The Lottery - Chapter 3

(A/N: I know I've left some stories by the wayside, but I've been encouraged to finish them. For some reason this came the easiest. Enjoy!)

* * * *

It was before breakfast the second day when I was summoned for the mandatory check-up. The bright hues of the office were an affront to my senses, with flowers and paintings that probably made it friendlier. That didn’t stop me from flirting with sleep again as I slumped in the chair.

A blond woman with her hair in a bun stepped into the waiting room and chirped. “Elijah?”

I stood and stifled a yawn. The other guys seemed relieved that my name was called first, bit I was too tired to care. I followed the doctor as she gestured me to a room at the end of the hallway, and then to a padded seat.

The first thing I noticed was a poster on wall featuring a uterus, standing tall like an ominous tree with fallopian branches. At eight in the morning it was like some kind of an omen. Suddenly, I was sweating.

“Hello, Elijah. My name is Doctor Lee, but you can call me Bec or Becky if you like.” She looked down to her tablet and swiped to a chart. “How did you sleep your first night?”

I shook myself. “Um, yeah. Good.”

Bec peered up and smiled. “My first night was rough too. Don’t worry.” She turned back to her tablet. “Now, do you have a preferred name?”

“Elijah’s fine for now,” I said, but for how long?

The doctor placed her device to one side and drew a number of items from a tray on the wall. “If you could just take off your shirt for me, Elijah, that would be very helpful.”

I did as told, and was still as she placed a pair of devices on my upper chest with adhesive patches. Machines to one side beeped and amplified the beating of my heart. Doctor Lee took notes.

“Respiratory function is normal,” she said, and beamed me a smile. “You’re fit as a fiddle. All I need now is to take some blood.”

Whatever. I was resigned to anything she needed to do. She found a vein in my arm and stuck the needle in. All I could think about was Natalie, and what it would be like on the other side of this place.

On the opposite desk was a disembodied uterus and vagina 3D printed from hard plastic. Doctor Lee must have noticed my staring. “The one you’ll get will be made of protein fibres and patterned to your cellular biology.”

I blinked. “You’re growing a vagina for me?”

“Back in the old days doctors would cut the penis down the middle and turn it inside out,” she said, grinning very slightly.

The very thought made me pale. Being drafted was one thing, but somehow the reality of new genitals failed to register until that moment. I wondered if maybe Tom was right to be angry.

* * * *

My head was spinning, so I spent the rest of the day in bed with the curtains shut. Gavin was busy, so I was alone. Maybe that was a good thing, or not; I was fixated on the mental image of a petri dish in which my blood was woven into flesh, building a strange organ that would soon be part of me.

A day in bed turned into two, then into a week. I’d already given my first two psych sessions a pass, and every time I considered stepping out a new possibility flashed before my eyes. No more running around shirtless in the summer, no more peeing standing up, and worst of all no more Natalie. Despite her assurances I knew better than to relax.

It was Friday when Gavin threw the curtains open, and forced a smile onto me. “Rise and shine, sleepy head! We’ve got a big day in front of us.”

In the short time we’d been at New Horizons he… she’d grown a lot; not just physically but also in confidence. With her hair styled and a light splash of makeup she was completely transformed; the pinafore dress, loose tee, and knee high socks brought it home. It was the first time I’d seen her out of baggy clothes, and she shone all the brighter for it.

Bright was the last thing I wanted.

She sat on the side of my bed and rubbed my back. “Listen, you can’t just hide forever. Sooner or later you have to face the music.” Gavin pulled the sheets away, and I snatched them back. “I promise it’s not as bad as you think. It’s actually kind of fun.”

“Go away,” I moaned.

Gavin sighed. Paper crinkled as she fished into a bag for the small something she placed at my side, and told me it was a gift. “I think it’ll suit you,” she said.

I poked my head from the sheets and inspected the item; a silver necklace, simple and elegant, with a blue-green stone, my favorite colour. Instead of being thankful I threw it across the room.

“Why would you think I’d want this?”

She pulled away and fussed at her hemline. “I don’t know. I wanted to get you something nice.”

My fists were trembling. Fire bubbled under my throat, but I held it down. “It’s nice, but it’s not me. I’m not into all this… this-”

“Girly stuff?” she asked.

Suddenly the room was overcrowded. I stood and marched toward the bathroom, the only place I could think.

Gavin couldn’t keep her mouth shut. “Things are going to be okay between you and Natalie, you know. She loves you. Everybody knows it.”

Rage burst like a volcano and slammed the door shut behind me. Then, just as quickly as it came it vanished, leaving a cold husk in the hollow of my chest. In it was the memory of Natalie, and the greatest summer of my life.

My arms trembled as they pressed against the sink. What was I supposed to do next?

Suddenly there was a knock from the neighboring door. Tom didn’t wait for an answer before barging in and looming in the doorway like the tank that he was. The week gone by had changed him in some ways; he was wearing his hair back in a ponytail, and shaved his arms and legs. Other than that he was still the same slab of jock meat, wearing a tank top, shorts and a scowl.

“Still freaking out about this girl thing?”

I shook my head. “You’re not?”

“Not enough to yell at my roomie,” he said. “She may be a special snowflake, but that doesn’t mean you get to bully her.”

“I wasn’t-”

Who was I kidding? Gavin was just as scared as I was, probably more after my lashing out. It wasn’t her fault that she was able to make the most of the situation and I couldn’t. If only I could be so together.

Tom yanked me to my feet. “Get dressed. Something sporty. Don’t make me kick your ass.”

I was like a rag doll. “Why?”

“It’s time to snap you out of this funk and put your anger where it belongs.”

* * * *

I did as I was told, with no strong feeling one way or the other. There didn’t seem to be a point, and arguing about it boiled my blood.

“Whatever you’re doing, it’s not going to change my mind,” I said.

Tom balled my collar in his fist, and said nothing. He lead me through the main building, down the stairs, and into the yard; by the fountain, and along the art blocks, until we reached the bleachers running by a soccer field.

There were ‘mixed’ teams, by which I mean girls and boys-who-were-yet-to-be-girls; not that it made any difference to them. A game was a game, no matter who was playing, and both sides were giving it their all. Mud flew in splatters as they dived for the ball en masse.

I folded my arms, and huffed. “What is this, some kind of afternoon special? ‘You can still be an athlete and a girl’ or something?”

“Don’t be an idiot,” Tom said. “You were being a downer, so I dragged you out. That’s it.”

He’d changed a lot since our first day; edgy as it was his pitch was softer, like he was centering his head and not his chest, just like in the instructional videos Gavin watched every night. It wasn’t until then that I noticed the crease of a training bra under his shirt.

“You’re drinking the kool-aid,” I jeered.

The mountain of an androgyne shook his head. “Just needed to clear my head,” he said. “Word of advice; this place is what you make it. Don’t let it be Hell. There are worse things than not being a dude anymore.”

Of all the people to ever utter those words…

A dark haired figure waved for Tom to step onto the field, which he did, dragging me with him. He slapped my back, called me a nerd, and shoved me to centre field. Maybe I should have resisted, but I didn’t.

Despite the uneven number of players or there being no way of knowing who played what side the game started anew. It was a tempest of frustration and adrenaline, with no time limit and nobody to keep score. Wherever the action shifted, Tom was there to pull me into the middle.

Kicks scraped dirt into clumps and flew into shins. There was no holding back because of playing against girls; we were all girls, even if some were further along than others. If anything it made the players more aggressive, like they had something to prove.

The smell of sweat was like a catalyst that whipped me into a frenzy. I don’t know how long it was - maybe an hour - when I stopped moving to survive, and drove through the players. One hard kick sent the ball toward the far posts, where I chased it and sent it home. There was no goalie, but who cared? A point was a point, even if it didn’t count to anything.

All the others cheered, even the ones we were playing against. Even Tom was smiling, and clasped my wrist to raise it over my head in victory. Loathe as I was to admit, spending that energy felt good.

When the adrenaline cooled and a chill breeze ran over my sweat I called time, and wandered back toward the dorms. The game left me on a high. Even if I wanted to be depressed again, it seemed impossible.

Tom followed, and pulled off his saturated tank top to throw over his shoulder. He had no shame about the garment on his chest. In his place I pulled my arms close, and covered shame on his behalf.

“Okay, you’ve made your point,” I said.

He steadied his breathing. “What point?”

“Being a girl doesn’t mean I can’t be tough or competitive or whatever.”

Tom scoffed. “Dude, you’re reading too much into it. I was just sick of Gavin bitching about you not getting out of bed.”

I blinked. “She was complaining about me?”

“Bitching, worried, whatever,” Tom shrugged. “Something had to be done, so I dragged your ass out. You’re welcome, by the way.”

It was sweet in its own way, though Tom would have groaned if I said it. I looked around the courtyard and to the other girls and soon to be girls, and they were smiling. Maybe they were right; maybe it wasn’t the end of the world.

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