My Fitness routine was done, but I had no time to rest since I'd been the last one. We hurried to get into our evening gowns again. We were going out on stage so that they could tell us who the top five were. I was seriously considering not going out on stage. I figured that I was done as there was no way I was in the top five.
I really hoped that Sarah was in, though. We talked quietly waiting to be called to line up. Then we were onstage and our names were being read off.
She was called first, and I smiled as she stepped forward onto the raised circle at the front of the stage.
The prima donna from last night was called forward.
A pretty thirteen year old bounced and waved her way to the center of the stage with the other two girls.
And then there were four. I was getting ready to move off with the other twenty four would not be going on when they called, "Donna Lowell."
I'm sure my smile was wooden as I walked out to stand with the other four young women. We smiled at the audience and waved. Then we walked off while the judges voted.
We rushed over to our tables and our assistants helped us to get undressed. I'd done this a number of times, and Tara had helped me all evening. I never thought there might be a problem. I was smiling and talking with Steven when I felt a sudden draft. Somehow Tara had snagged my underwear and exposed me to the entire room. I tried to cover up, but by the look on Steven's face it was too late.
"Steven," I called out, but he was already turning away from me and walking away.
I was fighting back tears as Tara helped me back into my dress and I went to find tonight's emcee.
"I have to leave the competition," I said.
"They are about to announce the winner. Can't you wait a little longer?"
"I have to quit. I'm sorry. Tell the judges please?"
I ran out of the auditorium and found a quiet place to let everything out. I sobbed and wailed. I really didn't care about the pageant, but I did as well. I was in the top five out of over three hundred girls. I had made it so far.
I had kissed a boy.
Eventually Sarah came to find me, "I won," she said.
"Congratulations," I tried to sound happy for her, but it came out a little sullen and I cried at that. I wanted to be happy for my friend but, "he saw me naked. He knows I'm a boy."
"Shh. It's alright."
"How can it be alright? How will it ever be alright again?"
Her answer was to kiss me. It was a nice kiss. I could taste her lipstick and my own tears. I'm sure I looked a mess with my makeup all over my face.
"Is he still inside? I have to tell him, explain to him..."
"That may not be a good idea, David."
She helped me up and we went around to the back entrance to the auditorium. There was a big shadow there. As we got closer I recognized the shadow as Greg.
"It's the little faggot. How you like wearing a dress you fucking queer?"
"Leave her alone," Sarah said.
"What her, I only see you and the queer over here. Do you realize what you did to my brother you little gay piece of trash? Do you?
"He has to fight against the stereotypes every day. Half the school already thought he was gay. Now? Now they'll have ammunition thanks to you, you little shit."
I was crying again, "I never meant..."
"Well, since you want to be a girl so badly, let's fix it before my brother's life is ruined even more."
I saw the gleam of a long knife in the sparse lighting. Even in Florida in the summer it is dark at midnight. I was frozen, staring from Greg to the knife and back again.
"Leave her alone," Sarah said as she leapt at Greg.
"Stop, Sarah," I tried to grab her arm, but she'd already charged. I watched helplessly as they fought over the knife. I shouted something, trying to attract attention, but it was too late.
Sarah made a quiet grunting noise and crumpled on the pavement. Greg turned and ran away, but I didn't care about Greg.
I dialed 911 on my phone, but I couldn't wait for the operator. I slid under her body. the blood pooling on the grey silk was an image that I'd never forget. I put my small hands to the wound and tried to apply pressure.
"Don't leave me, Sarah."
She put her hand to the side of my face, "I love you, David. I would have been a lesbian for you, I think."
"Don't talk like that. You're going to be ok. You'ill be okay."
"I preferred you as a boy though."
"Sarah! Don't leave me."
"Promise me...promise you'll be true to yourself? Promise?"
"Ok, Sarah. Just hold on, please."
"Be happy, David. I love..."
Her eyes glazed over and her hand fell to her side.
I wanted to cry then, but I had no more tears. I was empty and I just sat there, holding onto her stomach, trying to stop something that was already over. The paramedics when they arrived pulled me away from her body and Mama wrapped me in her arms.
I sat there in the car looking at my bloodstained dress and hands, trying not to think about anything.
We had her funeral the first week in August. I wore a new suit. All of my girl clothing was in a box in the attic, I'd tried to throw it away, but Mama saved it. I was too devastated to do stop her.
I'd buzzed all of my hair off. I still thought I looked like a girl. Whenever I looked in the mirror, I heard her voice saying she preferred me as a boy. She preferred me as a boy, and a boy is what I would be.
She was my best friend in the world. I did a pageant for her. I got her killed. If I'd never been there, she would be Miss Florida's Outstanding Teen. She'd be on her way to the national pageant next week, not on her way to a grave in a too green cemetery under a cerulean blue sky.
The grass should have been dead. It would have fit my mood. A long time ago, I read the book The Bridge to Terabithia. I never understood what the main character felt at the end until that moment. Even more than him, this was my fault. This wasn't just survivor's guilt. She was protecting me.
They lowered her into the ground on that hot sunny day. The dirt closed over her, and again I whispered, "I'm a boy. I'm your boy, Sarah."
I sat there staring at Dr. Funk. I didn't know why I'd kept my appointment with him, but I did.
"This wasn't your fault, David."
"Then whose was it?" I screamed, "Mama's? She was the one who forced me to go. Sarah's? She jumped on that god damned psychopath."
"It was Greg's fault if anyone is to blame."
"If I hadn't been there, she would be alive."
"You can't know that. Maybe something else would have set him off?"
"It was me pretending to be something I wasn't. I caused this. Me, me, me!" I pounded myself on my chest as I continued to scream.
I whispered to myself, "If I hadn't been a girl, if I didn't freeze, she would still be alive."
"You would have won, you know? Before you were withdrawn from the ballot? You had an almost perfect score. 45 out of a possible 50 points."
"She deserved to win." I said even more quietly. Tears streaming down my face.
"Tara admits she was put up to it by one of the other girls, Amanda I think. She's been banned from the competition, even though she was first runner up and the crown passed to her."
"Why are you telling me this?"
"The committee wants to offer this to you, Donna. They want you to represent Florida at the competition as an openly Transgender contestant."
For just a second, I saw a different future for me than the one I was on. I saw parties and girls in dresses. I saw singing on stage and starting hormones. I saw myself happy and whole and healthy.
But Sarah would not be there with me. She was in the ground and try as I might I couldn't wish myself anywhere but there in her place. I didn't deserve to be happy. Dying would be too easy for me. I would live in misery.
"Sorry, Dr. Funk, but my name is David, and I'm a man."
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