There came a sharp rapping at the bedroom door.
“Nat,” his mother called through the door, “I’m going out to Burger King. Do you want your usual?”
“Sure, mom,” Nat replied.
His mother had distracted him, but not from his homework. He was standing in the middle of the room with his shirt off, looking down at his waist. His hips seemed… wide, and his pants clung tightly to his legs. It had been hard to get them on for some reason. And sitting down was almost uncomfortable. But this was the third pair of pants that he’d tried on, and they were all like that. The only ones that were even a little bit loose didn’t come all the way down to his ankles.
Of course, he could have just worn shorts instead—although wearing shorts in the middle of February was just asking for hypothermia—but his shorts were not only just as tight, they only reached halfway down his thighs! When he held a pair up, it looked closer to a denim rag than an actual article of clothing. He’d tried on a pair anyway, because why not? They fit just fine, more comfortable than his old shorts even. But they did draw a bit of attention to just how hairy his legs were.
At least I don’t wear boxers, he thought. Not only would boxers be longer than his shorts, but that extra layer of clothing would probably make it impossible to squeeze into any of his pants. Pants or shorts. Bottoms! That was the word.
Nat threw the shorts back into the dresser and finally put on a shirt. He felt kind of naked without one, even if it was just in his room.
Pulling out a stick of gum, Nat took a good long look at his bookshelf. For some reason, Nat could have sworn that there used to be video games on that one shelf. But Tyler had never stored his games in Nat’s room (not that Nat would have let him) and this bookshelf had always been in Nat’s room. It had been part of the room back when it was their father’s study.
Besides, Nat almost never played video games. There was the rare occasion when Tyler would be gone for the day and Nat would take the opportunity to hog the Playstation, but that was pretty much it. He didn’t spend his allowance on games he’d never really want to play. Most of the time he spent his money on books and music and that growing pile of magazines on his desk.
And gum, of course. He found that chewing gum helped him to concentrate. His teachers should be able to understand that, right? There was no real reason to ban gum in class. Of course, logic aside, if Nat were to get caught chewing in class he would have to sit through a lecture from his father about respecting teachers.
Nat stopped chewing and his shoulders sank. He vaguely remembered his father saying something like that to him at some point. Even now Nathan could hear the disappointment in his father’s voice. He always hated letting his father down.
He also hated that Tyler never got the same treatment that he did. Because that little brat was just so perfect, wasn’t he?
Nat snorted at the thought, but a knock at the door interrupted any further contemplation. Nat went over and opened it, expecting to see his father, but it was his mother standing there.
“It turns out I need to run to the store to get a few things before I get you guys lunch. Do you want to come shopping with me?”
“I… uh, sure mom,” Nat replied, wincing as his voice cracked just a bit, “I’ll be ready in a moment.”
Nat went over to the closet and looked through his shoes. There was a pair of boots that caught his eye; they must have been long enough to reach his knee. But they kind of had a heel on them. Not a big one, but people would notice. Instead he grabbed a pair of sandals that he… kind of remembered getting with his mother a while ago. He remembered them being on sale, anyway.
He slid the shoes on and did the straps. As he did so, a thought he couldn’t quite figure out nagged at him. It wasn’t until he stood up that he realized—these shoes would look a lot better with a skirt than his jeans.
Nat felt his ears burn at just the thought of a skirt. What would the kids at school think about that?! And he could just imagine his parents’ reactions. Not to mention that Tyler would never let him hear the end of it.
Still, the idea of it: giving his legs the same freedom they had in his bathrobe, only out in public. It wasn’t an unpleasant thought.
As they walked through the Walmart, Nat found it kind of hard to divide his attention between his phone and his mother. Not because he wasn’t capable of handling that kind of multitasking, though—his parents had made it clear when they gave him the phone that they didn’t want him to completely withdraw from them.
No, it was difficult because he kept finding his attention drawn to the other women in the store. February wasn’t even half over and women and girls alike were already walking around in shorts that showed off their legs. Part of him wanted to notice how attractive they looked, but the only thing he really felt was… envy. He wanted to be able to walk around confidently like that.
“Do you need any new clothes for school?” his mother asked.
Nat snapped back to attention.
“Huh?” he asked, pausing his chewing for a moment, “No, I don’t think so.”
They were in the boy’s clothing section, looking through shirts. Nat couldn’t imagine how Tyler went through shirts so quickly. Nat liked getting new clothes too, but his closet was almost full to the brim while Tyler was almost always running out of things to wear.
“You don’t think so, or ‘no?’ Because they’re not the same thing.”
“I have enough clothes, mom,” Nat insisted, trying his hardest not to sound exasperated. If she thought he was being rude…
“You should show more respect to your mother.”
For the next five minutes, she went on about how important it was to respect your elders and especially your parents. And Nat believed her, he really did, but there was only so much of this discussion that he could take. He was fourteen now. When was she going to start treating him like an adult?
They wandered into the “beauty” section next, and Nat’s mother finally stopped reading him the riot act to start looking for the products that she needed. Nat turned his attention back to Facebook, but out of the corner of his eye he saw an advertisement for women’s razors.
Nat looked over the different razors on display. There was an awful lot of pink. A thought wormed its way into Nat’s head, and he grabbed one of the packages of razors to put in the cart. Looking around, he quickly spotted the cans of shaving cream and picked one out too. It was just as pink as the packaging for the razors. Apparently women could only see in pink and blue?
When Nat’s mother got back to him, she was holding a bottle of facial cleanser in her hand.
“Here, I grabbed this for you,” she said, handing the bottle to him, “Our family’s always had pretty clear skin, but given your age I thought you’d want to be on the safe side. I know that acne can be a big problem.”
“Oh, thanks mom,” Nat said, putting the bottle into the cart beside the razors.
Nat laid out his pajamas for the night, but as he stripped down he stopped to look at his legs. They were every bit as hairy as before, and he had razors in the bathroom now.
What the Hell? he thought, I’ll give it a try.
Nat threw on his bathrobe and gathered up his pajamas to bring into the bathroom. He ran the bathwater as he stripped down, then grabbed the shaving cream and a razor and got in.
It was a very slow process. More than once he had to stop and pull hair from between the blades of the razor. More than once he cut himself, and every time he did he had to restrain himself from cursing. It didn’t hurt, but it stung.
All the same, when the water finally drained away and Nat’s legs were dry, they looked a thousand times better than before. Scratched up, but better. He legs finally looked like something he wouldn’t mind someone else seeing.
Nat had to smile.
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