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Once again, thank you for all of the wonderful support and feedback! When I started this, little did I know I would actually be writing a Part 25—with no discernible end in sight!
I trust you won’t mind that it is a bit longer than normal! ;)
With mixed emotions, I lead Day up the steps from the basement and then up the staircase to the upper level of the house.
I can see the mixed emotions on Day’s face, too. I turn to her and give her a supportive hug.
I say, “Day, Hon, just be yourself. She is curious—and that is a GOOD thing! Trust me. But, also know that she is emotionally unstable at the moment, so don’t take anything harmful she may say to heart, OK? She doesn’t mean it—I know my Em and she is not a bad person. She’s just a good person that bad things have happened to. Very much like you—only in a very different way.”
I hear her take a deep breath and feel her nod her head against my breasts.
I hold her back from me and smile. I say, “You look lovely, by the way—but, be careful, OK? I don’t want you to smear that wonderful makeup.” I giggle to let her know that I am teasing, but still say in a firm voice, “AND, I don’t want you to smear it ON my dress while you are doing it!”
She looks stunned, then blushes. She says, “I…I…I guess I have to get used to wearing it. It’s so different!”
I smile and give her another quick, encouraging embrace and turn towards the closed door into Em’s room.
I see her pull herself mentally together and put on a smile, as unsure as it is, and I reach to open the door.
We make it to the top of the stairs and Momma pauses in front of the door that leads to Emily’s current room.
I still need to give her her old room back. Now that she is awake…
Momma pulls me into a hug and tells me to not take anything that Em may say to heart. I take a deep breath and nod.
Then she admonishes me to not smear my makeup, AFTER telling me that I look lovely. When she mentions not smearing it on her dress, I flinch. I really DO need to adjust to this new ‘feature’ in my life. I hastily glance at her dress and don’t notice anything on it.
I take another deep breath and she reaches over and pulls down the handle on the door, opening it to the somber sounds coming from the room.
I hear Emily sort of whimpering something about ‘wanting her cream’ and Daddy’s soothing voice telling her it will be OK.
Another deep breath. I square my shoulders and walk into the room with as much assurance as I can.
I see Emily sitting on the bed; Daddy rocking her back and forth in his arms.
She looks up at me and I see the look in her eyes that I have seen a hundred times over when I was on the streets—the look of hopeless despair.
I feel ‘the switch’ in my head flip. Over the year on the street, I learned to ‘turn off’ my intelligence when dealing with people with that look. I flood myself with Mama’s presence and feel my heart warm.
I briefly wonder why I can do this with OTHER people and not myself—OK, so maybe I don’t COMPLETELY turn off my head…
I quietly go to the bed and Jenny smiles at me. Daddy looks up with a haunted look of his own.
I say in a quiet voice, “Hi, Emily. I am Day. I am really happy to finally meet you.”
She slowly pushes away from Daddy and gives me a wan smile—then she gives me a funny look.
I am surprised when she says, “You…you…you UNDERSTAND, don’t you? You…know…?”
I instinctively know what she means and nod.
She reaches out to me with those haunted eyes and I feel the connection between us click into place.
I sit down on the bed beside her and take her hand. It is cold and shaking like a leaf.
I look around the room and state more than ask, “Could we please have some time alone?”
The adults in the room look stunned. I look at Jenny who seems to have noticed our connection and she nods, as she says, “Yes. I think that would be a good idea, if Em is OK with it?”
Em looks around and slowly nods.
As they are getting up to leave, I have another thought…
I squeeze Em’s hand. She has no reason to trust me, YET, but I put as much empathy into that squeeze as my over-intelligent head will allow—WILLING her to trust me.
I say, “Could you send Kim in here, too?”
There is a gasp from both Momma and Daddy. Jenny gives me a questioning look.
I just say, “Please trust me?”
Momma asks, “Are you sure that’s a good idea, Day?”
I give her a steady look, right in her eyes, and say, “Yes, I think it would be good for all THREE of us. IF Kim is willing…”
Momma gives me a thoughtful look and then says, “OK, we will give it a try—but I will be checking in on you.”
I feel Em’s curiosity rising. Her hand is actually getting warmer.
When they have left to get Kim and close the door, I look at Em and say, “I know you have no reason to trust me, Emily—may I call you Em?”
I say, “I will explain what that was all about when Kim gets up here. Now, may I give my sister a hug?”
She leans over and gives me a HUGE, shaky hug and whispers in my ear, “How…how…how do you KNOW?”
I gently push out of the hug and say, “I will explain when Kim gets up here. The three of us in one room may tempt the fates and the room may collapse on itself with so much past misery in one room, but I hope it will be the opposite and we can create something MUCH better.”
She gives me a curious look—one that replaces just a little of that despair with hope…
A couple of minutes later, there is a tentative knock on the door and Kim slowly peeks in. I motion her in and am happy to see her lugging her makeup case with her. I had hoped…
I give her a look of thanks and say, “Kim, this is my sister, Em. Em, this is my newest friend, Kim. And I have a story to tell BOTH of you.”
Over the next thirty minutes, I tell them both my REAL story. I don’t leave out any of the details of life on the streets after running away from the authorities. I tell them the story that I have not told ANYONE yet, not even Greta.
I explain to Em how I KNOW what that look on her face means, not because I have gone through what SHE has, but because I had times of despair of my own—and I had listened to COUNTLESS stories from others on the street. How I got them to open up for the promise of a song from my violin.
I only pause once when Momma sticks her head in to check in on us—she doesn’t interrupt us anymore after that one time.
Kim and Em are both deathly silent as I tell my story and I see the understanding in Kim’s eyes—and the unnecessary apology.
Em is also OBVIOUSLY shocked to learn that I, like her, am a genetic male.
We all cry together as I finish my story and we group hug each other.
Then Kim surprises as she says, “May I tell MY story? I…I…I don’t EVER talk about it…”
I give her an encouraging smile and she says, “I have two conditions, though.”
I raise my eyebrows in question and she smiles a little impishly.
She says, “First, Em has to let me give her a makeover.”
I giggle at the funny look on Em’s face. I say, “Em, believe it or not, I have never worn makeup before today and what you see on my face right now is Kim’s work. She is a wizard when it comes to makeovers. I would take her up on it, if I were you. Besides, I REALLY want to hear HER story, don’t you?”
Em blushes and just nods, quite shyly. She draws back a little, though, and whispers, “Please don’t make me look like a whore…”
Neither of us understand EXACTLY what that means, at the time.
Kim just smiles and says, “I promise. If you don’t like the look, I have PLENTY of remover wipes. Your face is my erasable canvas and we try as many looks as you like, OK?”
Em looks a little apprehensive, but relaxes a little and nods again.
Kim says, “Perfect! Now, for my second demand… I want YOUR usual payment, Day.”
I give her an inquisitive look, not following.
Kim giggles and says, “Didn’t you say you always paid a song for a story?”
She waggles her eyebrows and I laugh.
I say, “Sold!”
I watch them go up the steps, leaving me alone in the studio.
I shrug to myself, not really knowing what to do, so I go over and switch the amp back on and practice a couple of pieces that I am thinking about using in class tomorrow.
I am surprised when I barely finish the second piece before I hear Madame Levine’s heels clicking down the steps again. I now know her distinctive click.
She comes down and looks at me with a strange look on her face.
After an uncomfortable moment, she says, “Kim, you did a WONDERFUL job on Day. Thank you. I also want to apologize… I brought you here under somewhat false pretenses.”
I breathe in, shocked. I can’t help but wonder what is coming next. I can honestly say that I NEVER would have expected what does, though.
She continues after a sigh, “I didn’t know if I could trust you. I didn’t know what plans you might have for my DAUGHTER, Day. I wanted to observe you… While I don’t regret looking out for the best interests of my daughter, I do regret my distrust.”
I look at her, still waiting for the other shoe to drop.
She stuns me when she says, “It seems that you have convinced DAY to trust you; something that took ME DAYS to accomplish—you have done in a few hours. So much so that she wants you to come up and try to help bring my OTHER daughter out of her shell.”
I gasp. She gives me a very quick rundown of what has happened to Emily, her other daughter. I don’t even flinch at the fact that she, too, is transgendered…
I look her in the eye and say, “You don’t have to apologize, Madame Levine. I understand—I DID act like a bitch. That is something that has been taught to me as a self-defense mechanism; something that I need to work on. But, I don’t see how *I* can help?”
She shakes her head and says, “I don’t know, either, Kim. Day asked me to trust her and I don’t see how she can do any more damage to Em than has already been done, so…” She shrugs.
I say, “I am happy to do what I can…”
She gives me a thankful look and says, “Thank you, Kim. Please call me Grace when we’re not in school. I appreciate the honor of being called Madame, but I am no longer in that role, so Mrs. Levine is just fine in that circumstance.”
She blushes and says, “Thank you, … Grace. But, once a Madame, always a Madame in my book!”
She gives me a grateful smile and turns to lead me up the steps. I quickly look around and decide to grab my makeup case—just in case.
My heart is beating hard in my chest as I follow her to the upper level of the house. I am stunned at how QUIET everything is. She motions to the door and I give it a tentative knock and open the door to sudden sound.
I suddenly understand the WHOLE house is soundproofed. I guess that makes sense…sort of.
I gingerly poke my head into the room and see Day sitting on the edge of a hospital-type bed with a very pale girl in it.
Day motions me in and the next hour is a HUGE surprise to me.
I listen to Day’s story, the FULL story, and can’t believe how I ever could have thought so badly of her. As we all are in a tearful group hug at the end of her heart-wrenching story, I feel an odd resolve of my own.
I take a deep breath and say, before I can change my mind and back out, “May I tell MY story? I…I…I don’t EVER talk about it…”
Day gives me an encouraging smile and Em has an interested look in her eyes. She has lost a little of that haunted look she had when I came in. It is nowhere close to completely gone, though.
Since I need something to steady my own nerves to get myself though this, I have a thought and say, “I have two conditions, though.”
Doing someone else’s makeup has always been calming to me, so I extract the promise from Em to let me do hers. Like with Day this morning, I don’t have EXACTLY what I need for her complexion—not that I could tell what it is supposed to actually be, as pale as she is…
I don’t think anything about Em’s ‘whore’ statement, but I can’t help wondering at how she shrinks back. I guess she’s just not a big fan of makeup… I will just have to change THAT little issue of hers…
The second promise I extract is just for fun. It feels good to laugh with Day as she agrees to the song.
Em gives us an uncomprehending look and I say, “I take it you have never heard Day, play? No, I suppose you wouldn’t have. Trust me, she’s in a league of her own!”
Day blushes and says, “Don’t believe her, Em. She is certainly no slouch, herself.”
It’s my turn to blush at her compliment. I grab my makeup case and switch places with Day. The lighting could be better, but I have done this in worse.
I start pulling out bottles and matching them to different areas of skin around her body to get a best-guess at her true complexion. Together with the fact that her hair is as dark as mine and her look is sort of Native American, I go with my gut and first dab, then start spreading foundation on her face with a makeup wedge that Day moistens for me in the bathroom next door.
As I do that, I start my story.
I take a deep breath and concentrate on evenly spreading the foundation as I say, “My…male biological gene donor…left my…ummm…mother and me when I was really young. I don’t remember much of anything about him, actually—other than what my…ummm…mother has said about him.”
I lean back and check the foundation. Satisfied that it is as good as I am going to get it, under the conditions I am working under, I switch to her eyes.
As I sort through my eyeshadow to find the proper shades for her deep hazel eyes, I continue, “My…mother…never remarried; never even dated, actually—she says she has sworn off men. I don’t remember the domestic abuse—I do have some remnants that will show up on X-rays to this day, though.”
I start spreading a light green on her eyelid and sigh. I say, “My…mother…decided to enter me in a beauty contest when I was eight and to both our surprises, I won. It was a fairly small one, all things considered, but the prize was still a couple hundred dollars and we ate well for the first time in months—even after reimbursing the coffers for the makeup and other supplies.”
I switch to a greenish-brown shade and concentrate on her eyes—more so not to look at Day’s reaction to any of this.
I continue, “Things went wild from there. My…mother certainly never physically harmed me, but she became obsessed with me winning these contests—dragging me from city to city to enter them. I learned to do my own makeup at nine and could do just about anything cosmetic-related by the time I was ten. My eyebrows never had a chance to ever even GET bushy!”
I finish up Em’s eyeshadow with a bronze and blend the colors. I say, “I got my first ‘permanent’ lashes at eleven and forgot what my own looked like until I entered the school here and they finally they all let go.”
I start outlining her eyes with dramatic strokes of my gel-liner.
I say, “I got SO tired of the beauty circuit—of not being able to eat; of having to always be SO perfect. You think ballet is bad—try the beauty circuit! Ballet and music became my outlet—the one thing that I insisted my…mother…let me do. It was the price SHE paid for me giving the circuit my all. Of course, having the skills to fall back on in the talent portion of the contests always worked out in her favor, when I handily beat the dresses off of everyone else.”
I curl her lashes and start applying the mascara…
I say, “I made TONS of money. I never saw ANY of it, though… I mean, well, it paid for our food and everything else. My…mother…didn’t work. She called herself my ‘manager’.”
I finish the third coat of mascara and move on to the blush.
“When I decided I wanted to go to the academy, she had a cow,” I continue. “She had it set in her mind that I would become a professional model and she would continue to manage me,” I say as I finish lightly dusting her cheeks with bronzer.
I sniffle a little and say, “I threatened to file for legal emancipation if she didn’t let me come to the academy. She laughed and told me to go ahead—that I would never get in, nor would I ever be able to pay for it.”
I feel a tear roll down my cheek as I put the lipliner on Em and say, “She threatened to disown me—told me the family would never speak to me again, since I was dishonoring my mother.” I sigh and say, “That is a big thing in Chinese families…honor…”
I fill in her now lined lips with a paler pink than I had used on Day and say, “I have barely spoken to her since I got in—only twice to be honest.”
I take an unsteady breath and apply two coats of lip gloss to Em’s lips and finish my story as I finish her makeover, “It was like we were total strangers—it is like I am just as orphaned as the two of you; even though my…mother…is very much alive and doing very well on the money she put aside from my winnings.”
I hand a small hand-held mirror to Em and say, “We’ll need to get the proper tones for you to do this right…and some good lighting would help… But, I think you look really pretty!”
I grin as I look at the transformation of the vampire-pale girl in the bed to the thing of beauty laying there now. I wipe away the tears that had started flowing freely as I finished my story.
Em looks at herself in a mixture of surprise and…concern? Day is just looking at me with a very sad face. She comes over to me and pulls us all into another hug and Em whispers in my ear, “Thank you so much. I feel…somewhat like myself again. And I don’t look like what…THEY made me look like…”
I push gently back out of the hug and look seriously at Em as I wipe away my tears, trying not to smear my own makeup.
I simply ask, “They…?”
I am SUCH a mix of emotions, right now. I feel so GOOD being in Mommy and Daddy’s arms—in a truly wonderful hug. But something is tugging at the back of my mind—something dark and…evil…
The last months of my life have been such a living nightmare—but, now my head is clear.
The nurse, Jenny, asks me if I can tell them what happened.
I can think clearly again…but…I didn’t WANT to think, did I? I…
Memories start flooding back like tidal waves—buffeting me in a sea of misery. I feel myself drowning in an ocean of my own sorrow—and remember… “My cream! Where is my cream,” is all I can think about and ask it over and over.
I just remember its numbing effects—the bliss of forgetting the pain…
Then the nurse, Jenny, YELLS at me to look at her.
It snaps me out of my mental loop enough to pay more attention to her.
Then she says something about my sister.
I don’t know why, but that snaps me out of my anguish. I have a sister? That means that maybe I AM home…REALLY with Mommy and Daddy… And we really ARE going to be a family again…
But, a SISTER?
I don’t even notice myself ask the question out loud.
I don’t know anything about having a sister… I mean…I am not even a true girl…yet…
My curiosity gets the better of me, though.
I ask, “Is she here? Can…can…can I meet her…?”
There are strange looks across the room and shrugs, then Mommy leaves to go get her.
Suddenly, I am self-conscious. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea. What will she think about me? I’m nothing but a mess.
I start to tell them to never mind when the door opens up and this beautiful girl comes in. She exudes such confidence and poise that I am immediately jealous. She is clearly a dancer and she is absolutely PERFECTLY made up.
I have flashbacks of…them…making me put on that HORRIBLE makeup… Of making me look like a…a…a whore…
I feel my eyes lose focus at the pain.
Something makes me look at her—I think she said something about meeting me and being Day…
I push away from Daddy and can see it in her eyes—not loathing…
My heart beats in my chest like a tom-tom.
She understands! I don’t know HOW, but she understands.
In that moment, something clicks between us as our eyes lock on each other and we seem to almost have a mental connection.
I can’t help but ask, though—just to be absolutely certain that I can trust my beleaguered instincts, “You…you…you UNDERSTAND, don’t you? You…know…?”
She just slowly nods—then asks if we could be left alone for a bit.
There are more looks that cross the room like laser beams from adult to adult.
It is the nurse, Jenny, that breaks the tension and says she thinks it is a good idea—if I am OK with it.
I decide to trust my instincts and indicate that I am.
Then there are further mental flips when she asks something about ‘Kim’ coming in, too.
The tension is so thick in the room that I almost forget to breathe.
Day pleads for them to trust her. They do—and since I trust THEM—I go along with this.
I feel a HUGE desire to douse myself in cream, though.
I start shaking, I want it so much.
The adults slowly file out of the room, Daddy squeezing my hands and making sure I am OK with this before leaving me alone with Day.
She just quietly sits there, holding my hands for a few minutes.
Then the door slowly opens and another raving beauty pokes her head tentatively into the room. She is Asian and absolutely stunning—clearly a dancer, herself.
Day motions her in and I notice she is carrying a heavy case.
The next hour is an absolutely horrifying surprise as Day tells her story. I am completely taken off-guard when she reveals that she is transgendered, like me—I wonder if Kim is, too, but don’t ask.
I also quickly understand why SHE understood ME… I don’t feel quite so alone—and am surprised that I didn’t think about my cream once during her tale.
Now that it is over, though, I feel its evil pull on the heartstrings of my desires.
I am pulled out of that when Kim says she wants to do a makeover on me.
I shrink back. I was too young for makeup when I was pulled away from here—and when I was forced to use it, it was to make me…a whore…
I look at Kim and Day and they look so…beautiful, though. I can’t help but wonder what I would look like…
So, I agree, but make her promise not to make me look like a whore. She promises, but I can tell, she doesn’t understand.
It is all I can do not to flinch when she starts putting the makeup on me; it is even harder not to cry as she tells HER story—for a song. I still have no idea what that is about.
When I see myself in the mirror, I gasp. I want to cry even more so than just because of Kim’s story.
I am stunned—I never knew I could look this good!
I look at Kim, fighting the tears, then I look at Day who is letting hers flow. Kim is crying, too. They are both trying to not let the tears ruin their makeup and finally Day comes over and pulls us into another hug.
I am still stunned at how I look. I am more stunned at what these two girls have gone through. I feel the lure of the cream and I force myself to think about the face I saw in the mirror—the one that COULD be friends with these two remarkable girls.
I whisper in Kim’s ear, “Thank you so much. I feel…somewhat like myself again. And I don’t look like what…THEY made me look like…”
Kim pushes back from our hug and looks at me. She asks the question that I most wish she wouldn’t…
She simply asks, “They…?”
I bite my lip in frustration. I bite it harder in anger. I taste the metallic blood as I puncture my lip.
I sigh and…nod…
I look at Kim and Day, both sitting there looking at ME—a MILLION questions in their eyes.
I sigh again.
I almost recede into the dark corners of my mind. I REALLY feel the pull of the greedy lust for the cream and its dark veil of ignorance—one that comes with quite a price.
I feel my hands start shaking again…then my body.
I feel Day come over and hug me tight.
I start talking—barely a whisper at first, “When I had to…go…with…THEM to Mexico, it was the worst day of my life. Or, so I thought. Little did I know what was to come…”
I start shaking harder at the memories.
Kim takes my hands and squeezes them so tightly it hurts. It actually helps me focus.
I say, “My…so-called…’FAMILY’…” I nearly spit as the word sticks in my throat.
I sob and REALLY want that cream, right now.
I continue after taking a deep and shaky breath, “My so-called ‘family’ made me do horrible things…with…men. The first thing they did was to take me to a doctor to make sure I wouldn’t ever need medicine to…not change into a boy. I couldn’t walk for almost a month…it got infected… He also gave me shots…to develop like a girl. All of that wasn’t so bad—it’s what I ultimately wanted anyway.”
I close my eyes and shudder.
I say in a bare whisper, “Then they made me practice…sucking…on these ‘special’ lollipops and rubber ‘toys’. They said I needed to get my muscles built up…”
I break down crying. Kim and Day hug me.
I finally continue, “Later…they made me do that to…men… It was awful…only the cream helped. It would make things better… I didn’t focus on the bad stuff…”
I sob again.
Day squeezes me hard and Kim sits back in shock—a horrified look in her eyes. She says, “So THAT’s what that comment about not making you look like a whore was about! Em, I’m SO sorry! I didn’t know!”
I lightly squeeze her hand and say, “No, you couldn’t know—and you made me look REALLY awesome! Nothing like either of you, but as good as *I* am ever going to get…” I look down at my hands and blush.
Day starts to say something, but Kim beats her to it, “Em! That’s not true! You’re beautiful! Just wait until we get you to a salon and get the right makeup—you’ll be a knockout!”
Day smiles and excuses herself from the room. She comes back a few minutes later and asks, “So, Em, do think you are strong enough to make it downstairs to the studio? Jenny has said it’s up to you. If so, we’ll get you down there and I can make good on my ‘payments’—a song for EACH of you, since you told your stories—although, I am hoping that Kim might help?”
I look at her infectious smile and can’t help but smile myself. I think about it—I feel like CRAP, but I am ready to get out of this bed.
I nod, unsure of myself, and say, “If you’re sure Jenny and Mommy and Daddy are OK with it…”
Day opens the door and Jenny comes in, shooing them out while she gets me ready for the big trip downstairs.
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