I Can't Breathe.

I Can’t Breathe.

My alarm goes off at 5:40 AM and I’m up and rolling out of bed with a groan that I actually stifle and I head to the bathroom to use it and then clean up and brush my teeth. I look in the mirror and I frown.

I look as tired as I feel and it’s just getting started too…

I go downstairs and dodge the cat and see dad is up too and he’s making tea or has it made and there’s toast he’s making now or for right now since it’s only kind of sort of something to get things going.

Black tea and homemade bread toast and slathered with whatever we like on it. Me first thing I want protein so its peanut butter and I get two slices and I pull on my t-shirt and track pants and shove my feet into the big green rubber boots and head out.

Out back from the porch and around the garage and into the barn and I let out the goats and they’re bleating and yelling and being obnoxious except for Mable who just comes over and rests her head on the stall and looks at me and every time I look at her she flaps her ears.

She the like old nanny-goat and she doesn’t bleat but she just sits there and sort of looks adorable until she gets the crust of my peanut buttered toast.

And as much as I live on a small sort of family farm and I’m used to killing to eat and all the stuff I’m glad that they’re just milking goats.

I grab some seed and I toss it into the coop yard and let the chickens out and I toss out some more and some of the crushed oyster shell Gramps has and then I get some hay for Jeanie and Gert our two cows and some feed and the feed goes into the feed box at the head of their stalls and I stuff the hay in tight over it and when they come to eat I close the milking stocks and they’re too engrossed in breakfast to care and I clean out their regular stalls.

My sister Terri comes in with her buckets with Grams and they set to milking and I go and get the eggs while the chickens are out and then while the eggs are gone I give the coop itself a good scraping and a brushing…we have an old bristle broom for that in here and then I toss in some dustpan shovels of stove ashes. That’s one of Gramps’s other thinks as it cuts down on the smells and then there’s a some dustpan shovelfuls of sawdust and wood shavings from the local mill and our own woodpile and by the time I’m done that I get the eggs and take the milk into the house.

I give that to Dad because he’s there and he does all the stuff we do with the milk to clean it and then to like start to separate it and all of that and I head outside and I go and get the firewood for the day.

It’s not like we don’t have other things but we have a lot of property and we have a lot of wood and my grandparents are of that generation that still uses the wood stoves to heat the house….and it’s our house too until the weather warms up that we only need it occasionally and the garage.

I like wood heat and the smells sometimes but it’s dirty and by the time you cut the tree down and take the ashes out you’ve handled each piece nine times ten if you have to split kindling.

And then it’s time to get a bath and some breakfast and to get ready to school. Dad’s made Steak and Bits with more toast.

Steak and Bits is just that it’s a really little bit of ground beef in the cast iron skillet and then there’s usually a bit of steak or deer meat and then maybe some liver or even leftovers but it’s meat bits fried to deep brown doneness and then he adds lots of pepper to it and he adds milk with some flour and scapes the heck out of the bottom of the pan and it makes gravy and little bits.

And you pour it on toast and it’s hot and kinda good…I mean I like it most of the time but it’s just something we have a lot of the time so it’s kind of sort of okay.

And there’s oatmeal, there’s always oatmeal.

Dad’s kind of a snob with that from like eating it so much and there’s steel cut oats toasted in salted butter and then it’s milk in the oats and not on them and he like fork whips them.

Maybe a bit of cream and some brown sugar.

I actually like mine like gramps and that’s with some applesauce in the bottom of the bowl and then the brown sugar and then the oatmeal and I nuke it about forty seconds just to warm the oatmeal but then I dip the spoon in deep and bring everything up in each bite.

Today’s a two more slices of toast and another mug of tea and oatmeal kind of morning.

Grab my books and my lunch and my computer bag and my MP-3 player and jacket and head out to wait for the bus.

It’s 7:45 now and I’m sort of tire already.

Not like drug out tired but still tired.

Terri’s almost late coming out for the bus with all her stuff and having just got her face done and ready and stuff and her hair and honestly she looks okay but frazzled still and she spends the rest of her time in her mirror trying to fine tune what she’s already done.

I don’t get it but I do.

There’s standards to be met in high school if you not just want to be popular but to not be like the whipping kid.

Now our folks will buy the basics, we get our school stuff we both have a cheap laptop because Dad got a deal from some friend and he bought all of us in the house one out of his income tax rebate.

We get sneakers that are not top of the line but they’re okay for regular stuff and we have lots to eat and we have cable and internet even though we still burn wood heat and have a small house and everything.

But anything really special like top line jeans or special make-up and expensive shoes and all of that we have to wait for a birthday or a holiday and hope or we have to buy them for ourselves which means work and jobs.

We don’t get an allowance per-se either we get money if we work extra hard or get a good grade. An A is worth two bucks in this house unless it’s on a term paper or an exam and then it’s worth twenty.

And it’s still us getting a job or jobs to but stuff.

During winter time I make money shoveling snow with some of the other kids, sort of friends mostly just cousins and every big snow we head to town and we clean out all of the stuff that doesn’t get done by those guys with the tractors and stuff like the sidewalks or the walking stones that lead to garages and walkways and often for the oil man to come and refill and garbage boxes too.

And honestly it’s not a lot of money, it’s mostly women with little kids and iffy guys around and it’s a whole lot of seniors but it’s usually lots of cookies, coffee and hot chocolate and really unless it’s a big job it’s usually ten bucks between five of us and then there’s the ones that you just get the feeling that it’s too much if we have a lot of winter snows and we just sort of say it’s alright.

Or for me. “You settle up with Grams or Gramps.” Which is about the same thing really only sometimes I think it’s favors.

Then there’s summers and all that comes with it like mowing lawns and helping with some gardens and things and then there’s all the farm other stuff like strawberry season and then picking veg in a few places that have big harvests like Tulley’s Farms where they have literal fields of peas and bean and then cucumbers and corn and then it’s fall and that’s potatoes and all the harvest stuff.

And all the stuff at home on top of all of that…

So no time and a lot of work to get stuff that you want or even sort of need.

And there’s this whole other crowd that just doesn’t have to.

They get to go off on vacations or get summer jobs at the lake because their family knows whoever and stuff. You know that whole cash crowd looking out for the cash crowd.

I know I sound jealous and I kind of am in some ways it’s just life and life sometimes for some people seems a lot more “roomy” than mine.

I mean to sort of keep just sort of kind of in the middle it takes cash. Me I have a suede jacket and I have a leather jacket and I have some sports jerseys and some band t-shirts and some of the stuff from T-Shirt Hell and I have a guitar, well Ai have two guitars one’s an old acoustic that was a present and the other one’s an Epiphany Sunburst that my folks went half on with the amp for Christmas one year.

With my long hair and old jeans I’m sort of the rocker guy at school and I try to actually use that to kind of stay “Aloof” well it’s sort of more out of things but I have a label that I got from my rock shirts at first and my MP-3 and I sort of stuck with it.

Y’know not really a target.

And that was sort of breathing room at school.

I’m not really a snob type or the whole loner either I mean I get on the bus and I take my seat which is my seat all by myself and it’s by Tanner Stone and Danny Reid two of my friends and I take an ear bud out and listen to the two of them talking about working and getting their cars and fixing them out over the summer.

Tanner’s looking to get on a fishing boat and making money and Danny’s getting a job at the big local truck stop pumping gas and we’re turning sixteen which means real jobs and money with like real paychecks instead of cash in hand.

Real jobs means real cash and that means cars and cars means some more cool points next year because if you don’t have a car then you can’t really go anywhere except in town and honestly there’s not a whole lot to do or places to hang out and cars mean dates because all of the girls in town don’t really want to hang out in Shale Harbor.

Yeah that’s our town and we’re not too big really on the south shore of Nova Scotia and getting out of town and to the actual town’s sort of a big deal.

Let’s see we have a corner store with DVD’s and games, there’s a Tim Horton’s and an Independent burger and chips place and we have a Pizza Delight and there’s a Subway at the truck stop as part of the Irving station-store that’s there and well we have stuff like a Co-op and an IGA and there’s like other stores and there’s a Legion and there’s The Luck Star tavern that’s sort of out of town and is sort of the place to get into trouble and fights I guess but that’s it…not really any place to date or to do things.

So when we do sort of got to go someplace we usually go to Yarmouth for like actual dates and things and that’s almost an hour’s drive one way.

I’m nowhere near getting a car, I’m nowhere near getting a job right now like they are or not yet.

It’s kind of something I need to do really.

Danny takes his tablet out and he’s got a picture save from The Auto-Trader and it’s a 87 Mustang and he’s kind of into it and we’re talking about it pretty much through the bus ride into school.

Terri’s with her friends and they’re all doing the talking about whatever seems to be the thing right now and that’s Drake?

I think he’s a rapper but I don’t think that they’re talking about his music and then I hear stuff like girl brand stuff and that was kept going all the way off the bus and to the girls bathroom where I’m sure that they’re all going to adjust their clothes.

Oh that’s definitely a thing here.

Not too many of the girls just come to school and stay as is, at least the make-up will change and stuff but sometimes the clothes and it’s the thing here.

I’m not going to complain either since well one it’s Terri’s life and her friends and two a lot of the girls look pretty good after that whole morning reprep thing.

I actually sort of get along with my sister she’s a year older but she had like a bad accident on her bike when she was nine and lost a year of school so we’re in the same grade and all.

We’re not friends really either since we just are kind of really different people and she’s… well for when she’s not doing her chores and stuff home she’s really kind of girly and we just sort of keep to ourselves.

Not avoiding each other but I don’t think she cares for some of the same things that I like and she’s definitely not so much or as much into music with her into hip hop and that kind of stuff and I’m more into rock and stuff.

But her room’s full of assault on the senses cute stuff.

And me I have posters and some girls on some of the posters and other stuff like comic stuff. No not a comic geek but I know some from friends and I’ve a couple of boxes of stuff that I bought but like most of its random and stuff.

And Terri has some guys that I’ve never hear of and she has some poster for some movies and the rest is sort of some cutesy stuff. Lots of stuffies and she still sort of has her dolls and things some of them I think she’s like keeping for like when she has kids maybe but she has a lot of just stuff, and stuff that hangs off of stuff like gauze scarves and the like it’s just kind of bewildering really to me.

So we’re pretty different people really when it comes down to it.

But…

And it’s weirdish that I know this but sometimes Terri has really, really bad periods. Like in that curled up and I can hear her whimpering through the wall kind of stuff. It’s not all the time but it’s enough.

Enough that I cut her some slack and do her chores and will go and do runs to the store for her.

So we’re still kind of close.

We’re siblings so it’s like weird and complicated right?

And school is pretty much school.

Math and English in this horrible attempt to hurt your brain first thing in the morning and then stupefy you before you have morning break. It’s not like I’m not oaky at either I’m a solid B student when it comes to Math and English.

Math is boring and it really is a chore to be motivated and English I’m okay with but grammar and all of that stuff is just…and I’m not a big poetry person. I get more out of English and poets when I watched some online class once and the teacher/prof told us about the author and what was going on in the world and stuff.

It’s actually a lot better with context.

And that leads to morning break when I run into something that I serious dislike.

Randy Scott.

He’s a bully and he’s a jackass and while not one of the really rich kids his dad’s got two boats so he’s always has cash but he’s always for lack of a better term been a dick. He was a hockey player and was cut from the team for fighting and not the kind on the ice.

And he’s got Anne Cole sort of cornered into a corner of the lockers near her locker.

Randy… “You got some nerve Anne, after everything that I did for you.”

Anne… “Randy back off, I don’t care how much it was I…I don’t like you that way.”

Randy… “But I spent all that cash so you better pay up y’know like one way or another you owe me….”

He was going to say more but my hand grabbed the back of his jacket and my foot went to the back of his knee and I yanked.

When someone does that you usually fall over.

I wasn’t really caring if he hit the floor hard of not.

Anne looks at me and I say. “Go on Anne, Randy won’t bother you again.”

She gives me a thankful look and runs away from us taking a few big sidesteps to get around Randy and he rolls to his feet and swings at me wildly and I jump out of the way and we’re facing off.

“This isn’t any of your business Rob.” Oh that’s me Robert King.

“Oh yeah I kind of think it is when you’re as big as you are and as much an asshole as you are and scaring a girl that like all of five feet tall.”

He spits and it’s a little red. “Cunt owes me, we went out and I like spent a hundred bucks on that date so she owes me.”

“How do you figure she went out with you and you’re an asshole, I’d consider that like hazard pay.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means you’re a jerk.”

He takes another swing with a growl and a grunt and he connects with my shoulder and it hurts some because he’s a big guy and he is pretty strong too but he doesn’t hit anything that’s going like really hurt me, plus I’m wearing my jacket so there’s that and I hit him back and I’m pretty strong but more than the strong I’m actually swing for his face trying to hit something there that can hurt.

Nose, lips, eyebrows the head’s a good area to hit according to dad. Lots of stuff to hit and hurt.

Randy steps back and then there’s Mr. Green the shop teacher between us and I back off and so does Randy. Mr. Green’s a big burly guy so it’d likely be really dumb to fight him…plus there’s like school gossip on the ones that did.

“What the hell’s going on here?”

Randy… “Rob jumped me.”

Me… “Randy was bulling a girl…again.”

That’s sort of all it took for him to look at Randy because yeah again and bullying is sort of a theme with him and he points at the hallway. “Randy go to the office I’ll be there soon.”

Randy… “But…but…”

Mr. Green… “No buts, Go!”

Randy leaves giving me a look that is pissed off and he’s holding his cheek.

Good I hope he has a good bruise, asshole.

Mr. Green looks at me. “Rob you should’ve came and got one of us.”

Me… “I didn’t have time and she was scared.”

Mr. Green… “Who?”

Me… “Anne Cole, Randy was saying she owed him after their date and had her there in the corner by her locker.” I point at where she was. “No one owes anyone sex for a friggin date and Randy was looking like he might try to lay hands on.”

Mr. Green… “You still should have gotten one of us or yelled or something you’ve done this before.”

Me…. “Sorry sir I just…I don’t like bullies.”

And that’s true really but it’s also to the point that I don’t like assholes. I don’t like bullies and assholes and I don’t like any combination of those things and with all the other stuff in my life I sometimes have a low tolerance for bullshit.

And he’s looking at me and then he’s taking out his phone and does that thumb texting stuff and then looks at me again.

“You Rob can take a trip to the guidance office and talk to Mrs. Davis.”

“Really? I mean c’mon I wasn’t in the wrong.”

“You go into a fight with Keith Brown before Christmas.”

I look at him. “Fine but it’s a serious waste of time.”

Keith’s fight and mine was a sort of a non-fight but it was a fight. Keith’s older than the rest of us because he failed two grades and he’s a bully. And it’s not just that he’s a bully it’s that he’s so self-centered and that comes from him being this really decent player on the pee wee hockey team and getting medals for it and a couple of trophies and it all sort of went to his head.

Anything he ever does to him deserves instant “You’re the man or awesome!” sort of comments or he pitches a fit that people don’t think he’s the shit and he has and will and does find someone to take that out on either physically or verbally and he’s even a shitty bully online.

And if he’s called out on being shitty he used to through pouting pity parties that got him sympathy from people like with the team and stuff. Basically sulking because people were tired of his bullshit and he hid behind being a player on the team.

He was in one of those moods because Alex Stone had moved back to town and was hogging all of the jock glory. Alex was elected captain of the hockey team over everyone else and he actually deserves it because he actually plays like crazy and he’s pretty good.

And Alex is well built, good looking, nice grades and his parents have cash too with them owning one of the local docks and fish markets and they got even richer since they started that whole shipping stuff out by crate orders and stuff like crab or lobster and anything else out to places in the states or like Ontario and stuff.

Keith hated that Alex was popular and Alex actually didn’t really lord it over people. He was like one of the tops dogs in school and he knew it and it’s like he didn’t really care enough to be an asshole.

But with Keith you could see it killing him that Alex was everything he wasn’t.

And didn’t do that self-high five stuff trying to make himself be all that.

And Keith’s an effing coward to so he’d never get into it with anyone on the team because he might look bad or something so instead he picked on Billy Adams who had been really excited about going to some convention for the sci-fi and comic stuff in Halifax and had this brochure and was geeking out with the other D&D kids when Keith snatched it away from his hands and started reading it and began to make fun of Billy and his friends.

“Geeks, losers… going to go and play dress up….what are you one of those furries?…are you going to dress up and dry hump people?”

And it kind of went on and on and well there’s always the on edge of asshole kids that’d not jump in so much but sort of snicker along with Keith and when he started in on Billy and them and how all of that stuff is useless in the real world and how they’re nothing but losers for being into “This crap” I’d heard him for way too long and the way that he was sort of not getting called out of it so I shook a can of pop and opened it in his face and we got into a fight.

Keith talked a big game too but off his skates and not playing a game he was a heavy, big loudmouth and I didn’t really care too much about the hockey him being with them didn’t matter.

So we fought and it was the running of the bulls more or less until the teachers showed up.

And the hockey team which is another reason why I kind of like Alex somewhat because he didn’t stand up for Keith, not when he seen the state Billy’s brochure was in and he gave Keith enough of a talking to the asshole quit in one of his biggest fits ever and left the team.

But he’s still in school and he’s still a pain in the ass.

Sullen and moody and still thinks he’s the shit.

But I generally try not to get too close to his bullshit.

But two fights in a year.

Around here they’re not going to cut me any slack over that.

And so I’m off to the Guidance office.

Smartly a year or two ago they moved it down the hall from the actually school office because of people that were headed to see the principal were often in sort of this whole whatever that had them sometimes at odds with people going to see Mrs. Davis and sometimes that would just lead to round two of whatever had happened.

Which was okay since I didn’t really want to get jumped by Randy.

Randy’s one of those kind of jump you people and one of his favorite things to do was to “Bag-tag” people.

That’s a shot to the balls from behind.

Yeah school can seriously suck ass sometimes when shit like that gets laughed at or downplayed by some people.

I make my way down to the guidance office and it’s just…I don’t really want to be here and I don’t want this to get back home because Mom will give me tons of hell for it and Dad will sort of kind of go along.

He really doesn’t have any more tolerance for bullies and jerks than I do and I know he’d be okay with why.

Actually for this mom might too.

I knock on the door and she answers like she was expecting me which she was of course.

“Robert come on in.”

“It’s just Rob.”

“Okay then.”

I take a seat and I’ll give her this it’s not the cheapo chairs with the kind of carpet like upholstery but these faux leather chairs but they’re soft and their deep and her office is much more like a sort of shrinks place or what I imagine a real one would like look like.

She sits down and I can’t help but to notice the whole thing.

She’s like older, like almost forty but she’s a good looking woman and she doesn’t exactly dress like a teacher either.

Brown sweater and a dark charcoal skirt and tights and nice shoes and just a little jewelry and make-up and a haircut that I have seen a lot of women have that sort of even like fall or whatever on either side of her face and she’s still…well it’s very, very easy to appreciate what’s going on under the sweater.

“You and Randy mixed it up I heard.”

“He was being an ass and a bully.”

“I know and he’ll likely be in serious trouble with that, but that’s not the issue here.”

I look at her. “Okay then what’s the issue?”

“You, why did you go for the fight instead of the teachers.”

“I didn’t have time.”

“Okay…that might be the case but you should have called for one of us.”

“I was handling it.”

“Exactly but why?”

“Because I was there.”

“You’re being pretty defensive Rob.”

“I feel like I’m being grilled.”

“I think you’re kind of angry.”

I shrug.

“Why?”

“Because it never changes.”

“What doesn’t?”

“Anything….this them my life I feel like I’m on repeat.”

“And that frustrates you?”

“Hell yes, it’s just the same thing in and out and all the same, work here, work home, work at work when I find a job but like it’s still going to be the same thing there as it is here. I’ll be working and there’ll be the other kids that don’t.”

“That don’t work, there’s lots of kids that don’t work.”

“What I mean is there’s all of these people that it’s like there’s this whole other set of like rules for and even if you see them working they’re not really working…they’re like working at the tourist bureau or like as a life guard or all this other stuff that’s like all reserved for them and like not the rest of us.”

“So you’re mad that there’s kids better off than you.”

“Yeah actually, and it’s not the money thing either.”

“Then what is it?”

“It’s the fact that they have time.”

“Time?”

“Time, time to do what they want to do. Time to like just do whatever, time to actually be themselves.”

“And you don’t have this kind of time?”

“What time did you get up this morning?”

That actually has her blinking. “Twenty to seven or so why?”

“Quarter to six here and that’s without it being winter, or having anything to do but like the really basic stuff and then I’ll have other stuff to do when I get home and then clean up after that and then there’s homework. I have no time.”

“I see.”

“Really?”

“I think so.”

“If I get a summer job it’ll be that and maybe even less time and it’ll likely pay a whole lot less that those kids and it’ll still be another summer that’s not a summer.”

She’s nodding and she’s chewing her pen’s tip which isn’t very likely good for her make-up and stuff but it sort of makes me like her a little more.”

“Okay, so…what if I could get you into s summer job program.”

“Like what?”

“There’s actually several and there’s some that are actually out of province.”

“Out of province?”

Oh…oh that sounds good. It sounds like it’s not here and that it’s away from everyone and everything.

“Yes, and actually….here…” She passes me this softcover booklet and there’s all these things in it.

“Okay…?”

“Most of them are in here it’s a staff copy but there’s applications inside and there’s their website things there too and there’s applications for things on some of those sites so you can check that out if you want.”

“Okay, yeah I kind of want…but my folks?”

“I think it’ll do you good for you to get some space and to have an experience away from here doing some other things that will lend well to getting into university.”

Okay that’s going to be the clincher there. Both of my folks really, really want Terri and me to go to college.

“Alright, thanks.”

“One condition.”

“No more fighting?”

She nods. “No more fighting. You’re on thin ice and if it happens again it’ll likely head down the hall and you might get suspended and that won’t look good on admission records.”

I sigh. “Okay deal.”

We actually even shake on it and I think she did that on purpose.

Canny woman.

I take the booklet and I head out after she gives me a slip for being late.

***CHAPTER 2…

Classes were just like classes after that and I didn’t miss much in World History & Current Events or as Dad calls it Social Studies because that’s what it was like back in the old days and then there was Information Technologies class which is like all to do with computers except like the programming stuff and then it’s lunch.

I’m getting a few looks and there’s some of the whole there was a fight stuff and I didn’t mean for it to be a thing but it became a thing with that whole bit between Randy and me and that’s just sort of the way that it goes sometimes.

But there’s some girls that kind of sort of give me a sort of smile thing as I get my lunch and computer and find my usual spot in the cafeteria.

Anne smiled at me a little.

And that’s like cool but it’s also them not really coming up and talking to me too much because as much as I did that whole thing with Randy I’m one a sort of angry guy I think they think and that’s not a thing for most girls around here like it is in some places with like the whole bad boys.

I’m not really a bad boy.

But the other reason they’re not really coming over and stuff is that here girls don’t not unless the guys is like hot as the sun and really popular and even then it’s rare.

It also doesn’t help that I have no car and that my family doesn’t really have like cash either. These are big things for a lot of the girls here…it sucks hard but it’s true…though the car thing is the real deciding thing because we’re that age when having wheels and getting out of here is like important.

But it’s like still there….that difference between some of us and the rest of us.

So I head to my spot like I said and take out my lunch and my laptop.

No it’s not in the corner but it’s off to the side and up against the wall sort of with like most of the tables in the cafeteria actually fold down from the wall like benches and stuff so there’s this sort of perfect sweet spot on all of them and it becomes sort of sought after unless you’re at the table of the last supper.

That’s the cool kids table and it’s still a bench type but it folds in half and on that side of the cafeteria it’s those tables and they’re still like sort of big plastic long picnic tables sort of but the table of the last supper is closest to the wall on the other side and it’s closest to the vending machines and the canteen and the payphone… not that people use the payphone anymore but sometimes your phone will die and it’s prime real estate.

And then all the closest tables there are sort of like the pecking order all except for the very last table in the middle of the place pretty much and that’s like the common table where there’s like the bake sales stuff or club sign up things and just about anything for whoever.

But my spot has my friends sitting with me and kind of friends that sort of hang with us in school sometimes and we’re kind of the working class table and not quite in the bottom ranks of things and yet we’re not in no man’s land across from us and we’re not in geek corner where then comic kids and the gamers are at.

I’ve got my end space with the wall socket plug in because I’m the angry guy…well sort of it’s just like if there was a sort of pecking order…and there isn’t I’m sort of there.

It’s high school so…go figure.

But I’m not an asshole so I will share the plug in for people that’ll need it and stuff too.

I’m eating lunch and looking through the book and I’m actually typing out the addresses into a doc that I can just go to the list when I want it and copy and paste the links to my Google and check them out from there.

I have a decent lunch actually. Cold shredded leftover roast beef and some diced up onion and whole grain mustard mixed with mayonnaise on homemade bread and some lettuce.

And I have a few baby dills in a Tupperware dish with some raw green beans and carrot wedges and a little dish of gram’s homemade goat cheese.

Yeah some people might like turn their noses up but it’s actually good and it’s the next best thing for like dipping than cream cheese and it’s got like chives in it and salt and lots of black pepper.

And one of the best things about homemade bread is that I have the crusts… which I like use to dip in the cheese.

Terri’s got like the same thing pretty much but she’s got less of a sandwich and more of a salad with some of the leftover roast beef in it and more veggies for dipping.

I’m not going to complain about the food home…we have a garden and it’s a pretty big one and Gram’s and Gramps keep it going and we’ve all sorts of stuff that my friends and even some of the kids I grew up in my neck of the woods don’t have.

Sliced bread’s okay but at the same time it’s like too light and floofy.

Anyways…

Yeah so I’m kind of half listening to the guys who are talking about old cartoons that really should be like remade over and with like new voices.

Okay I’m not all that looking for laughs at the moment but when Jason Chapman goes off about since John Goodman played Fred Flintstone that he should revoice him but to really do it justice to the new aesthetic the bowling scenes should be like all Big Lebowski like.

And I actually kind of sort of think that makes a screwy sort of funny sense.

Then again Jason says if he dies and he doesn’t “Go-Ghost” he’ll be utterly let down.

That’s from an old cartoon called Danny Phantom.

But I’m still kind of mono-focused in the stuff that she’s given me in the book and it doesn’t take too long to like get the links of the ones that I can apply to. There’s a lot of stuff in the books but there’s a lot of them that are like special requirements or like for like the kids in the special education classes or the ones that are for the disabled kids and stuff.

And those ones you have to be like eighteen and take like two weeks of training before they’ll hire you.

Another one needs Level One Canadian Coaching Course.

Another one needs a completed course in ASL…I had to look that up to realize that it’s a kind of sign language.

Bonus is that now I know a few free ASL sites and pages and that there’s more than one kind of signing in the world.

Another one needs Grade Twelve French.

But there are some that I am looking at and are more open and accommodating for like what they want or let in for like requirements and things.

But it’s still kind of frustrating really.

It doesn’t take too long to burn through lunch hour and then it’s off to registration and then to classes and I have a light afternoon with Shop and then Gym.

Shop’s last of the term and it’s all just projects and finishing up projects and it’s like woodshop for me.

I’m doing lobster pot stave benches.

That’s like those old school wooden lobster traps well they were made of one and a quarter inch straps or slats and that’s actually a sort of a pretty thing when you get all nice new wood cut and sanded and then you get them all fastened to a frame for a bench.

In my case I’m using two large two by twelves bolted and fitted together and then cut out for like four parts of the bench. There’s this leg like pattern and then the side of the back of the bench and then there’s the seat and the back which are two by fours.

Then it’s just getting the slats on with screws and then I copper drop the screws which is a bit of copper based solder on the screws and that seals them in more and there’s a lot of sanding and then there’s staining and I go with this tanned umber that’s a really light sort of brown and it’s a good weather seal of a stain and then once that’s like all set it’s sanding to rough it and five coats of weather sealer.

I’m actually good with my hands and this bench here’s actually going out in the front yard of Grams house in her little sort of side yard and kind of like garden spot.

It’s a nice spot too.

Gramps planted like a whole bunch of spruce trees to like edge their property ages ago and now they’re all grown together like a fence in this sort of an l shape with the part facing the road and the property line and inside of all of that Grams has like a rose hedge and then like two nice cedar trees and then she has her lilacs and lupins and then snowball bushes getting close to the house.

I want to put this out between her two cedar trees I think.

We always do these semi big projects at the end of the year in shop and they sort of get bigger as you go through the grades. Now when I get to the twelfth grade we usually do stuff for the school or for the community like all year long. One of the big things is always a wheelchair ramp because there’s like never enough of those and then there’s like building or fixing things down at the shore or like the grad class this year is working on a whole jungle gym sort of thing for the park in town.

And I guess it’s good for the town and good for like resumes too.

Plus like dad had a good point and I’ve actually noticed. “When you guys build something it tends not to get broke up that quick by the yahoos.”

So shop was shop and that was like fine and then there was Gym.

Gym they try to slot last because it’s a lot better if you’re sweaty and stuff and not in class all day. And yeah we have showers but we really rarely use them because of some rule or another.

Likely a perv issue or like someone catching something off of something or like a slip and fall issue.

And it’s nice out and we’re always going outside when it’s nice and of course it’s softball.

Which I don’t mind actually myself and it sort of levels the field with some of the jock types as Hockey and Basketball rule here followed by Track and Wrestling so it’s not a sport anyone’s like overly good at.

Okay yeah the Basketballers can run well and jocks are jocks but it’s a really neutral sort of game and we’re playing mixed which is like fine by like all of us guys.

The thing is you have two types of girls in tenth grade gym.

See it’s when you start taking classes and picking them so you have the girls that are good at sports and they have these athletic bodies and there a whole range of those and then you have the girls that are here for the easy credit and those girls.

Well I’m happily watching Jenny and Becky Brown a set of twins running bases and they’re not too bright really, they’re not stupid but they’re both very whatever and all of that.

And they’re here for the credit.

But watching both of them with their really, really big breasts run and bounce and do that side to side thing is just.

Well it’s just all kinds of nice.

And actually they’re nice girls too, they’re kind of too laid back to be like all “Great looking and they know it.”

Nope that’d be Susan Wilson and she’s a Basketball player but only so much as she really seems to be playing for the kind of sort of glory. Not that we’re really that good but she’s on the team and they’re all kind of the elite hot girl-jocks and most of them know it.

Seriously…if we had a team based on actual talent than popularity we’d do a lot better.

But the girls Basketball team here is I would guess what a lot of the cheerleaders would be in like a big city kind of school and everything.

It’s an okay to iffy way to kill the last class of the day.

And then it’s go home and more chores and doing clean up and getting some more wood and then there’s dishes to do…which…we have the rules of whoever cooks doesn’t do clean up and well Terri and I are never home to cook really so we end up doing the dishes.

Which by that time it’s like six at night and we get cleaned up and shower and stuff and then it’s to settle down and relax…or sort of relax as there’s homework to do.

So really it’s nine thirty by the time I’m all done that and I have a chance to get online and do some more looking and surfing these places and stuff.

I have a few responses already saying that they’re already full up.

Which sucks.

Which really just…it’s frustrating and it’s just.

Did I mention it’s nine-thirty at night before I have any kind of time for me?

And effing quarter to six comes early.

Mad…yes I’m mad and I’m frustrated too as it just sort of looks like I’m going to be stuck here doing the same old things over and over or getting a job that’ll very likely have me choking on the bullshit of all those kids that seem to have the good jobs handed to them.

I swear…I swear if I have to take orders from one of them and be the only one doing stuff while they talk on the phone or like just look like the smug little butts that they are I’ll stuff one of them in the closest garbage can.

Then I see one…

Moon Lake.

“Moon Lake in a trans forward LGBTQAI+++ camp that teaches transitional life skills and helps our kids to find inclusion while we teach real life skills and those intended for job placements.”

LGBTQAI+++…..?

I think that I know what most of that is.

But trans forward?

I end up looking up trans.

And there’s a lot, there’s a lot blocked by our internet filter too and I’m not sure that I want to know that stuff but the rest….well I’ve heard of it, but reading stuff and seeing more and more of it and what these kids are going through and living through.

And the Q…well it means Queer or Questioning apparently.

But I’ve never actually thought of myself as anything but straight.

I look it over again before going to their page and looking through stuff there and it seem like a nice place up in some place in Ontario with like a lake and a town nearby and everything.

I…I could do this but.

I send them an e-mail.

[I’m interested in coming to Moon Lake. It seems like quite the place to come to but I don’t know if I should apply? I’m not trans…and I’m not like gay…maybe bi but I’ve never had those feelings…questioning maybe…I just don’t want to take someone’s place.]

I actually get a reply back. [What’s the biggest reason that you want to come here?]

I think about it for a few minutes. [I can’t breathe.]

They type back. [Send in the application and I’ll get things moving.]

*** CHAPTER 3…

The whole thing is sort of exciting; I might just be getting out of here for the summer.

And all that stuff I read and researched sort of danced around in my head.

Trans…So me in girls clothes, me in make-up?

Me as a girl?

And not like the sexy dream stuff but this sort of nebulous stuff of going to school…meeting people, getting treated like I see girls get treated like.

It’s interesting…and strange. I have a hard time getting the guys sort of in my head or dreams at all.

The thought of guys as anything other than guys…like the guys that I know all the time.

But being sort of intriguing as a girl in the dream sort of felt nice.

I don’t know.

Flirty and sort of that mysterious sort of thing and there’s that whole new girl vibe that was sort of playing around in my dream and stuff that was very I don’t know it was kind of like really there.

And it was sort of confusing too waking up and everything.

It wasn’t like I was turned on but I was sort of kind of like that?

I definitely had that morning wood thing and while I sometimes do like get that y’know like most guys do I guess I’m very sure of what I dreamed last night and it wasn’t the usual stuff.

I get up and head out to do my chores and the usual stuff and it’s all sort of still playing around in my head as it’s taking turns with how tired I am of so much here.

I do honestly hate that I sound so spoiled and whiny about all of this.

I get there’s people off way worse, I get that there’s lots of people that are working and doing things just as hard all the time.

But it’s still grinding on me that I have no time.

Literally after chores and getting cleaned up again and grabbing breakfast it’s back outside and waiting for the bus and then it’s like off to school.

And all of that crud.

But I do watch my sister Terri some this morning.

I can’t help it.

The way that she does things and the way that she moves and dresses and it’s sort of this trying to get in her head and get why?

Kind of like I know that her top is matching her socks and that her shoes sort of go with her pants and her jacket looks like it goes with her hair and yet her shirt doesn’t and that stands out so it that a girl thing a her thing or is it a boob thing?

So… I try…and. “Uhm…nice shirt.”

She looks at me and then at her top. “Thanks it’s one I got at the Salvation Army.”

“It doesn’t go with the rest of the stuff.”

“It’s like not supposed to it’s a cool shirt so I like want it to stand out.”

“Oh…okay for like cool points?”

She shrugs. “Kind of.” Then she looks at me questioningly and almost in that girl sort of paranoid way. “Why?”

I shrug. “I don’t know curious more than anything I honestly don’t get a damned thing about girls sometimes and that like includes how you all dress and why.”

She looks at me. “Huh?”

“Well guys dress for like work or for like school and we mostly go for comfort and easy with like some stuff for like cool points and things but you girls seem to have a whole other thing.”

Terri looks at herself then at me. “Okay, well it’s like mood and then looking good too and that’s because well it’s like kind of like a skill…and there’s like well I don’t know there’s a lot of like stuff to it and things and sometimes it’s just easy or we want to like look pretty and…” she shrugs.

I just nod. I don’t get it but I sort of do? It’s like guys clothes just a different like narrative and stuff and just as like nebulous.

I look at her. “So you have like more clothes than guys and stuff generally so is that a lot like having a sort of like status and stuff when you can do so much with what you have and have so many looks more than or equal to like the other girls?”

She looks at me. “Yeah kinda like you guys and like your cool toys and stuff like tools and electronics stuff and DVD’s and all of that.”

“Huh…okay wow that helps.”

She’s looking at me with a little bit of a WTF look and they she shrugs and she’s checking her phone and I just put in my headphones and listen to some music until the bus comes.

And then it’s off to school.

And like I said it’s just.

School’s not work and it’s not the outside world really and it’s like okay and at the same time it’s resoundingly not.

Honestly school is a place where people are placed together that wouldn’t be together in the real world, not even in a work place situation really because there’s people I go to school with that honestly in my real opinion will never do anything like real work in their lives.

And the worst, the worst thing is that some of them know it.

Morning break was just…listening to Corey Miller talking about the job he’s got line up for Duck’s unlimited this summer and how much that’s going to pay and how “Cake” it’s going to be driving around and on boats and on four wheelers all summer.

And of course he’s with his friends that are like doing the same kinds of things.

Because heaven effing forbid that these places don’t hire the kids of friends or relatives and all these other little privileged little so and so’s.

And there’s this look right there on their faces when they’re talking it all up that you can read as plain as day that they know that they have it good and they like that they do and others don’t.

And then there’s that girl effect.

We’re in a small coastal town and things are seasonal here and they’re tight…it’s Nova Scotia and as bad as it is with these guys that are kind of the assholes there’s this whole girl version of it too and there’s this almost order of the same and those that aren’t the rich girls and stuff are looking for the guys that are doing really well here because it’s better than the regular local guys.

Honest to fuck if I was a girl I really would not give two shits about how much cash a guy or his family might have.

Huh…okay yeah well I just went there didn’t I?

And that actually had me thinking all through most of the rest of the day and that’s mostly looking at the girls around me and really thinking hard about what kind of lives they lead and what I actually like know about them and what that’d be like. What they’d be feeling and facing and how guys like Randy and Keith or just jerks in general would like affect their lives.

And I mean seriously like assholes and getting hit on and al the assumptions and all of the attention, especially the attention that you really don’t want and then there’s getting treated like you are looks alone…breasts and sway and butt and hair and all of this stuff that I know that I’ve judge girls on so much myself on the surface without like actually knowing them.

So who’d want that?

Who’d want to be trans?

And that bothers me all the rest of the day because I know that this transition stuff is like deadly serious for some folks.

The rest of the day actually just sort of goes by pretty decently and I’m kind of too into my own thoughts to have that usual aggravating suspects drive me to teeth grinding and even getting home it’s actually enough that I didn’t mind the after school drag and stuff and I cooked supper with Terri as Mom and Dad were both working.

We cook for us but we cook for them too as Dad will leave his work where he can set his own breaks by punching out and he’ll come and he’ll pick up supper and take it down to the fish plant to Mom and they’ll eat supper together.

And like while we’re at doing it like this it’s really just as easy as to like have Gramps and Grams over too and we made lasagna. Canned tomatoes in the sauce with tomato paste and some garlic powder because we don’t like too much of it or rather my family doesn’t and some diced onion and herbs from the garden. That’s just mostly like some oregano and a little rosemary. Then the meat which is ground deer meat and some beef but to like flavor it up and be all Italian sort of we have some of those hot Italian sausages from the grocery store and we pull it out of the casing and fry it all up.

The only thing we do differently than like the fancy ones is the fact we just use boxed noodles. We have greens here in the garden and we do some chard and beet leaves and mixes all of that with some of spinach and I think Terri added some frozen broccoli and slivered green beans too. We have cottage cheese that Grams makes all the time and the mozzarella’s just store bought too.

We make it as soon as we got home and then it went into the oven and then it was chores and homework.

I do notice Terri really eyes having a second piece.

And I know that girls put weight on differently, so what would that be like to have to do that too and think of all of that too?

I have a lot of questions by the time everything is done and I get to have some time by myself online after my bath.

My bath, no not everyone has a shower.

I shaved my armpits in the bath.

I went really carefully too since that’s really sensitive skin there and I used my shampoo but some of Terri and Mom’s conditioner and before I went to my room.

It feels odd, and sort of lighter and everything.

But I settle in with some music and I start to read and to research.

What trans is, how it works and more and more of like what it really is and from their POV and stuff.

Some of them have known from when they were really little, some of them have lived in the closet for so long they can’t deal with not being themselves, some are never able to come out and they’re in a lot of pain when I read stuff.

Not like fiction stories but like life stories and there’s so much.

It’s not a choice.

And for some it’s like almost…it’s almost like this huge key part of their life is like missing?

It’s like they knew when they were younger that they were a boy or a girl and then it’s like real life with all of its shit came and just hit them like big waves and tore that up like a riptide and…

Or it’s like…selective amnesia but not.

Like you know you’re a boy or a girl and then it’s like life happens and that part of that real you is replaced by this person that has to be because life and society and people say so and then by the time they’re coming to like grips with this there’s this huge amnesiac like section of their life that’s gone…taken…but the worst part, the worst part that I can actually see is for these people.

They know exactly what they’ve lost.

No wonder all of this is just so damned heartbreaking?

I head to bed after way too much heavy reading and I’m literally an hour just thinking of some of these people and some of their stories and I kind of just curled up and went to sleep with a pretty heavy heart.

*** CHAPTER THREE…

It was pretty iffy sleep.

With dreams of all of these really nice and cool sounding trans people and I was getting to meet them and at the same time I wasn’t able to help them.

Like seriously there’s so many kids that are trans and LGBTQIA+ out there literally without homes or places to stay or anything like that it’s just.

And that there’s all of these older trans people too with shit jobs and bad income and poor…just really like poor and that’s just.

It’s kind of actually heartbreaking.

And it makes me think just how, just how much of being trans and living through being trans and all of that takes so much energy from you just to live.

Just to survive instead of like thrive.

I’m a little more hardcore this morning doing the chores and stuff and helping out and I chop and carry some extra wood and stuff and fill the wood boxes really, really high and when I’m done I have my bath and almost, almost contemplate shaving something else.

Dad’s looking at me when I come out. “You okay?”

“Kind yes, kinda no I’ve been reading up on a lot of stuff and it’s pretty hard on the head.”

“Oh?”

“Have you ever heard of transgender people?”

“A little I have a trans cousin in Halifax that works out of one of the drag clubs.”

“Oh…no I don’t mean a drag queen or a crossdresser but like trans Dad.”

He nods. “Christine is my sixth cousin and she’s still in the changeover or whatever but she’s the real deal I know the difference.”

I blink for a minute. “Aunt Chris? Like Halifax Aunt Chris?”

Dad nods and he’s making lunches up with leftovers and some salads for us to take. “I know but I have to say the whole whatever they do to get to the change it’s really hit Christine’s grandmother’s side.”

“Oh?”

He does the boob gesture. And I nod, Aunt Christine is one of those distant aunts that you see like once in a blue moon and she’ll send the occasional bunch of stuff at Christmas and it’s usually pretty cool stuff like our X-box 360 came from her and a whole bunch of games some new but others that were like second hand from one of those game resale places.

Anyways the few times that I did see her she was stacked.

“So boobs run in her family?”

Dad nods. “I mean you sort of know it’s like something the family knows and it’s kind of a big deal but it’s not either since when you usually meat her she’s fun enough and nice enough that you usually forget.”

I sort of frown. “But I read that there’s this whole trans and drag thing where they like are sort of fighting so why’s she doing that?”

He shrugs and passes me my lunch. “I imagine it’s because of like her being trans and stuff and she’s like really out and that’s got too hard to get jobs. And I think she makes really good money there.”

“She does what though?”

“I think she MC’s and then bartends.”

“Oh..”

I look at Dad and he’s looking at me. “Is there anything that you want to tell me Rob?”

“No…no I don’t know I’ve just been thinking and all.”

He looks at me like he wants to ask questions and I don’t know where I’m even like going with this mentally and stuff so I take my lunch and I beat a retreat out into the driveway and wait for the bus.

There’s a lot going through my head as I’m waiting including the fact that I actually know a trans person.

And they’re sort of family, well they are it’s just like not there very often family.

“You’re not wearing my clothes Rob.”

I turn and look at Terri who’s looking at me.

“What!?”

“I heard you and dad and if you’re like into that you’re not wearing my clothes and you’re not wearing or using my make-up.”

“Uhm…I wasn’t planning on it.”

“Just saying.”

“Yeah I see that so like why even bring it up?”

“Because you’re not wearing my stuff it’s creepy.”

“Being trans isn’t creepy trans people are creepy.”

“I never said that trans people are creepy I said you wearing my things would be creepy.”

“Don’t sisters wear each other’s clothes?”

“Are you my sister?”

“No but why are you like so off put by this.”

“Because we live in a really small town Rob and stuff like this doesn’t like just follow you like forever it’ll follow me too and I really don’t want to have to explain you to like everyone and all the time plus all the flak I’d get from like assholes.”

“So guilty automatically then?”

“Well what the hell am I supposed to think when my brother is asking and talking about trans stuff with my dad? I mean c’mon are you really, really going to thing that I’m not going to think that all this doesn’t mean anything?”

“I think you have your head up your cunt and it’s cutting off the air to your brain!”

“Fuck you!” she yells at me.

“Now who’s into the kink?” I snarl back at her.

It was pretty much right then that the bus came in and it was one of those stare sibling hate at each other when we were even looking at each other things.

I’m hurt and I’m mad and I sort of feel.

Small.

And I’m really not getting exactly why really, maybe it’s because it’s the fact that IF…if I was trans this is the reaction that she’d have.

That feeling rides with me all the way to school and all day.

My friends are…well it’s a bunch of guys so really if there’s something going on and we’re not really showing it like with being or more to the fact of acting angry it’s really not something they ask you.

Which is kind of good since I don’t get it myself and it’s like nothing I can really say.

You don’t bring up being gay or being trans here.

Which has me brooding sort of all through lunch about that.

And it’s adding to this whole feeling, this whole feeling of being boxed in by my life.

And it’s like my feelings are as tossed up as waves.

And it’s like my life and these feelings are like undertow.

I know I got looks and I seen Terri shooting me looks at lunch that were sort of wondering and then they were sort of like accusing like and she seems like she was pissed at me.

I have study hall today in the afternoon which is a free period and I just go over town to the park that’s like a block from the school and close to town hall and I use their Wife while sitting at one of the picnic tables and I log into Moon Lake’s site and see a message.

[You’re in I got you a placement if you’re still interested and Questioning.]

I type back. [Very interested, and questioning even more than ever.]

I surf their stuff for a bit and look at the camp place and it’s like most camp places I guess except for the whole focus of it and there’s even stuff that they do as like jobs and stuff for the local town there like certain odd jobs and there’s stuff there for like small businesses they have like what looks like this lakeside take out stand and they have a laundromat that does the laundry for people and they have a fruit and vegetable stand too so we get to have like jobs and build work experience.

Which as I’m reading about is actually a really big deal when you’re LGBTQAI+ and people will sort of use the lack of experience against kids like me.

Like me.

The thought really hangs.

I type. [How do you know if you’re trans? I read things about dysphoria but I’ve never really wanted to put on dresses and make up and those kinds of things.]

I get a reply back pretty fast.

[Being trans doesn’t have to come with any set or said level of gender dysphoria, there’s all kinds of levels and there are all kinds of trans.]

[I though trans was guy to girl and girl to guy?]

[That’s binary gendering and there’s nothing wrong with that if that’s who you are but there’s a lot more that that when it really comes down to gender identity though it’s a hard topic with some people.]

[I don’t understand.]

[There’s all sorts of things that fit under the trans umbrella, all of this is really intersectional.]

[Huh?]

[Well take drag and take cross-dressing it’s two different things. Crossdressers are often straight and they’re often using it as an escape outlet from their lives or who they are for a while but there are some folks that crossdress that are trans only closeted because of the lives they live or they can’t transition for hundreds of different reasons.]

[How’s that different than drag?]

[Drag is part show, it’s one of those burlesque arts that is based on crossdressing but it has strong roots in the both the early trans community before transition really was a thing or a common thing and it sort of meets the theater people that have always been a haven for those that do not fit into society when they are very much just LGBTQAI+ people and this gives them a sense of community in its own right and very often it is a source of an outlet and of money in many cases.]

[Okay so I know that there’s drag-trans performers but I read that it’s like a bad thing too.]

[*sighs* The biggest and largest problem is there is a strong opposition to trans people being called tranny. The word is based in negative slang for transvestites and trans people in general and it’s sort of like using faggot in the gay community and using the N-word in colored communities. There’s a lot of actual trans folks that don’t like it used as slang because of that and the side social effects of the gay community.]

[Huh?]

[Okay a lot of trans people don’t like the word, the drag community has used the word for ages and that overlaps into the gay community as it has its own deep roots in the drag community. This is kind of like a big thing for some trans people that it’s a slur coming from the non-trans community. And then there’s the gay drag community that claims it’s their word and then there’s some trans people that think drag itself is debasing to trans people.]

[Ow my head that sounds really complicated.]

[It’s LGBTQAI+ society we’re still actually puzzling all of this out for ourselves because we really haven’t been allowed to have a community or be mainstream enough for us to all have our voices.]

[Okay that makes sense.]

[*Nod* good, I didn’t want to clobber you with this stuff too fast.]

[So can I ask where you come down on all of this?]

[Okay… As for the tranny word as long as it’s used inside the drag clubs and such I’m fine with it, I will have issue with being called that by anyone outside of that as I find it disrespectful to me and others. That being said I won’t speak for other peoples comfort level and will either ask them to not call me that or I will leave. As for crossdresser clothing is clothing and that’s not harming anyone and it’s actually breaking down the taboos of the so called normal. Drag well Drag to me is really and honestly in clubs and it’s not seen outside of those places or maybe in pride parades and floats so I don’t have a real problem with it as it’s a sheltering community where a lot of us have traditionally found homes.]

[Okay then I think I’m cool and sort of like that too. But I have read online that you need gender dysphoria to be trans.]

[No you don’t, you can know you’re trans and not get hit with what is the clinical and stereotypical versions of dysphoria. Some people just know some have to grow into who they’ll be, some people hide it even from themselves and some people know and that don’t have the dysphoria reactions because they’re just not built to have it?]

[But if you don’t feel out of place in your body then how do you know?]

[You know or learn it gender dysphoria is a symptom, it’s the most common reaction to being transgender but it’s only the defining one by a very gatekeeper based pysche community and a lot of old gender research.]

[Oh okay, so you just know?]

[Sometimes you do, sometimes you know it by knowing what you’re not or not just.]

[I’m lost again.]

[Okay think of it this way what if you’re not a girl, but really the only choice of man doesn’t fit either.]

[Okay, there are people like that?]

[There are a whole lot of people like that and recognition of them is just creeping out in the last two decades and stuff it’s actually pretty contentious too.]

[It is?]

[Oh yeah there’s this whole bunch of people and mostly in the fully transitioned and older generations that think that you just can’t be trans and that they’re basing all of that on the things that they had to go through to get that way and the new generations are not having to do that.]

[That sounds shitty…sorry….ooops.]

[It is it’s elitism and that should never be allowed to exist in our community because it’s this whole more trans that you are because of largely circumstance, circumstance that breeds elitism. There are trans people that will never get to transition that will never get out of the closet and they are still every bit as trans as someone that is transitioning.]

[Yeah that’s not fair, someone could really never transition and still be trans because that’s who they are and they could be suffering from it.]

[*Nods* And for some of these more trans than though you’re not trans if you’re not suffering either.]

[What? That’s wrong that’s like saying that the way someone deals with a fear or an illness or disability makes them better at that thing than someone else that can or does handle the same thing like totally differently!]

[Exactly, you’re getting a really good grip on this.]

[Really it feel like I’m in like a canoe on the ocean and I’m still upright but all I see in all these big waves around me?]

[Well you’re getting this really well for a beginner.]

[Well I’ve been sort of semi obsessed with the reading material, like I said I’m very Questioning.]

[That’s good though, it is and you’re welcome to come with us for the summer.]

[Will it be like talking with you here like there?]

[Some it’s still a camp we want you kids to have a chance to be yourselves and at the same time we’ve been there too so we have lots of councilors and there’s lots of peers here too that are available to talk to.]

[I think I want to go.]

[Okay, should I send you the papers?]

[Yeah, I still have to talk to my parents but yeah please send them.]

[Alright you have a good day Rob.]

[Robin…I think I want to use the name Robin.]

[*Smiles* okay Robin I’ll make a note of that and you can put that on the forms for your camp name.]

We sign off and I let out a big, big sigh and I sort of feel better.

I close up my computer and I walk back to school for my last class and that’s gym today.

*** CHAPTER 4…

Heading back was actually okay and getting changed and going to class was okay too.

I did sort of think about all of it and stuff as I was changing and heading out on the playing field for some more softball.

I’m a guy.

And I didn’t feel any more weirded out than before with changing even with the name and I didn’t feel like grossed out by their bodies or mine and at the same time there’s not a single guy in my class that I could even remotely say that I’m like attracted to.

Nope, nope and a hell of a lot more nope.

But the girls.

Attracted yes still but there was this sort of definitely more.

And maybe it was the whole me taking Robin as a name but I sort of saw myself in a few ways like some of these girls.

I could see the shirts and the socks and the shaved legs and things and even the bra while it might take like getting used to and other things it seemed doable…and no not in that way.

It was like in that way of me not being Rob, not having Rob’s life or bullshit and all of that and just stop, just stop being him for a summer and be this other me.

And I was thinking about all of that through the rest of the class and going home.

Right up to getting home and I see Dad’s home and Mom’s home and they’re usually not home.

That sort of pulls me out of musing about stuff from today and into the now.

Terri’s looking at me and it’s that…this is your fault look.

And I’m just nervous.

“You guys are home, you’re not usually home but working so what’s going on?”

Mom looks at me, almost pointedly at me. “Well your dad thinks that we ought to have a family talk about stuff and something a little more than the basics of like the birds and the bees.”

And Terri’s like… “Eeew, eww, gross no thanks not with you guys that’s what the internet is for.”

And Mom’s like… “Terri, we’re doing this and we’re going to do it as a family you’re both well into that age when you’re going to have questions and ideas and stuff and I want to know them just as much as I want to teach you about some stuff.”

She glares at mom and she’s glaring at me. “Okay but I’m like protesting this, I really don’t want to talk about sex with you…any of you.”

Dad’s looking at her then at me. “Well it’s time so we’re going to so go and do your chores and stuff and your mother and I will get stuff ready for supper.”

I’m not sure I want to do this either but at the same time I’m really just too embarrassed to say too much and part of me is worried about what Terri’s going to spout off.

It takes way too little time to do the chores and everything and then heading inside after chopping the kindling and stacking the wood boxes full and Terri is done like way before I am.

I head in and get washed up for supper and go and meet everyone at the kitchen table where and there’s supper there with like all the veg and mashed potatoes and pork chops.

Mom looks at me and Terri’s looking at her plate and there was something that had just gone on.

Terri looks at me.

Looks back down at her plate.

I’m concentrating really hard on my mashed potatoes.

Not like Close Encounters of The Third Kind close but yeah definitely…

Mom says. “So I hear from your sister and your dad that you’re asking questions about transgendered people?”

I look at her and nod and get some beans and peas. “Yeah…and there’s no ED.”

“Huh?” she asks.

“It’s just transgender there’s no ED like in transgendered it’s not a tense.”

“Oh well I didn’t know that. How did you know that?” she’s got that eyebrow thing going.

“I’ve been reading up on it a lot.”

Mom nods and so does Dad.

“Okay, can I ask why?”

“Well because I’m kind of right there in the Q in LGBTQAI….sorry.”

Both of them blink some and Terri looks at me. “Yeah…so you’re like queer, do you have to be queer?”

Mom’s like. “Terri!”

I look at Terri. “Q stands for Queer but it also stands for questioning too and there’s nothing wrong with someone being queer.”

Terri laughs… “Oh really, you go around out of the closet in school and be like all queer and see how long it is before people shit all over you…then me….then our family because we’ll be the family with the gay kid.”

I sit back in my chair. “Queer’s not gay, not usually queer’s more than that and like none of that stuff Terri and it’s not bad to be queer, you’re making it bad.”

She bristles. “I’m not making it bad, you’re making it bad.”

I say… “I’m not the one putting it down.”

Dad’s like… “Enough calm down the pair of you. Rob I don’t get the whole alphabet thing I was up with you until QAI and stuff.”

I take a breath. “It’s like the full thing nowadays Dad though people are like using LGBT as well for like most of the time.”

Mom’s like… “So we know that Queer’s in there but like when I was your age that wasn’t a good thing to call someone. What’s the A and I stand for.”

I look at Mom. “A stands for agender and asexual and sometimes aromantic.”

I’m getting looks from everyone.

Terri says. “Asexual like a neuter…ick.”

I look at her. “No asexual is people that are really interested in sex, the whole thing doesn’t work for then in the same way it does for like other people.”

Mom nods. “How about Agender?”

“Those are people not really comfortable in like either sex role or like gender type it’s kind of like actually being androgynous.”

And Dad’s like… “Aromantic?”

I shrug. “I’m actually like not sure on that.”

Terri snorts. “It’s all just like too much anyway.”

I look at her. “Really? Like really you’re just concerned about how me being Q is going to make you look.”

And she’s like. “You’re Q!? Oh Jesus please.”

Mom’s like… “Terri stop it, this attitude of yours isn’t helping.”

She looks mad and Terri looks mad and she’s pointing her butter knife at me. “Why can’t I be mad? He wasn’t to be all queer and stuff and this is a small frigging town and they’re going to think what they think about all families like that.”

Mom’s like… “That we’re open minded?”

Terri looks at her. “No, that we’re all freaks. I’m going into like freaking high school and I get to meet a whole bunch of new kids and there’ll be like people, people just waiting to like tear anyone different down and just…”

She’s wiping at her eyes because she’s crying.

I take a breath. “I’m not going to be doing anything for fucks sakes, not here.”

Mom’s like… “Language Rob.”

I look at them. “I’m not doing anything here I’m applying to a camp for the summer so I can figure out what’s going on with me and if not figure it out then learn a whole lot more.”

They’re looking at me.

I take another breath… “They’re sending me all the stuff for you guys to sign.”

***CHAPTER 5…

I look at them and Terri is looking at me and she’s sniffling and rubbing at her eyes. “You’re going away for the summer? (Sniffle.) How’s that fair I’m going to get all of your chores.”

Dad says… “We haven’t decided on anything yet and no you won’t get stuck doing your brother’s chores.”

Terri looks at me and I sort of just try to eat my supper even though really my appetite just fell apart and I really don’t feel like eating.

I look at Dad. “It’s a really nice place, it seems like a good place I can show you the stuff I have on it.”

He nods. “After supper.”

Mom nods with him and she finishes and she looks at Terri. “Come on we’re going over to Grams place and have a talk and help with the stuff there.”

She nods and she gets up and I get up after taking my last mouthful. “I’ll do the dishes.”

Which gives me this look from Terri but I try to ignore it and go and start getting the water on for the dishes.

We have a well but I said before that we’re poor right so that means even in summer we heat a lot of water on the stove because we actually don’t own a water heater. We have a wood stove, well sort of a block stove called a Wood Chief and we have a propane stove.

Our house is…well it’s good, I mean it’s okay but it’s small and it’s a single story that sits on a frost wall sort of crawl space and we’re that kind of family that Dad and Gramps poured it by themselves before we were born and built the house too.

Actually my room and Terri’s room used to be my folks bedroom that was split in half and they took over what was our room/nursery and until we were like five and six we shared that room.

We shared the property with my grandparents and they live across the yard and we have a big bit of wood lot and a bunch of gardens and some animals and that’s like how we live.

And it’s a lot of work.

All the time.

I look at Dad as the water’s heating and we’re getting everything ready and stacked because you kind of have to get things in order to wash dishes in our house and I ask him. “What about the wood and the gardens and everything if I go away?”

Dad shrugs. “I was thinking that we can take in Junior’s kids for the summer.”

Junior’s my uncle and dad’s younger brother and he’s got a bunch of kids of his own with my aunt ruby and they live in Truro and they’re kind of poor too because there’s like seven of them, and I mean not counting my aunt and uncle.

“I’ll have to hide some of my stuff.”

“You and your sister can put your stuff in the attic space and that way no one will be stealing or breaking anything.”

“So I’m going?”

Dad looks at me. “I want you to go, even without seeing this stuff yet I think that a place that you can figure stuff out is important. I still want to look at the stuff but you and your sister need to get away.”

“We do?”

“Yeah you do and so do your mother and I to a point so maybe we can get you two sorted and away for the summer and your mom and I can squeeze in a week of time to ourselves and then have your cousins come over because god knows those kids need to get out of that town.”

I nod.

Truro’s okay I’ve been there a few times but it’s still very much a big enough town that there’s lots of trouble to get into and I hear about some of that trouble from like when Dad and Mom are talking to them on the phone and stuff.

The folks do keep contact and stuff with some of our family and it’s mostly because we’re all sort of doing that poor and kind of hanging on thing.

All of us really and I think that they sort of all kind of grew up close together too for the most part and they had it hard growing up.

Like harder that we have it.

I actually feel a little guilty as I dry the dishes.

I feel like I’m a whiner, that I’m complaining that my life is like hard and others have it worse.

And I don’t really want to be like that.

Not even a little bit but…but it’s like I can see my life stretching out in front of me and stuff and all I see is just.

More of the same, some job that’ll likely suck or be seasonal or just that whole factory or fish plant kind of thing…and honestly I’ve never seen anyone that had me thinking of settling down with like a wife and kids and being married and doing the family thing.

I just feel the box that I seem to be in all the time.

Dad says…. “I’m going to talk to your Aunt Chris, and see if she’ll take Terri in for the summer.”

“Really given her whole attitude?”

“Because of her attitude and I think she’ll go because it’ll be a summer in Halifax.”

I nod. “Actually that really might work; Terri might want to go to the city so much that she’ll actually behave around Aunt Chris.”

He looks at me. “I’m actually hoping so and as much as I don’t like your sister’s attitude and reactions I still sort of get it.”

I take the stack of plates and put all of them up in the cupboard dried off. “I do too dad it’s just we’re family she’s my sister and I thought that she’d be cooler about all of this.”

He had this look on his face. “That’s not always the case Rob; your Aunt Chris’s folks were and are utter shits to her. And Chris is good people she’s really good people.”

I nod. “I know she’s always been very cool to us and everything.”

Dad nods. “I’m hoping that Terri getting to know Chris will shape or reshape how she’s feeling and all and yeah I’m really hedging on the fact that Terri will be getting to spend the summer in Halifax and the kind of like social pull that might give her and everything.”

I nod but I’m frowning. “Yeah that’s a little social climber for me.”

Dad looks at me. “You’re both like that. I know that sometimes it grinds on you the stuff that we have to do and that there’s other kids that are well off.”

Dad did soapy finger air quotes and I look at him questioningly.

He looks around the house and at me.

“When your mom and I got together we were both broke, we moved here with Mom and Dad and we really worked hard for everything we have.”

“I know…”

“Well it goes that way with people Rob not everyone can have money and everything but we have something that a lot of those families you see with the kids that have money and all of that don’t.”

“What work ethic?”

He nods and smiles. “Well that and survival skills too that some of those kids will never have but what we have and this is something that we really wanted for you kids.”

“Huh? What?”

“No debts.”

“Huh?”

“When we knew we were going to start a family we took a long look at what we wanted for you two, for any kids we had and we wanted a solid future for you.”

“Okay…?”

“We have a good amount of land and not just the wood lot but enough that you and your sister can build if you need to.”

“Dad I might not…”

He holds his hand up and I stop. “I know neither of you two might live here but the point is that you can, it’s all paid for, there’s no mortgage we’re not in debt we grow a lot of our own food and put stuff down and we have a lot of things that are here for you kids and all of the family.”

“But why are we living with wood heat and don’t have a water heater and like everything else dad?”

“For you kids.”

“Huh?”

“The house when we built it wasn’t set up for hot water it wasn’t something we really had a lot of and well we might yet one of these days but we have things paid for.”

“I know you said that.”

“No Rob we have college paid for, or we have a whole lot of it paid for, we have cash set aside for things like weddings and funerals and your first house.”

“So we’re rich?”

“Heck no but we have a start on things, we have a really good start on things and that’s what we wanted for you two.”

I think I get it. “Okay…but what about you and Mom?”

“Compared to things where you mom grew up we’re more than fine.”

“But what’s the difference between paying for things now and for us later?”

He laughs at me with that big dad laugh.

“Oh…not really paying for it you’re working it off now and you’re learning that stuff isn’t just handed to you. That you can’t just get loan after loan either and credit cards and end up in debt to your eyeballs. There’s kids that you go to school with Rob that have those because we know someone jobs because that’s all they’ll get, there’s lots of folks in town that put on airs and lease all the nice cars and their kids have the best clothes and whatever the hell is trendy because it’s easy.”

I take two of the big mugs that we just washed and pour two cups of stiff tea. It’s stiff because dad makes his pot of it in the morning and we have tea and then he adds another single tea bag to the pot and really hot water and lets it sit all day and turns it on to heat it up.

I know that I probably just made people flinch but it’s the way a lot of people here do it, and Grams even will take the used tea and she’ll save it up and she’ll cook with it in tea cake or she’ll boil the heck out of it with some pigeon berries and make jelly.

He pours some cream in his and I take some too and we get some cornbread out from the tin that we keep it in and we go out back on the porch to sit.

Dad says. “You’re getting a hand up, a boost but we’re not paying off everything, we’re damned well going to try and make it easier. Get you into college or trade school without as much student loans as we can, a down payment on a house so you are drowning in a mortgage but we’re not going to just hand you stuff and we really can’t either…. Yeah we’ve saved Rob, we have but it’s a one-time deal kind of thing so I want you two to get just how important this all is…why we’re doing it.”

I sip and eat and nod and I look out at the back yard and the fields and the hill that leads to the woods we have.

“I just… I just get so frustrated dad it feels like I have no time.”

He nods. “I know, and maybe some of that’s on me and your mom but real life isn’t a lot easier.”

“God I know that…that’s part of it Dad it’s why I feel like I’m just doing the same stuff and just…just effing sinking…because I can’t see where I’m going and there’s no shore and it’s all pulling me down.”

He’s eating a chunk of his cornbread. “You think this questioning gender stuff might be part of that?”

I shrug. “Honestly I’ve never thought about it, I’ve never had time and I’ve really…it’s like Terri’s said it’s stuff that you don’t really go to socially or I guess even mentally. But there’s something there Dad.”

“Something?”

“The thought of not being Rob and starting over sort of for a while is really appealing, it’s almost like freedom.”

I look at him like to see if he’s hurting and he’s not just eating and looking out at everything.

“Dad?”

“Every Summer there used to be the exhibition and farm show and there was these roustabouts, carnies with the games and the rides called The Bill Lynch show and when they came here when I was your age I took off with them because I could get work there, me and Junior and we’d stop doing things here and we’d go there and it was drinking and smoking and wildness and towns and girls and all sorts of badness but it was most of all…it wasn’t me, and it wasn’t me in the fields and the farms doing stuff and it wasn’t me at the plant gutting and cleaning herring.”

I look at him. “Sounds like fun?”

He grins. “It was and wasn’t it was really crappy living and just wildness and partying and there was a lot of bullshit and danger too.”

“Danger?”

“Something goes wrong and they can blame you, something else goes wrong in a town and the locals blame you and them add cops and drugs and sex and booze.”

“Wow…”

Dad shakes his head no. “When it was fun it was great but things went south, people went to hospital Rob.”

“Oh…sorry?”

Dad shrugs. “It’s okay it was actually totally a different time when I was a kid and how it is for you guys.”

“It still sort of sounds sort of fun.”

“It was but it was still us being really young and stupid.”

I sigh. “I think I’d like some of the stuff back then. I’d love to go to a drive in movie thing and you guys had…”

He looks at me. “People being a lot more not understanding then they are now, gay and stuff was get you ass kicked stuff then a whole lot of the time and there was a lot of bigots and racists and then there’s like everyone smoking and drinking and driving. It was just like now good and bad kiddo.”

I look at him. “Yeah…”

“Dad?”

“Yeah?”

“This is okay though right? That I don’t know and I have like questions?”

He looks at me and moves closer and he does this one armed hug around me. “Definitely I’d rather have you be you and know than smothering in some closet.”

I… I lean on him some, then a little more.

“Th..thanks Dad…I…I just want to breathe.”

We sit there and finish our dessert and yeah corn cake can be dessert and then we head inside and I go into his and Mom’s room with him and I bring up the page for Moon Lake.

“Here Dad, I want to go here.”

“Thanks kiddo we’ll take a look at this.”

I head to my room and start my homework.

I’m not sure if I’m happy or sad or hopeful or what it’s still all so up in the air and all topsy-turvy to go with it.

I feel like I just went through this whole really big ordeal.

Terri’s over at Gramps and Grams house and it’s pretty much like our place but sort of neater with it just being them and where we have mine and Terri’s room they have a larder and a really big bedroom and then there’s the awesome back porch.

Gramps has his wood boxes there for their house and there’s a bunch of windows too but it’s where he builds little things for fun or whittles and carves and then there’s all of grams stuff which is herbs in paper bags tied with string hanging and drying and a big braid of onions drying too and she has all these little plantings in egg carton cups and those tiny little one serving yogurt containers because she has things growing and started well by the time that we are ready to plant.

Truth be told she has those all over the house there and she is always baking or making something and right now it’s the milk night.

Milk night is when she has all of the stuff she needs to make batches of butter and then there’s the butter milk and then cheese. Grams grew up in like after World War Two and stuff was tight and poor and when people like lived in the country like we do and made everything.

It’s actually kind of cool I’ve done it a few times and grams will always make biscuits. Not the cookie type but the flour type and with really fresh buttermilk and real butter and all that they’re really good.

But the cottage cheese, the butter, the goats milk and cheese some of it gets stored but some of it will go to the farmers market too or to like the old folks trading circle thingy I call it.

That’s that thing where your grandparents know like everyone and who has what and who needs what and grams and gramps will literally trade stuff off with them.

I sort of smile at that as I finish my English sonnet.

Sometimes that’s even volunteering family.

Like last year we went to some old guys place and he had like a big chicken farm and he did hens for eggs and some for food and we helped butcher and pluck and did all sorts of stuff that was kind of gross but grams had us all end up with like one in ten chickens for our freezers and all the livers and hearts and giblets and then she bought all of his oldest laying hens for like a dollar each and we cleaned those too.

It was gross.

But when Grams makes a chicken stew it’s this tough old bird that she roasts hard until it’s brown and then it’s in the stew pot all day on the wood stove and then she’ll make doughboys…that’s like a wet dough dumpling with black pepper and summer savory that puffs up and cooks in the broth.

That was like what was Sunday diner for us for like a whole year.

And given what Dad said tonight…I’m not sure how to think about stuff.

Like when we have a big storm and the power goes out we have heat, we have water because even if the well pump doesn’t work we have a gravity fed line in the barn.

How many kids didn’t have heat or food or even like a lot of books or lamps? We have all those battery ones and we have kerosene ones in the barn and all that old school stuff.

And there can be like storms that can take out power and sometimes it takes days to get it back on for people.

Honestly…honestly I think if I was living in town or someplace and I could get home I’d be in my car and heading here.

I look around my room.

It’s small, it’s really small compared to the rooms of my friends and I have my bed against the wall my big dresser with my TV and DVD player on it and my PS-1. I have a couple of shelves and a closet with no door.

And like this three foot wide by five foot space of actual floor.

But it could be like worse.

And talking to Dad, really talking to Dad just helped a lot.

And it’s making me really wonder about me.

Is it my life that’s closing in on me or is it me in my life closing in on me?

I listen to some music for a while and get my stuff ready for tomorrow and end up going to bed pretty worn out from everything.

*** CHAPTER 6…

After that night life suddenly kicked into high gear.

Dad and Mom talked and they said that I can go.

They talked to Aunt Chris who said that she’d love to have Terri for the summer in Halifax and she even said that she needed help at her regular job.

Apparently she has a salon with some friends and they’re pretty busy and need a shampoo girls and Terri’s really thrilled about that.

Thrilled enough she’s chilled out a lot even if us talking about me going to Moon Lake has become a Not-topic she’s not freaking out about it.

Dad borrowed a tent trailer for Uncle Junior’s kids and they’re going to all come here and they’ll help with the farming and all the chores but they’ll get summer jobs around her doing stuff that they can’t find as easy in Truro.

Oh there’s always farm stuff that you can do for the odd buck, there’s always someone cutting wood and then there’s like the fish plants that hire teens to dump fish trays onto the lines and all those things and Truro…well I guess it’s really tight there when it comes to summer jobs by the time the college kids get theirs and then the well-to-do kids get theirs like here and all there’s not much left especially for poor other side of the track kids that look like they’d be followed around a store more than hired to work there.

So yeah they might kinda need the change.

School was getting done and the guys were lining up their jobs as they could find them and Terri and I were fully locked into exams because a lot of what we wanted to do was going to be effected by our marks and then I had the bench to finish.

I used a little dark stain with a quick wipe over the grain to highlight it all and then once that was good and dried I went into sanding it so it doesn’t look quite as deep or forced and then it’s the coats of weather seal varnish stuff.

It was a lot of work but it was worth it.

Dad and I brought it home on the back of the truck and Grams was really happy with it.

Then there was exams.

Which I passed I’m not a brain by any means but I’m a solid mix of A’s and B+ marks and that’s pretty good.

And the last few days of getting things ready were grueling, really grueling as we went back to the woods and we cut wood. Just cutting and limbing trees and Dad and gramps will haul it all out with the cousins and everything.

No offense to any of my cousins but none of them should be near a powersaw.

The last thing that we do is pack my things and some are to go with me like some clothes though I had no idea what to take and my tablet and my phone and my laptop mostly because I really don’t want whoever’s in my room to go through my stuff.

My models I’m not that attached to and my comics and books well I’m not a collector and my books well I’d actually rather have them read them then not.

Again no offence but my cousins aren’t really the kind of kids that have enough cash to get to buy books. Heck neither am I really so like most of mine are from different family trips to town or the valley and stuff and I’d stock up at the used bookstores.

I’m nowhere near well off enough to get books from Amazon.

And then it was time.

We’d head off to Halifax and Aunt Chris’s house and I’d stay a few days until it was the day of my flight to Toronto where I’m to meet the camp charter bus. It’s being done like that because there’s other kids being flown in from different parts of Canada and I think maybe the USA. There not a whole lot of camps like this and there’s a fight I guess from being standing room only or having enough kids coming up for funding.

I’m going in early to Aunt Chris’s to actually spend some time there with her and not just crash and dash.

***CHAPTER 7…

It’s a long drive into Halifax and once we’re there it’s even more bewildering since the only time’s I’ve or Terri’s been here is when we’re shopping and stuff and we have been to like a few things but going to someplace that’s where someone actually lives and being sort of close to downtown it’s something totally new.

Aunt Chris’s place in an apartment and I’d sort of always seen them as brick places in like stories and everything but her place has a big parking lot with a nice lawn and there’s trees and it’s actually really nice with six stories and this grey siding and these fancy multiple slanted roves like there’s sections or like it’s art? Maybe it’s different buildings all built together into one big unit?

There’s balconies here too which is nice and I can see Aunt Chris there waiting for us and she’s…

Well I think she’s really nice looking. She’s black or like partly but she’s fairly deep skin toned and she’s tall too and she’s got curves. Big, really big breasts under a sweater that only seems to help that look and it’s also low cut enough to reveal lots of cleavage and she’s wearing slacks and her hair’s long and it’s in that crinkled sort of long way that I think is natural and it’s pretty but it looks like it takes a lot of work to like control.

Those slipper like shoes that girls wear and I’m looking and all I can see is a large black woman with lots of curves and not a man.

I can literally feel Terri scrutinizing her as we’re getting out of the truck and I give her a look but she’s sort of ignoring me.

Sigh…really, we sort of knew like she was like this already.

Terri looked at me as I sighed.

Mom and Dad are already going up to her and giving her hugs and Mom and her are dishing about how good she looks and there’s a whole thing of girl talk going on and I get my bags and follow them as they both head inside.

I want to know.

Like what they’re talking about and try to get it and stuff and Dad and Terri are behind use with Terri’s things.

There’s a lot of beauty products being mentioned and it’s like guys when guys talk about tools or geeks talking about like science fiction stuff.

Or Terri talking about One Direction.

That’s like the new sort of Jonas brother’s sort of thing it’s a teen heartthrob boy band thing.

I don’t think that I can build a sort of acceptance of that kind of stuff; it’d be like me liking country music or classical stuff.

We get into her apartment and it’s nice, it’s really nice and I’m kind of looking around and things and I’m sort of like almost afraid to be here. Our house is what Mom calls lived in. It’s clean and everything but it’s a small hand built bungalow sort of house and this is a big city Halifax apartment and everything is all these clean lines and painted walls and nice furniture and everything.

Terri stops and she says. “Whoa.”

Aunt Chris laughs out loud. “That’s your dad’s line.”

Mom and her both laugh after that and Dad’s turning red and I look at Terri and I don’t get it at all either since we’re both shrugging at the other.

I look for a place to sit and it’s just that everything is so nice and at the same time it’s girly. Like not super girly but there’s cute stuff around and there’s figurines and things and sort of those decorative things that mom sort of likes abut it’s right there with this big wall unit entertainment center with a big flatscreen TV and I see an X-box one there and a stereo and surround sound and all the trimmings.

She even has one of those big elbow couches I think is called a sectional?

We get settled with Aunt Chris showing us to one of the bedrooms and she looks at us. “You two will be bunking together until Robin has to go okay?”

I told her my name when we were talking online with me getting ready and stuff.

Terri looks at me. “Robin?”

I blush and shrug. Terri looks like she going to say something and Aunt Chris looks at her and just sort of says softly. “No judging Terri.”

Terri looks at her and she’s so looking like she wants to say stuff but Aunt Chris just looks at her and there’s this look there.

It’s like understanding but it’s like at the same time like whatever snarky thing that Terri might have had on the tip of her tongue just died out because Aunt Chris has lived all of it, or more like lived through all of this.

“Yes ma’am.” Shit…she nearly hunched at that.

Truthfully I’m kind of intimidated too, I mean I’ve read and If Aunt Chris has gone through like half the stuff that trans women have gone through then it’s no wonder she’s that strong a person.

“Good now there’s a bed in a bag in the closet and I expect you two to figure out on who’s sleeping where for the time being.”

She leaves and I look at Terri who looks at me and she whispers. “Robin?”

I decide to go with it. “Yes?”

She blinks confused, then recovers. “Robin as a name like what the heck?”

“It’s gender neutral.”

“But it’s like so girly?”

“And it’s gender neutral because I don’t know about all of this stuff but I want to Terri it’s important to me.”

“Why?”

I look her in the eyes. “Because inside I don’t know, I really don’t know I feel like my life’s me trying to fit into a space that doesn’t quite fit me and it’s getting to me.”

She rolls her eyes. “Wow you might just have a bit of girl in you because like dramatize stuff much?”

I look at her and I shrug. “I don’t know, I don’t know just why I don’t fit or feel like is sis. But honestly I feel so off and angry because I’m feeling off so much it’s like I can’t breathe.”

Yes I used sis on purpose because I never really use that.

And she’s looking at me some more and she nods. “That…that actually makes sense because you are angry and you do get into it with people and maybe, maybe there might like be something there with this or like something.”

I nod. “We good?”

“Maybe it’s still kind of weirding me out.”

“Weirding you out try being in my flats.”

“Uhm… no, besides you have bigger feet than I do.”

“No I don’t.”

“Yes you do.”

“Nope, I’ve actually worn your boots to the barn before.”

“Yeah like years ago.”

“More like this winter.”

“Oh…really?”

Okay now she’s standing beside me and we’re comparing foot sizes and stuff.

She looks at me. “Well okay then, so do I get to paint your toe nails?”

I look at her. “Sure I guess?”

She’s grinning and maybe it’s because we’re not home and there’s no one here that really knows us but she seems to be cooling off and chilling out.

We just get the bed in the bag out and set up when Mom and Dad call out that they’re leaving and we go out to hug them and walk out to the truck with them and see them off.

Aunt Chris looks at us. “Okay before we get settled in we’re going out and shopping.”

Terri’s like… “Shopping!?”

Aunt Chris grins and she takes out a bunch of twenties. “Your folks gave you both some shopping money it’s to get Robin stuff for camp but it’s not fair that we don’t treat you evenly so you both have some cash.”

Terri’s beaming. “Robin I have some things for you that I picked up here and there too in case you want to get changed before we go.”

“Uhm…girl’s things?”

“They are but nothing too girly I’ll leave that to you.”

“Okay, I mean if we’re going shopping for that stuff then yeah maybe that might be a good idea?”

We head back inside and she goes and gets some bags with stuff on them like Salvation Army and Frenchies? But there’s also a bag or two from Wal-Mart and Giant Tiger?

There’s girls clothes, mostly generic stuff like pants and some slacks but a couple of pairs of track pants in like this sort of grey-purple and then there’s tops and tee-shirts and some I like because they’re sort of like funny or like vintage band shirts. And there’s panties and bras too. The bras looks like a training one by the size of them and the panties are just like regular cotton ones and I’m blushing like crazy as I’m holding both.

Aunt Chris nods. “They’re just underwear Robin.”

“Should I shave?” I gesture at my legs.

Aunt Chris just looks at me. “That’s entirely up to you.”

I look at Terri who nods. “I would, heck I did this morning before we left.”

“Okay maybe I will.”

Aunt Chris shows me to the bathroom that I’ll be sharing with Terri and its en-suite or in our room like regular folks say that never took like French immersion.

It’s got a really nice tub and it has a really nice shower in that tub.

God oh god a hot shower just feels nice and I’m kind of loving it while Aunt Chris went and got me things for like shaving and washing and shampooing.

Some of it’s Terri’s and I have a long shower and lather up and Aunt Chris passes me a razor through the crack we have open in the shower door. “Careful it’s new so it’s sharp and remember to shave with the grain.”

“Why?”

“Because you’ll get ingrown hairs much more likely if you try for a smoother shave going against the grain and do it in small stokes and rinse off the razor so they was down the sink easier.”

“Oh okay.”

I hear Terri. “Gak…ingrown hairs are such a bitch, I hate them.”

And Aunt Chris… “Painful too but I have some of that Bio-oil stuff here and that works great for stretch marks and acne scars but also for the spots that you get from ingrown hairs.”

Terri’s like… “Really?”

Aunt Chris is… “Really, I might work nights and stuff over at Illusions but my day to day stuff is my boutique.”

“You’ll really let me help out and work there?” Terri sounds excited and speaking of excited.

I’m shaving my legs and more and more they’re feeling all silky and different in this way that I think that I like, and my mind starts to think about this whole shaving my legs thing and I don’t know why but I’ve a stiffy all of a sudden…I mean that happens anyway sometimes but it felt related to the shaving and the way that I felt and all.

“Uhm Aunt Chris I have a problem…”

“Is it as big as a baby’s arm?”

“Aunt Chris! Jesus!”

“No worries even in that state child he loves you.”

I’m so red I think I’m making the steam in here and not the hot water. “Eeew no, just no!”

And Terri’s like… “What…oh…oh!...eeew Robin!”

And Aunt Chris says. “Oh relax both of you. Robin’s having a normal teen body reaction to things that they’re thinking of as sensual. You can’t tell me that you haven’t had the same darned thing happen to you Terri.”

And Terri’s all… “Hey! No, no way.”

And I’m like all… “Oh Bullshit you were monofocused on the whole Chris Helmsworth with no shirt thing in Thor and you weren’t leg squirming because you had to pee.”

“Robin!” She shrieks at me.

Okay this and teasing her back has gotten the situation under control.

Oh and why she’s using my Camp-name it’s because Mom and Dad started to the day before we headed here and that’s been my name all day and she and I are starting to get used to it.

Aunt Chris says… “You see my shower bar there?”

“Uhm yeah?”

“Well do what I do hang onto that and raise one leg up and set your foot on the top of the little partition that goes around the bottom of the shower the elevation will keep you from getting unnecessary reactions?”

“Really?”

“You ever pop wood on one foot?”

“N..no..!”

I hear Terri giggling and I have to admit as things are going it is half funny.

I chuckle a little too as I’m being really careful to shave and I’m surprised to be using the razors I’m using. “Aunt Chris aren’t I using men’s razors?”

“Heck yes and so does just about every woman I know.”

Terri and I say… “Really?” In unison.

“Five blades and the ball jointed handle that rides all the curves of a guy’s face and their like four bucks cheaper than the closest to the same thing from a women’s razor yeah most women dump the pink stuff for the better and affordable stuff.”

Terri’s like… “For real like these are that good and they’re four bucks cheaper a pack?”

I hear Aunt Chris doing something then I hear. “Here try one.”

I hear a little water running in the sink and my flow gets a little cooler but that doesn’t matter because I’m done and I…I even trimmed a little down south… not shaved but just sort of like made that area smaller.

I dunno if I’m wearing girl underwear I don’t want guy pubes sticking out from all of that down there no more than I want a testicle popping out.

I hear Terri… “Holy crap that’s nice.”

I reach out getting a towel and look and she’s in her bra and drying off her armpits with a smaller towel. I grin and nod wiping some water out of my face. “I know, I have to get some of those too they did a number on my legs and I didn’t even cut myself.”

Terri looks at me and then she looks at Aunt Chris and they both say. “You will.”

They leave grinning and talking and I get dried off and put of the lotion that aunt Chris said would be good for my legs and stuff and it’s Skin-so-soft baby lotion and I do that and I use my Ladies Speedstick I bought at a gas station on the way here and then I get dressed.

One pair of tight panties that are a little smallish and spandex or something like that and then a regular pair over that and then I put on the bra…well they needed adjusted and they sort of kind of feel strange but it’s kind of like wearing one of those inflatable live vests of the fishing boats…no not the same but once you get used to it then it’s okay.

But even that with the track pants and the tee-shirt with the bra outline kinda showing under it all and everything else I don’t look like Rob right now I look like robin and robin might just be a sort of late blooming tomboyish kind of girl or not.

But I don’t look like me.

And I kind of don’t feel like me and Terri’s staring at me.

I look at her. “What?”

“You, you look like y’know decent, like a regular girl.”

I shrug.

Aunt Chris gives me a purse made of faded denim and with a quarter in it?

“It’s bad luck to give someone a purse or a pocketbook with no money in it.”

Terri’s nodding.

She looks at Terri. “Y’know Robin looking normal’s just that normal. Even the drag folk and the trans folk that do all the other stuff that is like such a big stereotype all like go home kiddo, we have normal lives too.”

“Sorry Robin, sorry Aunt Chris it’s just I have no idea what to expect or like how to deal.”

Aunt Chris hugs her. “Well neither does Robin and experience is why you’re summering with me amongst other things.”

We’re getting our stuff and heading downstairs for her car. “Other things?”

“Well I wanted to see how’d we really get along because you and your folks could save a lot of cash if you two or one of you went to school here in Halifax for college and could stay here instead of renting or paying for the dorm fees.”

Okay that we didn’t know and that is a big deal too, that much money saved really put schools around here much more in reach and stuff.

We’re looking at each other and there’s this sort of excited look there we’re sharing.

And then it’s like awkward and stuff because that was waaay different that we usually react around each other with like except Christmas and stuff.

I like Aunt Chris’s car she has a new big black and shiny Mustang well not like totally new it’s a 2012 but it’s still in really shiny shape and it’s still a Mustang and honestly it’s not a guy’s car it might be thought of as a guy’s car but she just makes it hers and it’s kind of awesome with this powerful black woman with a powerful car and when she puts on her sunglasses it just really makes the whole thing right.

Note to self by cool shades.

And Terri’s like… “I gotta buy some new sunglasses.”

I open the doors and actually climb in the back letting her have shotgun.

Terri looks at me and I shrug. “We’ll take turns if you want.”

And she’s like. “No, I’ll take front if you want the back…?”

“Yeah okay I’m cook with it.”

She’s giving me a look like I’m acting weird and I am a little. I mean when it’s usually dad and her and I usually take shotgun it’s kinda-sorts the way things just have like gone for like a lot of the time and I figured that her and mom do the girls in the front that much so it’s sort of that but it’s also me being like sneaky and having her be like next to Aunt Chris and really closer more so she might get closer and more used to her.

I mean Aunt Chris and I sort of have this whole like trans thing that we’re definitely bonding over even if I’m not sure about things and I’m sort of a big old questioning I’m also sort of leaning towards exploring the whole MtF thing and being Robin or whoever Robin might turn out to be.

And she’s already been like big time above and beyond for me with all of this.

It’s fun right from us pulling out of her apartment parking lot and she guns the engine and she turns on the music and she’s blasting out tunes.

It’s mostly chic-rock and I don’t like know half of it but Terri does and so does Aunt Chris and I feel quite lost with the tunes as I hear a few things that I recognize like Cher? Lady Gaga? I actually really don’t know who does this… Isn’t it Ironic…Or… Pocket full of Sunshine…or…Long way down?....I’m really lost and they don’t just know the songs they both know all of the words.

It’s a little unsettling and a sort of lost and unpopular feeling at first until Aunt Chris looks at me. “Just sing Robin you’ll pick it up this isn’t something that you need to be like bashful over.”

“I don’t know any of this stuff.”

“Sing along anyway it’s fun and when you get lost just sort of make shit up.”

“Uhm…okay.”

I try and I fumble a lot and I get stuff wrong but it’s still getting to be kind of fun and it’s a whole other set of words and a whole other world of tunes and feelings and context and stuff and honestly and this sounds so bad I thought all girl music was like either kind of like Cher or Madonna or Britney spears and instead I’m learning about Bangles and Cyndi Lauper and Halestorm and Joan Jett and Janis Joplin…

Aunt Chris sings with *Take Another Piece Of My Heart* and she has this huge theater trained singing voice and she belts it out inside the car and it’s not bad in the slightest and we’re at a freaking red light and the two cars beside us were staring at her as she was belting out that whole.

“Cooooome ON!”
“Cooooome ON!”
“Cooooome ON!”

Like so seriously she raised like chillbumps with me and by the time we get to the Mic-Mac-Mall we’re singing along with her to *Every time I see Your Picture I Cry*

That’s by someone called Luba that I’ve never heard of and she’s like really good and I guess she’s like sort of like an old artist too and everything.

We took our time getting here just cruising and not in a hurry so the traffic was just another excuse for more singing and stuff and we’re actually pretty hyped to get inside and get ready to go shopping.

Aunt Chris is like… “First stop Starbucks!”

“Starbucks?” I’m confused and Terri’s excited. “Cool I’ve like never been.”

Yeah there’s no Starbucks even like close to us really it’s one of those sort of like semi status things to even have like gone there. Going to school with a cup of Tim’s is like considered high end.

Aunt Chris is like. “Yes we get caffeinated first then we do a bathroom break while we’re there and then once we’re like all refreshed we go shopping.”

I look at her. “Bathroom?”

She nods. “Best get that fear over with right now.”

“But…but…”

“You need some work in the butt area but you’ll pass not that that matters.”

“It doesn’t?”

Aunt Chris shrugs. “It does and it doesn’t a whole lot of bio-girls don’t even come close to passing which really when you think about how we’re blasted with it is all about the sold to us standard of looking just like any other woman.”

And Terri’s like… “It is?”

“Heck yeah, the pressure to pass and be an invisible shadow is really strong and that’s a huge fight for any woman trans or not. One of the most dangerous things for a trans girl is to shake that stuff off and start just being herself instead of a manufactured image. It’s where a lot of the haters come out.”

Terri looks at her. “But you pass?”

Aunt Chris nods. “Most of the time but you tow know me and you have known me and there’s a degree of you two sort of accepting me. But there’s some that see me as being still not passing between me hands and my feet and then my shoulders and my adam’s apple there’s tells for sure. The thing is that I got to the point where I really couldn’t change what people thought of me…some trans people pass easy and some don’t and then there’s middle grounders like me. There’s nothing I can do, no magic pill no surgery for the things that stand out and they’d be painful anyways…so I learned to love myself as a trans woman.”

I nod and sort of like get what she’s saying and Terri’s looking at her and she’s looking in at Starbucks and at the bathrooms. “So you’re saying you’re just about as fucked as the rest of us not perfect girls so to hell with all of them anyways?”

Aunt Chris put her hand in her pocket and gave Terri a five dollar bill. “Right on the money, good girl.”

I smile okay this is sort of working good and then I’m realizing that they still mean for me to go in there too.

“I’m not going in alone okay?”

Aunt Chris grins. “Of course not, one we wouldn’t leave you hanging like that and two it’s still a good idea to go in a group because there are haters out there and there’s possible whatever the hells.”

I look at her and so does Terri.

Aunt Chris shrugs. “Whatever the hells are exactly that, people are weird as shit sometimes and it’s just better for people to sometimes just hang together especially in weird magnet places like malls.”

And I’m like… “Great this is doing wonders for my confidence.”

She shrugs. “I’m in charge of you two and sugar coating things won’t make them any safer. Halifax is weird and the people here are sort of used to it but you kids aren’t and Halifax is like miles and miles less weird than places like Montreal or Toronto.”

We go inside and we order coffees or macchiato or framjiatas or frererajaques or chimichangas because I have like no idea the menu is all in preppanese or something and it’s frankly very stupid and they taste okay though it still sort of tastes a lot like how mom takes her coffee which is like seventy five percent milk and the rest kinda of coffee and then like sweetener stuff.

And I have to be told that I have to dip my biscotti when I nearly crack a tooth on it.

Yeah that’s so not endearing me to the place even though it’s really busy here and it has a very sort of preppy and good looking sort of crowd that goes here. Actually there’s a whole lot of very nice looking people here at the mall.

Not that that’s a bad thing it’s just sort of a thing and it’s really sort of noticeable as we’re going into the ladies room after we have our coffee-things.

And… and it’s not what I thought it was there’s more mirrors and lights and they’re not the harsh ones but just sort of like a row of light bulbs and there’s like no stalls of course but it still sort of smells like a bathroom and it’s pretty much the same and even the toilet paper is that industrial grade sort of stuff.

It’s not that different and I use one of the stalls and I sit to pee and that’s not all that different but I do get some TP to wipe because the thought of like dribbles in my underwear when it’s like this is very…uhm…nope.

But I get it more really, pull everything down and put everything back and I’m dressed simply nothing like panty hose and a skirt and then like getting the blouse shirt thing right and all the other stuff then it’s a hand wash and a hair and make-up check because well face it girls are like always being judged even amongst themselves.

So…not giving Mom or Terri crap about this stuff again.

It’s a little odd getting re-dressed and then checking my look in the mirror and everything but it does feel important.

I mean I get that whole girls judging other girls thing happens and it’s seeming more and more like a real thing.

I mean there was one girl that side eyed me and it wasn’t her figuring it out it was her staring at my chest or lack thereof and there was a sort of this odd little kind of smug look.

Wow.

Really it’s like that.

Yeesh.

We leave and the we hit the mall and I’m just mostly going along for the ride or I thought that I was until I’m getting asked questions about how I like this or that and if I think that it might look good on me.

And suddenly I’m involved.

And it’s really strange too.

It’s hard to get it out sometimes if I like things or not if something’s pretty or not and if something’s cute or not.

I’m not allowed to think this stuff in life or like get it or even like have that kind of freedom.

And I mean I’m not talking about home and family stuff but it’s there pushed hard and ingrained.

Do not enjoy this, this makes you weird.

It actually takes Aunt Chris to touch me on the arm as I’m looking at these tops that have these long sort of half sleeves and they have these kinda cool designs on them and I really like them.

“Robin, it’s okay get two and try them on.”

“No it’s okay.”

She turns me so she’s looking at me. “Hey Robin, Rob’s not here. Breathe okay; breathe if You like them the You should try them on.”

I look at her and I let go this shaky sigh and I go and take two of the tops that I like with me.

They don’t go with my sweat pants but I like both and I buy both of them.

It kind of slowly starts there, some tops and some capris pants in different colors and then some shoes and sneakers and a pair of sandals.

Then some girl shorts too because it’s summer and even a couple of cheap skirts too and Terri’s actually being okay like not a total shit about things.

Then again she’s really focused on her shopping and looking around and stuff and she’s even taking pictures with her phone of things and I am in no way even close to that sort of shopping.

It’s getting easier to not feel so like out of place.

Until we get to some of the intimate wear and things and I’m really embarrassed.

Right up to the point that Aunt Chris points out that I’m not the only person here that’s embarrassed to be shopping here and that there’s some grown women that look uncomfortable at least a little bit about all of this stuff.

I do get some more stuff here and there in these parts of the shops and it’s mostly sort of middle of the road stuff…cute and functional and not too racy.

But I have to tie my flats twice to deal with something that was happening.

And it’s sort of upsetting.

Because I feel like a pervert a little getting a stiffer in this place.

And I kind of want to cry.

And Aunt Chris takes me into the changing room at Hot-topic and yeah I end up sitting on the seat in there with her and crying.

(Sniffle.) “I’m sorry…”

“For what?”

“I just…I’m here and it’s all just so…”

“Stimulating?”

(Sniffle.) I nod.

“Robin it’s okay, these things happen and they happen because of all this stuff that’s going on with us.”

(Sniffle.) “Stuff…?”

“Socialization, what we’re taught in life and exposed to that tells us what’s sexy and what’s attractive and everything and that’s messing with hormones and thet fact that you’re trying to wrap your head around stuff that you’re supposed to be feeling like you’re not supposed to be feeling it’s just really messing you up?”

(Sniffle.) “I kind of feel like a pervert.”

“Do you like to be spanked with peanut butter spread over the lingerie section of a catalog?”

(Sniffle-laugh.) “No….”

“Then I think you’re good, just breathe robin and keep tying your shoe until that passes and you’re going to get used to all the slinky stuff to where it’ll be like ooooh pretty and not ooooh boing.”

She was right it did get better when I faced it like that.

But some of the things there were really like wow kinds of stuff and some of it was like stuff that I never like seen before and that’s just all part of this whole other world and life and way of life.

Then there’s a point where I buy myself some boobies.

Well they’re not boobs or like prosthetics and stuff but they’re these breast gel falsies for girls with the same problem as what I have and they feel totally strange in my bra and they don’t really let my do the cleavage thing at all either and their s good big solid A cup size for me and that’s enough really to give me some small bustline and there’s weight and they jiggle.

I get changed too in the public washroom and switch to one of my new tops and it’s grey with the long half sleeves and I wear my red capris pants with it and a belt that goes at my waist and over the shirt which is long enough for that because it sort of comes down and covers and I nearly ended up tucking it in.

I look okay.

And I ended up bouncing in the mirror with my new boobs just because Ai could and I thought that I’d be something that’s piss Terri off when she seen me do it and I stopped and she laughed and stood by me in the mirror and she jiggle bounced too and Aunt Chris even joined in until we were all laughing.

And Aunt Chris when she really loses herself she actually goes like up in pitch until she’s giggling.

I have never heard anyone do the he-he-he’s before and you know it’s because they’re laughing too hard to stop and too hard to breathe all the way so it’s actually like a laughy wheeze.

And it’s that funny I’ve never laughed that hard in my life and I laughed so hard I snorted.

Which shocked me and it set Terri off into her own giggler fits and she actually had to go and pee.

Which was made all the more funny by the weird sounds of a girl peeing while laughing and that made us laugh more and the she got one word out from inside the stall and that was.

“Bitches.”

I had never laughed that hard in my entire life.

Never ever and afterwards I could breathe.

We left the mall after about ten more stops and we didn’t buy a whole lot of things like clothes but some sunglasses and some plastic and fake but cute jewelry and even some make up too.

Aunt Chris got me this small starter kit of things at Shopper’s Drug Mart by buying some other things and she got this big Lancôme set and bag for getting a credit card application filled out at Sears.

It looked pretty cool with a lot of stuff I had like no clue about but it was so cool that Terri was vibrating.

I take the backseat again when we get to the car and Terri looks at me and she has this really big smile.

I’m actually a little close to weepy happy because she’s this happy too.

I mean I think, I really think that Mom and Dad were right and she needed to get away from here too.

We go and we get some supper and we get the big bucket of KFC chicken and all of the sides and then we stop at this gas station that she goes to and she gets us to go and pick out our own flavor and half pint of Ben and Jerri’s.

We never get it because a half pint of it home at the store is like close to seven bucks and that’s seriously no way pricing.

But it’s just such a good thing.

I got Cherry Garcia, because I actually like Cherries.

And then we’re heading for home and Aunt Chris gets us to put our stuff away while she gets supper ready and then choose a movie.

I had no idea what she was doing when she cranked her oven up really high and then she poured the chicken out in the bag from the bucket and she put in a couple of shakes of some kind of powdered seasoning? Like it needs more? And she turned the oven off and tore the big thick heavy brown paper KFC bag open and stuffed the whole thing in a roaster and put it in the hot oven.

I mean it was like fast like she does this all the time with KFC and it was really so worth it.

I have no clue as to what she put on it before she put it in the oven but the chicken had a lot of grease on it and the hot oven made it all run out into the brown paper and it was hot so it actually re-crisped it since it was steam sweating while we came home.

And we got changed into our Pj’s and we watched TV.

Daredevil from like the comics on Netflix and it’s awesome.

I mean I’m into it from the action and stuff but along with that is the fact that my aunt and my sister are watching it and they’re really into it for the same stuff and all of the guy pretty.

I wasn’t surprised at the guy pretty reaction, well unless it’s my own.

It’s definitely sort of a kind of a maybe thing?

And it’s not a boing thing, it’s nothing like that but it’s just the kinda sort of hurt broody cute but not cute thing that Matt has going on.

It’s there.

The big Q as in Questioning.

And it’s actually really late when we pack it in and we go to bed and I take the bed in the bag and Terri sleeps on the bed and it’s surprisingly comfortable and I’m beat…just worn out physically and emotionally and mentally as well as being pleasantly stuffed too and I crash pretty hard.

***CHAPTER 8…

I wake up and I had just such dreams.

Definitely girl dreams.

Or like maybe me dreams but I was a girl while I was in them.

Shopping and that’s no surprise at all there but also dream stuff where I was in slinky things and I was not really doubling up panties and I wasn’t wearing falsies and I was just a girl.

But like me as a girl and it wasn’t weirding me out and I wasn’t like too shy or like…I wasn’t me.

Or I really, really wasn’t Rob.

And there are parts that I really sort of liked about it too and they weren’t like all of the usual stuff either it was me in Chapters looking at books and then there was me in some part somewhere in a dress but not like one of those tight dresses but this off the shoulder sort of long and loose but not too loose flowing one with flowers and I was eating Cherry Garcia and dangling a flip flop off of my feet and I can remember staring at my toes and thinking I might actually like to paint my toenails.

And then I was at the beach and I was tanning and I was rolling over with my top off and I could feel my breasts pressing into the lounger chair thing and that’s when I woke up.

Face down in my bra and gel falsies and in my panties and the blankets were off and there was sunlight on me coming in from the bedroom window and take a breath and I look up and I look around and I sigh since Terri’s still asleep and I tuck my arms under my pillow and I actually do just that and lay there in that little patch of sun and tan.

No endless woodpile, no chore or getting up early for them and no other noised from home just the sounds of Aunt Chris’s apartment and of Terri sleeping.

I hear humming and singing about a half hour later but it was still this so nice thirty minutes of just me time.

I roll off the bed in the bag and snag my Pj’s and get them back on and then I make my bed back up really quietly and I head out of the spare bedroom.

Aunt Chris is up and she’s in the shower and she’s singing while she’s in there and I can so tell she sings for part of her living because she has this really great voice. It’s a deep girl voice and it’s lighter when she sings than when she talks and she’s singing.

*If You Don’t Know Me By Now.*

And I have no idea who it’s by because it’s like old and like Dad and Mom music but she’s really doing a good job of it.

I pad out to the kitchen and I look for something that’s like coffee or like close to it and she has a really nice coffee machine with like that whole Black and Decker brushed steel sort of thing and I’m looking it over and figure out how to make the coffee and she has Maxwell house in those pre-made super-sized coffee tea bag like discs and I set it into the filter part and fill it up with water and get it going and then I look for three mugs.

Aunt Chris has some nice dishes too it’s like all in complete sets that match and we actually don’t have that home. I don’t even really know why either it’s just always been mismatched stuff and like twos and threes of things.

I get down three big mugs that are those bowl mugs that I’ve seen people use sometimes like on TV and I get out the milk and cream and the sugar and I wait for it to perk and I see Aunt Chris show up first in her robe and she smiles at me.

“Morning and thank you for making coffee.”

“Uhm no problem it’s the least I can do and all.”

She takes cream and sugar but not a lot of each and I do the same and Terri’s up next and she’s sniffing the air and heading to the coffee and makes her own and she has her’s with just a whole lot of milk.

Aunt Chris asks. “So…this is the last day you’re here Robin what do you want to do?”

I look at her. “Honestly?”

“Of course.”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing?”

I drink some coffee. “I really, really don’t have the chance to just do nothing.”

She is looking at me and then she’s looking at Terri who is actually nodding and says. “I’m actually down for nothing too, I mean aunt Chris home’s well…well it’s home and I know that folks have it way worse off than we do but between chores home and going to school and homework it all adds up to all of that and eat, sleep and repeat.”

She nods. “I get that it was kind of the same for me at home.”

I look at her. “It was?”

“Yeah, I’m not from Halifax I’m a Cape Breton girl and unfortunately when I was thought to be a Cape Breton boy that meant fishing and it was chores and getting ready for fishing and being on the boats or helping out too. I really do get downtime.”

I sigh with relief. “Thanks that’s seriously cool.”

She smiles. “Well honestly I took some time off while you’re here to do things but this actually means I can do some me-time things too.”

I sigh with a bit of relief.

I head to the living room with my coffee and find a seat on one of Aunt Chris’s love seats that has a window view.

It’s nice here with a view of the surrounding area with trees and apartments and it’s actually a pretty nice view. I’m not used to being up high either with not even having so much as tree house.

I move a little getting comfortable and I get this feeling of my legs being shaven and how clean and slick they feel and I can definitely feel the panties I’m wearing too and it feels so strange.

And…I don’t know, I don’t there’s a wholly different feeing I’m getting.

I was so half expecting the whole pervy stuff to be coming up again.

But it’s not.

Instead it’s just kind of quiet, like inside of myself and it’s just sort of reacting to nothing. I mean I can sort of just feel something unwinding.

It’s pretty bad when you’re drinking a coffee and you are sort of feeling like you’re relaxing enough to go back to sleep.

I don’t though as Terri comes in with two bowls and passes me one and she sits and she looks at me.

“Legs?”

I take the bowl and it’s Honeycomb cereal one of my favorites.

“Yeah, it’s so different. I never thought that I had that much hair on there.”

“I love the feeling of fresh shaved legs.”

I finish my coffee and take a sip of milk from the bowl, Terri’s a little heavy on the milk. I’m weird because I like my cereal only kind of damp.

“I thought it was a pain in the ass for most girls?”

She gives me a look.

“Where’d you get that?”

“Reading, I read some feminist stuff.”

Terri nods. “It can be, it really depends on the person.”

“Oh wasn’t like I read.”

She looks at me. “There’s a lot of people that say their feminists but they’re kinda warped Robin. It’s like thy take everything too far and it sort of ends up with them acting like being born a girl is the worst thing on the planet.”

I nod and take a mouthful. “I’ve been on Tumblr and seen some of that radfem stuff.”

She rolls her eyes. “I avoid that stuff like the plague. I’m not really interested in people telling me I’m a bad woman and feminist because I like being a girl and like girl stuff and like guys.”

“You like guys?”

She looks at me. “I thought you had that figured out already.”

“I never asked though, I thought I’d at least ask.”

She chews and finishes a mouthful. “I like girls sort of in a way, but it’s not like a sex thing. It’s more like I get the odd kinda crush but then I kind of get to the vag stuff and it’s like eeew hell no.”

I laugh. “You have a vag how can it be eeew?”

“Yes, yes I do but that’s waaay different than having one like up close in your face.” Terri makes a face. “But what about you?”

“Me?”

“Yeah you, Robin.”

“I don’t know. I can say for sure that it’s an absolute no for any guys I know.”

“Well what about the girls?”

“I don’t know that either. I mean before this I kind of yeah definitely liked girls but it wasn’t like I had anyone I really, really liked and it wasn’t like Rob had stuff going on that kind of drew them in.”

“Okay you talking like Rob’s different than Robin’s really trippy.”

I shrug. “Sorry, it’s just sort of gotten weird and saying it like that just felt easier.” I eat some more cereal.

Terri’s looking at me. “You really don’t know?”

I look at her and eat some more and shrug. “I’m sitting here and dressed like this and I’m not even really turned on by it right now it just all seems to be like this big but kinda good wall between me and just a couple days ago.”

She looks at me. “Is being a guy that bad?”

“No, not really I mean it’s not bad, it’s got a lot of guy expectations and things you just have to do or be or not do and stuff just like being a girl does. Honestly I don’t know.”

Terri finishes her cereal and she is really looking at me hard and I look back at her hard and I feel like crying. I feel like there’s I don’t know something open right now and actually vulnerable. I mean I don’t cry but there’s this swell of feeing and it’s stuff I don’t get.

I think it was settling in actually even as I was sitting down with the coffee.

I…

Terri leans over and sets the bowl she had aside and she hugs me.

“Wh…why?”

“You looked like you needed it.” Terri backs off. “This is a real thing huh? You’re really that confused?”

(Sniffle.) “Y..Yeah the whole big Q like in questioning.”

Terri actually moves closer and I sit with her sort of shoulder to shoulder and we’re just sort of looking at our feet.

“Robin?”

I look over at her. “Yeah?”

“I’m sorry ‘Kay?”

I look at her. I can sort of see it there in her eyes that she is sorry.

I just nod and lean on her. I mean it’s not like a big apology and all but sometimes you just got to know when to not push things.

I mean Terri was plenty pissed about what might be beforehand with me.

I’m not sure if I want to open that can of worms.

She sighs and we sit there for a while and she says. “You want to play dress up?”

“Huh?...uhm…no.” I’m looking at her.

“Oh come on, you’ve got the stuff and we’ve just got today so don’t you actually want to look like you know what you’re doing?”

“Uhm…Terr no offense but I’m not too sure if a few hours of like dress up is going to really do much for me in the way of experience.”

“Yeah but some idea’s better than like no idea and kids are like kids there’s like always a bar to pass.”

“You weren’t too thrilled about me in girl stuff before.”

“That was like before yesterday, I was scared as hell that you’d be like all over the top or like limpwristed and acting all over the top or just like…eeewww. Look being a girl’s a serious thing y’know it’s not all it’s cracked up to be and it’s not something that I and other girls have a choice in so it’s like kind of a touchy thing when there’s people that kinda sorta make fun of it.”

“Well honestly it’s really not like that, I like mean with trans people Terri, no one’s trying to like make fun of anyone.”

“Yeah well I know that…NOW.” Terri said Now with that whole attitude of like her saying No-duh.

I look at her and I sigh.

I really don’t want to start a fight or keep going round and round about this because honestly she’s like still sort of back and forth with it.

There’s a large bit of me being here and here isn’t home and I’m not going to embarrass her going on with her understanding.

And I’m not going to fight her about it.

Not here in Aunt Chris’s house and I really don’t want to drag this out into something ugly.

So I get off the couch with a roll. “Okay, we do this but I really don’t want to do like too much make-up and hair stuff.”

Terri nods and she takes me to the bedroom and she takes out her Lancôme bag of stuff and mine and her personal stuff and then my clothes and stuff and we set them out all on the bed and we put on some music on our tablets with some of that girl rock stuff that Terri has and we get started.

It’s a lot like a mix and match game with things in like accents. It’s really hard and yet it kind of makes sense. I’m apparently a good picker of clothes since I went with some greys and blue jeans and some block colors and then with some simple stuff like my skirt which I got in denim which apparently goes pretty well with everything.

The make-up is the hardest part actually and that’s the eye stuff and the frikkin foundation stuff and not touching your face.

I was never conditioned through doing this all of the time to not touch my face.

Lipstick is actually easy, I mean getting it on and then there’s this whole thing now where you can get it sort of applied with one thing and now another thing and have it like super set so it doesn’t come off easily.

But the amount of eye make-up and the things to do is like a lot of things and it’s really weird and it’s hard. I mean to use the eyelash curlers and then mascara and stuff when I’m one of those people who has like next to impossible problems with things like eye-drops and I get plagued sometimes with eyelashes in my eyes sometimes.

Okay… for the record I look good with it done right, and the mascara stuff actually gives me these really long lashes that sort of feels odd but it looks actually really.

Really good like a whole thing that changes me from maybe to pretty sure that’s a girl.

I can look good in red lipstick but that really would depend on the look I am like wearing and Aunt Chris came in with more coffee and some rice crispy treats and she sits in with us on the floor while she’s reading on her Nook.

Mooseheads Hockey zip front hoodie on and track pants and a tee-shirt and in her bare feet and she still looks good.

She reads and she watches and she’ll occasionally stop and come over now and then to give us advice and for the both of us to do stuff though still far more me than Terri but she still helps us both and it’s kind of fun and then it gets oddly serious when she takes like picture of us all and then puts them up on our tablets so we can see what we look like and what the differences are in like pictures.

“Because pictures are without photoshopping one of the harshest critics we have out there.” Aunt Chris says with that been there done that sort of authority.

I look at my pictures and I nod. Right there I’m sort of learning that there’s a bunch of looks and things for me that’s a hell no.

She looks at me after a while. “Okay I think you have enough survivability basics and we’ve sat around the house doing this for most of the day so how about we do one final round of this after we clean up and we go out for supper and then out to a theater to catch a movie?”

I nod. “Actually that would be nice.”

Terri nods. “Definitely I kind of want to get out there.”

I look at her. “Out there?”

She grins at me. “We’re not home and I’m not home and I’m in Halifax I want to actually like date and have fun and maybe have like a summer boyfriend.”

“Are you going to tell him that he’s a summer boyfriend?”

She grins. “Definitely and like hopefully they’ll want to make a good impression.”

Aunt Chris grins. “And I’ll be around to show you the ropes and stuff about dating people in like the big city.”

I smile and shake my head. “I do not even want to like get close to any of that stuff right now with where my head is at and all.”

We end up getting cleaned up and while we’re not like going out clubbing and stuff there’s still a lot of prep to do and I get showered and wash and condition my hair and you really need to condition it if you’re going to like mess with it and style it a lot and I get lotioned up and then all the deodorant and stuff and then dressed with my gel-falsies and under wear and things and I go with this geekette shirt with Harley Quinn (mostly red) on it that I like even if I’m not a geek that much and I wear to go with it and my denim skirt and sneakers.

And thanks to my already mowing the lawn in shorts my legs for the most part aren’t super pale. I’m actually kind of lucky since I’m kind of close to having a light natural tan anyways year in and year out.

I leave my hair down but it’s had a few coils on the curling iron to get this sort of loose here and there sort of wavy thing and I go with light make up so I can easily fix the little bit of stuff I have done and make sure that I have all the things that I need in my purse.

Aunt Chris keeps her hoodie but she goes for tight jeans that have like that faded and torn look and really show off her hips and her butt and she so has a girl butt.

I mean she’s not a skinny woman for sure but she owns her body with this sort of strength that I don’t get and I haven’t really seen from Terri or Mom actually.

And she has a tee-shirt that’s scoop necked enough to show cleavage and then she does this thing with the zip front hoodie that she only zips so far to like frame her breasts and she really looks good.

And I have to admit guy me would definitely check out a woman like her and the sports hoodie is like icing on the cake.

Terri get dressed in her tight black jeans that mom has said you’re really wearing those about a lot and she has a power bra on because her boobs are doing the whole really full and out and proud thing and she’s also has a scoop necked top on and she’s wearing a necklace with a black plastic cat’s head on it like sort of what Catwoman would wear and I think she got it at the same place I got my Harley Quinn tee- shirt.

She really did the sort of smoky eye thing and she’s definitely looking like she’s dressed to be seen.

I sit in the back seat and that’s an adventure in skirt sitting.

Terri looks at me. “You sure that you don’t want to sit in the front?”

I nod. ‘I’m good but help getting out would be like awesome okay?”

It’s like little stuff really, and honestly…honestly I want robin to be someone that Terri likes.

It’s kind of like really important to me.

We head out in Aunt Chris’s car and she drives through town but this time she’s actually trying to take as many side streets as we can to avoid the three until six traffic that comes up with people going to and from work and we’re listening to tunes again and singing along with it some more.

I’m starting to like some of these women.

I think I really like Alanis Morrisette…. We sing along to *Ironic* and it’s a really good tune.

But I’m starting to like Amy Winehouse and Adele too and I’m finding out that there’s some guy singers that girls like and will sing to as well and we end up singing along to *Kiss from a rose* By Seal and we’re singing *I’ll bet There for You* as we pull into this place called King of Donair.

Donair’s are something that you buy in this kind yeeeach package in the grocery or you wait until you’re someplace with a Greco Pizza.

This smells incredible, like really incredible with the air coming out from the vents and we park and we get out and lock the car and we head inside.

And the different stuff happens really fast.

A couple of guys open doors for us and we come in and we say thank you as we do and aunt Chris is getting looks and so is terry with the zoom in guy focus on their chests and then I’m scoped out too and I notice the looks these guys are giving me like they’re checking me out too and I seen what I think they’re doing in the reflection of the windows and that’s checking us out from behind.

All of us.

Okay nothing like guys checking you out like you’re a girl to make you self-conscious.

Terri drifts close. “Chill it’s like normal, it’s just guys are way more obvious in checking us out than girls are of checking guys out.”

“Easy for you to say I’ve never dealt with this.”

“Just relax, unless they’re like total a-holes a lot of guys are just going to like look.”

“But they’re talking about us.”

“And we’re talking about them.”

“Okay it’s still weird.”

“Good weird or bad weird?”

“I don’t know.” I hiss whisper at her and she giggles. Oh she’s enjoying this…actually she’s likely enjoying this on several fronts I imagine.

I kind of take my cues though from Aunt Chris who’s friendly but not too friendly there seems to be this line that she doesn’t cross with most guys and it’s like really limited sort of eye contact and semi-neutral conversation too.

I get closer to her. “So the aloof sort of stuff that girls do is like this right it’s kind of like a defense?”

She nods as we’re waiting in line. “Some guys are fine and they’re okay to talk to the trick is to look at their eyes and body language towards you. If they’re looking you over way too much and it makes you uncomfortable that’s the biggest sign. It’s a good instinct to have that they want to get to be physical with you and stuff.”

“And that’s bad right?”

“For all girls that’s dangerous, guys can be dangerous. For girls like us it’s double dangerous because of the phobic stuff and how much that they want to hurt us to like defend their stupid manhood or something for getting attracted to us.”

“Okay but how do you tell the bad ones from the good ones?”

“Well that’s the hard part, it’s my rule of thumb if he’s really good looking then he knows it and he’s likely had his way a lot. That means no’s are dangerous words around guys like him. Then there’s the guys with the really fancy clothes or watches or like the three hundred dollar sneakers those guys are all about flash and things that are pretty much him getting things that he wants including girls.”

“Oh…well yeech I know girls home that are dating guys like that.”

“A lot of girls will, there’s stuff a guy with coin can do in a dating scene or a relationship that they think a lot will happen and they’ll date a guy for those things and then there’s the good looking guys that they’ll date and it’s like a status thing. Just like it is for guys to date a hot girl.”

“So how do you tell the difference? Who’s a good guy?”

“Avoid the self-proclaimed good guys too, they’re never as good as they think that they are most of them being good is actually in their own head.”

“Oh…well I guess it’s a good thing I kind of know that I’m a jerk sometimes.”

“Rob’s a jerk sometimes, you haven’t been one yet.”

I smile. “Thanks for that.”

I look at her. “So… how do I avoid the assholes?”

“Honestly you can’t not ever entirely so what you have to do is find a guy that will listen, and one that’s not like too into himself and manners are nice but those are actually best if their consistent and stuff like that.”

“Wow…that sounds like that’s not all that common.”

“It’s not and like ten times as hard for us, remember that…there’s always this something that can go unhinged in a guy if he thinks his ego or manhood is like threatened. It’s not all guys but it’s enough of them.”

“Okay now I’m kind of scared.”

Aunt Chris looks at me. “Good be scared enough to be aware honey because that’s life really especially for a girl or a woman but don’t live in fear either.”

“How don’t you live in fear?”

“Practice for me, I was really introverted before I became myself and that takes practice to get past and then best thing I have ever found that works is to treat everyone politely and to be nice and most importantly.”

I look at her as we get to the counter. “Most importantly?”

“Treat people equally, it’s usually really well received unless it’s someone who’s an asshole because they are the ones that want special treatment.”

I almost burst out laughing when the girl behind the counter says. “Ain’t that the truth.”

And she’s looking at Aunt Chris and me and she smiles at us with that look that I have seen a time or two at the mall when we were with her and that’s that whole mixed race reaction thing.

I mean we’re calling her Aunt Chris but there’s still a sort of like mixed but not mixed thing between colored folks here and white folks here I mean it’s not like bad or I don’t think it’s bad but it’s just not a common thing, like there’s of course mixed race families and stuff but not so much with people that hang around with each other.

And home…Pfft forget it. I mean it’s not like really a racist haven and stuff but it is at the same time. We have like just a few black families and black kids and they’re mostly mixed and we have some immigrant kids too and the rest of non-white is like native kids and families that aren’t really that close by but you still hear people say crappy things once in a while.

There’s a lot more diversity here in Halifax sure but at the same time there’s not like enough of it.

Aunt Chris and Terri and I we sort of stand out a little especially as we talk.

We place our orders and I get a small donair and so does Terri and we order a twelve inch donair pizza that we’re all going to share and Aunt Chris gets donair fries.

Then we go and get a table with our ticket and wait.

Donair meat for people that haven’t had it is like ground beef that is mixed with spices and herbs and things and it’s all in this big roll on a skewer thing that they have that sits upright and it slowly cooks and cures then they like shave it off to cook in ribbons.

The next like best thing is this sauce they make that’s like sweetened condensed milk and vinegar and garlic and other stuff that I really don’t know that much about.

Then it’s like put in pita with onions and tomatoes and fine cut lettuce and rolled.

The pizza is like that minus the lettuce usually.

Here it’s the best I’ve ever had because they do the real pizzeria crust with like the dough that does that bubbly thing and there’s like garlic butter on the bottom instead of sauce and there’s dice onions and tomatoes and they have the meat and they replaced the lettuce with spinach and then they bake it…then when the meat is crisped they sauce it and then they cheese it and put it back in until the cheese id like melted and the thing that completely made it for me was the lemon wedges they give you to like squeeze over the pizza that helps everything about it.

And donair fries are fries with donair sauce and they put all these little tiny shaved bits of donair meat in this pan with the sauce and they add minced garlic to it and then right as soon as the fried are drained they toss the two things together and they become this brilliant thing.

Actually Terri and I eat way more than some of Aunt Chris’s donair fries and there’s guys still watching us.

The same guys, new guys.

Guys watching us eat fries and licking off our fingers.

Like really?

Wow.

And not really a great wow just kind of a scary wow.

And it’s not just us.

Like most of the other girls and women there are at one point or another getting this too unless they’re like eating like really full out pig out or if they’re not like what seems to be some passing standard for attractive.

And some of those girls are really trying to hide, or get stuff for take-out.

Which I get and it sort of sucks really that you’re either getting objectified or you’re getting non-objectified and because of that sort of excluded.

Which from what I see hurts.

And I get not making the grade like that from other people.

I think I might have even done that as Rob too from things I sort of remember.

Wow…I was less of a nice guy than I thought.

No girl or woman should be made to feel like they’re leftovers.

Well no one should be made to feel like their leftovers actually.

I look at Aunt Chris and just sort of wonder…how much, how often was she made to feel like that, how often does she feel like that?

I give her a smile; I give her a smile because she’s really done more than right by us so much of the time. “Thanks Aunt Chris, this whole thing has been really, really cool.”

She looks surprised but it looks like it matters a lot too.

I love that look that you can sometimes see on people’s faces when they get to have a minute of really happy.

We eat and we leave and there’s some guys definitely still watching us leave and I can still feel the stares and stuff.

There’s something though inside that has this sort of feeling of being okay with being popular or sort of looked at though.

We get in the car and I take the back seat again getting a little better at this and actually getting in is a lot less potentially showing stuff than getting out can be. There’s also an advantage in being in the back when you’re wearing a skirt and have to get out over the pushed forward seat.

Once we’re driving I look at Aunt Chris and Terri in the front. “Okay so if it’s shitty getting objectified then why do women want to have guys notice them as much as they do?’

Terri’s like. “Because we like guys, or most of us do and it’s not wanting to be objectified but it’s wanting to be attractive and to be wanted.”

I’m like. “But wanted is like possessive?”

Aunt Chris. “It is and that’s a fine line thing like most stuff in life. You want people to like you right? Well it’s exactly that but it’s the woman’s side of it. We want to look good, we want to feel like we look good and there’s a lot of social stuff involved in that but it’s like still us wanting to be wanted only it comes with the strings attached to being a girl.”

I look at them. “How do you deal with it?”

Terri laughs. “We just do, it’s like you dealing or as a guy you just do. Or you don’t or can’t. There’s a lot of girls that want to be attractive in the whole way that everyone wants and will never get it and the same for guys too but women have a lot more socially deep consequences, there’s a lot of our life that gets put onto us by labels that guys can like ignore.”

I’m…well part of me sort of wants to argue that being a guy is no picnic either and that we have it hard too but honestly when I’m listening and I’m looking at it there’s a slant because there’s a lot of the stuff that women have to be that guys get to ignore.

I mean I’ve never really watched body builders on TV as a guy or read like Men’s fitness magazines or like see even actors and wanted to really be them that much…I mean there’s always if I was like that I could…those fantasies but a lot of guys they can like just sort of shrug a lot of things off and still be like guys and still have like girls trying to be attractive for them.

Girls though are different, and I’ve seen them even Terri and Mom have their magazines and I’ve seen both of them try diets and all sorts of other stuff that was just sort of girl stuff and that’s just those too and really.

Really I don’t actually know either my mother or my sister deeply as women people at all.

I have no clue how deep this goes for them.

Aunt Chris asks. “So why the question?”

I’m like. “I knew that they were watching us and I knew that they weren’t going to try anything so I was safe and it felt kind of nice to feel like I was attractive and drawing heads.”

I take a big breath. “And feeling that well isn’t something I get. Feeling that as a girl isn’t something I get. It’s all kind of a hard thing to process.”

Aunt Chris chuckles. “Yeah it is especially when it’s something that you’ve always wanted in my case.”

Terri looks at her. “How’s that work?”

Aunt Chris smiles and she turns the music down. “Because I’m a woman, because I was socialized as a girl.”

Terri asks still looking at her. “But you were born a boy?”

Aunt Chris looks back at her. “No I was assigned being male, and that never ever really fit me. All of my socialization all of my inner voice and narrative was female and the male stuff was pushed through fear. Trans people are their assigned birth sex really only by society holding them hostage and what everyone sees is pretty much Stockholm syndrome.”

Terri asks. “Was it really that bad?”

Aunt Chris nods and I see her swallow. “When you step out of what’s socially acceptable you get punished by the system. When you’re seen by the system as a male then the level of violence that you get is often what is set for males to receive and that usually doesn’t have a limit or an expiration date.”

She looks at us as we’re pulling into a parking lot space for the mall. “That’s why we have such a high death rate, between getting killed outright or getting evicted or kicked out or starved out or just outcast by everyone and everything…it’s that reaction and we know…most of us know before we come out, before we say a word that this is what can come…and we still come out.”

Terri nods… “So you were always a girl just you could never say anything.”

Aunt Chris nods. “A sequestered girlhood is still girlhood.”

Terri nods and she leans across the seats and she hugs her. “I had no idea Aunt Chris, seriously I had no idea.”

Terri then looks at me and I shrug some. “I’m still Questioning, and it’s not like I was socialized as a girl I know that much.”

Aunt Chris unbuckles her seatbelt and she says something really that kind of hits for me. “That doesn’t mean though that being a guy is what you socialized either, some people aren’t either one.”

And that’s kind of sort of like it.

I don’t feel all of either?

I mean I’m in full on girl mode and I’m not freaking out and I’m not horned up from it but it’s still sort of pretty new and odd to me.

Maybe I don’t actually fit who I’ve lived as all my life.

I sigh and accept Terri’s help out of the car as we’re getting ready to go and see a show at the Empire 8 Theater. “Just what I need is a lot more questions.”

Aunt Chris looks at me. “Questions are good Robin, especially at your age since I was a lot older before I couldn’t live as someone drowning in her own shadows. There’s a lot more of life to live after high school and things so you doing this and asking those kinds of questions is a good thing even if it’s confusing and scary.”

I smile and I hug and lean on her as we’re walking in.

It’s a girl thing I think and I just sort of did it.

“Thanks Aunt Chris, thanks for having my back.”

“I have both of your backs remember that, you two are important to me.”

We all head inside to the movies together arm in arm and it’s definitely a girl thing and it still feels good.

There’s a thing about this sisterhood thing that guys binding and being guys will just never really get.

Not to me it won’t.

But then again if I’ve never really fit guy then it’d feel like that right?

*** CHAPTER 9…

Captain America 3 was a really great movie.

And I loved the popcorn and the whole thing about going to the movies like this.

Seriously we don’t have the popcorn like this or the space shuttle seats and we don’t have the three-D glasses either. This is like me seeing people going to the movies on TV and it’s awesome.

And I’m getting a bit more education in girls.

There’s a lot of girls here at this movie.

There’s a lot of girls here without guys and boyfriends at this movie and it’s not just for seeing the guys that are in it.

It was really incredibly different to sit in the ladies room after the first showing and waiting to use the toilet and fixing make-up and everything and talking to a bunch of women and girls that were like geeketting out.

And I go like so many props for my Harley Quinn shirt.

And if someone made me, or clued into me not being a girl like the other girls no one said anything.

Though I think one of the girls that was dressed sort of like Steve Rodgers was really cut in this totally maybe lesbian way?

I mean she had this Captain America tee shirt on and she had really nice boobs filling it out but she paired it off with a short haircut that was a little long in the front and had like a full on sort of army shave on the sides and the back and she looked seriously good.

And she was wearing grey fatigues and she was definitely a fan of the movie and stuff but she was kind of like checking out the other girls and she was sort of checking out Terri.

I saw her do it again as we left and she was with her friends and lining up to see the next showing and I definitely seen her looking.

And not at me.

I look at Terri and she finally looks at me and she asks. “What are you looking at?”

“Uhm you and that girl in the cap stuff.”

“Yeah she was kinda rad.”

I grin.

Terri asks. “What?”

“I think I might have gaydar.”

Terri stops dead in her walk. “Huh?”

Aunt Chris bursts out laughing. “Definitely Robin.”

Terri’s like. “What?”

I turn around and I’m walking backwards. “I think she was into you.”

Voosh…Terri turns beet red. “What me…no…no way.”

I nod and so does Aunt Chris. “She was into you.”

Terri stays blushed but she’s walking faster towards the car. “Okay…okay, uhm…”

I look at her. “Hey it’s okay she’s seeing the show again with her friends and besides you said you’re not into girls.”

Terri actually gets redder. “I know what I said but there’s like no lesbian girls back home and it’s not like I’ve actually had like any girl actually flirt with me.”

I look at her as I get into the car. “There’s no lesbian girls at school?”

She shakes her head. “Not that I know of and it’s a small town so I think it’s have gotten around.”

I grin at her. “Hey it’s actually kind of cool.”

She looks at me. “Cool?”

“Yeah girls have like higher standards I’m going to say than like guys do about who they like from what I can tell and she liked you so that’s really a compliment.”

Aunt Chris says. “Girls can be not so picky too Robin but it is a compliment. I was there she was definitely interested Terri but she wasn’t pressuring you when you didn’t get it.”

Terri groans. “I don’t know what’s worse that I was getting chatted up or that I was too much of a thickhead to like see it.”

Aunt Chris and I are both laughing. “Terri it’s alright, it was just one of those things.”

We start to drive back to Aunt Chris’s place and we take our time which is nice and we listen to some more tunes and just spend some time driving.

It’s actually fun to be able to just go for a drive and to just cruise around town.

I mean people do that home but there’s really not that much to see and stuff other than the water and town which is like all of like ten or fifteen minutes if you drive around almost all of it.

This is different and it’s nice.

It’s bonding time and there’s something actually pretty cool about driving around at night and stuff, with the tunes and the car console and there’s the fact that Aunt Chris is into it and Terri is into it so it’s like another thing that girls do and are into that I didn’t think that they were into.

It’s late when we get back to her place and we get cleaned up and into our bed things and crash.

It was a good day.

All of the stuff we did and talked about, and talked about…and that was maybe the best of it that I was talking about all of this stuff that’s inside me and all of these questions and that it was like safe enough to do that.

It was a good day.

But sleep takes a while.

I’m leaving in the morning and right now these last few days and this new me and this whole time.

I’m really going to miss them.

Homesick for a kind of a life that you’ve never really had before is really hard.

I fall asleep with a feeling of that and wanting to cry some.

I woke up with this feeling of being held and of soft parts that aren’t mine against me and I can smell Terri’s shampoo and she’s in bed with me in the bed in the bag thingy.

My eyes feel crusty.

“Terri?”

“Mmm..?”

“Why are you in my bed?”

“You were crying in your sleep Robin.”

“…….sorry.”

“Don’t be it’s cool.”

“It was very cool actually.”

“Yeah, well…you’re more than just my brother you’re my sister…sort of…but after like the last couple of days you’re like my friend.”

(Sniffle-smile.) “Yeah…you’re my friend too Terr.”

(Sniffle.) “Don’t you start crying because you’re going to get me crying.”

(Sniffle.) “But I was crying last night?”

(Sniffle.) “That was different; you were asleep now we’re talking.”

(Sniffle.) “Sorry…”

(Sniffle.) “Stop saying you’re sorry…why were you crying last night?”

(Sniffle-sob.) “Because I’m going to miss you!”

I roll over and I’m looking at her and Terri’s looking at me and I have tears just ready to spill and she has tears that are starting to spill and I get one look at her and she’s looking at me and we start crying together and holding each other.

This is a big thing y’know her and me doing this, there’s always been us being siblings but we weren’t like this, we were never close and really and honestly we were never friends before and for us to actually be friends and siblings and we’re crying on each other it’s really, really huge.

And to be able to hold each other, to be able to cry and not get the whole guy reaction about it.

Wow Aunt Chris was so right about that.

Even if there’s no one around if you’re a guy and you are like feeling stuff that much you’re still not allowed, it’s so thickly shoved on us to be that way, to man up and be hard and to take it.

Take it, take it, take it, do ever say a thing, don’t say a thing, don’t tell don’t be what we say you’re not supposed to be.

And there’s a whole wall of shame with that.

And sometimes it will get dropped on you until that part that’s trying to get out runs out of air and it dies down, shuts up, and shuts off.

But Robin is outside that wall and I’m going from love crying to crying out things I have no idea that are making me cry.

But in between those sobs I’m really breathing.

And my sister is more there and more awesome for me than she ever has been in my life.

Aunt Chris gives us both time, she came inside I think and she checked on us but she gave us time to do this and she only came in when we really needed to stop and get ready.

It was showering and getting ready and I had to go back into Rob clothes for the flight because of my ID and all and there was a sort of awful moment when I had to pack Robin away even if it was for a hopefully short while.

It really sort of killed the mood even more and it was kind of this thing…I don’t get what kind of thing but Aunt Chris like hugged me three times before we even went and got in the car.

I really think she got how it felt to do this.

It was a miserable but good heartsick drive to the airport and I mean good because we were all upset at me going and that as bad as that feels it feels good to be missed and wanted.

It’s even funny sad when my plane is on time.

They both go with me as far as they can go and I stop as others are getting on and there’s some people saying goodbye too and I look at Aunt Chris and I look at Terri and I hug them both really hard.

“I love you sis.”

“I love you too Rob…Robin.”

She hugs me in this really, really tight squeeze and I give it back and it’s hard to not cry but I want to cry but there’s this effing something there while I’m in Rob mode that’s saying no.

Then Aunt Chris hugs me in this whole definitely momma bear kind of way and she is crying and she’s smiling at me too when she’s done.

It’s so…odd and hard and not right that I feel closer to her than I do my own Mom right now.

And maybe even Dad some too.

And then it’s me leaving and leaving was really, really a lot harder than I thought it would be.

*** CHAPTER 10…

The plane’s a lot smaller than I thought but then again it’s not that I have ever been on an airplane or I guess a jet in my life.

I’m definitely one of the youngest people on the flight and we’re a direct flight too so it’s actually from what I can tell a pretty even mix of people that look mostly like college kids and business people with like maybe a fifth of us being on the plane for something else.

I am lucky I have a window seat and Dad made sure of that I think and while I’m still all emotionally achy inside part of me is actually getting caught up in things as we start to move and then we start to actually go faster and faster and lift off.

Wow Halifax and Dartmouth look very different from the air and actually kind of cool. I get a short but neat look at the citadel and the harbor before we’re out of sight of it all or at least from where I’m sitting.

I’m still looking.

Flying is pretty amazing and it’s my first time and there’s definitely people way more un-awed by this than me. I mean all of my big travel experiences were just in our cars, on the odd fishing boat and I was on the bus a few times for like long school field trips.

This is definitely better.

And it’s pretty freaky trying to see towns and cities that I might sort of know where they are by like guessing but we’re not really doing that. I see some places in the Annapolis valley then we’re crossing the Bay of Fundy and I think I saw Saint John but I’m not sure and then I have no idea.

I mean it’s the land dropping and dropping away until it’s all just doing that sort of land-quilt thing that you see on TV and then there’s water, like maybe an hour there’s water and I see Toronto and I hear we’re approaching Lester B. Pearson and we do the circling thing and we only like do it twice.

But wow.

Toronto.

It’s so much more unimpressive that I thought it would be.

Okay, no don’t get me wrong but I sort of only ever seen it from TV and on TV it’s a lot of the stuff from that whole downtown core. And that actually looks cool, it’s all the tall buildings and the shiny mirrored windows and the deep downtown stuff and then sort of once you leave that the city becomes like shorter, more normal and I will gift it this it has a whole lot of itself, and it’s is really big and spread out.

And I have very little to no idea what is where and what’s what.

But I got some good looks and I took a few okay pictures with my phone before having to put it away and we’re landing.

Okay now I’m sort of scared.

I take a deep breath and I get off the plane and I head forgetting my bags and I’m hugely relieved that they came through alright and they didn’t end up in Montreal or something.

I’m just getting things checked and I’m looking around and I’m a little lost and bewildered and I see a big blue sheet of poster board saying in big stenciled letters.

MOON LAKE.

I let out a sigh of relief at seeing that and I head that way with my suitcase and my carry on and my hockey bag.

Yes I have things and it’s sort of a lot of them. I’m going to be there for almost two months…all summer and I will need the clothes and the other stuff too.

The first thing I notice is the woman holding the sign is tall, like six foot tall and she’s got some strong looking shoulders on her but everything else looks.

I mean she looks like she’s a woman and she’s trans too I think because I can sort of tell…sort of. But her face is nice and she’s sort of pretty but she’s definitely older and she has long brown hair that’s actually mostly grey and she wears it long and loose.

I think she recognizes me because she sees me and she waves me over. “Robin!”

Okay that was weird how’d she?

Oh wait I’m the only one that came in from Nova Scotia most likely for here.

And I’m looking and heading right at her so yeah I think she figured it out.

I like her look, I like her arms.

See her arms are really excellent. I mean it’s not like she has muscles and things but she’s fully sleeved, as in tattoos and some of them are absolutely lovely with flowers and things that you might see in that whole pin-up tattoo scene on TV and stuff.

Big red tropical flowers and there’s tiny birds and those stars that you see a lot of people have with tattoos and then there are other things too. Actually there’s more than I can really take in.

Both her arms are done in them and she’s wearing a tee-shirt that’s a batman t-shirt and it’s tightly tucked into her skirt and it showing off some ample cleavage. She’s also wearing this almost hippy sort of long skirt I think they call a peasant skirt.

I think I kind of like her because she seems so open and friendly and she has all those hippy things too like beads and a peace symbol necklace and a bunch of other stuff.

And I think I might really like that kind of skirt.

It looks like it might be hard to get used to but seriously it has this kind of pretty factor going on with it and it really looks comfortable.

I get closer and she’s still waving and I wave back and she shouts again. “Jess!”

I look and there’s this guy, well sort of a guy there behind me by a few feet with a ball cap on and a football jersey and baggy pants and a bunch of bags and there’s just something that’s different and this Jess is about my age and they’re kind of right there in between that who definite puberty change zone.

I don’t want to start to misgender people but either way or like in between Jess is good looking.

We end up looking at each other and there’s this sort of semi-stare then a mutual blush thing that happens and then we sort of walk over together.

I extend my hand to the woman. “Hi I’m Robin.” and I try to keep my voice light and Jess looks at me and there’s a smile.

Jess does the same saying. “I’m Jess.’ And she, definitely a she by the way her tones just shifted shook hands with the woman and then with me.

The woman grins and says. “Great I’m Holly and if you two want to just grab a seat while we wait for some of the others to get in that’d be great or you can leave your things here and you can go and change in the bathrooms if you want.”

I look at her and I look at Jess who has this look in her eyes and we end up saying. “Go change!” at the same time.

I can’t help but to smile a little at Jess and she says. “Jinx you owe me a coke.”

“Done.”

And Jess says. “Come on let’s go find the bathrooms.”

Holly points out where they're at and she says. “Use the stalls, but you should be safe there’s lots of camera around.”

We take some of our stuff and jess and I head over to the bathrooms and there’s a bit of hesitation as we get to the doors and with a big breath I push through and go into the ladies room and Jess takes off her ball cap and she shakes loose a lot of really nice light brown hair and she really looks more like a girl.

Or well actually the girl that she is and we get a few looks from some of the women in there but no one says anything and we each have to wait for a stall and I see Jess taking out a dress and unrolling it with a frown.

“I was hoping this wouldn’t wrinkle too badly.”

I nod. “Hopefully we can fit it when we get to camp; I think they have a laundry place there.”

She nods. “They do it’s one of the jobs there I read I think they take in laundry from town some and maybe some of the other camps.”

One of the women looks at us. “I can help with that.”

Jess looks at her. “If you could that’d be great but I don’t want to be a bother.”

She shakes her head. “Nope I have the same thing happen to me and some of my things because I travel all of the time so…” she takes out her carry on and a water bottle and she holds a finger over it and she shakes some water out over the dress and then she shakes the dress. “You just want to get it damp and then…” We watch as she takes it over to the hand dryer thingy and holds it under the thing and it starts up and blows hot air over the dress and it sort of does after like three times get most of the wrinkles out.

Jess is smiling. “That’s really neat thank you!”

The woman smiles back. “No problem you’re welcome girls.”

She takes her things and she heads out and we finally get a stall and Jess looks at me. “Share?”

“Sure we’ll take up less space that way.”

We head into the stall and it takes a little maneuvering but we get our things out and we start to change.

She’s definitely like me, a little skinnier and less muscled than me and I’m sort of feeling self-conscious about myself and really that way when we get down to our underwear and then we get changed out from those and we’re both turning around.

I hear Jess say. “I’m a little jealous of your tan I’m kind of pale.”

I turn a little. “Thanks, its mowing lawns home and doing stuff at home it means I have a tan line though for my shorts. I’m not sure what to do about that.”

Jess looks at me and she nods. “I’d still sort of like that as a problem though. I don’t know maybe you can like buy something like a tanning cream?”

I make a face. “I’m not sure I want tanning cream or stuff near my bits.”

She laughs. “I would if they were the right bits, I’d love to just like be me and say just lay back for a session in the warmth and just be me.”

I look at her. “Ouch.”

She gives me an odd look as I’m getting into my bra and settling in my gel breasts. I shrug after I get them settled. “I’m not totally trans.”

She raises an eye brow at me as she’s leaning on the wall to hold herself up while she switches out sweat socks for ankle ones. “How’s that work?”

I look at her. “It’s not I don’t think that’s why I’m here maybe. I’m a Q.”

“A Q? Like in Star Trek?”

“Huh?”

She shakes her head. “Never mind, it’s a geek thing.”

“Oh… well no it’s like Q as in LGBTQAI and other’s I’m a big old questioning.”

“I thought that stood for Queer?”

“Both.”

“Oh…so you like don’t know?”

I nod and I take out a little lotion and then some deodorant and Jess’s eyes went big and she has this please can I look and it’s the spray on stuff so sharing’s okay. Then smelling right I slip into my sweat pants that cute light purple ones I wore to the mall and then one of my just sort of plan girls tee-shirts.

“Nope, I don’t know and it’s kind of really between unsettling to scary to confusing and I don’t know what I’m feeling exactly. I mean I don’t really have that whole inside girl voice some people have and I didn’t socialize as a girl in the wrong body but at the same time I have felt trapped in my life for so long it was kind of seeping into the way that I thought about my life.”

“Oh…oh wow, that’s confusing for sure.”

I nod. “I know right? Like take this, me getting changed and stuff should be a lot more strange to me than it has been but I’m not really that freaked out by it instead I’m kind shifting between it being neutral and me liking it.”

Jess looks at me. “Really because you look great, and you look like it’s kinda of natural too.”

I shrug. “It’s not it’s weird but it’s sort of good weird for me.”

She looks at me. “I’m like literally the only trans person I know that’s not online so it’s not like I’m an expert but it kind of like sounds Robin that it’s more like you’re trans questioning leaning to definitely not a guy.”

I nod and grab my bag and slip my feet back into my sneakers. “That’s such a bingo like right there.”

We head out and there’s some women and some girls staring at the two of us and there’s some shocked looks on two of them and they leave pretty fast and there’s this girl staring at us. She’s short and she’s really cute and has long black hair and big brown eyes and is wearing a cute flowered cotton blouse top and shorts. She has these big eyes as she is staring and she’s says/asks.

“You’re trans?”

I look at her and I nod hesitantly.

She exhales this whole other half of a breath. “Oh thank the goddess I was scared to death of like being here alone and going to the bathroom! Are you two with Moon Lake?”

Jess and I both nod.

She squees as she heads into a stall. “Me too!”

I can’t help but to grin and I head to the sink and counter to get my other stuff out and Jess’s eyes get big when I take out my make-up bag and things and I look at her. Then at her stuff and she had just these few, few things and they’re actually in a pencil case.

“Jess?”

She blushes. “I’m really, really not out except for at home and my folks are sort of like barely on board. I really only got here because of my school counselor and the fact that we’ll have like jobs and stuff here that we might make some cash at.”

I look at some of my things and I have a few of each and I look at Jess and I take out one of everything that I have two of and I give them to her.”

Oh…oh see this is where things are so screwy for me. I mean I kind of like my make-up and I really, really want to see Jess have some from like one girl to another. But this look of happy that comes across her face and the fact that it’s like want to cry happy is something that I’m not sure that I feel like she does.

She hugs me hard. “Oh Robin, oh my god, are you sure, this is like a lot of stuff and I can’t like pay you back or anything, oh my god this is… (Sniffle.) This is so cool!”

I hug her back. It’s…there’s something about hugging her that feels connected…like that thing that Aunt Chris and I sort of shared a sort of trans thing and I do feel that kind of connection. I mean we’re two girls hugging but we’re also two trans girls hugging and that’s just sort of something else.

It’s a good something else though.

“It’s okay Jess I have multiples of these it’s alright and I got some of these as like free gifts with my Aunt.”

“But…butt…” (Sniffle.)

“Your butt looks fine stop fishing for compliments.”

That gets her to laugh and the new girl too who comes out and she’s washing her hands and she looks like she’s already dressed or changed and she’s grinning at me.

I look at her as I’m taking stuff out to use. “Okay…why are you grinning?”

She looks at me. “You, you’re like cool.”

“Me…cool?”

She nods. “Not a lot of girls would like share their stuff with another girl so fast, and you’re like kick butt nice to your friend….”

Jess says. “I’m Jess.”

The other girl says. “I’m Amy.”

I offer my hand and she takes it and we shake. “Amy nice to meet you I’m Robin.”

Jess says to Amy. “She is pretty awesome really.” Then she says to me. “You are pretty awesome really.”

I blush, it’s hard not to blush I’m not used to people thinking this kind of things toward me. I mean Rob’s… I try to be okay sometimes and there’s that but this is something different and it feels different and…and yeah I’m blushing.

“I’m not that awesome if I’m even that at all, I mean you both really and like literally just met me.”

Amy’s staring at me. “You’re like kidding right, you two just like net each other?”

I nod and so does Jess.

Amy is looking at me and she smiles. “Yeah-huh definitely one of the cool girls.”

I’m blushing still. “Chill I’m like just me whoever that is.”

Jess smiles and she says. “Too late I think you’re outvoted on this.”

I still blush but smile a little because this actually kind of feels good.

I take out my things and I start to do my make-up and Amy does the same and she has a little cute bag with her in her purse and Jess is doing hers and she’s not doing as much but it’s so really showing that she’s really enjoying this.

I go light with mine too just sort of enough to like look more like a girl and not any serious amount of it because I think we have a lot more day ahead of us and I want sort of low maintenance.

Amy goes with a much more Terri like if she was going to school application and she definitely looks like she has her skills down.

I look over at her and that’s sort of strange doing that in the mirror. “So you look pretty out.”

Amy looks at me. “Oh yeah I’ve been kind of out for a while even though my folks are still adjusting to it. They think that I’m gay.”

I nod. “I’ve read a lot about that, there are a lot of people that think if you’re trans that you’re gay.”

Amy grins. “Oh I’m hella gay I’m a total lesbian and it’s that kind of thing that my folks aren’t getting.”

Jess nods. “I’ve some online friends that are trans lesbians and they get flak for it like the whole if you like girls then why are you transitioning?”

Jess makes an ick face and says. “Like I’m not gay but I mean come on your identity and your sexuality are totally different things.”

I nod. “I can see that, I mean I’m still kind of trying even to figure that stuff out. I mean in guy mode I’ve always been into girls but since this it’s kind of coming around to am I attracted to girls or is it I have to be attracted to girls and then there’s me with my sister and Aunt watching Daredevil on Netflix and there’s a few moments of well…hello that’s…HE’s sort of interesting and my brain and everything else is going WTF.”

Jess does this whole sigh. “Yeah…Charlie is really just…” and she has this whole pause that I’ve actually see Terri do when she was talking about the same guy.

Amy looks at me with a look that says she gets it. “Yeah, when I was actually in that spot before I was like figuring out I was like a lesbian and being trans what the heck was kind of my operating de-fault.”

I finish doing my make-up and start to fix my hair or I’m trying to which I’m not all that great with not having my curling iron but it’s looking better some at least.

“I’m just glad that we have a chance to change. I was only just getting used to this when I had to get changed for the flight and it really felt like not long enough for me to not be stuck as Rob.”

Both the girls nod.

And that’s cool because they get it. I’m sure we all have our own stuff in our own way and stories and things but we all sort of have that commonness too.

We head back outside into the terminal and holly’s still there and there’s a few more kids with her and some look like boys and some look like girls and some look like they could be either one because there’s some girls that sort of look like they might be boys and then there’s some boys that look like they might be girls and I don’t mean it the trans sense of things but like…like there might be some trans guys here now and some non-binary types.

There’s about eight of them and us three makes eleven and Holly looks at her phone. “Three more kids and we’ll be ready to go.”

We kind of make room for each other and our stuff in the row of seating that’s there and I meet a Regina and a Josie and there’s a John and an Alex and I think one girl is called Amanda and there’s a couple of kids that just sort of didn’t talk so much as mumble and blush.

Yeah the shyness is really strong with some of these kids here.

And some of them look really, really uncomfortable in their own skins and they haven’t changed yet.

It kind of makes me feel this kind of commiserative ache for them.

And I’m trying to be friendly and sort of like non-threatening and Jess is kind of shy too outside of the bathroom but Amy’s a chatterbox and she’s asking Holly a lot of questions and that seems to be okay because Holly’s definitely able to talk and look for our other kids at the same time.

So apparently Moon Lake teaches stuff like first aid and life guarding and other things too like they have sign language and French as well as a couple of other language classes and then they have classes in arts and crafts and cooking and things that we might need too and want to learn.

There’s self-defense stuff and a weight room and they have a boxing class there too but they also go into LGBTQAI counselling and there’s therapists and then we’re going to have the chance to earn money by working for the camp in doing things there and we’re even going to have field trips.

I look at Holly. “What’s the work like?”

“She looks at me. We have a full service laundry and cleaning shop, and we have a print shop as well as a garden and some berry fields that we sell things at like a grocery and general store and we have a baked goods and a fast food part of it too we like to have you kids have a chance to learn like things from food service things to some retail and get some experience with things so when school gets out you can have some experience and references for college and after high school.”

Alex one of the trans guys asks. “We won’t have to do like just that shop stuff and laundry right?”

Holly shakes her head. “No we have a lawn care service for the cottages and that includes a repair crew and a woodshop crew and they even do some lot clearing.”

He looks pleased.

I can get that I can imagine how some things for a trans guy might sort of look or might even be slanted in their lives. I’m not sure that I’d want to be stuck doing the same things as I’d be doing home either.

And I’m not sure of exactly what I might do when I get there but the idea of work experience is nice. I smile at the thought of something that might help over the whole non-stuff that I grew up with back home.

Experience will be nice.

Jess asks. “Uhm if we do good can we get like references?”

Holly grins. “Absolutely, that’s one of the things that we’re really doing with this camp and the program. Trans and LGBTQAI kids have a hard enough time getting jobs even low paying menial stuff and that makes it hard to build savings and it makes it hard to build up experience too so Moon Lake’s biggest focus other than letting you kids be yourselves and find yourselves is to give you all chances at getting work experience and references and letters of recommendation.”

I nod. “I looked at stuff for a lot of summer jobs and it’s either manual labor or wanting university kids or you need things like first aid and coaching classes and a lot of stuff that I want to take while I’m here.”

Holly nods. “CPR for instance is about a twenty hour course for the tests and the comprehensive stuff and you do have to re-certify it to keep it up but that alone looks really good on any resume.”

You ever feel hopeful?

You ever see a bunch of kids that sort of look like life’s kicked them pretty hard get that sort of like hope glimmer?

I’m feeling it and seeing it. I mean even if some of us aren’t out or some of us are figuring stuff out for a while at least we just might have a chance of a whole lot more because there’s some place like this taking a chance on us.

We talk awhile and the other kids show up as their flights get in and there’s three trans girls I think and only one of them is changed and a trans-guy there too and he’s changed or definitely is trying to look that way and he looks native of some kind and is wearing combat pants with all of the pouches and a hoody and he’s got what curses might be there really minimized.

Holly does a head count and we’re raising hands with the names we gave and she had to say a couple of names twice before a couple of kids actually realized someone was saying their name.

And there’s a light there too.

I’m not really feeling that but there’s that really kind of there feeling of…

Not Rob.

Which really feels kind of light.

Once we have all of our names counted Holly passes out name tags on like lanyards and she leads us all outside and she’s on her phones and Alex and John two of the trans guys actually go and get one of those baggage push carts and they actually do the guy thing and they take all of our bags for us in that kind of gentleman way and it’s kind of strange and it’s kind of neat that they’re doing this for us and there’s even them doing the whole ladies first through the doors.

It’s really neat and it’s kind of confusing too with part of my brain still going with all the things that I grew up with guys and girls only it’s kind of reversed but it’s really not and then at the same time.

And then the charter bus is pulling up for us and it’s starting all over again as we’re getting on.

*** CHAPTER 11…

I have my carry-on bag with me and we’re all filing on and it’s pretty neat actually. I’m used to school busses and I’ve never really been on one of the like new kinds of buses where you go up a couple of steps after you pass the driver.

And it’s air-conditioned and the seats are big and comfy looking and it’s nothing like what I’ve seen on TV with like busses and stuff for greyhound and stuff. Those are kind of like stereotypically eeew but this, this is really nice.

Jess gives me this look that’s all shy and yet really full of that whole please sit by me and I smile and I nod and I take the seat beside her and she actually lets out a sigh of relief.

I look at her. “You okay?”

She bites her lip. “There’s a lot of new people here.”

I nod. “Well we’re all new people here though.”

Jess nods but she still looks nervous. “I’m just…it’s me and I’m dressed and I’m out and there’s all of these people here too.”

Reach over and hold her hand. “We’ll be okay there’s a lot of shy people here too.”

She gives me a shy smile. “Thanks Robin you’re like taking care of me again…that means a lot, it’s like above and beyond kind of stuff.”

I lace my fingers in with hers. “We’re friends okay; friends do stuff for each other.”

Jess is smiling but it’s shy and quiet. “Yeah but you’re like my first ever real friend.”

Okay now I’m biting my lip and trying not to like get emotional because.

Because I get it, I’m not sure that anyone back home might get me.

Aunt Chris would and Terri might but in my regular life? Nope, there’s really no one that would get me like this or me leaving to go to a place like this.

We’re all still sort of adjusting as we go through the city and we stop at a place that looks like it’s the bus station and holly gets out and she goes and talks to someone else and I look and see another Charter bus there with people getting loaded into it and then she’s back in and we’re off.

Toronto is interesting and it’s big from what we’re getting to see of it and I hear a girl saying. “Too bad we aren’t like stopping here at a few places I’d love to do some shopping and see some stuff.”

Holly turns around and stands. “We are Paige not today because we want everyone settled into camp and some kids won’t want to go so we want to have that options too and we want people to be able to get to go as themselves and not everyone’s changed.”

I look at Paige who’s one of the latecomers and she’s the one girl that showed up dressed out of the four kids and she’s pretty. Blonde with long hair almost as long as Jess has and she looks to have breasts or breast forms or gels in and she’s wearing a nice thin denim top that has no sleeves and it’s flared and it kind of goes nicely with the brown knee length cords she’s wearing.

She looks at me and she smiles and she sits back down. “Thanks Holly!” she says from her seat and takes out her MP-3 player and her ear buds.

Jess sighs.

I look at Jess.

“She’s so confident.”

“She is?”

“Well yeah, I don’t know if I could be like just getting here even if I was dressed and made up like that and she has that outfit which is like so like she has been doing this long enough to be well herself and confident.”

“That’s a lot of likes.”

Jess blushes.

I chuckle. “No it’s cool I like do it too, or I do it more now. My sister Terri is pretty bad for it.”

“She is?”

I nod. “Sometimes, I don’t know the girls home say it a lot too but they’re not the airheads it’s just something that I think got slipped into the dialect home.”

Jess nods. “It could be something generational though, I see it a lot online.”

I grin. “I’ve seen some of that but not a lot of it. Until all of this sort of came up and I started looking at other stuff most of my online stuff was so not the stuff that I think most girls surf so there’s a lot of all of this that’s new to me.”

Jess blushes. “You porn surfed?”

“No…my folks have all of the internet access so no we don’t porn surf. I mostly watched movies or looked up things that I wanted to buy.”

“Like what clothes?”

I laugh. “No, I wasn’t really into clothes so much but I wanted to get a car so I was looking at a lot of cheap cars even though that’s not happening any time soon and I was looking at e-bay and other place at guitars.”

“You play?”

“A little bit I have an old acoustic that I got from Dad who plays sometimes and he’s been teaching me since I was little.”

“Wow, guitars are cool.”

I point at her casually. “Bingo, you’re a girl and you think guitars are cool which is exactly why I sort of wanted one and a car because that’s the kind of stuff that dating gets started with.”

I stop and think for a second remembering the talks with Aunt Chris and Terri. “Okay that’s what I though dating was sort of about and stuff and I wanted a lot to be.”

And Jess says. “Somebody that somebody wanted.”

I sigh and lean into my seat more. “Yeah…”

I look ahead but keep talking. “I mean I still want that, I want to be important to somebody but I’m so not sure just exactly how to do that and who that might be at all now with things. I’ve had so much come at me and shake me up. It’s all woke me up to stuff going on with me. I have no real idea what’s important with like my values and everything but I know that it’s all changed and that it’s way more than what I thought that I wanted.”

I take a breath. “Sorry to just unload and just keep talking.”

Jess shakes her head and she looks kind of pretty with the hair doing the swing and swish and she has to like tuck it back with a hand.

“No, no Robin it’s cool we’re friends and trust me I know that confusion. I mean I’m barely me most of the time and sometime I get like drowned out in all of the bull in my life. But yeah… I really get that. I mean like who? What boy’s going to like me?”

She looks like she’s sort of upset but not upset but that…she looks like this is as heavy on her as my stuff is about me.

And we’re getting looks and we’re getting nods from the other kids and Alex pipes up from a couple of seats ahead leaning out into the aisle. “I totally have the same feelings. I’m home and just about everyone except my dad sees Alexis and not Alex and I have no one that really sees me either or gets that….and it really sucks especially when you get buried by it and end up thinking about a future that I really can’t see.”

Some other guy with a voice that sort of sounds like it’s cracking some or he’s trying to hold it in a more bass way says. “Here too.”

And then it’s sort of becoming this talk.

We’re driving and actually we’re out of the city and on the highway and we’re talking about how for most of us there’s no one like the rest of us and even with some of the kids that have this whole LGBTQAI clubs and groups in school they’re mostly gay and lesbian kids and not a lot of trans kids.

And a lot of stories come pouring out while we’re talking.

And I’m not the only one Questioning things.

There’s a lot of different questions going around but there’s some of the same ones too.

The time actually flies by really fast as we’re talking and we’re getting to know each other with the stories that come out and the frustrations and there’s some tears and stuff too.

And there’s hugs and some like hands being held and tissues passed around.

We’re all emotionally spent and sleepy and really hungry when we head into Thunder Bay and we’re stopping at a mall there.

Holly stands up as we’re pulling in and says. “Alright we’re stopping here at the Intercity Mall and we’re going to be getting stuff to eat here while the buses are going to be gassing up. It’s not a shopping trip but IF we have time we can do a group walk through and get a few things okay?”

We all say “Okay!” and it’s way more a need for food at this point and to use a real bathroom for some of us too.

It’s a nice mall and I’m looking around and I take a few pictures too and so are some of the other kids as Holly is taking us inside and the other bus has kids getting off too and there’s what looks like another counselor there and he’s a guy or a trans guy and there’s a big van that pulls in with us too that I never noticed and there’s some kids getting out of that and some counselors and then there’s a girl in a wheelchair getting power lifted down.

And I see some of the kids are doing sign language with one of the adults from the van.

I look at Jess. “Hungry?”

She nods and she’s watching some of the what I’m thinking might be the disabled or the differently abled kids we’re heading inside and one of the girls that was signing lets us go ahead of her and Jess is then doing some sign language with her and I’m so lost.

The deaf girl looks at me and I shake my head no. Then she signs to Jess and jess looks at me. “She’s Elly and she wants to know if she can have your e-mail and phone number?”

“I…uhm…sure?”

I pass my phone to her as I bring up my contact stuff and then Elly sends me a text.

[Hi, I’m Elly how are you?]

I type back. [Feeling really foolish because I totally forgot about texting and stuff.]

Elly laughs which sounds odd but I like no zero kids like her and I get her texting LOL to me too. [LOL that’s no problem it’s not like I wear signs saying I’m deaf. We’re cool.]

[I’m glad it’s cool, I like don’t know a single disabled person so I have no idea what I’m doing.]

She sends me. [Deaf not disabled’s a really good start though and you likely do know some of them there’s all sort of people that have things going on that aren’t visible.]

[Oh…that’s true and I never thought about that either.]

Elly sends me a happy face emoticon with. [NP hand with me and I’ll teach you!]

I grin at her and I offer her my hand after I type out. [I’m Robin it’s nice to meet you.]

We we’re walking into the mall as a group and we are really sort of keeping close together because this is a big thing. We’re a bunch of trans kids and some other LGBTQAI kids and we’re out in the open.

Amy says. “I feel like we’re in that museum scene in X-men and we’re the mutants.”

Jess signs something for Elly.

Holly says and I notice one of the adults is signing for her as she’s speaking. “Actually the X-men comics has always been considered one of the comics to parallel with the LGBTQAI community with the puberty and mutation analogies.”

Okay.

I didn’t know that and it kind of makes sense.

I look at Amy. “I kind get that feeling too.”

Alex says. “Yep, people aren’t staring like that at us yet.”

John chuckles. “Remember what the Pope said trans people are like atomic weapons.”

Jess is signing when Elly is doing some sign and I’m kind of confused too. “Atomic weapons?”

John whips out his I-phone and once he gets online he brings up the whole thing and I’m almost face-palming.

I pass him his phone back. “Gaaah…wow.”

He nods sagely. “The stupid side of the force is strong with him it is.”

We laugh including Elly which is cool because she caught that and that’s pretty cool.

We all hit the food court and it’s a bit of everything and some of it’s new to me. I’ve never seen or been into a New York fries before and the rest is like okay and sort of normal though I’ve never been to Manchu-wok it’s like pretty common looking generic Chinese food and the Szechuan place I’ve never heard of but I’ve heard of the food and I’m not thinking that that kind of spicy and me will be a good idea to go with a long bus ride.

Actually a lot of us end up going to Subway and I’m smiling. “Hey Jess, Amy, Elly on me girls.” They look at me and I have in my wallet that I’m taking out a subway gift card and a club card too. “I had these for school since we have a Subway at the big gas station in town and I have points too.”

Jess is like. “But you don’t have to use them you can save them for when you get home?”

Amy smiles. “That would be like cool.”

I nod and smile stepping up to the counter. “It’s really not a problem Jess, I got fifty free points just for linking my card online and I get more every time I use it.”

Elly steps over and leans in fast and gives me a peck on the cheek and smiles at me. I smile at her back and we start to order.

I was going to get a mixed sub but Jess and Amy and even Elly all order six inch veggie subs, they get lots of stuff on them and I have never actually had a veggie sub just as itself before and it seems like such a girl thing and I sort of look at myself in the reflection of the glass and honestly?

I could try and do the girl eating light thing maybe.

So a peer pressure moment.

I get a six inch sub and I get lots of tomatoes and some onions and double lettuce and then some salt and pepper and Italian dressing on it.

And we all get bottled water and we sit down and eat.

Okay it’s actually better than I thought it would be, with a lot of filler it’s actually pretty good.

“Okay I don’t eat like this but this is good.”

Jess looks at me. “Really?”

“I’m really new to this.”

Elly is eating with one hand and she’s texting with another. [I so try to avoid heavy protein and things I don’t want to be growing or bulking up at ALL.]

I look at my phone and so did the others and I think she texted all of us and it’s just really cool….and I’m like partly mentally cringing because I said it’s cool but like it wasn’t that long we couldn’t do stuff like this like we’re doing now eating lunch in a mall food court.

We actually get into this whole conversation while we’re eating on size and growing and dieting and things I had no clue about like whole wheat is more filling than white, the heavier the grains and things in the bread the less you need and the more it stays with you and then there’s stuff about eating with the peelings as much as possible and drinking lots and lots of water.

The water talk leads to bathroom ideas and as we get up and leave we’re talking about some of us wanting to be on blockers soooo bad except for Amy who is actually on them as of last month because she was pretty badly messed up at the puberty rifle in her face.

Which while we clean up in the bathroom and Amy shows us her scars.

And this is the first time I’ve ever seen someone who used to be a cutter.

She only showed us some and she blushed and pulled her clothes back into order covering the cut scars on her hip.

“I just wanted the pain to stop in here.” Amy gestured at her chest and she does a little choke sob. “I was just so tired, tired to death of looking it the mirror and not seeing the person I was when I closed my eyes.”

I hug her. “Hey we get it; I think anyone here gets it. I was like angry a lot home before all of this because maybe being angry at so much stuff was better for me than the rest of the stuff I was feeling and couldn’t get out?”

Jess and Elly gets in on the hugging and then we go out and we meet the others and we have a few moments of a pretty heavy hug thing and some tears and then fixing our make-up.

Elly has a nice bag with a whole lot of goodies in it and she has a curling iron in her bag and we spend some time getting fixed up and getting our look the way that we want it.

It’s not foolish either it’s so much the way we want to express ourselves and the way that we want to be seen.

Make-up and all the stuff that some girls do is as personal as when we wear and the things that we don’t for either.

I’m happy.

I’m watching Jess and Elly as their teaching me some signs like please and thank you and yes and sorry all in ASL which is American Sign Language the sort of standard for here in North America.

Amy’s using the curling iron and she’s doing her thing and I’m learning but I’m with a bunch of people like me. I just spent a lot of hours on the road with them and we got pretty serious like I’ve never gotten with people back home and it’s one of those things where you know you’re making friends.

I mean when you made friends with someone how long did that actually take once you connected?

I can’t help but smile and be that happy on edge satisfied I could cry thing when it’s sinking in and Jess stops and she looks at me.

“Robin are you okay?”

I nod and take some paper towel to dab. “Yeah just actually happy y’know? All the bad stuff’s sort of not landing on me right now and meeting all of you girls and how close we’re getting.” I take a big breath. “I don’t make that many friends this deeply this fast…never and it just feels good.”

I get lots of hugs after that and once we’re done we head out to meet the others.

Holly and the other adults are there and she’s looking at everyone. “Okay we want a show of hands and those that want to have an hour to look around those that do I want you to check your phones with ours and the rest of you can stay with us at the buses.”

There’s most of us that go shopping and Jess is looking but she’s not buying too much and I look for cute stuff but stuff that’s sort of on sale so I actually have the excuse to have Jess come with me to the places with the cheap stuff.

Even I end up staring at things in La Senza and La Vie en Rose and blushing and just.

The things are cute, the things are beautiful and I’m not alone in that either.

All of us are sort of doing that whole sigh thing looking at some of these things and I’m…honestly I’m a little spellbound by some of it too.

And achy.

And shaken.

But so are the girls and there’s this sort of haunted by the things we might never have thing going on and I look at the girls and I walk into Lush and look around a little bit before going to the clerk.

Breathe and I look at her. “Hi”

She looks at me and she asks. “Can I help you young lady?”

“Can I get some free samples?”

“Excuse me?”

I shrug. “My friends and I we’re just stopping through and we’re on an LGBTQAI summer camp experience and honestly we’re broke. And Jess and I we’re like from small town back east and stuff the fanciest stuff we’ve ever like seen is Shoppers Drug Mart…and this stuff is like so nice and we’ve seen some of it online.”

And she’s like. “You could order it online.”

I look at her in the eyes. “Miss…some of us…we’re not out yet…” I let my regular voice tone slip a bit and she’s staring at me.

“You’re…?”

I nod.

“And your friends?”

“Some of us are.”

She looks at me and at the girls and she bites her lips a little. “Look you’re all underage so you won’t get the cards but here I’ll get you the sheets for a Lush card and we have free gifts for those.”

“Oh really, that’s so cool thank you!”

I call the girls over and the girl at the desk gets us to fill out the forms and she hands us over these cute little compacts and a little drawstring bag of these small bath and shower things and gels and lotions in like these tiny sample sizes and there’s some more that she added from some boxes of stuff that was damaged while shipped and she gives us some of those things for free too and it’s…you ever have one of those moments of just like real human decency?

The lady helping us is crying because Jess is crying and hugging her plastic bag with Lush on it.

Like it’s something she’d never dared to have.

We really, really thank her and it’s such a cool thing.

I mean I don’t have those same sort of life long wants, I wasn’t like trapped in the same way but I think it’s close to that because of just the feelings I have. Not-Guy is getting to be more of a very real thing for me.

But Jess and Amy and even Elly this is something really huge to them and I can see it and I can feel it so much.

We’re on cloud nine as we head back to meet with the group and there’s some serious looks from some of the other girls there when they see our things and it’s this mix of excited and jealous for us and of us.

Elly and Jess are talking to Elly’s counselor and we all get back on the same bus with Elly with us since Jess knows sign language.

I get in my seat and Jess sits with me and then she’s hugging me really, really tight.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you Robin!”

I hug her back. “Okay for what?”

“The thing there at Lush, I…I never thought that I’d ever… (Sniffle-sob.) I don’t think that I’d ever have anything like this and ever have friends like you and…”

She bursts into tears and face plants into my chest. (Sobbing-crying.) “I don’t want to die anymore!”

Oh…oh I’m no good after she says that and neither are any of the girls with us or close to us and we’re all crying as the bus is pulling out from the mall and Holly’s crying and Elly moves in and rubs Jess’s back and Amy is sniffling and crying and she’s talking about what we did and she’s saying it’s what I did and I’m embarrassed because really I sort of outed myself and us but it’s more just really that I wanted to do something sort of like Aunt Chris did and.

I’m crying hard too trying to make jess feel better and just trying to get a grip on the stuff that’s bubbling up inside me too.

I have friends but not friends like these girls.

I think Rob tries hard to be an okay and stand up sort of guys and all even though I’m so less than sure of rob at all right now and I have never really felt this open or free or alive as I have since I left this behind and started this and being me.

I have no brakes for all of this and I’m not really sure I want them.

*** CHAPTER 11…

It’s a long cry and it’s a bunch of close cuddling with Jess and Amy and Elly and I’m pretty sure we broke like bus rules or something when we took our bags and coats and made a pile seat in the side of the bus by the window and Elly literally camps out there with us and Amy both sitting together really close and Jess’s legs on them and her head on my shoulder and we’re wrung out in the best of ways and we’re talking and signing and learning signs as we’re just opening up.

Jess is from Hillsborough, New Brunswick and that’s close to Moncton which is why we sort of came in together and her family is really barely on board. And she has no community to really show up for, there’s next to no LGBTQAI stuff there and no trans people that she knows of…and she’s alone.

And with a couple of brothers and a sister that’s younger than her she’s sort of been both isolated and choking on things home.

“It took a lot of convincing for them to even get to where I got to go see a therapist and she recommended I go here. It took a lot to get even the few things I have because it’s like pulling teeth with them to spend any money for Jess as a girl. I saved a lot just to like pay for my tickets.”

And then there’s Amy.

Amy’s from Regina, Saskatchewan and she’s an only child.

And her dad is this big guy that is a mechanic and he’s all macho and seriously a dude’s dude and she feels like so bad so much of the time for being a complete disappointment to him.

“I want to be that son he wants, seriously I do or I did because really who really wants to be like this?”

“I’ve never been big I take after my mom I hate sports and getting dirty and greasy and I like girls stuff…I’ve always liked girls stuff because it’s not just girls stuff to me it’s my stuff.”

Amy’s folks are just as not on board either and she’d been bullied and hurt for being short and small and “Gay” but not the actual lesbian gay that she is but the whole gender non-conforming lesbian that she is as a trans girl.

School was hell enough and her classmates were mouthbreather hillbilly enough that her being trans was a beat down offense and a bullying offense and it all came to a point.

“I started cutting and I started taking pills and hanging with the wrong crowd and last year I overdosed. I was high on like two Vicodin and then I snorted some Gravol with these other kids I was with and then there was booze and the drugs and the alcohol mixed and I’m so small that I ended up in the hospital. And then after a lot of stuff with the brain-jack doc I was put into therapy and one of the things that they wanted was me in a positive environment so I got to come here.”

And then there’s Elly.

She signs because it’s faster and Jess is translating for her.

Elly’s American and she’s from Detroit and she’s a single child and she went deaf when she was seven.

“I always knew I was a girl, even before I lost my hearing I knew and I dressed in my mom’s things and my dad was mad at it a lot and he would fight about it and he’s be all pissed off.”

“They’d fight and fight about how she was making me gay, or being a pussy.”

“I was kinda glad when I lost my hearing because I couldn’t hear them fight any more.”

“Then when I lost my hearing and was still me he couldn’t handle it.”

“He’s in prison now.”

“He got mad when I was ten and I wouldn’t listen to him and I was still dressing and he found me and he beat me because he was being an asshole.”

I grin despite how bad the story she’s telling is because the sign for asshole is kind of grin worthy.

She grins back and repeats it again. “Asshole.”

The Jess continues translating.

“Dad beat me up and then mom tried to stop him and he beat her up too because it was her fault I was a pussy and it was her fault somehow that I was deaf. Dad put her in the hospital and she was really bad and I called the cops but couldn’t talk to them on the phone but they came anyway and he left but they caught him and mom and I moved into my grandfather’s house, mom’s dad and that’s where I live now.”

“Grandfather is really nice and he’s okay with me being trans but mom still doesn’t get it even though he says she doesn’t have to get it as much as I do.”

“And he’s pretty well off so I get to come here because this place has signing staff and it’s a trans place.”

Elly grins. “It sucked but I’m like really spoiled actually.”

We all crack up at the sigh she used for sucked.

It’s pretty graphic.

That whole hand and fist and pumping jerk motion with the open O of her mouth and her tongue poking her inside cheek.

And that’s the kind of humor that we sort of needed too after we just went through all of this stuff and we’re all punchy from all of the stuff today.

And we’re laughing as we’re pulling into and we’re driving through this town called Sioux Lookout and I see water and a lot of it and I think I seen what might be a beach and we’re sort of going through the place and it seems like a fair sized town.

It’s hard to see too much because it’s dark and all and we’re sort of skimming through town but… “I think we’re here?” I say and I’m trying to sit up some more and Jess sits up some too and we’re all looking and then we’re out of town but we’re not out of town because there’s houses and things so we’re on like one of those rural route roads and then we slow down and we’re gearing down and we’re pulling down this long dirt lane that’s built up like a road and we’re driving into this big space with good lighting and a really big round about driveway and we’re stopping.

Holly’s beaming. “We’re here!”

And we can see people coming out and other kids too sort of there and they’re wearing camp shirts and there’s a lot of buildings that are big and out buildings and so much of just everything.

But we’re right on the water too. Well like not exactly on the water but there’s lawn and things and then a beach and a set of docks and it looks really nice.

It actually looks nothing like home.

Which is actually still a good thing.

Holly gets us unloaded from the buses and the other kids unloaded too and there’s more than one kid with a wheelchair here than the girl in the van that was with us and that’s really cool and Holly looks at me.

“Robin can you get your bus organized and over to that building there?” She points at a large building where some of the other kids are going with some of the camp counselors.

“Uhm sure?”

She gives me a big smile and I’m blushing and I feel like I’m standing out but I get everyone together and Jess and Amy help and Alex and John help too and they get the other trans boys that are with us to give use a hand with our bags and things and I can carry my things but John actually takes my hockey bag and he smiles. “It’s okay, I got this.”

“You sure?”

He nods and smiles at me and I’m watching him go and it’s just really different because he walks but he doesn’t walk like a girl.

Not that he’s a girl it’s just some people, some of the trans guys are walking in a certain way because of like biology and they’re trying not to and stuff but you can tell.

Mind you John’s kind of stocky and built too like he lifts weights or does a lot of manual labor kinds of work.

I don’t know if he’s cute or not.

I’m really confused about the whole trans boy stuff and if I’m attracted to the guy or if their bio-stuff’s playing a factor in the back of my head.

He is a nice guy though and that works for right now.

The building we end up inside is this big wood walled like actual nice pine or spruce boards with stain place and tile floors and it has a lot of tables and it looks like it’s the cafeteria for the camp and there’s these metal sheeting pull down door things that might be for the kitchen part and the lights are on and there’s some people there with refreshments and I scout out where the bathrooms are.

“Jess can you sign for me while I talk?”

She nods and I look at all of the kids. “I think we should settle in and get some tables and wait for the others and maybe use the bathrooms but can we do a name check kind of like a role call first so Holly knows we didn’t lose anyone when she gets done.”

I take names as the come and before they head off to the bathrooms and I have that all ready when Holly comes back and she smiles at me again and she gives me a light hug.

“Thanks that was a help Robin.”

“Sure I’m glad to help.”

“You’ve been a big help the whole trip.”

Blink… “I have?”

She nods. “You’ve been really great with everyone; I’m really looking forward to this year with you kids.”

“Oh...uhm okay, I’m going to go and use the bathroom too okay?”

“Sure it was a long drive.”

I head off with the others who actually waited for me and we head to the girls bathroom and this, this was so the whole idea of a girls bathroom here. I mean all of the guy ideas is sort of here.

It’s clean and it’s nice smelling and there’s potted plants in some of the corners here and there are lots of stalls and tampon and maxi pad machines both as well as there being a whole counter of sinks with good lights and mirrors. They even have a full length mirror on one part of the wall to like check yourself out in.

It’s actually really nice like a swanky hotel or something.

The toilet paper’s a surprise too since it’s not that one ply stuff and it’s like decent and there’s even some air freshener thing in the roll deal like one of those Glade things/.

I look at the girls when I come out. “That’s the nicest public bathroom I have ever been in like ever.”

There’s some nods and not just from Jess and Amy and but pretty much everyone there and we head out after getting touched up and by that time there’s more people around.

Holly speaks up with a signing partner and says.

“Alright we have everyone here but it’s late so we’re going to do orientation and things tomorrow after we all sleep in a little and tonight we’re going to be giving out your camp clothes and your bunk cabin assignments. When Liz calls out your name you go up to this table and Miranda will give you your camp clothes and kits and then come to me and I’ll give you your cabin assignments.”

They start and as we’re doing this Holly’s saying. “There’s eight kids to a cabin in two rooms and a larger room in the loft for the cabin captain. Your captains are kids that have been here before and they're to be considered counselors and staff as well as ears to talk to.”

“There’s also a bathroom in each cabin and a small common room with a TV and a microwave and a mini-fridge we expect you kids to share the space please and respect each other’s boundaries.”

I get called up and get my things which includes three pairs of like tee-shirts with the camp logo on them and three pairs of shorts and they’re not like guys shorts, under wear and socks and even these thin sort of cotton and elastic bras and to top it all off a light thin hoody and sweat pants and even a windbreaker.

I look at the things and this Miranda lady who’s like in her thirties maybe and she has glasses and like red dyed hair that looks pretty extreme and it’s shaved on the sides like a sort of skater look or maybe punk and the top isn’t spiked but like she has these sort of wavy natural curls that she left alone.

She looks pretty cool and I look at my things and my name is one them.

Robin.

“These are monogrammed?”

She nods. “They’re yours we have grants and things that help and all and we try and make sure that you all at least have some clothes that are for the camp but are also the kind of clothes that other guys or girls would want.”

I nod. “What about the emby kids?”

“We have what they prefer too that’s why the questionnaires and things in all the papers we sent.”

I smile and take my things and head to holly to get where I’m going to be bunking and I see both Jess and Amy looking pretty happy about getting three sets of things.

I see Alex stopped in his tracks and he’s staring at this weird sort of thing and he’s saying. “Holy crap, I have a binder, like a real binder.”

I smile for him. “Cool, I can’t wait to see you guys in them once we’re all sorted and everything.”

He grins back and it’s a big happy goofy grin too. “Same, I bet you have killer legs.”

I smile and shrug. “Honestly I have no clue so it’ll be scary to find out really when I see other people’s reactions and stuff and not good vibes and things from my Sister and Aunt.”

He actually looks me up and down in that kind of a guy way that feels like a guy way and I end up doing a bite my lip smile and blush.

“I’ll see you tomorrow.”

I head over to Holly who grins at me and she looks at her tablet and she passes me my slip. “I’m putting you with Jane who’s a good captain and I think you’ll like her but I’m sending Elly and Amy and Jess with you too since you’ve all gotten along together so well on the way here.”

“Really that’s cool thanks but…?”

“But?”

“Is that okay? I mean it’s like not breaking the rules or showing favorites is it?”

“No, not really we have a lot of leeway in doing this and part of being here is all the interactions and talking about stuff and bonding and crying and I’ve never had a pick up bus group like you kids this year so I’m going with my gut…the more you all bond and do things and get through stuff early the better time you’re all going to have here.”

I smile… “Okay that makes sense but it’s really cool too. Thanks Holly.”

I take my things and head over to my bags and wait for the other girls with the slips for cabin ten and I see Paige and the other girls I don’t recognize and then there’s Amy and Elly and Jess and I hold up my slip and they look at me and then it and then theirs and they run over and we’re laughing and happy and even.

Okay I’m not one of those girls but maybe, just maybe I got carried away and squealed a little.

*** CHAPTER 12…

We’re all gathered together and some of the other eight girls are looking at us as we’re celebrating being in the same cabin together and Paige is smiling too but she’s looking sort of like the odd woman out and I stop our little squeal fest and I off my hand to Paige.

“Paige right?”

She smiles. “Uh-huh we came up on the bus together and you’re Robin.”

I nod. “We should all get to know each other while we’re waiting maybe?”

Paige looks at me. “That would be nice, I mean it’s kinda weird since like I know who you are sort of and stuff.”

Huh?

One of the other girls with like these cool black round framed glasses and gree dyed hair looks at her and me. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Paige has this look on her face. “Oh nothing it’s just Robin’s one of the popular girls.”

And there was this way that she said popular girls.

I look at her and I shake my head. “No…trust me I’m not one of the popular girls.”

Paige looks at me and then Amy and Elly and Jess. “Sure and you have a whole group of friends here already?”

I shrug. “Yeah, we sat together, met at the airport, and other things and we talked and shared stuff all the way here. You were there too like on the bus Paige and we all talked and said stuff together.”

The other two girls are watching too one’s a blue eyed blonde girl that’s really skinny and another is a black girl that’s looking at me and she’s looking at Paige then says. “Girl you need to relax we all just got here.”

Paige frowns. “I just got away from all of the popular girls with all of the things and all of the attitude.”

The green haired girl looks at her. “Yeah, kinda was hoping that there wouldn’t be cliques either.”

I look at them and I look at Paige and start digging through my purse and Amy’s like. “What’s your problem Robin’s like the nicest girl that I know, yeah we’re friends and stuff but it wasn’t like you came over to hang out with us either.”

And Jess is saying. “Robin took the time to be my friend she’s liked helped me all the way here and I’m like scared too y’know it’s not like I have any real friends at home y’know…and she’s…she’s…Robin’s like the best friend I’ve never ever had!”

And that has some people looking our way because Jess is crying and Elly’s hugging her and she’s signing something with one hand and I don’t have a clue but it looks angry.

I look at all of them.

“Paige, you think that I’m one of those girls, the ones that are like part of the cliques and run things and treat people like crap and stuff so what if I did something to like prove that I’m not.”

She gives me this look. “Like what?”

I hold up one of my Lush bath bombs it’s like a fizzy thing that goes in the tub and I unwrap it and I look at them and I shove it in my mouth and start to chew.

And it starts to fizz and then foam…and the soapy perfumy essence is sooo strong.

Don’t swallow.

Though the looks of awe and abject horror on their faces is really something and Paige is staring at me. “You…you’re nuts!”

I nod then run to the closest garbage can and spit and spit and it’s foaming and the smell it running right up my nose from it making me gag.

I hate gagging and there’s some other’s looking and Paige and the other girls come over and Jess is rubbing my back and holding my hair and I’m really, really trying not to puke and Elly gives me her bottle of water and I start washing my mouth out.

Over and over and then there’s some slow clapping and we look to see this older girl in camp things and she’s tall and nice looking with brown hair with red dyed bits and she has a name tag on a lanyard saying Jane.

“That was awesome, it was spectacularly stupidly awesome.”

Paige is turning red and she’s looking at me and she’s looking at the other girls and I can sort of see it in her eyes that she screwed up and she thinks that she screwed up so much that we’re all going to hate her and she turns and I’m sure she’s going to take off and I grab her wrist.

She looks at me and she pulled for a second and then there’s tears starting in her eyes and she starts. “I…I…I’m sorry…I…”

I pull her into a hug. “You’re sick of the bullshit…I get it so am I.”

“But…I…and you…”

“We’re good…really we’re good.”

“But…”

“Your butt’s fine.”

Amy chimes in with. “Stop fishing for compliments.”

And that gets me and Jess and her laughing and the other ones join in and I look at Jane.

“Are we in trouble?”

Jane shakes her head. “No, but that was really stupid you could have gotten sick.”

I nod. “Totally worth it.” I hug Paige a little harder and she’s blushing and she says. “I so didn’t want this; I’m so totally not a drama queen.”

The black girl snorts. “Pfft girl, we’re teenaged girl when aren’t we about the drama?”

I blush and smile a little and the green haired girl with the glasses is looking at me and so is the quiet blonde girl and Jane who purses her mouth a little and nods.

“Okay well this part of things being over at least how about we all get our things and head over to our cabin.”

We all nod and I go and get my things and there’s other Captains that have shown up and are getting the other kids too so it’s a sort of busy few minutes as we’re like having a mass sort of migration.

The green haired girl with the glasses looks at me and she offers her hand. “I’m Drew.”

Then the black girl smiles and introduced herself. “And I’m Tracy and our quiet girl trailing is Samantha.”

I shake Tracy’s hand and do a turn and walk backwards and look at Samantha and offer her my hand. “Nice to meet you I’m Robin.”

Samantha just sort of stares at me and she colors and she gives me the weakest and fastest handshake of my life and she looks like she wants to put her hands in her pockets or something.

Tracy says. “Sam’s alright just terminally shy.”

And that makes Samantha blush all the more.

I nod. “Hey shy’s okay, sometimes it’s cool to know someone that’s peaceful.”

Drew says. “Well like people who are introverted are always peaceful.”

I nod. “Okay…I just wanted to like say it’s cool and shy or introverted I’m happy to have a chance to meet her.”

Drew’s looking at me. “Are you always this up?”

I get looks from most of the girls. “I don’t know, but right now I’m out. I’m not Rob and I’m not living Rob’s life and I’m here and I’m robin which is all new to me and I’m just happy to have a chance to maybe find out who I really am and what I am.”

Tracy says. “What you are? I thought you were like the rest of us?”

I nod. “Well sort of, I’m Q as in like Questioning and right now the biggest question I have going on is who am I really if I’m really not Rob because not being Rob is sort of becoming more and a more of a thing.”

There’s some nods.

Then Jane says. “Well hopefully You can breathe here.”

I stare at her. “That was you? Like with me on the computer and talking and stuff?”

Jane nods. “A lot of us captains are part time councilors for the camp and the kids we mentor even after camp. I was on the camp site when you were on and I’m the one that you were talking to and I talked to Holly and them and had them send your packet.”

I’m really happy that this is what happened and it’s making me smile. “That’s actually really cool you really helped me.”

Jane looks at me. “Really I was afraid that I only left you more confused with all of the things we talked about.”

I shake my head no. “No…well yes but it’s really been such a learning thing right now that I’m starting to get things about me even if they come with a whole lot of questions.”

Drew asks. “Like what?”

I look at her and the others. “Anger and frustration…I was so being choked by being Rob that I was really wound tight. And like my life home really isn’t that bad at all compared to some of the things I’ve seen from you girls and some of the other kids here. But I was still angry and still frustrated.”

Jane says. “Which I can totally get as something that happens when you’re not actually living your life, but what you have been convinced is your life for like all of your life.”

I’m nodding and so are all of the girls including Elly who was getting her translation from Jess.

I let out a contented sigh.

“It really does feel good though having people around me that get this and that I can talk to about this.”

It’s not a long walk to our cabin and the path has those stick in the ground solar lights that you can get at the hardware store and it’s a really nice cabin. There’s a small deck with steps sort of like a porch was impersonating a deck and then there’s the door and the whole place is like pre-fab looking but the outer boards are like wood stained and the trim is white and there’s an a-frame like roof on it and I can see solar panels?

Amy’s looking at them. “Cool we have solar?”

Jane’s opening the door. “We are trying to keep as green as we can here and we have solar and wind for most of the power here and we’re fully connected with cell-phone and Wi-Fi service.”

We head inside and Jess says. “Is that for the kids that use devices now so much like Elly?”

Jane nods. “That and parents really like to stay connected and we have those options too. We have site blockers though for age appropriate things and to keep you kids safe and all.”

We go inside and it’s nice. There’s a small room for a common area and there’s a couch a love seat and a chair plus a TV and what looks like the cable box and things plus there’s a small nook that has a microwave and mini-fridge and a set of two cupboards there.

She gives us the tour and there’s two small bunk rooms each with four beds and a set of bathrooms at the end of the hall one for each bunk room and they’re really simple things with a locker, a sink and there’s a shower stall and toilet but no tub.

And the bunk rooms are bunk beds with two sets we have a locker each on the wall that’ll be our closet while we’re here. Then there’s a ladder/attic stair sort of set up that leads to Jane’s room upstairs.

We have bedding and I look at the girls and we sort of end up choosing beds and it’s Amy and Jess and Elly in one and Paige, Drew, Tracy and Samantha in the other and Amy and I take the bottom bunks while Jess and Elly take the top so Jess and her can sign back and forth and it just being easier if they were across from each other and Elly wanted to be up high because as she told us with Jess translating.

“Everyone home assumes I’m both deaf and made of glass.”

It takes a while for us to get all settled in with putting away our clothes and finding ways to put away our clothes and then making our beds and I spritz mine down with secret deodorant body spray because while the mattresses aren’t bad they kind of have that camp smell from not being used even if they were clean and then we’re making the beds and we even sort of agree to share the space under the bottom bunks with the top half being mine and Amy’s at the head of the bed and the half to the foot of the bed is for jess and Elly.

Jane comes around a few times to check on us and I’m just getting ready to take a shower when Jess asks me.

“Robin? We have all the cool stuff from Lush and I love it really but do you think that it’d be okay if we offered to share our stuff with the other four?”

I nod. “Actually that’s be really cool I think. I mean it’s pretty nice stuff and I don’t want it to go to waste.”

I mean I could take the stuff I’m not going to use home with me and if I wasn’t going to use it Mom and Terri might but I think that it might be a good gesture for the cabin if we did that.

“You should ask Jane and we can do a big sort of swap of stuff maybe in the living room?”

And Jess looks panicked and she says. “Me do it, no you should do it.”

I look at her. “It’s your idea and it’s a good one, you should do it and it’s a good way for the other girls to see how cool you are Jess.”

She’s shaking her head no. “I’m not cool I’m so much less than cool.”

Amy chimes in. “I don’t know Elly’s here with us and not stuck with the others and we’re all really getting to know her and sign stuff better because of like you and her. Jess that’s actually pretty cool.”

I’m nodding a lot. “I agree.” And then I sign “Jess is good.”

She smiles and she’s blushing and Elly looks at me and she grins and she gives me a thumbs up and she start’s pushing jess out the door with her hands on jess’s shoulders and she says out loud in that deaf-but-can-talk way. “You Can’t Argue If I Can’t See You.”

And she and Jess head out to find Jane.

We all gather a little after that with Jane calling us together.

And I bring my bag of goodies with my purse and so does Amy and the other girls are there and sort of looking curious and interested. Jess gets nudged by Jane and then she steps forward and she says while blushing.

“When we stopped at the mall we were looking at things and Robin was able to talk to the lady at the Lush store and she was really nice to us and she gave us a whole bunch of like really nice things and well there’s like four of us with these bags of things and it’d be kind of just right if we like shared some of this stuff with you girls…”

Her voice trails off into a serious blush and I’m smiling because well Jess…I think we all need stuff for us the real us to do…like things for real life but our real lives and not our closet lives.

Amy comes forward and sits on the floor and I join her and Jess and Elly join us and we start taking things out and the other girls are staring at us and Jane says.

“Thank you girls this is very, very cool. Do you other girls have anything that you might want to add in or like swap so you’re all in this…Together?”

The other girls nod and they leave and Jane does too heading up to her room too and she’s back first and she starts to make hot chocolate with a plug in kettle and things from a box of packets of Carnation instant hot chocolate for all of us.

Paige has a couple of packages of plastic hair barrettes and some scrunchies and Drew has a whole bag of these little sample sized shampoos and things that look like maybe the salon stuff like Tresemme. Tracy has what looks like a whole bag of the old school double bubble chewing gum and she blushes. “It’s just my stuff’s all kind of like for my kind of skin and hair.”

We’re all still smiling anyway and Samantha is clutching her toiletry bag and she opens it up and in this really shy small voice she says. “I…I don’t really have anything…but…bb..but I’m willing to sha..share.”

She looks embarrassed and close to tears and Jess looks at her and Amy does too and Jess reaches over and takes her hand and looks at her. “Me too but my friends…the girls here opened up their stuff to me like at the airport. I don’t really have anything either or I didn’t.”

Amy says. “Yeah I was really light too and it’s not like my family is all that thrilled with me doing this.”

Paige says. “I…I thought we were just putting in extras Sam, I didn’t know.”

Jane says. “We are, we’re sharing the wealth and this is all voluntary with anything that you can spare or are willing to share girls, no pressure. We all have to start somewhere alright?”

She sets down a small basket made of what looks like Indian quillwork and there’s some lipsticks in it and bottles of nail polish. “These are just really cheap ones but I’m more than willing to share them out since I never used any of them.”

Then she looks at us all. “Now who wants hot chocolate?”

I raise my hand. “Oh I do I’m still sort of have this whole weird lingering taste thing going on.’

That gets everyone laughing and we all say yes and with that it all sort of starts with this sort of swap out and share things and we’re all making sure that we have some things each for all of our kits and it’s a big deal it’s important stuff and we’re bonding and learning.

Like if you have a make-up pencil that is one you sharpen instead of peel away that you can use a really sharp knife and cut them in half and use some tape to make the little nubby end and then there’s more things we all have.

And we’re taking turns getting showered and changed and cleaned up and then it’s us getting tired and sleepy and we’re ending the night with all of us hugging each other and really meaning it and a few tears but good ones and tissues.

And then we’re all going to bed and Jane washed out all of our mugs and turned out our lights.

“Nine thirty’s wake up time girls we’re all allowed to sleep-in until then.”

I set my alarm on my phone and I slide into bed and it feels really good…it feels strange doing this with the other girls and being so far away from home and everything else but it just feels really good too.

Really good, like I can breathe.

*** CHAPTER 13…

My phone wakes me up and I hear other phones too and there’s that sound of a loud buzz like a phone on a really powerful vibrate and I hear a bunch of yawns and I see a blur of Elly rolling out of bed and onto the floor.

I it up and look over at her on the far side of the room and she’s doing that laugh out loud deaf laugh which yeah sounds really different but it’s kind of joyous too.

I see her signing something as she’s laying there on her back and Jess just says out loud for everyone. “I forgot I was up high that was cool.”

I shake my head and I laugh and there’s a thud in the next room and I hear Tracy’s voice going. “Dammit!”

And that sets off all of the rest of us.

It’s a pretty good thing to start a day laughing and especially after sleeping in.

I look at my phone, it’s after nine and that’s so sleeping in for me.

I get up and get my things and head to the bathroom and I’m joined by the others and it’s awkward at first with four girls in a bathroom and then it’s four trans girls in a room getting ready and then there’s the whole thing with the open toilet and that has us stepping out for each other’s with this whole getting ready thing and I’m so not ready to do that in front of people.

But the rest of it is sort of frenetic and fun.

Tooth brushing and then it’s hair and make-up and we’re all doing the “How do I look, do I look alright?”

I go light with my make-up, a decent amount of deodorant and then some foundation and sunscreen and the rest is my hair.

I…

I kind of like my hair when can get that little bit of wave and curl to it and that curled away bend away from my face and have that sort of cute look.

Mine’s sort of like a bob-cut with a fly away look. I have just mid-length hair for a girl really and this works really well for me.

I’m getting dressed into the camp shorts and a thought sort of bubbles up. “You think I kept my hair longer because of Not-Rob?”

Amy says. “Definitely.”

Jess is signing for Elly who’s nodding and I’m getting a little of it and I sort of have a sign for me or for Not-Rob because it’s the finger spelling N and then they hold the R as they turn their hand like wagging a finger.

But Robin is R and a thumbs up and I’m getting that you get a shorthand sort of sign instead of finger spelling it all out.

Long names would be a pain to do that and I’d be painfully slow.

I get a bit of this shivery feeling as I step outside and the cold air is hitting my legs. I don’t wear shorts this high; I usually have hair on my legs.

It’s a very odd feeing, it’s a very girl sort of feeling given how it’s blending with the feeling of my panties and the tee-shirt and the bra.

It’s nice here, the sun’s out and I can see the lake shining an sparkling and the docks and the green lawns and there all these buildings that look like their stained boards with logs and the same white trim as the cabins and I can see the places that look like all the non-cabin buildings and they all have that look of someone that actually having more than a contractors certificate in making them.

Jane comes out dressed the same as I am except her lanyard and she’s eating one of those small yogurts.

“This is really nice.”

She nods. “Lots of people helped with this and lots of money I guess.”

“Yeah this looks pretty top shelf.”

She smiles around her spoon then says. “It’s nice to have something, the camp founders are really smart and they got big grants and things I guess since we do the full inclusion and the disabled stuff and teach.”

“How long has it been going?”

“Three years now, I’ve been here all three it’s only gotten better.”

“I really want to be here.”

She looks at me. “Are things any better?”

I nod. “They are, I mean everything’s changed and it’s not and I’ve a lot more questions.”

“Well honestly it’s just getting started Robin, you’ll have all summer to find some answers.”

“And if I don’t?”

Jane looks at me. “I think you already have.”

I look at her questioningly.

She shrugs. “You’ll see what I mean; people change when they’re happy. You’ll see them start to shine as things fall away that have been hurting them.”

She finishes her yogurt and leans in the doorway. “C’mon girls time to go; we have breakfasts and the assembly and the tour plus a lot of other things to do.”

We all gather together and it’s not long before we’re smelling the food and I can smell a BBQ going or something like that and we head inside and it’s just us first years and there’s lots of room.

Jane says. “Get what you want it’s all buffet here so help yourselves.”

I head over with the girls and I’m honestly hungry but I see them looking things over while the guys are sort of not but are too? It’s like opposites, the girls want to eat for being thin and stuff and the guys are used to eating with the restrictions that girls usually have to deal with so they’re like looking really hungry and yet scared.

I hit the oatmeal bar and that’s this table with hot dishes of oatmeal and then there’s all these dishes like nuts and fruits and all sorts of things.

Oh there’s things like cereal and all the usuals of toast and eggs and sausages and bacon plus there’s vegan versions and lots of things like yogurt and fruit and the like.

I actually end up watching Jane. She’s been doing this for at least three years and she looks great. I get a half of toast and jam, then oatmeal with slivered almonds and some dried cranberries and a good scoop of blue berries and two slices of bacon.

It’s not the same as Jane’s but it’s close and I get a plastic cup thing of grapefruit segments that are one of the faves I have from home and a big strawberry and a container of skim milk and a coffee.

It’s really a little bit of everything or a lot of things and I sit with the girls and start to eat.

We’re all just settling in and we’re getting a bit more awake and relaxed as we eat and more importantly getting the coffee into us and working.

It’s still really though a big deal for so many of us as I see Jess and Amy and most of the girls are looking around and are feeling the same things that I am I suppose really only they’re likely feeling it more than I am because I haven’t wanted this.

Not like they have.

Don’t get me wrong, being Robin is pretty life altering for me but I haven’t been screaming inside for all of this, they have and it’s showing.

It’s actually fun to watch all of the happy going on and to see the ways that the girls are different.

Jess is tugging at her clothes and nervously checking herself out as she gets her food. She’s a fruit girl with a bit of yogurt and a half slice of toast.

Amy is tugging at her shorts and she’s touching her hair all of the time and she gets herself some bacon and eggs but small portions and like me she got a bunch of blueberries.

I have good food home but there’s a difference between having good food and actually having access to fruit and veggies and things as much as you want and need.

Elly’s the likely least unfreaked out since I think that she’s out more at home and everything but she is still looking around and she’s smiling a lot because of where she’s at I think and the atmosphere here as she’s signing with jess and a few others and all of the staff seem to be at least a little bit skilled in it all.

She’s getting the oatmeal too but she has loads of strawberries in hers and some granola for crunch and then some cream and she gets a banana and a coffee and milk like me.

Okay I’m so trying that tomorrow.

But it’s like that, girls getting food and we’re all doing things on the light side of things and we’re all sort of in that I can’t believe we have all of this and I can’t believe we’re here.

I heard some really bad stories and all but you really get this whole idea of some kids not having anything when they’re holding their tray and asking if they can have some of this even if it’s just from the other kids.

And it’s not just the trans girls but it’s the guys too and the enby kids in between it all…being trans seems really like there’s a lot of poor that goes around.

Samantha’s one of those kids.

She so thin, so skinny and she’s so shy and just watching her it’s like after a bit you can see her asking for permission, asking so many times it’s like this reflex.

I can’t help but to see it.

And Tracy looking awesome with her hair in side puffs and she’s grazing and feeding herself tastes of things and you can hear her say. “Wow that’s good.” or sometimes she’ll grab a little bit of napkin and spit something that she doesn’t like out.

They have the biggest plates with French toast and a pancake rolled up with some scrambled eggs and a little bit of bacon and then there’s the sausage bits and there’s some yogurt and fruit too.

Samantha looks almost too freaked to eat and it takes Tracy trying to feed her some of her own food to get her embarrassed enough to grab it and eat it. The look on her face is really the ’oh...oh yay food look.’ it’s a little hard to kind of see and to notice because home we’re poor but we’re not starving poor.

It’s just, just kind of hard and a learning experience to see this and to care…to just care this much this fast about people that I just met.

But met and shared stuff with that’s been pretty deep stuff.

This whole place is going to be that I think.

Deep because we’re all dropping our shells, the false outsides.

Drew’s the only one that’s somewhat non-conforming with the whole eating like a girl thing and she has a bowl of Fruit-Loops and she has pancakes with an ocean of syrup and bacon. I look at her tray and it almost makes my teeth hurt.

“Wow that’s a lot of sugar.” I say.

She grins. “It sure the heck is and I’m usually way too rushed to like eat anything this good.”

I nod. “Toast and peanut butter and tea before chores and all of that’s before breakfast and then it’s only usually if someone is cooking something.”

Drew chews. “Paper route for me and that’s on a bike with a whole bunch of stuff to carry each day. My folks won’t pay for stuff while I’m “doing” this foolishness” and they’re less than happy about me even having that kind of cash.”

There’s some nods and I say. “Home doesn’t really pay, but there’s always scut work to do for cash in the summer and that’s the little bit of money for all of the extras for the school year.”

Jane’s like. “Scut work?”

“Helping with gardens, doing firewood and then there’s stuff like picking berries and raking blueberries and doing hay.”

It’s funny because most of them are looking at me in the same way that town kids do when you talk about doing work outside of things that you do hear in town.

Jane says. “We have some of that here too we sell stuff from the big gardens in the stand and in the shop and we have several strawberry fields here we run just for us.”

“How much a flat?”

“Five dollars.” she says taking a drink of her coffee.

“Okay wow that’s like double home.”

I see the girls looking and I say. “You pick flats of berries with nine boxes in each and the growers usually pay by the flat.”

Paige looks shocked. “But that’s a rip off you pay like close to that per box in the grocery stores.”

Jane nods. “But you’re paying growing costs, labor and gas and then the grocer is trying to make some too.”

I smile. “I might just have to get in on that, even though I really hate the berry field.”

I’m just still getting looks and Jane says “You don’t have to do any jobs that you don’t want to.” And she gestures at Holly and a bunch of the senior staff who are all lined up to the front of the cafeteria.

We all stop eating as the others are too when their captains are pointing them out.

Holly waits another few minutes before talking to all of us and her voice is coming out over the PA system even though she’s not wearing a microphone.

“Good morning everyone!”

We all say good morning back.

“Welcome everybody to Moon Lake!”

She continues with. “Now as you and your parents, guardians or caseworkers have told you we’re a for pay trans forward camp for LGBTQAI and others camp.”

“Now what that means is that we’re here to help you but we’re also here to educate and council you and with that comes getting paid a basic amount while you are here. We have a daily journal on the site that will be logged to you accounts here. These you will all be able to access through the camp tablets that you will be given out now from your captains!”

Jane gets up and she takes a box from one of the senior staff that has Dell on it and she is passing out tablets and with the tablet there’s a card that has the camp logo on them.

I look mine over and there’s a bar code and a magnetic strip like a bank card.

Holly says. “You all might have noticed that you have a debit card with your tablets and this is how you will be getting paid here. They have a PayPal account as well listed to you in case you want or need money from home or to even transfer your money from here to your own accounts back home. The money you all will be paid will be your money in exchange from being in the camp program here and the various jobs and workshops that you all will be attending.”

“Are there any questions so far?”

Several hands go up.

Holly points out the first one. “Yes?”

“How are we getting paid and where’s the money coming from?”

Holly says. “We have a deal with the federal government for our data and it’s part of a national study on LGBTQAI and others then looks into aspects of our lives and the needs that we have. There’s a high rate of suicide as you well know in our community and it’s been getting worse with us losing people at younger and younger ages. We’re sharing this information with several other countries and participating groups as well as universities and honestly give how widespread and alone we all are this was seen as a good strategy for a large group study.”

I nod, I’m not all that knowledgeable about all of this stuff but it seems like a good idea.

Another kid asks. “How much are we getting paid?”

Holly says. “That base pay while you are here is twenty dollars a day or a hundred and forty a week paid out each Friday. There will be money deposited weekly into each account and you’ve all been given a good faith and travel payment of fifty dollars just for getting here.”

There’s a lot of talking about that and I’m figuring out that’s about right really when you pay folks here and feed and clothe us plus the other things too. No it’s not minimum wage even but it’s for eight weeks and we’ll be making close to a thousand dollars over the summer and that’s if we don’t spend any or we don’t take up any jobs.

That’s actually kind of comparable to what some kids home were paid from going to cadet camp.

Someone else asks. “You said other jobs and workshops?”

Holly says. “Jobs will be first come and first serve through the camp site online here and they’ll pay either a set task wage or minimum wage depending on the type of job that you sign up for. You’ll get paid for attending certain workshops that deal with LGBTQAI discussions and experiences and these are flat rates since most of these workshops are just one shots unless we have the need for more through demand.”

Holly looks around. “Any more questions before we have you captains run you through getting you all on your tablets and registered?”

There’s no more hands and she nods. “Alright then, welcome home everyone and let’s hope that we’ll all have a really good summer!”

Jane helps us get onto our tablets and register them with our names and then using the camera to log in our faces with a selfies that we like as our thumbnail and then us typing in our debit card numbers and making our pins numbers and pass wording our accounts and we get all logged in here and check our accounts and I smile at seeing the fifty dollars in there that we were promised.

Jane runs us through the tutorial stuff on where to find the jobs and the workshops and the courses that are considered workshops too.

I can take ASL and get paid for doing it it’s an eighty hour course that gives a certificate at the end and pays a hundred dollars.

And there’s CPR and cooking and sewing and basics of carpentry and electrical shop and basic handyperson repairs and all sorts of other things ranging from things like cosmetic basics to kayaking and canoeing and there’s even stuff like working in the kitchen here and everything under the sun and stars really and most of the course things offer certificates when you are done taking them.

I look at Jane. “So these certificates are they real and do we get then in our outside life names?”

She nods. “We will do dead or outside world names and if and we have changed those transcripts for some of our transitioning students. One of the big things here is that work experience and training that will go towards you all getting jobs and having a better fighting chance as trans kids.”

She does go to Holly and talk and Holly explains that exact same thing to all of the other kids and that’s pretty exciting by the reactions.

The rest of breakfast time is sort of doing this and then we’re cleaning up and we’re setting out for the tour of the camp.

*** CHAPTER 14...

The tour of the camp is long but it’s exciting and it’s actually really cool.

We go and we do a tour of the kitchens here first and it’s a teaching kitchen with lots of things that you’d likely expect to see in such a size of a place and there’s a crew here already and signing up is explained as a per meal shift one week at a time. So if you sign up and find a placement it’s for one of the three meals and for a week or it’s for the three shifts of dishes in the same way.

All of the working shifts are for a week at a time to give people looking the chance to sign up for them with a first come first serve basis.

And that’s for everything from the kitchens to the gardens to like lawn care and the cleaning crews and the laundry shifts.

They have really, really big great gardens here too with several greenhouses and then most everything is done in these big raised rows almost like the raised beds that we have home at my grandparents places.

We get to see the strawberry fields from there too and their not as big as home but they’re plenty big for here I guess.

Then there’s the laundry and that has a place for us to do our own washing in the front and there’s a bigger part in back with all the things for the camp’s bigger things like towels and bedding plus the things for their laundry service that caters to the outside like town and things and I see that it’s actually really busy already.

There’s several classrooms that are also the places used for the workshops and they have a computer lab that we can use and there’s classes we can take there that I’m iffy on. I mean typing sort of makes sense seeing as we have that as a thing for high school home but taking other stuff like Excel for Microsoft and things? I look at Jane. “What’s with the business stuff?”

She says. “Some businesses require you to know certain programs, we’re not a business school or anything like that but I myself have a part time job as a receptionist and assistant clerk and I needed to know some of this and it’s just a good thing to know for my job there.”

She also shows us some other things in there. “We work towards teaching computer skills to doing things like GED’s and even with teaching some other things that are good things to know like the business acumen workshop.”

“Acumen?”

She looks at us and I’m not the only one confused.

“Sometimes you might actually get a job like mine. There’s some places that will hire students for answering phones and the like and having a working knowledge of how to act and talk and dress in those kinds of places is really useful.”

She actually uses her tablet. “See there’s things here too like workshops on taking tests and exams and how to have better study habits and then there’s workshops on how to write resume’s and to do a job interview.”

There’s a lot of nods and I’ll admit that I’m really tempted to take some of these like the study things and the job interview things as well. I’m looking at the lists and descriptions. “I never even knew that these things were things. I thought that you just muddle through them.”

Paige says. “Then freaking out and screaming afterwards.”

There’s some laughter and she’s looking at hers. “I so need the study stuff and the exam and taking tests ones I freak out at taking tests.”

There’s a lot of agreement too and I see a workshops with things that are. Interviews while being trans, and Trans in the workplace and Labor laws and you. Most of these are like eight or ten hour’s courses and workshops all broken up over time and then there’s the fact that all of them are paid or paying things.

I look at Jane. “Is everything here for money?”

Jane nods. ’Most of it yes, it is a good way to get people to go to these things. Most of us need these things too but there’s a lot of stuff that kids will not budge for unless there’s a good reason.”

Drew’s like. “That’s a bit capitalist though.”

Jane nods. “But was you getting paid a reason for you coming here?”

She makes a face but she nods. “I’m broke as hell.”

I nod. “I’m not broke as hell but I really took getting away and getting paid as a big bonus.”

There’s some of the other girl’s and the guys on the tour nodding and we sort of keep going until we see everything.

There’s a big gym with weight machines and treadmills and bikes and all sorts of things and I see what looks like yoga in one place and something that looks like Tai-chi and there’s aerobics and even a thing that looks kind of like self-defense classes and even a dance class getting started and there’s some of us that stop at both.

I can see some of them with looks like they’ve been bullied and are looking wistfully at this and then there’s some of the guys looking at it in this whole other light.

“You teach fighting here?” I ask.

Jane nods. “We have a bunch of course like that with some self-defense classes to boxing and we even have a Tae kwon do class.” she says pointedly at the kids staring and watching. “Though all of it is self-defense really and we don’t teach getting into trouble here.”

I smile. “I don’t think I’ll be taking any of those.”

I get a few looks from some of the girls and Jane nods. “Yes, from what we’ve talked about you’re not looking for anything like that.”

I smile though looking at Samantha who’s watching the dance class and the girls that are doing the stuff there even if it’s just stretches and things. She asks in this sort of awe that is kind of overriding her shyness. “Are they trans? I don’t see things that are like…not supposed to be there?”

Jane nods. “Almost everyone here is trans Samantha, like ninety percent of the camp and the staff.”

She leans right to the glass both hands on it and she breathes. “I want to do this; I really want to do this.”

Jane says. “Give me your tablet.”

Sam looks at her and shyly passes it too her and Jane does some things and she passes it back. “Just hit enter and you’re in.”

“Really…” It’s this breathless little voice.

Jane nods. “Really, it’s not this class here but it’s intro to dance but it’s where you’ll start.”

It’s one of those really cool moments watching Samantha hit that button and seeing the look on her face.

The rest of the day goes like that with us stopping by the arts and crafts shops and classes and there’s just as much there as there was in the gym or the computer labs and then we’re breaking for a quick lunch.

I can really get used to the food here.

I’m not terribly hungry with not doing a whole lot more than walking but I still get a boneless skinless chicken thigh that’s been grilled and I hit the salad bar they have there and that’s actually pretty big and full of so many good things.

I have Havarti cheese for the first time and it’s okay, I try some quinoa and cous-cous for the first time too as well as some lentils. I don’t mind any of it except I actually really like the cous-cous and could see making it at home as something different.

Then we’re headed out in the afternoon to see the actual camp grounds and we have sports fields for all sorts of sports and there’s a basketball court and badminton and tennis so there’s lots of sportsing things there too and there’s both sort of class activities and there’s like drill workshops that are Canadian coaching course certified so like if you’re a jock or a jockette then you ca keep your skills up or as Jane says. “You’ll get a paper certificate with these that says you took these workshops so if you want to take team things back home you’ll have these in case of all of that too.”

That actually has all of the guys talking more than us and then we end up at the beach and the swimming area and all the water stuff and I’m in a little bit of awe as some of the other girls as there are some of the older girls there…tanning. In bathing suits, in two piece bathing suits and nothing is doing the bulge and we can see some real breasts.

Not naked breasts but some of these girls are actually doing it.

Transitioning.

And while we don’t bother them since they’re not doing class or course things it strikes a lot of us new ones really hard.

There’s a lot of girls that are covering themselves or holding their tablets over themselves and are so having these looks on their faces of wanting that to be them.

I hear Paige say with some real emotion. “Me… that’s going to be me someday.”

Samantha got really quiet and she looked like she was folding in on herself with like the whole opposite feelings.

That hurting sort of that might never be me thing isn’t uncommon right now.

And me?

I can’t help but see them and thing that this is real, it’s real and they’re real girls just like Aunt Chris is and like her they look like they’re happy.

Oh I know that I have no clue about if that’s true or not but right then and there they look happy.

Peaceful and content.

And honestly that’s deeply appealing to me.

The last stop is the roadside stand shop for us and that’s an experience in itself with a lot of stuff going on there. There’s the laundry pick up and drop off and then there’s the bakery and then there’s the take-out stand that does food cooked right there and then there’s take away meal things too and there’s even a produce stand as part of that and it’s actually really busy with kids working and being taught and it’s late afternoon so there’s this whole getting supper rush there going on and people learning how to use a cash and debit and everything there that seems like good learning experiences.

I look at Jane. “Do people know?”

Jane nods. “Oh yeah, we went through stuff I guess when we first started but we have local support and we have tribal support too.”

“Oh, and people are good with it?”

She nods. “Pretty much, we’re good neighbors and we get scouted too.”

Jess asks for Elly. “Scouted?”

“People know about us and have LGBTQAI and other kids so they will actually come here to vacation some and to check us out, a lot of the time to see if we‘re a good place for their kids.”

I nod. “Are there any non-trans kids here?”

“Some like I said before but a lot of the non-trans LGBTQAI and other kids go to some of our sister or brother camps.”

I nod and that’ll be interesting I think?

We head back to get ready for supper and that’s sort of a bigger deal here since we’re allowed to wear what we want. Apparently we’re allowed to do that anyways but in the evenings it’s like what everyone is doing so it’s like a bigger thing.

And it’s a good thing since we sort of need the break after the whole thing at the beach with the older girls that we’ve seen and everything too.

And from my own feelings it’s still in our heads a lot.

The shower’s nice here too and they have actually better water pressure at my Aunt Chris’s place though I think that just might be because of the lake or something.

It’s nice to get clean and to get it washed out of my head with some of the bath stuff from Lush and I really am liking the feeling of really nice stuff on my skin and the smells and all of the bubbles too.

What would this feel like flowing over softer skin though and different curves?

I get a reaction in the shower after I get into the feeling of those slippery suds slipping down my skin and…and after I was paying some extra attention to my nipples.

I do the raised leg thing and that works but I kind of now know my nipples like attention.

And I’m not that in the dark to know that some boys like that too.

I just find it interesting and a little scary that I could go there mentally so easily since it wasn’t a boyish fantasy that did this to me.

But the who, well that was kind of just a someone; my fantasy playmate didn’t have much of a face.

But they sort of felt feminine.

I get out better and safe to look at and let some of the others have their turn and I get my hair dried off and I use some lotion too and that’s something that I’m starting to just like especially for my feet.

Seriously as a guy you really don’t do stuff like that. You wash and you dry and apply powder or stuff when you get something freaky going on down there so like just rough and tough feet and all of that is just.

Jess is all showered and she says. “I’ll do you if you do me?”

“Pardon?”

She blushes. “Not like that Robin okay?” she takes my foot that I haven’t done yet and she does the whole lotion and foot rub thing.

And wow…wow oh wow I’ve never had a foot rub in my life and I had no idea that it would feel so good.

Not like sexy good though it could feel like that from a caring perspective. “Oh that’s amazing Jess.”

She grins. “Good you can return the favor too because I was watching you do your feet and thought that I have never like had anyone do that for me and that the whole foot care thing is like a girl thing.”

I nod. “I never do this for myself in Rob’s life and the lotion is great but this in like better.”

Amy looks at us. “Eeew no, no, no eeew feet.”

That has Jess and I laughing and when it comes to Jess’s turn I do hers and she makes the same sort of appreciative noises too. It just feels good to have that done and when Jess is done Elly plops herself down and she puts he feet up and she signs “Please?” while giving me this puppy dog look.

Amy has a fit and she refuses to go to supper unless all three of us wash our hands because we had feet all over them.

And that got all of the girls in the cabin laughing about it.

And Jess actually making fun of her by saying. “But you were fine on the bus when we were doing our nails?”

“That’s different; there was nowhere as much contact as all of that. I mean come on it’s FEET…”

We kind of end up ribbing her all the way to the dining hall.

And we’re all sort of like just dressed simply and everything for the most part but we do this serious stop and stare sort of as we see all of the others and all these other trans girls that are all dressed too.

I mean some of them are really, really pretty and then there’s some of the older kids that are just.

Drew’s got a smile on her face. “Welp I’m done.”

I look at her. “Done?”

She says. “I’m a pan and enby trans girl.”

“Which means?”

She’s still looking. “Which means while I’m a trans girl I’m kinda good down below and things and I’m pansexual so I don’t really do the other relationship boundaries stuff.”

“Oh… okay.” Good with her lower stuff? Okay that’s sort of still one of those things where you’ve sort of read about it some but it’s different having like actually knowing one.

Drew does this sigh. “There’s so many pretty people here.”

I smile and I rub her shoulder. “That’s a good way to be you know that right?”

Drew’s staring at me. “You’re the first person to literally ever say that Robin like right off the bat.”

I grin at her. “You’re welcome.” and I head to the line to get some food.

Supper’s a lot like dinner with the salad bar but we have a lot of other things and different foods too. There’s like I said the salads but there’s also soup there too and then there’s all of the camp types of faves like burgers and hot dogs but they have the vegan and veggie versions of those too and then there’s like pizza’s too that they’re doing by the slice and those are done for like everyone to have something that they like and there’s mac n’ cheese and then there’s spaghetti there with like a sauce bar and vegetarian meatball and there’s like gluten free stuff.

I also see some other things there too like rice dishes and things that are what I think are curries and Indian foods and while they’re in smaller serving dishes there’s still a whole lot of foods from like other ethnics here to choose from.

And apparently that includes their BBQ grilled stuff too in all sorts of different styles.

I get myself some salad with mine being heavy on the cucumbers and the tomatoes because I like both a lot and I avail myself of a lot of the veggies that are expensive if we’re not growing them like sweet bell peppers and mushrooms. Then a bowl of soup that smells too good to pass up with it being like a potato soup with chives and herbs and some melty cheese over the little pots they have there and I get some chicken on skewers actually trying some of these different flavors and I get a kebab of just grilled veggies too and a little of the rice that looks spicy and I try a vegetarian meatball with a little sauce with a small scoop of the mac and cheese and I get a hot dog.

The girls are sort of looking at me. I shrug. “I’m not used to the whole girl eating and things that you all are doing all the time.”

Jane says. “I’ve noticed that with some of you girls. No pressure on losing weight here, there’s enough things and enough gym stuff here that you’ll all have the chances to burn off all the calories you want to. Seriously girls watch the older girls, see what they’re eating and see that they’re eating.”

Things get a little more foody then and it actually leads to Jane talking about this a lot.

“Food’s a trigger for some girls, especially trans girls that are really, really easy targets to get into the whole bad place for eating disorders and that’s never a good thing.”

“We try and help with that a lot here since we have had a few close calls with some kids and we can help really with things like actual weight loss here too.”

Then she says something that gets attention. “Too thin really messes with your body as much as being too fat does and both lead to issues that will not just hurt you all but it will red flag you with your doctors and any medical professional will not put you on hormones because of that.

Wow…there was a look of abject horror there with her saying that.

It does get the girls all eating and getting a lot more than just the barely fed stuff and we do watch the older girls and it’s them doing a lot like Jane and I?

Big salad then soup to fill things up and then rounding it all off with a little meat and fats and some carbs.

All of which I had no idea that I was doing so right and there’s some exceptions to the whole thing we’re doing with Paige being vegetarian and mostly vegan at that and then there’s Samantha that has a lot of foods but she’s still looking like she wants to apologize with each thing she takes and Tracy and her must be tight because she’s sort of still sticking close to her and pretty much telling her it’s okay.

Drew ate like one bite of pizza and chewed like critically before she took any more of it and she gave the cooks a thumbs up and she took a slice of the veggie and the meat lovers and two of the cheese and used them as a sort of second plate for her salad and a veggie burger.

She looks at all of us as she pulls a slice out from underneath her pile. “If the crust isn’t good or the sauce isn’t good then there’s like no point of eating pizza at all.”

Amy asks. “What about frozen pizza?”

“It’s a necessary evil in the world.”

That gets us all laughing and talking and starting to loosen up and have a good time with everyone else and we’re starting to talk about the classes we’re going to take and jobs that we’re going to apply for and things well into us getting dessert or some of us.

I’m stuff so I don’t bother but we end up heading back to our cabin after bussing our trays and then getting together with our tablets in the living room as we go through how to sign up for things.

See if you sign up for things the tablet will do the earliest time slot first and if that’s full you can either go on the waiting list and that’ll be if the next slot opens up or shift and in the case of classes it will prompt more classes or to run another workshop.

It’s kind of neat that they adjust a lot of this according to demand, well except for things like the work things but they will schedule you for the next ones, or like the next week if all the positions are filled.

And as we’re doing that we’re seeing things filling up even as we’re doing this and it’s a good thing that there’s a lot of the workshops that will run a couple of hours after supper too and then Jane shows us how to do the scheduling function that charts out everything like a school schedule and it puts in free time for everyone in each day for us.

We have to take two hours of free time a day and that’s not optional and it’s not counting mealtimes. And the latest anyone works or takes classes is nine at night.

It’s a little frustrating getting everything lined up and scheduled the way that I want them for now and I sign up for ASL, LGBTQAI discourse, cosmetics, dancing…because I really don’t know how and I get some shift hours in the laundry in the afternoons and I do get my free time right now scheduled for from ten until lunch.

That actually sort of ends up taking the rest of the night.

It’s amazing how fast that all went.

*** CHAPTER 15...

It’s amazing how fast the first week has gone.

And it really does seem to go fast.

I get up in the morning and we don’t have to be anywhere say; breakfast until eight o clock which means that unlike things at home I’m still sleeping in and unfortunately once I got past that little bit of resting up my normal body clock has me up and awake really early.

That’s when I get up and have an instant coffee with Drew who’s up like me by force of her paper route habit.

I’ll be honest we’re getting along better and she’s a really pretty girl even with the green dyed hair and the dark rimmed glasses, maybe even because of those? The look just really suits her and she’s nice and she’s funny.

Though she totally loses me with her talking about videogames and all of that stuff since she’s really into those and I’m just a very occasional gamer.

But we usually have our coffees and we have that whole quiet meditative thing where we wait for it to kick in and then we’re joined half the time by Jane who is usually woken up by the smell of the instant coffee.

We have a few little things in the microwave area and it’s usually things that Jane has as we haven’t been into town yet. Instant coffee and microwave popcorn and hot chocolate and little things like that.

I do plan on getting some things to put in on our shelves.

After the morning routines with me and Drew up Early and getting things ready we do breakfast as usual and then it’s off for me and for Jess who got on with me to the laundry.

We do two hours there and mostly we’re on dryer duty and folding things which actually took us learning how to fold things, how to fold everything actually and then either put it carefully into the laundry bags we have or into baskets that the clients have left with us.

And that takes us to our break and that’s where I actually go to the strawberry fields.

And that’s after I jog to get changed and then get into my purple sweats and then a tee-shirt that I don’t think I’ll hurt and I go off and pick strawberries.

Jess hadn’t done it and neither had Drew, Samantha or Amy and Amy was more than done after the first day and Jess was done on the second day so out of the cabin ten girls it’s been Drew and Samantha and I ever since.

It’s actually kind of perfect really we get there by the time the dew’s mostly done and we’re still sort of fresh from it being early and then we pick until lunch and the day really heats up.

Drew’s never done it before but it’s money and she’s not afraid of hard work and Samantha works really hard too. She’s new to it as well and she’s all sorts of driven though.

Me I’ve picked berries for money in the berry fields for a long time really and these are really nice fields.

Tall rows with them having been well built up and lots of straw too in between the rows and then there’s the fact that you have a slope and some people go up and down both but I only go uphill because it’s loads easier on the back and I get right into it and I pick as fast as I can without getting sloppy and I’m using the roll wrist method.

That’s when you grab a berry cluster and flip it over with your wrist and you get a really good look at which ones are good enough to pick and what ones to leave and pick them fast and neatly and after my first row is done I look at Lucy the woman on staff that’s punching our tickets and ask. “You do a cut bucket?”

She looks at me. “What’s that?”

“The partial berries that some of the birds have touched or have spots but there’s a lot left to them we put in a buckets and those get cut up and cleaned from all the bad stuff and then we make jam and things from after a good wash in salt water before cooking them.?”

She looks at me like I grew another head.

At one point she must have talked to someone and she give me one of those big ice cream containers to use and I’m doing both picking and those and it’s worth three flats if I have it filled.

That’d not hard really there’s a lot of waste in food prep and things like this that people will just go eww over because of what they think is dirt of it might be not clean. A bird can eat just a small hole on a berry and the whole thing goes to waste or a slug or a bug has gotten into it?

That’s food wastage and it’s not really very green.

And apparently as long as we are really food safe and it’s all cooked someone has agreed with me.

And I push myself and get really into doing it when I’m picking too since it’s only for two hours and or so I really want to take advantage of doing this for the good prices that they’re paying per flat at least until I’m sick of it.

Then it’s lunch and that’s when I switch over from doing things like work to doing the classes.

I have ASL first and that’s not that hard really it’s a lot of memorizing things and it really helps that at meal times and in the evening I get to practice with Jess and Elly who’s really happy that I and others in cabin 10 are taking it.

Which really makes me happy too since there’s a whole other like level to her the more and more that we can actually communicate with Elly on her level.

The biggest thing I’ve learned in class was one of the first.

Deaf and hearing impaired people really do so much better when you face them in a conversation even when you’re not talking to them. They get visual cues and context even if they don’t read lips.

And if you can talk while you sign that too is a huge help, as a lot of hearing impaired people can read lips to some degree.

Learning all of that is really important to me because I’m learning something that I’d have had no opportunity to learn at home and it’s actually making me a better friend.

I like being a better friend.

And actually wanting to be a better friend is way more of a Robin thing than it is a Rob thing or ever has been a Rob thing.

And that realization carried over to LGBTQAI discourse which sort of starts off as us learning all of the lingo and jargon that goes on in the community and the terms and the things that are happening too. It’s a lot of stuff but a lot of us are actually up on a good three quarters of it and that language is everywhere here.

Lesbian, gay, trans, transgender and the differences between that and transsexual and then there’s enby or non-binary trans people and there’s post-op, non-op, cis, gender fluid, pansexual and bisexual and so much more.

But it really becomes a lot of us in the class talking about our experiences and things like non-dysphoric trans.

Oh that’s a thing.

A big thing really and some folks seem to think that if you don’t have crippling dysphoria that you’re not trans. Then there’s the people that say that you don’t need to be dysphoric to be trans and a lot of that is this huge misunderstanding that the people that say that they don’t have dysphoria aren’t saying that they don’t feel wrong.

They’re saying that they aren’t constantly slammed by it and that they really don’t want to step on the feet of the people that are that way.

And then I’m learning about people like me.

I’m sort of a questioning non-binary trans person.

And that means that I really didn’t think about being trans, transition and not being Rob wasn’t even on my radar as an option for me. But I was still just going through the motions of being me, of being someone that I really wasn’t and now that I’m being me in my own way under my own identity I’m seeing my old life in a whole new way and in a whole new light.

Am I any closer to really finding answers though?

A little bit at a time.

The biggest answer so far is that I’m happier right now that I have ever been. I feel free and that’s letting a lot more of me out.

The second biggest answer is I like who I am as Robin.

And that means a lot.

And then there’s cosmetics class and that’s make-up and using it and some hair styles and learning about skin tones and types and a lot of practice too in the course.

I like that, I like knowing what I’m doing and the class is fun and goofy as we’re really not great at doing some of these things and we play around and practice on each other and there’s a lot of girls in the class too and a few of the guys.

Because not all trans guys are like super-hyper-manly and they don’t have to be either. There are femme trans guys and there are macho trans guys and lots of in between too just as much as there’s in between all types of us trans girls.

See how that goes back to the LGBTQAI discourse stuff?

And lastly there’s dance class.

I am very, very iffy in dance class and there’s a lot to that too. Most of it is learning the basics right now but there’s guys and girls in the classes and that’s teaching us the stuff that we need to know as the basics for both of us.

Like how to lead and follow or unlearn how to do each in some cases. Or to learn how to deal with having a partner that you’re taller than as a girl and then there’s the guys side of it since it’s mostly the opposite for them too.

They’re teaching us how to deal with those things as much as they’re teaching us how to dance.

Because a good part of dance in comfort levels and confidence.

I like the fact that for the basics they’re teaching is the stuff for us going to a dance and the basic stuff that we’re going to need to know how to do when it comes to dancing with someone in like a slow dance situation.

That gets a lot of laughter and nervous giggling when we have partners that are setting hands around waists and the small of the back and things like that when a lot of us have never been touched like that and a lot of our partners have never touched other people like that either.

Alex and John are both in the class and Alex is a bit of a flirt and he’s adventurous and John is too right up until he has to like touch you then he’s all blush city.

I like dancing.

As Robert dances were sort of a meh thing.

As Robin when we really get into it and were having fun it was sort of a letdown to be done.

Things are changing for me.

And I’m liking it and looking forward to it.

At the end of the week and it we get paid and it’s very, very nice to see just over two hundred in my account so far with the money from the extra work that I’ve been doing and while we’re all hyper sort of about it it’s that night at supper that we find out that not only is tomorrow and Sunday free days but we get to go into town with escorts in the Camp mini-bus and van and that there will be times allotted to us by cabin numbers.

That was sort of exciting and there was a lot of talk and things and ideas about going shopping.

Shopping was sort of a thing and sort of not.

Sioux Falls is a lot like home.

A few small stores with things like gas stations and Home Hardware and a lot of outfitters and there’s sort of some shopping at this kind of sort of sports & fashion place here called McTaggerts and I just end up looking.

Wow…things in that store were expensive.

And there’s The Northern Store which is a grocery place and there’s a few things the girls and I chip in on there like tea, and hot chocolate and some other little dry good things like granola bars and some creamers for the mini fridge and some diet sodas.

And even that was a little expensive.

There was a Rexall and a Remedies for like drug stores and that at least let us kind of sort of by things for make-up and Remedies has better actual make-up and Rexall has better and actually pretty cheap things like make-up pads for removal and all the little things that you should like have for doing stuff with like eyelash curlers and mani-pedi sets and yeah that sort of takes another sort of chomp into the cash flow.

The girls are nervous too, about going out dressed and it took some convincing for Samantha to come along and Jess was going to balk at going too but Elly convinced her with a very pouting “Please I might need you.” Set of signs that were accompanied by her pretty good sooky-face.

But it wasn’t that bad.

There’s a lot of people that know who we are and what kind of girls we are and the staff’s always friendly and that’s a good thing.

And even the people in town are friendly too.

I couldn’t help but smile when we were getting eyeballed by a bunch of people and this native guy sort of walked between them staring at us and he said.

“Whatcha looking at eh? You never learned it wasn’t polite to stare at people huh? That’s loads creepy y’know?”

They sort of all got mad and they packed up the lunch they were eating at one of the picnic tables and they left getting into their RV and drove off.

I looked at him and he looked at me and he grinned. “You okay miss?”

Miss?

I guess that actually kind of works right now doesn’t it?

“Uhm yeah, thanks for that.”

He smiles and he has a nice smile, actually prey much everything about him is kind of nice. He has this really nice skin and these really deep brown eyes and like I said a nice smile and he’s wearing a muscle shirt with something Local on it I think and he’s wearing jeans.

And I honestly can’t help but to notice things, lots of things that are not Rob things and that I honestly can’t help but to notice…like he’s got a really nice body.

My brain is trying to find something to say and he gives me a smile that’s dangerously yay.

“No problem okay? It’s like the tourists and stuff the town’s like full of them all the time.”

Dry….mouth….my mouth is so dry.

“Uhm…” I’m licking my lips and he looks at me and he looks at the bottle of mountain dew in his hand and he offers it to me.

I take it and I take a drink and offer it back and he waves it off. “No thanks I’m good you keep it.”

“Oh…oh uhm thanks again then…”

“Danny, Danny Rivers.”

“Robin…I’m Robin.”

“It’s nice to meet you robin hopefully I’ll like see you around some more.”

I take another fast drink of mountain dew. “Yep. Yeah I mean yes that would be nice.”

He smiles and he gestures at the mini-bus and says. “I think that your ride might be trying to leave without you.”

I blush and I run to catch up with the others and when I get to the mini-bus they are all sitting or grabbing seats like they were watching me and Danny.

I blush some more.

Paige looks at me and she’s like. “Dammit!”

“Sorry…?”

She looks at me and she points at the seat and says. “Details.”

I sit and we head back to camp and I’m telling them what happened and just the few things that he said and then I honestly don’t know how but I’m talking about all of these details about him that.

That I should not know, that I should not have noticed!?

And I’m getting needled and teased all the way back between some looks of awe and some looks of sort of friendly jealousy and it’s sort of hard on the head but at the same time it’s kind of fun.

Sunday’s a personal day and one for laundry of our own and cleaning our cabin and the bunks.

And there’s playing with things at the facilities and swimming just for like recreation and
Just because they can the girls especially Drew and Tracy tease me with renditions of Danny-boy.

*** CHAPTER 16…

Week two I drop the strawberries and I just go with having free time.

I wanted free time and I really don’t do a whole lot with it.

I shoot hoops one day and spend a day just reading having found the camp’s library and reading things as Robin is really getting different for me as I’m reading for one thing stuff with female characters as the main characters and it’s seeing it all differently, having the things that the characters do or that they go through have me nodding or even just fascinated by and even being sort of there with them.

I try badminton one day and that was okay but a little boring and I stayed and made some new friends and I tried tennis and I really am bad at that. Which is okay.

And that it’s okay is new to me too.

Not being good at things would have bothered me as Rob.

And that’s freeing too.

I even sort of just spent some time doing nothing.

Just two full hours of nothing except lying back in a lawn chair and listening to my music with some of the other girls.

And that’s okay too.

I really, really sort of had to fight the guilts over stopping the strawberry picking. There’s a part of me that sounds a lot like Rob that thinks that stopping isn’t okay. That just stopping for stopping isn’t okay.

And that’s when I really start to put stuff into my online journal thing that we fill out every day. Most of the stuff before that was like just kind of random journaling but this is that kind of stuff that you write when you have time to think.

And time to think leaves you with a lot of stuff to write out and vent even about.

Dance class is even better as we’re getting less green and we’re getting more and more used to doing things that used to make us all self-conscious.

I’m starting to like doing make-up and I’m even getting more confident about wearing it more and we’ve been tackling some of the trans stuff for the girls mostly and that’s how to deal with the shaving parts of it and the stubble and the stubblies.

But it’s not all just fun either or just work there’s stuff that comes out.

Amy has a bad dysphoria night one night when she was just caught up in seeing one of the older girls that’s in transition actually topless in the gym and she was hit really hard with that whole that will never be me.

And that sort of sets Paige and Samantha on edge too because talking about it makes it sort of bubble up for some of us.

Especially when Amy ends up crying and she says. “It hurts so bad just feeling it, I feel like I’m completely effing fake and I hate it, I effing hate not feeling right and not feeling real and I…I… I just want to effing cut.”

We close ranks that night and we don’t even go to the cafeteria for supper Jane does and she gets some things we can all eat with the different kinds of pizza’s and then she has us all gather our blankets and things and we all have thing really big sleepover in the little front room of our cabin.

And no one was immune to the feels or the crying that night either.

We all had things to cry over and fears to cry over.

Like me with. “Part of me is really freaked out at just how much more real and deep my life is getting and how much of my old life is just like this sort of illusion. Hey look at the angry boy, pay attention to how he’s acting and not the fact that he doesn’t feel right, that he doesn’t fit in with anyone he knows…even his friends.’

And Drew with. “Pay no attention to the girl hiding in the mirror folks; pay no attention at all it’s just a fun house.”

Tracy just nods a lot and she’s really stand up and everything and then there’s Samantha who doesn’t really get much of a word out that night and just lays on her side for a lot of it and holds herself and she cries.

Dammit, just dammit the more and more that I see her; the more that I know that she’s hurting so much.

And Jess and Paige and there’s like I said more than enough hurt to go around for each of us and Jane…Jane is really just awesome with the sleepover and the pizza’s and doing all of these gentle touches and hugs and reassuring smiles and the soft whispered “go no’s.” and “It’s okay.” And maybe the biggest one of “You’re safe.”

It’s week two when I work at getting my own like for Robin Facebook page and start doing things with that and we’re all doing it because we want to have a way of us keeping in touch and Jane says that her and some of her friends did it and used the camp’s e-mail service with their accounts as the e-mail for the new Facebook accounts

That helped, it was a good way to offset some of the hard stuff for the week that had happened.

It’s really weird to look up my sister and Aunt Chris and Mom and Dad and to add them to my friends and then to the list of the people who can see my things after I set my privacy settings.

Mom and Terri lose their stuff at some of my pictures and especially some of my selfies and pictures with me in them.

Terri looks good too, she’s gotten a whole new haircut and dumped some of the length she had which some of the girls lament over and literally we spend most of the weekend online talking and sharing things and so do my friends.

I looked at a few of their pages and other than us and some of the things that we’ve done here there’s nothing else. There’s like next to no contact from family for most of the girls and they’re not adding any family to their pages.

Drew and Tracy have a couple of friends from like the outside world but for family it’s pretty much Elly and I.

And of course, of course Tracy has pictures of me standing and talking with Danny from the other week and she’s got a bunch of them and she posted that and the stuff with that up on my page.

And that had my Mom and Terri both freaking out.

I mean it was sort of a good freak out and stuff but there was a definite sort of maybe them wanting to ask me stuff like if I was gay or not.

They didn’t or they haven’t yet.

Though I think I sort of maybe detected a bit of maybe like actual jealousy from Terri in me meeting a guy.

Like she hasn’t.

I’ve seen some of the pictures she’s posted and she’s been to the movies with one guy in her picture and eating pizza at a place with some other one.

Aunt Chris though was the best.

[He looks really cute and it’s cool that he was cool with being stand up and nice for all of you. If you had a good experience robin hun, power to you.]

Mom and Terri liked it but didn’t comment.

I think that I might have scared them or shocked them or maybe worse.

Dad even posted, he posted on every one of my pictures and he complimented me and he complimented the girls too when they were in the pictures too.

They might have been just some little things that he said but they were kind things, even as much as just liking Drew’s glasses and saying that Samantha had a pretty smile.

Which made her day.

And made her cry, but in a happy way.

*** CHAPTER 17…

Third week here was actually really good.

Drew and I have our routine and we’re getting along more and more and better than that I’m signing more with Elly and fingerspelling less and I’m done the LGBTQAI discourse class and I signed into taking CPR and The St. Johns Ambulance First aid course which will be another thing that I can add to my resume and things and I drop my shifts in the laundry to start work in the store in the front cash and bakery part of things.

Along with the good stuff is Samantha is talking more and more with us and she talks a lot with Jane who has actually got her out of the berry fields and into one of the therapy and discussion groups.

Dance is getting better and we’re doing some real dancing sort of starting stuff with part of the classes being modern dancing sort of things like you would do at a dance at school.

We’re learning disco.

I was soooo like uhm no, but then it sort of got fun and a whole lot of the actual dancing stuff that we get today for like fun actually came from that whole disco era where going out dancing was seriously the thing to do.

So… okay maybe it wasn’t that corny when you look at it that way.

Then we’re learning some actual technical stuff and that’s when we get dancing gaffs.

So also there’s Samantha who in a totally uncharacteristically burst of expression went around a lot wearing it in class and in the cabin giggling and saying. “Look! Look it’s gone, holy cheese it’s actually like gone!”

And after I had mine on and in place was pulling on my panties and then my tights and Samantha was kind of sort of right.

It looked gone.

And while it didn’t have me doing cartwheels over it there was a part of me that was a lot more freaked out at the lack of freaking out that that area was smooth.

Smooth and compact and it was right.

And I wasn’t lamenting the fact it wasn’t there.

That was another late night up with my coffee five page some entry in my journal with me going over and over that in my head and what that might mean for me, and for Rob.

Because was Rob actually even real?

Though there’s a part of me that was actually pleased in a very impette like way when I took some pictures with me using it and put them up on Robins Facebook account.

Terri was like… [OMG where’s your peen go!?]

And Mom actually posted some of those open mouthed emoticons and things and she sent me a few PM’s asking…

“Robin are you okay?”

“Yeah Mom things are fine?”

“Are you sure, you seem so different?”

“Yeah really different than Rob.”

“You talk like he’s someone else honey?”

“I’m not sure that he’s not, and no I’m not going crazy.”

“I’m not sure that I understand honey?”

“I can breathe here Mom, I feel like I’m free of so much bullshit it’s amazing.”

“You think that this was a thing? Like you’re like you’re Aunt Chris?”

“Kind of…?”

“?... still questioning things?”

“Yeah Mom, honestly I think I’m getting there like in my head but I know I’m not like Aunt Chris or some of the girls here because I never wanted this all my life or like knew it’s just that I’m not all that put out or even off balance not being Rob.”

“Oh…what can we do?”

“Pretty much nothing Mom…maybe talk to Dad?”

“I think he had a clue better than I did Robin.”

“Yeah it seems like. Why is that?”

“Because he knew your aunt Chris and was around for a lot of things with her and honestly I wasn’t. I was kind of like Terri and it took me some time to actually get to know her.”

“Okay that makes sense.”

“Robin?”

“Yeah Mom?”

“No matter what happens or like what comes out of this just remember that we love you and you have a home.”

“You’ve been reading the girls pages huh Mom?”

“Yes dammit and some of the stuff that your friends have gone through just makes me want to get mad and throw things and come up there and like adopt the lot of them.”

“You’re the best Mom, I love you.”

“I haven’t heard you openly tell me that for a whole Robin, thank you sweetie.”

I left things off at that sending her hearts and smiley faces and I think things will be different at home and that’s at least with Mom and Dad and as far as Terri and I go we might be good.

School and town and the rest of my life well that might just be a whole other thing.

And I’ll leave that for something to worry about when I have a better grip on all of the stuff that I’m learning about me.

Then it happened.

It was like nine twenty two on Friday morning and I was in the store selling things and running the cash and actually enjoying myself and having a pretty good morning.

It’s some kind of happy thing being in a place that smells of baked goods and freshly baked goods.

Especially when you show up with a coffee and the place smells like peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies.

But yeah…nine-twenty-two Danny Rivers walks into the shop and he’s wearing scrubs?

Like medical scrubs?

And he has not lost one bit of the oh wow oh my factor.

He walks in to the shop and he smiles right at me.

“Hey Robin!”

Oh my god he remembers me, and he remembers my name why does he remember my name?

“Uhm Hi Danny.”

“You remembered my name cool!”

Of course I remembered you’re name you still come up in conversation dude.

I thankfully have my coffee to get a drink from.

“What can I get you sir?”

“Sir? Yeah…no I’m not a sir I’m just Danny.”

Yep…yep just Danny in scrubs.

Looking way too yay for my brain.

Why is he wearing scrubs?

Why does he look so good wearing scrubs?

“So…what can I get you?”

“I’ll have a half dozen of the peanut butter chocolate chunk cookies and what’s your best cupcake?”

“Okay…well we have a lot of really good cupcakes.”

“Well what’s your favorite?”

“Well my favorite is the chocolate in the chocolate, I’m usually not so much a chocolate person but they just get this bit of this really good chocolate fudge in the center of it and then there’s the icing which isn’t too much and it’s a smaller cupcake too so it’s like again not too much.”

“I’ll get two of those then?”

“Uhm okay.”

I’m getting the cookies and I’m getting his two cupcakes and he waves his hand. “Don’t bag the cupcakes.”

“Oh okay.”

I feel like I’m sweating and I feel like he’s watching me and every time I take a look he is actually watching me.

And it’s making me feel nervous and sort of maybe happy that he’s watching me?

It’s a good thing right?

He pays with a twenty and he puts the change in the tip jar which is like six dollars and that’s pretty cool since it’s for like buying things for new wheelchair gear.

I lock eyes with him and he locks eyes with me and I swear.

I really, really swear it’s like Rob suddenly never existed and I’ve always been just me and it’s…I’m so feeling all these nervous butterflies and stuff.

I close my eyes.

I force myself to close my eyes and take a breath and I look at him.

“So can I ask?”

“Sure anything?”

“Why are you wearing the scrubs?”

“Can you take a break?”

I look at Heather who’s one of the older girls and my sort of boss and not only she but every girl there’s watching this whole thing between me and him and she even just sort of does this still watching little hand wave and says. “Sure, he’s like the only one that’s here right now so it’s cool.”

I take a drink of my coffee and go around the counter and out into the parking lot with him and there’s a really big truck there with like all sorts of gear and things and I’m looking at him and I’m carrying his order in my hands still and he opens up the back doors of the truck’s cab.

It’s like a four door thing and there’s this sound coming from it and he’s reaching in and doing stuff.

“My dad’s one of the local vets and he does things like animal rescue and I help out both in the field and in the clinic so I wear the scrubs a lot when I’m doing that.”

“Oh…well that’s.”

He takes out this incredibly adorable little otter pup and the little fellow’s been hurt but he’s been patched up too some…and Danny’s being really careful.

“This little darling she’s my patient for the day once I get her back to the clinic.”

Part of my brain just kind of stops working between this impossible boy and the cuteness of the otter and he moves her just enough so I can see her and have my heart break just a little and then he’s putting her back and he has this amazing ass.

Butt.

But…but…but…I’m oh my…

Danny turns around and he closes the door and he takes the bag of cookies and puts them in on the seat of the passenger’s side and then he takes one of the cupcakes from me and he smiles.

“So I’ll see you Saturday night?”

Huh wut?!?

“What!?”

“Saturday night, I’ll see you then.”

“Are you asking me out?”

He looks at me and he smiles. “If I was you wouldn’t be allowed with the rules of the camp.”

He takes a bite of the cupcake.

“I…are you, are you flirting with me?”

“Yeah pretty sure I’m doing that.” He smiles as he’s eating but it’s closed mouth and his eyes are dancing.

“You know I’m…”

I actually can’t say it because it’s like if I actually say it I might do some sort of bad ju-ju and break whatever’s happening.

“I know and that’s not a deal breaker, it’s just a thing about you Robin and I am pretty sure that I like you and this is like twice I’ve run into you so…”

“I work here, and you came in here.”

“But I didn’t know that you were working so it’s more of a good thing.”

“A good thing?”

“Yeah seeing you is a good thing.”

Oh… oh well no one’s ever said that to me.

And you know that whole thing like from before about people wanting to have people find that they’re special and that they’re worth it?

I’m feeling worth it.

I shiver in a good way.

I can’t help it.

God the feeling of a good shiver in the summer is just.

Like nothing I’ve ever felt.

“I…so…Uhm Saturday Danny?”

“Oh yeah it’s Canada Day and you’re having fireworks and an open house so I thought that I’d come by.”

Oh…

“That’d be…that’s be cool.”

He smiles and he finishes his cupcake and he goes to the driver’s side and he’s getting into the truck and he starts to pull out and I run after him.

“Danny! Danny you forgot your other cupcake!”

He leans his head out of the truck and he smiles at me. “I bought that for you Robin I’ve never bought a girl a cupcake before.”

Then he pulls away.

He’s leaving and the girls all are coming out and they’re all talking at me and I only get like a tenth of it and I pull the paper off of the cupcake and I eat it really, really slowly.

It’s the first thing anyone has ever given me that wasn’t from family that was personal.

My shift ended way before any of the girls wanted it too and even with all of the customers it was all that we were talking about.

And right on through to my free time which was sitting there in the bakeshop with the girls and talking, gushing and freaking out.

Heather was passing me a coffee and I started crying and she looks at me. “Geez Robin are you okay?”

(Sniffle-whine.) “Nooooooooo…!”

“Okay honey what’s wrong?”

“D…Dd...Danny!” (Whine-sob.)

“What, what’s wrong with Danny?”

“He’s a guy!”

“Okay and?”

“I’m not a girl and I don’t know how to really want to be a girl so I’m like not a girl and I’m not even like all of the other girls here who’ve always wanted to be a girl!”

(And I on full on sobbing.)

I’m not sure exactly how long that I cried only that when I was done having this whole panic attack or whatever this was my head in on Jane’s shoulder.

And we’re like out back of the shop and she’s smiling at me. “Better?”

I nod. “Sorry I like freaked out there.”

“Yeah but people have freaked out for less.”

I smile weakly at her. “Heather and them must think I’m out of my tree.”

Jane shakes her head no. “Not a bit, it’s actually something that we’ve sort of gone through once in a while ourselves.”

“So you’ve had guys here interested in you?”

“Town guys a few but they usually back off when they find out I’m trans.”

“Oh so why isn’t Danny?”

“Not all of them do though, I know two girls that sort of met and dated guys here from town and they did okay.”

“Oh so it’s not…”

“No I don’t think he’s a chaser, I think he’s one of the guys in town that doesn’t care.”

“But…”

“I’ve seen his butt he has an excellent butt.”

(Whine.) “What if he wants me to do something to his butt or him do something to my butt.”

“Relax Robin he’s not really thinking that far ahead in real life.”

I look at her. “In real life?”

She gives me this evil smile. “Yeah what he thinks and does at night’s another story.”

I scream and smack her and we end up laughing and giggling and she and I walk back to the cabin.

I crashed for a while with her there until supper and the girls get back to change and I’m doing the replay and talk about it and all of the word for word stuff with them and I’m even actually signing some of it.

Paige…well honestly she looks a little pissed.

She kind of is happy for me too and everything but I think there’s times that she still sort of has a problem with me.

But she was worried when Jane kind of explains about me having the whole meltdown after Amy shows up and asks me if I’m okay.

We head off all together to supper and we went as this whole group really close even with all the stuff that still might be going on…we went as friends and sisters almost.

Before I left I took that wrapper for that cupcake and I as crazy as it sounds flatten it out and I put it into my wallet after I fold it up so it’s like this sort of pie shape.

If I had a book that I loved to put it into I’d have used that.

Instead it’s in my wallet so the complete and utter like opposite of a condom and my wallet ends up going into my purse.

I’m so glad that the girls were there.

I’m the belle of the ball, the talk of the town.

And as much as some girls might have dug the whole thing that some of the other girls were like jealous over them having a cute boy showing up and going out of his way and being like all cute and stuff to her.

I really am not feeling that.

It’s so like happy and helpless and breathless and scared and all of it sort of good too.

God, okay I honestly have to say that my friends really save me a whole lot of things that might have freaked me out during the rest of the week or like most of it.

I know that there were a lot of people that wanted to just talk and just ask and I have no idea or had anymore idea how to handle things any more than they would have.

For a good two days they kept people from being busy bodies with me and from freaking me out and blowing this all out of proportion.

And at night from letting me blow things out of proportion.

After that it sort of calmed down as like things began to get closer to the Open house and the Canada Day stuff and that there would be other people from town showing up and being invited and that the Fire Department would be here and they’d be doing the fireworks.

Which was cool, apparently as a being a good neighbor thing the camp pays or has paid for a really good fireworks show and since we share the lake with the town and some of the beaches everyone gets to have a really good show.

But that’s not what has the place kicked into high gear it’s the fact that we’re having an open house and that we’re having a dance to go with it.

A dance.

For a bunch of misfit outcast and kids from some very isolated lives the whole idea of a dance is like a really big deal.

And it actually, and thankfully overshadows the whole me and Danny thing.

Well except for me.

I had dreams.

I had dreams that I have never had before and doing things that I never imagined before and some were romantic and some of them were me and my teenage hormones.

And I had showers.

And some of those showers I left both feet where they were.

I know, I know eeew… but like normal right?

Human right?

And if anyone said anything they never said it to me.

Even though I scrubbed it really clean after those times…really clean and really early in the morning.

And you know what?

I had myself worked up into a whole lot of panic and want and just stuff.

We had a big spread and people started to show up and the music stared playing and there was a whole lot of people showing up along with some from town and like sort of like semi-important types from town and it was just this sort of big kind of party but just like most of the Canada Day’s from home.

Okay well no, they’re nowhere as good as this one anymore.

And this is the first Canada Day that I’m wearing a dress.

I was totally nervous until Alex and John and a couple of the guys started asking us girls to dance and that helped, it helped me burn off a lot of nervous energy and y’know when you actually have a decent idea what you’re doing dancing is a lot more fun.

And then Danny showed up and he asked me to dance and I hadn’t even realized he was there until he was asking me.

Of course I said yes.

It was kind of funny too. He was dancing and we were kind of doing a slow dance to *The way you look tonight* and he’s looking around.

“Robin?”

“Hmm?” Yeah I was into it and just a little zoned.

“Are people like looking at us?”

That wakes me up and I look at him and them. “Uhm…yeah you’re a little famous.”

He looks at me. “Famous?”

I shrug. “It’s really not every guy that looks as good as you that’s into a girl like me and the fact that you were like really sweet about it is even like more rare.”

He looks surprised. “Really?”

“Yeah…’ I smile at him and move my arms to up and around his neck and his slide into the small of my back. “You’re practically a unicorn.”

He smiles and he blushes some and that’s so good.

Yay, ow, make things feel good and tingle.

He recovers enough to smile at me. “You’re really easy to like Robin, you’re nice and you’re sweet and there’s just as much to like about you than any other girl I’ve ever met.”

I look at him. “And the other stuff?”

Danny shrugs. “Honestly it doesn’t matter, and I don’t know why it doesn’t matter really but it doesn’t…besides.”

“Besides?”

“I asked my grandpa about all of this and about the other stuff and he told me if it doesn’t matter then it doesn’t matter.”

“So it doesn’t?”

He shakes his head. “No it doesn’t.”

And then we end up kissing.

I mean I kiss him and he’s kissing me and then it’s more sort of him kissing me as I’m sort of letting him lead even there too.

Dancing, being held, being kissed, more dancing…and all of the other stuff not mattering.

Nothing before me mattering.

Seriously if life was Disney they’d be cuing up for the musical.

And that’s why it was a seriously super good week.

*** EPILOGUE…

Okay, okay I know there should be a lot more to this story and honestly there is. And maybe someday I will talk about the rest of it.

But Danny and that night and the few sort of pseudo dates we had this summer were the very, very best of it all.

That night was the best of it all of them.

The field trip we did down to Canada’s wonderland was nice and so was African Lion Safari and really there are memories there that I will never forget.

I fell in love with my sisters Jess, Elly, Drew, Tracy, Samantha and even Paige.

I found job experience and new skills and had a great time even when I screwed up and even when I had tears in my eyes from times when I hurt or when I hurt for those I loved and cared about.

I’m looking at the camp and everything that this place had become for me and I breathe this air here in deep.

Jane comes over drinking her morning cup of instant and she smiles at me.

“Just about time to go Robin.”

I hug her and I look at the cabin and I can see Samantha there not leaving.

“She’s not coming with us is she?”

Jane shakes her head.

“No, she finally was able to tell some of us about some of the stuff she’s been through and she doesn’t have a home any more so Holly and Lucy are going to talk with people and get her into Scared Heart, it’s a shelter house that is run by a friend of Holly’s for The Moongoddess foundation. She’ll have a safe roof there at least and where she’ll be sixteen soon she won’t have to be trans while in foster care.”

I nod and actually lean on her a little. “Good, Sam deserves better than whatever the hell happened.”

Jane nods. “She’ll get it. Now what about you?”

I shrug. “I have to say after everything I’m still finding me but I do know who I’m not and what I’m not.”

“So that means?”

I smile and pick up my things for the bus. “It means Robin’s life is likely to get a lot more complicated and everything.”

I pass my bigger bags to the bus driver and I start getting on the bus and Jane calls out. “Good luck!”

I yell back as the bus starts and the doors are starting to close. “I’ll see you next year!”

.................................................................................................................................................

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