A Blank Page - Chapter 18


A Blank Page
Chapter 18
By Flummox


“Do you think we could run to the store for a bit today?” Rayne asked as she walked into the kitchen, “Just to Walmart or something. I won’t be long.”

Her mother paused, coffee mug halfway to her lips. Her father looked up from the morning newspaper, his expression bemused.

“Good morning to you too, Rayne.” Her mother replied sarcastically, “I slept wonderfully, thanks for asking. How about yourself?”

Rayne smiled and rolled her eyes. Jameson chuckled and turned back to his paper.

“Good morning. Slept great. Soooooo?”

“You seem to be feeling a lot better.” Jameson observed, still staring at his paper.

“Yup!” She bubbled, “I got a great idea last night! Soooooo, store?”

Catalina sighed, “What do you need at the store?”

“A big piece of paper!”

“Is this for a school project?” Jameson asked under a raised eyebrow.

“Nope! It’s for art!” She declared excitedly.

“Can’t you just get paper from school tomorrow?” Catalina asked.

“I mean, yeah I cooould.” Rayne acknowledged, “But that doesn’t help me todaaaay.”

Jameson rubbed his brow with his thumb and forefinger.

“Aren’t you supposed to be grounded?” Jameson asked tiredly.

“Only from games, internet, and my phone.” Rayne petitioned.

“And going out, outside of school and family outings.” Catalina reminded her.

Rats. Leave it to the lawyer to remember the fine print.

“Please? Um, we could make a family outing out of it?”

Jameson and Catalina looked at each other for a long moment.

“It’s for the art show next weekend.” Rayne pleaded.

“I’ll take her if you guys okay it. I was gonna swing by the sportcheck anyways.”

Rayne whipped around. Sebastian stood in the doorway, leaning against the wall.

Jameson and Catalina shared another long look. Jameson rolled his eyes and nodded.

“Okay fine.” Catalina agreed, “But you go to the mall, then you come home. Understand?”

“I understand!” Rayne agreed excitedly.

“Did I hear someone say MALL?!” Evalyn’s voice bellowed from the living room. “I’m coming!”

Now it was Sebastian’s turn to roll his eyes.

“Sure.” He called back, “But if you expect me to wait while you two go clothes shopping I’ll leave ya behind.”

“No, you won’t.” Jameson interjected.

Evalyn laughed as she walked in to join them.

“You’re right Daddio.” She agreed smugly, “He won’t. He’s much too protective to leave his precious sisters behind.”

“Mmmmmhmm.” Catalina agreed, taking a sip of her coffee.

Sebastian frowned and rolled his eyes again.

“I for one,” Rayne began, walking over to wrap an arm around his waist, “Love and appreciate how protective you are.”

Evalyn waved her hand though the air, “Oh shush. Of course I appreciate it too, Ms. Goody two-shoes.”

Rayne laughed and raised an eyebrow, “You’re calling the sibling who’s been grounded for a month for forging signatures and lying about her whereabouts the goody two-shoes? You’re the one who can’t even BE grounded because your favorite pastime is studying.”

The whole family laughed while Evalyn frowned and looked up at the roof in contemplation.

Evalyn scratched her chin. “She has a point, doesn’t she?”

“It’s ridiculous.” Jameson burst into mock outrage, “How do we ground you when all you do is study? We ground you from going out with friends, you don’t even try to sneak out. You stay home and study more. Happily.”

He shook his head, feigning frustration. Catalina patted his hand comfortingly.

“She is truly a challenging child to raise.” She said mournfully, “If only she was as easy to punish as the other two.”

The family broke into more laughter, then the kids departed to get ready.

Half an hour later they were walking out the door.
 

~o~O~o~

 
Rayne walked through the doors of the Lakewood mall with her siblings. Calling it a mall was a small exaggeration. It was really only a small collection of stores connected by a hall. Really, it was to be expected for a small town like Lakewood. It was also why most people would usually make the drive to Mountsview or Vancouver for any real shopping. None the less, it was a favorite hangout for kids from the whole town. Something that had completely slipped Rayne’s mind in her excitement.

Her feet were suddenly rooted to the floor. Sebastian and Evalyn kept walking.

“Alright.” Sebastian announced, “Should we split up? Get our shopping done then meet up at The Big Scoop for some ice cream? My treat!”

“Seb.” Evalyn nudged their brother, glancing back at Rayne.

“Huh? What?” Sebastian glanced back. “Oh! Uh, maybe on second thought we stick together?”

Rayne nodded rapidly. She uprooted her feet and moved to catch up with her siblings.

“Where to first?” Sebastian asked, throwing an arm over her shoulder.

“We can do mine last.” Rayne said, “I’d rather not be carrying it around everywhere.”

“That’s probably for the best.” Evalyn agreed, “I imagine it’d be harder to paint, or draw, or whatever on crumpled paper.”

“Yup!” Rayne agreed, enthusiasm slowly trickling back into her voice.

“Okay cool.” Sebastian nodded, “I just need to pop into the sportcheck, how about you Eva?”

“Eh, I don’t need to go anywhere in particular.” At their baffled stares she elaborated, “Oh, please. You think this sad excuse for a mall would have anything for my sophisticated tastes?”

Rayne giggled, Sebastian sighed heavily.

“Sportcheck it is then.” He declared, turning himself – and by extension Rayne – in the right direction.

Sportcheck wasn’t far. Just two stores down in fact. They strolled up together, Sebastian only taking his arm off his sister’s shoulders when they arrived.

“Coming in or waiting here?” He asked before entering.

“We’ll come.” Rayne immediately answered, staying close to her brother’s side.

“Well, I suppose Rayne decided for me.” Evalyn teased.

Rayne looked at her sister and stuck out her tongue.

Laughing, Sebastian led them into the store. He didn’t take long. True to his word he didn’t need much, and what he did need he knew exactly where to find. They stepped up to the till to checkout, when a voice called out.

“Sebastian! Evalyn!”

The siblings looked up as one. Standing on the other side of the checkout – just outside of the store – was a teenager in a football jacket. Rayne recognized him from the school team. One of her brother’s friends. She didn’t remember his name. She wasn’t exactly trying to remember though, she was too busy trying to hide behind Sebastian.

“What’s up guys?!” He called out, now that he had their attention.

Sebastian glanced from Rayne to the boy, then to Evalyn, then back to the boy.

“Not much Calv.” He called back, “Just doing some shopping. S’up with you?”

Evalyn was at Rayne’s side immediately, “Don’t panic.” Rayne heard her whisper.

“Not much man.” The boy – Rayne now remembered his name was Calvin – Bellowed back as Sebastian went about paying for his purchase, “Just chillin’. You know how it is.”

“Yeah man.” Sebastian said as he picked up his bags. A simple task made awkward with Rayne still trying to hide behind him as much as possible.

“So, what you up to now?” Calvin asked as they approached. “S’up, Eva?” he added, greeting her for the first time. He hadn’t even seemed to have noticed Rayne yet. Not that she minded.

“Hey Calvin.” She greeted. “We were just gonna-

“Oh! One sec,” he interrupted. “HEY GUYS! LOOK WHO I FOUND!”

Rayne followed his gaze across the hallway. There, coming out of a clothing store, were several more members of the football team, along with some of their girlfriends and other friends. If Rayne was scared before, now she was terrified.

The group of teenagers immediately changed directions when they saw Sebastian and Evalyn.

“Shit.” Rayne heard Evalyn curse under her breath.

“Eva, what do we do?” Rayne whispered.

“Just, uh, be cool.” She whispered back.

“I’ve never been able to be cool!” Rayne hissed back.

It was to late to say anything else. The group had reached them.

Rayne only recognized a few of them. Of the three footballers she recognized Jackson, the other two each had an arm around one of the girls, Hannah and Samantha. Rayne recognized them as cheerleaders and friends of Evalyn’s. There was another tagalong guy who seemed to be trying to get close to a girl Rayne didn’t recognize – a girl who seemed to have no interest in the guy. This girl really stood out too, she was clad all in black from hair to clothes. She wore heavy makeup and had a few streaks of color in her raven hair.

“Hannah! Sammy! Jenna!” Evalyn gushed, rushing over to give each of the girls a hug.

Sebastian just nodded to the guys.

Jackson was the only one who acknowledged Rayne. He just smiled and gave a small wave.

She gave a small wave back. If a flick of her hand could really be called a wave.

“So, what are you guys up to?” Hannah asked once things had calmed down a bit.

“Oh, uh,” Sebastian began hesitantly, “We were just gonna hit up the big scoop, then swing by Walmart and go home.” He finished his sentence with a grunt as Evalyn elbowed him in the ribs.

He looked at her with annoyance.

“Idiot.” She seethed under her breath.

The exchange was missed by their newfound company. They other teens were too busy declaring that they would join them to notice.

Realization flashed across Sebastian’s face, but the damage had been done.

Moments later they were being ushered down the hallway towards The Big Scoop. A long-established ice cream café. It had doors into both the mall and to the outdoors. There was even a deck for patrons to enjoy their cold snacks under the sun.

Luckily, teenagers are not always the most observant bunch, and Rayne managed to mostly avoid detection for the walk over. Unluckily, she did not manage to stay under the radar long.

“Who’s that girl?” The tagalong boy asked, staring right at Rayne, “She’s been following us since Sportcheck.”

Rayne paled as the attention of the entire group shifted directly on to her.

She tried to say something, but all that came out was a small squeak. Rayne blushed furiously.

One of the girls giggled, some of the guys looked like they were about to laugh. That changed when Sebastian threw a protective arm over her shoulder.

Jackson turned on the group.

“She wasn’t following us, George.” He began, identifying the tagalong boy, “Really, we were following her. Seb, Eva, and Rayne were already on their way here when we joined up with them.”

Unbridled confusion rolled across many a face.

“Rayne?” One of the other football players asked.

“Yes. This is Rayne.” Evalyn continued, waving a hand towards her sister. “She’s our li’l cousin. She’s in town visiting from Nova Scotia.”

“O- Oh.” George said, suddenly awkward.

How did Evalyn do it? How could she come up with a story so fast? It was close enough to fact to be believable too. People knew that they had family out east. They used to go visit them every year. It wasn’t even a stretch to think that that family might come west for once.

“Oh wow!” Samantha exclaimed, “What’s Nova Scotia like?! I’ve always wanted to see the ocean!”

“Yeah,” her boyfriend chipped in sarcastically, “Because it’s not like the ocean is just a few hours away from us.”

“I meant the Atlantic Ocean, Mike. You big dummy.” She said, punching his shoulder gently.

Rayne giggled, her fear slowly slipping away. “It’s really not much different. It’s still very wet. The water is just to the east instead of the west.”

Samantha seemed disappointed. “That sucks. I always dreamed of backpacking across Canada. Starting with my feet in the Pacific Ocean and ending with them in the Atlantic.”

“Oh wow!” Rayne exclaimed, “That’s such a cool idea!”

Samantha still looked unsure, “You really think so?”

“No.” Mike answered, voice once again dripping sarcasm, “Why not just fly?”

Samantha looked hurt.

“Becaaaause,” Rayne interjected, acting as if she were talking to a small child. “By doing it her way she gets to see all of Canada! Meet tons of people! What an experience that would be!”

“Yeah.” Evalyn agreed before giggling, and tapping Rayne on the nose, “Too bad you’re much too shy to ever go out by yourself and do that.”

“I could to!” Rayne insisted. “I just, um, might need you to come with me is all.”

Rayne blushed and looked away as people chuckled.

“NEXT!” The cashier hollered, drawing the groups attention. One by one, each went to the till and placed their order.

Finally, Rayne and her siblings were stepping up.

“Three double big scoops.” Sebastian requested, drawing out his wallet.

“Flavors?” The bored looking teenager behind the counter asked.

“I’ll have chocolate fudge.” Sebastian said, then turned to look at his sisters.

“Strawberry for me.” Evalyn declared.

“Um, Cherry please?” Rayne asked quietly.

The cashier nodded his head. Sebastian paid, and the three of them rejoined the rest of the group waiting for their orders.

“So, Rayne,” Jackson began, “How long are you in town for?”

Oh. That was a question. How long was she supposed to be in town for? And why was Sebastian glaring at Jackson? That didn’t matter right now. Quick. What should she say? What would Evalyn say? Evalyn was always so quick to answer. How did she always come up with answers when she was put on the spot? Jeeze.

“Oh, umm, f- for a while I think.” She answered hesitantly.

For a while? She thinks? What kind of answer was that? Who didn’t know how long they were staying for? At least one of the other teenagers would certainly reject that-

“You think?” Hannah asked sceptically.

“Uhhhh, um.” Rayne looked at Evalyn for help.

“It’s kinda private.” Evalyn said, diving right in. “Things are a bit complicated back with her family right now. Rayne is staying with us until things settle down.”

“Oh. Okay.” Hannah accepted Evalyn’s explanation without question.

“Well, what about school?” Jenna asked, “You look younger than us.”

Evalyn opened her mouth to answer for her.

“Um, on- online courses!” Rayne quickly said, her mind moving quickly for once.

Evalyn smiled and nodded.

“Online courses?” The Jenna asked, “That’s a thing?”

“It totally is!” The last unidentified boy exclaimed, “I was reading that there’s a high school in Alberta that’s completely self directed! They use online courses and laptops for a ton of the work!”

Jackson laughed, “Wow! I’m impressed! I didn’t even know you knew HOW to read, Tim!”

The whole group laughed. The boy, now identified as Tim, looked aghast.

“O’course I know how to read.” He defended, “I just don’t like to much is all.”

“That’s understandable.” Rayne said, nodding her head. “From the sound of things, I’m guessing you don’t speak much either?” She asked sarcastically, teasing him for his poor grammar.

Tim’s jaw dropped as the group howled.

“Niiiiiiice one.” Jackson drawled, holding his hand up for a high five. After a moments hesitation, Rayne gently slapper her hand into his.

“Cherry double big scoop!” A voice called a moment later. Rayne turned to the counter where a girl was holding out her ice cream cone. Rayne took it with a quick thank you and turned back to the group. With her ice cream claimed, the whole group had been served. Sebastian nodded his head towards the doors to the patio, and the whole group followed his lead.

Everyone ate their ice cream in relative silence. It was a sunny day out, and while summer had passed, it was still a nice temperature for the cold treat. With winter fast approaching, there likely wouldn’t be many days like this left in the year.

“So,” George began as everyone was wrapping up, “What do you guys wanna do now?”

“Nothing.” Sebastian said flatly. “We promised the folks that we’d just go to the mall then home, and we still gotta swing by Wally World.”

Tim nodded, “Yeah, me and my dad are-

Rayne closed her eyes and sighed as loudly as she could. Everyone turned to look at her.

“My dad and I.” She corrected, rubbing her brow and feigning exasperation. “I swear, what are they teaching you kids in English class these days?”

Tim’s eyebrows blasted off into space as his jaw dropped. The rest of the group laughed.

Rayne opened her eyes and looked at Tim. “Trying to catch a fly or something?”

His mouth snapped shut.

“Now why don’t you try that again?” Rayne asked.

“My dad and I,” Tim began, staring at the group hesitantly. They seemed to be hanging off his every word, just waiting for him to misspeak. “My dad and I are planning on going fishing soon.” He finished.

Rayne started clapping overenthusiastically.

“Good job li’l buddy!” She gushed, “You did it!”

“God damnit.” Tim facepalmed as the group laughed,

“Damn, Rayne. You’re on roll!” Sebastian said between laughs.

The group walked back into the store, and from there the mall. It was almost unanimously decided to part ways, so after a quick goodbye they did so.

“So, that went well.” Evalyn probed cautiously as Rayne led them though the doors of Walmart.

“Yeah!” Rayne exclaimed, “I was really scared at first, but none of them recognized me! Well, except for Jackson, but he’s seen me before.”

“Yeah,” Sebastian agreed, “You were even coming out of your shell and joking around a bit.”

“I just hope I didn’t take it too far with teasing Tim.” She mumbled, suddenly worried. She wasn’t really one to talk about the challenges of talking. She hated it when people pointed out her nervous stutter, this really wasn’t much different. Suddenly she felt horrible. She had been so concerned with fitting in and acting like a normal teen that she had gotten carried away. What if she had made Tim feel the same way the bullies at school always made her feel?

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about Tim.” Sebastian replied, waving a hand through the air. “He’s pretty thick skinned.”

“I hope so.” Rayne nodded. They had arrived at the arts and crafts section. After a moment of assessment, she plucked a large piece of paper off the shelf.

“This should do.” She approved.

“Need anything else?” Evalyn asked.

“Just to get home!” Rayne replied happily, skipping back down the aisle.

They walked together to the checkout, then Rayne suddenly stopped.

“You okay, Rayne?” Sebastian asked.

She bit her lip and looked at him.

“I don’t have any money.” She said innocently.

He rubbed his forehead with the palm of his hand while Evalyn laughed.

Sebastian sighed and dug out his wallet as he walked past her, “C’mon squirt. I’ve got you today.”

Rayne giggled and moved to catch up. Together they paid for her goods and departed for Sebastian’s car.

As they made their way across the parking lot, Rayne spotted Tim. He was sitting on a bench alone, looking at his phone. Before she knew what she was doing, Rayne had shoved her paper into Evalyn’s hands.

“What are-”

“Be right back!” Rayne called as she quickly ran across the parking lot.

Tim looked up at her as she jogged up. Suddenly she was at a loss for words. She didn’t have the safety blanket that was her brother and sister’s presence. She bit her lip nervously.

“Hey,” Tim greeted, looking confused, “Rayne, right?”

She nodded.

“I, uh, I just wanted to say s- sorry if I took things too far earlier.” She apologized nervously.

He scrunched his eyes up in confusion.

“Oh!” He started in realization, “You mean at the ice cream shop?”

“Y- yeah,” She answered hesitantly, “I, um, I stutter sometimes. When I get really nervous, or, uh, shy.”

She blushed and looked away.

“It really embarrasses me sometimes when people point it out, and, uh, I just wanted to say sorry if I made you feel that way.” She forced herself to look back at him. He was smiling.

“That’s sweet of you Rayne, but you don’t gotta worry ‘bout it.” He told her gently, “I thought it was hilarious.”

“Y- you did?”

“Pffft, oh yeah.” He piped, “I make a point of not taking myself to seriously. We’re cool.”

“Cool.” Rayne echoed, “It was nice meeting you then.”

“See ya around.” He waved, looking back down at his phone.

Feeling unburdened, Rayne turned to rejoin her siblings. And walked straight into Jackson.

“Careful there.” He said, grinning.

“O- oh. Hey Jackson.”

“Hey Rayne.” He returned, falling in beside her as she started walking towards where Sebastian and Evalyn stood waiting by the former’s car.

“So,” He began confidently as they walked, “I was wondering if you wanted to do something sometime?”

She glanced at him, “D- do something? Like what?”

He folded his hands behind his head as they walked, “I don’t know. Go see a movie? Maybe get dinner?”

“Umm, who all would be going?” She asked, with a sneaking suspicion of where this was going.

He chuckled, “Well I was thinking it would just be the two of us.”

She stopped. He turned to look at her. She bit her lip. Was he asking what she thought he was asking? She didn’t know how to respond. Sebastian had mentioned that Jackson might have a crush on her the previous week, but so much had been happening she hadn’t thought much about it. She couldn’t stand here thinking forever though. Screw it. No sense in beating around the bush.

“A- are you asking me on a date?” She asked hesitantly, heart hammering.

“Yeah.” He replied instantly. Confidently. No hesitation on his end. Her heart leapt into her throat. Her mouth opened and closed like a fish.

“Is that okay?” He continued, smiling brightly. Jeeze, how did someone manage to smile brightly? Most people just smiled. But Jackson’s smile, it was bright.

“I- I mean, um, I g- guess it’s okay to- to ask.” She mumbled, looking away, “B- but, um-“

“I get that things are confusing right now.” He interjected.

“Y- you do?” She inquired.

“I know he’s not really your cousin,” Jackson continued, “But Sebastian mentioned that things were complicated.”

“Did he now?” She inquired again, shooting an annoyed glance at Sebastian – who, along with Evalyn, was now walking swiftly towards them. What could he have said?

“Yeah,” Jackson continued, oblivious, “So I just wanna say there’s no pressure, you don’t even have to give me an answer now. Just think about it. I’m a good listener, and I can keep a secret.” He glanced at the rapidly approaching, protective ‘cousin’. “Anyways, I should prooooooobably be going.”

Rayne didn’t know what to say. She didn’t even say goodbye as he threw her a wave, turned, and jogged away.

“What the fuck did he just say?” Sebastian snarled as he and Evalyn reached her.

“He, uh, he… uh, he asked me on a date.” Rayne stammered.

Rayne received two opposite reactions simultaneously.

“That’s so exciting!” Evalyn squealed.

“That ASSHOLE.” Sebastian spat, “I fucking told him. I told him to back off.”

“Oh yeah?” Rayne asked, putting her hands on her hips, “What else did you tell him?”

Evalyn’s excitement was something equally scary, but that could be addressed later.

Evalyn turned on Sebastian a split second after their younger sister.

“What DID you tell him?” She accused.

Sebastian instantly flipped from pissed to defensive.

“Nothing! I swear!” He pled, throwing his hands up defensively.

“That,” Rayne objected, pointing across the parking lot in the direction Jackson had gone, “Didn’t sound like nothing.”

“Look,” Sebastian began, rubbing his head, “He’s been interested in you since the moment he first saw you. He’s been asking about you for weeks. Last week I asked him to back off for a while, and that I would introduce you to him when things were better.”

“Oh,” Rayne said, initial fears of being outed relieved, new fears arising, “So you were just going to set me up with your friend? After what we talked about last week?”

“No!” Sebastian bleated, aghast. “I just told him that if he backed off, then later – and only if you were okay with it – I would introduce him to you.”

“O- oh.” Rayne deflated. She should have known. Like overly protective Sebastian would ever try and set her up. “S- sorry. I may have overreacted a bit.”

“Waaait a second.” Evalyn backpedalled, “What DID you two talk about last week?”

“Uhhhhhh,” Rayne stalled.

“Our sister is confused about her sexuality.” Sebastian stated bluntly.

“Seb!” Rayne gasped, horrified.

“What?” He asked plainly, “We all know you would have told her eventually anyways – probably sooner than later too.”

“This is fact.” Evalyn agreed, “And what do you mean confused?”

Rayne blushed furiously, “I, uh, well- can we just talk about this in the car?”

Sebastian shrugged and nodded.

“Fine.” Evalyn agreed, “But don’t think I’ll drop it that quickly.”

Rayne rolled her eyes. Since when did Evalyn ever drop anything before she was ready to?

They walked the short distance to Sebastian’s car. Normally Sebastian and Evalyn would sit in the front together, and Rayne would get the back to herself. Clearly today wasn’t normal, because Rayne found herself being pushed over to make room for Evalyn. They buckled up, and as soon as Sebastian pulled away Evalyn turned on her.

“So.” She demanded, “Confused?”

Rayne rolled her eyes.

“I don’t know if I like guys or girls, okay?” She mumbled, looking at her fidgeting hands.

“So, you’re bisexual?” Evalyn asked.

“I don’t know what I am!” Rayne snapped, turning to look out the window with a huff.

“I don’t understand.” Evalyn said, ignoring Rayne’s outburst.

Rayne sighed heavily. “When I think about before all this started, when I was Raymond, I can’t figure out if I liked girls or was just fascinated by the idea of being one.”

“Okay.” Evalyn nodded, “And how does Rayne feel?”

“I don’t know.” She sighed heavily, “Everything’s so confusing right now. I’m still not sure if I like girls or if I just like being a girl.”

“And how do you feel about boys?”

Rayne shrugged helplessly.

“Okaaaay,” Evalyn continued slowly, “Then how did you feel when Jackson asked you out?”

Rayne didn’t say anything. She thought back. Her heart had hammered. She’d gotten a knot in her tummy. She’d lost her voice. She also remembered something about admiring how bright he looked. That thought made her blush.

“Oooooooh,” Evalyn cooed, “Someone’s got a crush.”

“No!” Rayne squealed, covering her face. “It’s not like that.”

Evalyn giggled.

After a moment Rayne uncovered her face to see Sebastian staring at her in the mirror, one eyebrow raised.

“Then what is it like?” he asked, voice amused.

Rayne groaned and covered her face again.

“You guys always gang up on me.” She pouted.

Evalyn laughed and leaned over to wrap an arm around her.

“You know we’re just teasing.” She said lightly.

Thankfully, they dropped the issue then. Their conversation did give Rayne some things to think about, however. Did she have a crush on Jackson? He was always nice to her, he was even nice to Raymond. He was athletic like her brother, and he was certainly handsome. Other than that, she didn’t know whole a lot about him though.

When they arrived home Rayne wasted no time, and ran up the stairs to her room. She closed the door behind her and sat down at her desk. She took a moment to carefully select a pencil, and she flipped the pages of her sketchbook to the rough draft. Her last act of preparation was to grab the original reference material off her book shelf and set it in front of her. With light, delicate stokes, she began her initial lines. She was planning on painting for this piece, but it still didn’t hurt to have some guideline drawn out.

While she worked she thought about the mall encounter. She thought she had done surprisingly well. She didn’t cower or hide behind her siblings, or at least she didn’t the whole time. The other teenagers had actually seemed like they liked her! And for once it didn’t seem like that was just because of her association with Sebastian or Evalyn. That brought her mind back to Jackson. She knew, at the very least, that Jackson liked her. Did she like him? Well, yes. She liked him. But did she like like him? Why was sexuality and gender so damn confusing?

A thought occurred to her.

Yesterday at her appointment with Doctor Mathews. He had mentioned an LGBTQ youth support group in Lakewood. The thought of going to see and talk to other teenagers without the support of her brother or sister had scared her at first, but things had gone well today. Maybe she should give it a shot. It was the second and fourth Tuesday of every month if she recalled correctly. That meant the day after tomorrow. She had a bit of time to decide yet.
 

~o~O~o~

 
Monday morning Evalyn gave Rayne – Boring Raymond really – A ride to school, as was the norm. What was abnormal, however, was arriving 20 minutes earlier then usual. Rayne insisted that she needed to talk to Ms. Mira as soon as possible. Raymond found her in the art room, preparing for the days classes.

“Good morning, Raymond.” She greeted cheerfully, “How was your weekend?”

“Mostly good.” He answered honestly, “And yourself?”

“Busy.” She groaned, “between grading and prepping for the show next weekend it felt like I barely had a weekend!”

“Oh no, that’s not good.” Raymond replied, concerned.

Ms. Mira waved his concern away with a hand.

“Oh, I’ll be fine.” She said lightheartedly, “I like the work so it’s not bad. Anyways, what brings you here this early?”

“Oh, right!” Raymond started, regaining his train of thought, “Um, I started a new piece last night. If I work really hard and finish it before Saturday, would it be too late by then to have it in the gallery?”

Ms. Mira thought for a moment.

“I’ll talk to Berny. I’m sure we can make something work.”

Raymond smiled brightly

“But!” Ms. Mira continued, recapturing his attention, “If we do, you have to make sure it’s something extra good, okay?”

Raymond laughed lightly, “I’ll do my best. Is it okay if I take some supplies home to work on it?”

“Of course.” Ms. Mira nodded, gesturing to the supply cabinet, “Help yourself, just let me know everything you take.”

Raymond quickly raided the supply cabinet, grabbing various paints and brushes of different sizes. As he went he made a list, which he turned into Ms. Mira before leaving.

He stepped into the hall and froze.

Halfway down the hall there was a group of people. Several students, and one teacher.

Mr. McMan.

So much had been going on the past few days that Raymond had completely forgotten that Mr. McMan returned today.

Raymond swallowed nervously, then turned and quickly walked in the other direction. He ducked down the first hallway. It was a small detour, but he was early anyways, so taking the long way to home room wouldn’t be a big deal.
 

~o~O~o~

 
The morning passed by peacefully. Raymond attended classes, focusing hard on getting as much done as possible so he could maximise the amount of time he had to work on his new art project at home. As was agreed upon, he went to the library for his gym class. With his ankle still being quite sore, he could look forward to missing gym for at least a few weeks. He buckled down and got most of his homework done for the day, leaving the library feeling quite satisfied with what he had accomplished. At lunch, he headed to Ms. Reid’s office.

“Good afternoon Raymond.” She greeted when he stuck his head through the open door.

“Hi Ms. Reid.” He returned, stepping into the room.

After he had closed the door behind him and taken a seat, Ms. Reid set aside what she was working on and looked at him expectantly.

“How was your weekend?” She asked, folding her hands in front of her.

“Mostly good.” He replied, “And you?”

“Excellent, thank you.” She returned. Smiling, she continued, “Would you care to elaborate on yours? How did everything go?”

“Well,” Raymond began, rubbing his chin, “The appointment with Doctor Mathews went great. I was sooooo nervous at first, but he really made me feel comfortable.”

Ms. Reid nodded, “I’m glad to hear that.”

“It’s what came afterward that went poorly.” Raymond continued.

“Oh?” Ms. Reid probed, concern etching itself across her face.

“Mom and Dad told the rest of the family about me.” Raymond explained weakly. “It didn’t go over well.”

“I see.” Ms. Reid said gently, “How did you feel about that first of all? Your parent’s telling them I mean?”

“Well I didn’t want them to at the time, and I still wish they hadn’t, but they insisted it was necessary and that sooner was better.”

“That’s understandable. Both how you felt, and how they felt.”

Raymond nodded. “We talked about it, and I could see where they were coming from. Dad didn’t want to lie to his family any more then I did. And even though I was scared they’d reject me, they could never really accept me either. Not until they knew everything.”

Ms. Reid nodded her agreement. “Did they all react poorly?”

“I wasn’t actually there to see for myself.” Raymond explained, pursing his lips and looking at the floor, “I was too scared to even face them.”

“That’s nothing to be ashamed of Raymond.” Ms. Reid consoled him, “It’s understandable to be scared, and you’re just a teenager. No one expects you to vanquish all of your fears over night.”

Raymond’s eyes rose to meet hers once again. He nodded and gave a small smile.

They talked for a while more before agreeing to part ways for the day.

“Now Raymond,” Ms. Reid began as he rose to leave, “Since you’re going to be seeing Dr. Mathews on a regular basis, you don’t need to come see me every week any more.”

She let that sink in for a moment.

“Now with that said,” she continued, “if you’d like to, we can continue our weekly sessions. Alternatively, we can also just meet whenever you need someone to talk to. My door is always open. How do you feel about that?”

Raymond pondered what she had said for a moment before nodding. “Okay, no more scheduled sessions works for me. I’m just glad I’ll still have someone to talk to in the school if I need it.”

Ms. Reid smiled and nodded her agreement.

“Thank you for everything you’ve done for me Ms. Reid.” Raymond finished softly.

“It’s what I’m here for.” She returned light heartedly.

He turned to leave.
 

~o~O~o~

 
The rest of lunch went by easily, as did a few more classes. It wasn’t until Raymond was walking to his last class of the day, religion class, that he began to panic. He had heard someone say Mrs. Cimonie was back today too. And now he would have to face her. He walked into class. He froze in the doorway.

There she was.

But she wasn’t alone.

Standing next to her was the principal, Mrs. Clarke.

And next to Mrs. Clarke stood a short, bald man. He wore the vestments of a priest. Raymond recognized him as Father Mckindly. He was the pastor of the Lakewood church. He routinely ordained over any masses the school held as well.

“Take a seat Raymond.” Mrs. Clarke called to him from where she stood.

Realizing he was standing in the middle of the door, Raymond hastily walked to a corner seat at the back of the room. As he sat down, he focused on his breathing and not letting his nerves rule him. What could this be about? Obviously, it was related to class last week.

“Good afternoon class.” Mrs. Clarke began once the entire group was seated. “It has come to our attention that last Tuesday some things were said in class that left some of you uncomfortable, and frankly, were not accurate. I have invited Father Mckindley to speak to your class today, to give a more correct answer.”

She turned to the priest, “Father Mckindley, if you would?”

The priest shuffled forward.

“Good afternoon children.” He greeted warmly, oblivious to the fact that a group of teenagers might reject the idea of being called children.

He looked around the room with a soft smile.

“I understand that one of you placed a question in your…”

He turned to Mrs. Clarke.

“Question box.” She provided.

“Ah, yes. Your question box.” He continued, “This question asked how being transgender worked with the church and Christianity.”

He looked around meaningfully.

“First and foremost. Let it be known that identifying as transgender, or homosexual for that matter, does not make you a bad person in any way, shape, or form. Nor will it be ‘inviting Satan to take over’ or however your teacher put it. God, Jesus, and the church, loves you as you are. You will not be denied your place in the Kingdom of God over your orientation, no matter what some people might say.”

Hushed whispers were passed between students. Father Mckindley looked around meaningfully.

“Now, with that said,” He continued solemnly, “God is infallible, and his creations are perfect. Who you are today, is the you God intended you to be. Your body need not define your personality, nor your personality your body.”

He turned to look at their teacher.

“Sarah? If you would.” He ushered her forward.

Mrs. Cimonie stepped in front of the class, blushing lightly at her first name being used in front of her students.

“I apologize for what I said last week class. It is not my place to speak on the views and stance of the church as a whole. I mistakenly answered last weeks question with my own – misguided – beliefs, when the question was asking for the churches. In the study of religion and our quest to deepen our faith and connection with God, even I am still a student, with much to still to learn.”

She turned to look at Father Mckindley, searching for his approval.

He gave it with a smile and a nod before stepping forward again. “Now class, what do you say? Can you find it in yourselves to forgive Sarah, your fellow student before God?”

The teacher pursed her lips at being placed on the same level as her students, but said nothing.

The class nodded, there were a few mumbled ‘yeses’. Raymond gave the smallest of nods himself. He could forgive her for what she said, he may never like or trust her, but he could forgive her. It was like she said, her own beliefs were misguided. Someone probably taught her what she believed when she was their age. He couldn’t really fault her for it.

The Father nodded. “Now, with that taken care of, I would be happy to stick around for the rest of your class to answer any other questions you might have. Alternatively, you can always find me at the Lakewood Catholic Church. My door is always open if you need to talk.”

The rest of class passed normally. Raymond doodled in his sketchbook, contemplating the priest’s words. So according to the church he wasn’t evil. He already knew that, but it was good to know that the church did too. But claiming he was perfect just the way he was? That was wrong. If their God was as perfect or infallible as Father Mckindley claimed, then she would have been born Rayne. Not Raymond. Either that or their God was an asshole and had intentionally made her wrong. Wanted her to suffer. She didn’t know which it was, and it didn’t really matter either.

Class finally ended. Rayne packed up her books and departed. After a quick stop by her locker to deposit most of her books, she headed to meet Evalyn. She had gotten a lot done today and had no homework at all, when she got home she could devote all of her focus to her project.

“Hey squirt.” Eva greeted when they met at her car.

“Hey Eva!” Rayne replied.

Evalyn stared at her.

Rayne raised an eyebrow and looked back at her. Confused by her reaction.

Evalyn just ushered for her to get in the car before climbing in herself.

Once inside the privacy of the car, Evalyn turned to look at her.

“Your Rayne is showing.” Evalyn said bluntly.

Rayne just stared at her, “Whaa?”

Rayne slapped her hand to her mouth, realizing what Evalyn was implying. Evalyn has been pointing out the fact that Rayne was using her voice. Not Raymond’s.

Evalyn continued to look at her, now concerned, “Any idea how long?”

Rayne looked down at her feet as she thought back, “I walked into my last class as Raymond… and walked out as Rayne. Jeeze, I just got lost in thought doodling and didn’t even realize when I switched over.”

“Did you talk to anyone?” Evalyn asked gently.

Rayne shook her head. “No, thank goodness no.”

Her face dropped into her hands. “Ugh.”

Evalyn placed her hand on her sister’s shoulder comfortingly, “Let’s go home.”
 

~o~O~o~

 
When they arrived home, Rayne went straight to her room. The first thing she did was strip off the last vestiges of Raymond and dress in clothes appropriate to her true identity.

Able to breathe freely at last, she sat down at her desk and pulled out the large piece of paper. Little work had been done since yesterday, but at least it was no longer blank. She pulled out her pencils, as well as the paints and paint brushes she had liberated from the school. She could get the initial lines done in an hour, then she could start painting. She had lots of time to work tonight, and lots of work to get done before the showing. Especially if she wanted to check out the youth group tomorrow. So much was happening.

She took a deep breath and set her hand to work.



Hiya!

Flummox here!

Slightly less late this week, but still a bit late. Shucks. :/
I’m trying to post regularly until part one ends, but I’ve been crazy busy for the last month, and will be still for a few more weeks. I’ll try to keep up with a chapter a week, but I may have to miss next week. I’ll try to get it posted, but apologies in advance if I can’t.

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Every one here has been so kind and supportive throughout this whole adventure, and I really appreciate it.

With that said, it would love it if you took the time to comment or shoot me a message. It motivates me and keeps me going. No pressure or anything though.

Hope this finds you in good health and cheer,

Flummox



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