Becoming Trina?

Becoming ... Trina?
 ©2011 Zoe Taylor

A short story based on the
novel series Becoming Robin


Author's Note:
I wrote this as a writing exercise more than anything. I wanted to explore the events of Book Two from Trent's perspective. This ends in a cliffhanger because Book Three hasn't been written yet, and I was of two minds about whether or not to even publish it.

In the end, I had a lot of fun exploring his motivations, and the differences between where he stands as "just" a heterosexual crossdresser, versus Robin's self-identifying as lesbian and TS, so I decided to just go for it. :-)

Enjoy!
~Zoe

PS: Fixed the title so it'll appear properly in my author's page list rather than preempting the story it's based upon ^_^


If I could use one word to describe Robin, it would be ‘kindred’. She felt, for reasons I can’t explain, like a kindred spirit. Maybe it’s because Nicole and I were friends already, or maybe it’s because of how Robin reacted to me my first night out as Trina, but I knew right away that I wanted to be her friend, at least, once we had actually met. Getting to that point was another matter entirely.

Don’t get me wrong. I cared about Nicole and Mark, and Laura was in a whole other ballpark by herself on where my affections lay, but change is scary, even if it’s a good change. Having a relative stranger, even if she is your friend’s best friend and girlfriend, lend her unconditional support kind of takes off the edge. Maybe I should start at the beginning, though.

For as long as I can remember, I had something of a fascination with girls’ clothes. I kept a stash deep in my closet by the time I was twelve, and even learned to do my own laundry when no one else was at home. A few months ago, though, my bratty little sister stumbled across my secret stash.

She teased me mercilessly at first, but frankly, I actually took it in stride. I always envied the pretty things she got to wear when we were younger; I guess I could say I lived vicariously through her. Eventually the teasing stopped, and within a couple of months, we had actually grown a little closer. Mom suspected something, but given that my usual moodiness had given way to actually being nice to Sharon, she seemed to be content to leave well enough alone.

It was actually Sharon who came up with the name ‘Trina’. I never let her see me dressed, but I sometimes gave her makeup advice based on what I had learned through trial and error. At thirteen, she was just old enough in Mom’s eyes to start learning, so I helped her along when I could. I was no makeup artist, but with our similar skin tones, I could at least point her in the right direction about what to avoid outright.

Tuesday afternoon, and a week to go before Nicole’s birthday, I had been acting as kind of a go-between with Nicole’s other friends, Jennifer, Allison, and Robin, though mostly Allison. Our group used to have another, Jason Beaumont, but ever since he attacked Robin after school one day, we wanted nothing to do with him. Unfortunately that also strained things. I knew what he was planning, but I didn’t say anything. I regretted it every single day. I couldn’t even look Robin in the eye in passing without feeling horribly guilty.

Allison had some big plans for Nikki’s birthday party. All I knew for certain was that she managed to book Heedless Despair to do a concert right here in Alpine Springs. I had just gotten off the phone with her when I heard someone knocking at the front door. My mother was still at work, and Sharon had been upstairs doing her homework, so I went to get it myself.

Laura stood on the other side. She was still wearing the black leather mini and matched pleather jacket that I loved so much, her soft brown ringlets tied into a tight, high ponytail. She gave a reserved smile.

“Hey,” I said lazily. I wanted to say more. I wanted to tell her how beautiful she looked. I wanted to say ANYTHING but just ‘Hey’, but I couldn’t. Laura and I were childhood friends. We grew up together. Dating would have just been too weird, and I didn’t want to lose her friendship if things didn’t work out.

“Hey,” she answered as simply. I stepped back to let her inside. The foyer carpet muffled the sound her knee-length boots would otherwise have made as she stepped inside. “So… Any news to report from the girl scouts?”

I had to chuckle a little. It’s true that we sometimes jokingly referred to Nikki’s other friends as ‘The Scouts’, but not to be demeaning. It was actually Nikki who started the trend. Whatever happened at that camp changed her for the better. I nodded. As I turned to return to the kitchen, my hand brushed against Laura’s. I tried not to let her see me blushing, going so far as to pretend to search for a soda in the fridge. She sat at the kitchen table, staring out the French doors on the far side that led to the patio.

“I just got off the phone with Allison. Heedless Despair’s definitely coming.”

Laura actually smiled broadly, if only for a moment, as I passed her a soda, sitting in the next chair down. “Seriously? That’s awesome. How did she convince them?”

I rolled my shoulders. “No idea. She says they’re really psyched though, and they’re going to meet with the band Saturday.”

Laura popped the top on her soda can, her delicate, slender fingers obscuring and contrasting the bright colors as she raised it to her plum lips. After a moment, she exhaled. “Speaking of Saturday, I talked to Nikki today. She wants us to finally meet Robin.”

I choked on my soda. Laura’s perfectly sculpted eyebrows quirked slightly. I never told her about what I had heard Jason saying. I never told anyone. I slowly shook my head. “I… I can’t,” I said nervously.

Laura frowned. “Why not? Trent, Nikki’s our friend, and you can’t deny that she’s a hell of a lot happier now than she was when she and Jason were dating,” she added more matter-of-factly. I knew that tone, but I just couldn’t.

“I know!” I shot back. “That’s why I can’t though. Robin’s obviously a good person. Too good.”

“Are you saying she’s using Nikki?” Laura replied with more annoyance in her tone, completely misinterpreting what I meant. This was not going well at all, but how could I tell her the truth without losing her trust?

“No. I’m saying I’m not good enough, okay?” I was on the verge of tears, and Laura knew it. She knew it took a lot to bring me to that point. When I fell off my bike and snapped my ankle, I didn’t cry, and when my grandfather passed away, I didn’t cry. But the thought of telling her the truth was just too much. She quickly stood, grabbing me by the hand and pulling me up into a much-needed hug.

“Trent, what’s going on?” she asked more softly now.

“It’s about Jason,” I stammered. “The day he attacked her, I-I overheard him talking to one of his crackhead buddies. I thought he was just blowing off steam, you know, being Jason. I had no idea-”

“Oh my God, Trent,” Laura interrupted me, shaking her head slowly. I bit my lip, waiting for the tongue-lashing. “I’m so sorry!” She began, “I should’ve asked what was going on sooner. I’ve just been so wrapped up in school and … other stuff,” she trailed off slowly.

“Laura, this isn’t your fault. I didn’t want you, or anyone to know. I felt so bad about what happened. I can’t even look at her without feeling terrible about it. I could’ve stopped him, or at least warned her to be careful. I could’ve gone to the principal or-”

She placed her slender index finger against my lips. “You should talk to Robin. You’ll feel better, and if she doesn’t understand, then that’s her loss. Jason was a dick, but you’re not him, okay?”

I nodded slowly, but I still didn’t feel any better. Maybe she was right though. Maybe I should just tell Robin and get it off my chest once and for all. We stood there together for several more seconds. It felt so right, holding Laura like that, and I wanted to enjoy that moment, but I knew it couldn’t last. Even if we could date, could she really love me knowing my terrible secret?

I’d find out sooner than I thought. No more than a minute passed before I heard Sharon’s heavy footsteps rapidly descending the stairs. I felt the blood leave my face when she shouted “Trina, I’m doing laundry! Want me to wash your stuff with mine?” She poked her head around the corner, her jaw dropping. “Oh my God, Laura where’d you come from?!”

I couldn’t take it. I ran right out the kitchen door. I didn’t even bother to close it behind me. I just needed some air. As I stood, leaning on the patio banister, I heard Laura’s footsteps behind me. She was walking more softly now. I felt her hand on my shoulder, and a few seconds later, Sharon joined us, sobbing incoherently. Crap.

“Trent, I am SO sorry!” she wept. I slowly turned back to face her. I sighed, pulling her into a hug, and even kissed the top of her head as I held her close to me, trying to do the big brother thing and man up. It wasn’t her fault. Laura kind of snuck in on her while she was upstairs. This day was inevitable, really. I just wished it hadn’t come on the heels of my confession of what I’d overheard.

“It’s alright. It was an accident. Laura, I can explain,” I began, looking up at her, “But right now I think I need to have a talk with my sister. Could you give us a second?”

Laura gave us a reserved smile as she nodded. She surprised me when she leaned over to kiss my cheek, though. She gently patted Sharon’s shoulder, turning to step back inside. I returned my attention back to my bewildered little sister.

“I didn’t even hear her come in!” she continued. “I know I gave you a hard time about this when I first found out, but you’ve been like an awesome big sister ever since. Please don’t be mad at me!”

“I’m not mad at you,” I spoke softly, trying to calm her down. She slowly looked up at me, waiting for me to continue. I tried to give her a reassuring smile. “I was just so overwhelmed. Laura and I just had a serious talk about something that happened with a mutual friend who attacked a really nice girl at school, and then having this on top of it … It just overwhelmed me; that’s all.”

“Really?” she sniffed, bringing a hand up to dry her eyes. I nodded.

“Yeah, really. You can be a real brat sometimes, but you’re still my baby sister. I know you didn’t mean for that to happen.” I smiled a little more as I hugged her again. She was only thirteen, but had already gotten her first growth spurt quite awhile ago.

She’d start developing into a beautiful young lady soon, and the last thing she needed was to enter her teen years thinking she’d just destroyed her older brother’s social life.

She smiled, and even laughed a little. “I guess you’ve got to go talk to Laura now. Let me know if you need any help.”

“Thanks,” I managed a weak laugh. “And if you wouldn’t mind, Trina’s clothes are in the usual place. Thanks.”

She giggled lightly. “Hey, um, can I ask who the nice girl was first?”

“Sure, but you probably don’t know her. Her name’s Robin.”

“Spirit?” She frowned. “Why would anybody attack her?”

“He’s… going through some things right now. I guess he just kind of went off the deep end. Anyway, how do you know her?”

She rolled her eyes, as though I should have been keeping better track of her social life. “My BFF is a girl scout. She was trying to get me to join after they got a couple of new counselor trainees at camp last summer. Now go talk to your girlfriend already,” she teased. Sometimes, for a kid, she could be really perceptive.

We stepped back inside, but Laura wasn’t in the kitchen. “Laura?” I called.

“In here!” she yelled back from the living room. Sharon and I parted ways as I stepped into the living room to find Laura sitting on the sofa, her legs crossed in an adorable and incredibly ladylike fashion. She smiled and patted the cushion next to her. “C’mere.”

I breathed a nervous sigh as I stepped closer, sitting beside her. I tucked my leg up underneath me as I sat, so that I could comfortably face her. She smiled and took my hand in hers.

“Listen, you don’t have to say anything if you don’t want. I’m a little hurt that you didn’t open up about Jason, but only because I care about you… A lot,” she tacked on that ‘a lot’ as a nervous aside. I closed my eyes.

“I like to dress like a girl sometimes,” I stated bluntly. “It’s not like I want to BE a girl or anything, but I love the way I look in those clothes, and I like how they feel. Sharon’s known for a couple of months now. Mom and dad don’t have a clue.”

“So that’s why she called you Trina?” she asked. I nodded. “You realize what this means, don’t you?” she continued, rather neutrally.

I nervously shook my head, and she broke into a broad smile. “It means I’m going to have to talk you into wearing a corset for me some time.” She giggled as she leaned closer, wrapping an arm around me. “Trent or Trina, it doesn’t matter. You’re my best friend. I love you,” she blurted out, then started to blush. “I mean… you know what I mean.”

I laughed nervously. Sure, I knew what she meant. I loved her too. I was head over platform heels for her.

“I do want to see you dressed up though. I’ll bet you make a cute goth girl.”

“I don’t know about cute, but I’ve learned a lot from watching you and Nikki. If you really want to see, though, I’ll show you.”

I spent the next hour or so showing off my very limited wardrobe for Laura. As I changed into my personal favorite, my black poet’s blouse and knee-length black pencil skirt, in my private half-bathroom, I paused to readjust the false auburn red ringlets.

I had a really nice Halloween wig that I’d gotten at a decent discount. The long, red hair easily covered up my shoulder-length locks, and completely transformed me, at least in my own mind, into someone else.

I realized as I was readjusting the wig, that I forgot the two inch patent boots I usually wore with the ensemble. When I stepped out, heading for the closet to collect them, I suddenly realized there was another presence in the doorway.

“Trina!? OHMYGOD you look gorgeous!” Sharon squealed, dropping the fresh basket of laundry. She raced over, throwing her arms around me. “I’m sorry. I was just going to put your basket back in here. Laura said you were in the bathroom so I figured it’d be okay. Wow!” She giggled as she looked up at me.

I blushed, hesitantly wrapping her in a hug. “Um, thanks Sharon.” I responded nervously. “I’m sorry I never let you see me like this. I just didn’t want to freak you out.”

“Are you kidding?! You look awesome! But, um, Mom called and said she’d be home in like, twenty with pizza.”

I was enjoying myself so much, I completely forgot about our parents. I reluctantly sighed. “I’d better change back then. Thanks for the heads-up though.”

She practically beamed. “Sure.” She turned to bound out of the room, closing the door behind her. Laura stood and stepped closer.

“She’s right y’know. You really are kind of hot.”

My cheeks burned even more intensely now. Laura genuinely giggled. “Hey, I’ve got a crazy idea. Why don’t I talk to Nikki and see if she and Robin want to meet Trina?”

“Are you crazy?” I balked. “I’d love to go out like this, but-”

“Come on, it’ll be fun!” she pleaded. “Robin and Nikki are open-minded, and you KNOW Nikki’s going to want to see how sexy you look.” She rested her head against my shoulder. “Pleeeease?”

“What would Mark say, though?”

She laughed cheerfully. “Mark’s a nice guy; you know that,” she insisted more seriously. “Okay, if not with Robin and Nikki, will you at least go out to dinner with me?”

“You mean … like, a date?” I asked, stunned. Her smile was infectious. She leaned up to kiss me, but not the sisterly peck on the cheek I’d grown so used to from her. I embraced her fully, and the world melted away for that short few minutes. Laura exhaled slowly, staring up at me.

“That was amazing,” she whispered.

“I love you,” I responded. She blinked.

“What?”

“I’ve always been crazy about you Laura. I’ve just never said anything because I thought it would ruin our friendship.”

That odd, quirky smile returned. Honestly, I hadn’t seen her smile this much in years. It felt so good to see her so happy again, even if I didn’t fully understand why yet. She was quick to educate. “The ‘other stuff’ I’ve been dealing with that I mentioned before is … Well, I’ve been wrestling with whether or not I should just tell you.” She trailed off.

“I know you’re not going to tell me you’re seeing someone, or you wouldn’t have kissed me like that,” I remarked logically. Her smile turned into an all-out grin.

“Well, actually I am. Her name’s Trina, and she’s my best friend in the world,” she teased, then added, “I’m also dating this cute guy named Trent. I get the best of both worlds, if they’ll have me as their girlfriend.”

“I need to change, then we can talk about this Saturday, and how in the world I’m going to sneak Trina out.”

“Leave that to me. Where are we going though?”

“I think it’s time we finally met Robin. If telling you about Trina made me feel so much better, then maybe talking to her about Jason will too.”

“And if she doesn’t understand, then we’ll just go have dinner somewhere, but at least you’ll feel better. I’ll call Nikki tonight.”

~oOo~

The week practically flew by for Laura and me. We didn’t see much of Nicole mostly because she was quite wrapped up in the Spirit Week events. Honestly, we were just happy to see her so happy. She had sunk into a deep depression, and I thought I saw Jason sneak her a joint before school let out. We were all more like acquaintances than friends, but she and Laura still cared for each other, so we were all quietly cheering her on, especially now that she was dating a Homecoming princess.

Saturday afternoon, we pulled up to Nicole’s house. She lived in the lap of luxury as houses go, in a big mansion on a sizable plot of land, but she never let it go to her head. When Laura called her, she told her we had something to tell her, but Laura was reluctant to say much more than that. I had my wig and a change of clothes in my gym bag, but I wanted to take the cautious approach to all this. I had no sooner stepped out of the car when she emerged from the front door, racing over to greet us.

“Finally!” she exclaimed. “I was wondering when you guys would get here. I am SO bored!”

Laura laughed, which left a genuinely stunned expression on Nicole’s face. She hadn’t seen much of us this week, so she wasn’t prepared for the effect Trina had on her just yet. “Aren’t the scouts keeping you busy?”

Nicole giggled. “I think they’re still sleeping off spirit week. So what’s the big news you wanted to tell me?” I reluctantly grabbed the gym bag from the backseat of Laura’s car. Nicole eyed it warily, but apparently decided not to ask, motioning us inside. “Pizza just got here a few minutes ago if you guys are hungry.”

Laura nodded. “Starving. Are your folks home?”

Nicole shook her head as she led us into the kitchen. “Naw. Mom’s in New Haven getting her hair done, and you know Daddy. Saturdays are his golf day. I swear I never met anyone who loves and hates that game so much, all at the same time.”

She giggled, causing Laura to crack a smile. I couldn’t help laughing too, as we sat down on the bar stools lining the kitchen island. Nicole propped open one of the pizza boxes, sliding it closer even as she added, “Okay, seriously, what’s with you two? It’s like you’ve been hanging around Robin too long or something,” she chided.

Laura and I looked at each other. Laura started giggling again. “Well, Trent and I are kind of dating now,” she admitted, even as she scooped up a slice of pizza for herself.

Nicole slowly turned to stare at us. After a moment she cracked a grin. “Good God, it’s about time! Congrats guys!”

“Well, that’s not all,” I continued nervously. I’d already taken a bite of pizza, but resolved, for the sake of my nerves, not to eat anymore just yet. I sighed as I turned to face the girls. “There’s something I need to tell you because Laura wants to ask you something. You can say no and it won’t change anything between us, but … Well, it’s about the outing tonight.”

Nicole grinned immediately. “Don’t worry. Robin’s a sweetheart. She’s freaked right out about what to wear, but I told her she doesn’t have to be a gloom-cookie or anything. If anything I think she’s more nervous than you look right now,” she added with a giggle, but it faded a moment later as she realized I wasn’t laughing. She stood and stepped closer. “Trent, whatever it is you know you can tell me. We’re still buds. Jason didn’t change that.”

I flinched at the mention of Jason. That wasn’t a bridge I was ready to cross yet. I exhaled. “The thing is, I kind of … like dressing like a girl sometimes, and Laura thought it would be fun for us to go out like that.” I clamped down on my bottom lip.

Nicole’s eyes widened, and she started giggling for no apparent reason. “Oh my Gawd,” she whispered under her breath. Laura scowled, but before she could say anything in my defense, Nicole continued. “Trent, that is so cool! I mean, I’m honored you trust me with this.” She smiled brightly. Laura’s and my jaws both dropped right open, but she leaned up to plant a chaste kiss on my cheek, continuing. “I told you, we’re buds. Besides, you totally have the legs for a mini.”

“You think Robin would be okay with this too?” I blurted without thinking. She nodded vigorously.

“Gawd yes. TRUST me, she’s the last person you have to worry about. Just give me a minute to talk to her first, and I promise you everything will work out. So um, can I ask you a really personal question?” She added, returning to her pizza. I nodded after a moment, suddenly feeling incredibly hungry myself.

“Sure, I guess,” I answered, uncertain what she wanted to ask.

“Are you, like… I mean,” she seemed to be struggling to find the right words. “Are you a girl?” I blinked at her question. She rolled her shoulders gently. “Seriously. Do you feel like a girl in the wrong body?”

I shook my head. “No, nothing like that. It’s just … I like the way those clothes look and feel on me. I guess you could say I like visiting the theme park; I just wouldn’t want to live there.”

Nicole and Laura grew silent, not even chewing a bite as they took in what I had just said, before they both burst into laughter. Nicole grinned. “Trent, dude, that was philosophical genius. Or do I call you Trina now?”

I laughed. “Either is fine. ‘Trina’ was Sharon’s idea, actually.”

~oOo~

I spent the afternoon with the girls, first explaining how Laura and I ended up kind of stumbling into admitting our affection for each other, though I left out the part about Jason for now. I wasn’t ready to cross that bridge yet. I wasn’t sure if I ever would be. Later that afternoon, I put on my ‘Trina’ outfit. I chose a short-sleeved black blouse with my pencil skirt and boots, and I even let Nicole paint my nails while she and Laura worked with me on my makeup. They wanted to help make the illusion of Trina a reality as much as I did.

That evening, since we would be going to the mall together anyway, we rode with Nicole and her mother over to Robin’s house. The girls assured me, repeatedly, that they could handle Mark when we arrived, but I wanted to get the meeting with Nicole’s girlfriend out of the way first, just in case things didn’t go well.

Gina seemed surprisingly accommodating about the whole ordeal. Nicole had taken her mother aside when she arrived home, and after only a few seconds, the older woman had simply smiled at me, nodded, and gone on about her business.

When we arrived at Robin’s, I couldn’t help feeling a sense of belonging. She lived, apparently with her mother and half-sister, in a pretty nice neighborhood. I suddenly felt very exposed when I stepped out of the car, though. Walking around one’s bedroom, or even a friend’s bedroom, in a mid-thigh length skirt is a far cry from being out in public in one!

Laura gave my hand a reassuring squeeze as the three of us approached the door. Nicole, rather than knocking, simply stepped right inside, motioning for us to follow. She disappeared into what I presumed to be the kitchen, but Laura and I couldn’t make out much of the conversation from where we stood. She returned a few seconds later.

“Robin’s upstairs. Do you guys mind waiting here? I don’t want to invade her privacy too much,” she offered. Laura nodded.

“I don’t mind. Trina, why don’t you go with her though?”

“I don’t think I should,” I started to protest, but Nicole smiled as she took my hand.

“Actually, that’s not a bad idea. It’s more intimate up there so it won’t feel as weird introducing you as it would down here in the hallway.”

“Well I guess–” I started, and before I could finish, I found myself being dragged up the stairs behind her.

She poked her head around the corner, turning back to me and whispering, “It’s okay. She’s not changing or anything.”

She turned back, quietly tiptoeing into the bedroom. I took only a couple of steps inside the door before I couldn’t move. Seeing her standing there in that cute green sweater, knowing what Jason did to her, what I could have prevented, I froze up.

My heart started to race, my palms began to sweat, and I thought I might pass right out.

“Oh!” Nicole suddenly stated, breaking my focus and drawing me back to reality. I glanced up just long enough to make eye contact with her, but I completely lost my nerve again, shifting my gaze down. What was I doing here? This was insane. I wanted to run right back out that door again. Why did I let Laura talk me into this?

Suddenly she approached me. She had a disarming, cheerful smile as she offered her hand. That just made me feel worse. “It’s nice to meet you, Trina,” she offered. I was shaking badly now as I took her hand and lightly shook it. What else could I do? She continued.

“I’m sorry if I seemed apprehensive at first. I was just surprised. It’s okay to like dressing like a girl. It’s fun being a girl, even if it’s just once in awhile.” She giggled a little, and I had to crack a smile, remembering the ‘theme park’ crack from the other day.

“Thanks Robin. Your support means a lot to me.” My voice cracked at first, but I tried to maintain composure and sound as naturally feminine as possible. Her support really did mean a lot, too. I didn’t deserve it, but it meant a lot all the same.

Nicole stepped closer, wrapping us both in a sidelong hug. “Laura’s waiting downstairs for us. I didn’t want to invade your personal space too badly, but I wanted you to meet Trina because I wanted her to know she has your support as much as mine.”

She glanced back at Robin briefly before practically dragging us both back downstairs.

“Hi Robin. It’s nice to finally meet you,” Laura offered more cheerfully than I could have hoped to manage at that moment.

“Hi there,” Robin answered, and then added, “I’ll probably end up saying this again later tonight when we’re all together, but I’m sorry if I seemed distant toward you guys in the past. It’s just, you all and Nikki seem to share a different kind of friendship, and I didn’t want to intrude.”

Intrude?! Was she kidding?! She was the best thing that ever happened to Nicole, and we all admired her for it, and for having the courage to stick it out even when things went badly. I wanted to say something. I wanted to tell her that it was we who didn’t want to intrude on what she had with her friends, with Jennifer and Allison.

Laura rolled her shoulders, responding in a playful tone, “You really are a girl scout.” Laura grinned and added, “I’m kidding. Really, it’s kinda awkward for us too because we used to be Jason’s friends.” Oh God. What was she doing?! My heart began to pound again. “After that crap he pulled with you though,” Laura trailed off. Just when I thought I’d get a reprieve, Nicole picked right up.

“After the ass attacked you, they dropped him like a hot potato.”

I closed my eyes, trying to regain my composure. I subconsciously chewed my lower lip. I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to tell her, tell Nicole, the truth.

“I’m sorry about that,” I stammered. My voice cracked. “I overheard him talking about wanting to get back at you, but I thought he was just being Jason. The guy’s an ass, but he’s never been really violent before. If I knew what he was planning I would’ve warned you guys.”
Silence fell over the room. Nicole stared dumbly at me and then at Laura. I was just about to turn to leave when Robin spoke up again.

“Don’t blame yourself. Like you said, the guy’s a jerk. You can’t let what you didn’t know dictate your life any more than I can. If I’d known he was going to attack me I would’ve tried to keep my self-control a little more tightly. No more blaming yourself, okay?”

I nodded, managing a weak smile. She was such a sweetheart. I understood now what Nicole saw in her, at least somewhat. She had a kind of empathy for others, even those like me who just flat out did not deserve, or saw ourselves as undeserving of, such kindness.

~oOo~

I wish I could say I spent hours at the mall trying on new clothes, though that would come later, as I became more comfortable with expressing my feminine side. In truth, we just had dinner and a movie as a group of friends. I think we really bonded though, all of us. Mark was as surprised to see Laura in high spirits as Nicole was. He didn’t even mind that this left him the only ‘guy’ in the group, to see her so cheerful for a change.

As time passed, I became more and more comfortable with the idea of Trina having a real place in my life, but at the same time, I was feeling more and more conflicted too. I loved being Trina. I loved being called ‘Miss’ when I went out shopping with Laura. At the same time, the idea frightened me too, and worse, Laura’s mother started to suspect something. It wasn’t that she suspected I could be Trina. She believed Nicole was a bad influence on Laura, that she ‘chose’ to be lesbian, and now her own daughter was choosing to as well.

I found myself withdrawing more and more during school. At least working on my photography I could force myself not to think about it as much. I did eventually confide in another photographer, Kathy. She and I shared a unique friendship. You don’t spend hours in a darkroom with someone without eventually learning all about them.

“Hey big guy,” Kathy offered in her cheerful way as we passed by each other in the journalism department.

“Hey,” I muttered, ducking into the darkroom. Before I could close the door, she rushed inside after me, closing and locking it.

“Okay, I can’t take it anymore. What’s going on? You know you can tell me anything. Did you and Laura get in a fight?”

I managed a dry laugh. “Close. Apparently I’m turning my own girlfriend lesbian.” Kathy stared blankly back at me. I sighed. “Hit the lights and I’ll explain. I need to develop this roll and get the proofs to Elaine soon.”

She turned to hit the lights, patiently waiting while I popped open the black and white film canister, rolling it onto the spool. In total darkness, it’s literally impossible to see. I learned early on how to feel my way through, to the point that this was second nature, even in my current mood. Once I had the canister properly sealed, I spoke up again.

“Lights,” I instructed, indicating she could switch the large overhead light on again, then continued. “Laura’s mom found out Trina was at Nikki’s big Halloween party. She confronted me about it, and demanded to know what kind of “freaky things” Nikki’s been filling her head with. I was so angry that I yelled at her to back off and leave Nikki out of it. We haven’t talked since.”

“Oh my God. I’m sorry Trent,” she offered meekly. I rolled my shoulders.

“Me too. Honestly Mouse, this whole thing is just so hard. I like being Trina. I love it, but if it’s going to break up Laura and me, then…”

She nodded. It was clear she didn’t know what to say at that point. I turned back to her and shot her a small smile. “Sorry.”

“No, I’m sorry. I just wish I knew what to say.”

“It’s okay. Just venting helps a little. The worst part is, now she thinks I’m covering for Trina. She has no idea I AM Trina, and I can’t tell her because… Well you know how she is. She’d never understand.”

Kat nodded. She reached out to squeeze my shoulder. “I’m gonna hit the lights again. I’ve got some prints to work on, since I’m already in here.”

~oOo~

Days went by with no end in sight to the situation with Laura’s mother. I’d given up on it for the moment, focusing instead on getting deadlines finished. I’d be able to think about it over the Thanksgiving holiday hopefully. I just hoped Laura didn’t dump me because of it.

Kathy and I were in the darkroom again, but neither of us felt too chatty that day. At least, I didn’t, and she seemed to respect it, so we quietly worked away. I was having a hard time getting a picture to turn out, and decided to take five. Kathy had just shut the lights off to start a fresh roll of film developing when someone knocked at the door. She squealed, causing me to jump. I could hear the canister, bottle opener we used to pry the lid off, and the development container bouncing off the floor in three different directions.

Kathy giggled. “Film’s over here. I’ve got it.”

I grumbled, as I fumbled around blindly for the other two pieces of gear. I stood, bumping my head right into the counter. “ARGH!”

“That… sounded painful,” she mused. I could almost picture the wince on her face. I suddenly felt her hand blindly groping mine. She squeaked. “Sorry,” she added, carefully placing the canister in my hands. I silently slid the film onto the spool, handing it back to her to finish her work. I knew I’d have a small knot on my head before long now, par for the course.

She flicked the light switch, and opened the door, poking her head out. She laughed. “Oh, it’s you. What’s up?”

Elaine called from outside. “She said yes.”

“Really?! AWESOME!”

I thought I heard Robin giggle. A moment later she spoke up. “Yeah, but that’s not why I’m here. Is Trent in there?”

“Yo,” I grunted.

Kathy continued. “We’re having … difficulties getting a picture to turn out right. Come on inside if you’ve got some time.”

By now I had returned to working on my print. I say ‘my’ print because Kathy wanted nothing to do with it. She had underexposed it way too much, but the pose, with Robin and the others dressed as Disney princesses at their Halloween party, was too perfect not to use in the Yearbook, so I took it upon myself to make that thing work.

“So what’s on your mind?” I asked, glancing over at Kathy, “Kathy, put your hand here. I want to I want to try and burn in this area without getting the face mis-exposed this time.”

“Honestly? You are. I’m worried about you. I wanted to come find you a lot sooner, but my ex girlfriend showed up, and all Hell broke loose.” Kathy glanced back at her, but I didn’t want to take my eyes off the print. If I could just get the lighting right…

“I just wanted you to know that if there’s anything I can do to help, just say the word.”

“Yeah, well,” I muttered as I shut off the print machine, taking the paper and turning to face her. Even in the dim, red light, I had to admit she had pretty eyes. I turned to start the development process, continuing, “Talk’s not going to do a lot to help me right now. Laura’s mom is pissed, and I can’t tell her I’m Trina because it’d just make it worse.”

“Actually, it won’t,” she responded. I looked back at her expectantly.

“Laura’s mom thinks her daughter is experimenting with lesbianism. At first she thought Nicole and I ‘rubbed off’ on her. I thought that I’d managed to convince her that that wasn’t the case, but I guess she changed her mind after hearing about Nikki’s party.”

“Wait,” I suddenly lost interest in the print, turning to face her. “You talked to her mom?”

“It was awhile ago, that day she gave me her Carmilla dress. I told her everything would be okay, but that I couldn’t say anymore. I didn’t want to violate your privacy saying something I had no business saying. She has no idea you’re Trina.”

I nodded as I let that sink in, turning back to retrieve the print. Kathy was one step ahead of me. I shot her a brief smile. “Thanks, Kathy.”

“S’what friends are for, babe,” she teased.

“I don’t know what to do, Robin,” I finally admitted, turning back to her.

“Talk to her. Tell her the truth.”

“I… I’m scared to. I’m scared of how much I’ve enjoyed my time as Trina.” I finally admitted. She started to bite her lip. That was not a good sign.

“Let me ask you something. What is it about becoming Trina that you enjoy most?”

By now I had completely forgotten about the picture I was working on for Kathy. I had to think about my answer, closing my eyes before I responded. “It’s fun. I love dressing up and pretending I’m someone else for awhile. I love going out in heels and a cute black dress, and I really love what it’s done for my relationship with Laura.” I smiled a little. I especially loved that last part.

“Does it feel natural?”

Does it… What? “Like, natural how?”

“I mean, like, do you feel like presenting as Trina is who you really are?”

I had to crack a smile at that. I already knew the answer. “Not really. I just really, really like doing it, but I feel so guilty, especially with Laura’s mom thinking I’m hiding something. She doesn’t even know Laura and I are going steady.”

“Listen, I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but you should see someone — a professional-”

“Like, a shrink?” I cut her off. I really did not like where this was going.

“Yeah, but hear me out. She’s been my therapist since June. She’s practically one of my closest friends, and I’d trust her with my life without a second thought. Ally sees her too, but less often. She treats each of her patients, no matter what they’re there for, on an individual basis, and most importantly, she listens.”

I turned back to the photo as it soaked in its final bath. After a quick rinse I hung it up on the clothesline strung over the large basin, stepping aside for her to see.

“Finally got the exposure just right. We didn’t want you looking completely washed out against the background. Give me the contact information, and … I’ll talk to my parents tonight. I’m also going to go over to Laura’s this weekend and apologize.”

I stepped closer and wrapped her in a friendly hug. It was the least I could do after all. She smiled as she hugged me back.

~oOo~

That night, I sat down with my parents at the dining room table. I invited Sharon to come too, as it concerned her. Really, it concerned the whole family. My dad, a firefighter, was a real man’s man type, but he raised us with as much respect as we gave him. Mom on the other hand was a receptionist. It wasn’t glamorous work, but she seemed to enjoy it.

Unfortunately with Dad’s hours though, I never knew when he would be home, so it was now or never.

“What’s this about, dear?” Mom finally broke the silence. I exhaled slowly. “There’s something I need to talk to you guys about. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea though, but I… I want to speak to a psychiatrist.”

My father frowned, shifting his weight uncomfortably, but he seemed willing to listen. My mother shook her head slowly. “What ever for?”

“It’s … Well,” I sighed. It was now or never. I laid it all out for them. I told them everything about how I had been fascinated with girls’ clothing since I was a kid. My father stayed silent even as my mother asked me questions ranging from the obvious, if I was gay, to the more obscure, like if someone had put me up to this.

Finally, my dad leaned forward. “Well, what I’d like to ask is, why tell us now, all of a sudden?”

I turned to face him. I felt Sharon’s hand squeeze mine under the table, and shot her a quick smile. “Because I had a huge falling out with Laura’s mom over it. We’ve been dating, going steady, for awhile, but I can’t tell her because she thinks I’m covering for Laura and a lesbian girlfriend. I was afraid to tell her the truth because of how she reacted already.

“I thought if she knew I was Trina, that she’d try and force us not to see each other anymore. But I can’t take it anymore. I need to make this right, Dad. I’m putting it all on the line, telling you guys this, because I need professional help. I don’t want to hurt Laura anymore.”

I thought I might faint at what came next. My father stood, stepped around the table slowly, and extended his hand to me. “I’m proud of you, son. I don’t understand any of this dressing-like-a-girl business, but the fact you’re willing to risk everything to protect your girlfriend…” He started to choke up. I took his hand as I stood, and suddenly found myself engulfed in a hug. My mother stepped around, joining in, along with Sharon a moment later.

Mom added, “I’ll do whatever I can to help. I’ve known something was odd for a long time now, especially after you and your sister started getting along so well.”

I managed a weak laugh as I kissed Sharon’s forehead. “She was the first to figure it out.”

“He looks REALLY pretty as Trina too,” Sharon added. I could feel my cheeks burn as I shook my head.

“I have the number for a great therapist. One of my friends from school, Robin Smith, says she helped her after she was assaulted by some creep last summer.”

“I’ll call and make an appointment,” Mom offered. “In the meantime, what do you want to do about Laura’s mother?”

I exhaled slowly as I pulled out my cell phone and dialed.

“Laura? Hey. Is your Mom home? Will she speak to me? Tell her it’s Trina...”

~oOo~

I can’t say what the future holds,
If it’s copper or if it’s gold.
All I know is my life’s been changed,
Touched by an angel in cute, faded jeans.



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