We need to stop by the courthouse today.”
“I thought you said they were dropping the charges against me.”
“They are, but I’ve arranged to get you declared legally female.”
“Oh…oh!” A smile lights my face and I turn and kiss Steve. Really kiss him. My mind finally kicks into gear and when I stop kissing him I look down into his eyes and simply say, “yes.”
He looks confused for a moment, and then a smile splits his face, “you mean…”
“I mean yes, I mean I will marry you.”
He pulls the ring out of his pocket; of course he had it with him the whole time. As the ring slips on my finger I know that everything has changed forever. From this moment on, I am bigger than myself. It is better to say that we are bigger than the sum of our parts.
Steve and I together are greater than either of us were apart.
The ring weights nothing. The ring is a terrible weight on my finger.
Dr. Waters shoos Steve from the room before anything can get out of hand. I change into the clothing I was wearing yesterday and go with Dr. Waters to car her, and I’m babbling away, and I can tell she’s concerned, but I can’t bring myself to be worried about it. That should concern me, but even the thought it should doesn’t bother me in the least.
“Liadan, before we go in, I need to ask you something. Should you really be accepting Steve’s proposal right now?”
“But I love him.”
“I get that, but you’ve gone through a really traumatic experience. Do you want to forever link your feelings with Steve with this?”
“I get the concept of moving on, but this might not be the best time…”
“Dr. Waters, don’t take this the wrong way, but screw you. I know it’s sudden, in certain respects, but even if it wasn’t formal, Steve and I have been, well, dating off and on for the past eighteen years.”
“What do you mean?” she says. She’s back in her normal mode of address now, not cold, exactly, but not friendly. She just…is.
“Steve and I were friends. We got jobs in the same companies, and the two of us broke off to form our own company together. Sure, he’s dated, occasionally, but I always thought that he would eventually marry a nice girl and settle down. In the past couple of days he told me he has been waiting for the nice girl to be ready to settle with him.”
I blush, “yes, really. He actually told me he thought he might be gay, or at least bisexual. He has loved me as I looked before, and loves me as I am.”
“You don’t think…”
“No, I was the only ‘guy,’ or so he says, that ever interested him. And I was never really a guy was I?”
“From the moment I met you, I could tell that you were never a guy. When you told me your story, all of your story, it was more a confirmation than anything else. It was like a puzzle with some of the pieces missing. You almost have the entire picture, but it just seems off. Parts of the image seem to be showing you something out of kilter with the rest of the image. You put in the last pieces, and everything finally fits. You fit into the normal stereotypes that people build up subconsciously as they grow.”
“It’s not a bad thing. You are a woman, Liadan, and a beautiful one at that. Let’s go in and make sure the world agrees with us.”
In the end, it was nothing spectacular. We sign lines, have blood drawn, fingerprints taken, and so on. Then they take my picture and give me a new driver’s license.
I’m legally female.
The feeling of joy that fills me at this moment is greater than I can handle and it expresses itself in a smile. There is another feeling that is making itself known to me.
“Steve, could you give me a ride home? Or at least over to the office to pick up my car?”
“Sure, we got your car home to your house, so I can drive you there.”
“As long as there’s nothing else?” I ask, looking at Dr. Waters.
“No, we’re done here, Ms. Liadan Allenwood.”
Sure, it’s my name, and just my name, but having it intoned seems to make it more official than the pictures or license did. I rush over and hug her and tell her, “Thank you.”
“You’re very welcome. Now, you and your fiancé need to go on home.”
I wrap and arm around Steve’s and he guides me out to his car. I catch myself looking down at the ring on my finger in amazement. Such a little bit of carbon and gold, but the significance is greater than either it’s value or it’s artistic worth. This is a crystallized representation of his love for me, and my loyalty to him.
I realize in that moment, that my ring for him, when we are married, means the same thing. My love, his loyalty.
Why does the girl have to prove her loyalty first? But I do get to feel his love first every time that I look at it, and I guess that it’s a fair trade…for now.
There is a part of me that wants to make him prove his loyalty. Somehow I realize that it would have the opposite effect to the one that I want.
Steve talks to me as we drive, and I participate, at least a little. Mostly I am soaking up his love for me, hoping to get back to something resembling normal in my outlook. The sound of his voice soothes me, relaxing away the pains of last night.
I’m smiling at him, and happy at everything that is happening right now.
“So,” he says parking the car in front of my apartment.
“So,” I reply with a shy smile. “Would you like to come in?”
“I don’t know…”
“You’ve never visited my apartment before. Come on. It’s not like you don’t already have a promise from me, Mr. Ferrel.” I say gesturing with my ring.
He smiles at me and goes to open my door for me. I let him. He gives me a hand to help me out of the car. I smile up at him as he does, and allow myself to be pulled into his embrace.
We walk to my apartment arm in arm.
“Can I get you something to drink?” I ask as I head into the kitchen.
“Just some water, thanks,” he replies. This is normal for him, and I just smile. I could probably have guessed what he wanted, but it feels better to allow him the option to choose.
I bring him his glass and bring one of my own. We talk quietly for a while and then I put on a movie. It’s something he suggested, and I just lean into him. My breathing is shallow as I begin to realize that we are truly alone here. Steve puts his arm around my waist and the tingling from before is back.
I begin to feel moist below, and my breath catches in my throat. The spot where his hand touches my bare skin is on fire, and when he slowly begins to rub his fingers back and forth the fire spreads to my entire body.
He’s only touching this one spot on me and yet I can feel the pressure building in me. It’s not the same as it was when I was a boy, but I can tell when I’m becoming aroused. I can tell when I’m approaching climax.
And I’m approaching climax. It is like an entire new world has been opened before me, this realization that his slightest touch could bring this up in me. My entire body seizes up and my breathing stops as I peak, and I’m soaked below.
My breathing is ragged, and I have a goofy grin on my face.
“Liadan, are you ok?”
I nod, “Mhmm.” I stretch and put my hands over his.
“Did you just…”
“Mhmm,” I purr at him.
He pulls his hands away from me as if he was burned.
“Steve?” I say, a ball of ice in my stomach.
“I shouldn’t have come here.”
“No, don’t say that,” I plead.
“I have to go.”
“Stay with me. I’ll move to the other side of the couch, you don’t have to leave here.”
“I can’t stay here. We can’t do this.”
“Do what? We’re both adults here, Steve.”
“I’m not going to have sex with you, Liadan.”
“You already did, face it and own up to it.”
“I just touched you.”
“And that is enough. I love you, Steve.”
“I can’t stay here, I need to leave before we do more here.”
“Don’t leave me!”
“I have to. I won’t do this to you.”
“If you leave me…”
“Don’t say it, Lee.”
“If you leave me, don’t bother coming back,” I say with venom in my voice.
“You don’t mean that.”
I take the ring off and throw it at him. He’s just like all the rest. He screws me and leaves me. “Get out!” I scream my strangled scream at him.
He leaves quietly after putting my ring on the end table. I hear the door lock behind him and I begin to cry the tears that I thought were gone forever when I said yes to him.
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