“You still here?”
I looked up from my computer monitor to see John McFarland, one of the financial analysts, leaning on the entrance of my cubicle. I leaned back in my chair and rotated a bit towards him and said, “Oh, has everyone else left already? I was just trying to get to a good stopping point.”
He glanced at his watch and said, “Yeah. After the managers left for lunch and never came back, everyone’s been slowly drifting out. What are you working on?”
I smiled and said, “Oh, I’m working on that accounting dashboard.”
John said, “Oh yeah. I’ve tried out your prototype. Looks great. I think it’ll help out a lot.”
I said, “Thanks.”
“Are you joining the group at Tequila Tony’s this afternoon?” John asked.
Frowning slightly, I said, “I guess I wasn’t invited. Apparently I didn’t get the email.”
Looking slightly embarrassed, John said, “Sorry. Hey, I’m sure everyone will come around eventually.”
I idly tapped a pencil on my keyboard and smirked, “Maybe. I debated whether I should stay here when I decided to transition. It’s been four months and most still don’t really accept it. Oh, almost everyone is polite to my face, but I’ve heard people say things.”
John shrugged and said, “I’m a live and let live kinda guy. I admit that I don’t understand what drives a person to change their sex, but I think it’s gutsy of you to do it like this.”
“Not to get into it,” I said. “But I didn’t wake up one morning and say, ‘I think I’ll be a girl today.’ I’ve felt this way as far as I can remember.”
John raises his hands in a defensive gesture and said, “Hey, I meant no offense. Personally, I have no problem with it. I started here after you changed, so in all honesty, I never would have suspected you weren’t born this way if someone hadn’t told me.”
I frowned and said, “See? Why did they feel the need to tell you? It’s nobody’s business really.”
Again John’s cheeks reddened slightly as he said, “Well, I had asked Joanne if you were single.”
I cocked my head to one side and said, “Really? Well see? She had no business telling you that. I should be the one to inform anyone when the time is appropriate.”
Looking to change the subject, John asked, “So, are you spending time with your family?” He glanced out the window beyond my cubicle wall and said, “I hope you don’t need to travel. It’s been snowing all afternoon and it’s looking pretty nasty out there.”
I looked down to the pencil I was twirling in my fingers and said, “No, I’m not spending Christmas with my family.”
“I’m so glad Mom and Dad are dead and didn’t have to hear this!” my brother Pete shouted.
Crying I said, “I debated whether to tell you and Deb at all. I thought it was important for you to know. I know this is hard…”
“Hard?” Pete pounded the dining room table. He had just turned twenty years old and was in the car when our parents were killed in a horrible accident. For the past three months he’s been beating himself up with guilt because he was left completely unhurt. “Hard? This is bullshit Evan! And you fucking know it. You think you’re a woman? Seriously? How dare you shame Dad’s memory!”
“My God, Evan!” said Deb while crying. “You’re such a perv! You used to get into my things? My clothes? And my underwear? And Mom’s too I bet. You’re sick!”
“Why? Why are you doing this to us?” yelled Pete. “I remember hearing Dad tell Mom that he always thought you were a fag. Looks like he was right.”
Shaking with sobs I said, “Transgender is different from being gay. I’ve known I was really female for a long time. I…”
Deb narrowed her eyes at me and said, “Have you told this to Terri? She told me she was hoping you’d ask her to marry you. When were you going to tell her?”
I studied the floor and said, “I was going to tell her after I told you. I was hoping for some support since we’re all that’s left of our family. I…”
Deb cried, “You should never have dated her! You knew this about you and you lied to her! She’s my best friend!”
“Are you attracted to men?” asked Pete through clenched teeth. “Are you?”
“Well, yes, sort of. I’m a woman and…” I started to say.
“Get the fuck out of this house, you sick faggot!” Pete shouted, veins popping up in his neck. “I don’t have a brother any more! You’re not part of this family any more! Just get out and don’t you ever dare show your face here again. Neither of us ever want to see you again. I mean it! Out!”
I shook my head at John and repeated, “No. I don’t think my family is ready to accept me yet.”
John shook his head and said, “I can imagine it was quite a shock to them. Hopefully they’ll come around.”
I grinned ruefully and said, “Hopefully. What about you? Big plans with your family? Any kids?”
A faraway look swept John’s face for a moment. After a pause he said, “Nope. Not this Christmas. My wife decided she wanted something different and filed for divorce citing irreconcilable differences. She had turned cold anyway and though I love my kids, I realized I’m in no position to really take care of them. So I didn’t contest anything.”
I looked back to my pencil and said, “Oh. I didn’t know. I’m really sorry. You can visit your kids, right?”
“She moved out of state so I rarely see them,” John said as he watched the snow fall outside the window. “I don’t even know if they’ll get the gifts I sent them.”
“I’m really sorry, John,” I said. “I understand how much it sucks to be away from people you love. Especially at Christmas time.”
John said, “I hope I’m not prying too much, but were you married before…um, before this…journey?”
I shook my head and simply said, “No.”
He nodded and said, “That’s probably for the best.”
We sat there in silence for a few minutes, each lost in our own thoughts.
John said, “You probably should head home before the storm out there gets any worse. The roads are already getting bad in parts of town from what I heard on the radio.”
“You’re probably right,” I said as I hit the keys to lock my computer. I stood up to get my coat.
John looked me up and down and said, “You look very nice, Eve. And if you don’t mind me saying so, quite convincing.”
I looked down at the short, black and white sweater dress I was wearing along with the black suede high-heeled boots and black hose. Absent-mindedly I smoothed down the front of the dress. Smiling, I said, “Thank you.”
“I’ll walk out with you,” said John.
We exited the building and started walking across the snowy parking lot. About halfway across to my car, my heels slipped on the ice and I started to fall. John caught me and steadied me back to my feet.
“You okay?” asked John as he held me steady.
“Yeah. Thanks!” I said. “I don’t think these boots are made for slippery surfaces.”
“Here. Give me your hand and I’ll help you the rest of the way,” said John. “I bet you never had this problem when you were…um…back when…”
“Yeah, I stopped wearing sensible shoes when I became a woman,” I said as I almost slipped again.
We reached my car without me breaking anything. John helped me get into the car and stood by as I put the key in the ignition. I turned the key and heard the starter roll over weakly a few times and then just clicked. I tried turning the key a few more times and just got a clicking sound.
John rapped on the door window and I found that it wouldn’t roll down. I opened the door and he said, “Won’t start?”
I pointed at him and said, “See? That’s why you’re a man.”
Ignoring my comment, John said, “Any idea how old your battery is?” He looked up and said, “Man, this snow is getting worse by the minute!”
I sighed and said, “I think it’s three years old. It was cheap.”
John frowned and said, “Yeah, I bet you need a new one. The cold probably finished it off. Do you have any jumper cables? Mine are now in my ex-wife’s car.”
“No,” I said with frustration. “This is just great. I guess I’ll have to call a cab to get home. I’m not sure if I have enough money for that.” I started to open my purse to check.
“I can take you home,” said John.
“Oh no.” I said. “I can’t ask you to do that. I might have enough.”
“I insist. It’s not like I have to be anywhere,” John said. He reached out his hand to assist me exiting the car.
I turned the key once more and heard that annoying click. I frowned at the car and slapped the steering wheel as if it would accomplish anything. I pulled the key from the ignition switch and pulled my purse strap over my shoulder. I said, “Thanks. I really do appreciate this.” I took his offered hand and he helped me out of my car.
John held my arm again so I wouldn’t slip as we crossed the icy parking lot towards his car. He said, “It’d be funny if my car won’t start either.”
“It’d be hilarious.”
We reached his car after a slow walk of a couple of minutes. John opened the passenger door first and helped me enter his car. He then went around the car and climbed into the drivers’ seat.
John inserted his key into the ignition switch and said, “And now the moment of truth!” There was a rrr-rrr sound and the engine fired up.
I clapped a few times and said, “Yay. We’re not stranded.”
John smiled and said, “Just tell me how to get there.” He put the car in drive and then said, “Just curious. How about dinner first? My treat.”
I tilted my head, looking at John and said, “Are you asking me out?”
John shrugged and said, “Don’t think of it as a date. Think of it as a Christmas present. I mean, just like I take all my clothes that should be washed separately and wash them together, two people who have nowhere to go on Christmas Eve should…I don’t know…spend Christmas Eve together. At least for dinner.”
“Sounds like a date to me,” I said. This was quite a surprise to me. Since we worked in the same department together, I saw him everyday. He always seemed nice and he’s definitely nice looking. Would I be crazy to accept his offer? Or crazy to decline it?
“Look. I know it’s a little quick. You might not even really like guys,” John said. “But to be honest, I was just going to go home, open a can of tuna and then get drunk. I’d rather spend the evening with you.”
I frowned and said, “Well, how can a girl resist an invitation like that?”
Nodding, John said, “Okay, that didn’t come out the way I wanted it to. But, the bottom line is, I’d rather not spend the evening alone.”
I smiled weakly and said, “I can understand that…”
“Come one, Evan!” said Pete. “Get your keyboard so we can sing carols by the tree.”
“Great dinner, Mom!” said Deb. “It’s just not Christmas Eve without your fillet mignon and baked potato! I want to make the muffins in the morning after we unwrap the presents.”
I sat on the floor in front of the Christmas Tree, my keyboard laying across my lap. I flipped through the music book of carols, looking for some of our favorites.
Dad said, “I can’t believe this Pete. This is your last Christmas as a teenager. I can’t believe you’re all grown up. And you’re moving out after New Years. I remember when I could hold you in one hand!”
I said, “He won’t be far away, Dad. I only live ten minutes away from here and it’s not like we never see each other. Pete’ll be just a bit further but he’s right next to his job. I wish I was that close!”
Deb said, “You guys are making me feel bad, still living at home and all.”
Mom said, “Hey. All that matters is that we are all here together tonight. We’re a close family. We’re always going to have Christmas Eve together.”
I started playing “Deck the Halls” and everyone joined in.
John said, “Well, how about it? I’d love to have the company of a nice person to spend Christmas Eve with.”
I said, “John, I’d love to join you for dinner.”
John smiled and as he drove his car slowly from the snow covered parking lot said, “Great! And I know a great little place.”
Actually, I was afraid John was going to take me to some intimate and expensive restaurant for a romantic dinner. Instead though, he took us to the noisy and crowded Texas Roadhouse. Being alone in a noisy crowd helped me relax and be more comfortable on my very first date with a man.
Sitting across from me and chewing on a potato skin while waiting for our food to arrive, John said, “Can I ask how you chose your name, Eve? I’m guessing you weren’t born with that.”
I smiled and said, “My given name was Evan. I just kept the first two letters. Seemed easier than coming up with a completely new name. I’ve been calling myself Eve since I was little.”
“Cool,” John said. “Tell me when I get too personal. Have you had the um…” he made a scissors motion with his fingers.
I laughed and said, “No, not yet. I have to finish living as a woman for a year first. But I plan to when I have the money saved up. And they don’t really cut it off. You probably don’t want any details since we’re about to eat.”
“You’re right. I don’t,” said John. “And to be honest, I don’t really want to know the details anyway.”
“Well, I am looking forward to it,” I said. “Then I’ll feel complete.”
“Either way, Eve, you’re a beautiful woman. I mean it,” said John. “It’s not the margarita talking.”
I laughed lightly and said, “Thank you, John. That’s very nice of you to say.”
“The folks at work are crazy to not accept you,” John said. “It’s obvious you’re a woman. I mean, just think how stupid I’d look in that dress.”
I laughed and said, “I’m sure you’d be adorable!”
“Some how I doubt that,” said John.
A guy who wasn’t our waitress set a tray down on a stand in the aisle-way with our order. Both of us were silent as our plates were placed in front of us.
John sliced a piece of his steak and popped it into his mouth. He closed his eyes and said, “This is so much better than tuna!”
I looked at my steak and baked potato and fought back the tears. So many changes in the past year. I looked over at John and thought, even if this is only for this evening, what a wonderful Christmas present. I knew better than to expect any guarantees in life, but maybe the future was going to be better.
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