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Morgan sat down across from his husband – who was engrossed in some news article on his tablet – at the dinner table.
“Hey Noah?” He began.
“Yeah babe?” Noah asked, taking a drink of his wine.
“I’ve been thinking, why don’t we stay here for Christmas this year?”
Noah looked up from his tablet, “Where is this coming from? We always go visit your family for Christmas. You’ve always loathed the very idea of missing it.”
Morgan frowned, “Yeah, but I’ve been thinking a lot today.”
“’Bout what?” Noah asked, setting aside his tablet, “Must be something serious to make you consider sticking around for Christmas.
Morgan pursed his lips. “I’ve been thinking about our new niece. Rayne. Why don’t we invite Catalina and her family down for Christmas?”
A wide grin spread across Noah’s face. “That would be incredible. Are you sure though? I know how important Christmas is to you and your family.”
Morgan waved the comment away, “Yeah sure, it’s important. But our niece is more important than a holiday, right?”
Noah nodded, “Okay. I’ll get on the phone and ask them right after dinner. Geeze, how long has it been since Catalina was home for Christmas? 20 years or so I think?”
“Welcome home ladies” Jameson’s voice called from the kitchen.
“I hope you didn’t make anything.” Catalina called back, “We ate out.”
Jameson walked out to greet them. “I figured you would, me and Seb ordered a pizza. Did you girls have some luck-
He stopped when he saw the small pile of bags.
Rayne blushed and giggled.
“I’ll take that as a yes.” He said, smiling with raised eyebrows.
“Why don’t you and your sister go upstairs and put your purchases away, Rayne.” He suggested, “I have something to talk to your mother about.”
Evalyn and Rayne looked at each other. Rayne shrugged and began to collect the bags.
“Kay Dad.” She said, “We’ll upstairs if you need us.”
“Okay Sweetheart.” He agreed, before stepping into the living room with their mother.
Evalyn grabbed the few remaining bags Rayne didn’t have hands for and followed her sister up to her room, where they dumped all the bags on to her bed.
Evalyn turned to face Rayne. She had a huge silly grin on her face.
“What’s got you smiling like that?” Evalyn asked with a raised eyebrow.
Rayne giggled and blushed, “Dad called me sweetheart.”
“So?” she asked, “He calls me that all the time.”
“Evalyn, you don’t get it. Dad calls YOU sweetheart.” Rayne explained, “Before today, if he used a nickname for me, it was always ‘buddy’, or ‘champ’, or something along those lines.”
Evalyn slowly nodded in understanding.
“I get it now,” Evalyn said, “I take things like that for granted. I’ve had that kind of relationship with Dad my whole life, it didn’t even occur to me how much little things like that could mean to you.”
Rayne blushed and looked away.
“Yeah.” She said quietly, “They really do. When Mom called me her little girl earlier this afternoon I almost melted.”
Evalyn smiled. “That’s so sweet.”
Rayne blushed brighter.
“Anyways,” She said, changing the topic, “Lets get all of this put away. How should we do this? Have some drawers for Raymond’s stuff and some for mine?”
“A lot of your new clothes can go in your closet.” Evalyn said, “You never really used it for clothes before, right?”
“That’s true.” Rayne agreed, putting a finger to her chin. She walked over to her closet and pulled it open. There were a few boxes inside, but not much else. It didn’t take long for them to get those cleared out.
“So how are you feeling about your appointment with Ms. Reid tomorrow?” Evalyn asked as they went about putting the clothes away.
“What do you mean?” Rayne asked.
“Well Mom and Dad are going with you, right?” Evalyn pointed out.
“Yeah, I guess I’m a bit nervous.” Rayne admitted.
“What do you have to be nervous about?” Evalyn asked, “Isn’t the worst part over? It’s out in the open to the family.”
“I suppose.” Rayne acknowledged with a shake of her head, “But now we have to make a plan for what comes next.”
“Well,” Evalyn said matter-of-factly, “What do you WANT to happen next?”
They worked in silence for a moment while Rayne considered the question.
She stopped what she was doing and turned to look at her big sister.
“I want to be me. To live as me. To live as Rayne.”
Evalyn nodded. “Just tell them that, and make a plan for that.”
A knock came on the door before anything else could be said.
“Come in.” Rayne called out.
Sebastian stuck his head in.
“Hey, how was shopping?” He asked.
“So much fun!” Rayne gushed, “It was amazing!”
Sebastian chuckled, “That’s good. Anyways, Mom and Dad have asked us all to come see them in the living room.”
“Okay Seb,” Evalyn agreed, “We were just finishing up here, we’ll be right down.”
“Sounds good.” Sebastian agreed before closing the door as he left.
They spent another minute to finish what they were doing before heading downstairs.
Their parents and Sebastian were already seated. Sebastian was sprawled out on the love seat, their parents sitting together on the sofa. Evalyn quickly grabbed the armchair for herself, leaving Rayne to sit between their parents.
“What’s up?” Evalyn asked as she sat down.
Catalina and Jameson looked at each other.
“Well, how would you all feel about the family going away for Christmas this year?” Jameson asked.
“Going away?” Evalyn asked, “Going away where? And Why? We’ve always spent Christmas here. With Grandpa and Grandma and the whole family.”
“Your Uncle Noah and Uncle Morgan called while we were out.” Catalina explained, “They invited us to spend Christmas with them and the rest of my family back in Nova Scotia. We told them we would discuss it as a family before making a decision.”
“That seems really out of the blue.” Sebastian said. Rayne nodded. She thought she recalled something about her uncles always being busy for Christmas.
“Well,” Jameson began to explain, turning to look at Rayne, “We spoke to them last night to tell them about you.”
“Yeah, Mom mentioned something about that while we were out.” Rayne acknowledged. In hind sight, she couldn’t deny that she was slightly annoyed that they had told someone. People should find out when she was comfortable with them knowing. At the time, she had just been too emotional to bring it up. Ah well, what’s done is done. Besides, if there was anyone she was okay with knowing, it was probably Uncle Noah and Uncle Morgan. She would bring it up with the family later.
Jameson nodded, “They think it would be nice to meet you. On top of that, they thought it would be good for you to be able to spend some time somewhere where you could just be you. Somewhere where you wouldn’t have to worry about anyone’s judgement or scorn, and could just have fun. We also just haven’t been out to see your mother’s family for a couple of years now.”
Rayne nodded slowly. That would be nice. It would actually be amazing.
“I think I’d like that.” She said, “I’d actually really like that.”
“Alright.” Jameson nodded, “Any objections?”
He looked around, no one said anything. Sebastian shook his head, Evalyn and Catalina just smiled.
“Then it’s settled.” Jameson announced, “The Danahys are going to Yarmouth for Christmas.”
The evening flew by, Rayne and Evalyn spent a while longer organizing her new clothes. It was hardly a complete wardrobe, but it was definitely a start. She had so many options now, it was incredible. She said as much to Evalyn, but her older sister just chuckled and said it wouldn’t be long until it felt like everything she had was old and boring. Rayne felt like that would never happen. Evalyn also insisted that certain items – such as her intimates – should be washed before she wear them. A load of laundry later and they were finished.
It wasn’t much later when Rayne crashed. It had been one hell of a long day – A long weekend for that matter! So much had happened. So much was shared. She felt the best that she could ever remember feeling. And tomorrow she had to go back to being Raymond. Boring, uncomfortable, awkward, lonely, Raymond. With all the ugly, boring, yucky boy clothes. At least now she wouldn’t have to wait a whole week. She would just have to get through a few hours of classes. When she got home, it would be right back to being herself. Being Rayne.
She woke up early the next morning. Before her alarm even went off in fact. She went to the washroom, having no competition with her being up so early, and went through her morning routine. Finishing, she returned to her room. There she solemnly doffed her true identity, and donned the disguise that was Raymond. The irony of the situation was not lost to her. What had started out as a disguise to hide her true identity had become a truer identity than she had ever before known, whereas the identity she once sought to protect was now a disguise. A husk she could not quite break free of.
She descended to the kitchen to prepare herself breakfast. She settled on a big bowl of cereal. She had never really been big on eggs. She’d eat them if someone made them, but she didn’t like them enough to make them herself. Nothing beat a big ol’ bowl of breakfast soup first thing in the morning though.
She chowed down, acknowledging her siblings with a nod as each of them joined her.
“Good morning Eva,” Their father greeted, coming down the stairs, “Morning Seb. Morning Ra- um…”
He hesitated. Clearly unsure what to call her when she was dressed as Raymond.
“You can just go back to calling me Ray or Raymond when I’m dressed as Raymond.” She said, bailing her father out.
“Good morning Ray.” He finished, smiling sadly.
“It’s just for a few hours Ray.” Eva said. Clearly Rayne had been unable to keep her own disappointment at being Raymond again out of her voice. Although she wasn’t really Raymond, was she? It was just a mask. One she had to wear for now.
“Good morning Brood.” Catalina said cheerfully ash she walked into the kitchen. She took note of Rayne, glumly sitting in her prison. She frowned.
“Everything okay?” She asked.
“Yeah Mom.” Rayne replied, “Just gotta get through a few hours, right?”
“It might be hard, but I’m sure you can do it.” She smiled grimly, “And your father and I will meet you there at lunch for our meeting with Ms. Reid, right?”
That brought a smile To Rayne’s face. They could make a plan to get her to see a specialist. And a plan to move forward. To live as Rayne.
“Yup!” She agreed, a bit of cheer returning to her voice.
“Alright,” Evalyn said, standing up, “We should get going then.”
Rayne nodded and stood. She brought her dishes to the sink, collected her school things, then headed for the door. Evalyn led them out to her car.
“So, you ready for today?” Evalyn asked her as she started the engine.
“Yeah sure.” Rayne replied, slightly confused, “Why do you ask?”
“Well, uh,” Evalyn began hesitantly, “You’ve kinda been talking in, um, Rayne’s voice all morning. You’ve never done that… well… dressed as Raymond before.”
“Oh!” Understanding dawned on Rayne’s face. “I didn’t even real-
“I didn’t even realize.” She said again, making an effort to speak in Raymond’s voice. This was going to be a pain. After using it all weekend, Rayne’s voice just felt so much more natural. It would be really awkward if she accidentally slipped into Rayne’s voice at school. She didn’t talk to many people at school so hopefully it wouldn’t be an issue.
Raymond stepped out of the vehicle. He silently reprimanded himself. He had gotten out of the vehicle the way Evalyn had taught Rayne to weeks ago. He had gotten out like a girl. He had to get this right. The last thing he needed was more people giving him a hard time at school. No one had tried to mess with him since Sebastian had practically attacked Greg in the first week of school. Things had been going well for weeks now. Too long. The assholes only ever seemed to leave him alone long enough to get comfortable. He was expecting something any day now. Any day now, someone would forget about the lesson Sebastian had given Greg and try something. It would happen. It always happened. To make things worse, Mr. McMan’s suspension was due to end this week. Starting next week, he would be back. Oh God. How was he going to deal with that?! Ugh.
“You okay Ray?” Evalyn asked, drawing him from the inner turmoil.
“Y- Yeah.” He replied, making a conscious effort to use the right voice. He took a deep breath and started towards the main doors before any further questions could be asked.
His sister looked like she wanted to say more, but she took his hint and silently followed him though the doors.
He walked quickly to his locker, nodding a quick greeting to the few students who acknowledged him. The initial interest his classmates had had in him had died down after the first two weeks or so. He had tried to be polite and sociable, but it just didn’t seem to go anywhere. The guys who had tried to befriend him had tried to do so through sports. They would ask him what he sports he liked, he would stare back blankly. They would invite him to play over lunch, he would politely decline. Eventually they stopped asking. A few of the girls had tried to befriend him too, or at least he thought that was their intention. Until Sebastian informed him that they were flirting with him.
Things were slowly returning to normal with him being mostly ignored. Several people actually acknowledged his existence now at least, even if they weren’t friends. He couldn’t help but feel like he had blown his second chance to have a social life at school.
He sighed heavily with relief. He had made it to homeroom without incident. Mr. Michaelson smiled and nodded to him in greeting. Ray nodded back with a smile of his own, albeit a very small one. He took his seat and waited for the day’s announcement to begin. As it was Monday, the morning announcements would be more than just information. There would be a singing of the national anthem, followed by – since this was a catholic school – a morning prayer, asking God to help them with their studies, to keep them healthy, yada yada yada. Finally, only after all of that, he would be on his way to his first class.
Raymond didn’t get it. He never had. All the praying, the worship. His father’s side of the family had always been believers, that was why his siblings and he had always been in the catholic school system. Thankfully his father and mother weren’t devout followers of the church – he felt like things might be going much worse at home if they were – but they were believers. His grandparents had insisted that the kids be baptized and attend a catholic school. His father hadn’t disputed the subject as he had been through the same going up. Catalina’s family had never been particularly religious, so she didn’t see why it was a big deal, but she didn’t see the point in getting into a fight over it either. So, she had gone along with it, always telling the kids that it was important to their grandparents that they have a catholic education, but if they grow up to believe in something completely different that was fine too.
Raymond had never figured out what he believed in. Rayne hadn’t been around long enough to either.
Raymond moved his lips to follow along in the prayer and the national anthem, but he wasn’t paying attention. There was too much on his mind. He just wanted the day to be over. Finally, they were dismissed. He gathered up his belongings and headed to class.
The morning classes passed by much the same as homeroom. Raymond tried to focus and pay attention, tried to take notes, but his mind just kept wandering elsewhere. He began to grow anxious and restless. He took to doodling in his notepad in an attempt to calm his nerves and refocus his wandering mind. It helped a bit.
Finally. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the lunch bell rang.
Raymond’s parents met him at the front office.
“Hey sweetie.” His mom greeted as he walked.
“Hi Mom, Hi Dad.”
“So, you ready squirt?” His father asked as they began walking towards Ms. Reid’s office.
“I sure hope so.” He answered nervously. What if what his parents wanted to happen was different than what he wanted to happen?
“Everything will go just fine.” Catalina replied, trying to sooth his nerves.
They spent the remainder of the talk discussing how his classes were going. He told them the truth, that they had been going very well, but he had been very distracted all morning. They nodded in understanding. Soon they arrived at their destination.
Raymond knocked on Ms. Reid’s door.
“Come on in!” Her voice called out.
They let themselves in.
“Good afternoon Ms. Reid.” Raymond greeted.
“Good afternoon Raymond,” Ms. Reid returned, she was staring intently at a piece of paper, but, sensing the presence of multiple people, looked up suddenly.
“Oh. Hello, I wasn’t aware anyone was going to be joining us today.” She looked at Raymond, a silent question being asked by her raised eyebrow.
“Ms. Reid, I’d like you to meet my parents,” He gestured with his hand to each of his parents in turn, “This is my Mom and Dad.” He then turned his hand to the student counsellor, “Mom, Dad, this is Ms. Reid.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Ms. Reid.” His father greeted, “We hear you’ve really been helping our b- child.” He caught his near mistake at the absolute last second, avoiding the word ‘boy’. Raymond blushed lightly and looked at his feet.
Hands were shaken.
“It’s good to finally meet you as well, Mr. and Mrs. Danahy.” Ms. Reid returned before turning to look at Raymond, “I take it everything went according to plan?”
“Well, uh, no, not really.” Raymond answered, remembering the turmoil that was Friday night and Saturday morning, “But they do know everything.”
“Okay. That’s great, although I’ll have you to elaborate on that in a moment.” She replied, confused by what he meant, “But I trust their presence here means that they’re supportive?”
Raymond smiled and nodded.
“Alright, well then,” She turned to look back at his parents, “Why don’t I find some more chairs, then we can begin?”
After a collective nod Ms. Reid weaved through the cluster of bodies and went on a short, successful quest for chairs. After she returned, everyone got settled. Ms. Reid behind her desk, Raymond sitting opposite, Catalina and Jameson seated on either side of him.
“So,” Ms. Reid began, “Why don’t we start with how things went, and why the plan didn’t work?”
“Sure.” Raymond began, before glancing at each of his parents, “Well, uh, Friday night. When I got home, my Dad and Seb were still home. Except it wasn’t me getting home. It was Rayne.”
“Oh.” Was all Ms. Reid said.
Raymond pursed his lips and nodded before continuing, “Yeeeah, so that was awkward. I ran to my room and hid until Evalyn got home, then she joined me in my room and I hid for the rest of the night. The next morning when I got up, we waited until Mom got home, then had a family meeting. After that, things mostly went according to the plan, and I told them everything.”
“Even the stuff that could get you in trouble?” Ms. Reid asked.
“Even the stuff that DID get me in trouble.” Raymond replied dramatically, drawing chuckles from the whole group.
“Alright, so now that everyone’s on the same page it’s time to discuss how to move forward.” Ms. Reid said, looking at each of them meaningfully.
“Frankly,” she continued, addressing Catalina and Jameson, “I’m not properly equipped to help Raymond as much as I would like. I don’t have the knowledge or the experience for this situation, but I know someone who does. I would highly recommend that you go see my colleague in Vancouver, Bill Mathews. Bill is a psychologist with – probably unrivaled in the province – experience with transgendered people, but beyond that, he has made the health, care, and wellbeing of transgendered youth his personal mission in life.”
Raymond nodded slowly. It made sense to see him. But Rayne wanted to move forward. Not spend all of her time with psychologists.
“That sounds like the right thing to do.” Catalina spoke up, nodding confidently, “When do you think we could see him?”
Ms. Reid smiled, “I was hoping you’d say that. I actually got in touch with him after our planning session on Friday. He doesn’t officially work on weekends, instead running casual drop-in based sessions on Saturdays for anyone who desperately needs to see someone for their mental health. I told him about Raymond’s situation – keeping Ray anonymous of course – and he agreed to make an exception for you. He said he’d be willing to make an appointment for you for this coming Saturday. You just need to say the word, and I’ll schedule an official appointment with him.”
“Saturday?” Jameson asked, “That’s awfully soon.”
Ms. Reid nodded, “It is, but sooner is better. Much better. There’s often very long waiting lists to see gender specialists in Canada. Especially in a city as big as Vancouver.”
Catalina and Jameson shared a look. Each of them slowly nodded, before turning back to Ms. Reid.
“Okay.” Catalina agreed. “You make the appointment, we’ll be there.”
Ms. Reid nodded, “Consider it done.”
“I think that covers the important subjects of today’s meeting. If there’s no objections, why don’t we end early today?”
Jameson and Catalina started to nod. Raymond, on the other hand, refused to let it end this way.
“W- wait!” She interrupted, suddenly Rayne once more. A girl dressed as a boy. “I have an objection!”
Three pairs of eyes turned to look at her.
“I- I don’t want to be Raymond anymore.” She said, before she lost her nerve.
“That’s what the point of this meeting is dear.” Catalina said, bewildered by the sudden outburst.
“No, th- that’s not what I mean. I don’t want to be Raymond at all. I want to be Rayne all the time. I’ve been miserable and distracted all morning.”
The adults all seemed to be at a loss for words.
Finally, Ms. Reid found her voice.
“Raymond, I understand, but the next step is still to see Dr. Mathews.” She explained, “He’ll be able to help you move forward.”
“But why?” Rayne asked, “You’re the school counselor here. Not him. Can’t you help me move forward?”
“Raymond.” Jameson interjected, “I know you’re in a rush, but things are already moving very fast. Now you need to be patient.”
“Your father is exactly right.” Ms. Reid agreed immediately. “Changing how you present at school isn’t a simple matter of coming to school as Rayne. There’s a lot that goes into it.”
Rayne collapsed back into her chair. Defeated. For now.
The meeting broke up then. Ms. Reid giving a final confirmation that she would schedule the appointment for Saturday and email them the details. Catalina and Jameson thanked her for her help and advice, said their goodbyes to Ms. Reid and Raymond, and headed home. Rayne just went to find a place to quickly eat before class resumed.
Raymond arrived home from school and wasted no time transforming back into Rayne. Only once she had done so did she feel like she could finally relax. The second half of the day had been as difficult of the first. She was less distracted, but more depressed. Why couldn’t she feel like she did now all the time? It wasn’t fair. She collapsed onto her bed with a heavy sigh. Sebastian would be home soon. Rayne could really use some fresh air and a run. The thought made her hesitate. She had gotten workout clothes when they were shopping on Sunday, but running was something Raymond had always done with Sebastian. Would Sebastian still want to run with Rayne? They hadn’t spent any time just the two of them since she had told him everything.
She sat up. It couldn’t hurt to ask.
She stripped out of the blouse and skirt she had just put on, and instead grabbed the capri style leggings and baggy t-shirt that her mother and sister had said would be good for running. She also grabbed the woman’s running shoes they had picked out.
After quickly pulling on the outfit and tying her hair in a ponytail, she descended to the front door to await her brother’s arrival.
“Have a good night bro,” Sebastian called to his friend, “see ya tomorrow!”
He threw his car back into drive. Sebastian and three of his friends drove together to school and back every day. They took turns driving, and today was Sebastian’s turn. Now it was just him and Jackson. Jackson had asked him if he could be dropped off last today.
“So, what’s up?” Sebastian asked, knowing there must be a reason for the odd request.
“Well, uh, I was wondering,” Jackson began slowly. Hesitantly.
“Did you ever find out who that Rayne girl is?” He asked, “Is she your sister’s girlfriend like we thought?”
Right. That. He had confronted Evalyn about her suspicious behavior on Friday. And he had done it right in front of Jackson.
“Yeah, I found out.” He replied slowly, trying to figure out what to say.
A long silence stretched out between them.
“Well?” Jackson asked, pressuring Sebastian for a reply.
“She’s not my sister’s girlfriend.” Sebastian stated, “Evalyn is still heterosexual.”
“Okay cool.” Jackson nodded, “So who is she then?”
“Who’s who?” Sebastian asked, desperately stalling to try and figure out an answer.
“C’mon man, Rayne! Who is she?” Jackson asked again, growing exasperated.
“She’s, uh,” Sebastian paused and pretended to be too focused on driving to reply. Shit. What had Evalyn said?
“She’s, uh, our cousin.” Sebastian claimed, remembering the lie Evalyn had originally told him.
“Your cousin?” Jackson asked flatly, “You told me, in no uncertain terms, that you had no cousins name Rayne. In fact, you told me that you didn’t know anyone named Rayne at all.”
Shit. He had said that, hadn’t he? He pulled up in front of his friend’s house.
“Gimme a break man. I made a mistake.” Sebastian lamely defended himself, “You know how big my family is.”
“Yeeeaah,” Jackson drawled, “I also know how close you are with your family, and that you would never completely forget the existence of an entire person.”
Sebastian grimaced. Jackson was one of his best friends, and knew a lot about him. What was he supposed to say? He couldn’t tell him the truth. This wasn’t Sebastian’s truth to tell. At least not without Rayne’s explicit permission.
A long silenced stretched between them.
“Whatever man.” Jackson said, clearly unhappy, “I thought we trusted each other, but if you feel like you gotta lie to me then…” he lifted his hands up in frustration, “Then you just do you.”
Jackson got out of the vehicle then, standing up and closing the door without so much as a ‘goodbye’.
“Fuck.” Sebastian cursed aloud.
He got out of the vehicle.
“Jackson!” He called out, “Wait a second man!”
His friend turned back to look at him expectantly.
“Look man, I’m sorry I lied to you.” He said, shaking his head at his own actions, “Your right, our friendship is above that. I DO trust you.”
“Then why won’t you tell me?” Jackson asked, his voice edged with frustration.
“I want to tell you.” Sebastian said adamantly, “I do. It’s something I actually really need to talk to someone about. But it’s not my secret to share.”
Jackson just stared at him. “She’s just a girl man.”
“No.” Sebastian shook his head, “This situation is more complicated than you can possibly know. There’s no ‘just’ about it, and to tell you would be to breach the trust of someone I deeply, deeply care about.”
He let that sink in for a moment.
“So, you’d rather break my trust than hers?” Jackson asked. Damnit. His voice had gone from pissed off to hurt.
“Dude.” Sebastian groaned, “It’s not that simple. Look, I may trust you, but she doesn’t. She doesn’t even know you. She knows me. She trusts me. I will tell you everything as soon as I can. Hell – if you’re both okay with it, when the time comes I’ll introduce you to her myself. But I need you to be patient.”
Jackson sighed heavily and slowly nodded.
“Okay, yeah sure.” He looked at the ground, then back up to his friend, “Sorry man. I overreacted.”
“No worries dude. I should have told you straight up to begin with.” Sebastian said, sighing with relief. “See ya tomorrow?”
Jackson nodded. “Yeah man. Have a good night.”
He climbed back into his vehicle. He had promised Rayne he would be there for her no matter what, and he intended to be, but he couldn’t deny that he was conflicted about her coming out.
Raymond had been his only brother. They may not have had much in common, but they had still been brothers. Now he was suddenly gone, and Rayne had appeared from nowhere. But how could he talk to his family about this? They all seemed to be doubtless in their support.
He sighed as he opened the door.
He went to take off his shoes and stopped in his tracks. The exact person he had been thinking of stood before him.
“H- hi!” Rayne said. She licked her lips and nervously looked down at her feet.
“Uh, hey Rayne. What’s up Sis’?” Sebastian asked as he removed his shoes and sat down his school bag.
“Um, w- well, I was just, uh, just wondering if you’d like to go for a run?” She asked hesitantly, before hastily continuing, “With, um, me.”
Sebastian stopped what he was doing. He took a brief look at the outfit she was wearing, which caused Rayne to do the same. While undeniably feminine, it would be fine for a run. She was wearing mostly black leggings that ended just below her knees, the trim around the legs was a colorful butterfly print. She also wore a loose grey t-shirt that left one shoulder exposed. The t-shirt had been Evalyn’s pick. Rayne had vehemently refused at first, claiming it was much too revealing. Catalina had laughed and pointed out that it showed one shoulder and could hardly be considered revealing. She had purchased it, saying that Rayne wouldn’t have to wear it if she didn’t want to, but that it would be fine for running.
Rayne bit her lip, suddenly feeling ridiculous. She opened her mouth to take back what she had said, but Sebastian spoke before she could.
“Yeah. Sure.” He said with a nod, “I think a run is just what I need right now. Give me 10 minutes to get ready.”
Rayne nodded, “O- okay. I’ll wait outside.”
She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She quickly pulled on her new running shoes, and after tying them up, stepped out the doors.
It was a cloudy day. Rayne took another slow, deep breath. She spent a long moment savoring the taste of the fresh air, the feeling of cold air rushing into her lungs. After slowly exhaling she began her stretches. Making sure her body was loose and limber for the coming exertion. The door opened and closed again behind her.
“You ready?” Sebastian asked as he approached where she sat on the lawn.
“Yup!” Rayne said happily, “Just doing my stretches.”
Sebastian nodded and began to do the same.
“We just gonna do the usual route?” Sebastian asked. Their usual route went around the community and though various residential areas before returning to the house. It took about an hour, varying slightly based of their pace on any given day.
Rayne blushed lightly, “Umm, well, I was thinking we’d do something a bit different if that’s okay?”
“Not quite comfortable running through heavily populated areas as Rayne yet?” Sebastian guessed.
Rayne bit her lip and nodded.
“You have somewhere in mind?” Sebastian asked.
Rayne nodded again.
After a few more stretches Sebastian turned to her and nodded. “Lead away then.”
Rayne took a deep breath and started away, setting an easy pace to get them warmed up.
“So how was your day?” She asked as they jogged lightly.
“Eh, it was okay.” Sebastian answered, “How about yourself? How did your appointment go with Ms. Reid?”
“It was fine,” Rayne answered, leading them towards the treeline that would lead to the lake, “I have an appointment to see the gender specialist on Saturday.”
“That’s great Rayne.” Sebastian answered, he didn’t sound very enthusiastic though.
They picked up the pace for the last block before the treeline. Both focused on breathing rather than talking. When they passed beneath the first tress they slowed again to an easy jog. It would be too easy to trip and wipe out if they went any faster here.
“Um,” Rayne began, breathing deeply, “How are you, uh, taking all of this?”
All she heard from her brother for the next several seconds was the sound of his breathing.
“It’s, uh,” he finally began, hesitating, “it’s a bit… challenging.”
Rayne nodded, but her heart sank.
“Don’t get me wrong Sis’.” Sebastian quickly said, “I still love and support you, but I’ve thought of you as my brother for your whole life. Before you born even, I was excited to have a little brother. We never had a whole lot in common, but it’s still hard to just hit a switch and think of you as my sister.”
Rayne nodded. She couldn’t fault him for that, it was hardly surprising.
“I understand.” She said, “I know your trying though, and I can’t tell you how much that means to me.”
Sebastian chuckled, “I wouldn’t be a good brother if I didn’t at least try.”
“There’s a lot of brothers who wouldn’t even be willing to try.” Rayne said quietly.
They ran in silence until they broke free of the trees at the edge of the lake. There was a paved pathway around much of the lake that would make for much easier running. They paused for a moment to catch their breath.
“So, are you looking forward to going away for Christmas?” Sebastian asked as they stood by the lake.
“Eh, I guess.” Rayne replied, “It’s still too far away to really get me hyped up.”
“Yeah,” Sebastian agreed, “I know what you mean, but it’s only two months. It’ll fly by.”
“I suppose. I’m more concerned with making it though school.”
“Why is that?” Sebastian asked suspiciously, turning to look at her, “Is someone giving you a hard time at school again? Because you just say the wo-
Rayne laughed. He was so overprotective. She wouldn’t change it for the world.
“No Seb. Nothing like that.”
“Then what?” he asked, brow wrinkling in confusion.
She shrugged, “I dunno. I guess, now that you guys have accepted me I just don’t want to be Raymond any more. Class was almost unbearable today. I was so distracted.”
Sebastian raised an eyebrow, “So you want to start going to school as Rayne?”
Rayne frowned. “Well, I do. But I don’t. I wanna be me, but I’m afraid of how people will react. Of how they’ll treat me.”
“They’ll treat you like they should.” Sebastian answered, an edge slipping into his voice, “Or they’ll deal with me. And probably Eva too. God knows she’s adored by 90% of the student body – and faculty for that matter.”
Rayne giggled. “Yeah, she’s really the school sweetheart, isn’t she?”
Sebastian rolled his eyes and nodded.
“But still,” Rayne continued, “I won’t always have you guys to fight my battles for me. I’ll have to deal with confrontation by myself eventually.”
Sebastian pursed his lips. “Eventually? Sure. Soon? I hope not.”
Rayne smiled. “Even so, Mom and Dad made it pretty clear that the next step was seeing this gender specialist. I doubt I’ll be going to school as Rayne anytime soon. Maybe not at all.”
“Why not at all?” Sebastian asked.
“Mom, Dad, and this psychologist will probably just agree that I’m better off finishing school as Raymond. It would probably be easier for the whole family.”
“Except for you.” Sebastian pointed out.
“Maybe.” Rayne nodded, “But not everything’s about me.”
Before he could say another word, Rayne turned and threw herself back into a run along the path.
“Hey!” Sebastian called, turning to run after her.
She laughed and ran faster, making him work to catch up. Which he did of course. It didn’t even take him that long. He was right next to her. A smirk plastered on his face. She pushed harder. So did he. He pulled ahead. She strained to catch up but he just pulled further away.
“Okay, okay.” She called out, slowing back down to an easy jog. “You win.”
He laughed and slowed to match her pace. “You’ve really improved though.”
She didn’t reply, instead focusing on catching her breath.
“So, uh, can I ask you something?” He said hesitantly.
“Of course.” She replied breathlessly, still focused on her breathing.
“Do you remember my friend Jackson?”
Jackson. That was the one who she and Evalyn had encountered on the football field on the day of the first showing. She hadn’t really seen him since then. She remembered him calling her cute though. Just the thought of it made her blush.
“Yep. Why?” She asked shortly.
“Um, well, he wants to meet you. Not Raymond you, but, like, you you. You as in Rayne you.”
“W- why?” She asked nervously.
“I thiiiiiink he has a crush on you.” Sebastian replied slowly.
Rayne’s body froze up. She stumbled. She tried to recover. She failed. She wiped out.
“Woah!” Sebastian stopped as fast as he could, he turned around and ran back to her.
“Are you okay Rayne?” He asked as he reached her prone form.
She groaned, rolled over, and sat up.
“What did you tell him?!” She demanded, oblivious to her own position.
“Hey, relax.” Sebastian replied, holding his hands up defensively. “I didn’t tell him anything. I wouldn’t tell anyone anything about you without your explicit permission. Now are you okay?”
Rayne sighed heavily and tried to climb to her feet. She grimaced and hopped on one foot.
“I think I twisted my ankle.” She replied before changing the topic back, “What did he say that makes you think that?”
“Just sit down.” Sebastian said, letting her lean on his shoulder as he led her to a bench on the side of the path. After she was seated he kneeled down to look at her ankle.
“He’s been asking about you for weeks.”
“Weeks?!” Rayne replied, exasperated.
“Yeah, ever since he first saw you on the football field.” Sebastian replied, “Why does this have you so shocked? Are the feelings mutual?”
“Seeeeb.” Rayne pouted, blushing. She couldn’t deny that Jackson was handsome, but she was dealing with too much in her own life to even think about that right now.
“Is that a yes?” He asked, looking up from what he was doing. “C’mon, let’s get you back to the house. We should get this on ice.”
Rayne pursed her lips and nodded. He helped her to her feet and she began to limp back towards the house, using her brother as a crutch. A very awkward crutch as he was quite a bit taller than her.
They had gone maybe ten steps when Sebastian asked, “So you didn’t answer my question. IS that a yes?”
Rayne huffed. “Give me a break Seb. I don’t know.”
He looked down at her with a raised eyebrow, “You don’t know? Isn’t that kind of simple? It’s a yes or no question.”
Rayne frowned. “No. It’s not simple. I don’t even know if I like guys or girls or what. I have too much going on right now to even think about it.”
She blushed furiously, realizing what she had just said. Sebastian didn’t seem to notice.
He just furrowed his brow. “Well didn’t you ever think about it before? As Raymond?”
Rayne puffed out her cheeks. “It’s hard to explain. When I was Raymond, yeah sure I was interested in girls, but in hindsight I can’t figure out if I was interested in being with them or just interested in being them.”
Sebastian chuckled, “Man, nothings simple with you.”
Rayne rolled her eyes. “I’d push you in the lake but I’d fall in too.”
“Oh, my goodness!” Catalina exclaimed when they walked through the door. “What happened?”
Sebastian eased Rayne down to sit on the stairs as Catalina rushed over.
“Nothing too serious Mom.” Rayne said, waving her hand as if she could wave away her mother’s concern, “I just tripped on our run. Seb had to help me back.”
“Well obviously it IS something serious if you can’t put any weight on it.” Her mother argued as she inspected Rayne’s swelling ankle. “Sebastian, grab an ice pack from the-
She turned around to look at Sebastian. He stood behind her, an ice pack already in hand and offered out to her.
“Let’s get you to the couch.” She decided, gesturing to Sebastian to help Rayne move again. He rolled his eyes.
“You’re overreacting, Mom.” He declared, but helped his sister anyways. Soon she was reclined on the couch, ankle resting on a bag of ice. Catalina and Sebastian joined her in the living room, and the news was put on the tv. Rayne wasn’t really paying attention. She was actually beginning to doze off. Beginning to? She was gone.
Jameson and Evalyn came home half an hour later with takeout. Rayne didn’t wake to eat, or even stir for the rest of the night. Finally, it became obvious that she was done for the day, and Jameson carried her to bed.
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