Yvette looked at her brother, Nathan, through the crack in the doorway to their parent’s bedroom. She had thought she heard a noise in what should have been an empty house. Their parents were working late as usual. Nathan was supposed to be at Jim’s home; his only friend from his elementary school. Yvette deleted the “911” from her iPhone and slid it into the back pocket of her faded skinny jeans.

He seemed to be lost in thought. It wasn’t like Nathan to enter their parent’s bedroom without at least one of them home. What she saw next was a bit more of a shock. Her 9 year old younger brother picks up a tube of lipstick and drags it across his lips.

Yvette with a silent giggle remembered herself at the same mirror when she was 7 years old. Though then, Nathan was just a newborn and their mother was too busy attending to him to notice Yvette borrowing a tube of lipstick and pressing the pigment to her lips depositing the reddish brown tint across her lips. Of course, she drew it from corner to corner and back again. She looked like a clown. She shook her head at the memory.

Some things have to start somewhere, she thought. Funny, that ‘somewhere’ was their mother’s vanity mirror, with a tube of lipstick. She wished she had a big sister to show her what she needed to know. But, being the eldest, means you have to blaze your own way. Staring at Nathan, she wondered what she would have to do as his big sister. Was Nathan experimenting or was this something more?

She watched on as Nathan put down the lipstick tube forgetting to retract it back into the base as he tried to cap it in vain, blunting the tip. Realizing his mistake he began to panic. He pulled the cap away revealing the damage he had just caused. Yvette couldn’t contain her giggle and Nathan shuttered at the thought that he had been discovered in a compromising position. He turned swiftly to see his sister smiling and shaking her head.

Nathan froze, wondering what would happen to him next. Realizing that the lipstick was still on his lips, he tried to drag the arm of his sweater across his lips to wipe it away. Yvette couldn’t stop laughing long enough to stop him from rubbing the lipstick on to his sleeve. The stain now more evident and the smeared lipstick was a sight too much for Yvette not to laugh at.

Nathan started to cry. His tears streamed down his cheeks. There was little he could do. He was caught almost literally red handed. The first sobbing words out of his mouth were “Please don’t tell mom.” He wondered what punishment would await him for entering their parent’s room without permission and destroying their mother’s favorite lipstick. Yvette looked at her little brother. “You know you’re in trouble, right?”

“Please! It won’t happen again! I promise. Please don’t tell on me!” Nathan pleaded with his sister.

“No, you are going to tell Mom what you did and accept whatever punishment they give you. They’ve always been fair.”

“I don’t want them to think I’m a freak!” Nathan continues his plea for his sister’s confidence.

“Why would they think you’re a freak?” Yvette walks over to Nathan trying to console him.

“Because that’s what the people at school call me everytime I do something ‘girly’.”

“Mom and Dad are not going to think you’re a freak. Come on, They should be home soon.”

“Please! You can’t tell them. Do you know what will happen to me if you told them?”

“I’m not going to tell them, you are. And it’s the 21st century they’ll understand.”

“No they won’t! They’ll send me away. I don’t want to be sent away.”

“What makes you think they’ll send you away?”

“Because that’s what happened to the last kid at school that acted like me. He was sent away and never came back.”

“Who told you that?”

“Jim. He said that I should hide whatever it is that makes me ‘girly’ so they won’t send me away.” Nathan was now trembling with fear.

“Calm down, Nathan. Jim doesn’t know anything. They don’t just send you away for being ‘girly’.”

“It happened. There was this kid! They always talk about this kid who had to go away because he was girly. He never came back!” Nathan began to cry harder. “I Don’t want that to happen to me!”

Yvette’s heart broke for her brother. There was so much panic in his voice. She let out a sigh. “Nathan. Look at me.” Yvette places her hands on his shoulders. His head was still down tears dripping to his sweater. “Nathan. Please, look at me.” She says softly. He turns his head up to meet her gaze. Tears welled up in her eyes. “I may be your sister, but I wasn’t born a girl. That kid was me.”

“You? How?”

“Well, we have to start somewhere. How about I start at the beginning? At that very same mirror…” Yvette smiles as Nathan pulls her into a hug.

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