Thursday, 28 March 2013
Excerpt from Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite by Lianne Simon
I collapsed on the bed in the guest room. Long ago I’d realized that someone would eventually find out Jameson wasn’t a regular boy between his legs. But I’d never expected anybody to discover he wasn’t much of a boy between his ears either.
Sharon wanted to be my friend, and yet she was too much like a doctor. They’d already done something evil to her brain. Why had I admitted anything to her? Packing and returning to the dorm seemed the safest thing to do, but she had me trapped in her specimen jar. What choice did I have? If she wasn’t my friend, she might tell Mom I really did have gender issues. Then I’d be history.
Jameson existed as a thousand boys-don’t and boys-do rules. Deep inside, I brushed the dust off the end of one. Was shutting off a part of him even possible? I pulled, gently at first, and then more firmly. With a quiet popping sound, the rule slid out. I waited, probing for any adverse reaction, ready to replace it. A slight easing of inhibition was all I noticed. Down the corridor each way, as far as the eye could see, stretched more of Jameson. This would take time.
One of his rules stood off alone, like a shepherd watching over the others, guarding and caring for them. When I brushed my fingers over it, an electric thrill ran through my vision. Images flashed rapid-fire, jumbled sounds crashing softly in my ears. Kids at a party. I didn’t remember anything from my early birthdays. Was this a memory block? Why forget about a stupid party? Ignoring the sights and sounds flooding me, I yanked on the end—and got swept into the past.
* * * *
I didn’t have any clothes fit for an elfin princess, so my cousin Kaylah let me borrow some hand-me-downs one of the Fair Folk had given her. She shook her head as she held a white velvet skirt up in front of me. “I don’t care if that old book says the Kirkpatricks are faie. Your face is bean shìdh, but the rest of you is brùnaidh.”
At five I was only a little taller than my two-year-old sister Alicia, so the clothes were way too big for me. “Please, Kaylah. The brownies are elves too. They’re just not as tall.”
“All right, then.” Kaylah safety-pinned the white velvet skirt to my slip, so the waist stayed up under my arms and the hem brushed the floor. The satin sleeves of the woodland green blouse hung down past my fingertips. She wrapped a silver lace belt around my waist twice and made a bow in the back. A spider-silk flower went on my shoulder. I sat down so she could tie the ribbons of starlight ballet slippers around my ankles. “There you are!” She clapped her hands together. “Princess Grace herself doesn’t dress any finer than that.”
Fancy clothes weren’t all an elfin princess needed to be dressed for a party, so I sat facing my reflection and waited for my maidservant to finish. She stood behind me in the wall mirror, intense concentration twisting her face. I grinned as she pulled the soft foam rollers out of my locks and fluffed, brushed, teased, and sprayed until my hair was perfect. It wasn’t very long, but the color was pretty, somewhere between ripe pumpkin and the gold of the earrings she clipped on my ears.
Face full of wonder, Kaylah held a glass vial before my eyes. “There’s a river so high in the Mountains of the Moon that the water turns silvery-blue.” She pulled the stopper out of the shiny bottle and dipped a small brush into it. “I’m going to paint your nails with moonlight. Sit still until it dries.”
In the mirror sat a beautiful elfin princess—golden hair aglow, large emerald eyes, small red mouth, and rosy cheeks sprinkled with freckles. She was the happiest elf-maiden of the realm. I stood, grabbed a handful of white velvet on each side, curtseyed to the lady in the mirror, and spun around so my skirt would fly.
“Pretty!” shouted Alicia, one finger in her mouth.
“Both my girls are beautiful.” Kaylah bent down and kissed my little sister on the cheek.
“Are you ready, birthday girl?” She grabbed my hand and held it high. “Your court awaits you, my lady.” I spun around on tiptoes, a lovely ballerina, my shoes sparkling like stardust in the night sky.
Jimmy the Pirate swaggered into the kitchen, wooden saber at his side and a black patch over one eye. Alicia danced in her little pink tutu and a pair of angel wings made from coat hanger wire and crinoline. Gladys was dressed like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, red shoes and all. She had even brought Toto, a stuffed toy animal that might once have resembled a dog. Kaylah wore a tattered pair of bib overalls, a gingham blouse, and an old straw hat.
They had all chipped in and bought me a present. Kaylah must have wrapped the package because the edges and folds were all straight. I pulled the tape off, careful not to rip the paper. Inside was a new Raggedy Ann. A squeal of delight burst from my lips, and I hugged the doll to my breast. “Sofie! I’ll name her Princess Sofie!” I scooted over on my throne, set her on the seat beside me, and straightened her dress.
Kaylah winked at me, set my birthday cake on the kitchen table, and lit the candles. I blew out all five with one breath and grinned at Jimmy. They say you shouldn’t tell anybody your wish, but he already knew I wanted to be his wife.
The pirate grinned at me, eyes flashing, and waved a saber over his head. “Yar! Cut the cake!”
Kaylah was the one who baked my birthday cake. I think she got the recipe off a Hershey’s Cocoa tin. Anyway, she made the yummiest chocolate cakes. I cut Jimmy a ragged chunk and passed him his plate.
“Princess, you’re making a mess.” My cousin, gentle as always, cleaned the frosting off my sleeve and cut slices for the rest of us.
I was halfway through eating mine when I heard the front door open. Ooh! Dad was home early. Seeing the little princess would make him sad. My fork hit my lap, chocolate cake and all, and bounced to the floor. Arms trembling, I sprang up, thinking to run away.
“No, Jamie. It’s okay. Today’s your birthday.” Kaylah grabbed my arm and gently pushed me back down into my seat. “He should see how pretty you look.”
Kaylah was only twelve, but she’d pretended to be my mom ever since she was seven. My real mom home schooled Kaylah, and me, and my brother Scott every morning. In the afternoon, while our moms worked, my cousin, and Alicia, and I played together. Scott didn’t hang around with girls, so he went to his pal Joey’s or played kick-the-can outside the old schoolhouse on Polk Street.
I didn’t have a magic ring to make me invisible, so Dad found me as soon as he strode into the kitchen. His eyes—those deep wells of disappointment—locked on the elfin princess and sucked the life out of her. “What’s going on?”
Kaylah stepped between me and Dad, saving me from certain doom. “It’s Jamie’s birthday, remember? The kids are all wearing costumes for his party. We were reading Old Scottish Fairy Tales and he wanted to dress like an elfin princess.”
I peeked around Kaylah’s waist, hiding Sofie behind my back. The air around my father seemed to crackle with lightning, but he only nodded and smiled at me. “I got you a new softball. After your party, let’s play catch. Okay, sport?”
So my dad played catch with the elfin princess, tossing her the ball underhand from a few feet away. I missed the first one; it went right between my outstretched arms. The second rolled off my fingertips. The third bounced off my hands and hit me in the face. Boys seemed to learn right away, but I didn’t think I’d ever be able to catch a ball. I shut my eyes to hide my frustration, but the tears were too many.
“I’m sorry, Jameson. Are you okay?” Dad knelt down and hugged his little princess tight, but the disappointment in his eyes hurt her worse than the ball had. Scott said I threw like a girl, but all the ones I knew played catch better than me. I got hurt when I played boy games. Every time. That’s one reason I preferred playing with Kaylah and Alicia.
Dad led me back inside. While he searched for the ice pack, I sympathized with the princess in the mirror. Her face resembled a raccoon’s now, with a dark half-moon under one eye. Poor girl. Another black eye. Won’t you ever learn?
Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite can be bought on amazon.