What It Takes To Survive - Chapter 10

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I considered telling them who I was but I didn't want to cause a scene if they reacted poorly. Nobody would accuse Mick of being the most level headed member of society. Clinton seemed to be a different case. He wasn't at all like Mick and I wondered if they were friends solely because they were on the same team.
I decided that it wasn't worth the trouble. But then again, if everything went according to plan, I'd be going to school as a girl when it reopened in September.
When I got out of my own head, the boys were still looking at me expectantly.
I must have panicked because I stood up, grabbed my bag and said "I.. have to use the ladies" in a practiced voice before I walked away from the table. I'm not sure if it convinced anyone but they weren't chasing me down, name-calling so there's that.
My sister said something which I didn't hear over her chair screeching. When I heard her heels clicking on the tiled floor of the food court, I increased my pace so as to be in the restroom by the time she caught up to me.
I walked into the public restroom and stood in front of the mirror. I didn't think I would ever get used to seeing myself like this. I wanted to splash water on my face but a girl has no such luxury.
I was so panicked, I didn't take it in that it was the first time I'd ever been in a female restroom. It didn't smell like piss and cleaning agents so there was that. It smelled... fresh for lack of a better word.
Gaby walked into the rest room shortly after.
"Well, you just dashed that poor boy's confidence"
"I don't think either of them are lacking confidence" I told my sister as I paced about still clearly panicked.
"Still, they couldn't get enough of you" Gaby said putting a hand on her waist smiling.
I mimicked her "Knowing them, they probably thought I was some easy lay"
Gaby looked like she was about to say something but didn't.
"I want to go home" I told her
"Why? It's barely seven!" she retorted.
"I'm not having fun, Gaby. I feel like a piece of meat" I couldn't help but notice how animated I'd become often gesturing at myself or some unknown point in space.
"I'm not saying you should but you do get used to it" Gaby replied. She seemed to have lost her cheerful appearance and I felt guilty for taking it away.
I paused taking it all in.
"Being a girl is tough" I said hoping to make her smile.
She laughed. Mission accomplished.
"You have no idea"
She peeked out the restroom.
"Oh my God, they're still standing there" she said pulling her head back in.
That was odd. I hadn't thought either Clinton or Mick waited for anyone.
"Do I tell them who I am?"
Gaby took a step closer to me putting a hand near my elbow.
"I think you should. If you're serious about being a girl and all."
I lowered my head "What if they freak out? I'm not sure..."
"Then they'll deal with me. Now just be your amazing self." She interrupted me smiling. It was infectious.

We left the restroom and I managed a smile when I saw they were looking at us.
I smiled all the way to our seats and I half expected them to hold them out for us but no such luck.
"Sorry" I said as I sat down "Brain freeze" I drew my chair in. It was a terrible excuse but I hadn't really taken my time to thing of one so I hoped they wouldn't read too much into it.
"Okay" Clinton said looking to Mick before turning back to me "So are you two from around here?" We were right back where we left off. I figured there was no escaping it and chose to tackle it head on.
"Look Clinton, Mick" I said in my normal voice "It's me, Jo. We have like a million classes together"
"No fucking way" Mick said chuckling a little too loudly.
"Wait, you're kidding right?" Clinton said understandably finding it hard to believe
"I'm not" I said in the same voice. It must have been so weird hearing this clearly masculine voice coming from this pretty little thing.
"Fahey?!" Mikey asked in his all-too-loud voice "You look.."
"Gotta be a joke, right?" Clinton said.
He must have thought he was appearing on Punk'd or What Would You Do? or something
"It's not"
"I mean Doug told me you were this huge sissy on the island but this." Mick said now laughing. I was getting more and more embarrassed as we attracted more and more attention. I looked over to Gaby who seemed to be fuming.
"Had no idea you were such a fruit, Jo" Clinton said joining in Mick's laughter.
"Okay that's enough" Gaby said finally trying hard to keep her anger down.
The two boys turned to her "You a boy too?" Mick asked Gaby still laughing.
"Get out!" Gaby stood and said through her teeth.
They both started retreating "Hey you look good, Jo" Clinton said between laughs as they walked away leaving Gaby and I as she sat down.
"Well that went well" I said.
Gaby was clearly concerned. "You okay?" she asked
"Yeah. I'm fine. They're idiots" I said trying to convince myself as much as Gaby.
"I promise not all boys are like that" she said as she calmed down.
"I know" I smiled.
She caught that. "Something you're not telling me, sis?" she asked smiling again which I liked.
"Well" I began "There's this boy"
Gaby squealed leaning forward with a silly look on her face.
"His name is Mikey" I continued smiling broadly now.
"Wait, the savior, Mikey?"
I nodded, blushing.
"Oh that's just perfect" she said slumping in her chair.
"He is" I added dreamily.
Gaby was still smiling " Does he know that you like him?"
"I don't know. I haven't said anything to him. But I'm pretty sure he feels the same."
"Wait, how do you know this?" Gaby asked.
"'Because he said so. And we kinda made out on the island"
Gaby squealed again. "It's so perfect. Why are you sitting her with me and not with him? Especially when you look like that!"
My head dropped. "It's complicated"
"Well uncomplicate it" She said hurriedly.
"Well for one, I'm a guy and he's a guy"
"Uh you're a girl and he's a guy. And even if you were both guys, which you're not, you'd still be golden. Next."
Hard to beat her logic.
"I don't think I'm ready to think of boys in that way. You know, with mum and dad and school and everything"
Gaby reached over and touched my hand across the table.
"Sounds like what people think matters too much to you. You don't put someone's opinion over your own happiness"
"You know, he kinda says the same thing"
"Saves you and gives awesome advice. Forget you, I'll have him" Gaby said laughing.
I'd totally forgotten that Clinton and Mick had been here a few minutes ago.
"But seriously, does he make you happy?"
I nodded.
"Well there's your answer."
Again, hard to argue with her logic.
"You should call him"
"What? Now?"
"Yes, now. Invite him over. He should see how gorgeous you look"
"Even if I was up for that, he doesn't have a phone and neither do I" I replied also saddened by the realization.
Gaby bit her lip.
"We could have mum text me his home number!" She said as her face lit up.
"Oh you are persistent"
She smiled "Love you too"
I took a long breath "Fine, do it" And she did.

Roughly ten minutes later, she was dialing the number and I suddenly had a few hundred butterflies in my stomach. When did I become this person? It was still me, just with different... everything. Had I always secretly been this person? Had I been putting on an act for the last soon-to-be sixteen years?
I didn't have time to ponder those questions because Gaby was giddily handing me the phone. I pressed the phone to my ear and melted when I heard his confused voice.
"Hello?" He had called out.
"Mikey, it's me" I could swear I sensed his face light up.
"Hey! How did your thing go?"
"It was alright. Nothing really happened" I said changing ears "Listen, are you free now?" I asked trying to be casual.
"Uh, I could be" he said just as casually.
"I'm at the food court at the mall and I was wondering if you'd want to hang"
"Sure, I could stop by" He sounded like the Mikey I knew before the whole ordeal. Not at all like the one who had confessed to me earlier today.
"Great" I said smiling as Gaby gave me a thumbs up "I'm by the window. And I'm with Gaby"
"Okay cool. See you in a bit" He said as he hung up.
Gaby squealed again. "Trust me, he is going to love you"

It wasn't long before I was waving over at Mikey as soon as he came through the door. He wasn't at all dressed for an outing. He wore a plain grey t-shirt and a pair of black abercrombie jeans that I recognized.
His short hair was shaggy and unkempt but he still looked very handsome. He had stopped in his tracks when he spotted us but eventually made his way over.
"Mikey, hey" I said smiling as he took a seat to my left at the small round table with Gaby across from him.
He hadn't said a word yet, he was just focused on me.
"You remember my sister Gaby, right?'
"Yeah hi" he finally said retaining the shocked expression on his face.
I saw his eyes move down to my 'breasts' with made me feel self conscious. In that moment, I wished they were real and bigger.
"You look amazing, Jo"
I smiled. "Thanks. So do you"
"No really. I'm.." He shook his head slightly "speechless"
I blushed looking down at the skirt of my dress. I loved that he thought that about me and wanted to always look like this. For the first time, a man clearly wanted me and it made me happy.
"So Mikey" Gaby said bringing me back to Earth "Jo tells me you saved her on the island"
Again, I couldn't tell if he had picked up on that but he didn't react to it.
"I'm just glad I was there that day. I don't know what I'd do if anything happened to her"
I smiled and so did Gaby. He had picked up on it. I had a feeling that Mikey was making a point.
Gaby thought for a second "Well you have my thanks. And hers."
He looked at me and I smiled.
I was 'her'. It felt so surreal. I don't even know why that made me happy. It's one extra letter from 'he'.
"So Mikey," Gaby continued "Can you take her home?"
"I'm here with a car" He replied.
"Even better. Have her back by eleven." Gaby said as she moved her seat and stood up.
"Wait where are you going?" I asked her
She just winked before walking away leaving Mikey and I sitting quietly at the table.
I was tapping my feet from unease. It was very nerve-wracking sitting so close to him. We'd sat like this many times but this was the first time since I admitted to myself that I actually liked him. And I could tell that he was in a similar state of unrest.
"Wanna order something?" I asked trying to break the silence. This awkwardness wasn't something we'd ever dealt with so it was odd. Even when we'd locked lips on the island, it had been more primal instincts.
You know? 'I want you and you want me and we may die on this stupid rock so why the hell not'
Now all that was gone. I was just a girl and he was just a guy who admittedly liked each other but didn't know how to break the ice.
"Actually, it's nice outside. Wanna take a walk?"
I smiled and nodded.

I had taken my bag, smoothed my dress and soon we were leaving the food court headed for the escalators with the ground floor our destination. I had been compelled to grab onto him but thought better of it.
Soon we were walking towards the exit when I saw Mick and Clinton talking to two girls I recognized from school. Clarissa and Lindsay. I didn't know much about them but they always went totally in on the pink outfits. The four of them stood close to the door and I smelled trouble.
When we had just passed then, I heard Mick say "I can't get over how much like a chick Jo looks."
"Wait that's Jo?" One of the girls asked but I wasn't sure which.
For the first time, I hated that being on the team had given me some popularity. A year ago, they definitely wouldn't have known who I was.
"Jo, wait up!" I heard the same voice call out.
I turned to see Lindsay. She was wearing a short light pink dress which had spaghetti straps and showed an obscene amount of cleavage. Clarissa wore a round neck lace dress. They both wore pink heels and looked like they were out on a date. A far cry from the casual outfits of choice of Mick, Clinton and Mikey.
"Hey, Lind" I said like her friends did.
"Oh my God, that is trippy. It's really you?"
I nodded.
"What's with the.." She paused but still clearly surprised "I'm glad you guys are back" she glanced from me to Mikey.
I smiled.
"Yeah thanks"
"We're going to see Bleeding Heart if you want to join us" She glanced back at the others who hadn't moved.
I looked to Mikey who looked at me.
"It's okay if you don't want to" Lindsay said sharply "I just thought we're all out here and it might be fun"
"No it's fine." I said looking at Mikey who was clearly deferring to me on this "We'd love to"
I don't know what possessed me to accept an invitation to spend an evening with Mick and Clinton but that's what I did.

"Jo and Mikey are going to be joining us" Lindsay said as we joined the group.
"You're actually hot, Jo. Is this thing.. uh permanent?" Clarissa asked.
"Uh yeah" I replied with a voice slightly higher than me own.
Mick snickered. About what I'm not too sure.
"Okay whatever come on. Don't want to miss the trailers" Clinton said.
Mick said something in Clinton's ear and they laughed which made me self conscious as we walked in.

Mick announced that he'll get the tickets and he was nice enough to get tickets for Mikey and I too. Lindsay said she had to freshen up and told me to come along. I didn't think I could decline so I followed glancing back at Mikey as we walked towards the restrooms.
I wasn't ready for all the questions as soon as we were out of sight.
"So are you transgender?" Clarissa asked almost immediately.
"Uh I think so" I replied looking from one girl to another.
"You're gorgeous. I would never have been able to tell if Mick hadn't said something"
"How did Mick even know?" Lindsay asked no one in particular.
"I kinda ran into him earlier" I was relaxing now.
"That must have been fun" Clarissa said making a face. She thought for a second "Wait, he came over to talk to you?"
I nodded.
"When was this?"
I thought it was an odd question but I answered it "Maybe 40 minutes ago. In the food court"
"Wait, they said they just got here when we got here" Lindsay said to Clarissa.
"Those lying.." Clarissa chimed angrily.
I saw where this was going.
"Could you not tell them I told you. Not looking forward to getting beat up" I said to both of them.
They both suddenly had very sympathetic looks on their face.
"Oh Jo, no one is laying a finger on you ever" Lindsay said.
Clarissa touched my shoulder smiling "Yeah you have nothing to worry about" she said "But don't worry, we won't say anything"
I smiled.
"Oh I have so much I want to ask you but we better get back to the guys" Clarissa said "You know how Mick gets"
Lindsay chucked "Yeah"

In truth, we hadn't done anything in our time away but you would think we had because we were smiling widely as we came into view of the boys.
Lindsay had told us how she had chosen the movie as punishment to the boys and how she was sorry we she had gotten us roped into it. I had told her not to be sorry because she had given Mikey and I company when we needed it.
As much as I liked hanging with Mikey, tonight he seemed reserved.
We joined the boys who were having a conversation by the cinema entrance and I felt sorry for leaving Mikey with them.
I noticed Mick giving me a look as we walked in.
The familiar room was colder than I remember and I instantly wished I'd brought a jacket. I attributed that to the tiny piece of cloth that was meant to offer protection from the cold.
We took a seat around the middle, the movie trailers were already blasting with one explosion after another.
We took six seats with a guy on either end but making sure a girl was next to her 'date'. I sat between Clarissa and Mikey.
The movie begun and I caught Mikey glancing at me a few times which made me blush. Before long I felt Mikey's hand on mine. I opened my fingers and felt his interlock with mine.
His shoulder was so inviting not long after that, I found my head on his it. I felt his hand leave mine and slip around my shoulder.
We cuddled while trying and failing to watch the movie. I was too distracted. By his scent and his breathing.
Eventually I stopped paying attention to the movie and just tried to enjoy the moment. I spent most of the movie after that just taking him in.
Towards the end of the movie, the kissing sounds drew our attention over to Lindsay and Clinton full on making out like we weren't even there and I became so jealous of her.
Eventually the movie was over and we were filing out of our seats headed for the exit. I smiled when Mikey took my hand. Whether he was inspired by Mick and Clinton, I didn't know and frankly, I didn't care. I drew myself close and rubbed shoulders with him. He seemed more at ease now.

"So you two really are together?" Clinton said as Mikey and I left the cinema still holding hands.
Lindsay who stood by him elbowed him.
"Hey, I wanna know cause this shit is weird as fuck" Mick added
"You know, just cause you're named Mick doesn't mean you have to be a dick, right?" Clarissa said which made everybody laugh. Except Mick of course.
"I promise I'm not, I just need someone to explain this"
"She doesn't have to explain anything"
"Oh so it's 'she' now?" Mick asked
"You don't have to, really." I said
"Look, I'm not trying to be mean" Mick said and I think I believed him "I mean, you look like a chick and all but you're not one"
He was looking at me to say something and so were the others.
"I'm not an expert" I said finally "I just prefer to dress like this and I want people to see me as a girl because to me, I am one"
Turning to Mikey, Mick said "And you're not gay"
He shrugged. "No, Jo is a girl"
I'm not sure if Mick got it but he didn't say anything else.
"Look, I don't got a problem with you as long as you don't do any weird shit. We're going back to my house to hang by the pool if you guys wanna come"
The air around the group seemed to relax a lot.
"Actually" Mikey said "We're going to hang here then I'm gonna take Jo home"
Mick shrugged "Suit yourself".
We waved but I was shocked when Clarissa came and hugged me followed by Lindsay "Do you have a number?" Clarissa asked.
"Not yet"
"Well, we should hang sometime." She said before they left.

It was past nine when I told him I had to go home. I really wish I'd brought a jacket so I didn't have to cut this short. We were sitting on a bench
"Sure thing. Did you have a good time?" He asked innocently.
I looked up at him and smiled.
"The best." I sat up "I keep waiting for everything to blow up in my face"
"What do you mean?" His arm left my shoulder and relocated itself, his palm covering my small hands.
"I just realized that I'm happier than I've been in a long time. And that maybe the universe is gearing up to throw me a curve ball"
He put his free hand to my cheek.
"You deserve to be happy, Jo. And for as long as you'll let me, I'll keep it that way"
He was looking into my eyes. I know because I was doing the same.
"Do you think that maybe we've moved too fast?" I asked him.
"What do you mean?" He asked concerned.
"A month ago you were my best friend. And different rules have to apply for us. I mean, my parents are still trying to get used to me being a girl. I can't exactly have you over as my boyfriend right now"
He looked hurt but he didn't reply.
"And what would your parents or your brothers think when they find out that I'm your girlfriend?!" I asked with a slightly raised voice
Mikey had two brothers. He was the middle child. His eldest brother who was 21 was away at college but his little brother who was 11 was in 8th grade.
"What other people think still matters too much to you"
Sometime during my rant, he had let go of my hand.
"Well maybe it doesn't matter enough to you" I said my voice dropping.
'Way to ruin a perfect evening, Jo'
"Could you take me home?"
He stood up "Car is this way"

We rode in silence the ride home and I just stared out the window so even if he had wanted to say something, he was discouraged.
It was a beautiful night. The only sound the low humming of his father's mustang. I wondered what was left of my makeup.
Before long we were parked outside my house. I turned to him half expecting hostility but it wasn't there. Only sadness and concern. And that broke me, more than any hostile stare could have.
I had intended to apologize but I didn't.
"We're okay, right?" I asked.
He forced a smile and nodded.
We weren't really. I felt like I had shut him down for the last time. He didn't even get out the car. Although he never did before, I had expected him to.
I smiled and told him I'd call him tomorrow before stepping out of the car and walking further and further away. I didn't hear the car start up and leave until I had walked in the door.
Mum was standing there walking me intently as I closed the door quietly.
"Was that that Harris boy? If this is who you're going to be, we need to have a talk. And who even let you out of this house dressed like that?"
I know I should have been worried like I usually was when mum got like this but not this time. I couldn't help but let out a small smile.

Is there something to be worried about or is Jo letting paranoia sabotage the most precious love?



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