Boys Don't Cry
© 2011 Zoe Taylor
Six years later, their lives
I mentioned before that I had no idea where I was going to take this story, and I even thought about leaving it as a standalone, but I started wondering what would happen if Johnny was treated as my past attempts to reach out to counselors and therapists had gone? This is the answer.
NOTE: Yes, Kelly and Robin make a cameo appearance in this one. It's probably a one-time deal. This makes Boys Don't Cry and Becoming Robin tangentally tied together (they're both 'real world' type stories - no high fantasy or magic, etc), but where Robin's story is very sweet and upbeat, Boys Don't Cry is much darker. It's not without hope, but not without pain for everyone involved.
“LeAnn, could you give this to Kelly for me?” The head nurse asked. LeAnn, now an interning medical student, wasn’t exactly working at the hospital to be a delivery girl, but she was there, she wasn’t doing anything else at that particular moment, and she always did everything asked of her with a bright, beautiful smile, and never a complaint. She was, in a word, reliable.
There always seemed a certain sadness in her eyes. Her hair, once long and wavy, had been bobbed off just above her shoulders and curled under, exposing simple stud earrings. Six years had passed since the ballet incident. Six years since LeAnn’s ‘baby sister’ was torn away from her, metaphorically speaking.
She never forgot that night when Johnny asked to sleep in her bed. She never let go of the precious image of her sweet little sister dancing in the attic, but she could also never forget that it was the night her father struck her, or the way he hurt Ricky for standing up to him.
“Have you seen Ms. Kelly?” LeAnn asked softly as she approached one of her fellow interns. He smiled slyly back at her.
“Not even a ‘Hi Sean’?” he answered playfully. She stared expectantly at him and he held up his hands defensively. “Sorry Lee. Bad day?”
She shook her head slowly. “Rough night last night.”
“The nightmares again?”
“I keep hopin’ they’ll go away someday. So have you seen Nurse Kelly or not?”
“Yeah, she just headed down the hall a minute ago talking to one of the students in for an EKG I think. If you hurry you can catch her.”
“Thanks Sean,” she answered, calling over her shoulder as she raced down the hall, “I’ll buy you lunch later!”
“Not if I can help it,” he teased. He smiled as he turned to continue down the hall, very nearly running over a nurse wheeling a tall cart.
Meanwhile LeAnn spotted Kelly’s bouncy ponytail just as the nurse made a left-turn into one of the empty examining rooms, a black haired teen-aged girl in tow. She approached, but waited outside rather than interrupting.
LeAnn tried not to eavesdrop as she leaned against the wall directly beside the door, but Kelly had left it open just a crack, and a few strange words came through. There was something about medical adhesive, and a ‘special’ garment, but the conversation was spoken in lulls and whispers. What struck her most though, was when the pair emerged.
Kelly smiled at LeAnn, turning back to hug the girl close.
“See you tonight, okay?”
The girl smiled brightly as she nodded, and then waved at LeAnn before turning to walk away. LeAnn gave the girl a respectful smile, turning her attention back to Kelly.
“Sorry, Ms. Jones. I didn’t want to interrupt, but the head nurse asked me if I’d give this to you.”
Almost timidly, she produced the clipboard, but she lingered. The nurse, a few years older than herself, had piqued her curiosity, but she didn’t know exactly how to say it.
Kelly lost herself in the chart, looking it over carefully. When she realized LeAnn hadn’t left, she glanced up again and smiled professionally.
“Is everything alright?”
“Can I ask what you were talking about with that girl just now? I know it’s none of my business,” she started. Kelly’s professional smile faded.
“You’re right,” she answered gently. “It isn’t, but don’t take that the wrong way either. You’re LeAnn right?”
LeAnn nodded timidly. She was sure she had crossed a line she shouldn’t have. “I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t have asked.”
Kelly’s smile started to return. “No, I believe you, it’s just that girl’s like a sister to me. I wouldn’t betray her trust to her own doctor.”
“I guess I was just curious because that bright smile sorta reminded me of somebody I used to know. That sweet boy’s been gone a long time though.”
When she turned to walk away, Kelly reached out to catch her hand. “Walk with me?”
LeAnn searched the older woman’s face. Something shifted in her gaze, but she couldn’t put her finger on what it was, so she gave a very slow nod. She nervously followed Kelly, not really certain what to expect. Kelly led the young intern out into the hospital garden. She led her to one of the gazebos near the northwestern corner. No patients or family members were moving about yet.
Kelly motioned to the bench, not a commanding gesture, but rather an invitation, as she sat down herself. LeAnn relaxed slightly as she joined the nurse. She exhaled slowly. “I’m sorry. It’s just so weird talkin’ about this with anybody. S’been six years, but it’s like it all happened yesterday.”
Kelly bobbed her head gently. “You said she reminded you of someone. It’s my turn to be nosy now.”
LeAnn gave Kelly a sad smile, but couldn’t look her in the eye. “My baby brother Johnny. I guess he’s just ‘John’ now, ever since the old man died.” LeAnn sighed. Kelly carefully wrapped her in a hug, and LeAnn began to cry. “He was only seven, for Chrissakes,” she sobbed.
“What happened to him?” Kelly asked more seriously now. She must have had a thousand different thoughts running through her mind, none of them pleasant.
“He had asked Momma if he could take ballet, and Momma apparently had told him she’d talk to Daddy about it.”
“That doesn’t sound so bad,” Kelly offered, more surprise than questioning. LeAnn laughed, but bitterly.
“Yeah, well, you didn’t grow up in Arkansas. Johnny may as well have been wearin’ a tutu, but that part came later. See, there was this huge explosive argument between Mom and Daddy, and Johnny heard our brother Ricky get slapped for callin’ Johnny a fairy…”
LeAnn related to Kelly the events of that fateful night with tears staining her cheeks. Kelly quietly listened, appalled at the child’s treatment, but she stayed quiet. More and more though, a contemplative expression crossed her features as she listened. A solemn silence fell over the two, broken at first only by the sound of LeAnn’s sobs. Finally, Kelly spoke up.
“So what happened to your Dad?”
“Oh, Daddy was let out the next day on the Good Old Boys system, but the damage was done. When he came home, he was furious. Ricky was all sorts of banged up from the last fight. When he saw Dad comin’ in the house, he went and got Dad’s hunting rifle down.”
“Oh God. He didn’t?”
LeAnn shuddered. “He was gonna protect us at any cost. Daddy backed down, and they went outside to talk, man to man, with Ricky still holdin’ the gun of course. They came back in all laughs and smiles, but Momma was standin’ with me and Johnny by the staircase with our suitcases packed. To make a long story short, Momma divorced him. Daddy got Ricky, and Momma got us. The damage was done though.”
Kelly frowned. “But your brothers are okay, right?”
LeAnn shook her head slowly. Another chill raced down her spine. “The little one, Johnny, is alive, physically. Ricky was killed in a motorcycle accident two years ago, right after him and Johnny got into it. See, the counselor Momma took him to said that this wasn’t normal. He convinced Johnny that if he had manned up and acted like a boy, that nonna this woulda happened.”
Kelly’s jaw quite literally dropped open as she stared blankly back at LeAnn. “Oh my God. That’s terrible!” she hissed, shaking her head sadly.
“Yeah, but what can ya do, y’know? Johnny believed it. He’s always so angry now. Even worse since Ricky died ‘cause he blames himself for that too. I’m so scared he’s gonna do something stupid, but I can’t talk to him anymore.”
“What was he like before all this started?” Kelly asked, quite softly now.
LeAnn slowly raised her gaze. Kelly’s tears glistened in the late morning sun as they rolled down her cheeks.
“He was my sweet boy,” she whispered. “He was so gentle. He loved collecting these little ceramic unicorns. Once the quack got done with him though he took them out, every single one, flung ‘em off the top of the roach motel of an apartment we ended up stayin’ at. I managed to save the mockingbird snow globe though. I keep it by my bed back at my apartment to remind me of the precious little sister I had for a few minutes, before Daddy snatched her away.”
“LeAnn, honey, are you familiar with the word ‘transgendered’?”
LeAnn wrinkled her nose. The term sounded familiar, but she had only heard it applied to outlandish people on Springer. Kelly gave a good-natured laugh.
“I know that look. Transgendered is a term for anyone whose body and mind don’t match up. Basically in pre-natal development something ‘happens’ to cause the mind to develop differently from the body. A genetic girl might develop with a male mind, or vice versa.”
“I knew it!” LeAnn exclaimed. Kelly glanced nervously at her, until she continued, “I knew there was something about him. He was not like other boys, definitely not like our brother Ricky. That night I called him ‘sweet girl’ for the first time. That lasted all of a day. Momma insisted I was ‘confusing the boy’.” She paused to glance at Kelly. “You sure know a lot about this though.”
Kelly smiled as she nodded. “That’s because until I was fifteen, my name was Kevin.”
LeAnn stared in disbelief at what the relative stranger had confided in her. She had been interning at the hospital for a few months now, but she never really had time to talk to any of the staff, other than the doctors and nurses she directly worked with.
Kelly reached out to take LeAnn’s hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze. “I’m transsexual. And growing up I went through a lot of what you’re describing. It took my Dad threatening to send me to military school before I broke down and started freaking out about how they’d murder me there. All this came out in therapy, and I was allowed, over the next summer, to transition. I moved to a different school and started my life as Kelly.”
“But your face, your voice… You don’t look like-” she hesitated.
“Like a man in a dress? Yeah, I get that sometimes when I tell people. I really had to work on my voice. I took piano lessons to help with my patience and because I thought it would make me more ladylike, and as for my face, I was just never all that tough-looking.”
LeAnn wanted to ask how this all related to the girl, but thought better of it. Kelly seemed to be reading her thoughts though.
“I know you’re probably wondering about the other girl, right? All I can tell you is that she’s had her own trials to deal with, and that it’s not my place to say anything other than that she has a beautiful girlfriend and she’s happy.”
LeAnn nodded. “S’okay. But now I wonder about Johnny. D’you think there’s any hope for him?”
“Maybe,” Kelly offered softly. “But I have to warn you, it won’t be easy. How old is he?”
LeAnn tilted her head back gently. “He’ll be fourteen soon,” she responded.
“And you said you’re from Arkansas. He still lives there?”
“Yeah, with Momma. We moved around a lot after the incident. Somehow I got accepted into Yale and a couple of other schools, double-majored in Biology and Chemistry. This’ gonna sound so horrible, but,” she turned to her new friend with a sad smile.
“When I saw my chance to escape that life, I took it. I’da taken acceptance at a community college if it meant gettin’ out of there though. I miss Johnny so much, but I can’t stand to be around him either. He used to be my sweet boy, but now he’s just such a… a monster.”
She shook her head as she covered her mouth. She couldn’t believe she had uttered those words. Kelly pulled her into a comforting hug.
“I tortured my baby sister for the longest time. I was so jealous of her. She got to be Daddy’s little girl, and she got to wear the most beautiful clothing. I hated her for it. I absolutely wanted her to die.” Kelly now shifted her own gaze away. “I try not to dwell on it, but it still makes me cry just thinking about how badly I treated her.”
“Was that her I saw earlier?”
Kelly giggled. “No, that’s her best friend. Like I said, she’s practically my sister though, and I am dating that girl’s half-sister. It’s … complicated.”
“Did your sister ever forgive you?”
“Oh, yes. We’re best friends now. We have been for years. It was hard for both of us at first. She was only five when I transitioned. All she knew was ‘big brudder’ wasn’t so scary anymore, but try explaining that ‘big brudder’ is ‘big sisser’ to a five year old.”
LeAnn stifled a small laugh. “I wish I pushed harder, tried to fight for Johnny’s sake, but it was like once that jerk planted the seeds of doubt, he lost all hope.”
“Let me make some calls,” Kelly offered gently. “I’m only a nurse, but I have connections in the psych community because of my gender status — I went through a lot of therapists, and not because they tried to ‘cure’ me. I just had different issues that each helped me work out. Johnny sounds like she does too.”
LeAnn’s eyes lit up for just a moment. “She… My sweet girl,” she sighed. “God, I hope you’re right. I should get back to work though, before I get us both in trouble.”
“It’s alright sweetie. Just tell them you were helping me sort a problem, and I’ll cover for you.”
“You’d… do that for me?”
“Of course. I’ll let you know what I find out. I don’t expect your Mom to fly your brother up here or anything, but my contacts might know someone in that area that can help.”
LeAnn threw her arms around Kelly. “Thank you so much! But… what do I do in the meantime? Should I call my brother?”
“It’d be best, I think. Even if you do end up arguing, which it sounds from what you’ve told me, like you probably will, it will put the idea in her head, give her something to think about.”
LeAnn gave a soft nod in return as the two women stood to return to their duties.
Lunch with Sean had been quiet at best. He knew his friend well enough to know that even if he had asked, she wouldn’t have told him what was bothering her. She only told him bits and pieces of her home life before coming to the University.
They had really come from two different worlds, with his father an Ivy League man who went on to become a judge, only slightly upset that he wouldn’t be studying law, but his younger brother Jamie had been more than happy to take up the slack there. So they ate their meal in quiet peace.
When they had finished, LeAnn reached out to pick up the check, but Sean placed his hand on hers and smiled.
“No, it’s okay. This one’s on me.”
LeAnn smiled sadly back at him as she turned her hand over, giving his a gentle squeeze.
“Thanks Sean,” she cooed, barely a whisper. “I know I’ve been a major bitch lately.”
“No you haven’t,” he answered immediately. A slow sigh pushed past his lips. “Look, LeAnn, I know you know how I feel about you, but I want you to know I don’t … I don’t ‘expect’ anything either. You’re my friend first, always.”
LeAnn’s smile broadened. He was such a nice guy. Why couldn’t she trust him, open her heart to him? She hated herself for treating him as though he were just another friend, but she wasn’t ready, even all these years later, to open her heart to a man. It wasn’t as though she was attracted to women, either, and she said as much.
“It’s not like I’m into girls or anything,” she mused, casting her gaze away. “It’s just…”
“I know,” he responded. “I’d say something corny like ‘I’ll wait for you’, but as I recall, you slapped me the last time I said that.”
She laughed weakly. “I’m sorry about that. I really am. That was a particularly bad day for me.”
He chuckled as he stood. “I know, and I already forgave you. I was only teasing. So do you want to go dancing tonight? You look like you could use the de-stressing.”
She shook her head slowly. “I can’t.” Sean cringed inside when she spoke those next, fateful words. “I gotta call home tonight. Why don’t you take Stephanie?”
“Nu-uh,” he answered immediately. “You need her there with you. Don’t look at me like that. I’m only thinking of your well-being.”
LeAnn sighed, flustered. “And I was thinkin’ of hers. I don’t want her to see me break down again. I don’t think she can handle it. I love her to death. She’s like a sister, but she needs time away from my messed up life too.”
“You know she cares about you too. She’d do anything for you.”
“I s’ppose,” she reluctantly nodded. “We’d better get back though. Thanks for lunch. I needed it.”
“I know,” he answered, pulling her into a gentle, friendly hug. She had to fight herself not to cry on his shoulder, making a scene right there in the restaurant. When she entered the ladies’ room to freshen up though, after taking care of her other business, she found herself staring at the mirror. She broke down and began to sob.
Later that evening, LeAnn stood in the small nook of a kitchen in her shared studio apartment. Her roommate Stephanie padded into the room, her frizzy red hair pulled into a high ponytail. Her loose, baggy t-shirt and sweat pants hung off her body, a sharp contrast to LeAnn, who still wore her blue hospital scrubs. She had at least neatly hung the short white coat by the door.
“LeAnn, what’s up?” Stephanie finally broke her silence. “You’ve been staring at your cell for like, an hour. Is Sean supposed to call or something?” she teased.
LeAnn looked sharply at her, but her gaze softened after a moment or two. “Oh, no, nothin’ like that.”
Stephanie recognized her tone immediately and stepped closer. “Oh jeeze. Did your brother call?”
LeAnn quickly shook her head no. “I’m s’posta call him. I’m scared Steph. I… I think I can help him, but I’m scared it’s too late. I’m scared he won’t listen. I’m scared he’s … y’know, too far gone.”
“Help him? How? Wasn’t he just about to be sent to Juvie last time you talked to your Mom?”
“I met somebody today. Well, I mean, I knew her for awhile, but I really had a chance to talk to her today. I learned a lotta things.”
Stephanie stared hesitantly. “Like what?”
“Like maybe I was right all along. Like maybe my baby brother was supposed to be my baby sister.”
Stephanie blinked several times at her. “Wait, run that one by me again?”
LeAnn shook her head, echoing those two simple words Kelly had armed her with earlier that day. “It’s complicated.”
Stephanie finally slowly nodded, and shot her a sympathetic smile. “I’ll be here if you need me, okay?”
She nodded and began to dial. For the first four rings, no one answered. The answering machine clicked into motion, and at the beep, she spoke softly.
“Hi Mom, it’s just me. Listen, I need to talk to you about Johnny,” she flinched. She hadn’t called him that in almost as long as it had been since she called him ‘sweet boy’. A feedback screech signifying someone picking up the phone was followed with muttered cursing from her brother.
“LeAnn? The hell you wanna talk to Mom about now? No I ain’t been arrested. Like I told her those guys set me up!”
“Slow down! I’m not calling about that.”
“Well, what is it then?”
She exhaled slowly. “Johnny-”
“JOHN,” he answered.
“John, sorry. I’ve been thinkin’ about you a lot. I wanna help you.”
“Don’t need no help, especially from you,” he barked.
“John wait, please don’t hang up!” she begged, nearly in tears. Silence followed for a moment or two. “John?” she asked.
“… What,” he answered neutrally.
“There’s a lady here, a nurse I work with as an intern. John, she was born a boy.”
“So she’s a fairy. Big deal,” he snapped back.
“Fairy?” she echoed, hurt, angered. “John, whatever happened to my sweet girl?”
He slammed the phone down. She quickly dialed back, but no one answered. Tears poured down her face now as she anxiously waited for the answering machine to sound its tone, hoping John didn’t just erase it afterwards.
“Momma, this is LeAnn. Listen, I have a friend up here who has friends in the psych community who deal with transgendered kids. That’s a word you’re gonna have to remember because, unlike what that quack doctor you forced on Johnny said, this ain’t a disease that needs to be cured by ‘manning up’. If you wanna help my baby sister, then please call me back when you get this. Momma, this woman, this nurse I work with… She’s gorgeous. You’d never know she wasn’t born all natural female. She knows what she’s talkin’ about Momma. It ain’t too late to set this right.”
She sank to her knees as she hung up the phone. Stephanie stepped into the room a moment later, racing to her side to pull the crumpled mass of flesh into a hug.
Somewhere in a dark room, in Arkansas, a young man about twelve or thirteen slumped down in the chair by the answering machine. He rewound the message and replayed it. He rewound it and replayed it again. He turned the stolen pistol over slowly in his hands, staring at it. He sighed to himself as he stood, leaving the small apartment to walk next door. Rather than slamming his fist into the door as he normally would, he knocked lightly.
He could hear several locks being unfastened before the grizzled old man, leaning heavily on a cane, pulled the door open. He glowered at John, until the boy extended the pistol, butt first.
“I was only borrowin’ it. After I was done, Momma coulda given it back to you. There’s only one round in the chamber, but I don’t need it.”
The old man, taken aback, extended his withered, shaking hand out to take it. He turned to walk back inside, and John turned to walk away. The old man cleared his throat.
“Well, are you coming or not?”
John paused to slowly return to the door. The old man stood a few feet inside. “The wife made apple pie, and I can’t finish it alone. Wouldn’t want it to spoil.”
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