Relativity

Relativity

By Emily Rudgers

An average student receives the opportunity of a lifetime.

Author's Note: This story is a Fanfiction, meaning that the story takes place using Karen Page's Hayfield Hall setting but does NOT actually take place within her universe. The point of view in this story has a tendancy to jump around a lot so be forewarned. Any comments, good or bad, are appreciated. Special thanks to djkauf for editing.

 

Warning: Contains dark thoughts and suicide themes

Oliver:

Why is it that time always seems to find a way to slow down when class is about to end. Just two more minutes left! I look down at my notebook, comprised of more doodles than notes which makes me smirk. Whoever named a spiral pad a notebook clearly had never attended school. Sitting through this class alone would probably cause the namer to rethink their choice.

I look back at the clock and check to see if the second hand is even moving. Reassured that time is indeed moving forward, I try to focus on class. Listening to Dr. Dork go off on one of her rants usually is entertaining in a pitiful sense. It’s always ‘hug a tree here’ or ‘save a whale that.’ I mean, I get the whole save the planet kick, but her method of promotion probably has caused more people to throw things out in spite than recycle. Having cut off her rant midstream to fit more course work in before the end of class I go back to counting down the minutes.

I look at my watch, still 2 minutes left. I don’t even know how that is possible. The seconds seem to be ticking at a pace a snail would find too slow. By the time this nightmare of a class ends for the day we might even have cured cancer.

Maybe if I just ignore the clock, things will seem to move along faster. I look at the girl sitting next to me, she’s cute in that awkward kind of way. She must not know it or else she probably wouldn’t have sat next to me. Her eyes start to gravitate from the teacher my way and I quickly look down at my notebook to avoid eye contact. I see my terrible doodles, and look up at her to see her now looking at my notebook as well. Instinctively my arm moves to cover up my garbage of artwork. She makes a half smile, finding humor in my embarrassment. I look at her face and give her a forced lippy, awkward smile. Her smirk morphs into a copy of my own as she returns her attention to the teacher.

My curiosity getting the better of me, I chance a glance at my watch. Only ten seconds have passed! I could be the next Flash, if time always moved this slowly. Perhaps counting the seconds would work. One, two, three…. Ten… thirty…. Fifty. Okay, just one minute to go. I look at my watch to verify my counting is accurate. That’s not possible, THAT’S NOT POSSIBLE, I shout at myself in my head. I put my head down and sigh, only a minute and a half of eternity to go.

Having heard my sigh, the girl sitting to my left turns and gives me a disgusted face. One of those how dare you contaminate my air with your air. I then audibly release air through my nose to get the point across... it’s all the same air. Her look of disgust turns to one of almost hatred, and with an over-exaggerated eye roll she repositions in her seat as far from me as possible. The guy to her left, looks at me and gives me an approving look for having helped him get a few inches closer to the girl. I look back towards the front of the class and see in my periphery the girl to my right giving me an approving look. Ah, the glory of tormenting the attractive popular people.

I look back at my watch and see that time has continued its pace despite my lack of hounding, just under one minute to go. Maybe if I fall asleep, time will somehow do its magic and it will just suddenly be later than I think. It works when I sleep at night so might as well try. I put my head down and close my eyes, as I feel some form of loose sleep mentality start to claim me, I hear the world start to ring. My mental state is broken and I look up to see the teacher walking over to the phone in her classroom.

She speaks softly on the phone so that no one in the class can have a chance of overhearing. Her back is turned to the class, so even lip reading is out of the question. After a second or two she hangs up the phone and resumes teaching like nothing happened. Everyone just accepts that it was probably a private call or the wrong room and resumes what they were doing before the phone rang.

Only thirty more seconds to go! I start to pack up my things, and get as far as putting my notebook in my bag when the teacher gives me a strange look while she is continuing to talk. Taking the look as a please don’t pack up yet, I silently halt my pre-emptive measures to bolt the second that class ended. The cute girl to my right looks directly at me to the point I take notice and she then points at her own wrist. Thinking she is asking for the time, I show her my watch by extending my arm across the aisle. She gives me a surprised look as I recoil my arm. She turns and points at the clock on the wall in the back of the class.

If anything could of ruined my joy of class ending, what she was showing me was it. The room clock, the one the teachers go by, showed that there was still roughly five minutes left in class. Crestfallen, I look down at my watch to readjust the time in my head of when class will end. As the last few seconds of the previous end of class tick off, I realize exactly four minutes and 32 seconds are left. The status of torment changes from end is nigh to eternity again in my head.

The door to the classroom opens off to the right, and all heads in the room turn to find who caused the disturbance. The president walks in! I know what you are thinking, I wish it was the president of the United States, then the last few minutes of class would rush by in a mixture of shock, awe, and being too shy to talk to him. No, instead the president of our school pokes his head in. He could look like the US president if you squinted and he was in the distance. With all attention on the principal, he just nods with an acknowledging look towards the class. He turns to the teacher and gives her a look of expectation. “Sorry to bother your class, but is the student in question still here or did he leave for the bathroom?”

The teacher turns to look directly at me and gives me a sympathetic look. The pit of my stomach drops through the floor and past the basement. Something tells me that I am not going to like this one bit. I look to the principal portraying a look of pure terror I’m sure. The girl to my right gives me little reassurance, her face starts going white just looking at my expression. The principal, giving me his best reassuring look announces, “Can I have a word with you out here in the hall.” The words themselves seem like it could be a question, but the tone makes it undeniable that it is a demand. Sensing my doom is at hand, I pack up my things while readjusting my poker face and make my way to the end of the row and across the front of the room to the door.

I guess on the bright side, class ended when I thought it was going to end. Down side being I have to have a conversation with the principal at his own special request. A request that required my presence verification via phone. Oh joy, oh bliss.

~o~O~o~

I step through the door and out in the hallway. The hallway itself is a very non-threatening place, lots of lockers with scattered doors here and there and a niche every so often to hide in should you be chased through the school. The rather benign hallway is offset by the presence of the principal whose previous look of non-worry has morphed into something to be concerned about. Despite the hard look, which could light a fire under just about any student, I retain my composure. My mind however gets the better of me in this situation causing my guilty conscious to produce words before considering the consequences. “Whatever it was, I didn’t do it.”

The hard look turns to a surprised eyebrow raise coupled with a smirk. “I never said you did something wrong, but this you did in fact do. I have someone that wishes to speak with you in the office.” With that, he turns his back to me and starts walking down the hall towards the front office. Realizing I have little choice but to follow I keep pace a few steps behind.

Walking down the hall I see some classes wrapping up; people moving to pack up their belongings while the teacher tries to get a word or two in edgewise. As we reach the front office the bell signifying the end of class rings. I glance down at my watch and see time has done the impossible again and managed to pass five minutes in the walk from my classroom.

As we enter the office and veer towards the principal’s room I take note that all of the secretaries and general office folk are dressed and acting very professionally. I have never been to this school principal’s office for any reason. I tend to keep a low profile, except for the occasional smart remark when the mood strikes me. It being only the first week at a new school as a freshman also tends to help the record.

As I walk into the principal’s office, I turn to look behind me. Just before the door is closed I feel all eyes from the previous room bearing down. The door clinks shut and the feeling quickly subsides. Before having a chance to turn around and see the room I feel a new set of eyes fall upon me. I turn expecting to find the principal behind his desk scrutinizing me, looking for some reason I would have such a guilty conscious. Instead, I find a woman roughly 30 years old dressed in what looks like a suit from what I can see over the desk.

Unsure whether I am supposed to start the conversation or wait to be addressed, I simply stand waiting to find out. I look towards the principal with expectance intentionally portrayed in my eyes. Your move, Mr. principal.

Instead of being a confident and collected person under pressure, he looks to the woman behind the desk hoping she will jump in and tell him what is supposed to happen now. Realizing she is the ring leader in this show I glance over at her, and begin to play the waiting game. Accepting that she will have to start things she speaks. “I only have one question for you Mr. Andrews and then I will have to ask you to wait outside. When you called out for Oliver to step out what was his reaction?”

Being put into the hot seat, the principle quickly answers making his words practically one word. “He was scared for a split second then he returned to acting as he is right now.”

Having received the answer she desired she flagged for him to leave, and with a sigh of relief he stepped out of his office. I should probably be careful with her, making him that nervous in his own room spells trouble for me.

The door closes behind me signifying Mr. Andrews has left the room. With the telltale click of the door closing her demeanor changes from the very business professional corporate type to more of a caring and friendly person. The change is of little surprise to me, I know how easy it is to act one way and be another. The only question is which is the real person, if either of them are that person. My thoughts are disturbed by her motion towards a chair announcing for me to have a seat. Unsure of the purpose for me to sit I slowly make my way to the hard plastic chair across from her that someone had the bright idea of putting a lawn cushion on. No sooner have I sat down that conversation begins.

“Oliver, do you remember taking two tests a little while back regarding being accepted to a school with an alternate style of teaching?” With my eyes signifying that I am following the conversation she continues. “I am here to talk to you about the possibility of you going to that school after you have answered a few questions. You will need to get this signed by your parents should you choose to accept if you are invited to attend. Should you accept, you would not see your parents until you turned 18 years old because the school is a boarding school that does not break during the usual breaks.”

Throughout her monologue I understood everything she was saying, even the things that were not vocalized. Her saying answer a few questions meant, I was going to have to answer something personal. I have met with enough shrinks in my life to know the tone. Secondly, my being ‘invited to attend’ was clearly open for discussion by whoever is doing admissions. Lastly, the fact that I would not be able to see my parents until I was 18 sent up a red flag. Not because I’m not okay with leaving them, but because the 5 years until I would see them didn’t feel right. The impression that I would never see them again starts going rampant in my mind for a brief moment. The noise of my mind quickly disappears and I shrug to show what she has said has registered and I am okay with it.

She looks at me with the psychologist’s stare of trying to decipher the events playing out in my mind. I know for a fact it drives them nuts when a person doesn’t volunteer to speak how they feel. This woman seemed to think of it as a challenge because the stare converted to a smile. “You can call me Jen.”

The ball was in my court. The first thing that comes to mind I blurt out, “Hi Jen, I’m Oliver. How are you doing today?”

With a small chuckle she responds, “Fine thank you, how are you today?”

Fearing the end of the pleasantries quickly approaching I try to draw them longer. “Can’t complain too much, you know with school being all school like.” My happiness of managing to say nothing a normal student wouldn’t say is foiled when her interest of me mentioning school grows.

“Oh? How is school like?”

Portraying a childlike carefree attitude, I give her my answer “Schooly.”

“What is your favorite part?”

Conceding that this is safe territory to talk about I give her what she wants “Classes, I guess.” I add a shrug just for good measure.

“I wouldn’t think you would like class, I pictured you as one of those people who count the seconds before the day is over.”

Not wanting to admit to her ability to read me I try to throw her off, “Just goes to show you, you can’t judge a book by its cover.”

“How right you are.” She jots something down on a piece of paper in her lap. Ugh, the dreaded writing. I always hate it when they write something down, makes me feel like I said something wrong or did something I shouldn’t have. Recognizing my staring at where she is writing, she puts the pen on the table and resumes conversation. “What do you like most about going to a school where no one will know you?”

I shrug, “It isn’t any different from being at another school, same class system, same problems, same work, same drama.”

Reaching for her pen, she looks up and sees me staring at her hand. Her hand pauses before touching the pen causing me to look up and meet her gaze. She grabs the pen and sticks it in a pencil holder sitting on the desk and places her manila folder that was sitting in her lap face down on the desk. Seeing that I am making her uncomfortable in some way I look away and examine anything else in the room.

She resumes before I have a chance to look at much, “Don’t you want to have your friends with you at this school?”
Ah, and now the difficult questions start. I knew it was coming, but usually they take a little longer to get warmed up. She clearly thought she knew me fairly well already. Judging by the size of the manila folder she sat down, she had done her homework on me. She could probably tell me things about my life that I wouldn’t even know. Testing the ground, I give her the opposite of the truth, “Of course.”

“Which friends would that be? Names would be great.” I could see this as a jab, her friendly attitude makes it feel like a legitimate question without intending to be hurtful.

Knowing that I have almost been caught in a lie I go for the non-answer. “I’m sure you know, you have enough papers there to write a better history of me than I could.”

My lack of zeal to play along goes unnoticed, or at least ineffective. “I could, but I’m trying to understand how you feel about things. Names and dates don’t say things like that.”

“Then just assume that a normal reaction is my reaction, I’m about as normal as they come.”

Folding her arms on the desk and leaning forward she proclaims, “Oliver, you are far from normal.” Narrowing my eyes to provoke her she continues. “You don’t try and manage to get straight B’s, your ‘best friend’ from your previous school only spoke with you a few times a week only at school, and in sitting here now you managed to show me zero real emotion. None of that is normal.”

Seeing her point, I simply shrug. “So I’m not a candidate for your school, does that mean I can go?”

She gains a sudden burst of enthusiasm that seeps over to her voice, “It means you are a perfect candidate for our school. But without you giving me something to work with I’m afraid you will just be trapped here until school is over.”

I glance down at my watch and start counting the hours. As the boredom starts to take me around minute two, I motion for a truce. “What do you want from me?”

“At the moment I just want a simple one word answer to this question. After you answer 100% truthfully you can leave.” The demand sounds simple enough. It beats waiting for an eternity of time to pass at a standstill. Nodding to show I am ready, she smiles. “What feeling do you carry around with you everyday?”

I look her in the face calculating my chance of lying. Some part of my brain tells me that it is a terrible idea since lying only hurts me in this situation. If I don’t get accepted then she will just be some stranger that I told one word of truth. If I am accepted then I could be no worse off than I am here, but if by some small miracle things are better there than here, this one word of truth could save me. Going against my better judgment and a lifetime of experience I search for the one word that could encompass my entire being.

I close my eyes and take a deep breath and slowly let it out. Looking at Jen’s face could only make this harder so I choose to keep my eyes closed for the speaking. My voice fights me to block the word from escaping my lips, but the sigh I release with it gives enough strength to produce a soft response “Anguish.”

Having heard the word escape my lips, I open my eyes to find a blank faced Jen. No tell tale signs of disapproval or sorrow, just a telltale psychologist blank look. “Why?”

Recognizing a violation in the terms of our agreement I object, “You said one question, that’s number two.”

She shrugs in much the same manner that I do. “So I lied. Would you have told me otherwise?”

“Probably not.” A feeling of being in over my head starts resonating through my body. She’s managing to get a reaction from me, of all the things in the world she managed to find a way to get to me. Recognizing a moment where I could learn something about myself without telling anyone I would probably ever see again, I start to contemplate the question. Why...? Why...? Nothing jumps to the forefront of my mind in that moment, no sudden epiphany of who I am or what is wrong with me.

Seeing Jen sitting waiting patient for my response I decide to give her the only answer I know is the truth. “I don’t know. The world just hurts to be a part of, so I choose not to feel….”

“How do you feel about yourself?”

Knowing that I am on the verge of some kind of breakthrough in understanding why I don’t fit anywhere I start to think aloud hoping it will help me see something my mind is overlooking. “Something is wrong with me, some part of me is missing or broken. I don’t fit with people.”

The conversation about me felt like forever but only took one class period. I said little while thinking lots, gaining no insight into myself. For me the event felt like a gigantic waste of time. Jen, on the other hand, seemed to be understanding and following somehow. How I guess I will never know seeing as how she will be leaving after today never to be heard from again. At least that is what I thought until her closing announcement.

“Tomorrow I will be back here to let you know the verdict. Please come with the paper signed if you decide you wish to attend our school. If you are accepted we will be leaving from the school tomorrow night so be sure to have said your goodbyes by that point.”

With the torture over, I leap up and return to my normal class schedule. The day carries on normally as if nothing has happened. No one questions me about my visit to the office, and the teacher I return to takes no notice of me sliding into class because he is writing on the board. My mind focuses on the present and soon forgets about the past and doesn’t care about the future. The day ends without fireworks or parades much to my dismay. I walk home from my bus stop, sit down, and read some cooking magazines my parents decided they wanted.

Several hours later, my parents arrive home in their usual whirlwind manner. They have boxes showing they have eaten out together so I am on my own for dinner again. I grab some quick snacks and disappear to the safety of my room. We do not interact until my mother stops by my room to make sure I’m not getting into trouble, she says good night and makes to disappear.

“Mom, I have something you and dad need to sign. It’s about a boarding school that has shown interest in me. You wouldn’t be able to see me until I turn 18.” It’s not really a lie if you don’t know for sure if it’s false.

The only answer is, “I’ll show your father and we will discuss it.” She vanishes back the way she came to go talk to my dad while he watches the TV. While I stay awake waiting for their decision I hear bits and pieces of the conversation over the ruckus of the television. Phrases like ‘straighten him out’ and ‘solve our problem’ standing out from the rest. 15 minutes later my mom returns and hands me the form signed by both of them. The only words she says to me before leaving the room not to be seen again until I turn ‘18’ being, “Stay out of trouble.”

She closes my door and turns out my lights. That night I toss and turn in my bed having an uneasy feeling I am going to regret tomorrow until I conclude it can only get better.

~o~O~o~

I awake and go to school much the same, except that during first period this time I am called to the office; this time without a principal escort. Following the same pathway in the office provides the expected results as Jen is sitting on the other side of the desk. “Come in and have a seat.”

Deciding to ease the situation for her, knowing I was not accepted, I make an attempt at humor. “How’s it looking doc, am I going to live?”

She smiles and says, “It appears that way, leave your bags unpacked; you have been accepted.”

I smile at her lame attempt at humor but her smile remains constant. It isn’t until a couple seconds until I realize the seriousness of what was said.

“Really? I didn’t predict that one. What time should I be expecting to be picked up tonight?”

“Around 5pm; so you have time to say your goodbyes. You will need to make sure you take nothing with you, no keys, wallet, watches, books, or luggage. Everything will be supplied for you upon arrival.”

“My parents already said their goodbyes, so if you want to you can pick me up earlier.”

She gives me the blank psychology face and says, “Okay, I will aim to pick you up right after school. We can get back early and I can work on all the paperwork.”

I soon return to class and carry out my last day at my old school. I secretly hoped for some kind of farewell party when I arrive home but my parents would still be at work for another couple of hours. Soon after depositing my items in my bedroom, I hear knocking at the front door. I walk down the stairs and open the door to find Jen in her business suit again.
“All ready to go?”

“As ready as I will ever be.”

With no other words spoken, we hop into her black SUV and set off. The road drags on and on and my view of the world through the window slowly converts to a blank stare. Not long after I fall asleep. Sometime later, my body senses the slowing of the vehicle causing me to awaken. The place isn’t much to look at, just another place despite its unique style.

I am shown into what I assume is the main building. Jen is talking about things but my mind feels like it is in a fog. Much of the facility is a blur and before I know it, I am in a bedroom.

“Feel free to explore this room since it’s your bedroom. The door on the right is your study partner’s room, the door on the left is the bathroom, and the door that looks like a closet is where all your clothes are stored. The television and radio will have almost any channel you could want. You will need to get changed into the clothes that we provide. You can place your old clothes in the bag on your bed and drop them down the laundry chute over in the corner. On your computer, you will find an option for meals at the main menu. You will need to select the meals you want each day. Since we want you all to be healthy, selections will be limited for other meals to make up the health differences.”

Despite the massive amounts of information thrown at me, it all seems rather trivial. The setup is not much different from back home, except the whole idea of getting a choice of what to eat. Quick snacks have carried me through the long nights my parents have worked, having actual cooked food instead of hotdogs and frozen pizzas might be nice. If I have to eat bland greens or mystery meat, I’d rather stick with my old menu.

Jen stands at the doorway with an expectant look, waiting for me to make some kind of conversation. I just nod my head, and say “Thanks.”

My pitiful conversational skills don’t go unnoticed but she has the decency to be polite, “You’re welcome. I’m going to head off to do some work in preparation for the other arrivals. Your study partner should be here in few hours. Feel free to watch some TV to pass the time. Enjoy the free time before we put you to work slaving over assignments.” The look in her face as she says the last sentence is one that would do a mad scientist justice.

I give her a raised eyebrow for effect, which satisfies her comical side causing her to smirk. “We will be meeting in your year’s common room once everyone arrives at 6:30. Try not to be late on your first day.” With that she turns and walks out the door leaving it open.

I guess they do that to promote friendliness to those who live around you. I, for one, have never been comfortable with the door standing wide open. It must be my guilty conscience playing on me, but I always feel like someone is watching me or will walk by and mock me for something I’m doing. I give Jen a little time to go down the hall before I close my door quietly. Turning towards my new ‘home’ I get an unnerved edginess. Here I am miles from my bedroom about to live with complete strangers all for the sake of some special education program. I sure hope I’m not the guinea pig in this outfit.

With the strangers thought going through my mind I turn back to my door and lock it. Remembering that my study partners door is connected to mine I also walk over to that door. I test the handle to find it unlocked. Closing the door I examine it for any locking mechanism. Nothing apparent jumps out at me, it must be one of those ‘your study partner is also a make shift roommate’ things. Having to trust someone to have access to my safe zone is not something that comes easy to me. People lie, cheat, and steal; it’s just the way the world is. No matter how good your selection process is one or all of them will happen.

Vowing to think of a makeshift lock, I turn towards my bed and the bag for clothing storage. Might as well get changed first so I can lounge for the rest of the time. Opening the closet door, I am instantly assaulted by a mass variety of colors. Blinking past the array, I take notice of the style of the clothes, female. Without another thought going through my mind, I quickly slam the door shut. The high tech door masks my motion, closing with only a quiet click.

Where most people would probably question why there are bunches of female clothes in their closet first, my first thought is ‘I can’t believe I overreacted. They are just clothes and here I am acting like I just saw the bogey man in my closet.’ Reopening the closet door, I set off assessing the damage. Looking around the miniature mall called a closet from left to right I see female clothes going from dresses to everyday things, to rather non-descript clothes that I tend to wear, and then obviously male clothes. Looking on the ground there are all types of shoes except the ones that I want, tennis shoes. Small heels, flats, loafers, dress shoes, sandals, and some that I don’t even know what they would be called. Looking down at my own shoes, I see they would have no place in this closet. Mine, having been beat upon from constant wear and tear, do not match the fresh new style portrayed.

Since the closet has both boys and girls clothes, they must stock the rooms before they know who will be living there. I grab a selection of boy clothes with the goal of looking stylishly presentable. Turning to walk out of the closet, I turn to the right allowing my main vision to remain in safe territory, the awful female side only visible in my peripheral vision. Using tunnel vision to escape the confines of the closet relatively unscathed I close the closet door. Setting my new clothes on the bed I start to motion to take off my shirt. As I look up to remove the shirt from my head, I glance at the interconnecting door to my study partner’s room.

An overwhelming uneasy feeling starts to take hold. With the shirt around my neck and my arms contorted in an effort to remove it, I decide to put my shirt back on. I gather the new clothes and bag for my old ones then make my way to the bathroom. Once inside with the lights on I lock the door and change without further distractions. With my new clothes on, I put back on my tennis shoes. Gathering my old clothes and shoving them sloppily folded into the bag I make my way out of the bathroom. Looking in the mirror to ensure I haven’t messed up in some way I take stock.

Blue striped polo shirt smooth and fitted- a good choice when unsure how formal you are supposed to be, Khaki pants with belt — I’m not a fan of pants but shorts aren’t good if we’re supposed to be formal, and tennis shoes- my comfort item. The clothes fit strangely; I have never been one to buy things that hug my frame. These items try, but like all clothes fail at my skinny waist. Glancing at the bag of old clothes still in my hand I long for their slightly loose style. Maybe I could find a way to hide them so I can have their comfort later when they are no longer looking at my clothes? Although, they have laundry in a chute so I would have to hand wash them and they are probably looking for set bags of clothes with what we came here in. Realizing that they will be looking for my shoes as well I take them off and toss them in the bag. I walk back over to the closest and grab the closest thing to tennis shoes that I can find. They look androgynous but then most tennis shoes can give that impression.

I place my old clothes in the laundry chute with thoughts of how to get around the system. It would be easy really, but causing trouble on your first day gets you noticed. Noticed in a bad way. Once people see you, they monitor you. Then the never ending watching of what you are doing begins. I doubt they could do it at the level of my mom, but you never know. They might have cameras in here and are watching my every move.

My eyes dart around the corners of the room near the ceiling looking for the obvious cameras. Seeing none, I start my search for the less obvious. The camera on the computer becomes my first victim, I turn it around so that it’s facing the wall. I glance at the various items sitting on my desk and shelves in an effort to determine if a miniature camera is stored in them. Before coming to any conclusions, I realize how ridiculous I am being. What would the school accomplish by bugging my room? Going to gain some Intel from a kid doing homework? Definitely a possibility, everyone knows how crafty kids can be. My thought causes me to smirk.

I lie down on my huge bed and pick up the remote to watch TV. Absentmindedly I flip through the channels to see the extent of Jen’s ‘almost any channel you could want.’ Every one that I know as a major one is present, along with a couple hundred others I haven’t heard of or don’t know the language of.

Sticking to the channels I know from back home, I watch the remnants of after school cartoons as they switch to the evening garbage. Glancing at the clock, I snap out of my zombie like state. Time has done its thing again, without my noticing several hours have passed. The time is now 6:03pm and my study partner still hasn’t arrived. I return to watching TV with greater alertness to the time.

A minute or two later I hear voices from the room next door, both female. The presence of voices reminds me of Jen’s tour and all the things she said. That reminds me, I forgot to place an order for foods. I turn off the TV and quickly make my way to the computer to make a selection. The menu options are simple enough, and the selections are vast. I quickly select my meals for the next week so I won’t have to remember to do it every day. As I am logging off the computer, I hear a knock at the interconnecting door.

I stand up, walk over to the door, and place my hand on the handle. Closing my eyes, I take a slow steadying breath in and release. I adjust my facial expression to a friendlier one than my normal neutral. Not allowing myself a chance to second-guess my choice of opening the door, I swing it open.

Sarah:

I don’t know what I was expecting when they said we would be having study buddies. I do know that the person beaming at me having opened the door was not who I was expecting. I was expecting someone a little more… female. The boy standing in front of me beaming is somewhat cute. An average build, a little short for a guy, and fit. Not fit in the buff hot jock sort of way but in that well toned without the mass way. The thing making him officially cute in my book definitely comes from the smile. It lights up his entire face with that nothing can touch me while I’m happy look. His hazel eyes, partly covered by his stylishly shaggy strawberry blonde hair, have a shine to them showing innocence. His words break my trance.

“Hi, I’m Oliver but everyone calls me Oli. I guess I’m your study partner.” He comes across as confident without that arrogant part, and the smile remains.

“I’m Sarah! Can you believe this place?” My bubbliness makes me sound like a school girl with a crush. I hope he’s one of those boys who are oblivious to things like that.

He smirks in a cute half smile that makes my stomach do butterflies. I am so lucky I’ll be living right next door to him! I’ll have to work hard to concentrate on school with him around. “Yeah, it has all the bells and whistles it seems. Except wall decorations, it could use a little pizzazz.”

It’s like he is reading my mind, I was thinking the same thing before I knocked. “Yeah, some posters of dolphins, unicorn, and hot guys.” He smiles and lets out an indulgent laugh. “Oh, you would probably want hotrods, airplanes, and girls on yours.” His smile wanes just a tad. The innocence in his eyes vanishes and it briefly flashes with a soulful look.

“I would be okay with anything other than white walls. It feels so jail like. Not that I’ve been.”

“It’s a school, that’s almost jail.”

He gives me that full smile again, “How right you are. If you haven’t changed yet then you probably should, we have to meet in the year room in a few minutes.” Before I have a chance to respond he closes the door connecting our rooms. That was… interesting.

Oliver:

Once back in the safety of the room I let out another sigh. Acting all upbeat and peppy almost makes me feel that way, almost. It’s the best way to throw people off though. They see you as some wonderful person who they just don’t relate to very well so they don’t spend time with you. They stop examining your every move and you start to blend as just one of the group. The best way to avoid trouble is not to be seen.

Sarah decides we should go together to the year room so she walks with me down the hall towards the room. I put back on the sociable front; it feels good every time she smiles. It makes me feel like I’m actually having a regular conversation. Okay, so maybe not regular since she is all girly and I’m not hitting on her but we are getting along well enough.
Don’t get me wrong, she is an attractive girl, but I just don’t think about people in that way. They are just people, why would I want to be in a relationship with them? I do feel some kind of unusual draw to her though. I wouldn’t say it’s attraction but there is something else. Almost a hurtful longing feeling, I must have been cooped up at home too long.

As we gather in the year common room, I notice a handful of students mixed with almost an equal number of faculty. The faculty is sitting calmly waiting for everyone to congregate and the time to be right to start. The students are all in a cluster talking to each other, getting to know every new face. Their faces light up with each new person as if they have struck gold. Me? I just see a sea of people.

Walking into the room, Sarah herds me over towards the rest of the students to meet them. I am polite and put on a 1000-watt smile. Each person introduces themselves to me, after one or two they all start to blur into a single collective mass of people. By the end of the introductions, no one’s name has stuck with me and all the faces are mashed together. With all the common pleasantries out of the way, which I am excellent at if I do say so myself, the meeting commences.

The head of the school goes on and on about stuff that doesn’t really concern me. This school being a special school for people to discover themselves and thrive seems to be common knowledge. The mention of transgender surprises a few, but no one interjects or outright slams the idea. I just smirk at the thought; you gotta do what you gotta do. If that means spray painting your body green and wearing antlers, you are just another person to me. Perhaps not someone I would jive with, but if it makes you happy then who am I to question it.

At the mention of a Mix-up Monday, some people go a little fish eyed while others seem to be excited. I just give a pondering look with a slight nod to show acceptance, when in doubt always good to seem impartial. Sarah’s enthusiastic nod tells me she will be going all out, certainly will be intriguing.

As the head wraps up, different ‘support people’ are introduced. Why not call a duck a duck? The shrinks are all acting very normal, but I can see them watching how people are interacting. After the introductions, where Jen was a part, the announcement of our study focus begins. Each person is assigned an area of study, from I assume the tests they took way back when. Computer security, electrical engineering, human tactics, and driving being just a few of the ones mentioned. I pulled public relations. Whoever thought that was a good idea needs to be shot… several times.

Based on the jobs they are preparing us for, makes it seem like they are trying to make us into MI6 or something. Figuring it will be something people can laugh over to help soothe the heartbreak of getting a bad position I speak up. “Are you trying to turn us into James Bond?” Everyone chuckles, and the effect on the students is immediately apparent. Some become more relaxed, while others maintain their good mood. Looking towards the shrinks and head, they are chuckling too, but there is something in their faces that tells me I hit too close to home. Best keep a low profile on any more insightful tidbits. Would hate to turn up one day dead because I told a joke, would put a serious dampener on the year.

Everyone is soon given a PDA that contains our schedule, phone capabilities, and features I generally only see a full computer have. It all seems very high tech, must cost a fortune. They must see some great potential in my classmates to make it worth all this money. Who knows, one of them could be the next prime minister!

When the conversation ends in the year room, everyone makes their way to the food area and sits at the tables. There are several tables setup filled with other students, what I assume are the other years. Most have a smile plastered on their face looking at the new fresh meat that has arrived. Based on the smiles, I am going to guess they don’t torture the students, maybe it’s brainwashing? My fake smile turns real for a moment before the humor of my thought passes. Announcements are made before the meal begins by the head. He announces our presence and then some other unimportant things I just smile and nod to.

The food is served by two year mates who were lucky to be the first to collect the food. Everyone else is surprised by the serving arrangements, until I point out that that is what they do at some summer camps. They all seem accepting after that. The staff member that is sitting at our table minorly critiques the two students serving style, telling them they shouldn’t just plop the plate down but instead place it gently.

The meal itself is rather uneventful considering. Everyone talks comfortably with everyone else, getting to know their study partners and soon to be classmates better. I continue my conversation with Sarah and have a few words with every other person sitting at our table. Everyone seems glad to be openly accepted and I soon become comfortable in the role I am portraying.

Dinner ends and we all congregate in the year room to continue the conversations. I tag along with Sarah but don’t play as active of a role in the conversations as during dinner. People soon get tired long before the curfew of 10pm. We all part ways and return to our rooms.

Once inside the safety of my room, I get changed into gym shorts and shirt to sleep in inside of the bathroom. Once I return to my room, I lie on my bed and look at the clock. 9:32, no chance I will ever get to sleep, especially after sleeping in the car on the way here. Before I have a chance to turn on the TV I hear a soft knock at the interconnecting door.

Rolling to a stand, I walk over and open the door. Sarah is standing there wearing a robe with mixed emotions playing across her face. “Sorry, I was wondering if you wanted to stay up a while and talk. I won’t be able to sleep with all this excitement.”

What can I do, turn away a girl clearly in some kind of distress? I don’t have it in me. “Yeah sure, come in.” She walks in and sits on the edge of my bed. What do I do in these situations? Do I go over and sit next to her, no that will freak her out. I could stand here with the door closed, my back to the wall. That seems too distant though, as if I don’t want to actually help her. I move to the edge of the bed and sit down, giving her plenty of space. “What did you want to talk about?”

She closes the space between us so that she is now sitting less than an arm’s length away from me. “I don’t care; I just want someone to talk with. I miss my family already and want the company to distract me.” Her smile is sad, almost forced.
I give her a broad smile and puff out my chest. “Then you have come to the right place, I am a professional at getting distrac… oh look butterfly.”

My pitiful humor produces a small laugh, and relieves some of her tension. “I usually have my sister to talk to when I need someone. She used to use the same type of distractions, except with her it was shiny things.”

Growing slightly uncomfortable with the direction the topic is going, I redirect to slightly less personal topics. “Shiny things are very distracting. You could be walking by and then the sun catches it right and then BAM it’s in your face.” I throw my hands up in the air for effect.

Her smile grows larger at my antics but she doesn’t say anything. Ugh, I hate that. I failed to produce a way to continue the conversation so now she will feel uncomfortable. I search my brain for a way to continue the current topic producing nothing. She comes to my rescue, or is that downfall? “You aren’t like other guys. Most of them are so busy trying to hit on me they don’t even try to have a conversation. It’s all, one bad pickup line after the other or you’re so hot so we should date.”

Ouch, that stung a little. All this effort to act normal and I’m not even acting normal. She probably sees it as a compliment though. Deciding to ignore that part of the comment I push forward. “I can act that way if you want, but I figured I would at least give you time to get settled before I made my move.” I wink to show that I’m not going to turn into some creepy guy she has to worry about living next to.

“I would like to see that, you being smooth and trying to pick someone up. I don’t see you as that kind of guy.”

“Hey! It could happen. It won’t, but it could!”

She lets out a full giggle. “No, you are too innocent for something like that. You would probably have better luck being smooth to try to get someone to pick you up.” Her giggle changes to a full out laugh. She tries to stifle it with her hand but fails completely.

I feel my face start to color as a blush, causing tears to come streaming down her face from laughing so hard. She certainly has a very active sense of humor, I didn’t even have to try that hard and I have her in tears. As her laughing subsides I decide to take my revenge. “What are you doing tomorrow night?” I raise my eyebrows in a very suggestive manner causing both of us to break into giggles. Okay I admit it, my laugh is the only thing I can’t control and it sounds like a giggle more than a hearty guy laugh. It could be worse, I could sound like an elephant.

Once any remnants of laughter passes, we talk about random odds and ends. Things like when does purple become blue and blue become purple, where would you shop if you had a wad of money to spend, and what was your favorite Disney movie. None of the things I was completely truthful on, but I did my best to limit the number of lies. By 10:30 we are both getting tired and she leaves for her bed closing the door behind her.

I reflect on how we interacted with each other. We carried on like we were friends who were closer than we actually are. The common ground of being stuck in this place with only each other as comfort must make us act closer. Other than that though, I don’t think we have anything in common. I check the door before hopping into bed to sleep. I guess we do have one other thing in common, we both like sleeping with the door closed.

~o~O~o~

Sarah becomes glued to me in the following days, and we soon fall into a routine. We go jogging most mornings before classes, come back to the rooms to shower, and then head to breakfast. We go to class, lunch, class, break, dinner, homework, and then socializing. The classes are engaging and somewhat interesting. The teachers certainly do a better job than the ones back home. The entire faculty seems eager to help everyone. Some sets of study partners have been having issues that have been met with swift responses. Things ranging from missing home to being gay are all handled very comfortably, ensuring that everyone is okay with what is going on. The road has some bumps, some larger than others, but in the end none of it really changes anything. We are still here going to school with our “family,” Sarah’s words not mine, and the people act the same. Regular visits with Jen are a pain. She always tries to bring up something about me, causing Sarah to focus on it, and then I casually dismiss the topic. When group sessions didn’t appear to be fruitful, Jen tried having solo sessions. The end result was the same, she asked me questions and I answered them more or less. Jen’s face carries this, I know there is something there; I just can’t put my finger on it look. She disguises the look well, but sometimes it peeks through. My last visit with her was a group session talking about the upcoming Mix-up-Monday.

Sarah is extremely worried that someone will laugh, but wants to go through with it. I don’t really care about it, if everyone else does it then I will feel like the odd one out. Putting on girls clothes, while a daunting idea, doesn’t overly concern me. They are just clothes right. Right?

Mix-up-Monday:

I walk into my closet to pick out my clothes to wear for the day. The thought of deciding what to wear for this day has been hanging at the back of my mind for the past few days. As the event has drawn closer and closer, my previous view of not caring has slowly changed to blind ignorance. Now that I stand in my closet faced with the female side, I can feel my body shaking from nervousness. My entire life has been about people perceiving me in a certain way, a role that I’ve become familiar with. I am about to destroy that image. People will see me not as the person I have been portraying the past few weeks but as some guy in girls clothes. I have no reference on how I should act as a girl. To me, people are people, the line between the way one person acts and another, is non-existent.

The whole goal of this fiasco is for people to figure out who they are and teach acceptance. I can check acceptance off as being accomplished, which leaves me figuring out who I am. That’s easy, I am whoever I am needed to be. Jen’s voice rings through my mind, “That’s not normal.” Then what is the right answer in this situation? The obvious answer is that there is no right answer, but the fact of the matter is there is. We are supposed to figure out where in this crazy spectrum of sexuality … er… gender? we are. Since I have no point of reference, what if I just am the same person as both a guy and a girl? It would save the complication of figuring out and remembering to act a certain way, besides Sarah already told me I don’t act like most guys. At least there is that going for me.

I shake my head to clear all thoughts and return to the issue at hand. What should I wear? A skirt just seems like a bad idea, while being distinctly girl it would also serve as a reminder of how little clothing I would be actually wearing. Besides, what would I do if I got cold? Freezing to death does not sound very pleasant. Looking past the skirt portion of the girl clothes I come across the pants section. Most follow the same trend as the guys clothes, semi —formal to formal wear. It’s only a school day, no reason to go formal. I grab a pair of tan pants and toss them over my left arm. Moving on to the shirts, I feel my stomach tighten. The curves shown on shirts make it obvious that they are made for someone with a smaller waist and… boobs. Rolling my eyes at having forgotten about needing a bra I quickly grab the first bra I find in a drawer. Returning to the shirt situation, I figure most things go with tan pants so I grab a black cardigan, red button down, and a white one of those strappy undershirt things.

Okay, mental checklist time; pants are a check, shirt is a check, sweater is a check, and bra… check. That leaves socks, underwear, and shoes to go. I grab a pair of plain white underwear from the drawers. I smile and let out a single giggle realizing the situation, drawers stored in drawers. I also remove a pair of socks from the same drawer before closing it. Moving towards the shoe ‘department’ I look at the eight million types of shoes available, okay so maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. Going from having only one pair of tennis shoes like I had at home to this many, tell me you wouldn’t be in shock. Looking at the guy tennis shoes I wore the first day, I have the thought of having just stayed home and avoiding this entire issue.

Thoughts like that won’t help me now. Okay, which shoes would work for what I have chosen? Heels are definitely out of the question at this point. Dressy shoes are never comfortable, which leaves tennis shoes and flats. Tennis shoes would be more comfortable, but I am wearing a cardigan. I will have to wear something to dress up the look. I grab a pair of black flats and set out of the closet. Looking down in my arms and seeing the bra I am about to put on reminds me of the forms we were told about to be placed inside the cups. Carrying all of ‘my’ clothes I go into the bathroom to change. Figuring how everything goes on is simple enough. How things are closed is also simple enough, I don’t know what all the fuss is about for bras. You line it up, reach behind, clasp and wala you’re done.

The weight of the forms in the bra cups is a little strange, but then again it is something new. I look down at myself and see an obvious issue. I may look girl like up top, but down below in form fitting pants there is no question that I am a guy. The look of it sitting there, destroying the look of the pants irks me. Why do you have to ruin what is otherwise a success.

I sit and ponder for a moment, moving it into different positions in hopes it will disappear; no such luck. What if it wasn’t there? Then everything would look regular down there more or less. How could I make it disappear? That would be physically impossible, so what if I put it in a spot that it looks like it doesn’t exist? I reach down and fix myself. Removing my hand I look at my work, yes that will work for sure. I smirk at my handiwork. He-he, there go those puns again.

Exiting the bathroom, I comb out my hair until it looks tame and turn my face from side to side looking in the mirror. I look like the same guy head, floating over top of an otherwise girl body. I pull my hair back with my hands and immediately see the change I was looking for. Instead of seeing the same guy face, I am rewarded with a feminine looking face that strongly resembles the guy. Part of me still sees the guy, but another part sees a girl. The two parts are unsure of how to respond to the other part. Putting my hair in a high ponytail, I take one last look in the mirror before turning toward my bed satisfied with my look.

I freeze in place while my heart jumps into my throat. Standing in the interconnecting doorway is a masculine Sarah. If I didn’t know any better I would swear she was a guy. Either she is extremely good at this or she has had extensive practice. “Wow, Oli you look great! If I passed you in the street I wouldn’t think anything other than you were a girl.” Her voice, while trying to be male, still had enough female in it that it gave her away.

“You look like your average guy. I don’t know what you were so nervous about.” My voice, while definitely my voice has a quality to it that I don’t normally use. I can’t put my finger on it, but it is definitely not my normal voice. Sarah doesn’t take any notice of my speech.

She tries to push her non-existent long hair behind her ear as she blushes. “Thanks, I’ve done this before. I like to wear guy things on occasion and a few times tried making myself look like a guy. What about you, you look like you knew what to do.”

I raise an eyebrow, why would she think that? “Uh, no this is my first time. Why?”

It is Sarah’s turn to be surprised, “You just look so convincing, and I expected you to look like a guy in a dress for your first time. I guess you won’t need those classes they mentioned.”

Feeling the need to defend the fact I have been a guy all my life I speak out, “I may take the classes anyway, since I have no clue how to act like a girl.”

“You should talk to Jen, I’m sure she would be willing to set something up for you. She might even have heart failure if you seek her out on your own instead of making her track you down.”

I smile at the idea, “You know I might just do that so I can see her face.”

Sarah:

We head out of our rooms through my door and head down the hallway side-by-side. As each person passes, no comment is made on how either of us is dressed. I start to feel nervous right before entering the food hall. Oli turns to me and takes a moment to look back and give me a reassuring smile. The smile gives me some confidence, but it is him… or is that her… hooking her arm inside of mine so that I can escort us into the food hall that’s give me enough courage to open the door and walk inside. Several heads turn our way as we walk through the doorway and then return to their previous conversations.

I look to my right, where Oli is perched on my arm and see her ever constant radiating smile. It is the same smile that she uses when presenting as a guy, except now it has a more feminine feel. She notices my looking and we lock eyes long enough for me to turn my head away embarrassed at having been caught, just like I had caught so many guys.

We close the distance between us and our table and then sit next to each other at the first year table. Several of the first years look a bit uncomfortable at wearing another genders clothing. Others look more relaxed and baffled, probably trying to figure out what is running through their minds. As we sit down next to each other, most people at our table look up to see who is joining them. Jen is sitting with us today and smiles while we sit. Once seated she pulls out her PDA and touches some buttons on the screen. “I see you haven’t updated your names for your male and female personas. What name did you want to use Sarah?”

Blushing I lower my head slightly, in hopes my now short hair wig will somehow cover my face with bangs. “Chuck Douglass, please.”

Jen makes a small nod, and types the name into her PDA to update the information. She then looks back up towards Oli. “You look great Olivia, did Chuck help you?”

Olivia? I guess during their one-on-one talks they must have talked about today. I wish she had told me she had chosen a name. I looked to my right towards Olivia awaiting her answer. “I’m sure he would have if I asked, but I managed to put this together. I wasn’t sure about the shoes, but I think they work alright.”

Her words hit me like a ton of bricks. Not only does she sound completely like a girl in her speech but she said them without a hint of hesitation. I have to pause and think about how to make my voice and words organized in a male version, while she just flowed right through as a natural. I more closely examine her for a moment while she turns to talk to a female looking Andy. She isn’t really doing anything differently, yet I can’t see the cute boy I have been living next to in her anywhere. Why isn’t she obvious in some way like everyone else around the table? While some people clearly have had experience dressing, all of them have a ‘tell’ that I can see cluing me into their birth sex. Frustrated I turn straight ahead and look right into the eyes of Jen who must have seen all of my thoughts portraying on my face. She types away on her PDA for few moments and then mine and Olivia’s PDA both go off indicating a visit with Jen shortly after breakfast.

Breakfast is a bit surreal but once the initial awkwardness of how we all look is over we carry on like nothing is any different. I smile, glad that we go to a school where something like this is not only tolerated but encouraged so that everyone is on the same ground. I look at Olivia, well, almost everyone.

As breakfast draws to an end, our year all heads out towards class while Olivia and I head towards Jen’s office. Once inside, we see Jen already sitting at her desk despite the fact we left at the same time. We close the door and take a seat in our usual seats on the couch.

Jen decides to jump right into the conversation, probably so we don’t miss much class. “How are you two dealing with Mix-up-Monday?”

I sit their awkwardly, hoping that Olivia will start the conversation. She must realize that I have no intention of talking so she starts, “I’m fine, Chuck was a bit nervous at first but that seems to have passed and by the end of breakfast was carrying on with the best of the guys.” She gives me a sideways smile to show her faith in my abilities.

“How about you, Chuck?” Jen inquires.

“I think it’s great that we have the chance to do this, as you and Olivia both know I like to cross dress from time to time. Acting male seems to fit the clothes in my mind so I’m okay with presenting male.”

Jen, realizing I didn’t answer the part of the question she was asking becomes more obvious. “How do you feel about Olivia presenting as a girl?”

Olivia raises a single eyebrow and looks at me questioningly. Nervous for being in the hot seat I fidget a bit and instinctively cross my legs in a feminine manner before correcting my posture to be more masculine. “I think it’s great that she can dress as a girl and have this opportunity that most boys would never experience to find out if there is a female part of themselves.”

“Her being female hasn’t caused you to feel awkward around her or jealous that she gets to be female while you are male?”
Shocked at the statement I let it show in my voice, “No, we have been carrying on as we always have. I may act a bit too much like a girl in the conversations but we still interact in much of the same way. I was surprised at how naturally she fit the female role. Everyone in our year has something about them that I can tell that they are different than how they appear. Olivia just seems like a girl, except she is the same as Oliver which makes no sense.” At Jen’s encouraging look and Olivia’s silence I press on. “I can understand her acting a different way to be more female, but it’s like she is just Oliver if he had been born and raised a girl.”

I look at Olivia, trying to see if I hurt her in some way. She gives me her feminine Oliver smile saying it was okay, but her eyes have a depth to them I have never seen; eyes that have lived through terrible times that are now trying to seem as if everything is okay. She turns back to Jen, with her classic expectant look awaiting Jen’s next question. I guess that’s one thing not feminine about her, most girls that look as pretty as her would be talkative enough to have said something, not wait for someone else to initiate.

Jen weighs my words in her mind before starting, “How did you develop your female skills Olivia?”

A minutia of surprise enters Olivia’s face before fading. “I thought of how the girls around school carried themselves and went with that. My voice isn’t any different, something I was surprised to discover once I finished dressing is that it still works.”

Jen nods, accepting Olivia’s answer or lack thereof for her voice. “Did you want lessons to learn to be more masculine, Chuck?” Having thought of this before I got dressed today I nod. “How about you Olivia, do you want female lessons?”

Without a moment’s hesitation to decide she answers, “Yes, please. I could also use some help in figuring out how to get my darned boobs to stay in place.” With that she rearranged her bra in a very unladylike manner while making a face. I broke into giggles while Jen tried desperately to keep a straight face.

“There is a boy in the room, that’s improper.” Her tone indicated her appreciation for Olivia finding humor to comfort me in her acting so natural while also trying to set a precedent. “If you go down to medical, they can set you up with some glue to help with your…” I could see several possible words wanting to make their way out of her mouth before she settled on one, “predicament.”

With any possibility of seriousness ruined, Jen declared us ready to go to class. She instructed Olivia to head to medical on the way while I was to be sent directly to class. No fair, she gets to miss more class than me!

Oliver/Olivia:

I make my way down the hall with thoughts of Sarah’s conversation with Jen plaguing my mind. I act naturally feminine somehow. Some part of that thought caused a hiccup in my mind. Here I was trying to portray a female and I had actually succeeded, then why do I feel like I’m not lying all the time? I’m male, so acting female should be one big act that requires effort. Yet, it doesn’t. Why? What does that mean? Realizing where my thought process is going I change tracks, maybe I just haven’t lived long enough as a girl for it to feel like a chore to act female like it does to act as a happy guy. That has to be it; it will just take some time before it feels like another burden I have to carry.

Walking down the hall I almost miss my turn to medical because I am lost in thought when a girl I recognize from our year walks around the corner coming towards me. “Hey, you’re Olivia right?”

I snap out of my thoughts and smile, “Yes, I recognize you from breakfast. Stacy was it?”

Her face beams with happiness, “That’s me, you headed to classes?”

I shake my head, “No, I’m actually going to medical.”

“I’m headed the same way, I can walk with you.” We both turn and start walking towards medical with a few words being passed between us, mostly focusing on how we are enjoying the classes and our focus studies. Arriving in medical, we are greeted by a nurse who says she was expecting us both. She takes us behind a curtained corner of the wing where the doctor is hiding. He gives us both a friendly smile before beginning, “You must be Stacy and Olivia. I hear you are both here to learn how to get your breast forms to stick.” With that he launched into a full description on how to attach remove and care for the ‘breast forms.’ Having to take my shirt off in front of Stacy and the doctor embarrassed me to no end until I realized he is a doctor and Stacy is in the same boat I am.

It all seemed simple enough, and within 20 minutes we were on our way back to class, slightly embarrassed but displaying a pair of attached boobs.

Each step felt different than before, but by the time we made it to the end of the hall, all foreign feelings were gone. Moments before walking into class, Stacy stops me. “Were you planning on taking girl lessons?”

Not knowing how to respond to such a question from someone I started to actually talk to 20 minutes ago and who has already seen me half naked I hesitantly respond. “Yeeeeaaah?”

“Did you want to take them together? I felt better having another student around, it helps when we both make mistakes and help each other out, outside of lessons.”

“I can talk to Jen about setting it up at the same time as yours.” My PDA blinks indicating an update. I look at the screen and it shows girl lessons starting three days from now with Stacy. “I guess she is one step ahead of us, creepy how they figure these things out so quickly.”

Stacy smiles a knowing smile, “Yes it is. Shall we join class before the teacher thinks we’ve run off?”

I grin, “Yes, let’s.”

Oliver the next day:

I roll over for the thousandth time this morning, fighting to sleep for the last few minutes I have before needing to wake up. My mind is eerily silent despite the fact I have tossed and turned all night, completely unable to get any sleep. Everything, from breathing to my room makes me feel on edge somehow.

The world feels distant, almost shadowy. My eyes are open but I’m not present. Even in the confines of my own mind where I am free to think whatever I want, there is an unwarranted uneasiness that isn’t coming from any thoughts. If I had managed to fall asleep last night, I bet I would be perfectly fine.

Looking at the clock, I see that it is time to be waking up. Conceding that I won’t be able to get any more sleep I get out of bed. Shuffling over to my closet to find clothes to wear for after my shower, I am met with a mental block on a decision. Since Mix-up-Monday is over, I should wear guy clothes. Looking at the female side of the closet, I feel some kind of connection. Reacting like I am scolded, I flee to the male side of the closet and grab the first clothes I see. Not even paying attention to the items I am grabbing.

Hoping in the shower, I start to wash every inch of me several times, trying to scrub away the thoughts and feelings. When I get to my chest, my mind takes a moment to readjust to the fact I am not wearing the breast forms, causing my stomach to clench. In a flash, the moment has passed and I resume scrubbing, paying extra attention to my chest in a hope of cleansing any lingering impressions of having boobs. Moving down to my crotch, I react how I always have reacted. I ignore it, utterly and completely. I’m not saying I don’t wash it, I do, but I have no connection to the thing down there other than it being physically attached.

After completing my shower, I move to get dressed. Any semblance of a clean feeling I managed to scrub into myself is instantly removed the moment I look at the clothes I grabbed. The dark jeans and polo shirt are exactly like what I wear every day as a guy but it all seems rather lack luster at the moment. Girl’s clothes are so much better.

Surprised at the thought, I force my mind into silence to prevent more unnerving thoughts. I get dressed and walk out into the bedroom and hear a loud knock at the interconnecting door. With a strained sighed I give a moment’s pause to change to a happier demeanor then open the door to find Chuck.

He gives me a smile, “I hope you don’t mind, but I decided to be Chuck today.”

My response could have been better. “It’s whatever.” My face shows acceptance, but in my mind my thoughts start to race into each other before I silence them.

Chuck’s smile remains and we head out to walk toward the dining area.

Chuck:

I was hoping when I saw Oli today there would be some clarity in how he managed to pull off yesterday. No such luck. He looked exactly the same as every other day, with no hint of Mix-up-Monday causing him any issues. He seemed a little less chatty today but we have never interacted before as two guys so there was bound to be a little awkwardness.

Breakfast was relatively normal, several people remained as they had dressed yesterday with a couple admitting to the fact they are transgendered. When asked if I am, I simply told them I like to dress as a guy from time to time and yesterday hadn’t been enough to satiate my desire. All the while, I cast quick glances at Oli to see if anything said caused him to be uncomfortable or stir some thoughts within him. He just sat there, eating, chatting some, and being the same person I have known him to be. Stacy seemed to be casting looks at him, as often, if not more than I was. Oli seemed to notice our looks, but never confronted either of us about them. He would simply smile at us and turn back to eating.

Turning to Andy quietly I ask him about Stacy. “Do Oli and Stacy know each other?”

Andy turns to me with a devilish grin. “Not Oli, but Stacy mentioned having talked with and soon to be having girl classes with Olivia.”

Shaking my head at Andy’s difficulty I ask a question that has been on my mind since last night. “Did Olivia say anything to Stacy about wanting to be a girl?”

Andy gives me a significant look, before looking at Oli with a surprised look. “He does? Then why did he go back to being a guy?”

Realizing what I said was being taken a way I didn’t mean, I clarify. “No I meant to ask if Olivia confided in Stacy of liking being a girl and wanting to do it more. Oli never talks to me about how he feels about himself or others.”

Looking sheepish Andy responds. “Oh, not that I know of but I can ask.”

Before giving me a chance to tell him no, Andy turns to Stacy and whispers something in her ear. Stacy looks wide eyed at Oli, then me, then Andy. Oli, catching on that he is being talked about gives Stacy a raised eyebrow before turning and starting to chat with the people on the opposite end of the table. Stacy gives me an indignant look and answers my question. “No.” She then turns and starts talking with the same people Oli had just started chatting with.

“You have your answer then.” Stacy glances quickly at Andy then joins right back with her conversation. Andy rolls his eyes. “Women.” While I may identify as a girl, the humor of the situation causes me to laugh. I now understand how guys feel when they don’t understand what a girl is doing.

Oliver:

The rest of the day seemed to drag. Time seemed impossibly slow, yet everyone was somehow moving in super speed. Everyone that is except me. Seeing people that were yesterday the opposite gender kept playing with my mind. I don’t know how to react in this situation. With people that I had only met as Olivia, I felt forced to follow that persona. When I met those who had known Oliver more, I felt forced to play that persona. My mind could keep up fairly well in the distinctions, but when the group had people who knew different personas, I found myself unable to interact.

My put on face of happiness seemed to crumble even more every time I found myself unable to keep up appearances. No one else seemed to be influenced by my mood, even though I act as a super outgoing individual in this place, I’m still just as invisible as always. Some people went out of their way to try and get me into the conversations, but I fell short. I would unconsciously say something that would abruptly end the conversation, causing me to be included in fewer and fewer of the conversations that did take place at dinner.

Sarah takes little notice, because I am putting forth an “effort” to be in the conversations I must meet her standards. Most of Jen’s attention is directed towards Stacy, who seems to be having a rough day for some reason. I would ask her about it, but I get the impression she wants to work through it in her mind first before having the world descend on her in interrogation.

I leave dinner a little early, having run out of energy to keep on a happy face. As I stand, no one takes much notice of me other than a quick look up to see who it is that’s leaving. Stacy gives a look long enough that I smile with the last bit of energy I have remaining, giving her what looks like exactly what she wanted. I turn my back to the room and walk out, with my face instantly sliding into a rather grim expression I’m sure. Usually I can make it out of a room before dropping a persona, but today I fall short by a fair bit. Each step I take in the room without my cheerful guy persona causes my mood to turn even more sour. By the time I reach the door to leaving the dining area, I feel like death.

I slip through the door, and slowly meander back to my room without fear of running into someone. I reach my door far more quickly than I expect and slowly turn the handle while banging my forehead against the door once and leaning into it to push the door open. I let my weight do all the work, and have to catch myself before I go face first on the floor. I swing the door from behind me and close it without even looking. I hear the click sound, and stand frozen for a moment letting the silence of the room seep into me. With my inner calm borrowed from the room, I manage to get myself to lock the door before I just drop to the floor leaning against the door.

I let out a long drawn out sigh, which does little to help so I try letting out another. Sensing the pointlessness of reusing this failing relaxation technique I stand up and head for another. I head over to the bed and flop down facing the ceiling. I just sit there, without moving a muscle hoping the print of the bed will swallow me up and teach me how to have such an unfazed front.

Realizing this is only making my mind worse, I go for my next technique. Slowly I progress through all of the ways to stay calm I have heard, seen or done in my lifetime. I even tried making up a few but they did nothing to calm my mind. Drying off from the shower I just took in a desperate attempt to wash my thoughts away, I am faced with what to wear. I wrap my towel around me, covering almost my entire body; these are some huge towels! I hear Sarah crawling into bed before she turns her bedside lamp off. Before the light flicks off I have a fleeting thought to go over there and try talking this strange mindset of mine through.

Why would she want to talk to me about this? People have their own issues they are dealing with, I shouldn’t dump mine on them, that would be selfish of me. Besides, if I open up to her for just a moment then all the work I have done to form a comfortable relationship with her will be ruined. Her light flicks off and any thoughts I have of talking to her disappear with it.

Standing there in an oversized towel getting cold I glance at the clock to see it is roughly bed time. I walk over to the closet to put on some sleep clothes and hesitate when confronted with both sides of the closet. I should wear a t-shirt and pair of running shorts to bed, after all Sarah might come in here and see me for some reason. Looking towards the female side I spot a nightgown. Or at least I think that is what they are called. I feel that connection in my mind again that causes all my thoughts to turn quiet, not silent but more of a distant whisper. A whisper I can deal with. Feeling a moment of level headed thought, I turn to grab my classic male sleep clothes. The moment I look at them my mind starts back up, seeming louder after having a moment of quiet. Closing my eyes I shake my head to try to restore the quiet. Instead of giving me quiet my mind goes creepily blank. I start going through the motions of getting dressed in my male night clothes but feel like I’m having an out of body experience.

I brush my teeth in a flash and climb into bed. I start out tossing and turning exactly like last night. I can tell I am exhausted, but sleep doesn’t claim me. After an hour I sit up and stare at my sheets until I feel my whole body shut down and then snap back to reality. I didn’t fall asleep; I just sort of… stopped.

I feel my mind wander to the contents of the drawer beside my bed. It doesn’t make any sense, why would my mind think about boobs when I’m trying to get some sleep? I feel a mental flinch at my own thought. No not boobs, breasts. This is a whole new level of weird. I lay back in bed feeling a little more awake at having scared myself with my own thoughts. For a few minutes I lay motionless hoping sleep is just a second away. Finally conceding to what strange compulsion wants me to do this I give in, knowing if I don’t get any sleep tonight then tomorrow I won’t even have the energy to smile once. I turn on my bedside light and pull open the drawer of my bedside stand. There they are, with the glue goop sitting next to them. My heart skips a beat and I get terrible tunnel vision. What is happening to me? I have never had this feeling before.
Peeling off my t-shirt I glue on the breast forms and then lay back allowing the glue to dry. I look down at my hands holding the forms in place on my now girly top half. I feel a smile come to my face without being coaxed. Rolling my head back into the pillow to get comfortable while I wait for the glue to dry, everything fades away with my smile playing along the corners of my mouth.

Sarah the next morning:

I dressed in my school day girl clothes, a knee length skirt with a shirt and blouse paired with a nice pair of flats. I decided pink would be the color of the day, after all I’ve spent the past two days as a boy. I have to balance things. Today when getting dressed I didn’t feel the desire to dress as a guy. It’s usually rare for me to dress for more than one day in a row, but the stress of Mix-up-Monday must have caused me to need the extended time.

Having finished getting ready, I check myself in the mirror to make sure I have no stray strands of hair. With everything looking good, I smile at myself. I hope Oli thinks I look good in my skirt. I wonder if he will notice how nice I look or just be an oblivious guy about it. Figuring I can easily find out, I go and knock on the interconnecting doorway.

To my surprise, Oli dressed as Olivia answers the door. She is giving me a beautiful smile that falters when she sees my expression. “Is everything okay Sarah?”

Shaking my head quickly to clear my thoughts I smile, “Of course, I just wasn’t expecting to be seeing you dressed as Olivia today.”

Without missing a beat she responds, “Since tomorrow I start taking girl lessons with Stacy I figured I should try to get into character on my own so all that needs to be done is fine tuning. Would you rather I dressed as Oliver today?”

Her question carries concern, concern for my well being but maybe also for her acceptance. Looking in her eyes I see no fear, only concern. She is only thinking about me, and not wanting to put me in an awkward position.

Oliver several Days later:

During the couple days after taking the classes with Stacy several things changed. First, Stacy was voted year leader, which I think she deserves. After all she is always very accepting, patient, comforting, responsive to others concerns, and all while working through being transgender. I don’t know what being transgender entails but I know it takes a person with a great deal of inner strength to even admit something like that to yourself, let alone an entire school like she has.

Since we shared the “girl” classes, Stacy has become a friend of sorts. While we may not talk about the mushy things like feelings we have grown our female sides together by practicing hair, clothes combinations, walking, and talking. I think she started to think I was transgendered as well, since I was desperately trying to portray the role correctly. The shock of reality came the day after girl classes ended.

Having gotten dressed in my usual male clothes, I made my way with a feminine Sarah towards the dining area. Sarah was another issue, her shock of seeing me in male clothes after opening the door seemed to be causing her an internal dialogue. We shared a few words in greeting, and exchanged none on the way to breakfast. She kept casting me sideways glances, until finally just short of the door I tried to start a conversation. “Are you glad the boy lessons are over?” I hadn’t seen the lessons in use yet but I could tell she had been working very hard to perfect what she was learning.

“To be honest, yes. Since I only crossdress, the male acting eventually gets to be too much.”

Satisfied with her answer and having interrupted her internal dialogue which she did not resume, I walk into the dining area with Sarah only a half step behind.

Everyone at the table seemed intrigued that I was dressed as a guy today. While no one asked directly I could tell certain people’s perception of me had changed. The most obvious being Stacy; the look of surprise on her face spoke volumes of what she thought. I helped serve the food with Sarah and we sat to eat.

One side of the table took on a more feminine conversation route while the other side took on a more male avenue. Having sat in the middle of the table I could hear both conversations. Every time I heard a part of the female conversation I pushed to take part in the male conversation. Hopefully that establishes things clearly in everyone’s mind where I fall in this dynamic.

After breakfast Stacy caught up with me on the way to classes. “Hey, like my new hair style?” Looking at her hair I notice it is one I suggested a couple days ago and had worked with her to perfection. We had carried on for over an hour just for one hair style, but today the interest just wasn’t there for me.

“It looks nice.”

Not catching on to my lack of interest she tries another topic we enthusiastically discussed yesterday. “I wasn’t sure which necklace to wear today with this top.” She intentionally left the topic wide open for me to easily be able to carry on the conversation. Instead of going into the color and size debate we had before, I gave her a smile portraying that she looked good but I had no interest in the topic.

Recognizing the full 180 from last night, she called me on it. Putting her hand on my arm to stop me she looked into my eyes and asked, “Hey, are you okay?”

Giving her a look like she is insane for asking I reply, “Yeah…. Why?”

Giving me a perplexed look, as if trying to decide how to reply she eventually gives up. “No reason, I’ll see you in class!” With that she took off to catch up with Andy.

Sarah:

“He’s been acting really weird. It’s like he’s a completely different person.”

“You said not too long ago that he acted like a natural girl, just like Ollie but a girl version. Now you are saying that Ollie isn’t Ollie anymore?” Jen questions in an attempt to understand the difference.

“Olivia talked in all conversations, acted just like a girl and is outgoing. Ollie acted the same way before the girl lessons he took, except acting like a guy. Now, Ollie acts like a guy and only takes part in the guy conversations.”

“Is it possible that he always acted that way, just you spent so much time with Olivia that the difference has become so apparent because he went from fully trained girl mode to full on boy mode?”

Looking at Ollie watching our conversation play out without even making a single facial expression to indicate how he feels about what I am saying I push on. “It’s possible, I guess.”

Satisfied with my answer Jen turns to address Ollie, “Why did you start acting so male after the lessons were over?”
Ollie shrugs, “I’m a guy portraying a guy, isn’t it what is expected? We were told that we have to be passable as a guy and a girl at some point, since everyone seemed to see a natural girl I figured it would be okay to return to being a guy.”

“You are free to be whoever you want to be here, don’t act a certain way because it’s what you think is expected. Be yourself, if anyone has an issue with that then they can talk with me.” The intensity in Jen’s voice portrays just how much she cares for our wellbeing.

Feeling as though I need to make Ollie know I also feel the same way I speak up, “I feel the same way, if you feel like Olivia is the real you then be her. If you feel Ollie is the real you then be him.” Pausing I realized I missed some options. “Anywhere in the middle is fine too.”

Instead of giving a revealing answer as to who he feels like he is, which I was expecting, he simply smiles and says “Thanks.”

Oliver:

The conversation with Sarah and Jen kept rolling over in my mind. Sitting in class my mind is miles from the lessons. I have permission to be whoever, how does that change my life? In my mind it doesn’t change a thing, even though people say they would be okay with something doesn’t mean that they are okay with it when set in front of them. If tomorrow I were to show up as Olivia, while no one may mock me for my decision there would be a moment where they question why I am dressed as I am. The same goes for every day that I spend as Ollie, now that everyone has seen me as Olivia.

~o~O~o

~

Classes go on just like every other day, it isn’t until we have our French class that things change. As the teacher is standing at the front of the room I get the sudden uneasy feeling that someone is watching me. So as not to raise suspicion, I look in my peripheral vision and find a set of eyes across the room dead set staring at me. The staring continues for a while, me trying to ignore it while the other person does little other than blink. Then I get the brilliant idea to look directly at whoever it is so they know I know they are watching. I slowly turn my head to the side and look directly at the person.

Lo and behold, it’s Sarah. Seeing that she has no intent to look away, I look back at the teacher. I make no motion to show how uncomfortable she is making me feel, I go on as if all is right with the world. Except, instead of speaking out to the class to answer questions I choose to stay alert without being engaged. Andy, who is sitting next to Sarah, notices her intent starring. He also looks my way to see what is grabbing her attention. Noticing nothing out of the ordinary, just me sitting through another class, he pokes Sarah breaking her out of her trance.

My focus on class is shot at this point. My mind goes aflutter trying to figure out why she would be watching. Do I have toothpaste on my face? No, someone would have commented during one of the meals. Am I acting strangely? I’m still portraying the well rounded sociable guy so no reason for me to be scrutinized. What if that is really the reason, am I acting to well off? I know this school is for people who aren’t given a proper chance, most individuals having a side to themselves that doesn’t mesh well in the harsh world. Is my acting like just another person from back at their hometowns causing them to be scared of me? The only right thing to do then is to tone down the act. I CAN’T cause people discomfort, I just won’t allow myself to do it!

Class just continues on, me physically present without being there at all. The teacher takes no notice of me, my face locked in a receptive and understanding expression while I try to figure it all out. Andy and Stacy seem to get along with me without issue, but then Stacy was voted to be a year leader so it is her job and Andy is probably just playing nice then. I have all these friendly people around and still it’s the same problems as back home. No friends, no feelings, no future….

My mind goes to dark places for the briefest of moments, before my mind completely shuts down. I become my walking husk of a person, alienated from everyone and everything including myself. My expression must slip during the dark portion of my thoughts because the teacher takes notice of whatever is being expressed on my face. I don’t give her a chance to see where my mind is, I compensate by acting like a thought just dawned on me. I give her an exaggerated nod for effect and it seems to satisfy her. For the rest of class I am locked off tighter than I have ever felt. The world passes quickly in a blur, and soon it is time to leave.

As class ends I quickly make my way out of the room, without seeming like I am desperate to escape, before anyone has a chance to strike up a conversation with me. I keep a friendly smile on my face as I walk through the building. Knowing that we have a bit of free time to work on assignments I swiftly walk to my room, step inside and close and lock the door.

As soon as I feel moderately safe in the room I feel my demeanor change. A breath I was holding rushes out of my lungs in a stutter and at the same time I feel my entire body go slack. Yep, same issues as back at home. Only now I am trapped living here with them in some vain attempt to fix the unfixable. They even give me a ‘study partner’ who is so outgoing and friendly that I can hardly get a moment to relax. Speak of the devil, I can hear her voice through the wall talking to Stacy and Andy. My body instantly goes rigid, and I retreat to the bathroom closing the door silently without turning on the lights.

The interconnecting door to the two bedrooms opens after a quick knock. She doesn’t even wait for me to say come in anymore! “He isn’t here. I wonder where he got off to so quickly.”

Andy in his usual joking fashion, trying to lighten the mood responds. “Probably to fix the hole you were trying to stare into him.” So maybe not his best, at least he tried. I hear a light smack then Stacy’s punishing remarks.

“Hey, don’t poke fun until you know why she was doing it!”

The expression crossing someone’s face at the way the event played out causes Andy to laugh despite the punishment. As the laughing dies down, a conversation starts that causes me to shake. “Oli is always so friendly to people. He always is helpful, always pays attention in class, always is understanding and accepting in ways that no one can possibly be, and to top it off I have never ever seen him have a bad moment. He never gets frustrated doing work, he never frets over doing something, and he does everything like its second nature. I was hoping that Mix-Up Monday would throw him off in some way, but he did just fine without any effort what-so-ever. I was trying to see if I could see whatever it is that is wrong with him. Everyone here has something that plagues them before coming here. Andy and I cross dress, Val, Megan, Tony are gay, you are a girl, and all the others have some kind of dark past that seems to haunt them at every turn. Why is he here?!” I hear someone drop to my bed, probably Sarah in frustration.

I hear two more bodies quietly sit on the bed, probably trying to console her in some way. “Maybe he just hides it better than everyone? Maybe it will take him longer to break through whatever walls he put up, and when he does he will need you to be there for him like he has been tolerant of you.” I love it when Stacy makes sense, but this isn’t one of those times. Me? Have something to hide? Hardly.

Come on Andy, be the voice of reason for these two girls. “I know when I have been around him he is always so nice.” Thank you Andy! “BUT….” Ugh, you couldn’t just let it go at that. “Every time he has to do a group setting he is always more quiet. It’s like he doesn’t know how to act, so he avoids interacting. Even one on one I feel like I’m always boring him.”

Someone makes a noise signifying they agree. “He’s gotten more and more distant in a one on one since we got here. I want to help, but there is nothing to help! I just want a new partner!” The cry contains every feeling possible. Frustration, betrayal, hurt, anger, and even some ray of hope. It cuts me straight through. The impervious shell wrapped around my soul shatters releasing a flood of feeling into my body. The overwhelming sense of pure chaotic emotion racing to be the first to escape causes all senses to shut off. The already dim bathroom, fades to a blackness. Instead of passing out, my body reboots prior to losing conscious. The reboot brings everything back to the way it was, everything about myself locked down.

During the process the conversation must have turned heated. I find myself coming back in during the thick of it. Stacy’s words being the first I hear, “…just throw it back in his face. You think it’s all an act, being accepting, but that is when a person shows their true colors. They could outright reject you and they didn’t.”

“He is rejecting me though! He may not care about my liking to wear guy clothes, but he won’t accept me as a friend! Everyone else has managed to become very close friends with their study partner, sharing secrets, and I can’t even get his background!”

I tune out the rest, clearly I have failed. I am a terrible person, all she wants is one thing and it’s the thing that I didn’t give her. The school must have made a mistake choosing me, I don’t fit here any better than I would have fit anywhere else. I should just submit my resignation and return to public school where no one cares if I interact with them or not. They won’t let me go though, my stupid joke about James Bond hit too close to home, they know I know too much. Maybe they will just put me out of my misery. I sit on the floor of the darkened bathroom pondering my future, if I even have one. I come to the conclusion, I need to fix what I have done in some way. Normally I would just give up and walk away, but this, this I have messed up too much to just walk away. In the confines of the dark bathroom, I make a vow to give Sarah what she wants. Even if it will kill me.

~o~O~o~

I spend most of the free afternoon thinking in the confines of the bathroom. Eventually the hard floor starts to hurt and I move into my room. Standing next to my bed I look over my different homework assignments. Finding one that will be easy to do despite my distracted brain I sit down at my desk. Half way through the paper a crazy idea slips into my mind causing me to set my pencil down and think.

What if Sarah actually cares and won’t hate me for being honest about everything. Dismissing that thought as a naive hope I set back to work on the homework.

After finishing several assignments I hear the door to Sarah’s room open and then close. I hear the scuffle of her sorting through clothes in her closet before her room goes quiet. Going back to work I soon hear two soft knocks at the interconnecting doorway. Scrunching my face up trying to think of how I’m going to talk through this situation I stand and walk to the door. Putting a casual expression on my face I open the door.

“Hey, what’s…” I don’t even have the opportunity to finish the sentence before Sarah barrels into me, wrapping me in a hug. Out of instinct, I jump back prying her hands away from my body. I’m not used to this type of affection from people. Her face clouds and her eyes start to form tears.

“I’m sorry Oli, I was so worried after you ran off like that. I understand if you want nothing to do with me after how I treated you in class.”

She starts to turn to head back into her room. Some impulse causes me to put my hand up and touch her arm, preventing her from turning. I put on a slightly ashamed and apologetic look. “I’m sorry I reacted like that, you just surprised me.”

Standing in a hug accepting stance, she gets the idea and pulls me into a hug slowly. My body is stiff from the unfamiliarity of hugging, but she rests her head at the nape of my neck for a moment and seems satisfied.

Sarah:

After the hug from Oli, our relationship changed a little. While he still didn’t open up about his past or feelings he seemed much more willing to sit close to each other. Before he would sit politely close when we were doing things, close enough to feel sociable but never ever close enough to allow physical contact being possible. Now I find him sitting close enough that he will brush up against me sometimes or accidentally bump into each other when talking with our hands. I feel more comfortable with him, even when he is Olivia. The girl-girl dynamic doesn’t seem to cause him any issues with sitting close. In fact, when presenting as Olivia he seems to sit even closer to me. I’m trying not to let my mind think he means something romantic, after all it is Oli, but I can’t help feeling attached to him in a more than friend’s way. If only I knew something about his life.

During several of our group meetings with Jen we try to work through his reservations of telling me. Eventually he starts to get frustrated every time we bring it up, leading up to today’s visit.

“How are the two of you doing today?”

Oli gives a smile, “Can’t complain.”

I try to hide my face hoping Jen doesn’t see my expression and will move onto the next question. “What’s wrong, Sarah?”
Sighing at having been caught I look towards Oli who has a concerned expression. The same one he has been giving me all day in reaction to my demeanor. Seeing that I know have to talk about it since everyone is waiting for me, I finally talk about what’s bugging me. “I noticed that Stacy and Oli have been getting close,” pausing I look to Oli and see an unchanged expression so I push on. “They seem to talk about lots of things ranging from Stacy being transgender to where they see themselves after we graduate. While Oli has had the same types of conversations with me, I’m afraid that when I’m not there that he and Stacy talk about his life before he came here, and how he feels about his gender. He won’t talk to me about gender at all.”

Normally this is where Oli allows Jen to mediate between us, but today he doesn’t wait knowing exactly what she would ask him. “Sarah, I haven’t talked to anyone here about my family. Not even Jen and she is sworn to secrecy.”

Jen nods to confirm Oli’s statement. I ask the same question this conversation always brings us to time after time, “Why don’t you?”

Jen opens her mouth to say something, but before the words escape her mouth Oli retorts. With a raised voice showing his exasperation for being repeatedly asked this question he says, “I don’t know how.” Jen slowly closes her mouth, clearly not expecting what Oli just said. Oli snaps his hand across his mouth, with a look of horror in his eyes at what he said. My mind is taken aback at the idea and can’t seem to understand how that is even possible. We all sit there for a split second processing what was just said.

With a speed that I have never seen him use, Oli stands up and runs out the door of Jens office. Jen and I both sit there looking between each and the open door slowly, trying to understand what just happened.

Jen:

Somehow in the split second between his words being said and his motion to move, his mind managed to have an entire thought process when I hadn’t even started mine. The counselors here are trained to be able to think extremely quickly in case an issue arises that needs swift handling to prevent it from getting out of hand.

With all of the other students I managed no problem at all. But with Oli it was always a bit of a struggle to out maneuver him. I knew he was always holding back when I first interviewed him. He managed the conversation like a pro, but concealed it very well. It wasn’t until I saw how fast he reacted from saying the words, that surprised him, to a thought through action he carried out with a determined look on his face shows that I had always been way out of my leave. If he applied that quick thinking other places he could be a genius. My mind reeled on just how clever he had been, even here under surveillance, to keep his ability concealed.

With my mind finally caught up, I call after Oli, who can’t be more than a couple meters down the hall. Knowing I could never catch a kid who runs as much as he does I pick up my phone and send a mass message alert to all of the counselors to meet me in my office to discuss what happened and what we should do. I then send a message to Stacy to talk to her year and be on the lookout for Oli, and that he should have some company but not to try to pry into what is bugging him unless he volunteers information.

Once all messages are sent I finally notice Sarah snapping out of whatever shock Oli’s actions had caused. The poor girl has no clue, and for the first time ever I regret my decision to pair the two of them up.

Sarah:

“I can’t believe him, he walks out just because I ask him why he doesn’t talk about his family.”

Jen gives me a surprised look. “He hasn’t told you anything about his home life at all?”

Feeling like I’m just repeating myself I try to keep the frustration out of my voice. “He hasn’t told me ANYTHING about himself. Half the time I find him contradicting himself in what he likes or how he feels about situations.”

“Can you give me an example?”

“Just yesterday we started to talk about colors and I asked him what his favorite color is and he said white. But last week when I wore that green shirt he said that he liked the shirt on me and green was… is his favorite color. And the night after we first met he said that blue was his favorite. He keeps lying to me!”

Putting up her hand to end my rant that could have gone on for hours I stop and slowly close my mouth. “Have you considered he’s actually telling the truth and he keeps changing what his favorite is?”

“That’s stupid, no one changes their favorite color that often. That’s why it’s your favorite!”

Jen gives me a look that I have seen from my parents when I do not understand what’s being said. “The day that Oliver first showed up here, he was very guarded. He didn’t talk to anyone about anything personal so he told people what he thought they wanted to hear. While he might have been intentionally lying, it’s more likely he thought what he wanted is what others wanted. So to him, blue was his favorite color.” Seeing my questioning look she continues. “Okay let’s take last week for instance. Oliver was Olivia on the day you wore the green shirt. And girls are supposed to be complimentary of others, so he said he liked your shirt because that’s what he thought he was supposed to do.”

Shocked at what Jen is saying I try to see if I understand. “So he didn’t actually like my shirt, he was just saying that because he thought that’s what a girl would say. I understand that part, but how is that not a lie?”

“Oliver likes to live within other people’s expectations. So when someone wants him to like green he believes he actually does to benefit both you and him. But, white… that’s a tricky one. My guess is that was the day you saw the true Oliver being himself in just a small way. White symbolizes purity, a place to make a fresh start. I have a feeling he will be exploring himself more and start to open up to you.”

Smiling at the prospect of having a happy Oliver that I can have as a close friend I ask the last question on my mind at the moment. “Why doesn’t Oliver talk about his family?”

Jens started wrestling with something, trying to decide whether or not to tell me. “That’s for Oliver to discuss.”

Oliver:

Sitting in my bathroom on the floor I try to work through my inner turmoil. Is my safety worth more than Sarah’s happiness? She is probably upset and I just ran out on her, friends don’t do that.

I promised I would give her the one thing she wanted, and I have let her down yet again. She cares, cares in ways I don’t understand. I don’t deserve her. The strength and enthusiasm somehow contained within her body casts shadows over anything I can muster. I have failed her as a friend, failed her as a partner, and failed her as a human. If I can’t even help one person then what is the point. My life is a waste of space, wasting everyone’s energy. I can’t be fixed because nothing is broken, there is just nothing there.

It would be better off for everyone if I wasn’t around. Sarah would have a hard time at first but she would get a new partner and move on before she knows it. My year hardly notices me, just another fly on the wall. Nobody would miss a squished fly, they wouldn’t even notice. Stacy and I might have had common ground in the classes, but where she evolved I floundered. No place fits and everyone would soon forget the faceless stranger who disappeared one night. I just want it to end, the pain I cause everyone, the cloaked feeling of agony attached to my soul, and the hurt every time I can’t be.

Standing up I look in my mirror. Who are you? Getting no answer I try a different route. What’s wrong with me? Exasperated from my efforts I mentally drift. I could punch the mirror and slit my wrists before anyone had a chance to come running. Knowing my luck, they would stop the bleeding fast enough and I’ll have failed yet again. I could walk into every secure place hoping someone will shoot me on the spot. Knowing this school, they would probably just give me a smack on the wrist and I would be right back here with them asking questions.

Genius is a fleeting thing. You can have a genius thought and rejoice at its presence, or the insight could cause you more turmoil. Mine doesn’t fit on that scale. It causes hope and sorrow at the same time. I know what I need to do and I know how to do it. I walk into my closet and grab a stack of clothes. Fancy a swim?

~o~O~o~

As I walk down the hall, clothes in hand, no one disturbs me. I am just another person walking around the place looking like they know where they are going. I walk into the boys room to change and separate the pile of clothes I have grabbed. Both a boys and girls bathing suit sit in front of me and my mind hesitates at the decision. I reach out with my hand and grab the one my hand feels drawn to, the female one piece suit. Realizing how stupid I will look, I decide to not decide. I put on both, the girls underneath the boys. I walk up to the pool without any hassles, classes are out but everyone is working diligently on their specialties. On the pool deck, there is no one around. Not a student, teacher, or lifeguard in sight. Dumb school, someone could drown. I smirk at the idea, oh yeah.

Standing at the edge of the deep end, I watch the shimmer effect the lights play on the surface of the water. It has a mesmerizing effect, the beauty almost flawless. There is nothing real in the world like this, its existence feels wrong to me. Anger at the false sense it gives causes me to jump in, destroying the calm reflecting effect upon the water. The coolness of the water causes my body to tighten and goose bumps to form quickly. It’s okay it will all be over soon, at the thought my body relaxes and the cold becomes a physical thing my mind doesn’t recognize. All else in the world vanishes except for me and the air in my lungs. I pause for a second taking in the solitude before the chaos of my mind wrecks the soothing feeling. I release all the air in my lungs screaming to the watery world, “I’m sorry!”

As the last hint of air escapes my body I feel helpless. I try to draw in a breath only to be met with water crashing into my lungs. Instinctual fighting for air tells my body to ascend, but as my body starts to motion I take control. I freeze mid motion, and collapse in on myself as my feet hit the bottom of the pool. I am in control and I say NO. All the years of forcing my mind and body to do something it doesn’t want to do culminates in this one moment. The wild feeling of survival instincts instantly tamed by my single thought. Today I end and I won’t let anything cause me to fail.

A floaty feeling starts to take hold in my body. The world seems distant and fluid; the sounds of water being my last piece of reality before everything ends.

~o~O~o~

Air is rushing around me. Could I be up in the clouds about to go to heaven or whatever equivalent there may be? That wouldn’t make sense though, I killed myself, I would have to go to hell. Maybe since I did it for a good cause I’m being rewarded? My thoughts are broken by a strong rush of air and then a faint echo.

“...Olivia….” A sound follows after but it feels too foreign to identify. “Come on Olivia….” Am I supposed to be going somewhere I forgot about? That would certainly make this awkward, excuse me god but I seem to have lost my way. Can you point me in the direction of hell?

The rushing of air stops for a moment and a sudden pain burns on my chest. My chest collapses under the pressure of an invisible hand. “Don’t you give up on me.” Again words follow after but they seem insignificant, not addressed to me. Give up? What was I giving you to give up? The background garble of words continues. What IS that? They mean something, I know they do. The answer jumps out at me as the next rush of air begins. It was saying Oliver, my name. Why can’t I hear my own name? Do I not identify as myself? Have I gone so long without air that I’m going crazy? I could be in hell and the devil could be tormenting me with games.

That doesn’t make sense though. My name being not correct feels more right. Wait, feels? How does something ‘feel’ right, I never get a feeling about myself. View points and questions sure, but something inexplicable that courses through your being? What else could it be but a feeling? The next rush of air carries with it the answer. I AM feeling. From what I know feelings don’t lie, they tell you exactly who you are and how you feel about things. You can change them, but I don’t want to. I WANT to feel, no I NEED to feel.

This feeling is telling me Oliver is wrong. He is just a shell, a stepping-stone to be who I am. Who am I? The air stops and a new pressing tightness begins in my chest.

~o~O~o~

Chocking I roll onto my side to spit up the water trapped in my throat. Standing over me is a faculty member I remember seeing around but never spoke with. He gives me a tense smile. “Don’t try to move too much, just let yourself catch your breath.”

Looking up into his eyes I speak my mind while taking deep breaths trying to catch my breath. “I’m… sorry.” That is the last thing I remember.

~o~O~o~

Waking up in medical I sense a presence beside me. Slowly turning my head I see the caring face of Sarah with a relieved Stacy behind and off to the side. Sarah jumps out of her seat and grabs my forearm tightly. “I thought I lost you.” Sensing we need some space Stacy wanders a little further away so we can talk but close enough that she can be there quickly.

Feeling bad for what I was about to say I spoke the truth. “You did for a moment.” We both hold each other’s gaze. “I’m sorry.”

Biting her lip she tries to think what to say before failing and wrapping me in an awkward hug. Despite how uncomfortable the hug is, we both relax into each other holding on like we will never let go. During the hug she finally figures out what she wants to say. “I won’t pressure you to open up anymore, just know that I will always be here for you. No matter how long or what path you decide to take in life, I will be there backing you up every step of the way.”

Closing my eyes I pull her even closer, “thank you.”

As we pull apart, Stacy walks closer. “I just about died when I received Jen’s text. Promise me you will come to me or Sarah if you feel low. Even if you can’t talk about it, let us be there for you. We’re friends, we’ve shared so much together, and I can’t bear the thought of losing you.”

Apologizing again, I get an overwhelming urge to say something to Stacy. I don’t know why but I feel like I have to. “We have been through so much together, but in a lot of ways Stacy you are a role model to me; even more so now.”

The combination of my tone and my significant look sinks through to Stacy and she smiles. “I was wondering when you would finally figure it out.”

Sarah gets a very confused look, “Figure what out?”

Feeling bad for doing this to Sarah but unwilling to pass up the opportunity I sarcastically remark, “Sorry, some of us can’t see the future like you, Stacy.”

Sarah look flabbergasted, “Can one of you please tell me what’s going on!”

Stacy and I break into giggles and before long Sarah joins in still having no clue what just happened.

Jen Several Months later:

Looking at my log of appointments today I see Olivia’s and Sarah’s names. Sighing I wonder if the battle of minds between Olivia and myself is finally over.

<20minutes later>

“Good morning Sarah and Olivia. Glad to see the two of you today.”

Sarah is the first to respond, “Hi Jen!”

Olivia responds in her less than enthusiastic voice, “Good morning Jen.”

Getting a nudge from Sarah after they both sit in on the couch Olivia continues. “Sorry, I’m just not feeling up for our sparring today.”

Grinning wickedly I try to turn her frown upside down. “And here I was looking forward to the challenge.”

Olivia gives me an indulgent grin while Sarah can’t help but giggle. “So why don’t we start out with the usual question. How are you two dealing with being away from your families?” Sarah jumps right in like I knew she would.

“I miss them lots but now that Olivia and I are getting closer it doesn’t bother me as much.”

Olivia gives Sarah a lopsided grin. Interesting, she actually is trying to initiate a close relationship and wants it to succeed. “Well, that is good to hear. I’m glad Olivia has helped, that is one of the reasons for study partners; to be your best friend, confidant, and your other half.” Olivia blushes at that last part, obviously seeing the ulterior meaning of my words, Sarah just smiles taking them at face value. Realizing I only have received one answer I give a little push. “How about you Olivia, any regrets about coming because of your family situation?”

Her demeanor instantly changes from the quiet and shy girl to a withdrawn mastermind. Her old expression I recognize as being Oliver’s mentally alert and prepared comes to the forefront. “I miss them a bit, but seem to be getting along alright.” Opening my mouth to speak, I see Sarah move her hand to Olivia’s. Pausing to see what happens, a miracle occurs. The moment Sarah’s hand made contact with Olivia’s, Olivia went rigid for a split second and then seemed to relax out of the Oliver face. With an encouraging smile from Sarah, Olivia sighs. “No, that’s a lie. Everything is going alright, better in fact. I’m glad to be away from my family.”

The surprise on Sarah’s face doesn’t go unnoticed to me or Olivia. Olivia pauses, and then with another squeeze from Sarah’s hand continues. “I’m sure you know why Jen, but I haven’t told Sarah yet.” Both of them turn their bodies towards each other making it easier to keep eye contact. Taking several deep breaths she begins.

“When I was a little kid I thought my parents were the best parents around, but when I started seeing kids interact with their parents I noticed something missing. My parents did what was expected of them as parents, nothing more. So one day I asked my mom whether or not she was glad she had a kid. She told me she regretted having me. I hadn’t done anything wrong, I never bullied anyone, I got decent grades, I wasn’t too expensive, I didn’t argue with them at all.” Olivia’s body started to fold in on itself, trying to protect herself. Sarah scoots over and puts her arm around Olivia’s waist, interesting.

With a look between them Olivia continues. “I felt like my world was falling apart so I tried desperately for them to be proud to call me their…” She catches on the word. Almost like she knows what she wants to say but that’s not the right thing to say for the story. Shaking away the thought she pushes on, “So I joined the hardest lessons, became physically active, and tried to be the model… son they always wanted. Things changed after that. Instead of doing what was expected of them as parents, I suddenly had total freedom for myself. I guess in their minds I suddenly became self-sufficient because I stopped being lazy. The only issue was, suddenly I saw the world as a simple puzzle. Be what people want you to be and your problems are solved. But the problem wasn’t solved; I just didn’t have to see them every day so I wasn’t forced to see what was missing. On the bright side, if I hadn’t taken those harder classes I probably wouldn’t be here.”

Sarah gives Olivia a sad smile and pulls her into a hug. The next part of their conversation almost left me speechless. Whispering just loud enough that I can hear I hear Sarah say, “Thank you for trusting me, I love you.”

Afraid that Sarah has pushed Olivia too far I brace for the inevitable recoil from hearing the word love. But the recoil never comes, instead Olivia pulls Sarah even closer to her in the hug. I can’t make out the words that Olivia says but I can guess because I have never seen Sarah’s smile so wide, interesting.



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