Xìngbié; part 13 (of 13): Dádào Xìngbié

Nat woke up feeling groggy. The potion had made him incredibly exhausted—

He bolted upright. The potion! He’d—

The empty vial was still on his bed table. He had tried to down it all at once, but a little bit of pink fluid still clung to the inside of the container.

It didn’t work.

Nat closed his eyes and curled his hands into fists.

It didn’t work.

It didn’t fucking work!

For all of that asshole’s promises, the potion hadn’t done anything!

He grabbed the vial, intent on licking out as much of the remaining juice as he could so that he could just forget all of it!

No sooner had he wrapped his hand around the glass, though, than something made him stop. When he had gone to bed, he was still wearing his brother’s tee shirt. But now he was back in his pajamas. Not his pajamas, but the pajamas he’d been wearing for several weeks now.

There’s no way that Nat—no way that Nathan would… that Nat would willingly change back into…

Nat slid out of bed and stumbled over to his vanity, eyes still a little blurry from tears and exhaustion.

There was a girl’s face in the mirror staring back at him. He could see her little breasts outlined by the pajamas, and when he looked down they were on his body too. A quick squeeze of his legs confirmed that he was also missing his manhood entirely.

Nat fell back into his desk chair and groaned. He—she—he needed to figure out what had happened. But everything was still so cloudy in his head.

She managed to find her phone (his phone, he thought; he managed to find hisphone) and quickly looked up the number for the restaurant. He only briefly stopped to notice how second-nature typing with long nails seemed to be.

When the restaurant picked up, Nat asked to hear from Mr. Lee.

“Tell him it’s Nat… Nathan,” she said.

He rubbed his forehead. Why was it so hard to pick one word over the other?

After a moment, a new voice came to the phone.

“Hello, Nathan?” Mr. Lee asked.

“Yes. I… what exactly is the potion supposed to do?”

“You’ve already taken it, right?”

“Y-yes. Yes, I have. And I… I still remember everything.”

“That’s normal, Nathan.”

“This was supposed to fix everything!”

“Nathan, please. Calm down. Just… take a while to let things settle and get your bearings. I trust that you’ll be satisfied with the results.”

Nathan began to reply, but the phone cut off.

With a strained groan, Nathan chucked the phone across the room, where it hit the wall and bounced off, leaving a small dent.

He really hoped that his parents wouldn’t notice that. He’d never be able to explain it.

He hoped his phone was okay, too.

Nat looked around the room (His room? Her room? Sometimes it felt like one, sometimes the other), and most of it was pretty much what it had been when he fell to sleep.

A bookshelf of young adult novels, most of which he remembered very fondly. A few T-rated games occupied the shelf as well, giving her an excuse to use her Xbox from time to time.

A closet of shirts, blouses, and dresses, all of which he’d worn (no—which he remembered wearing, but never actually had. Right?) and some of which he could remember buying specifically over the last year or two. His mother was always telling him to wear dresses more, but he was always a pants kind of girl.

There was his purse, which was a hand-me-down from his mother.

Her backpack was leaning up against the wall. It was a Hello Kitty backpack, which she always swore that she wore ironically but really just had some fond memories of the character.

Nat shook her head. His head. Her head.

It was getting increasingly hard to be sure.

On the side table by the bed was a diary. He held it in his hands for a few minutes, barely even breathing, before opening it up to the first page.

The first entry was dated six months ago, and told of Nat’s adventures with Emily, Amber, Julia, and all of her other friends and acquaintances. It told of stories of her dealing with her brother, who liked to get on her nerves just for being a girl. It told of her long-time crush on Gavin and how ecstatic she was to get his attention and learn that he liked her too. It told of the M-rated action games that she kept hidden in the box spring of her bed to play when Gavin came over. It told of her as a whole different person than what she remembered being.

Deep in the closet were other volumes of her diary, in which Nat learned about her vacations to her grandparents’, her various friends growing up, the kind of Halloween costumes she wore, the boys she liked, the arguments she had with her parents and all the times she’d been grounded, her first dream job to become a ballerina, and the actual ballet lessons she’d taken once upon a time.

She couldn’t stop reading about herself, and with each new entry the memories of what never happened felt more and more real than her memories of what did happen.

She remembered sitting with Kyle and Jesse at the lunch table with Gavin. But every fiber of her being said that she only knew those two in passing, as Gavin’s friends who she wasn’t terribly fond of.

And, truth be told, she didn’t really mind, because she wasn’t that fond of them. Not that they remembered her ever being a boy anyway.

If she remembered two lives, and knew for a fact which one was real and which wasn’t, but everyone else only remembered the fake life, which set of memories was true?

She put the diary she held to the side and left her room to get a drink. Maybe not being surrounded by so much sensory overload at once would clear her head.

She passed by the living room, where she’d often sat as a child watching cartoons and still often sat to watch the occasional teen drama when she was bored. Sometimes the family would gather around the TV, boys on one side and girls on the other.

She passed by her parents’ room, which had her mother’s vanity where Nat first learned to apply makeup, only to vow never to do it again, only to give in eventually anyway.

She entered the kitchen, where she had once tried and failed to learn how to bake over the course of several weeks.

Nat took a long drink of water, trying not to look at anything in particular lest it reawaken some other false memory within her.

The sound of the front door opening caused her to drop the glass in surprise, but it was plastic so it merely bounced off the ground harmlessly.

Nat instinctively grabbed for a towel and bent over to start cleaning up, when her dad walked into the kitchen to check up on her.

“Natalie, are you feeling better?”

The name sounded so natural, coming from him. But that was because, according to Nat’s new memories, her parents and brother were the only people she allowed to call her that. Well, them and Gavin, if he ever wanted to.

“A little,” she answered weakly, standing up, “I woke up thirsty.”

“Don’t worry about the mess,” he said, placing a hand on her shoulder, “I appreciate the help, but you clearly need more sleep. Just take a water bottle and head back to your room, okay? I’ll clean up here.”

“Okay. Thanks dad,” she said, still not entirely certain where their relationship was in this version of reality.

“And be sure to call your friends and get the homework you missed, once you have the chance,” he added.

Nat couldn’t help but grin a little as she relaxed. That was more like the father she remembered.

“I will, dad, thanks,” she said.

Then, though her gut turned a little, she let instinct take over and reached up to kiss him on the cheek.

“Oh, now you’re going to get me sick,” he joked, playfully pushing her away.

Nat returned to her room and placed the water bottle down on the table. She grabbed her phone and checked the time. Her father was back early; Gavin would still be in school. Still, she sent him a quick text.

Hey Gavin. Still feel a little sick. Hope you’re okay.

She climbed back onto her bed and leaned against the headboard, sifting through new and old memories and trying to figure out which was which.

Before long, she got a text back.

That sucks. Still thinking of you. Get better soon.

She smiled and replied.

Thanks. Spent the day reading some of my old diaries and thinking about all the stuff I’m happy for.

Did he need to know that? She quickly deleted it all and started over.

Thinking of you too. Love you.

Had they said “the L word” yet? She couldn’t quite remember.

She sent the text anyway. If he was surprised, she could pretend it was the fever clouding her judgment.

He texted back: Love you too, Nat.

Nat couldn’t help the excited giggles that burst from her when she read that. She clutched the phone to her chest. How could she ever have doubted her feelings for him?

She quickly sent one last text back—It’s okay if you call me Natalie, Gav. Just not in front of our friends. Gonna get back to sleep now. I’ll probably be dreaming of you.--before setting her phone to silent and putting it aside.

Nat lied back down in bed and wrapped herself up in her covers, turning over and quickly drifting back to sleep.

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