While in the merry month of May, now from me home I started
Left, the girls of Tuam were nearly broken-hearted
Saluted father dear, kissed me darling mother
Drank a pint of beer, me grief and tears to smother
Then off to reap the corn and leave where I was born
Cut a stout, black thorn to banish ghosts and goblins
A brand-new pair of brogues to rattle over the bogs
And frighten all the dogs on the rocky road to Dublin
The Dubliners, The Rocky Road to Dublin
"There's a fag, and another fag," the words were stupid, annoying, and altogether useless. Why was I even caring about them? Their definition was wrong, but even as I walked by the pipsqueak thin boy in a hoodie, I felt ashamed. Why was this kid jeering at me? I never did anything to him! My green eyes closed as I breathed in and continued on my way to science that day. It didn't get any better but at least homophobe rando was out of my way.
Never would I guess that all of this was just the tip of the iceberg. Ferndale is a small town situated smack dab north of Bellingham Washington. It calls itself a city, but it's just a step above a four-horse town. Don't look at me, I'm shit at these sorts of descriptions. I digress, this wasn't where I lived, it was just where the school district bussed me every day since I graduated elementary. Year four of this journey saw me as a Sophomore just a tad taller than the rest, and a bit wiser. Graduating from not only grades I upped my fashion and added steel-toed boots to my look. Wait, wait, let me jump back.
My name SHOULD be Gráinne, that is who I am in my heart. But I didn't get a choice in that. Instead, I was born Padraig, and even from there I hate that name. And so I do what any kid my age does, I embrace black, I avoid eyeliner and I become a wannabe goth. What I wanted to tell everyone was that instead of boots I wanted clomper heels, and instead of a fucking hat, I wanted a veil. Yeah, I was already some weird long haired queer to half those kids. Most were so in love with football I wondered if they roleplayed it in the bedroom. All my snark aside, this is who I am. There's nothing that can be changed unless I somehow was a mutant, but with how ordinary my family was that wasn't likely to happen. I guess it's weird that here I am, this rando kid in the middle of nowhere wishing she'd mutate on the spot. I mean, one of my classmates last year changed, and she became an entirely new person.
Though to be honest, all I have to go on is Fox News complaining about the local mutant problems in Seattle, and whatever the heroes in Bellingham are up to. Let's face it, I live in the frontier as far most of the country was concerned. But, that's a thought that needs to be tabled for now.
Today was the twelfth of October, and I was glad my week was almost over. Already my English teacher was chomping at the bit to drop a reading assignment on me. History was readying for a dip into the American Revolution, and it was only the second month of class. Even my friends from the year before weren’t in my classes, and above all, I had Orchestra that morning which added more weight for me to carry.
The day started with a ring of the bell a bit after eight and the music geeks of my class file in. One hand totes a large black reinforced case with my violin and my seat awaits. Orchestra was where the musically cultured, repressed, and dejected went. If you were good you were popular. The first chairs were always the best of the best and while we didn't compete for the seating as the band did, there was a hierarchy to our class. My hand rested against the string as I used a cloth to wipe away the dried rosin. Two boys in the back were giggling about something again, and all I could do was smile at the antics of our bass players. Mr. Olmstadt rose from his seat at the conductor's position and raised his hands. The man was tall, six feet at least, and had a shock of curled blonde hair at his head. He was dressed in a blue button-up shirt, jeans, and his shoes were even shined. By a single movement, he started it all and practice began.
This was how it was three times a week ending on Fridays. I was in Orchestra and next was English. Most of the time I was able to avoid problems, and the other kids left me alone. During lunch, I would find a table and sit back with my friends, though John was avoiding me for some reason. During my walks carrying my backpack from one class to another, I usually ran into different people I'd like to avoid. Brad Finkbonner was one of them. He was your typical jock and popular kid. His hair was bleached at the top and he wore a silver chain around his neck. Barely a freckle on his face, and he showed the gangly muscles of a teenager who at least put some effort in the Weight Training P.E.
Usually, when he wanted to he would just get behind me and shove me. "MOVE YOUR LARD ASS" I would hear and suddenly I would impact face-first into a wall. Or I'd be shoved into another upperclassman in front of me. All of this would then be hailed by the laughter of the jerk as he walked away. Being the outcast, even my social awkwardness placed me at odds with the other cliques. The goth artist kids disliked me because I actually -read- Interview with a Vampire and the other books and developed an opinion. The magic kids who played before class during the open period hated that I bombarded them with questions. Plus, the teachers weren't sure what to make of me because I had my head in the clouds. My own respite honestly was reading, and even then I didn't use the school library for the simple fact it wasn't very connected.
No, you see when I finished school and rode the bus back home I would endure the long journey via some novel in my hands. First, it was the Animorphs and after that, it was Lord of the Rings. By the time I was twelve, you would catch me walking from my house to the library a half a mile away daily.
You see, I didn't live in Ferndale, no I grew up on an Island in the same county, so by the very fate of districts I had to ride a bus for an hour a day to go to school. The rest of the length was in catching a ferry home for five minutes and walking the half-mile down the road to where I live. Most of the kids in the city will have a different experience, but I had a small hike every day so it was no big deal to walk to a library to get the latest novel of the Wheel of Time.
It's probably not weird at all really, but that is how I functioned. I usually read a book on the ferry and on the bus. When I was home I would load up some story on my computer written about someone becoming a girl. There I would learn more about who and what I was. You see, I don't fit who I am. Named Padraig O'Callaghan as a kid, I never seemed to like how my body fit. Mom would say "you just haven't grown into it" and would do her best to manage my mood swings. But, at the end of the day when I read those stories about magic, and technology 'fixing' someone I'd beg the universe for it to happen to me. Between these stories, and my constant reading I was able to manage my depression for short periods of time.
You see I did have a younger sibling, and we were good at pushing each other's buttons. So maybe it was why in retrospect I found it so easily to play into those dumb little squabbles we had. She'd say one thing, and I'd blame her for another. My father being the parent who took care of us on certain days would then take the next hour to lecture us on being nice. That's my life, it's not bad, but each day, I hold a burden that outside fantasy I can barely describe.
The afternoon of Friday I ran through the general route. First, I went to Orchestra and tried to just get a bit better. Next, I found myself in English, and after that it was math. All the while I would shuttle between classes and trudge across the large high school campus. My sneaker's kicking aside dead leaves and my breath misting out as it got colder each day. I juggled through Spanish, and finally, after so very long, all I had was P.E. Physical Education, the one class I hated and loved at the same time.
I liked games and even ones where I had to be physical. The competition wasn't fun to me, but I enjoyed getting the one up on people especially if they thought they could beat me down. Our P.E. building was the typical school basketball court. The outside was brick and mortar rising up well over thirty feet and accessible through two blue double doors. You pushed them in and walked to the right to get to the P.E lockers. If you were lucky, no one stole or messed with your clothing, and there you changed. If I could, I would change in the toilet stalls. Other times I stared at my dull painted blue locker before changing into shorts and a t-shirt. All this experience did was reminded me of my how wrong body was, the lack of breasts, and the only thing right being my long hair.
I opened my locker, pulled out my clothes for the period and exchanged my pants for black shorts. My shirt pulled off as some kid laughed, "look he's got tits like a girl" and I blushed. I wasn't fat, and yet, I kind of was. Ignoring him I yanked on the over-large baggy shirt and pulled on my shoes. Last period of the day, all I had to do was make it through. A quick dash took me out through the white brick-walled doorway back into the gym. Two basketball courts met my gaze, the shined squeaky wood floor, and the same weird white brick walls. The girls lined up along one line and the boys took another. Our teacher, a guy in too tight of shorts, named Mr. Saul, began our workout routine of the day. Jumping jacks, gods, I hated them.
One kid puffed and puffed beside me as I began the awkward limb swing jump. Mister Saul started some upbeat music and after the jacks, we began our lap for the day. Three times around the gym, I generally alternating between a slow jog and a quick sprint to show off. I buzzed past a girl who shook her head and rolled her eyes. Another day, another annoying girl, and be jealous of her being her true self.
The cardio lasted for fifteen minutes. Mr. Saul broke the routine by calling for us to gather up before pointing to a line of balls he'd lain while we ran laps. My green eyes remained on those balls as the coach called out, "Bombardment". Instantly, he divided us by counting off between one and two. Each team split to respective sides of the gym and we readied for war. I lucked out today, Brad was funnily on my side, but one of his friends, Lanny, wasn't. Lanny was the short kid who others made fun of and used humor to deflect it. It was he who said I had boobs, and it was him with his beady little grey eyes that met mine. The whistle sound and I was off. Hands swing from side to side and I slid on my knees to grab a ball.
Damn, I snagged the ball and use it to out a leggy tan girl in front of me. I jumped over another before jogging back a few feet. I rarely was this lucky, but thanks to all that walking I wasn't completely out of shape.
"Hey, Patrick Star!" Lanny screamed over the others. Even his voice was pinched and high pitched.
"What do you want Lollipop Guild?" I tossed back, well that's what I thought I said. I really said,
Just as I took the time to look at him I watched him in slow motion. His right hand went back as he wound up the swing and snapped forward. The head size dodge ball flew out of his grasp and right at me. Now, this is where in the story I tell you I dodged it. No, you see the ball was thrown a foot above where I stood. But somehow, and I swear to the gods this very day the little creep was a psychic, it leveled down and slammed right into my face.
I heard the whistle again, "Ceallachain your out!" Mr. Saul stated.
Rising to my feet I shook my head and glared at Lanny as he pointed and jeer at me. Brad himself was laughing loudly, as he danced past a ball while in his long baggy jersey shirt.
"I hate this game," I grimaced as I walked over to the far wall and sat down. We played two more times that day, and every time Lanny knocked me out. And all, I could think of was his stupid smiling pale round face. Those brown eyes bulging as he pressed a hand to his gut and he laughed. The rage boiled up in me and would say with me all the way home on the bus for the rest of the day.
Harborview was like any big city hospital, it was where the worst cases of the most important in the Emerald City were cared for. In the middle of the city, built on one of the hills making up the cities foundation. There, on the sixth floor in a very quiet room was a visiting Irish Professor, A quick glance of her chart would tell the viewer her name was Sinéad Maguire, and she was from Galway in the Republic of Ireland. What it wouldn't tell you was Sinéad was not even sure why she was there. All she could remember was the start of her day and the events leading right up to before it all went black. Invited to lecture on regional languages and indigenous studies at the University of Washington, she was also in the city to visit family. Most of the Maguires had fled Ireland during the tumultuous troubles, and the resulting public outcry. Sinéad herself while appearing as a simple professor, was also a woman many in her home county knew as "Song Spirit". That was what it said on her MID, and that's one reason she was also in Seattle.
A death among her American cousins had pushed plans in the work for over a year. It did help that her associates in Ireland, a team dubbed Fianna, were in the grips of a scandal involving the MCO. The specifics were once again not clear to her, but what she did know was it involved an underaged traveler girl, and one of her students a boy named Brian. Mutants in Ireland weren't hated, but they weren't beloved either. Toss in the politics of the traveling community plus a large traveler girl's family including her da and several brothers, and shat hit the fan quickly. After using what influences she could to move the lad over to England for a spell, she decided that the death of her cousin Michael was a good push for her to finally take the guest lecturer position in Seattle.
Her first week in Seattle had been perfectly fine. The weather was similar to her family home in Galway, and the coast reminded her when she grew up in Connemara. Even the fishing boats resting at nets on the coast added to the nostalgia she felt upon seeing them. The sky was cloudy, just like home, and the fall sun just as bright. But something was -wrong- as well. Once she stepped off that plane into SeaTac she all of a sudden felt at odds with the world around her. First, it was an itch along the back of her neck, and the whole day before the lecture she was feeling a growing sense of anxiety.
Right before leaving the hotel she walked right into the bathroom to examine herself. Just as always her flaming red hair and green eyes met her gaze. Like any Exemplar woman, she was good looking, with each movement punctuated by the muscle underneath her half-nude form. She checked her eyes, her mouth, and even sang a small ditty to herself. Her codename, Song Spirit, came from her ability to manipulate sound and to entrance people. Since she had manifested, and taken on the burden as a Draoi, or druid, she'd had a deep connection to her Gaelic heritage. As always, looking at herself revealed that sense of double-vision, as if seeing herself through someone else’s eyes. Initially, it took her months to get used to it, but now after being bonded to her spirit for so long she felt right at home in her body.
"Sigh, mornin’ Morgan, mornin' Sinéad," she said to herself. Her brogue was thick like any girl born from Connemara, but it also held a distinct sing-song flavor to each syllable. Even when out and about she had to watch her voice, or she'd cause someone to stop paying attention. This was especially dangerous when in a cab, or when walking in a crowded street.
Sinéad completed her morning ritual and set aside a small bag of runes carved with Ogham, the old line and dash writing of the ancient Irish. Much like a Norse rune reading she asked a simple question like, "WIll my day be fruitful?" and drew a series of runes from their bag. The runes themselves were small flint stones marked with words in Old Irish. Most were simple words such as "luck" or "health", others were more complicated such as "reaper" and "carriage." So when she drew the rocks from their home this morning and the words spelled out "old friend, bad luck", she was nervous.
There wasn't any actual magic to the runes, but she knew in her gut that something was wrong. The truth was she'd made them up after a friend did a Norse rune reading five years ago, and usually kept them around for the placebo of decision making. And yet, she eyed those words again and tried to fathom what by Dagda's grace they could mean. Red eyes narrowed and widened at them, as she bit her lip uneasily.
"Feck it," she grunted, 'I got shat ta do, and na' much time ta do it."
The Irish lass gathered up the cast runes and shoved the bag quickly into her purse. Whatever bad luck old friend meant, she'd have to figure it out later.
She put on the simple grey pullover for the weather, and a nice pair of khaki trousers. Her favorite leather shoes were next, and after fussing with her hair for ten minutes she declared it "good enough".
The walk from the hotel to the university lecture hall was a few blocks, but Sinéad barely minded a thing. While walking past a window display from a local boutique she cast a glance and caught a girl walking the other way, straight black hair, and a hoodie pulled up over her head. Strange, dun remember passing her by. The Irishwoman ignored the thought and continued on her way.
The noise of the city was a bit much for her and while waiting for the crosswalk when the eerie sense of someone staring at her caused her to glance over her shoulder. No one was there, again she shrugged it off and continued on her way. Along her way she tucked her purse closer to her person instinctively, and soon passed the last block before arriving at the Communications Building on the University Campus.
Sinéad inhaled deeply before pushing open the door to the building and made her way to the elevator. Pressing the button for the second floor she wrapped her arms around herself as she banished whatever anxiety was starting to creep up her spine. The door opened perfectly on cue and she scooted her way past a brunette student waiting to enter. Just as her lecture was to begin she walked into the Simpson Center lecture hall. Row upon row of seating awaited her and was quite full as she padded down the right side of the room.
'Oh, dang, sorry fer bein' late," she said while passing one of the faculty, a woman dressed in long black skirt and black blouse.
"No worries Doctor Maguire, we were just starting to file in, you are on time," the woman replied. Sinéad smiled her eyes alight with vigor.
"Alright, shall we start?" she asked and set down her purse before removing a jump drive.
"Yes, the computer is ready if you have the correct file we should be able to start your presentation," the faculty member said. Meanwhile, a tall student in a black button-up shirt and jeans stood up to address the audience.
"Thank you, everyone, for attending this afternoon's guest lecture by Doctor Sinéad Maguire!" he began before continuing, "As you may have heard, Dr. Maguire has recently published her study on the current status of the Celtic Languages of the British Isles. As per usual, please wait for the Doctor to complete her presentation and then we will be allowing a short question period thereafter."
Sinéad gulped, this was a small audience and far smaller than the crowds she was used to. As Song Spirit, she was a leading member of Galway's Fianna, and she wasn't at all inexperienced in presenting herself to the public. Under her real identity though she rarely did anything but conduct her research and present it for peer review. Now, for the first time since she was invited, she would actually be putting her results for others to see. Well, for those not directly in her small circle of fellow Doctoral experts of indigenous European Languages.
"Hello everyone, an' before I begin, I just wan' ta say thank ta the Washington Celtic Society here in Seattle for the invitation and providing for my visit," she breathed slowly to calm her nerves.
"I also want ta say thank ye ta everyone for attendin' my lecture. While many may not know, the native regional languages of Europe face an' uphill battle. We in the Republic have nationalized our native tongue, bu' only maybe twenty percent of citizens speak it actively." She continued discussing the statistics before opening up her powerpoint presentation and showing a brief history of the language. Once the data flowed she eased the cadence of her voice, letting her voice carry her growing confidence she leaned back against the table where the projector rested.
"Now, when I conducted my research, I did so with explicit permission while spendin' weeks at a time in well known Brythonic and Goidelic language settlements. The Gaeltacht of Ireland, in towns in the Hebrides of Scotland. These areas are home to defined dialects and vary between that spoken as the standard in their home country. Wales, which is noted as having a far higher speaker population itself shows stronger Welsh presence in those areas farthest away from the dike built by King Offa."
In all her time in between work with the Fianna, she had picked up how the traditions of the Draoi were found throughout the Isles. If the University of Galway gave permission for her trip to Bretagne more could be realized! Even more so for personal understanding, she wanted to know more about the elusive tradition she was a part of. Her research for the preservation of her people's language was just a plus along the way.
She was just about finishing up her presentation when a wave of anxiety hit her again. Sinéad felt the wisps of a daze dash through her eyes as she leaned against the table once more. Her right hand curled around the edge of the cheap college furniture as she ran her eyes across the audience. Everyone was intent on paying attention to what she had to say. The genuine fascination they held invigorated her to go further. The Doctor wobbled a bit feeling her legs wanting to give and pushed herself to remain standing.
"Now, what I have noticed through my study, which will require further corroboration," she froze mid-sentence.
At first, she wasn't aware of why she stopped, before her, she realized that pain was exploding in her arm and worming its way to her chest. Her heart beat harder and harder, filling her hearing with its drumming. Slowly, she winced, and felt her legs giving way just as her grip on the table loosened. There was a rush of shocked gasps and when her body impacted the ground it let out a loud thud.
"Someone call 9-1-1," she could make out the faculty member yelling, "I think she's having a heart attack."
The pain continued and slowly drew her away from the light, deeper and deeper until nothing remained.
After blacking out she later found herself in that quiet room in what appeared to be a hospital. The steady beeping of a heart monitor met her wakening senses as she tried to move and found herself completely drained of energy. Did they say a heart attack? But I couldn't have one that easily, right? Questions invaded her sluggish brain and Sinéad closed her eyes. Neither her arms nor her legs wanted to move, and her chest felt like someone had driven a spike into her ribs.
From her prone position, she shifted her head painfully slow to take in the room. A window glaring with the nightlight of the city was the first thing she saw. Second, she noted the bedside light near her bed and finally at the doorway to the bathroom. Her hospital bed was comfy, not as nice as her bed at home, but it kept the pain at bay. Sinéad licked her lips nervously while trying to make heads or tails of the idling worry returning to her senses. Ever since stepping foot in Seattle, everything felt wrong. Even the day of her presentation had felt off, and the runes were just adding to the fire of confusion. One attempt at sitting up only rendered more pain so before she even began she gave up. A soft thump against the pillow was all she heard as she closed her eyes.
At least she was alone.
Running through the events of the day Sinéad tried to figure what could have happened to cause her to almost die. As a mutant, her health was quite good, and she hadn't even stressed herself out remotely that much with her studies. She ate well, and was fairly young for an exemplar, and should have a long life ahead of her. Other than a few of Fianna's arch-enemies there was no one actively wanting her dead. Song Spirit was the face of the Fianna, but she wasn't one of the biggest targets. No one should even know she was -in- Seattle other than members of her family and her team.
It all left her befuddled as to what happened.
That's when she saw it or finally saw it. In the glare of the window, the smallest movement by the base of her bed. Reacting quickly, she painfully rolled over to spy the mirror facing the edge of the bed and stood still. Her heightened hearing picked up nothing, and nor did she see anyone.
Again she looked at the window, and again movement, the barest of it on the other side shifting of the blankets. Her muscles protested her reversal in the bed, and as if by magic she found no one on the opposite side as well.
"Tick - Tock," the barest hint of a voice whispered. Sinéad's body tensed, her eyes darted around looking for a source of the sound.
"Tick - feckin' tock, the Rider's run ou' the clock," that stupid voice was feminine, and sounded like a little girl singing under her breath. Whoever, or whatever was speaking showed not a hint of being close enough to her or remotely in the room.
A yelp of frustration emitted from the heroine's mouth as she pounded her fists into the cushion of the bed's mattress. WHO THE FECK IS TEASING ME! WHO ARE YE!
"Just an old friend, come callin'" this time the voice was louder and placed right in front of her. Sinéad's head leaned forward trying to spy someone hiding at the foot of her bed.
"Up here ridden," the words drew her gaze up, and she saw it. The shock of the image hit her harder than a dram of shit whiskey, and it was perhaps the last solid thought she would have.
There in the reflection of the mirror was a girl, well, the body of a girl. A body that vividly lacked a head. It moved directly into view in the glared mirror, and the voice started to hum. Sinéad squinted to make out the body's clothes and realized she was dressed like a young girl from the victorian era. The dress itself was held up by a thick white petticoat and appeared dark-colored. Around the headless neck was a lace collar fitted with a small black ribbon tie. The sleeves went down all the wave over her wrists and were edged in white lace. The only thing she lacked was what made it seem so eerie.
"Dullahan," she whispered. The headless grim-reapers from Irish faerie tales, and there was one right there in her room's reflection.
"Spot on, well done ridden!' the voice chirped and as if to add insult to injury the hands of the body clapped.
"What do you want?" Sinéad croaked, as she began to hear her heartbeat pounding in her ears.
"Just to finish the job, as I said, tick-tock." The Exemplar tried to wrack her brain for why a magical creature would be wanting to kill her, and how a reflection was going to do the job. Just as she inhaled to focus the hand of the Dullahan snaked away from its resting place at the body's side. It's arm extending inhumanly out to plunge fingertip first into her reflection's chest. Just as it did she felt a burst of pain, and blood began to seep up through the paper hospital gown.
"The poison, wasn't working well enough, and your rider kept you alive," the headless being spoke again.
"How - how?" she coughed.
"Hurt the shadow, and the victim bleeds all the same," the little voice said with a chattering laugh.
"Tick - tock, rider, I know you are in there," the hand whatever it was grasped at her heart and squeezed.
In her dying moment's the only thought she had was the epiphany of what the Dullahan meant by rider. Morgan, the force that gave her her powers, and sustained her. But, the force itself was just that, a force, a spirit without any real name other than Morgana or Morgan as Sinéad called it. Could it be something else?
"Tick - tock lass, the banshee's wailing for ye at home," were the last thing she heard as the mirror monster's hand squeezed her heart till it burst.
Another Monday done and gone, and yet I already was not looking forward to the rest of my week.
The weekend went by too far for my tastes and left me wishing for it to come again faster than before. I groaned as I walked off the bus, and as I stepped onto the curb by the old casino the cool afternoon air hit my face. Somehow, for reasons I could not understand, the temperature had dropped a lot in the last two days. Maybe, it was some sort of a cold front or another storm. There had been a thunderstorm on Sunday night, and it'd woken me repeatedly. I was usually a heavy sleeper, but Sunday night just was not my night. I eventually put on my small TV in my room to will away my energy. Somehow I ended up watching an old episode of Battlestar Galactica playing on the SciFi channel.
That damn robotic dog monster would haunt me to the end of days.
My life was almost rinse and repeat - starting from the beginning to the end of the day. I eventually drifted off to sleep again before waking up to the loud screech of my alarm. I slapped it quiet and rolled out of bed. The cold of my painted cement floor instantly woke me up as I squeaked at the chill in my bare feet. A few loud curses later I was upstairs after getting dressed and ate my breakfast, the usual bowl of off-brand Cheerios. Rinse and repeat, and even class had been dreary to the point of blurring together. The end of today, broke the monotony as I was knocked out of my daydreaming in Algebra class by the bell. The cobwebs were knocked from my mind as I hurriedly jotted down the assignment for the night, and rushed to shove everything into my backpack. There was distinct giggling by two of my classmates as they mocked talking audibly about me and my constant daydreaming. Nothing these past few days seemed to stick.
I snapped my thoughts back to the here and now, letting the chill of the sea breeze stabilize my awareness. It all felt wrong, and the walk up to the dock felt longer than usual. Five minutes later the round shape of the ferry came into view. Its two-story-tall form strangely stuck to the open bowl-shaped hull of the car deck. A quick jaunt down the ramp onto the deck and I was in the crew cabin to wait before most of the other kids arrived. Finding a seat right by the table of the cabin I shrank into a corner to catch a small nap before the boat docked on the other side. Rumbling beneath me signaled the ferry's engine roaring to life, and just as my fellow students started their quiet chatter I zoned out for four wonderful minutes.
"Shit, hey Padraig, we gotta go!' one of the kids yelled at me as I rose and shook myself awake. Outside through the windows, I could see one of the deckhands signaling for the last of the cars to begin their exit up the ramp of the dock. Instantly, I was on my feet, and as I dragged myself out of my seat at the table I caught sight of something. Usually, the crew cabin was where the High School students from the Island went to get away from the cramped quarters of the passenger cabin. My place at the table was a prime spot, especially since it had a nice cushion to sit on. The table itself was usually covered in food and reading the material the ferry crew used to pass the time in between their runs.
What I saw was the headline "VISITING PROFESSOR FOUND DEAD!" in large black letters above a picture of a red-haired woman. It was only a short glance, and the kids shouted at me to hurry up. I snagged my backpack with one hand and slung it over my shoulder as was my habit. As I rushed out the door and onto the steel deck I was again hit by the chill sea wind.
I could hear one of the ferry crew ordering me off the boat as the rest of the kids were already halfway up. I hated last minute jogging and instead broke into a laggardly run to catch up.
Mom gave me a ride home that afternoon, which was rare indeed. It was nice to see her in the front seat waiting in the green CRV checking the news on her Gizmatic Smartphone. I walked right up to the car, opened the door after hearing the telltale "thunk" of the car unlocking. My mom was in her forties and usually cut her hair above her shoulders. While reading a pair of glasses were perched on her nose as she sat there wearing an old Seahawks T-shirt and a pair of black leggings.
I told her a bit about the day, and she let me vent about my treatment at school. Mom was best described as particularly defensive of me and my sister. That's what happens when you grow up as a socially defunct child and had a sibling with a genetic disorder. As I thought about it while we drove and I later walked through my home's back door, she had nearly threatened to sue the Elementary school on the Island. The school district's response to my sister’s presumed issues was that she was a diabetic and didn't require that much assistance. For me, this meant I grew up drinking diet rather than sugar soda, and my family was always aware of the need for food.
"Go into the dining room, no TV until your homework is done," mom chided me as I began to unpack my work for the day. The book far heavier than any child should be able to carry made an audible thump as I placed it on the long tan table. An hour later I was on the twentieth problem working through each at a long boring pace. Math wasn't hard for me, I just didn't like it. The way the repetition was drilled into my skull every day in class and the hyperfocus on tests was irritating. I wished they used more real-world problems. Any of the word problems presented were usually so random I think they were written by a chimp with a typewriter. Glumly, I stood up and walked over to get something to drink when the eerie feeling of being watched.
"Help me," came the whisper behind me.
I whipped around and all I could see were the couch and the bay windows of my living room. Shaking my head I opened the fridge to retrieve some milk and decided to just return to work. Dinner would be served soon and I didn't want to have to eat and have homework to do! Another hour passed, and I could hear dad chatting with my sister about her day. Our kitchen was an extension of our massive living room and had a large cook-top built atop an island in the middle of the room. Giving up for the moment on work I joined my father and sibling in what they were talking about.
My dad, Eoin, can be described as the quintessential Irishman. He's got a friendly smile, closed thick curls on his head, and light blue eyes.
"What's for dinner?" I asked lazily, slumping against the dark granite counter.
"Rat on a stick, as always," he smiled. I glanced at my little sister, a dirty blonde girl of twelve, who was busily sketching something.
Let me give a very quick overview of how I appear. I'm about five foot three, and my little sister Sloan is just a head shorter. Her hair looks to be cut in a pixie style, and she was dressed in what can be best described as "hot topic" high fashion. A black t-shirt with "Nirvana" in big white letters and a pair of black pants fringed in red. She's round-faced and appears like my mom, and so she's the one with the brown eyes and pretty face. Me, I have a weak chin, and my nose upturned a little bit.
Most people assume we aren't related, especially with my dark brown hair and green eyes compared to her blonde locks. It made for a lot of awkward conversations when we walked home from the ferry dock.
"Fine, dad whatever," I sighed and returned to work. Just as I turned the corner to the dining room I smiled to see him preparing his famous teriyaki chicken for the day. I was hungry enough to eat half the pan, and just now I could feel that hunger growing. One long moment staring at the problem again, I heard my father announce dinner was ready.
"Dad, can you look at this problem and help me?" I asked as I walked over with the math book in hand.
"Sure, just get your dinner and remember to leave enough rice for your mother," I nodded before I sat down at the counter atop a barstool. Dad looked through the problem and walked me through the section confusing me. One thing I loved about my parents was they wouldn't hold my hand or do my work for me. They would have me do the problem so I would have the actual experience for it. The problem's completion freed me for the evening so I hugged Dad and proceeded to put away my work for the night.
My stomach growled loudly while I did, and my spine was starting to ache. Not my back, but my spine, and for some reason, all the muscles along my upper arm and my calf were hurting. Eating appeared to cause pain to calm for a moment before it flared up once again. I set aside my dish for the night before walking it down the stairs to my basement room. The pain increased with each step, going from my calves down into my ankles and up into my thighs. I whined a little drawing the attention of one of our dogs, a large Newfie mix named Jasmine, who nuzzled my side. My hands flew to her head as I fell to my knees to give her ears a good strong scratch.
I didn't say anything to her, just reveled in how her concern made me feel a bit less focused on the pain. By the time I was ready for the night, I found whatever energy in me completely drained. As I laid back and closed my eyes I winced as pain exploded across my forehead. Heated agony crawled up my arms and bit my shoulders.
My eyes opened, and I felt a cool breeze tickling my body. Instantly I felt an absolute disconnect between my body and my self awareness. I looked down at myself and noticed my form was covered in strange clothing. How would I describe it? My feet were encased in a pair of soft leather boots, I wore a pair of leggings, and a long dark green tunic as a top. Instantly, I was reminded of how I always thought of people in Middle Earth dressing and my tunic came to mind. On the chest was a single black bird, something shaped like a crow. Around my hips was a cinched thick belt.
So I guess I was in some sort of fantasy dream. I mean on the one hand, I was in a very realistic dream, one where I not only felt the chill of the evening breeze, but I could feel the soft wet ground of the moss beneath my boots.
"This isn't you," I heard behind me, and I whipped around to see who spoke to me.
What met my gaze was a woman far taller than I was. She was from my guess at least six foot tall, and towered over me. Her face was heart shaped, and even as I took a step back away from her she grimaced at me. Unlike my tunic the woman was wearing a dress, one the color of soot. It was the sort of dress you'd expect Queen Guinivere to wear in Camelot. The general bodice of the dress fit her chest snugly and was held around her waist by a silver belt. What made me think of King Arthur was the sleeves of the dress, they wound to her wrists and then draped down. I was confused and found myself staring at her chest before she clucked to regain my attention.
"Sa, tis is wha I'm suppose ta work wit?" her accent was Irish, I think, and her voice was melodic to my ears.
"Um...who are you?" I asked and found myself trembling as she leaned back and let out a loud roaring laugh.
"Oh tat's good lass," she spoke and rubbed her nose, "Tats very good!"
"Lass?" I inferred. Was she messing with me? I mean she couldn't possibly know-
"O' carse I do! Yer hallow beats with yer true self lass, and even now yer dreamself changes ta fit it!" Her voice seemed to carry as I looked down at myself and gasped, My hips were wider, and I saw the distinctive bump of breasts beneath my tunic. I gazed up at her and felt a million questions coming to mind.
"I need ye lass, I hate ta say tis, but I had no choice bu' ta enter yer hallow before I could ask," she leaned toward me and caught my chin. It was almost motherly in how she caressed my jaw.
"What's a hallow?" I said as I felt myself in a daze.
"I can't describe it, but do you want ta be a girl? A real girl?" she asked me and I just watched her in awe.
"Um...yeah I meant I feel so wrong that my soul hurts! I wish I had hair like yours, and I was strong as you look," I gushed a little. My voice was a rush of emotion and stuttered as I tried to understand this cruel joke she was playing on me.
"I can make it happen, but I hafta exact a price from ye," she said darkly. Releasing my chin from her grasp she turned and faced away. It was then I saw the dream landscape around us begin to come clearer into focus. All around us was open bogland, or moors, or even winding hills. Whatever it was, it was green, and open to clear blue sky. Before the woman was a single tall grey stone. I stumbled toward it and shuffled past the woman as I found myself rushing over to press my hand to the stone. Taller than me and her, the stone was covered in dark green moss, and was half-sunk into the ground. Three feet from the ground a rivet was cut into it's surface and it steadily spiraled inward.
"The spiral, the eternity, this is where I was honored, a place where no one thinks to walk," she said, and I realized how completely deserted the land around us was.
"Where are we?" I asked.
"Yer dreams lass, but also a place in memory," she padded over and placed her hand in mine.
"After the Great War, I awoke and bonded to a woman named Moira O'Reilly. During the second World War we fought in Europe and she was slain. But before she died, she introduced me to my next Draoi, or Druid, Christine. Each generation, I have found a new host, and we fought any who sought to sow chaos and sorrow in their wake." Her words enchanted me as she spoke. I canted my head to look at her, and I could see how deeply sorrow was etched into her face.
"At first each Druid was slain by happenstance," she stated before gritting her teeth in front of me. "Then recently, an assassin came for Sinéad my beloved. They killed her and I do not know WHY!"
She whipped around to show me something and four women appeared before us. First, was a woman dressed in the fatigues of a British Soldier: a round helmet, khaki green jacket and pants. Her hair was bright red, and a smattering of freckles covered her face. The second woman was a brunette with bright green eyes, and she was wearing the clothes of a nurse from the nineteen forties. A third sat there looking me over while crossing her arms. Unlike the other two she was grim and wore dated nineteen seventies fatigues with combat boots, and a black bomber jacket.
"Moira, Christine, Jenny now...now I've lost Sinéad," her voice cracked and I could only reach up to place my hand on her shoulder in comfort.
"I don't know what I've done, all I did was rest, and lend them my voice, and my strength," she stopped before she used a sharp dismissive gesture to make the images of the women disappear.
"I've been bullied all my life, and I'm terrified of what could happen if I actually out myself," I squeaked by the spirit woman's side. Her hand snaked along mine and I looked up at her."I offer again lass, I can make you a real girl, I can make you stronger and give you the power to fight back," she said I could hear there was a "but" in there somewhere.
"But, you need me, just like them, you need me as your host, right?" I asked, "You have to possess me."
"It's nothin' like tat girl, but it would mean ye would be hunted like the others," she said and slowly knelt in front of me.
"I mean...there are heros out there, and villains like Reaper...and Miss Astarte." I remembered watching a video once as a child, and seeing the power of the heroine as she utterly smashed a villain trying to use a bus of children as a sacrifice. The woman's hands rested on my shoulders, and I felt her hands knot fists in my tunic.
"I no longer wish to rest, and hide. I want to make them pay for killing my daughters, and for hunting me," her voice was a whisper to my ear.
"I'm Irish and Swedish, my mom always talks about the rage of her family. And I swear my dad is a leprechaun. I don't mind being in danger, if it means I can finally take hold of my destiny in my own hands." My little speech was one I had thought about at length, and one I had harbored longer than the words came to mind. Growing up I saw myself not as the knight in shining armor, but the defiant princess who led her people to victory. Of the daughter who made her parents proud, and who spoke up for the wrongness of the world. That's when I felt it, a bone deep anger I had ignored for so long.
The woman's eyes widened, and I shook a little as I grit my teeth to control it. My rage wasn't for just bullying, but was for the way people had treated me at the notion of being "gay". Of trying to tell me that being queer was not just bad, but was a sin. Never in my life had I done a thing to these people, and yet I knew they would hurt me if I hinted at being a trans girl.
"That's what drew me to ye, yer anger lass," she said, "And I agree. There are ta many tings rotting around ye."
I nodded in agreement.
"Sa what do ye say daughter of Eoin, do ye accept me offer?" she asked and offer me her hand.
"Aye, I do," I responded and I gripped her hand in my own. Suddenly, a burst of fiery emotion swept over me and the vision around me turned to black.
"Oh my god, it's like ice picks to the soul!" Mister Olmstadt exclaimed from his place before the Orchestra. His hands were pressed against his temples, and all of us were laughing. My seat was a little hard for my back, and as I tried not to squirm in front of him I laughed along with the rest. The problem lay in one section of our merry lot somehow not getting the idea of an E-flat. Even as we began again my hands deftly moved along, and my hearing allowed me to track the pace with increased precision. Three days after my dream of making a deal with a woman claiming to be an Irish Goddess, and I felt confused.
I mean, no one was going to just make me a girl right? Sure, I'd noticed a slight loss of weight recently, and my fingers were a lot more fine-boned than before. Each time I ran my left hand along the neck of my violin I felt the strings hum along with the stroke of my bow. It was fantastic! I was decent at the violin, but my senses all felt a lot more alive than usual. Maybe a radioactive spider bit me! Or maybe the dream -was- real. Still, that sort of thing wasn't going to just happen in the middle of nowhere, right?
Class ended without any fuss as our Teacher and grump of a Conductor were grabbing the music for his next class. I gathered up my things and pulled on my jacket.
"Padraig," he said and waved me over, I came to stand in front of the conductor's stand and rolled on my feet.
"I noticed your intonation has increased pretty well recently, I just want you to consider moving into the first violin section," he said to me and gave his compliment offhand.
"Thanks, Mister Olmstadt!" I chirped and as I spoke my voice broke. This wasn't the first time I had gone through puberty joke of voice shifting, but this time it shot an octave higher.
"Okay there squeaker, just have a good day," he said and offered me a shake of his hand before shooing me out of the classroom.
A few more periods later, it was time for lunch, and I could feel my positive energy deflate. My old friend pessimism reared its ugly head again as I soon found myself shoved aside as one of the Senior's pushed his way out of the bathroom.
"Yeah, Diabolik's kids have sighted in New York apparently," I heard a girl chatting to a friend as I meandered back into the boy's room.
"Hey freak, move faster already," I heard a yell from behind and caught sight of Sophia Jameson jumping out of the way of a known Cheerleader.
Sophia was a member of the location's first name, the Lummi, who lived on a reservation across from my home island. Every day she rode on the bus behind my seat, and every day I paid her little heed. Her name and who she was only came to mind for an incident that occurred freshman year. Like most members of the tribe, Sophia usually stuck with the other native American students when at lunch. That all changed however when she had manifested as a mutant over the summer. Most of the rumors said she was some sort of thunder or lightning energizer. The truth was I didn't know anything at all about her. Mutants did exist here in Whatcom County, but generally, they stayed quiet in small cities like Ferndale.
Ferndale was a stronghold of the conservative power base and a healthy Humanity First presence. Most of the kids at school were obvious baseline purists, and any child remotely showing a sign of an eye change was usually targeted thereafter.
"Yeah, whatever," was all I heard Sophia say as she turned from the hallway and glared at me through the boy's room door. I flinched and ducked into a stall to avoid her. Once I entered, I suddenly felt sick to my stomach and fell to my knees as the pain from two days ago returned. Feeling the immediate urge to vomit I shoved my face into the bowl of the toilet and wretched for the next two minutes. Once I wiped my face clean with a bit of toilet paper I rose unevenly to my feet before stumbling out of the stall. My eyes were blurry as I caught the edge of the sink and steadied myself. After splashing some cold water on my face I caught sight of a long-haired figure behind me wearing a black hoodie in the mirror. I spun around to look for another would-be bully and found nothing instead.
"Creepy," I said as I slowly shuffled out the door right nearly into Sophia Jameson's body.
"Watch it!' she growled at me, and I murmured an apology before pushing past her and out the door toward the gym.
Sophia was just not in the mood to deal with any more of Brad Finkbonner's clique when the Cheerleader, a tall Hispanic girl, decided to scream freak at her. Sure, she was a mutant, and she held no shame over it! Her mother was an established member of the Whatcom Alliance, a pan-town superhero team based out of Bellingham to the south. Even more so her grandfather was a respected Shaman! No, there was no reason for her to flinch, to shrink away, or give ground to some small-minded baseline. But while her mom, Samantha, was an Energizer, she was a Wizard or more correctly Witch. Even now as she casually loitered by the bathrooms to avoid the usual High School politics she stroked a charmed stone around her neck.
Grandfather had said to keep it on her at all times, and that it would absorb the essence around her. Sophia knew it was a simple piece of rock, but all the same, it held meaning just by being a gift from her grandfather. Her actual powers testing wouldn't happen for another week and only a cursory examination by her grandfather would she know if she truly was a Wizard. Still, there were a few things she 'felt' when she was off the reservation and away from the quiet cedar scented house she called home. Here and there she had "feelings" of things, which she assumed was magic. And just as that weird kid, she thought his name was "Paul" walked passed her she caught sight of something in the mirror just before the boy's room door closed shut.
It was a girl, well what looked like a girl. Just a second to catch the image and already she felt a wave of negativity wash over her. This is bad, very bad, I need to tell Grandpa about this!
Her thoughts raced as she turned around while fingering the stone around her neck. Small comfort for whatever she just saw which sent a chill down her spine.
"Goddess!' I whined as my eyes snapped open to the green light of my alarm clock. The digital glare hurt my eyes and made the migraine warp the lines of the light into a pained haze. Lifting myself up, I sat and stared at the window twenty feet away. A bare memory of my dream left me shrinking away from the dark brown curtain I rarely opened. The damn thing was dark enough to keep my room the nice dimness I preferred.
"What bloody time is it?" I sighed to myself as I turned back to note it was Five AM. Ah yes, ye olde crack of dawn. The early morning was ick to me, and just as I was about to roll over to curl up I realized there was no way I was going back to sleep. Nope, whatever exhaustion in me remained but joined the dull leaden feeling wrapped around my limbs. I imagined a pair of weights shackled to my feet and wrists. Just trying to move resulted in my hands and my head lolling back against the pillow. Screw this, I didn't want to move anyway.
Five minutes later or what I assumed was five minutes I was splayed out over the bed atop my blankets. My back arched, as I dug my fingers into the throw blanket balled up by my head.
"It was just a dream, just a damn dream," I muttered. Alternating between staring at the ceiling tiles and my alarm clock did nothing for me. Perhaps another half hour later I summoned the strength to lift myself up a second time. The result was a creaking in my body as my right hand shot out to steady myself.
"I need a shower," I croaked.
Another agonizing three minutes later I was making my way into the downstairs bathroom. Dressed only in my boxers and a t-shirt I shivered at the chill of an early fall morning. The cement floor did nothing to help and only numbed my feet with every step. I locked the door and turned on the water. First the cold shock and a small squeak from myself, and finally the hot cleansing I needed to purge my skin of the filth from the night before.
I used a brush to scrub my skin raw, and I'd never realized how sensitive my body was. The burning I left across my own flesh was somehow a release from the aches of my bones the night before. As I hung my head and pressed it up against the blurred glass of the shower stall I felt an eerie presence once more. For a second I swore I saw the rough black shape of someone just outside but was completely impossible.
Fear gripped me and tugged at my heart. I shut off the water and listened for whoever could be just outside.
Finally, after a moment of waiting, I nudged the shower door open.
There was nothing there, and I giggled at how silly I was being. Just like the dream with the Goddess, there wasn't some scary monster woman chasing me. Nah, that was just another nightmare of a hormonal teenager.
The time to dry off took longer than usual and I growled in frustration at how thick my hair was getting. Weird, I should have a little bit to shave off my face this morning, and yet my face was totally smooth. It felt so nice, and for a fleeting moment, that sense of a burden lifted returned to me.
Still aching and strangely calm I used my towel to wipe the fog clear of the bathroom mirror. As I leaned in to look and reach for my toothbrush I noticed my eyes. They were green as usual, the green of forest moss, but there was something off about them. A ring of bronze now lightly throbbed in the center of my pupil. I gasped, as I suddenly realized that my eye color had become far more intense than before.
Oh by the Gods, it dawned on me, I'd manifested - I was a mutant.
My boots crunched on the frosted grass and moss of the bogland. Out here where the fairy mounds rose out of the mists of morning fog like a mountain peak seen from the heavens. I pulled the trews higher up and readjusted my belt so the trousers weren't uncomfortable. Over my shoulder was pinned the cloak every noble wore, and around my neck was a silver torc. This was my dream, and I was sure I was lost in a fantasy straight out of Rob Roy. And I just trudged further until I came to stand by the old broken faerie ring.
Only one stone remained where once a hundred stood. The spiral cut into the stone ebbed with energy from the leyline beneath it, and I could feel the essence pulsating underneath my feet.
"This is where it all started," she said beside me. I turned to gaze at the red-headed woman from nights ago.
"So....what's happening to me?" I asked, my voice was clearly more feminine than it once was.
"What I promised to ye," she said while caressing the spiral, "I'm making you the woman you are meant to be."
"How is this possible?" I murmured.
"You're a Draoi, just like my last host, a Druid," she gave me a half-mirk with those blood-red lips.
"Okay, you are just tossing obscure terms at me now," I groaned.
"It means," she leaned forward and reminded me how tall she was, "you have the ability to host spirits like me."
"And you are making me a girl?" I proffered to her.
"That was the deal lass, an' in return ye keep me essence alive," she murmured. I watched her and stepped away from the stone.
I watched her and brushed a bit of dew off the cloak clipped to my shoulder by a raven shaped broach. I did notice that my dream self was far more girly compared to only a few days ago. Both hands ran down my torso and I felt a small satisfaction in the breasts I found upon my chest. Feeling the slight swell of my hips, this was who I was meant to be. I turned my eyes to the woman who was now kneeling by the stone.
"Who are you?" I asked.
"A shadow of who I once was," she smirked in return.
"That's a bit deflective," I sighed.
"I was not named 'The Morrigan', but it is the one I use," she said to me quietly, "But it is who I became."
The woman's features appeared uncomfortable with the question, so I wondered if I should even keep pushing. But, deep down inside I felt the need to know more about this spirit who was changing my life so suddenly.
"Can you tell me when your ready?" I asked gently and I added, "I'm sorry I'm just very curious."
"I can understand, lass, Sinéad's loss just hurts so much," she brushed a stray lock of hair from her face, "And changing you is taking nearly all my strength."
The next half-hour or so I just spoke with her and at one time we started to sing. I'm not sure how to describe it, but through the song, we started to feel a sense of closure. One part of our lives was over, and another was just beginning. Finally, as I could feel myself waking I just said, "Thank you."
Her features broke for a second time showing genuine care she had for me. I dare say I could read her expression as love! I stepped closer to her and embraced her midsection as she placed her hands upon my back.
"No thank you little one, you have saved me, and will give me this one last chance," she whispered.
The day before my birthday I hid in my room and informed my mom I was sick. She saw how thin I was and muttered about taking me to the hospital only for me to beg her to just let me rest. My dinner, of course, consisted of microwaved Chicken Noodle Soup and several glasses of water. I also asked for some high protein foods and she let me eat a few cans of beans. I say a few because I'm pretty sure I ate at least three after the soup for lunch. The next day I awoke even hungrier as I tried to remain cognizant and lucid.
Opening my eyes that morning I was curious to hear how quiet it was outside. Usually, on my birthday mornings, my family would be upstairs cooking breakfast and waiting for me to wake up. If my birthday was on a Sunday we would attend church in town and eat out afterward. But from what I could tell as I sat up, none of the above was happening. I ran through my memory to figure out what was going on. There was no way in hell my parents forgot my birthday. Likely they were all sleeping in on account of me claiming to be "sick" yesterday. I mean I had pulled the hood on my favorite sweatshirt to hide from mom last night so maybe they were giving me some air.
I glared at the cement floor of my room and decided to bite the bullet and placed a foot down on it. DAMMIT, THAT'S COLD! My lips pulled in a tight line and I just stepped down. Screw this! It was my birthday and one cold floor wasn't going to hold me back. Each step was a tiny icy dagger to the soles of my feet, but I was determined to get dressed for my birthday. Originally, I'd planned to wear my usual band t-shirt black pants combo. I know it wasn't really inventive when it came to fashion. All of my feminized feelings were suppressed for years!
Deep in my pants drawer, I found a pair of cargo shorts. Just holding them up really emphasized the changes which had overtaken me. From what I could tell, my hips had visibly widened enough that pulling on the shorts could be problematic. I fished out a snarky t-shirt with the words "Heavily medicated for your safety" and pulled it over my head. At least my boxers were still pretty comfortable and the shorts were fine after I pulled my belt to its tightest. The shirt proved an issue and as I sat there staring down at my chest I took stock in what was happening.
My hands were slimmer, and so were my legs. Well, my thighs still had a good amount of curve to them and seemed to just make my hips more obvious. A quick glance at my chest told me that my flabby chest was definitely more defined, and yup, I had a small budding pair of breasts. After a few minutes, I resolved to tighten the loose shorts at my navel before running a brush through my long hair. At least that wasn't a big change, I'd had long hair since middle school and honestly, I was proud of my curly locks. All that remained was pulling on a pair of socks to avoid that damn cold floor.
As I padded to the stairs leading up to the kitchen I gulped. This was the day I revealed to my parents I was a mutant, and I wasn't sure how they would react. My mom was a vocal liberal and so she often screamed at the TV whenever Humanity First joined the talking heads. Dad, however, was a bit more laid back and seeing his jovial face in disgust at his newfound daughter was not something I wanted to see.
The hell with it!
I exhaled sharply pressing all the anxiety out and told my worries to feck off! This was -my- bloody day! I stomped up the steps to make it clear I was awake and peeked around the corner into our kitchen. Just like the night before my dad was working at the cooktop frying a bunch of corn beef hash in a pan. He didn't bat an eye and just said, "Hey boss, happy birthday."
Then he looked at me and his eyes widened. I gave a small uneasy laugh as I walked over toward the couch with its back to the bay window. All I could do was flop down and wave at him a little as he turned off the stove and came to sit down by me.
"Is there something you want to tell me?" he asked gently.
Let me say something about my parents. They were hard on me when it came to grades, and if I did something stupid they let me know it! I was fully aware every year of the amount of work they did to keep a roof over our heads and for lack of a better word it did bother me at times. They weren't perfect. My mom often judged my dad after family events down in Seattle, and he was quick to anger as she pressed his buttons.
But nowhere in his eyes did I see hate or a remote bit of disgust. This was the father who'd changed jobs and worked from home so mom could pursue a career as a college professor.
"Um...I think I experienced some changes Friday night, and I awoke to my eyes changed, I guess I'm a mutant," I winced.
"Is there something else?" he asked and placed an arm around my shoulder. Instantly, I leaned in and moved closer his fatherly embrace was safe to me.
Oh, goddess where was mom?
"What honey?" my mom said as she stepped out from the staircase leading to the upstairs. I could tell she'd had a long night likely fighting a migraine, her eyes were a little glazed likely from just waking up.
"Hey mom," I said reenacting my earlier re-introduction to dad.
"Oh baby," she said and I soon found myself hugged from the other side.
"Mom I-" my voice broke and this time I could make out the higher octave.
"Okay why is everyone," I heard my little sister say as she strolled downstairs directly into the kitchen. Her brown eyes opened in shock as I redid the wave to her as well. Unlike my parents, my little sister's reaction was to walk over, get a mug of coffee and add some milk before saying a thing.
Seriously, she did this every day and had been drinking the stuff since she was five.
"Too early, need coffee," I could make out from the kitchen.
"Is this why you were hiding last night?" mom asked.
"Yeah um...I woke up and noticed how different I looked after a shower yesterday morning," I mumbled, anxiety spiked in my chest, "And I wasn't sure how to tell you."
"Tell us what honey? That our son needs us and was scared that we wouldn't accept them?" my dad the ever perceptive counselor finished what I was trying to say.
It was then that I gently broke away from the parental hug and stood up for a moment. Dad gestured for me to take a deep breath as I felt tears filling my eyes. Ever since I was a kid I'd had issues with anxiety and how hard my emotions struck me. This time the waterworks broke and I started to cry as years of repressed feelings washed out.
"Mom...dad...I've always wanted to be a girl but I - I - I" I stuttered as I covered my mouth in shame at what I just said.
"Oh this makes sense," my mom said, "I always did find your excuses for reading those stories a little weak."
Mom's response caught me off guard, yet I had been fascinated with transgender women since I was ten. A random hour-long documentary had drawn my attention and mom can, I guess, read between the lines.
"Padraig, whoever you want to be doesn't matter to me as long as you're happy," dad said and kissed my forehead.
I was crying at this point and even mom was misty-eyed. Throwing caution to the wind, I sat back down and hugged mom so hard and even she said: "Whoa honey you're a bit too strong!"
"Alright," my sister said as she walked from the kitchen, "If you're my big sister now, that means one thing."
"I'm your big barbie doll now?" I replied from my seat on the couch.
"Of course, who else is going to teach you how to dress, do your make up." She even did a small motion with her hand counting off all I would need to learn.
"Sounds about right," I remarked before my dad rose and returned to working on breakfast.
"You'll need to get your powers tested soon baby," mom said and I flinched a little bit.
"Do we have to go to the MCO location in Ferndale," I asked with a small whine attached.
"Yes, unfortunately, that's where they put their offices," she replied, before adding, "your father does know someone in Alliance who could probably do a basic test for you."
Wait, dad worked with the Whatcom Alliance? I thought all he did was work vocational rehab stuff for the state and the American Legion on the reservation.
"Maybe, I'd have to ask if they'd mind it first, but it's an option," dad replied from the cooktop. Meanwhile, my mouth started to water from the sweet smell of cooked potatoes!
"Can I eat breakfast first?" I whined this time louder than before.
"Of course, then we will do your birthday presents since you didn't want a party this year." I nodded slowly and mom said, "But in the light of recent news. I think we will have to make a change of plans."
I frowned, what did she mean by that? Wait, did that mean?
"Ooo we need to go shopping!" my sister cheered as I stared at my mom. Shopping, now, on my birthday? The idea of being dragged out to try on clothes or find things didn't seem fun to me.
"Honey, can you meet us at the restaurant later tonight and I'll go get our oldest something more fitting to wear?" I was surprised to hear her willing to do something so out of the blue. My parents were supportive, but I didn't expect to suddenly go clothes shopping on a Sunday afternoon.
"Mom," I said trying to dissuade her. My current look was fine, I just wanted to get through the day and relax, not get dragged into town to play dress up.
"Too late big sis, we're doing this now," my sister said and pumped a fist into the air.
This day was getting weirder, and weirder.
Life was playing a joke on me lately, and I was certain the delusion I was having was going to come crashing down. Even as I opened the door of my mom's Honda CRV I found myself in a daze. After nearly an hour in the car and clamming up to work through my own thoughts I was still surprised. My parents weren't terrible and I hadn't thought they'd disown me like some of the mutant kids I've read about, but I never expected my mom would decide an impromptu girl's day out on the spot. Still dressed in my Hot Topic t-shirt I was busily trying to maintain my composure as my mom picked through her purse for her phone.
"Why did you buy the Gizmatic mom?" sis asked as she was busily texting on her phone to one of her friends from middle school. I had a simple folding phone on me, and yet the more I watched my sister mindlessly staring at the screen the more I was unsure what to do.
"It's a good solid piece of technology," mom replied.
"Sounds good to me," I added as we passed through the automatic doors of Target. I did my best to stay close to mom while we made our way to the women's clothing department. I was surprised that so far we haven't received any of the odd looks I feared. Mom and Sloan disappeared behind a series of racks bursting with clothes. Taking a deep breath, I ran a hand across one of the tops and as I did, I began to feel a strange unnerving itch along my skin.
The itching continued even as I drew my hand back, and it continued with my current top. I ignored it and decided to just watch the cis-girls around me. Sloan was busily moving through a rack and her hands moving each piece of clothing until she found one she liked. She picked each preferred article and held them in her opposite hand. I tried my best to copy the movement, and after a while I got a feeling of what kind of tops I wanted. Honestly, it was hard to put together a new look when I had only fantasy to drive the equation.
I had a few different items in hand and I realized I had no idea what my sizes were now. In one hand I held two tank tops each plain and were listed as mediums. One, a white one, made my hand itch just by holding it and the longer I did the more uncomfortable it became. I put the tank back on a rack as fast as I could and hissed as I noted how red my skin was getting,
"Honey, are you okay?" Mom asked me. I gave a slow shake of my head and showed her the rash. Looking it over she gave a small gasp as the rash receded within a few minutes.
"It was some of the clothes I touched, and my T-shirt I'm wearing. They itch, but the more of it I had to touch me the more it started to hurt," I said.
"That's weird," Sloan remarked as she came to stand beside me.
Mom picked up the tank from me and glanced at it. She seemed intent on reading the tag and finally reached out to pick up another top nearby. Again, as soon as I touched it my hand began to itch. It felt like a swarm of insects crawling over my skin and I withdrew my hand with a hiss.
"Try this one," mom handed me yet another top, this time a baggy sweater. Nothing happened, as soon as I touched it my skin felt fine. I huffed a bit in confusion as mom tapped the side of her jaw.
"We need to do some research, that sweater is hundred percent cotton," mom told me. I sighed as it dawned on me that today was going to be a long - long day.
An hour later, through empirical testing, we figured out I was allergic to synthetic fibers. Sloan commented on how weird it was I wouldn't be able to wear most of the cheaper clothes I liked. Mom, on the other hand, took it in stride and we went through each and every article of clothing I thought about wearing. After a while, we accrued a sizable pile of potential tops, bottoms, and even underwear to try on.
I was standing next to her while mom was perusing a few skirts for me to wear. She settled on a simple a-line and turned to face me. I noticed that she had her phone in her hand and was reading a text. Not wanting to get admonished for reading the screen I backed up and promptly pressed myself into a cluster of synthetic cloth. My skin exploded in a rash of itching as I yelped at the sudden assault.
"Dear God," mom winced as I back away from the rack and hugged myself. My shirt still itched, but it only got worse the more I touched anything that wasn't naturally sourced.
"Mom, should I start trying on some clothes?" I asked her, and she gave a curt nod. On our way to the changing room, my mom stopped me at the desk and asked the associate for a tape measure. What was she doing? I stood upon the tips of my toes to get better and I heard ,"My daughter is a late bloomer and needs to be measured for her bra size."
A bra? I blinked, of course, I would need one especially with the small, but obviously growing bust I sported. Still, it was an alien idea to me. For years I wanted to buy a bra and feel like the girl I was. The fact it was happening right now in front of me was just surreal. Moments later I was holding my hands above my head as the girl measured straight across my breasts and around to my back. After some chatter, she informed me I was an a-cup, and directed me at a few options hanging along a wall a few feet away.
"How many bras do I need?" I asked curiously.
"Maybe one or two," Sloan answered as she walked over and started thumbing through a few selections.
"Shouldn't I have one for each day?" I inquired.
"No, bras are like pants, you wear them for a few days at a time and then wash them when you need," Sloan shrugged.
It made sense, rarely did I see girls on T.V. wearing matching bra and panty sets. Well, in porn or dramas about the rich did show matching sets. Still the simple fact that I didn't need more than two bras was kind of uplifting. My mom began to teach me a few things and just as she continued Sloan handed me three separate bralettes. I quirked an eyebrow at them and she said something about "just pull them on" and so I just nodded to show my understanding.
Finally, the time came for me to venture forth into the changing room and see if anything actually fit. It was a daunting task, and while I didn't really like trying on clothes I found myself at a crossroads. My anxiety increased with every step rising to the point of all other sounds being drowned out by my solemn movements. The door to the room creaked loudly as I pulled it open and closed it behind me.
A mirror was set into the wall to my right, and three sets of wall-mounts attached to the three walls facing the door five feet from the ground. I began to hang up the various clothes I wanted to try-on sorting by placing them all on the right wall mount.
"You are so slow, GOD!" I heard a groan from Sloan
"Take all your time babes," my mom chortled from the waiting room.
I sifted through the clothing and was able to figure out a collection that didn't elicit the itch. A pair of skinny jeans were the first and I undressed. This is where I met a quandary and I stared at my nude genitals. Yup, things had shrunk and after a painfully dragged out minute, I tucked myself into a pair of boyshorts my mom had found for me. Next came the jeans which were snug against my hips and pulled up. Neither itched my skin and that tightness felt right. For the first time in my life, tight clothes didn't make me squirm about my weight or worry about how I looked.
Anxious to move forward I squirmed into the bralette and adjusted the best I could, thankful that my stomach had shrunk down likely thanks to my growing curves. The last piece was a simple black cotton tank top Sloan found for me. Again, I had to struggle a little bit pulling it over my shoulders and tugged the material down to cover my navel. After brushing back my hair I closed my eyes and turned to face the mirror.
One, two, three, and I snapped open my eyes. Where do I begin? How do I even fathom the vision before me or the fact that it...was me? Green eyes, my normal eye color, which glittered like emeralds. A pair of scarlet lips that would easily reveal a smile to brighten anyone's day. I still had my pixie nose, but a lot more had changed. My eyes were much larger, and I now sported much more pronounced eyelashes. Even my eyebrows seemed beautiful in their gentle arches upon each brow. I studied my chest again in the clothes and slowly reached out to really admire my hair.
You see my hair has always been this long tangle of curls that gains volume in hot air. The curls were much thicker and more vibrant and even as I watched I felt a line of pain jolt up my spine and into the base of my neck. It felt like something was slicing a knife right up my back and I yelped.
"Honey," I heard my mom walked towards the changing room door, "Are you okay."
Slowly, I opened the door and cringed at its creak. Stepping out, I did a small twirl around for her to see the outfit and she pressed her hand to her mouth and gasped.
"How um - do I look?" I asked her. Hopefully, she wouldn't ask about my changes or the amount of pain they were causing.
"Hey, Sloan come tell your sister how she looks," mom called and on cue, my sister drifted into sight. A pair of jeans, black boots, and her black jacket pulled over as she texted away on her phone. I waved my hand at her to try to get her attention and she immediately flipped me the bird. A shy smirk came as a response from me in response.
"You don't look like a Padraig anymore," she replied and pocketed her phone before crossing her arms over her chest.
"Actually," I started as I turned to face mom.
"And did you look like a Sloan, no, but your dad liked the idea of naming you a little raider," mom said to my sibling before giving me her attention.
"I...hate my name," I admitted, "I would prefer to be called Gráinne."
"Gráinne? Really?" Sloan asked curiously before I blushed at her.
"It can mean corn or wheat," I started.
"Are you sure you want it as a name," mom inquired giving me a raised eyebrow.
"But...and I looked this up - it also likely means the Sun." I countered to them both as I put both hands on my hips and smiled proudly.
"You know with the way her hair is eerily lighting up that isn't off and," Sloan giggled, "it would fit her need to be the center of attention."
"HEY!" I squawked at her.
"You two, be good, or we'll go straight home," mom stated firmly.
"Yes, mom!" We both said before uttering a rough "I'm sorry"to each other.
Immediately, I darted back into the changing room and closed the door. In a rush, I tried on a few more sets of clothes and was able to affirm that I was able to wear a particular brand of underwear as well as four shirts and another pair of pants. The one skirt my sister had grabbed for me was a classic black mini that fell just above my knee and I took devil delight in wearing it. Once I was done, I knew then and there, this was the end of any notion that I was a boy. I was a girl, it didn't matter if my dick was still there, I was a girl. There was no -arguing- with that damn fact!
Mom paid for all the clothes as I fidgeted by her at the checkout line. The teen working the register eyed me a bit to the point of ogling me. When I realized his intense gaze I stepped behind my mom as my sister looked at me a bit perplexed. After leaving the front I headed to the women's room to change. Walking through that door required a lot of courage and again I found myself needing a slow deep breath. My anxiety was on edge these days, and it was razor-thin. It squiggled under my skin and made me want to just jump into a run.
I scooted past the mirrors and sinks straight into a handicap stall and proceeded to change. I made sure to put on the receipt on top of the toilet where I couldn't lose it. There was no way in hell I was going to be that "shoplifting mutie girl". Growling a little at the very idea of it I shimmied into my new clothes with a near reckless abandon. Having them on them unleashed a level of stress I didn't know I was holding in my heart.
Skipping out in my steel-toed boots I giggled at the loud clomping they made as I came to stop. I looked silly, but the still defiant teenybopper. Just turned fifteen and I was ready to burn the whole world down! Now I just had to get through dinner with my parents. The thought of it brought an eager desire to show dad the new me and to be in public. If that one boy was confused about who I was, maybe I was more than able to pass!
“You are a beautiful soul.” I swore I heard as a whisper in my ear as I turned to leave.
"Here in KSM, it's love from the nineties," the radio blared as mom pulled out of Target. I sat in the front seat slowly watching the mall pull away from us. The clothes on my body didn't cause nary an itch, and as I heard the opening chords to the song starting on the radio I began to hum along. My hand absentmindedly tapped along.
"Another head hangs lowly,
A Child is slowly taken."
As we reached the chorus I was blaring it out to the point that my mom rolled down the window. I wouldn't notice it, but I was crying. An overwhelming sense of sorrow overcame me as I brushed my nose. Rubbing my eyes I stopped as singing the last line hung in the air as I just couldn't stop sobbing. Flashes of feeling jolted through me as the words from the song and as I turned to look at my mom I saw how she was giving me quick sideways glances. I huffed loudly as the pain building in my chest finally gave and I sighed demonstratively.
"Honey are you okay?" my mom asked worriedly. Brushing away as many of the tears I could I sniffed.
"Mom...all I can say is I know what the song's about," I said to her.
"Sis are you okay," I heard Sloan and turned around in my seat to smile at her.
"Yeah, just, all these changes are giving me mood swings," it was the best excuse I could think of for them and myself.
It was my birthday I was not going to get caught up in why my emotions were all over the place. After just a few moments of quiet we pulled into the parking lot to the restaurant where'd I'd be having dinner. Already, I could see my bud John waiting outside. Oh, gods that was going to be a complicated explanation. The other member of my gang of friends. Sloan got out before us and skipped over to John and gave him a hug. As I drew near I could see his eyes bug out of his head as I reached up behind my head and rubbed my back.
"Padraig?" he gasped.
"Yeah...so I'm a mutant," I said casually and just loud enough.
"Whoa man," he gave a slow nod, the ring on his lower lip spun nervously.
"Is that a problem?" Sloan asked pointedly.
"No - NO!" he laughed, "You're you still, right?"
"Yeah, I'm not some alien replacement," I joked.
"Dude, really Pod People? That's a bit dated," he laughed along.
I opened the door to the restaurant, a place a lot like Red Robin, but a local form known as Billy McKales. There was even a silly little train that ran along the top of the wall. It was one of my favorite places to dine at and for reasons I think are quite understandable I was so damn hungry! John had been dropped by his dad and my parents instantly agreed to give him a ride home. My dad was waiting, reading a copy of the Foundation novels.
"Hey boss lady," my dad quipped at me and rising to give me a long hug.
"Thanks, Dad," I smiled before the hostess came and led the way toward our table. We lucked out with a booth and so this time I wouldn't need much work to hide my new status as a mutant. Honestly, it was my birthday and since my parents accepted me with open arms I didn't give a fuck on what others thought. This state of bliss wouldn't last that long, but I embraced it head-on.
A server passed out our menus and immediately I inhaled as I realized how hungry I was getting. Tapping my fingernails against the tabletop to the point where my mom decided to just ask.
"Gráinne," I perked up at her use of my preferred name.
"Yeah?" I replied slowly.
"We've scheduled powers testing in Ferndale on Friday." my father told me.
"Okay," I said biting my lip, "Mom...I think I'm going to need to eat a lot tonight."
Dad's reaction was to look a little surprised and I could already see his mind working away at the realization of feeding a transforming mutant daughter.
"Okay honey, I think we should contact the doctor to also see you," she started as I scooted over as the server arrived to take our orders. Immediately I ordered two different hamburgers and a basket of fries. My sister went for a sandwich as John ordered a large french dip as did my mom. Dad finished by ordering a reuben. We all ordered our drinks and the woman left, though she did give me a slight frown before leaving. That was weird. Was my new status that obvious. I blushed for a moment as I decided to ask my little sister.
"Hey um is it obvious," I mumbled.
"What?" she said right beside me in confusion.
"Is it obvious that I'm a mutant?" I stated the words carefully so others would not overhear.
Sloan leaned in to inspect my face to the point where she was giving me that squinty eye expression people got when they really wanted to spy something. I gave her a slightly uncomfortable cast across my face before she leaned out of my personal bubble.
"It's your eyes," Sloan shrugged, "Your face otherwise is normal looking if a bit androgynous."
"Dude, she's right," John piped up, "Your eyes are the only thing that could give you away."
"Is something wrong?" I asked plaintively.
"No, babes, the only thing is your eyes are probably the greenest I've ever seen them," my mom said finally putting my worries to bed, for now. I decided to table the conversation for the rest of the evening if I could. Off the top of my head, I was already worried about how my classmates at school would react. One of them had shoved Sophia Jameson nearly into an oncoming car earlier this year. If I was going to be facing the same level of racism, I wanted to be ready.
Food came about twenty minutes later and we had been chatting amongst ourselves. Dad was curious about how I felt about the changes, and I was gushing pretty hard because my body was changing. He even asked why I liked Gráinne, informing him of the long search I'd made. This also eventually led to the many reasons I came to dislike my given name of Padraig. First, my family had originally spelled it out publicly at school as Patrick, my long name usually caused people to laugh at me and mock me in class. He seemed genuinely hurt that people would take it to such a level; I even admitted that part of my self-repression of my transgender nature was part of that simply stupid joke.
There was that, and how people always seem to exaggerate my name to ask if I was Irish. Yes, I'm Bloody Irish, as Irish as Leonardo DiCaprio is -not- in feckin' Gangs of New York. Every time I introduced myself to some adults, I always had to be asked: "Are you Irish". It was grating on my ears, pushing me to want to distance myself as well as possible. I think in many ways it was one of the reasons I was so enamored with my heritage.
"At least you didn't choose a Swedish name," mom smiled.
"Why? I was thinking of changing my second name as well," I replied, a bit confused.
"Oh, which one?" mom asked, "your grandfather Herald told me to avoid Swedish names at all cost."
"I was thinking Hilde, it means battle," I replied.
"Gráinne Hilde," she said the name quietly, "Not bad, we may need to think over it."
I smiled and stretched in my place as the food arrived. As soon as the smell of cooked meat came to my senses I began to feel my mouth water. When the plate was placed on the table in front of me I seized upon it like the starving lass I was. Biting into it I didn't care what got on my face as long as I ate, and as I ravenously finished off the first one drank what water I had. I noticed my dad looking at me as he whistled.
"I know some of my mutant clients have large appetites, but seeing my own daughter go to town on a burger like that makes me proud," he smiled. Friday, the idea of my test standing at the end of the week added a certain daunting conclusion to whatever was going to happen. For a moment I could feel my anxiety rear its ugly head again. I beat it down in the recesses of my mind. There wasn't time for me to be weighed down by the neuroses of my mind.
I hate mental illness.
"What about Róisín?" Sloan suggested out of the blue.
"What?" I asked curiously.
"Well, grandma Evelyn's middle name was Rose, be a nice way to honor her," she said.
I thought about it. Gráinne Róisín O Callaghan, it fit well, but I felt like there was something missing.
"Gráinne Róisín Ní Ceallacháin." I heard it as a whisper, and it sounded like a suggestion from a beloved friend. As I found myself deep in thought I said in my head, "Morgan?"
"Yes, my heart, I am here. Just weak. I can't speak much more, but since your considering a name...I thought I would toss my pence in the ring."
I smiled at her words.
"You like it?" my sister asked.
"Yes, I do! I was just reminded of something a friend told me once when I was researching Gaelic," I said.
"Oh?" my dad perked up. Like myself he had an evident love of his Irishness.
"What about Gráinne Róisín Ní Ceallacháin?" I suggested.
"That's a mouthful, but it sounds pretty," mom said.
"Ní Ceallacháin is the girly form of O'Callaghan in Gaelic," I giggled.
"Maybe stick with O'Callaghan in public, but I like that as a formal thing," dad mused.
"Yeah, I really don't need more fodder for the kids at school," I murmured.
That led to a moment of silence, John was busily tearing into his fries as Sloan was nibbling away at her own order. Honestly, the tension was a tad thick that mom leaned back and I could see the gears working in her head.
"Now that we have a name, and a date for your powers testing," she said. I could sense there was something ominous in there somewhere. "Maybe we should consider homeschooling or private school."
"Private school?" I asked and felt my voice break again as it was definitely rising in octave still.
"Your dad and I will be discussing it after we see the results of your tests," she said. Mom was the one I confided in when it came to how bullying was affecting me. My dad tried his best to suggest how to not let their jabs and insults get to me. Yet, the problem wasn't just words, it was physical. How do I tell my dad that someone punched me in the face for no reason? Or that the principle of the entire school seemed fixated on enforcing hats and hood rules rather than bullying.
"I'm not against the idea," I mumbled and asked selfishly, "Um do I get to see my presents?"
"I did buy you all those new clothes," dad pointed out.
"Yeah," I frowned a little bit, but I smiled bigger, "and thank you so much!"
"We did, however, get you one more present from your sister as well as us," I blinked for a moment.
"And I got you one too!" John said trying to get a word in edgewise.
I hadn't really noticed it, but dad did have a medium paper bag with him when we got here. Now, as I thought of it the bag appeared from underneath the table and he sat it atop a clear point in the middle. From within he pulled out two simple small boxes. One had John's clunky handwriting on it and I picked it up to get a better look. The box itself was rectangular, and likely held a piece of jewelry I only made this assumption because it was not nearly big enough to hold much other than maybe a watch. I read the small message John wrote to me:
We've been friends for the longest time, and I've always got your back.
It's hard to really not be emotional with all the mutant change level hormones filling my veins. Upon reading the small note I turned around and gave him a tearful high five. Sloan hugged me hard as I opened the small box by lifting its lid. Inside was a simple silver ring in the form of a braided Celtic knot. I tilted my head at it and lift it up to get a better look.
"I wasn't sure about your finger size so I tried to get a midline one," he said and shrugged, "I even had to stare at your fingers this last week."
"Oh god is that why you were acting so weird," I laughed at him.
"Yeah," he said sheepishly, "sorry about that."
"No problem, and thank you it's gorgeous," I said as I put it on my left ring finger. It felt right there, and as I flexed my hand to get a feel for the new ring. It was surprisingly non constricting. I was so happy about it I leaned my arm behind Sloan and mouthed "thank you" to John again.
"No problem it's beautiful," I said and giggled.
"Okay, now it's our turn," Sloan remarked as she picked up the larger box and shoved it into my hands. My little sister was a mix between finesse and impatient. Comparably, she was better in social circumstances and adapted easier to new ideas. Me, I fumbled in social interaction and change easily caused my anxiety to ratchet up.
The card sat atop it was black and on the front was a pentagram, as I saw it, I sent a curious glance to my little sister. All I got from her was a simple Cheshire smile and my mom was smirking at me. Dad meanwhile, well he was finishing off his fries.
"Don't look at me, I only helped with picking out part of the present, the rest is your mother and Sloan," he chuckled.
Giving them both an irritated look at neither giving me any idea I opened the card and read it.
Happy Birthday, from one Witch to Another.
I stared at my sister and started to giggle loudly. Instantly, I leaned in and gave her a hug before untying the silver ribbon tied in a bow around the box. Inside I found some black tissue paper inside and rolled my eyes as my sibling's theme continued onward. What I found inside pretty much left me speechless. Pushing my hand into the box I slowly lifted out a large packet wrapped in tissue paper. Once I unwrapped it I found a large AT&T new phone box, my eyes widened in shock. A new phone to replace my old flip?
"We thought that since you are getting older, and we've liked the new Gizmatic mobiles," my dad said, "you deserve one."
I stared at the box and pushed used my right fingernails to pull open the lid. My hands shook as I lifted the lid and reached in to pull out the smartphone and felt it's sleek black surface in my hand. Just as I pulled it free a small loop of black cord fell free and landed with a plunk on the tabletop. What the? Whatever it was it was shiny! Picking it up in my left hand, I let the string fall and watched as a small Celtic pentagram bounced on the end. I gazed intently at it as I noticed how it caught the light.
"So, the Pentagram is an emblem of safety," Sloan told me, and I nodded in agreement. I kind of knew what the little star meant, but I hadn't done as nearly as much research as my little sister. "A phone and a necklace, thank you so much," I gushed.
"We're not done yet," mom chuckled as I noticed movement just out of the periphery of my eye.
"HAPPY - HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" three staff members wandered over all clapping. Everyone broke out laughing as they all clapped along to the three servers. A vivid red blush brushed my cheeks, I stared at the servers as they all sing along rapidly to the music. One was watching me with a weird glint in their eye, when their gaze met mine theirs nearly bulged on the spot and they quieted down as their jaw tightened. Did they figure out I was a mutant? Did my emerald eyes give me away?
"For you, birthday girl!" chimed a fourth server, a woman with long curly black hair as she set down a piece of chocolate cake and ice cream in front of me. Throughout the conversation tonight I had rapidly eaten what food I'd ordered. The ice cream sat beside none of the fries or the two hamburgers I ate. All of it was gone. Now seeing the source of sugar I could hear my stomach gurgle to announce it's still extant hunger. I began to wonder, would I always be this hungry or was I just like this because of my changing body? Everything had repercussions, perhaps this was what I was reaping. But, I couldn't let one little worry affect this entire night. Not now, in front of my family!
I blew out the small sparkling candle on top of the dessert and made my wish.
Monday and Tuesday I was out of school for one reason or another. Sunday ended so perfectly in my mind's eye I was completely unprepared for the agony that met me the next morning. My breaking voice should have been a red flag for the painful burning that would seize my throat for the next two days. Every time I tried to talk the pain would alight in the right and left of just below my tongue. Just as it started it would burst in my ears and cause me to yelp. That was even worse as my throat was so raw even my yelps were painful. I sucked on ice for hours as my mom made cool smoothies to drink. I'm not sure how many novocaine sprays I went through or how many lozenges. Mom was feeding me a mix of medications throughout the experience as well as protein shakes and a variety of substances. At one point she called the doctor's and after what sounded like a loud verbal argument got an answer of what to do. I was put on mostly water and liquid foods for the next two days. Each limb and extremity of my body ached as my muscles seemed to tear themselves apart and heal slowly. I could tell that my rabid hunger from Sunday had instantly been used by my body as my breasts increased a bit more and my areolas became more pronounced. Even my hair was growing rapidly as it was easily past my shoulders by Monday and Tuesday it was at the middle of my back.
Mom did her best to shear the brown portion off leaving the newly grown bright red locks in its place. I swear, I would go to a salon, but I had begged her to cut it off as the length was getting in the way as I tossed and turned in bed. I had to be getting close, and as my body shifted further to whatever Morgan was gifting me I felt a rush of anticipation. Once I was winnowed down to my new self what would the chaff reveal? Tuesday night as I could feel my throat pain lightening I gently tried to make a few sounds. I reached up to my throat and noted how smooth my neck was. I hadn't shaved in nearly a week, and already I could feel how my follicles shifted.
It still hurt to talk or make a sound, but rubbing my throat I distinctly felt a lack of an adam's apple. I smiled, I'd never had a prominent one to begin with, and yet this was a godsend to me. That meant that not only was my voice different, it was permanent. No more squeaks for me while I try to talk!
Tuesday I mostly spent in bed once again wrapped in blankets and a towel. Not to keep me warm, but to absorb the profuse amount of sweating I was doing from all the strain put on my body. Every few hours, I would sit up and wrap myself up and try to get some water. It got to the point where I was so dizzy from the pain I nearly fainted from the movement. It was around early afternoon I found myself slowly walking toward the sink and this time my legs actually gave out. I hid the ground hard and cringed as I spent the next few minutes pulling myself up. Stupid bloody - I was not going to let this own me! Step by step I shoved the cup I was carrying under the faucet and turned on the water.
Later that night as I lay tossing and turning, I had one thought in my mind; I'm so dead at school tomorrow.
Out of the frying pan and right back into the fire was how I felt as I stepped off the bus that week. I had a hoodie pulled over my head to hide my face and I kept my eyes down the entire time. Once I got off though and I was back on school property I was promptly told by the new principle, Miss Fairchild, to pull it off. The hood's removal revealed the long bright red hair falling over my shoulders, and immediately I was stared at by two of the nearest students. Blushing bright red I went over to my locker in the main brick building of the school.
No one seemed to mind me at all as I retrieved my books for the day and worked them into my backpack. The usually heavy pack felt like nothing to me, and as I turned to leave, I felt someone's eyes right on me. Whipping around to look I caught sight of Brad Finkbonner walking away from me. A quick deep breath steadied me as I couldn't fathom what the hell he wanted. I had to get off to math and so I ran as fast as I could. My new body was definitely far more feminine. Just look at myself in the mirror that morning I easily passed for a girl and I could tell that whatever changes I had undergone were slowly coming to an end. Not since the weekend did my hips expand. My hair was still growing, and already mom was planning to have me visit a salon on Saturday.
Math was math as usual.
"Padraig O'Callaghan," I heard my former name and as I raised my hand the teacher marked me as present. I even said "Present" causing two of the kids by me to stare directly at me. One was staring at me in confusion before turning back to focus on their work. Most of the problems weren't too hard that period, and I was even able to finish most of my work for the daily assignment. Weird, I blinked at paper and quickly focused on a few problems to get a quick start on homework. Before I knew it, the bell rang and I was busily gathering my things for last class before lunch.
Lunch today was going to be a protein shake mom had blended for me before school, and a bunch of fruits as well as nuts and meat. Whatever changes I'd undergone mom was worried I was burning through too much of my body mass. I was able to dodge out of the way of a few of the kids as I strolled from the main building out the doors to the cafeteria. Already I was thinking of just finding a place to sit near my next class and eat my lunch. But as I was making my way out I caught a group of kids looking at me - their eyes squinting as they were trying to find something out.
Oh shit, had I been made?
I didn't want to be known as a mutant nor a transgirl that early!
A quick flash of brown hair and a worried face watching me caught my attention. I blinked just in time to see Sophia Jameson watching me before another crowd of teens brushed passed me. Afraid to head to the lunchroom I snuck back in through one of the deserted exists and made a beeline toward the closest boy's bathroom. Upon entering, I turned on the water and splashed a little bit on my face. My chest heaved as my heart started to beat faster and faster.
What the -hell-?!
There was nothing there, no one behind me and no one in any of the stalls. I sighed loudly and brushed my brow before I turned around to leave. Just as my foot set down on the floor, the door opened to reveal Brad Finkbonner. The boy's square jaw fell away as his eyes locked immediately on my chest and shot up to my face. My eyes widened to the size of saucers.
"I saw you raise your hand when they called Starfish's name," he said as his jaw went from hanging open to tightly shut.
"Yeah - um - I am Padraig," I said.
Feck! What was I going to do? I began to look around and as I began looking for a way to get past him my eyes darted around the room. He was standing in the hallway, the only way out, and even if I hid in one of the stalls he could probably kick them in. Thanks shitty school repair! A bang sounded as Brad heaved a loud breath and slammed his fist against the side of the wall.
"Not only were you some stupid fag lard ass, but you're a sissy mutant TOO?" he asked in disbelief.
"Uh - yeah." I said this and shrugged. I wasn't going to play into his hate mongering bullshit. My eyes narrowed as I noted an opening just past him. If I could just get close enough to him I could run past him.
"You going to run freak?" he growled.
"No, I thought we could talk and catch up on old times," I quipped. Bolting toward the door while Brad took another step I felt a punch to my gut as he caught me. Coughing at the punch I fell to my knees as I felt a hand grab my hair and pull it toward his legs.
"Trying to run fag?!" he sneered. I yelped at the pull of my hair and as I recovered I saw a flash of movement in the mirror. What the -hell-? I was brought back to my current predicament as he shoved my face against his crotch. Instantly, I felt my fear being overridden by pure focused rage. HOW DARE HE! Just as he press my face into his crotch I reared back my head and shoved it hard up into his genitals.
"NO ONE TOUCHES ME!" a terrifying loud primal scream erupted from my mouth.
Brad collapsed to the ground as I pushed myself away from him and grabbed my bag. Now as fear returned I kicked the door open causing it to slam against the wall. I heard Brad crying out in pain as well as "FUCKING FREAK! You'll PAY FOR THIS!"
I began to back away from the door as I tried to put as much distance between myself and Finkbonner as much as possible. Whipping around on my heel I nearly collided with a large body behind me.
"Watch it," someone snapped, and I glanced up to see another member of the school's varsity football team. Shit, not another one. I don't remember his name, but he was one of those kids my mom always joke was so huge because of drinking too much milk. His beefy fist slammed into his other open hand as he moved to grab me after hearing Brad's pained cries. I skipped back just out of reach and into the arms of another football player.
"What the fuck did you do to Brad little girl?" I heard above me as a pair of strong arms wrapped around and pulled me against a male body. I could feel his hips against mine and I nearly wretched on the spot. Why did these bastards have to travel in packs.
A minute later as I sat there struggling to break free the giant lumbered into the room and returned with a red faced Finkbonner leaning against him. I had nearly broken free from the one player holding me, and a second jumped in to help. My arms were held back as a sobbing Brad pulled himself together and leveled his gaze at me.
"You'll pay for what you did freak." He said slowly, his voice was surprisingly high and pained (well that part wasn't surprising).
"What do you want to do Brad? Lunch ends soon and the teachers will start patrolling around." I wasn't sure who said it, but I assumed it was the giant, Again, I wasn't paying attention to my captors, just on the notion of escape.
"I'd say we have some fun with the little sissy, but," Brad coughed loudly, "I think we should beat the shit out of him as a reminder. Maybe we can get her expelled too."
That caught my attention. So they weren't going to rape me? Thank the gods, but dammit I grunted as I heard the line about beating me to an inch of my life.
I didn't even get a moment to react as a hard punch connected with my cheekbone. A loud scream and a loud "HELP" came from my mouth. One of bastards holding me down shoved a hand over my mouth to muffle my screams. Two punches to my stomach and a kick to my legs sent me reeling in pain. Fighting hard to get free I was just about to when they shoved me into a wall and two more hits landed on my jaw. I tasted blood, and as I opened my eyes I felt a fist landing into my already tender stomach.
"You're lucky you aren't protected by your kind here freak," I heard Brad say, "Nearly the entire town thinks sins like you should be wiped out of existence."
Closing my eyes I began to slide against the wall as I let out a sob. How was I going to get away?! "Hold on lass, just hold on." Were the last words I heard before I opened my eyes and saw red.
Sophia was already done with the day. If her cousins didn't go to the same damn school she would have begged her parents to send her to a private school. All day in and out the same group of girls slipped snide racist insults at her. Once, she'd been the cream of the crop of Ferndale, and even at the start of the year she was still quite popular. But, once it got out that she was a mutant, any and all social support started to disappear. It all began with something simple, she arrived at Cheer Squad practice one day to be informed by the female coach, Mrs. Randall, that she was being disqualified because of "unfair physical advantages".
Years of dealing with code switching, and dealing with whitesplaining and it was her -mutant- self that did her in. Well fuck that! At least her cousins Greg and Lacey had her back. Even after manifesting right before a major dance practice at the community center they still loved her. As an only child Sophia grew up in an affluent household among the upper crust of the reservation. Her father held an established position on the business council and everyone respected her mother's contribution to the Tribal community as well as her connections to the county.
But off the reservation she'd met problems left and right. Some of the kids she went to school with bordered on outright hateful in what they said about non-natives. Others still seemed to be so focused on their heritage and bloody quantity she was confused by it. Again though, unlike some families on the reservation her family didn't rely on yearly fishing jobs to make ends meet. Or steady jobs at the casino. Her dad was a businessman, and it showed in her clothes and even how she talked.
Out of the Tribal School she was just another Lummi girl among a small crowd going to the local High School. Immediately, she found herself at odds with some of the kids because she was invested in her people's history and language. Some of the kids didn't see a point in learning the Lummi Language like her, and the non-Native teens were confused to learn there was still a language to begin with.
After what little popularity she had was torn to shreds, Sophia was focused on getting through school and keeping her head down. The Cheerleaders did try a few times to bully her, but they were quickly put in their place with help from Sophia's cousins. Now, well now she had a book report to write and already she was lamenting having to read the Grapes of Wrath. Sighing in disgust she was surprised when she heard a loud scream for help coming further down the hallway. She'd just finished her lunch and was heading back to class.
"HELP!!" she heard. Picking up her pace Sophia stopped when she passed a trophy case. Why she stopped chilled her, and she had to do a doubletake to make sure she wasn't seeing things. At first glance she saw the reflection of a girl with long black straight hair, covered by a grey nondescript hoody. Second glance revealed that nothing was there. The girl picked up her pace and sped around a corner past a teacher.
"HEY NO RUNNING!" the teacher barked as she stopped and yelled back, "Mister Olmstadt, there's a fight!"
How she recognized the Orchestra teacher was beyond her, and as she glanced at the tall blonde man she noted the files in his right hand. Maybe a meeting or grading. A thought passed in her mind as she jabbed a finger toward the sound of a girl yelping in pain.
"Sir, I heard someone screaming for help, I think there's a fight happening!' she called.
He gave a simple nod as he followed after her, she was walking briskly and just as she turned another corner, she heard a primal scream of rage. Her eyes widened as she repeatedly picked up her pace to the point where she was almost running again. Just as she drew near to the tumble of bodies she watched as Brad Finkbonner and his tall friend were thrown into the lockers. Not shoved, thrown, he flew the fifteen feet across the hallway's width to collide into a block of lockers not far away. The bodies impact was loud enough that it rang through the entire hall.
The larger of the men trying to grab a hold of the now fully writhing girl was shoved hard enough to send him skidding across the floor twenty feet away. Both of the boys were breathing, but their bodies were barely moving. The last two remaining varsity team members seemed to make a split second call to back off from the girl. Just as they did the redhead let out another primal scream and kicked one of them hard enough to send him several feet away from her.
Sophia was amazed at how controlled the girl's rage was, it seemed to be focused on removing the threat of the four boys. That all changed as the girl's head snapped toward Finkbonner and she started padding toward him. A groan came from the boy as he watched the mutant redhead his eyes wide with terror. She wasn't sure what she should do, but as the girl neared him she raised her fist to punch him. Making a split second decision she rushed to intervene. This wasn't what the redhead needed and Sophia knew that any more injury to Brad would play the local authorities against the raging teen.
"Padraig stop!" she said remember the redheads name.
A pair of brilliant green eyes stared at her, the girl's chest heaving and Sophia could see the bruising around her face. The cracked split lips already slowly healing as the blood ceased. This girl had been put through the wringer and just wanted the boys to leave her alone, Sophia could easily sympathize. Sophia placed herself directly in front of the baseline to break Padraig's line of sight. Though the more that she looked at the newly manifested mutant, the more she felt that the name wasn't going to work.
"If you hurt him anymore the MCO won't care, they'll take you away," she warned.
Being the daughter of a mutant family did give her some foreknowledge of what the Mutant Commission Office's agents would do. There would likely be a cover up. I never trusted them, just like those BIA bastards! Sophia watched as Padraig slowly drew back her hand and punched the locker right by Brad's head. Her hand went through the metal and was cut up along the top. Another scream of pain, frustration, and anger pierced the air as she fell to her knees. Sophia embraced the crying mutant and began to hum under her breath.
I can't believe I went from being a Cheerleader to a social warrior. She sighed a little bit as Olmstadt checked on the boys and grabbed the last one remaining. Already Sophia could hear the shouts of other staff members and students down the hall mister Olmstadt waited with the remaining teen. Shit just hit the fan. Sophia stared at the scene before her before she closed her eyes to think. It was all about to get a lot more complicated
I was lucky it was Mr. Olmstadt and Sophia who found me. Anyone else would likely have just called the MCO and let them deal with me. I was sure that a Knight of Purity was likely to show up at any moment when Sophia hugged me, but instead campus security arrived (late as usual) and took me to the principal's office for punishment. Brad Finkbonner and his mooks were also gathered up in the sweep while I was dropped off in the waiting room outside the Principal's office. The wait it turned out would be a long one, and I was forced to just sit there for more than an hour. Sophia was let go after being inside the office for about an hour and all I could do was sit.
At least the chair was padded, and at least no one was allowed near me. Some kids tried to say something or even wave and before they could security shooed them away. Did I mention the high school security guards were armed? There were two of them, each armed with a taser, dressed in black slacks and button-down shirts with "SECURITY" emblazoned on their shoulder. Why our school even had security personnel was confusing to say the least. From what I understood, the security personnel, were added after the increase in public incidents faced by the Whatcom Alliance. In response the city of Ferndale hired a small corps of retired members of the County Sheriff to act as security.
So far all they'd done was drag me hard by my arm to the general office. The one who was staying by the door was a squat man, red faced, and cleanly shaven. He was fingering the taser looking at me and I could see his jaw working. I tried to shrink away further from the bastard as I could. The guard was more than six feet away, but his glare was slowly wearing it's way under my skin. After being beaten and attacked by baselines for no reason, I had no interest in getting my mutant ass assaulted, yet again. Already, the shock of the encounter was setting in, as I felt my hands starting to shake.
I was not going to be a victim, I'm not a victim!
I closed my eyes as the panic attack seized me in its claws and I shivered. Fear twisted in my gut as I wanted to wretch and had to hold myself back further and further. I placed my hands on my calves and squeezed hard. The feeling did give me a bit of focus and grounded me. With my eyes closed I began to remind myself. They have no power over me, they have no power over me. Like "water off a duck's back" it was a mantra my father taught me. It was meant to relieve me of any former hold of abuse a person held on me.
There was no way I wasn't up shit creek any farther than I could go. Not only did I attack another student, the bastard had three witnesses against me. Sophia could testify that she heard a help, but that wouldn't prove the assholes assaulted me. All that was on record was my berserk reaction to them being around me.
My eyes opened and I caught a look of disgust from the secretary as she was busily updating files for something on her desktop. Not a peep came out of my mouth since I arrived in this place, and even when I considered making a sound I remembered I didn't want to give them anymore ammunition.
The door to the office opened, and Mr. Olmstadt slowly filed out with other members of the faculty. Along with them came a woman wearing a khaki pant suit with long curly auburn hair. Her lips were painted red, and set in a just too garish smile. The woman's eyes were blue, and each nail was painted pink. Just looking at her gave me serious squick vibes, and to think this was the Principle of Ferndale High School. A woman who introduced herself not as "Miss Fairchild" but added a weird elongated emphasis to her name.
"Miss Faair-chiild." Goddess those words would haunt me to the end of days.
"Mister O'Callaghan, please stand," her rueful voice made me jump on the spot. I was on my feet, and already annoyed that the woman seemed intent on referring to me as male.
"Am I next?" I asked mournfully.
"Yes, I will hear your side of the story and then I will be informing you of what is happening," the woman stated. Her too red lips weren't pretty, but reminded me of knock-off cherry flavored candies.
The office itself was simple. Facing me as I entered was a rather large window covered by shades facing outward toward the entrance of the school. On the left was a framed picture of the city of Ferndale from above, and the opposite side featured a picture of the current football team. The woman's desk was clean of things except for a plaque stating her name, and a laptop computer closed and sitting before her seat. Miss Fairchild walked around the desk and sat down in her chair.
She pointed to a simple wooden-backed chair before the desk and I sat myself. For the next minute she opened up her computer and seemed to be reading something before reaching into a drawer of her desk. This was when she held up a thick file with my name on it and the words "Permanent Record". I gulped at seeing that file as I crossed my arms over my chest and tried to keep myself from shaking again.
Miss Fairchild placed the file down beside her laptop and audibly cleared her throat. What was her plan? I had no knowledge of this woman except her telling me to pull down my hood on my sweatshirt. Now, I was in front of a complete unknown. But, knowing Ferndale the town, and who sat on the board of education, she was not very likely my friend.
"Mister O'Callaghan, it has come to my attention that you have manifested as a mutant," she enunciated the words in a creepy fashion.
"Yes...I go by Gráinne now," I said.
"Sorry, but your file here says your name is Padraig, and legally that is how I will refer to you," she replied matter of factly.
"Oh-Okay," I nodded.
"Mister Finkbonner informed me that you were in the bathroom during lunch and shoved him into a stall," she stated.
"That's - not what happened," I answered.
"He said you were wanting to teach him a lesson for some minor mischief he'd committed," she said. As she continued, I could feel my anger wanting to burst out of me. A slight ringing sound filled my ears as I closed my eyes and breathed slowly.
"Are you okay Mister O'Callaghan," she asked me.
"Yes...I'm just recovering from what happened," I replied.
"I believe it's your turn to tell me your side of the story," she told me.
So I did. I began with how I was just washing my face after a small panic attack after heading to lunch, and then about how Brad had attacked me. It was painful to relive what I went through. Images of the experience flashed between my eyes resulting in me stuttering. I then admitted to headbutting his junk to get away and relayed how the other football players had pinned me down and beaten me.
"From what Miss Jameson told me you were able to throw a student fifteen feet which is corroborated by a statement by Mister Johnston."
That had to be one of the football players, and when she said his name she added that weird emphasis again. I was getting more and more weary by the moment, and as I finished my story I could tell something was coming my way.
"Your parents are on their way Mister O'Callaghan, and so is the MCO," she informed me. She picked up the file in her hands and placed it back in the drawer unseen from behind her desk. I gulped, what was I going to do, there was nothing I could do.
"You'll be waiting here until they arrive," she said as she stood and opened the door for me. All I could do was stand and slowly shuffle my way outside and await my doom.
An hour passed and I was still sitting in the bloody chair. More waiting for what felt like the end of my High School career. I could have just been a good little freak and taken my punishment. No, I had to stand up for myself and respond to an assault. This wasn't what the school wanted, and I could already tell they were going to just dump me to the wayside. For the last few years the precious Football team was working its way to gaining a second state championship. It was almost straight out of some twisted drama from the WB. I was sure I was going to offered up on a silver platter.
"Why are you so glum, sister?"
Morgan? What - now you talk to me?
"Yes, when you awoke my rage I was able to finalize the last part of our bond." That rush of energy I felt was her -rage-. She told me that her hosts had been murdered, my eyebrows knit for a moment. This took my mind off my assault and drove me to consider what else I could do. Brad had been light in my hands after I was able to get a hold, light enough for me to toss into the locker's across the hallway. That could mean a lot, but I had a sense I was pretty strong. Oh, gods, I could have really hurt those idiots!
"You understand, your rage was well placed, but your strength is not something to use without discipline."
I was so wrapped up in talking with Morgan I barely registered my mom arriving and giving me a hug. When the tears started to fall from my eyes I was still in my own little world. After a few moments of mom waving her hand in front of my eyes, I finally registered her presence. Through my sobs I was able to give her the gist of what happened, and I could feel her grip of me grow tighter. Mom was much like a bear, when her cubs were threatened she held nothing back to keep us safe. I looked up just as dad was walking in, and with him was someone I didn't recognize.
An older man, maybe about seventy, his hair was long, straight and blue black. Silver shot through his hair giving it a mesmerizing marbling effect. What I noticed though were his eyes, they were a kind brown and reminded me of Sophia. Was this man related to her? I watched him from over my mother's shoulder and observed the man further. His suit was moderately expensive, and his hair was held back by a simple headband.
"Hey kiddo," dad said and slowly gestured to the man with him, "this is Gerald Jameson, a member of the Lummi Business Council."
"Why is he here?" I asked slowly.
"My granddaughter told me of what she saw, and as a mutant I believe I am aware of what you may face." His voice was a light baritone and held a welcoming suredness to it. He had that slow twang of the reservation and immediately I felt a little bit better.
"Sophia found me...she helped me," I mumbled. More tears and more crying. It was really refreshing to be able to express myself.
"We'll take care of it baby," mom said, her face was a kind smile, but I could see the worry and the anger. Mom was already thinking of how she was going to make the school pay, I know because Sloan and I get our anger from her. Dad was busily chatting with Gerald and that left me kind of alone again. Sloan was likely at home or waiting with a friend. Mom and dad would not want her here to see what had happened. We were kind of sheltered compared to other kids, and I knew my parents did it with our best interest at heart.
I wish I had my sharp tongued sibling to back me up when I had to face the music, once again. I needed it now, I needed this stress begotten disquiet to leave me so I can prepare myself. Mom released me from her hug and I still felt wrong.
Even with the man my dad brought, I just wasn't sure if it was enough. Ferndale was only fifteen miles from Bellingham, but it was vastly more intolerant. There was obvious influence from the Goodkind family here from local donors to the Rotary Club to the fact no one ran against the local prosecutor for the past ten years.
Mom and dad returned to speaking with Mr. Jameson as I sat there alone. As the stress pushed me I started to sing under my breath to keep my focus. Off the top of my head I picked the Rock Road to Dublin, the rolling constantly fast lyrics gave me something to focus on. I was on the penultimate verse when I froze. A tall man was standing in the doorway he was bald, and was dressed in a dark three-piece suit. In his ear was one of those little ear-bud microphone pieces and as he strode in another man dressed much like him followed.
The secretary who barely acknowledged my existence waved to the two men leaning over the high counter of her desk.
"Agent Wilks and Johnston, Mutant Commission Office," I had dreaded hearing those words. They continued to talk in whispers with the secretary who then handed them a piece of paper. The tallest of the two, the bald guy, wore a pair of aviator glasses and took them off as his gaze swept the office. He noticed Jameson first, and across his face flashed annoyance before he settled his eyes on me. All I could do was stare back at him and shrink. My parents hadn’t liked the MCO for years, both being outspoken former hippies. What surprised me was mom didn't immediately step in front of the man as he made his way toward the office.
"I'll page her to let her know you are here, Agent," I heard the secretary say as a few moments later the door itself opened. Miss Fairchild beckoned everyone to enter, referring to me as "young mister O'Callaghan's". What followed was a clinical and biased account of what happened to me. I could hear where'd she pulled bits and details from my own account to combine them with Brads. It all spoke of the coverup I'd seen coming from miles away as I knew this woman had no scruples when it came to protecting her precious Football team.
Football was a religion in American small towns, and I was ready for a suspension.
"So, it is with a heavy heart that I must inform you that after consulting with the district we've decided to expel your son," she said with finality. Her hands were placed directly on my file as I sat across from her. The MCO agents were standing against one side of the wall as my parents stood behind me protectively. I was so caught up and keeping my eyes on them I didn't register the word "expel" right away.
"But," I started to say and a glance from Miss Fairchild silenced me.
"My daughter was defending herself," my mom growled.
"Not according to four witnesses to her throwing Brad Finkbonner across the hall," replied Miss Fairchild.
"You're not going to do anything to the boys? At all?" I piped up.
"All four boys have been suspended for a week for participating in a fight," her words only seemed to make me more anxious. Why was I getting expelled? I mean I kind of guessed it was because they deemed me a present danger because of my anger, but my attackers only got a suspension!
"Mister O'Callaghan," Fairchild stated to me, and I flinched at being referred to as male.
"Um yes?" I asked while peeking up at her.
"The MCO has been informed to her newly manifested mutant status, they wish to speak with you about what happened," was all she said before motioning for the Agents to speak. The taller of the two, bald-aviator man, pulled out what looked like a dictation device and set it down on the principal's desk. I kept an eye on the man beside him, both were armed and I'd noticed him fingering the latch to his holster the entire time he was in the office with me.
I eyed my parents for a moment, and bit my lip. Swirling my tongue over my teeth I wrung my hands together as once again I launched into describing my assault. Ten minutes later I was curling my body up in the chair as I brought my knees up to my chest and breathed slowly to calm my nerves. When he picked up the recorder to pocket it once again I finally got a good look at the security badge hanging from his lapel. The bald guy was Wilks, which meant, the fidgety one was Johnston.
"Keep aware." I heard Morgan's words whisper in my ear. My green eyes were focused on the two men as Wilks leaned in to whisper for a few moments with Johnston. This was becoming my normal life, my future being decided by adults who decided I had no say in what happened to me. I mean, I didn't have full rights until I was eighteen, but still. Even my parents told me when they made a decision and they even laid it out for me. Dad prided himself on providing the logic behind his decisions.
These two weren't doing that. Even the Principle waited hours before telling me she was going to kick me from school. Honestly, I wasn't sure I wanted to continue going to school even if they only suspended me. Ferndale was shitty little town with few redeeming qualities to it. There were people who lived there that I adored, but I'd been tortured by the kids there for too long.
"Since she's attacked baselines we'll be directly involved rather than local police," Agent Wilks stated.
"Have the police been informed of the alleged assault?" I heard Jameson say suddenly.
"They surrendered jurisdiction to us, even the Sheriff has signed off on it." Wilks nodded to Johnston who reached under his suit jacket and removed a pretty official looking warrant. My father stepped aside as Mister Jameson walked over to intercept the piece of paper.
"This is a warrant for the girl's arrest stating all four boys are pressing charges," he said to me. His gaze was square in my eyes as I could only look away in fear. I felt little guilt in defending myself, but I suddenly began to feel a growing sense of terror. I was already scared the MCO was involved, but I had somehow held onto the ideal they would let the cops deal with it first.
"Your actions show you are a clear and present danger to those around you," Wilks added. The agent reached into his pocket and took out a pair of zip tie handcuffs. My eyes grew wide as mom started to cry, I could hear her trying to keep herself under control.
"Please stand and present your hands behind your back," I heard him say as the world started to lose focus. A tightness encased my chest. My life was over just before it began, and all because I stood up for myself.