Chapter 19

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If I can ignore Kelly for 5 more minutes, she'll get bored and leave my room to bug someone else with her presence.

I repeat the phrase through my head as I continue struggling with the English assignment Miss Young wants me to complete. So far, I have, "Most people see me as Matthew."

Kelly now has her head placed on one of my shoulders. "No shit, Sherlock," she points out. "That's a dumb way to start a bio."

Glaring sideways at her, I push her off. "It's not as if you can do better," I snark. My sister seems to take it as a challenge. She grabs my paper and pen, and makes a show of writing.

"My. Name. Is. Matthew. And. I. Don't. Like. Being. Aweso--hey!" I've grabbed a paperback and thrown it at her. "Well, excuse me for doing your homework. Most siblings would appreciate it!"

"Then thank God I'm not most siblings," I reply. "If you're here to annoy me, do a rain check. I'm busy with the, you know."

My sister huffs. "Fine. I need a driver," she says.

"Have Mom drive you," I say, not looking at her. I take out a fresh piece of paper and write a heading. As soon as I jot down the date, I notice Kelly hasn't budged. "What?" I ask, now irritated.

Kelly now looks uncomfortable. "Mom's out." I give her a so-what? look. "She's with Dad," she practically whispers.

Oh. "Do you know what for?"

She shakes her head. For a brief second, I see a 5-year-old version of my sister. "As far as I know, Dad might come here to get some of the things he's forgotten. I don't want to be there when he does."

I look at my paper. Fuck it, I think. It can wait. "Fine. Get your things," I tell Kelly.

_______

"Can we go to a different place?" Kelly requests as soon as we're out of the neighborhood. "I want to go somewhere new."

I see a strand of hair hanging around my cheek. I tuck it behind my ear. By now, my hair is shaggy. Mom's been complaining about how I haven't been to a barber, but I've been ignoring her nagging. I plan to put it up in a ponytail as soon as it's long enough.

"I might know a store," I say, slowly remembering the one Darlene mentioned at the club the week before. Where did I put the napkin? "Can you check the glove box?" Kelly looks at me weird, but does so. She pulls out a couple of things before I find the scrawled out directions. I point it out, and my sister puts the rest away.

After reading the first couple of directions, I hand it over to Kelly as I make the turns and stops. I have her reading out the others until I find the store. While I'm finding a place to park the car, my sister asks, "Where did you get this from?" She holds up the napkin.

I shrug casually. "Someone gave it to me," I answer.

When we walk inside, the first word that comes into mind is "wild". Clothes are randomly strewn about the place while being in order, somehow. I can see a red plaid shirt clashing in with blue sophisticated dresses, for example. Loud chatter is everywhere, and if I'm not mistaken there's a drag queen running around shouting for "fabulous green stilettos".

"What is this place?" Kelly asks. I can't tell if she's disturbed or in awe.

"I don't know," I admit.

An employee nearby notices us. He asks someone else to help the customer he was talking to, and he walks to us. "Hello," he greets. "Are you looking for something in particular?" His name tag says "Clay" on it, which is kind of fitting, considering he looks like a creation from the gods. Greek, Roman, I don't care.

Immediately, Kelly rattles off a list of what she wants. As soon as she's listed them all, Clay does his best to find those items, and even has another person helping him. Kelly only lifts a finger sometimes by telling Clay what needs to be on a certain clothing, like a row of sequins on one shoulder of a blouse. All I'm doing is keeping my head down and twiddling my thumbs.

"What about you?" Clay asks after Kelly's half-satisfied with the things she now has in her arms. It takes me a few seconds to realize he's talking to me. Despite the searching, he's still smiling as if there's not a care in the world.

"Um," I start. "Kelly, why don't you check your stuff out, and I'll talk to Clay." When my sister doesn't move, I add, "That's your cue to leave."

She groans. "Fine. Suit yourself." She walks away, leaving me with Clay.

"Is there something you'd like to try on, sir?" Clay asks.

Making sure Kelly is out of earshot, I lower my voice. "I heard from a woman named Darlene that you guys might be able to--"

"Darlene!" Clay exclaims. "She's a wonderful woman. Did she send you here?" I nod tentatively. "What a lovely surprise. Darlene sometimes sends people she thinks might like this place, especially those in the LGBT community."

I do some quick thinking in my head. Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Trans. Right. "Um, yeah." I awkwardly lean towards him. "What kind of dress would you recommend for me?"

Clay takes a step back to take a full look of my body. "With you, I'd think a wrap dress, maybe a halter," he decides. He motions for me to follow him, and we go towards the back of the store. He rifles through a row of dresses and picks out a few in various colors.

"I think these will do fine," he says. "There's a fitting room to your right." He points it out for me.

I wordlessly enter one of them. Placing each dress on a hanger, I examine each one. By examining, I mean narrow down to the one where I can wear privately without Mom or Kelly finding out. The pink, jangly dress isn't going to cut it. The orange sequined is way too shiny. And the purple dress . . . OK, I'm not going to prom anytime soon.

A little annoyed, I grab the dresses and step out of the fitting room. Clay sees the look on my face. "Not what you're looking for?"

I shake my head. "Sorry. It's a little tense at home. I'm hoping to find something simple, really."

"Ah." Clay takes the bundle. "Simple I can do." He sets the pile down and goes to another section. I don't follow him this time, as he only takes a couple of minutes to find what he's looking for. He holds it up. "This is what you want."

It's grey, and can pass off as a really long shirt. In Clay's other hand, there's a silky scarf. "You can wear the dress 24/7, and in your private time you can use this as a sash," he explains when he notices my gaze.

I don't say anything at first. Taking the dress and scarf, I go back to the tiny room and try it on. It's pretty easy to put on, and the sash is wrapped snugly around my waist. I don't look at the mirror until I'm sure it fits right.

This probably sounds like something out of Cinderella, if she's transgender and modern, but the dress works on me. I don't look bad. A smile creeps onto my face, and feeling like 4-year-old me, I twirl a little.

"Is everything alright?" Clay asks nearby. For a moment I've forgotten where I am.

Quickly taking the dress off, I call out, "Yeah, give me a minute!" I put on my T-Shirt and get outside.

Clay looks at me expectantly. "Was it a nice fit?"

"Definitely."

_______

"Geez, how many fashion shirts did you get?" Kelly complains when we walk out of the store. While her bag is full, mine's bulky. "I swear to God you're more into dressing up."

Remembering the 3 sets of the same dress style (one grey, one dark blue, and one red) I bought, I respond with, "Now I'll have more clothes to decide what not to wear for the day." Kelly laughs, and I know she doesn't suspect anything unusual yet.


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