The Princess and the Plague : 21

The Princess and the Plague


By Anistasia Allread
Edited by Edeyn

The whole room slanted even more steeply with the vertigo. He wanted to tilt his head to compensate but knew that it wouldn't really help. Closing his eyes wouldn't do anything but make his parents think that he was ignoring them.

"I - I - you don't know what it's like!" Eric wailed, "I had to do something!"

Tears blurred his vision

     

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Eric had to mentally force his heart to start up again and remind himself to take a breath.

"I went and saw Dr. Barts today. I... needed to talk with her."

"What about last week?" his dad asked.

"What?" Eric didn't understand the question.

"Where were you last week, when you were supposed to be in school?" he clarified.

"I was there," Eric stated.

"Not according to your school you weren't," his dad replied calmly, "They said that they haven't seen you since school started; that they believed that you had moved. So where are you going when you leave here every morning?"

Eric felt his knees go rubbery. He reached out and held onto the back of one of the chairs for support. He needed to sit. Down. Now. Vertigo was making the room slant steeply to one side and blur a bit at the edges of his vision. He took another deep breath and pulled out the chair as he fell into it.

"Answer you father," his mother demanded. "Why haven't you been in school?"

"I - I - I have been," Eric protested.

"So your school is lying to us?" his father's voice was getting louder.

"No, not exactly..." Eric's mind was racing to figure out how to diffuse this, and came up empty.

With a shuddering sigh at the inevitability of what he was about to say, he looked up, took a deep breath and said simply, "I'm going to school as someone else."

"You didn't dare!" his mother yelled causing Eric to flinch, "How could you?"

The whole room slanted even more steeply with the vertigo. He wanted to tilt his head to compensate but knew that it wouldn't really help. Closing his eyes wouldn't do anything but make his parents think that he was ignoring them.

"I - I - you don't know what it's like!" Eric wailed, "I had to do something!"

Tears blurred his vision.

His father's face was one of confusion as he looked from his wife to his son and back to his wife.

"Oh my God, Eric! How could you?" his mother screamed, “How could you!?”

"Nobody knows!" Eric screamed back, "Except my friends," he added with a sniffle as tears began coursing down his face.

"Nobody knows what?" his dad asked, "What did you do? What is going on?"

"Your son is... " his mother began, and then stopped. "I can't even say it," she said, aghast.

"I was planning to tell you both on Saturday," Eric tried to explain, "That's why I went to see Dr. Barts today."

"Tell us what?" His dad insisted.

"Dad, I'm a girl. I've been going to school as a girl." It rushed out of his mouth.

Eric braced himself for the bomb to go off. He closed his eyes and flinched as he expected his father to either shout, or hit him. When neither happened, he cracked open his eyes. His father's face was one of shock. Instead of a red faced ticking explosion, he found a face frozen, drained of color, mouth slightly ajar and in utter shock.

His mother's face, though, was one of rage. "How could you, Eric? How could you?"

His father's face fell into his hands. His mother turned to his father. Her voice turned to one of concern, "Are you all right? Honey? Honey?"

"I'm so sorry, Eric," his father mumbled, "I should have seen it. I should have known."

Now it was his mother's turn to be confused. Eric's too.

"Known what?" she asked, "What are you talking about?"

"I was hoping that it was an isolated case," his father shook his head, his face still covered by his hands, "God, I had hoped it wouldn't be like this."

Eric wiped the tears from his face with the backs of his arms. What was his father mumbling about? Here he was prepared for rage, yelling, shouting, grounding -- even hitting -- but this? This was unexpected.

"I'm so sorry," his father muttered behind his hands. He wiped tears from his own eyes and looked across the table at Eric.

"How long?"

"How long for what?" Eric asked.

"How long have you known you were a girl?"

Eric was puzzled. From the look on his mother's face, she was just as puzzled as he was.

"I've... I've been... Erika... since, um, since summer camp," Eric admitted.

His dad nodded his head, "That explains some of it," he said cryptically, his eyes not entirely focused. He wiped another tear from his cheek. "So you've been going to school as a girl?"

Eric nodded, having completely lost the power of speech.

"What is your name?"

"Erika Summers."

His dad just nodded. His mother was dumbstruck, too. She just looked from her son to her husband as if she didn't know either one.

"And you've been seeing Dr. Barts for this?"

Eric nodded again.

“And no one at school has noticed?" his father asked slightly surprised.

Eric shook his head, then stopped, reconsidering. "One guy has but he said he didn't care and would keep it secret, that I seemed happier as Erika."

"You must make quite an impression."

Eric didn't know what to say or do at this point.

"You're okay with this?" his mother was coming out of her shock, "You're okay with your son dressing up as a girl and traipsing around school as a freaking fairy?"

His dad looked straight across the table locking Eric's eyes to his, "No, but I'm okay with my - my daughter being herself."

For a brief moment Eric was confused. Did his dad just say what he thought he just said. A wave of dizziness almost blinded him for a moment as blood flooded back into his brain.

"What?!" his mom cried.

"You're okay that your son is dressing like a girl? Okay with him acting like a girl?"

"If she is, in fact, a girl then... yes."

"I can't believe I'm hearing this," his mother ranted.

Eric wasn't sure he could believe it either.

She glared at her husband, "I can't believe that you of all people are supporting this!"

Eric's dad reached over and grabbed his mother's hands and held them firmly. “Calm down. Let me explain."

Eric's limbs felt heavy, and drained. Not just from rally practice but also from this emotional rollercoaster that he didn't remember buying a ticket for.

His dad looked from his mom to him and back. "You've both heard me talk about my favorite uncle, Uncle Will."

Eric nodded.

"Before you were born," he looked at Eric, "before I met you," he looked at his wife, "Uncle Will took me out fishing. After a couple of beers he told me that he was changing his life. He told me that he had always felt out of place in society that he felt like he was faking it all of the time. I nodded in agreement with him because I think we all feel like we are faking it from time to time. He then explained to me that he was living a lie, that he had to tell me something that may be hurtful. He then told me pretty much what you are telling me, Eri - ka."

Eric's heart skipped a beat at the sound of his father calling him Erika. With that heartbeat she adjusted her self-alignment.

"Later that week, he told my grandmother, my mother and the rest of the family the same thing. The family disowned him, banished him. My grandmother told him to never contact any of them again. That was the day that my Uncle Will died. He didn't die in a car crash, he died when he left the family and became who he really was... Carrie."

Realization slowly dawned on Erika's mother's face, "You mean your crazy Aunt Carrie?"

Erika's father nodded. "I only have contact with Aunt Carrie through letters, and emails, but I keep in contact with her despite my grandmother's and my mother's wishes. I loved my Uncle Will and I love my Aunt Carrie."

Erika's father looked across the table, "and I love my child. Eric or Erika, I love you."

Tears poured out of Erika's eyes.

"I can't believe I'm hearing this," Erika's mother pulled her hands out of her husband's grasp and stood up. "This is just a phase! A cry for attention! A game! I can't believe you are going to play along with this - this silly game of his," she stressed the last word with a glare at Erika and stormed out of the room.

Erika could hear her mother snatch up her keys and then slam the front door to the house.

Erika's dad shook his head, tears still in his eyes, "She just needs time."

Erika pinched the back of her arm hard enough to break the first layer of skin. Was this a dream? She bit the inside of her cheek, almost to the point of drawing blood. Pain hadn't awakened her from this strange string of events.

"Now, young lady, you had your mother and I extremely worried today, where did you go?"

Erika heard her mother's car start up and peel out of the driveway.

"Well, I started to go to school with Samantha like always," Erika began, "But on the way there, I became upset and needed some time to be alone and to just think. I wandered about and ended up at a playground near the Skate Park. I went to the batting cages for a bit to hit balls and think. I used the card you gave me," she paused, smiling at her father, "Then I decided that I needed Dr. Barts' help and took a bus to her office."

Erika looked at her father, just to make sure that this wasn't a dream. "I went to talk to her about how best to tell you what has been going on. We decided to make an appointment for this coming Saturday. I guess that doesn't need to happen, now" she sighed.

"No, I think it should still happen. A sit down between the three of us and a shrink would be a good idea."

"Really?" Erika looked surprised.

Her father nodded.

"Well, after that I took a bus to the mall and grabbed some lunch, and I... uh... bought a blouse," color flooded her face, "Then I had to get back to school for practice," that last word slipped out and she lifted a hand to cover her mouth as her heart thudded hard against her chest.

"Practice? I thought you were in a political cartoon club."

"I sorta lied," Erika looked away as she admitted, "I am on the rally squad."

"You're a cheerleader?" her father asked in disbelief.

"Kind of. It's the Rally Squad, we dance and cheer, but we don't do the tumbling and dangerous stuff. Or go to away games."

"You're a cheerleader," her father seemed to be having trouble wrapping his head around that.

Erika nodded.

"Does your mother know you are a cheerleader?"

Erika shook her head, "No, she didn't even know I was going to school as a girl."

"So,” her father said, “My son is not only a girl... but a cheerleader?"

"Rally Squad, Dad, I'm a, uh, Rally girl," the admittance of being a girl both thrilled and frightened her, "And then I came home."

Erika's father just stared at her from across the table. A long moment passed before her father sighed. He looked around him as if waking up. "We were so upset worrying about you that we didn't get dinner. Are you hungry?"

Erika's stomach betrayed her at the mention of food, "Yes."

"Why don't you go up and take your shower, get dressed and I'll take my daughter out to dinner."

"Really?"

Her father smiled, "Just don't take an hour like your mother."

Erika jumped up from her chair and began to run out of the room. She stopped, changed directions and ran into her father's arms, hugging him fiercely for a few seconds before sprinting off and upstairs.



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