Here On Earth

By E. Red

 

Chapter 4

 

The next morning began my first full week as a female. For starters, I slept in, because my alarm clock hadn’t been reset after the overhaul, and my five-minute shower was without hot water. The skirt I’d picked out wasn’t where I’d left it the night before, and I couldn’t even find the blouse that went with it. I noted that I felt a little lighter today than I had the day before, but brushed it off as a ‘morning thing’. The toaster burned my bagel, and there was no peanut butter left to cover up the taste.

 

(Ugh. The shattered remnants of my male self cringe at the fluidity and level of comfort I have with that last paragraph. I got over it after a while, but sometimes I still feel the "what ifs" start to come on...)

 

(Sigh. Where was I...?)

 

And then, when I got to school, I find out that the city school board had rescinded the dress code. Mic was wearing her overalls already, and I was left inventing curse words as I slumped through my morning classes. People left me alone for the most part, many of the CEC members pausing to say hi, but everyone else basically ignored the fact that I was there.

 

Until third period. Gym. For the first time in my new body. Lovely.

 

The first steps are always the most daunting in any endeavour, and using the girl’s locker room for the first time was no exception. I very nearly went into the guy’s at first, but caught myself, and made for the second door, blushing terribly as several guys from the class snickered, walking past me into the room.

 

The other girls fell silent when I stepped into the room. You could’ve heard the proverbial pin drop. But it vanished in a minute, and everybody went back to their changing. Looking around, I noticed that Kim wasn’t there, meaning she must already be changed, as she was in my PE class.

 

Actually, not everyone accepted my presence. Not Millicent Graves. She was one-half of our school’s hierarchy of hatred. She was the bellows that fanned the flames of the ‘pure souls’. I went to a far corner and claimed an unused locker that was kind of out of sight. You know, “Out of sight, out of mind”?

 

No dice.

 

I managed to get my blouse off before I realised someone was standing over me, and I twisted in surprise. Millicent was standing over me, with two of her cronies flanking her.

 

“Well, well…” She said, sniffing pompously. “I guess he doesn’t stuff his bra.” Her lackeys giggled, and I blushed, and covered my chest as a reflex.

 

“Do you have some kind of problem-” I started.

 

“Yeah. You.” She said with a sneer. “This is a girl’s locker room, you pervert.”

 

“Well, that’s obviously not the problem you meant.” I said, my temper flaring. I thrust my chest out and jiggled it at her. “As this is clearly the room I’m supposed to be changing in. As for the pervert comment…” I frowned, giving her a quick look over. “ Sorry, Millie. You’re not my type. Perhaps you have another problem we could discuss? Maybe this inferiority complex of yours?”

 

Damn. I love being a comedian.

 

She spluttered at me for a second, her face going rather purple. I saw her arm tense up, and neatly leaned backwards, avoiding the slap by bare millimetres. She reversed her swing without loosing any steam, but this time, I caught her wrist in my hand. My shoulder gave off a flash of pain for a second, but I ignored it.

 

“That shit’s gotta stop.” I growled, glaring straight into her eyes.

 

The bell rang just then, and our Gym teacher, Ms. Roberts, called out from the door. “Get out here, ladies! On the double, or its sprints instead of sports!”

 

Millicent looked like she was going to say something, but stopped, opting to throw my blouse across the room and into the wet showers, before stalking moodily out of the room. I slumped backwards off of the bench, leaning against the lockers. My heart was pounding in my chest as the small amount of adrenalin quickly wore off, leaving me drained, upset, and alone on the cold tile floor.

 

Amazingly, what had bothered me the most was the reference to my previous gender. The last thing I wanted was a reminder of my old life as I was trying to build a new one, but it appeared that the pures were going to throw it in my face as often as possible. It took me a full five minutes to calm down enough to retrieve my blouse, flash-dry it and finish changing. I was just lacing up my new runners when I heard the door to the gym open.

 

“Mia?” Ms. Roberts asked softly. I looked up at her, nodding as I wiped away a few errant tears.

 

“Yes, ma’am. I’m sorr-”

 

People seem to like interrupting me, I’ve noticed. Karma, and all that… “Don’t apologise, young lady. You did nothing wrong.” She smiled at the questioning look I gave her. “Some of the other girls told me what happened. The three responsible are running laps as we speak.” She said, answering the unasked question. “Are you ready to come join us? You do have a test to take…”

 

The tests were mostly easy, and actually a lot of fun. I got meagre results on the strength tests, and surprisingly good results on the balance tests, despite having a new centre of gravity. But the reaction tests were the funnest. She set up what has come to be called ‘the Wall of Death’, a set of six dodgeball launchers with independent motion trackers. She turned them on to the lowest setting, and started the test. Only one shooter fired for the first little while, as the escalation program worked me up to two and more at a time. I jumped. I turned. I twisted. At one point, I bent over backwards. Some of the class actually stopped playing volleyball to come and watch me dance around the flying rubber.

 

I actually set a state record during that test. I stood in the modified squash court, dodging balls for over half an hour. (No bad dick jokes, please…) I was the first student to make it up to the highest level on the machine, and my spectators burst into applause when the computer paused to collect the spent ammo, and announced “Maximum level achieved. One hundred and twenty rounds reloaded. Prepare for exercise.”

 

I heard the ominous sound of a shotgun cocking as the motors behind the cannons whirred even faster. I had just enough time to catch my breath, and notice the spectators cheering, before the countdown started.

 

“Three…” I crouched low to the ground, focusing back on the whirring death machines. In my mind eye, I could see every detail of the machines, and I felt every movement of every part.

 

“Two…” Ghostly balls began to stream out of the openings, and I imagined myself moving to dodge them. Focus is the key… Hey… That seemed like longer than a second… What-

 

“One…” The world blurred, and suddenly, time seemed to catch up to me. I managed a blink and a startled “Huh?” before…

 

“Begin.”

 

Thunkthunkthunkthunkthunk! Immediately, a salvo of rubber was streaming through the air towards me. Reacting almost purely on instinct, I dove to my right, rolling under a few shots before kicking off of the wall and leaping over several more. I spun and leapt like a lemur on a sugar high for thirty seconds until finally, I couldn’t go any more.

 

There was a resounding thunk as I stopped dead in my tracks, ready to take the next hit. But it never came. The motors halted slowly, and the computer’s voice rang out in the stunned silence. “All rounds expended. Total rounds expended for entire test: One thousand, five hundred and fifty. Total hits out of allowed five used: Zero. Level completed: Maximum. Analysis: Your kung fu is best. Congratulations.”

 

I burst out laughing, falling over into the spent balls in exhaustion as the entire class (with a few notable ‘pure-blooded’ exceptions) burst into cheering and applause. Kim was suddenly standing over me, an incredibly amused look on her face. She put her hands together and bowed in mockery of the computer’s assessment of my ability. “Come, master. We have much mingling to do.” She said in a fake Chinese accent, which only made me laugh harder as she helped me up.

 

“Of course, Grasshopper, and then I will teach you more of ‘Walker-fu’.” I replied over the sounds of the crowd.

 

Ms. Roberts pulled me aside as the class wound down. She smiled as she congratulated me. “And despite that amazing performance, I’m sad to say you’ll be staying in this class. You don’t quite qualify for the MORFS class.”

 

I told her that was fine, and she smiled again, pressing a datastick into my hand. “Here’s a copy of your… Performance. Thought you might like to see it for yourself.” I stammered out my thanks and she winked before pushing me on my way.

 

The shower was rather unnerving. Once again, all conversations stopped when I stepped into the room, and headed for the nearest empty stall, blushing terribly. Every girl in the room was giving me an odd, appraising look. Apparently they decided that I was acceptable, because they quickly returned to their showers.

 

A number of them did comment on my ‘odd choices’, though. “You’ll never get your hair dried before next period.” One of them said as I shampooed my head. “Where’s your towel?” Asked another.

 

“Oh, ye of little faith.” I said, grinning. “Watch and learn, young apprentices.”

 

I turned off the shower when I had finished, and the few girls who were the least bit curious watched as I closed my eyes, concentrating. Most of them gasped as the water flowed off of my body and into the drain. I smirked, flipping my hair back over my shoulder and walking out into the lockers without looking back.

 

Many of them came to me while I was dressing, asking if I would “help them do their hair” next class. Most of them were nice about it, so I agreed. And then Millicent reared her ugly head again.

 

“You better not try that crap again, freak.” She sneered at me, trying to look intimidating. I maintain the position to this day that she looked more like she was trying to pass a kidney stone. “You’ll shower after all of us girls are done, and get your perverted jollies some other way.”

 

“Like I said, Millie. You’re not my type.” I said flippantly, not even bothering to look up.

 

“What are you, gay?” She growled angrily. I knew how much she hated being called Millie.

 

I felt my blood starting to boil. “Clearly not, as I keep turning down your advances.”

 

This time, I didn’t see the slap coming. I held onto my stinging face, blinking back a painful tear. “Leave now, or I’ll have you suspended and charged with assault.” I told her, standing up.

 

“What kind of man are you?” She said, making her two cronies burst into a fit of high-pitched giggling. “Running off for help. Can’t handle me on your own?”

 

“Leave.” I repeated, spotting a few soaked towels on a nearby bench. “Or I’ll hurt you.”

 

“No. I think I’ll hurt you.” She replied, motioning to her friends.

 

By now, the whole room had gone quiet, all the other girls staring at the spectacle. Millie’s ‘friends’ were about to grab me, when they suddenly found themselves wrapped tightly in several very wet towels. Another one wrapped itself around their mouths as they tried to scream. "Hmm... Guess water's got more uses than I thought..."

 

I held them there until I finished changing, and was ready to leave. They were completely red faced and glaring daggers at me as I stood up and looked Millicent strait in the eyes. “You’re lucky I’m not a violent person, Millie. But I’ll warn you now: Your religious bullshit will not fly any more. Not with me.”

 

I dropped them all to the ground, dropping all the water from the towels onto them in the process. “So here’s your warning. I’m a water elemental, and the average female body is fifty-five percent water. You do the math. If you so much as lay a hand on me ever again, I will not be held responsible for what happens to you when I defend myself.”

 

I left them spluttering on the middle of the room, and several of the other girls expressed gratitude towards me as I exited the room. Kim left with me, telling me that Millie was (apparently) a terror for the other girls, and many of them were too scared to do anything about her abusive and intolerant tendencies.

 

I became an instant hero… Or heroine, I guess would be more appropriate.

 

It didn’t last. I was sitting in my fourth period History class when the page came. “Mr. Derring? Could you please send Mia Walker to the office?”

 

The walk to the office was a long one, so it took me a few minutes to get there. The secretary sent me straight in to the principal’s office without delay. “Keep that freak away from me!” Was the first thing I heard when I entered the office.

 

“Miss Graves, please calm down.” The principal, Mrs. Byrd, said sternly. “And refrain from using derogatory names when in this office, or you’ll face consequences.”

 

Mrs. Byrd was an older lady, just shy of her sixtieth year. She was slight of build, and quite petit, but she carried herself in an unmistakably powerful manner. She peered at me over the top of her thin glasses with questioning blue eyes. “Miss Walker, please have a seat.” She paused until I complied, sinking into the seat farthest away from Millicent. “Now, I think you know why I’ve called you down here.”

 

I nodded. “I would assume you’re referring to the exchange of words between Millicent and myself after our gym class.”

 

She nodded in return. “I hope you know that the school board takes death threats very seriously.”

 

I smiled pleasantly at her. “I’m aware of the policies. However, there were no such threats exchanged during our… Encounter.”

 

“She’s lying.” Millicent fake-sobbed.

 

Mrs. Byrd narrowed her eyes at me. “I’ve heard Mrs. Graves’ side of the story, and now, I’d like to hear yours.”

 

I shrugged. “There’s not much to tell. A few insults were exchanged, and Millicent slapped me. I restrained her and her friends when they moved to do more, and then said that the next time, I would defend myself in a more active manner.”

 

“She said she’d suck all the water out of our bodies!” Millicent cried, hiding her face behind her hands.

 

“Actually, I merely informed them of the scientific fact that the average female body is fifty-five percent water, and that I am a water elemental, as my public record now clearly states.” I said offhandedly. “I can certainly see how she might interpret that as a threat to her life, but it was intended merely as a threat of physical harm in response to her attacking me.” I turned my head and showed her the angry red handprint on my cheek.

 

“She probably used her freak powers to do that!” Millicent yelled, scrambling to get control of the situation again.

 

“Miss Graves! You will serve a detention after school today, and if you continue in your pursuit of this bigotry, I will see you expelled!”

 

I was a little shocked at the principal’s reaction, but I wasn’t about to say anything. I happened to agree with her.

 

“Now, between the two of you, I am more inclined to believe Miss Walker.” I think both of us were shocked by that particular revelation. “You, Miss Graves, have numerous black marks on your record, and all of them seem to involve victims of MORFS.”

 

I smiled internally at the look on Millicent’s face. “Whereas Miss Walker has rarely been involved in an unprovoked altercation.” She continued. “However, this is still a case of one person’s word against another’s. Therefore, I can only issue both of you a formal warning about your behaviour, and leave it at that.”

 

She gave us a rundown warning of what was expected of us and sent us out without any further ceremony. Millicent found the energy to shoot one last look of utter hatred at me before she pushed roughly by and left the room.

 

Lunch was rather exciting after the subdued tension of the meeting. Everybody was congratulating me on ‘conquering the Wall of Death’, and Kim was busy telling anyone who would listen about how I’d stood up to Millicent in the locker room. Julia snagged the datastick out of my pocket and started playing the holo of my ‘performance’. We were also informed that Friday morning had ben restructured to allow the CEC to put on our fall show, and then have the dance after lunch. Which meant we'd have to let our sections know about the new schedule.

 

The rest of the day passed in a blur of normal activity, classes blending into the ‘band meeting’ that Kim pressed us all into, to “review our material for the dance performance”. I ended up at home with a music disc and a folder of sheet music. Great. More work.

 

Tuesday and Wednesday passed in a grey haze of boring classes and long practice sessions on my guitar. Kimmie felt that I should be the lead guitar as well as a backup vocalist. I think she was trying to bolster my morale. Lucky me.

 

And then Thursday came. And with it, my first female encounter with my old nemesis. Randall Jones.

 

I took to carrying around a litre bottle of water after the Millicent incident. It felt a little like carrying a concealed weapon, but it made me feel a little less defenceless. I wore it on a shoulder strap, out in the open where everyone could see it. At least nobody could accuse me of actually carrying a concealed 'weapon'…

 

Unfortunately, that strap also provided anyone who had a little initiative with an excellent handhold. As I found out while heading to meet with the decoration committee that was setting up in the gym.

 

“Hrrk!” Was the sound I made when I found myself dangling in mid-air, four feet off the ground, being held up by the aforementioned strap.

 

“Well. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you’ve been avoiding me, Commander Twincest.” I groaned internally at the familiar voice.

 

“Put –cough- me –choke- DOWN!”

 

“Certainly, sir.” Randy sneered, dropping me painfully on my back from four feet up. Three of his muscle-bound thugs guffawed from behind him.

 

Again, reflexive tears of pain sprang into my eyes as I glared up at him. “What the fuck is your problem, asshole?”

 

He recoiled in mock astonishment. “Such a mouth! That’s not very ladylike, if you ask me. You should know your place in the world.” He bent over, stopping inches from my face. “You want me to teach it to you?”

 

The bottle made a very satisfying cracking noise as it impacted with the side of his head, but I didn’t take the time to enjoy it. I bolted down the hall as fast as I could, slamming the gym doors behind me when I got there. I could still hear several people howling with laughter in the hallway as they clicked shut.

 

Great… Now the idiot squad is back on my ass… I thought bitterly as I slumped against the stage, trying to catch my breath. Just what I needed. I’ve made enemies of the Pures, and the Morons, and the Dregs, tomorrow I’m going to be singing and performing on-stage for the entire school, and then I’m going to a formal party with my dad, in a bloody dress!

 

A hand gently placed itself on my shoulder, and I looked up in surprise. Hiro smiled down at me. “Are you okay?” He asked. I couldn’t bring myself to lie to him, shaking my head no. He nodded and gave me a slight squeeze on the shoulder. “You hang in there, alright? You need anything, you call me. Okay?”

 

I felt an odd little flutter in my chest. Something about the way he looked at me seemed a little… Off. But I guess he was just trying to be a good friend. “Thanks, Hiro…” I think I managed a weak smile. “Thanks for trying.”

 

He simply nodded, and turned back to wards the stage, where the speakers were being set up. He shook his head slightly, and started yelling at the guys who were setting them up as he climbed up and out of my sight.

 

Everybody basically left me alone for a few minutes. Maybe the whole “hugging-my-knees, face-downcast” thing scared them off. Gave me some time to think a little, at least…

 

Until they finished the setup. As the decorating crew came in and the setup crew went out, the rest of the gang were gearing up onstage. “Hey, Mia!” Kim said, leaning over the side of the stage. “We’re ready for prac… Hey, are you alright?”

 

“Yeah… I’m…” I trailed off. My muse had hit me in the side of the head. Inspiration addled my brain for a second, and I stood up, bolting out the door, heading towards the band room, hoping Ms. Kowalski hadn’t left yet…

 

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Julia stared at the flapping doors of the gym, a little confused. “What did you say to her, Kim?” She asked, twisting a few of the tuning knobs on her electric violin. She reached out with her mind, groping for a feeling from her retreating sister. Oddly, she felt a mix of excitement and nervousness.

 

“I… I really have no idea…” She replied, frowning. “Weird…”

 

“Yeah… That pretty much sums up our situation in a word…”

 

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I stared at the sheets on the stand in front of me, slumping tiredly back into my chair as I wiped the sweat off my forehead. Two hours of work had given me over twenty pages worth of results, and by the approving sounds Ms. Kowalski was making, I could tell that they were some real good results.

 

The song, the one I’d been writing little snatches of for the last few days, had popped into my head earlier, in the gym. The lead guitar chords had come easiest, and everything else fell into place. Drums. Keyboard. Bass. Violin. Hell, even the lyrics came like they were always there. There was just one problem.

 

Nobody else could possibly sing them. Not for the range, because Seraphim certainly had me beat there. But, as I wrote them, I sang them to myself, and I knew nobody else could possibly do what I wanted those words to do.

 

Which meant I had to sing them.

 

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not the crowds that bother me. Remember, I’m a comedian by trade. But the feelings behind the words… I wasn’t sure if I could hold myself together long enough to get them out.

 

Ms. Kowalski didn’t say a word as I picked up to leave, only smiling slightly when I said goodbye. I hurried back towards the gym, but everyone was coming out as I turned the corner. “Mia! Where did you disappear off to?” Julia asked, concerned.

 

“I was…” I started, but the words kind of… Eluded me. Instead, I just handed them the folders with the song in them. “It’s a little short, but… Well…” I gave up trying to talk, watching nervously as they thumbed through their parts. “What do you think…?”

 

Kim finished first, of course, and looked at me with an odd mix of a smile and a frown. (Don’t ask me how. She made it work…) “I think… That I’ve got nothing else to do tonight. What about the rest of you?”

 

We ended up spending another two hours practicing my song. At the end of it all, we did one full run through, and it sounded okay to me. The rest of the gang said it was great, and that we would be doing it tomorrow. Jordan wordlessly handed me a datastick recording on his way out.

 

I guess the message stuck…

 

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I was absently clicking through the TV channels, trying not to think about what was coming up the next day, when I saw it. A familiar face on a news report. I frowned, turning up the volume.

 

“-ill no leads in the mysterious house fire that erupted downtown last Friday. Police investigations continue to pull up no explanations as to how the fire began. The house in question belonged to the family of young miss Antoinette Smith, the nine-year-old singing prodigy and heiress to the SmithCorp fortune, the entire company left to her by her late father, Antonio Smith. Reports say that while the bodies of her mother and her stepfather were recovered from the blaze, Antoinette’s body was not found at the scene, and it is unknown if she is even alive at this time.”

 

The anchorman continued to ramble on for a moment, but my attention was captured by the ‘most recent picture’ that was displayed on the screen. I knew those green eyes. They were the same ones that had called out silently for my help at the hospital. I was completely blown away by the revelation of whose eyes they had been.

 

I frowned, trying to think of exactly what had happened in that waiting room. It felt like I was trying to dig into my memory with an ice pick, and I gave up after a few minutes. It’s not my problem…

 

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Those same green eyes stared out from the inside of a thick hedge, watching the violet-eyed girl clicking through the channels. You’re right. It’s not your problem… Tears crawled slowly into the girl's eyes as she stared across the empty street, nondescript images flying across her mind's eye. But you're the only one who can help...

 

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I awoke the next morning to a screaming bladder and another feeling of incredible lightness. The feeling had gotten stronger and stronger in the last week, but it vanished rapidly each time. I glanced at my clock as I rushed into my bathroom, and panicked again. I’d slept through my alarm, and was an hour behind schedule. Cursing, I took the fastest shower in the history of womanhood, flash-drying myself as I ran across the hall to bang on Julia’s door.

 

She was in a right state, too, trying desperately to dry her hair. I solved that problem, and we were both dressed in costume and ready to go in record time. The corset dug into my sides slightly, which made sitting down uncomfortable, but the silk shirt and doublet did look rather pirate-ey, and I liked the way I looked in the bandanna and tricorn. The faded leather duster that went over everything was a little hot, to be sure, but I hardly noticed in the mad dash to the school.

 

The whole gang was waiting for us in the parking lot, and I had to smile when I saw them all. Everyone looked awesome in their costumes. Johnny was carrying a fake cannon under one arm, and Jordan (being semi-fluid) had reshaped and painted his body to resemble a rotting skeleton pirate, dressed in ragged clothing. All the girls looked incredibly sexy in their wench outfits, and they all presented me with a tall flagpole, a hand-stitched Jolly Rodger flapping from it, and they proclaimed me to be the captain of this motley crew. Captain Busoms, to be precise.

 

I turned redder than my bandanna.

 

The morning crew was just finishing the last-minute setup as we ran into the school. All the performers were there, and we took a brief run through of the programme. The Drama section and the comedy section were putting on a skit of some old Halloween movie, and this would be followed by a short performance by the band. After that would be the lunch break, to the cafeteria where the buffet was being set up, and finally the dance would start at one o’clock. We were set to perform at one thirty, so we had a spare setup prepared in one of the ‘silent rooms’ in the band room, for a quick practice. I mentally checked off my own list as Kim addressed the congregation. I would have to leave at five in order to be ready to go with Dad at eight. Julia had opted to stay at the dance, smiling slightly as she did so.

 

Very soon, the other students began piling into the rows of seats in the auditorium. That’s one thing about our school that was followed to a universal tee: It’s bad karma to not come to a school event. Everybody was there, and I had to slip out of the greeter’s line as a few of my less-than-friendly aquaintences walked past. Everybody who wasn’t a Pure, a Super, or a complete asshole complimented us on our costumes, which was nice.

 

After a few hectic moments, the play started up, and my ‘crew’ and I were left to practice for about two hours before the band members left for their performance. A few more hours passed, and I began to get more and more nervous as the time went slowly, agonizingly past.

 

Then it was time. We burst onto the stage from the back, introduced as ‘The Captain and Crew’, and immediately launched into a rocking version of the immortal pirate song ‘A Pirate’s life for Me’. Everybody danced crazily through our first two songs, and then seriously to our third, which was a slow love song. Seraphim sang that song with so much emotion and passion, that many people were in tears when we finished it. A jerky techno song followed that, to which we witnessed a number of ‘dance-offs’ in the crowd. Another two songs later, and it was time.

 

I ditched my coat, hat and bandanna before I took the mike from Andy (who was the lead on the previous song) as they didn’t seem quite appropriate for my song. And then I tried to cram all of the nerves out of my mind as I spoke to the masses. “Alright, guys! How was that?” Cheering. “Well, it’s almost time for us to get off the stage-” A few good-natured comments of ‘despair’ this time. “But this last song… Well, it’s very special to me… It’s not much, but I hope you like it nonetheless…” The slow music started to play behind me, and I could feel the pride my sister was feeling for me. I think that’s what made the difference… It gave me the strength I needed to open my heart and sing…

 

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I was young. I was weak. It was hard to be me.

But I walked all the way. Now I’m here, on this day.

And I try to be true. Try to share this with you.

So listen up. Don’t be scared. It’s my life, to be shared.

And a lesson to you all. What to do, when you fall.

 

(Chorus)

Take to the skies!

Swim through the seas!

Run through the fields in the midsummer’s breeze!

Live life to the fullest, until it is done!

Find strength in yourself, in the power of one!

(End Chorus)

 

When you fall from the heights, as you try to soar,

You must not give up, you must try it once more.

For if you don’t, life will pass right by,

‘Cause you cannot live, unless you can fly.

 

Take me, once a boy, just a kid, without joy.

A life, in the end, that was lived without friends.

Until I found my way off the ground,

On the wings of love, I could fly up above.

 

(Chorus)

 

Though hardships be many, and good times be few,

Know that it’s better to do it as two.

With others to help you, the world is more bright,

With friends and their love, to show you the light.

 

And now I’m here, filled with this fear,

Just trying to be me, to make people see.

I am who I am, and I hold out my hand

To all you who hear, and those you hold dear:

 

(Chorus)

 

The choices we make are what makes unique,

Do we choose to hide, or do we choose to speak?

I'm not alone any more, with the love of my friends,

I lived free from the beginning, and will be standing at the end...

 

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I listened with my eyes closed as the last note slowly died down. I made it. It was over. And then the sound of the crowd hit me.

 

They were cheering! (Well, most of them...)

 

I was actually crying when I spoke into the mike again. “Thank you all! Enjoy the rest of the party!” I didn’t wait for a prompt to put the mike back into the stand and exit the stage after a quick bow. I was tackle hugged by my ecstatic girlfriends almost as soon as we got out the back door. (Girlfriends… Huh. That was a bit of an odd revelation…)

 

We took a few minutes to get ‘freshened up’, and I was pleasantly surprised when I managed to get through a ‘normal’ bathroom chat and fix my makeup without hesitation. I think Julia noticed, but I couldn’t be entirely sure. I’d felt nothing but immense pride from her since the beginning of my song…

 

Which, of course, everyone bombarded me with questions about as soon as we got back into the gym. Many of them were shocked to find out that I’d written it myself, and in less than a day, in fact. All of the CEC members congratulated me, and a number of them asked for copies of the song if I was going to make some.

 

When all the performers were finished, and the regular deejay started up, I actually convinced myself to dance, even if it was just a little. Turned into not so little, though. I danced with everybody in our little ‘crew’, grooving to the rock, shaking to the punk, and robot-ing to the techno. The first slow song I turned some heads by dancing with Mic, and the second by dancing with Jen.

 

But, to my great surprise, I found myself latched onto Allan for the third one. His arms were wrapped around my waist, and I found mine wrapped around his neck, fiddling with his long indestructible hair (which he’d tied back into a neat ponytail for the dance), and my head resting against his shoulder. I could feel his muscles through his shirt as we swayed back and forth to the music. I could hear the thumping of his heart. I could smell the aftershave he’d used that morning. And I could sense the flowing water that ran throughout his body. My own heart was fluttering in my chest, which was pressed quite firmly up against his. The sensations were almost too much for me to handle. Dozens of odd little jolts were shooting out of my body, through my limbs and back again.

 

The song ended, but I couldn’t bring myself the let go. “It’s almost five.” He said to me quietly, looking into my eyes with a small smile.

 

“I know…” I replied, still swaying slightly to the now-changing music. He smiled a little wider, gently leading me to the doors as I hung off of him.

 

“Your sister told me about the dress…” He said, smiling down at me.

 

“And…?” I said, a little dazed and off-balance from the incredible feelings on the dance.

 

“And we all want pictures, so take a camera to the party.” He finished, prying me off of him even more gently.

 

That’s when I did it. I’m not sure why I did it. It was a spur of the moment thing. But I stretched up my tiny neck and kissed him straight on the lips. It was a caste kiss, but a kiss nonetheless. My first kiss as a girl…

 

My first kiss with a man…

 

I broke away from him after a few seconds, blushing terribly as the tiny male conscience that remained in my head had a massive stroke. “T-thanks for the dance…” I managed to say before I ran out the doors, leaving a very, very confused Allan behind.

 

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Julia’s head whipped around to stare across the teeming gym floor when she felt it. She was getting a totally new feeling from her sister. One they’d had yet to share.

 

Lust.

 

She choked on her soda when scanned the crowd and saw her sister kissing Allan. “ Oh… My… God…”

 

Kim looked up at her from her seat on the bleachers. “What about God?”

 

A tiny flicker of revulsion was quickly smothered by utter embarrassment as Mia broke away, said something, and bolted from the room. Allan stared after her, an extremely bewildered look on his face. He stood there blankly for a minute before sinking into a chair behind the admission desk, his head in his hands.

 

“What are you staring at? Is that Allan? Wasn’t he dancing with Mia? Oh, it’s almost five, she must’ve left… Hey is he crying? I wonder what happened…” Kim fired off a string of speculations faster than a minigun could spew bullets.

 

Julia groaned. Mia had to know they’d been seen. And in this school, there was something that could travel faster than light: Gossip. “Lovely…” She muttered.

 

“What’s lovely?” Kim asked, breaking out of her rapid-fire chattering.

 

“Forget it. I’ll go talk to him.” Julia said as she walked across the floor. Allan looked up when he heard her stop in front of him. “What did you-” She began.

 

“I didn’t.” He interrupted, shaking his head. “We danced, and then she-”

 

“She?” Julia repeated incredulously. You mean, she kissed you?” She slumped into the chair next to him, reaching out for a feeling, and catching a snatch of shame and guilt. “Oh dear… I don’t think she was ready for that…”

 

“Why do you think I’m sitting here stressing out?” Allan said, placing his head back in his hands. “I totally fucked up…”

 

Julia put a hand on his shoulder, reassuringly. “No. She started it, and now she has to finish it.” She shook her head in pity. “I just hope she can find the answer before she totally looses it…”

 

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I was totally lost in my feelings as I drove Julia’s car home. (I’d never needed one of my own, because we always went nearly everywhere together…) Guilt, fear, and shame were foremost in my mind, but a few other emotions skittered back and forth throughout the chaos.

 

A part of me was saying that I had nothing to be ashamed of. It’s only natural. You’re a girl, he’s an attractive boy…

 

Another part was screaming at me. WHAT KIND OF MAN ARE YOU? ARE YOU SOME SORT OF FAG, OR WHAT?

 

Still another was focused on the tasks ahead. We’ll have a nice soak in the tub, and then get dressed. For makeup, we’ll need…

 

FAG BOY! FAG BOY! FAGGY, FAGGY, FAG BOY!

 

An attractive, unattached boy, who happens to be a good friend, and has shown nothing but support…

 

…And that lovely crimson lipstick. Yes, that’ll go with the dress quite nicely…

 

HOONK!!! Screeeeech!!!!

 

I swerved on instinct, missing the truck by inches, shaking myself out of my funk for just long enough to pull into the driveway. Just long enough to turn the car off, before I finally caved. I slumped back into the seat and cried. I lost control, and in my moment of weakness, I did something stupid…

 

But it had felt right…

 

I couldn’t believe my own actions. The dance had been nice enough, but to allow myself to get swept up in the heat of the moment, and show my inner self? I felt more ashamed when I had that thought, and the tears came that much quicker…

 

But it had felt right…No. It had felt good

 

The car door opened a second or an hour later, and Dad was standing there, looking concerned. I didn’t know any other way to react as he lifted me out of the car, to my feet. I buried myself into his embrace, and cried my heart out to him. I told him everything. From the change forwards, I told him all of it. Even the things I’d kept to myself. And when I was finished, I found myself sitting on the couch, latched onto him like a life preserver.

 

“Life sucks for you right now.” He said slowly. “More than it should, really. But you’ve been so closed up about it, that I didn’t know what to do.”

 

He paused for a second, gently wiping the tears off of my face with his thumb. “It’s hard for me to understand what you’re going through, and it’s even harder to decide how to react to you. These past few years of treating your sister one way has kind of engineered me to respond differently to teenage girls, and I’m not sure how that’ll work for you…”

 

“I… It helps…” I admitted. “A little…”

 

A slow smile spread across his face. “Aside from that, I can only say… You’ve always been a very strong individual, but you’ve never really… Well… You’ve always kept your personal feelings to yourself. And I think your new situation is forcing them out. So my advice is to let it out. Talk to someone, be it myself, or Julia, or one of your friends. It’ll be easier in the long run. Okay?”

 

“Okay… Daddy…”

 

He chuckled. “That’s my… Girl.” He glanced at the clock. “Now go and get yourself ready. We have to leave in an hour.”

 

I sighed. “No bath for me, then.”

 

So I had a quick shower, power scrubbing with my elemental abilities. Clean and dried, I started dressing, taking my outfit off of the hanger I'd left it on. It wasn't untill after I was dressed, and halfway through  applying my makeup that I realized it. Here I was, fixing myself up for a party, putting away my mascara and reaching for the 'right' shade of lipstick, and it felt completely normal. Like I’d been this way my whole life. Like I’d been born in this body.

 

The irony of it all caught up to me, and I had to laugh. Only an hour prior, I’d questioned my identity, and yet there I was, wearing a dress, applying makeup, and wondering how I should do my hair. After a moment of careful thought, I twisted it up into a light bun, pinnin it together with a simple copper pin, decorated with a small glass rose. I was a little surprised that I'd remembered how to do it up like that, but clearly Julia's 'boot camp' had sunk in farther than I'd expected.

 

I grabbed the purse Julia had carefully filled with the 'essential party survival kit', and headed down the stairs, idly fiddling with the silky scarf that hung around my shoulders. Dad was stending at the foot of the stairs, and I saw his jaw drop when he saw me, and I blushed. "What do you think...?"

 

His mouth opened and closed wordlessly a few times, and I blushed deeper. "You look beautiful, sweetie." He finally said, giving up on trying to find a more descriptive... description. He led me to the car, holding the door for me and helping me into my seat. I thought he was going just a bit overboard, but I learned laer that night that I was entirely too modest in my self-image. Apparently, I looked far better than I gave myself credit for.

 

We arrived at the ballroom that the firm had rented after a half-hour drive, and were greeted at the door by one of the senior members. I felt extremely insecure when the elderly man approached us, and tightened my grip on Dad's arm, forcing a false smile to push aside the nerves.

 

"Ah, Mr. Walker! Right on time, as is expected." The man said jovially. He was quite thin, but not at all fragile-looking, and his long grey hair was tied neatly into a ponytail, much like Allan's had been... I shook my head slightly, pushing that thought from my head. The tiny motion made the man shift his sparkling blue eyes towards me, and he smiled. "And you must be Mia. You look lovely tonight, my dear." He said, clasping his hands together and giving me a slight nod of acknowledgement.

 

I blushed reflexively. "Thank you for saying so. You're too kind..." Oh, god. I sound like a total flake!

 

"Nonesense, young lady! You'll be the belle of the ball, without a doubt!" He said, chuckling. "Now you two get inside and join the fun! No sense in standing out here, at the mercy of the elements!"

 

It was a completely clear night.

 

Nonetheless, we were shown inside, and Dad quickly checked his coat, and my purse with it, and led me through the double doors that seperated the coat check and baathrooms from the main ballroom. And tat's where I panicked.

 

All of the other women that were there were wearing either black or white. Belle of the ball, my coushioned ass! I'm the freakin' sore thumb!

 

Dad pointed out all of the senior members, giving me the jot-notes introductions. I spent around a half hour being shown around to the whole firm. To my great surprise, all of them called me by name, and none of them mentioned my 'previous life'. Of course, most of them were older folks, middle aged or further around the bend, so they knew the purpose of tact.

 

Of course, not every apple in the basket was worm-free. Several of the elderly men had girls latched onto them that were scarcely older than I was, and several of them gave me very distinct looks of distaste. As I covered more and more of the floor, I began to realize why.

 

They were jealous of me. I'm not sure how, and I'm not sure why, but I know that they were. And it felt good.

 

At least, it felt good for a while. And then I left the comfort of the home trenches and hit no-man's land.

 

I found myself seperated from my Dad when he was pulled away for a business talk with a high-profile client. The champaigne was making me a little light-headed, but it was passing a lot faster than it should have, thanks to my hyper-metabolism.

 

"Hey there, beautiful." A voice with a strong english accent said from behind me. A tall, well-built blonde man peered down at me with shocking red eyes from behind a pair of thin glasses. "What are you doing here all alone?"

 

I looked up (way up, actually) at him passively. "I'm not alone, I'm just not with anybody." Great. That makes me sound smart...

 

He quirked an eyebrow at me. "How many of those have you had?" He asked, gesturing at my glass.

 

"Only one." I said snidely. "Though I fail to see how that's any of your business."

 

"Well, an attractive, and seemingly unnattached, young woman standing alone at a party in an incredibly sexy dress..." I could feel the blush forming. "And holding a glass of champaign... Kinda sends out a signal, you know?"

 

"Oh really? And what signal would that be?" Damn, am I...

 

"Well, I'm inerpreting it as a cry for companionship." He said with a slightly odd grin.

 

"Well, so long as you're answering questions, who the hell are you?"

 

"Ah, that is a legitamate question." He gave me an extremely grandiose bow. "Alexander Felicity Weatherby, the Third, at your service, milady."

 

I raised my own eyebrow at him. "Charmed, I'm sure..." I deadpanned. "Felicity?"

 

He winced. "My great-grandmother's name. Long story..."

 

"Indeed... So, when are you going to ask me my name, Mr. Weatherby?"

 

He shook his head. "Every true gentleman knows you never ask a lady her name. You wait for her to volunteer it."

 

I was rapidly becoming less and less impressed by his attempt to 'woo' me. "And any true gentleman would know that you need to be a lot more subtle in your prompting than you have been."

 

His smile faltered for the briefest of instants. "I suppose you're right, at that. My professors all said that subtlety is not my forte, after all."

 

"Right..."

 

There was a long pause in the conversation, and I began to feel more and more uncomfortable the longer he stared at me. Thankfully, Dad found the time to rescue me from the situation. "Having fun, sweetheart?" He said, coming up behind me. "Ah, you've met Alexander. I hired him straight out of law school, loads of talent, loads. How're you enjoying the party?"

 

The guy did a huge double-take. "Good, good. I've just been getting to know your daughter a little better, right Julia?"

 

"I'm not Julia."

 

He did another double-take, and actually started sweating. "You-... I-... Wha-...?"

 

Dad sighed, shaking his head. "You didn't tell him, did you, dear?"

 

"He never asked." I very nearly burst out laughing at the look on the poor guy's face.

 

"Ah. Well, don't chase him away, it's hard to find such high quality help. I'll be around." And without breaking stride, he gave me a quick kiss on the cheek and walked back into the crowd, a strange smirk on his face.

 

I let him gape at me for a minute, appeasing my urge to laugh with a few muted giggles. "So, I guess I'm the boss's daughter, eh? 'The Forbidden Fruit'?"

 

He seemed to collect himself, and coughed slightly before responding. "It would appear that way, yes... Err, forgive me if this comes off as rude, but I was informed that the Walker twns were fraternal..."

 

"And?" I pressed, a little bit of irritation showing in my voice. "Don't try to get out of asking the question by dancing around it."

 

He nodded, a slight blush appearing on his face. "What I mean is, well, I was told they were brother and sister..."

 

I nodded, I guess a little sadly. "Now we're sisters."

 

He very nearly fell over. "MORFS, I'm guessing?" He did something completely unexpected when I nodded.

 

He laughed.

 

My temper flared. "Listen, you pompous English prick! There's absolutely no-"

 

"No no no... Please, let me explain." He said, extending his hand again. "Allow me to re-introduce myself. They used to call me Felicity Alexandra Weatherby."

 

I gaped that time. "No shit?"

 

He laughed. "None whatsoever. I must admit, though, that you'r remarkably well-adjusted to your change. How long ago was it?"

 

"A week and a half."

 

He stared. "Really? You're that comfortable after that short a time?"

 

I shifted uneasily, blushing. "Not really... I... My sister helped me a lot..."

 

He nodded understandingly. "I don't have any siblings, but I can imagine how much that would have helped. And your twin, no less... How did she take it?"

 

"Pretty well... Better than I did, anyway..."

 

Our conversation continued through most of the night, and we danced a few times, one waltz and one jive. We talked long into the night, sharing our stories and our thoughts. He told me about life as a young girl, and I reciprocated with tales of  my boyhood. I made him laugh with several well-placed comments, showing off my skills as a comedian, and whenever he did, I felt that odd flutter in my chest, and a warm glowing feeling. Alltogether too soon, it was time for us to start setting out for home. He walked me to the door and waited for Dad to bring the car around. (He drives a Sonus Phoenix for work, and the Jeep for pleasure.)

 

"So maybe I'll see you around?" He asked shyly. I'd had a good time hanging out with him, even with the nearly six years of age difference.

 

"Yeah. That sounds good..." Dad pulled up in the car just as I spoke. "Maybe a movie sometime..."

 

"It's a date." He said, leaning down and kissing me on the cheek quickly. I felt the flutter again. "See you later, then."

 

He walked away without anoher word, and I was left standing there in shock, holding my suddenly warm cheek. Dad rolled down the passenger side window. "He hasn't left the parking lot yet. You want me to run him down?"

 

"Daaad!"

 

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I was completely exhausted when I finally slumped into my room. It took a minute or so to get all the makeup off of my face and to get ready for bed. I pulled one of the silk nightgowns I'd got on the overhaul trip as I left the bathroom. And when I looked up, I looked into something green. And I found out, I wasn't alone.

 

To Be Continued…

   

 

 

The entire MORFS  Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org/

 


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