A Blank Page - Chapter 7


A Blank Page
Chapter 7
By Flummox


“Lunch is ready. You getting up?” Catalina called out, sticking her head into her youngest son’s room. She could see him there, lying in bed. It was oddly late for him to still be sleeping. Raymond usually liked to get up at a decent hour on the weekends. It was odd for him to sleep the day away like this.

“Not hungry.” Came his muffled reply. He barely stirred from where he was laying.

“Okay,” Catalina replied, baffled by her child’s uncharacteristic behavior. “I’ll set some aside for you in case you change your mind.”

He mumbled an inaudible acknowledgement into his pillow, and while Catalina couldn’t make out what he said, she accepted it and departed, closing the door behind her. She left his room, pondering what could put him into such a state, hoping he was just having a rare lazy day and that it wasn’t something more serious.

“Where’s Ray?” Jameson asked as his wife joined him and the older kids at the kitchen table.

“He said he wasn’t hungry.” Catalina said, shrugging.

“Ray not hungry?” Sebastian asked sceptically, “At noon on a Saturday?”

Catalina could only shrug again. She didn’t know what else to say.

Sebastian mirrored her shrug and went back to his meal.

That answer would only satisfy him for so long however. A a short time later, after helping clean up, he found himself approaching his brother’s door. He paused outside and was about to knock, when he heard noises from inside. It sounded like a game. If he was playing a game he was out of bed, that meant he would be out soon surely. Raymond hadn’t gone on a day long gaming binge in months, since before the summer, before he and Sebastian started working out together. It used to be a regular occurrence, for Raymond to cloister himself away, spending all his time playing games or reading, avoiding his problems and anyone who might be able to help them. It was different now though. Things had changed. He would definitely be out soon. Sebastian was sure of it.
 

~o~O~o~

 
“BLEEEGH”

Maggie dove forward, nimbly slipping between the two Gapers that slowly stalked after her. She spun around and did the only thing she could do. She cried on them. Her tears flew through the air and smacked into one of the two Gapers. A moment later it’s head burst apart. The headless corpse began to walk randomly around the room. Dangerous blood bullets now occasionally squirting from its neck.

Gapers looked like small, cute, little kids. They had big happy smiles and bright eyes. Bright eyes that were constantly crying, despite the happy smile. Constantly crying blood. When you killed a Gaper, it rarely just died. No, that would be too easy. After death, a gaper might become either a Gusher or a Pacer. Pacers were headless corpses. They walked around the room aimlessly as, without eyes, they could no longer find their prey. A Gusher was the same thing as a Pacer, except in addition to wandering aimlessly they would squirt painful blood bullets from their wound. This one was a Gusher.

“Ray?” a voice called out, drawing Maggie’s attention from the battle, “Do you want to talk?”

She recognized it to be the voice of her mother. No, not HER mother, thank God. The voice of her controller’s mother. A much more pleasant person then Maggie’s own mother. A shudder ran through her at the thought.

“No. I’m good.”

A few tears later, and Maggie had managed to deal with the rest of the Gapers and whatever came after. She turned to her left and took a deep breath. Before her was a simple door, it had opened by itself once the last enemy had died. There was nothing distinguishing about the door, except for a large grey skull mounted above it. The skull signaled it to be the domain of the floor boss. She had no choice but to proceed, Mother was hunting her after all.

She slipped through the door, hearing it lock shut behind her.

Floating in the air before her was a huge – probably two to three times her size – floating corpse. The eyes were nothing but empty pits, and there was a large Y shaped autopsy scar on its chest. As she entered, its face spread into a horrific grin.

Maggie could only grin grimly herself. Duke of flies. Lucky her, she had gotten an easy one.
 

~o~O~o~

 
Maggie dove out of the way as Mother’s massive foot stomped down. If she hadn’t noticed the shadow of warning on the ground when she did, Maggie would be in a lot of pain right now. She spun around and fired her tears at her Mother’s monstrous foot, her tormenter was almost finished, just a bit more and-

A knock on the door.

“Ray, can we talk?” It was a manly voice this time. “If this is about me grilling you about your date last night, I didn’t mean to hurt you with anything I said. I was just joking around, I’m sorry if you’re feeling this way because of me.”

“No Dad, it’s not your fault. It’s not anyone’s fault. I just.” Pause. “I just need to be left alone right now.”

“ISAAAC” Mother’s voice screamed, drawing Maggie back to her own fight. It was odd how Mother still called her Isaac. It was the wrong name. She wasn’t Isaac. Not anymore.

A few more tear bullets later, and Mother was apparently slain. Apparently. Maggie knew she wasn’t completely finished yet. She had done this before.
 

~o~O~o~

 
Maggie crept through the bloody chamber. She had changed so much over the course of her journey. She had started as a bright eyed little bo- girl. With bright golden hair that definitely wasn’t a wig. Definitely. Now she had a coat hanger partially impaled in one side of her head, an odd growth sprouting from the other. If she looked up she could see a golden halo floating above her. She had flies buzzing around her too. Thankfully, they were apparently friendly flies. Unlike most flies in this labyrinth. She had picked up a wide array of knickknacks as well. Bottles of pills, body parts, satanic symbols, weird food items, the list went on.

The labyrinth had also undergone a metamorphosis. She had started in the basement of their house. Simple. Basement had given way to caves, and the caves to an odd crypt. Now the crypt had become this. When she said she was in a bloody chamber, she didn’t just mean a chamber covered in blood. The walls here literally seemed to be made out of blood. Maggie shuddered at the thought. She had found the boss room however. Maggie didn’t know what knew horror she would face beyond those doors – That’s a lie. She totally did. Or at least her controller did. – But she had no other choice. She stepped through.

Another knock came right as she did so.

“Ray?” called the voice of his older brother. “Can we talk?”

A deep, shaky breath. “Can it wait Seb? I really need some space right now.”

There was a long silence before his brother replied.

“Yeah. Sure. Whenever you’re ready come grab me.”

Ray listened to the footsteps as his brother retreated back downstairs.

“What does a GUY have to do to get some peace around here?” he snarled to himself, spitting one word in particular with disgust. He shook his head and returned to ‘The Binding of Isaac’.

It was a dark, morbid game, filled with biblical references and disturbing motifs. It told the story of a boy named Isaac (Or in this case another playable character, Magdalene) as (s)he flees from her mother who has supposedly received a message from God. A message telling her to sacrifice her only child. The entire game was done in a very cutesy, cartoony art style. Most of the abominations, while sickening, had an undeniable morbid cuteness about them. Ultimately, the game was perfect for his current tumultuous mood, but probably not helping it improve.

Maggie weaved as quickly as she could between volley after volley of blood bullets.

“ISSSAAAAAGlUGH” The abomination half-roared half-gurgled. The monsters name was simply ‘It Lives’. It was a gooey, bloody, mess of a thing, vaguely shaped to resemble a person. It hung from the roof of the seemingly alive room, suspended by trails of organs. It wasn’t pleasant to say the least. It was the last remainder of Mother, although how it had gotten so far ahead of Maggie she would never know.

The distraction had caused her to take some hits. She couldn’t let this go on for much longer. So, she didn’t. A few moments later, ‘It Lives’ crumbled to the ground, finally vanquished. And yet, no way back out appeared. The last remnant of Mother was gone, but only two things were revealed. A trap door, like the one’s she had been following all along, and a ray of light. Both would just bring her deeper into the labyrinth. She stepped into the ray of light.
 

~o~O~o~

 
The ray of light had led to a templelike area. It had stain glass windows and beautiful stone walls and floors. It also had angels. Angels that tried to kill her. Like everything else in here. There were also more horrors and abominations. Maggie had fought them all off, monsters and angels alike, taking relatively few hits herself in the process. Now she was at the boss door once more. Without hesitation, she passed through. Lying on the floor inside, curled up into a ball and crying, was an exact duplicate of the titular, and main playable character, Isaac. Maggie dove into action, pouring out tear bullets as Isaac did the same from his prone position.

Yet another knock, although this time, there was no call, there was no waiting. She just walked in, and closed the door behind her.

“Eva, please. I really need some space right now.” He said, trying to maintain a steady voice. He failed.

“No. You don’t need space.” She announced, sitting down next to him, “You need your big sister. Whatever’s bugging you, who can you tell if you can’t tell me?” She asked as the game over screen flashed open on the computer in front of him.

“WHY CAN’T ANY OF YOU JUST LEAVE ME ALONE?!” Ray exploded, his frustrations and fears bursting free to lash out at his sister. One of the few people that could keep him from falling back into the pit of melancholy he had only finally escaped from last spring.

Evalyn froze. He could see the hurt in her eyes. Written across her face. Why had he done that? Why had he said that? Evalyn was always there for him. She had helped him and listened to his problems without judgement. Without another word, she rose and walked towards the door.

“Wait.” Came the strangled sob as she reached for the doorknob.

She turned to look at him, face cold and emotionless.

“I’m sorry Eva.” Ray mumbled, desperately trying to hold back tears and push through the knot in his throat.

“I’m sorry, you didn’t deserve that. Everythings just-

He looked up to meet her gaze, tears leaking from his eyes.

“Everything’s. Just. So. FUCKED.”

Finally, he broke down, game forgotten, sobbing into his hands.

To his surprise, he felt arms wrap themselves around him. He looked up through bleary eyes to see that his sister had returned. Despite his harsh words, she had come back. Her love only made him cry harder. After a few moments – Several minutes really – he stopped shaking, and Evalyn moved back so she could look into his eyes.

“Now tell me what has you so upset.” She said in a tone that wouldn’t take no for an answer.

“It’s about last night.” He began.

“Well obviously,” She said teasingly, “What I don’t understand is what it was last night. You were so excited and happy when I picked you up.”

“Do you remember the other week? When I told you how I had always felt uncomfortable in my skin?” he asked.

“How could I forget?” she asked back.

Ray closed his eyes, remembering how he had felt at the showing the previous night.

“Last night, after I got dressed up as Rayne, all the feelings of wrongness, all the feelings of being trapped and uncomfortable that I’ve lived with my whole life, they all just disappeared. For a short time last night, I was free from them. It was incredible. I felt better than I ever have before. Then, this morning, I woke up and took a shower. When I got out, I saw myself in the mirror, and all those feelings of wrongness came flooding back, except now they’re so much worse. I don’t know what to do.”

He opened his eyes and looked into his sisters, his eyes began to fill with tears again.

“And now you’re gonna think I’m a freak.”

“No, Raymond, no.” she said, drawing him into another hug, “I would never think that about you.”

“But it’s true.” He sobbed, “I’ve been trying to distract myself, to keep myself from thinking about it, all day. But I can’t. I was happier as a girl for a few hours last night then I ever have been as a boy.”

“Shhhh,” she whispered, stroking his hair to calm him.

“Ray.” She began when he had calmed down. “We need to tell Mom and Dad. They’ll understand. They can help”

“NO.” Ray said, louder then he intended, “They won’t! The whole family already thinks I’m weird. I’m a big enough burden as it is.”

“Is that what you think?” she asked gently, “No one thinks of you that way.”

“How could they not? How could YOU not?” He demanded miserably, “All of you are always having to protect me. Even just now! I blow up on you for no reason, and the next moment you’re comforting me. Brothers are supposed to protect their sisters. Not the other way around. We can’t tell them.”

“Maybe you’re right,” she said slowly, “Maybe brothers ARE supposed to protect their sisters, I really don’t know. But I DO know that sisters can protect sisters, and maybe you were meant to be my little sister.”

Ray looked at her in disbelief.

“Listen to me.” Evalyn said, “I don’t understand what you’re going though. I can’t claim I do. But I will be here to support you no matter what. If you don’t want to tell Mom and Dad, that’s fine. But we NEED to tell someone. We can’t handle this by ourselves.”

“Who?” Came the small voice.

Evalyn sighed heavily. “I don’t know yet, but I have an idea. Just believe in me. Okay?”

Ray gave a small nod. A few minutes later he fell asleep to horrible nightmares of monsters, and abominations, and a hateful family.
 

~o~O~o~

 
“Okay lazybones, it’s time to get up. You spent all of yesterday in bed and lying around playing games. Now we have a busy day ahead of ourselves.”

Evalyn’s voice dragged him from his fitful slumber.

“Huh? Eva? What are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about me and you silly.” She declared, “We’re gonna spend the day out on the town.”

Raymond sat up and looked at her.

“I’m not really in the mood today Eva.”

She nodded understandingly, “Yeah, after yesterday I didn’t think Raymond would be.” She said, referring to him as if he wasn’t there, “But I thought Rayne might be.”

That got his attention.

“Wait. What are you saying?” he asked slowly.

She sat down on his bed. “Mom, Dad, and Seb have gone to Grandma and Grandpa’s for dinner. I told them the truth, that you weren’t feeling well, and that I was gonna stay home to take care of you.”

He just stared at her.

“Look, if you really don’t want to we don’t have to.” She said, “But my experience with Rayne on Friday night was mostly limited to teasing her and making her blush, and I’d really like the chance to spend time with my little sister for real. If you’ll let me.”

Slowly Ray smiled, “I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the day.”
 

~o~O~o~

 
About an hour later they were ready to go. Rayne was wearing the same outfit as Friday night, because frankly, she didn’t have any other girl clothes in her size. They left the house at 11 in the morning, and arrived at the mall in Mountsview at 12. Evalyn had decided that they would play it safe and make the hour drive, as there were less people who might recognize them in the neighboring town.

“First thing’s first.” Annonced Evalyn, “we need to get you some proper underwear.”

“U-underwear?” Rayne stammered, putting on her usual blush.

“Yeah girl!” Evalyn declared. “You can’t always wear the same ones, that’s gross and boring. We’re just gonna get you two or three sets for now.”

It took some coaxing and encouragement, but soon a very nervous Rayne was following Evalyn though a Victoria’s Secret, clutching at her sister’s arm.

“Relax Rayne.” Evalyn said gently, “There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

“Hi! My name’s Sherry. Can I help you with anything ladies?” came the perky voice of one of the employees.

Rayne ducked behind her sister, prompting giggles from both of the other girls.

“Sorry,” Evalyn explained, Rayne peeking out from behind her like a small child, “My little sister is terribly shy. We were just here to do some shopping for her.”

“Oh, I see” The woman said in understanding, “Hey sweetie.” She said with a wave at Rayne.

After a moment’s hesitation Rayne gave a small wave in return.

The woman smiled and turned back to Evalyn, “I’ll leave you two to it then, but I’ll be just over there if you need me.” She said, gesturing to a nearby shelf.

“Thank you so much,” Evalyn replied, “C’mon Rayne, lets go.”

They went around the store, looking at various items, finally Evalyn turned to Rayne.

“Okay, I really should have done this at home, and I’m kicking myself for not thinking of it, but we need to get your bust measured.”

Rayne went white as a sheet.

“C-c-can’t I just get a small?” the terrified girl asked innocently.

“Oh my dear,” Sherry said, joining them having overheard their conversation, “I know it’s scary, but bra sizes just aren’t that simple.”

Rayne blushed and looked at the floor.

“Now,” she said gently, “How about you come with me, I’ll quickly take your measurements, and then we’ll find you something comfortable. Okay?”

“O- o- okay.” Rayne stammered.

Evalyn gave her a nod of encouragement as Sherry took her by the hand and led her to one of the fitting rooms.

“Okay Miss,” Sherry began, talking to her like one might talk to a small child, “I’m gonna unzip you, and we’ll just lower your dress, just for a moment, and then we can get to the fun part okay?”

Rayne just closed her eyes and followed Sherry’s instructions, and before she knew it, Sherry was telling her she was done. Quickly pulling her dress back up, they went back to find Evalyn.

“Can you tell her what I told you dear?” Sherry asked Rayne when they found her big sister.

“36A.” Rayne said, barely above a whisper.

“Good job!” Sherry said encouragingly, “And don’t be embarrassed about the size sweetie, some girls just develop a bit slower then others.”

Evalyn thanked Sherry for her help. Soon Evalyn had picked out a few different lingerie sets. Leading Rayne to a changing room, she had Rayne take off her dress and try on each one, insisting that Rayne put on the bras by herself for practice.

Twenty minutes later they checked out with four matching lingerie sets. Pale pink, light green, black lace, and the final one – plain white.

Back in the mall proper, Rayne took a deep breath.

“That was horrible!” She exclaimed.

“Oh come on.” Evalyn argued happily, “It wasn’t that bad.”

“Yes it was!” Rayne insisted, “That woman was so patronizing! She kept talking to me like I was 5!”

Evalyn laughed.

“Rayne, sweetie.” She waited until Rayne looked at her before continuing, “You WERE kinda acting like a 5-year-old.”

Rayne gasped. “No I was not.” She said indignantly.

“Rayne. You were hiding behind me like a scared child. And you had that adorable st- st- st- stutter.” Evalyn teased.

“W-well, it’s like you said.” Rayne said, grasping at straws, “I’m j-just a little shy is all.”

Evalyn snorted with laughter.

“What now?” Rayne asked, rolling her eyes.

“You just did the stutter again.” Evalyn managed between laughs.

Rayne tried to look unimpressed, but she couldn’t help it. A moment later, she was giggling too.

When Evalyn FINALLY managed to get control of herself, she asked, “Besides, you can’t seriously expect me to believe you didn’t have fun trying on your new, pretty underwear, can you?”

Rayne just blushed and broke eye contact. It was all the confirmation Evalyn needed.
 

~o~O~o~

 
Next they went into one of Evalyn’s favorite clothing stores, where they each found some stuff they liked. Rayne found a pretty plain white dress, which she felt had enough length that she wouldn’t be uncomfortable wearing it. The dress would also hide her lack of cleavage. Evalyn found a dark blue skirt, which she matched with a white blouse. She grabbed a beige sweater as well, and some leggings. Rayne smiled, Evalyn had led her to believe they were just shopping for Rayne, so it was nice to see Evalyn finding something for herself.

Evalyn led her to the changing room where Rayne tried on her find. It had a black silk belt that went with it, and came to just below her knees.

Next, Rayne was surprised to find that the outfit Evalyn had been putting together was, in fact, meant for Rayne. Evalyn laughed at Rayne’s surprise, saying that the outfit wouldn’t suit her. Rayne wasn’t sure about it, but at Evalyn’s insistence she tried it on.

The skirt came to her midthigh, making Rayne feel almost naked. She wasn’t sure she was ready for that. The form-fitting black leggings felt almost like a second skin, and Rayne found the gentle hug they provided to be oddly comforting. The blouse seemed to go well with either the leggings or the skirt, but what Rayne loved was the sweater. It was a big beige button up sweater, with simple designs stitched around the buttons. At first Rayne thought it much to big for her. It was so big, in face, that it could have easily passed for a dress – on the right person. The sweater came down almost as far on her thigh as the skirt in fact. At Evalyn’s insistence, she left the top of the blouse visible. She also had to roll the sleeves up a bit to free her hands. Although, Rayne thought, being able to pull her hands into the sleeves to get nice and cozy wasn’t really a bad thing either. Donning the leggings, blouse, and sweater, she finally looked in the mirror, and found that she absolutely loved the outfit. Fall was quickly approaching, and in her mind (at least) she had just found the perfect outfit.

“I think I’m gonna buy it.” Rayne said slowly.

She began looking for price tags. Evalyn giggled.

Rayne turned to look at her. “You already bought it, didn’t you?!”

“Hey, can you blame me?” Evalyn teased, “It’s my first time out with my little sister. I gotta catch up on 14 years of missed birthdays.”

She had even bought the skirt Rayne hadn’t been sure about.

Rayne smiled, a tear coming to her eye. “Thanks Eva. Thanks for everything. You don’t know how much this all means to me.”

“Hey, hold up now sister.” Evalyn said sternly, “You can’t go crying now. The day’s just getting started. Besides you’ll ruin your makeup.”

Rayne laughed, and wiped away the tears. Together the two headed to their next destination, Rayne wearing her new outfit out of the store. She loved the big sweater. It was just so cozy.

They stopped in at a shoe store where Rayne got a pair of boots that matched the outfit she was wearing. That was all they got however. Much to Evalyn’s disappointment, Rayne insisted there’d be time aplenty to try heels on later, as winter was only a few months away. Not exactly an ideal time to be learning heels in cold Canada. Especially this close to the mountains.

“So, where to next?” Rayne asked, unsure what else could be left.

“One really important thing!” Evalyn declared, “We need to get your ears pierced!”

Rayne almost choked in surprise.

“W- w- what?! No way. Nope. Not happening.” She declared adamantly, shaking her head.

Evalyn just wore a bemused smile. Having expected this reaction, her argument was already prepared.

“Eva! That’s not something I can hide!” Rayne said, exasperated over Evalyn’s lack of concern.

“And why isn’t it?” Evalyn said logically, “You have long hair. Wear it down for a couple weeks. Then, once they’ve healed, you just don’t wear anything in them unless you want them to be noticed.”

Rayne opened her mouth to offer her counter argument, but then realized she didn’t really have an intelligent reply.

“Besides,” Evalyn continued, driving the last nail in the coffin, “Lot’s of guys get their ears pierced. It wouldn’t be that big of a deal if anyone found out. Plus, if you have them, you’ll ALWAYS have a small piece of Rayne with you all the time.”

Ten minutes later they were walking into the body piercing and tattoo parlour. Rayne’s eyes went wide as she looked at all the different needles and pictures of tattoos and styles of piercings.

“Can I help you ladies?” Came a gruff voice.

Wide-eyed, Rayne looked up at the big man standing behind the counter. He was tall and clean shaven, with pierced ears, eyebrows, and a pierced nose. Every piece of his skin, his face being the only exception, seemed to be covered in tattoos.

Rayne couldn’t help it. She grabbed her sisters hand and moved a bit closer to her.

The man raised an eyebrow.

“Sorry,” Evalyn began, before giving the increasingly familiar explanation of her sister’s shyness. “We were hoping you took drop-in appointments for ear piercings. My little sister wants to get them done.”

The big man rubbed the back of his head, “Normally we do, but the lady who usually does them, Melissa, is out for the day.”

“Oh. That’s to bad.” Evalyn said, clearly disappointed.

The man rubbed his head again. “Ya know, I don’t have another appointment for another hour. If she’s okay with it,” he said, nodding at Rayne, “I could do her ears. I’d understand if she preferred to wait for a woman though. Most girls do. I know I can be a bit intimidating.”

Evalyn looked at Rayne, leaving it up to her.

Rayne licked her lips and cleared her throat, gathering her courage. The man seemed friendly enough.

“U-um, I think I’d like for you to do them Mister.” She said quietly, quickly adding, “I- If it’s not too much t- trouble.”

The man smiled warmly. “I’d be happy to little lady. Please, call me Bob.”

A few minutes later Rayne was sitting in the chair, holding Evalyn’s hand while staring at one of Bob’s many tattoos. Looking at the tattoos had a relaxing effect on her. They were fascinating. Like art on skin. Rayne’s eyes widened in realization. Tattoos were just art created with a different medium than she was used to seeing. Suddenly, the man didn’t seem so scary anymore. He was just another artist, like Cynthia, Ryan, or Ms. Mira. A few more minutes passed and the deed was done.

“Alright,” said Bob, finishing his spiel about proper piercing care, “With that, I’ll quickly ring you up and you’ll be good to go!”

Once again, Evalyn insisted on paying.

“Thank you so much Bob!” Rayne gushed, “I really appreciate it!”

He just chuckled, “It was my pleasure little lady. But I gotta ask: What’s with the sudden change in attitude? When you walked in here, you were as skittish as a deer.”

Rayne blushed, “W-well to be perfectly honest, you were right. At first, I was scared, you ARE intimidating.”

He nodded in understanding, “So what changed, little lady?”

“I looked at your tattoos! It got me thinking – tattoos are just a form of art, but instead of putting ink and color on paper or canvas, you put it on skin! It’s just a medium I hadn’t been exposed to before. Once I started thinking of you as just another artist you didn’t seem so scary anymore! I realized you were actually really nice – you took time out of your day just to make me happy!”

“Huh.” He said, surprised by her explanation, “I wish more people looked at it that way. It was wonderful meeting you little lady.”

“You too Bob!” Rayne called back as she and her sister turned to leave, “Oh,” she said turning back one last time, “By the way, my name’s Rayne!” With a wave, she left the store, leaving Bob standing there alone, just shaking his head.

“What an interesting girl.”
 

~o~O~o~

 
“Alright. We need to have a talk.” Evalyn announced on the drive home.

“Oh, a nice friendly talk between sisters?” Rayne asked, hoping to lighten the now serious mood, “Or the talk I’ve been hoping to avoid all day?”

“You tell me,” Evalyn asked, “What talk have you been avoiding?”

After a short pause, Rayne sighed heavily, “The talk about your little brother who would rather be your little sister.”

“That would be the talk.” Evalyn confirmed solemnly.

Rayne looked out the window, as tears began forming in her eyes.

“Hey now.” She said. “You’re not allowed to cry until we get home. I’m driving. I can’t hug you better until we get home.”

Rayne let out an odd half laugh, half sob noise, as she wiped her eyes on the sleeve of her big comfy sweater.

“Okay, I’ll try.” She said, determined (at the very least) to avoid crying for the length of the drive.

“So I emailed someone last night after you fell asleep – someone I think can help you.” Evalyn said, beginning the dreaded conversation.

“W-what?” Rayne asked, horrified, “Who?! What did you tell them?!”

“Rayne. Calm down. I haven’t told her anything yet. I just made an inquiry.”

Relaxing again, Rayne asked, “What kind of inquiry?”

“I asked her about doctor-patient confidentiality. She assured me that anything you talk to her about will be kept strictly confidential, unless it will cause someone – you or someone else – harm.”

“O-okay,” Rayne said, gathering her wits, “So that means anything I say, she can’t tell Mom and Dad, right?”

“Well, as long as you don’t go telling her your world domination plans, yeah. That about sums it up.” Evalyn said, trying to supply some comedic relief.

“So,” Rayne opened hesitantly, “When do I see her?”

“Tomorrow.” Evalyn answered.

Rayne’s eyebrows scrunched together in confusion, “Tomorrow? But Eva, tomorrow’s a school day. Are we going to skip or something?”

“Me? Skip school? As if.” Evalyn teased, “She’s at school.”

“She’s at school?! Eva! How can I talk to her? If this gets out school will become a million time’s worse than last year.” Rayne, desperately trying to maintain her composure, felt like her mere existence would lead to the collapse of Raymond’s entire world.

“Rayne. Rayne, Relax. Doctor-patient confidentiality remember?” Evalyn reminded her.

“B-but who at school is a doctor?” Rayne asked, not sure how this would work out.

“The new student counselor, Judith Reid, is a licenced psychologist.”

Rayne thought hard about what Evalyn had just said. He had barely heard of Ms. Reid. She was new this year. In past years, the student counselor had been a nun, Sister Dorine. However, she had often placed her religious beliefs over the mental well-being of the students. Unfortunately, as a classically trained nun (and not a professional counselor), Sister Dorine's beliefs didn't always mesh with the needs of her students.

The school’s problems began when a boy told her he was gay. He wanted to come out to his parents, but didn’t know how. Rather than give him the advice he needed, she had gone off on a rant about how evil he was – how if he didn’t repent he would go to Hell. By the end of the week the whole school had heard. The poor boy had to transfer schools to get away from it all. After that the school district really started looking into the complaints against Sister Dorine. Once they did, reports of misconduct started coming up all over the place. Soon, Sister Dorine was dismissed, and the school was told to hire a real counselor. Ms. Reid had started the day summer ended.

“If you go at lunch,” Evalyn continued, “Then you won’t miss any classes, and no one will know.”

Rayne nodded, “Do I have an option B?” she asked hopefully.

“Option B, in my opinion the better option, is that we tell Mom and Dad. But it’s your decision to make.”

Rayne sighed heavily. “I’ll go see Ms. Reid tomorrow.”
 

~o~O~o~

 
They had gotten home that night and had a quick dinner – just the two of them. Evalyn had then shown Rayne various ways she could wear her hair – as Raymond – to keep her new piercings out of sight. Much too soon for Rayne’s liking, Evalyn was ushering her to go get changed before the rest of the family got home. Rayne did so – slipping back into Raymond – but she left on the panties and bra. She hoped that they, along with the earrings, would allow Raymond to hold onto some small piece of Rayne. She would go back to boring boy underwear in the morning. For the time being all of Rayne’s clothes were stored in Evalyn’s closet. They wouldn’t be out of place if they were found there.

Sebastian and their parents were very happy to see Raymond up and out of his room when they got home. They asked Raymond why he had been so upset, but he just said he was feeling better and didn’t want to talk about it. After he had gone up to his room for the night they asked the same question to Evalyn. She had sternly told them that it wasn’t her place to tell them, and that if they wanted to know they should ask Ray. They couldn’t exactly do that, as he had already shot them down. Soon the whole family was in bed, all of them very confused by the weekend’s events – three of them for very different reasons.
 

~o~O~o~

 
Soon Monday came, and before Raymond knew it, he was knocking on the door to the office of Ms. Judith Reid.

“Come in.” came a serious voice from the other side.

Hesitantly, Raymond opened the door and entered, closing it again behind him.

Judith Reid was a middle age woman with short highlighted brown hair styled in a pixie cut. She sat in her chair, leaning on her desk, pouring over paperwork. She held up a finger, asking Raymond to wait a moment. She made a few notes, then she looked up at him and removed her reading glasses.

“Please take a seat, what can I do for you?” she asked in the same serious tone.

Raymond took the chair opposite her desk, setting down his bag as he did.

“U-um, Hi.” He said quietly, unsure what to say.

“Hello.” She returned, offering a handshake. “My name is Ms. Reid.”

“I’m Raymond.” He said, taking the offered hand, “Raymond Danahy. You can call me Ray.”

“A pleasure to meet you Ray.”

After an uncomfortable silence, during which Ms. Reid’s eyes seemed to bore a hole through him, she asked again, “So, what can I do for you?”

Ray just sat there uncomfortably, trying to gather his thoughts.

“I don’t know what’s bothering you, Ray,” she began, noting his obvious discomfort, “But I want to help you. But I can’t do that until you talk to me.”

Another awkward silence.

“Why don’t you come back when you’re ready to talk.” She said with a sigh.

“D- doctor-patient confidentiality!” Ray suddenly blurted.

“Y- you can’t tell anyone anything I tell you, r- right?” he finished quietly, still avoiding eye contact.

“Of course.” She said seriously, “I take confidentiality very seriously. Not a word spoken will leave this room. The only exception is if you lead me to believe that you’re a danger to yourself or others.”

Raymond nodded slowly.

“Okay.” He said, looking up for a moment before looking back to his feet, “W-where should I begin?”

Ms. Reid sat down her pen and glasses, and leaned back in her chair, “Wherever you think is necessary.”

Raymond hesitated for just another second before pushing forward. It was either this or let Evalyn tell their parents.

“H-have you ever felt,” Ray paused, looking for the right words, “Wrong? And I don’t mean, like, got the wrong answer on a math test wrong. I mean, have you ever felt like your very existence was wrong?”

Ms. Reid’s eyebrows furrowed, “I’ve had doubts, and questions,” She began carefully, “Is that what you mean?”

“No.” Ray said, positive that what he was referring to was different, “I think everyone has those. What I’m talking about is,” He stopped, struggling to explain it, “Different.”

He frowned, “For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt a profound feeling of wrongness. It’s like my skin just doesn’t fit - I’m trapped. For a long time, I wondered how other people could do it? They all seemed to feel so at ease in their bodies. I thought that maybe, just maybe, if I got in better shape, and lost some weight, I could achieve that too.”

Ms. Reid was watching him intently.

“And I did lose weight. I’m in the best shape that I’ve ever been in. But that feeling of wrongness just won’t go away. It’s always there, holding me back.”

He stopped. The next part was the hard part.

“What do you think caused this?” Ms. Reid asked.

“For a long time, I didn’t know. I thought it was just something everyone went through. But this weekend something happened. And it was SO freeing. All the feelings of wrongness – of self-loathing – of imprisonment – all just disappeared. But as soon as that ‘something’ ended, all the bad feelings came rushing back. Worse than ever.”

Ms. Reid could see how troubled the boy was, “Raymond,” She said gently, “What was that… ‘something’.”

Ray was looking at his feet, head in his hands.

“I- I dressed up, and went out as a girl.” He looked up at her, tears streaming down his face.

“You dressed up as a girl?” She repeated, having been preparing herself for something so much worse.

Ray nodded, “And now, I just can’t stop thinking about it, about wanting to do it again.” He sobbed, “I spent all of Saturday hiding in my room. Either crying or playing video games to distract me from crying. Wishing I wasn’t a freak. Wishing I had been born a girl.”

Ms. Reid reached across the table and offered him a tissue. He took it gratefully, dabbing at his eyes.

After he had collected himself, Ms. Reid asked, “Raymond, I need to talk to you about before this weekend, I need to understand more to be able to help you.”

Ray sniffled, adjusted his glasses, and nodded, “What do you need to know?”

“First of all, as far as you can remember, have you ever wanted to be a girl before?”

Raymond scratched his chin thoughtfully, “No, but now that I think about it, I wasn’t opposed to the idea either.”

“What do you mean by that?” Ms. Reid asked.

“Well, my big sister Eva – Evalyn Danahy,” He opened, giving his sister’s full name for Ms. Reid’s benefit. “She always told me that my eyelashes were pretty – like a girl – and that my hair was so naturally straight and healthy that it was wasted on a boy. In addition to that, whenever other kids were picking on me – if they called me girly, for instance – it didn’t really bug me. Don’t get me wrong – all their other insults really hurt! – but being told I looked girly, or acted like a little girl never really bothered me much. I can’t believe I never realized this before, but I feel like these are things that would have bugged most boys. And yet but they never bothered me at all.”

Ms. Reid nodded, “You mentioned wanting to lose weight? Can you elaborate on that some more?”

“When I was a little kid I was really active. I still had these feelings of wrongness, but it wasn’t until I got older that they really started to bug me,” Ray explained, “When they did start really getting to me, I didn’t know how to cope and I just retreated into myself. I began to spend all my time playing video games and neglecting my health. I was like that for probably two and a half years. It wasn’t until last spring that I finally managed to pull myself out if it with Seb’s help. Over the spring and summer, I worked really hard, and came back to school looking completely different.”

“And Seb is?” Ms. Reid inquired, looking for clarification.

“Oh! Seb’s short for Sebastian, he’s my big brother.”

“Ahhh, I see.” Said Ms. Reid, making a note on a piece of paper. She had been taking notes throughout the whole conversation.

“So tell me.” She said, leading into her next question, “What led you to dressing up as a girl?”

Raymond hesitated, unsure how much he should tell her.

“This is important Raymond,” She eased gently.

“D-does doctor-patient confidentiality cover stuff that might get me in trouble?”

Ms. Reid raised an eyebrow. “As long as it’s not something that will bring harm to you or someone else.”

Raymond nodded slowly, before telling her everything. He told her all about the art gallery, about Evalyn’s idea for him to go in disguise, and how he had forged his parent’s signatures. He explained that he didn’t know what the disguise would be until his sister pulled out a dress. He told her how at first he had been reluctant, but had finally given in in the end. He also told her how he had gone out again on Sunday.

Once he had finished, Ms. Reid folded her hands together on the desk and said, “Ray, I’m going to be honest with you, there’s something that concerns me.”

“O-oh?” Ray said, “What might that be?”

“Throughout your story, one element came up several times. Your older sister Evalyn. I need to know, are you doing this because she wants you to, and has pressured you into it? Or is this genuinely how you feel?”

Ray looked down at his feet, “I’d be lying if said Evalyn hadn’t pressured me a bit. She was the reason I first dressed up. She was the reason I dressed up the second time, too. She was even the reason I came to see you today. But this IS how I feel. Evalyn isn’t the kind of person what would force someone to do something they didn’t want to.”

“But the first time you dressed up you didn’t want to?” Ms. Reid pointed out.

“That’s true,” Ray conceded, “But she did it for me. She knew that they only way I’d be able to participate in the showing – something I desperately wanted to do – would be if I first did something I didn’t want to do. The second time, she just suggested it. I was the one who readily agreed.”

“You said she was the reason you came to see me today.” Ms. Reid asked, moving on. “What did that mean?”

“Last night she told me if I didn’t talk to you she was going to tell our parents.” Ray said, clearly still upset about the ultimatum.

“That doesn’t seem very kind of her. She took away your decision,” Ms. Reid said.

Ray sighed heavily. “I want to agree, but she was really just looking out for me. That’s what she always does. Seb too. She said that this wasn’t something two teenagers could figure out by themselves, and after talking with you I think she was right.”

“So, you’re happy you talked to me?” Ms. Reid asked.

“I wouldn’t say I’m happy about it,” Ray said slowly, “But I now see that it was necessary.”

Ms. Reid nodded. “So, before we end this session I want to know one last thing. You said that Evalyn knew that the only way you’d be able to participate in the showing would be by dressing up as a girl. Care to elaborate on what you meant and how she knew this?”

Ray nodded, “First, just to clarify, she didn’t think I’d only be able to do it by going as a girl. She thought I’d only be able to do it wearing a disguise. It just so happened the easiest one to pull off was as a girl.”

Ms. Reid nodded, making another note.

“As for why she knew I’d need a disguise… well… ever since these negative feeling first started to bother me, I’ve had horrible anxiety whenever I have people looking at me. I’m fine in very small groups, or with my family, but if I’m with any group of more than – say three or more people? Then it’s horrible. If anything happens that causes me to become the center of attention, then my chest seizes up, I struggle to breath, my mind goes blank, and I start to cry. Evalyn had the idea that if I wore a disguise then I wouldn’t have to worry. It would be like the games I play online, if someone’s mean, or I’m embarrassed, then I just have to deal with it until I take off the disguise, then I never have to worry about it again.”

Ms. Reid nodded, “Okay, Raymond. We talked about a lot this week. Would you be like to meet again? I’m free next Monday. We could schedule a meeting for the same time.”

“Y-yeah.” Ray agreed, “I think I’d like that.”

He got up to leave, shouldering his backpack.

“Ray?”

He turned to look at her.

“Reflect on what we spoke about today, and I have something for you to think about throughout the week.”

“Okay, sure.” Ray nodded. The request seemed fair.

“Consider this: If you’re using your female ‘disguise’ as a way of getting around your anxiety as Raymond – under the assumption that you’ll just be able to shed it and leave it behind if something goes wrong – then what will you do if the ‘disguise’ becomes more? What will you do if it reaches a point where you can’t leave it behind? Will you begin to suffer the same anxiety while you’re in disguise?”

After promising to think about it, Ray left. What she had said hadn’t even occurred to him, but he did know that Rayne had already reached a point where he couldn’t just toss her aside. She was so much more than a disguise.
 



 
Hi

Flummox here.

I’m really really bad at this. I keep letting all of you down. I tell you I’ll post regularly, and I don’t. I tell you I’ll make a blog entry if I’ll be unable to post regularly… and I don’t. I even messaged one of you that a new chapter wold be up tomorrow! That was two weeks ago.

I’m just really crappy at time management.

I think about how I’ve been letting you down all the time, and it’s been stressing me out a bit to be honest. I think the best thing to do is to just come right out and say that scheduled releases probably just aren’t gonna happen. I wish I could do it, but it is clearly beyond what I’m capable of at this point in time. Don’t worry, this story WILL continue. Of that I am sure. But chapters will likely continue to be irregular. Some faster then others, some slower. Some much slower.

I hope I didn’t disappoint anyone too much, and that this chapter was able to meet your expectations.

As always, please please please leave me a comment, kudos if you think I deserve it, or shoot me a message. I try to reply to everything, even if it takes me a while sometimes, and your encouragement keeps me going. It rejuvenates me and makes my day every day.

Again, I’m so sorry if I disappointed you, and I hope you’ve all been in good health and cheer.

Flummox



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