Chapter 33

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Other than the drama I've had to suffer through, my week was placid. Mandy would wake us up to get ready for school, and if she was in a good mood she'd give us each a granola bar for breakfast. While Josh would bitch about how "he's growing" and "he needs tons of protein", I'd shut my mouth and save my bar for when I need it.

"Are you ever going to eat that?" Josh asks. He doesn't give me a chance to answer the question when he grabs the bar from my hand.

"Hey!" I protest. Josh just laughs, holding it hostage longer than he should've. He then hands it back to me. "You keep this up and I'll tell Gwen some embarrassing secrets you've told me over the years."

Josh pretends to be horrified, and then returns to his normal face. "She already knows them," he says. "She's still interested in me."

"That's nice to hear," I say, not meaning it. I rip the wrapper off the bar and starts eating.

Waiting until I'm finished, Josh changes the subject. "Mom and Dad are coming home soon."

"How soon?"

My best friend shrugs. "Anytime from after school today to tomorrow morning," he answers. A minute of silence passes. "Hear anything from your mom?"

I shake my head. "Thank God for that."

"Kelly?"

"She's doing good at school, as far as I know. Getting As and Bs." I purposefully leave out how she is at home. She won't tell me what's going on there. That doesn't concern me as much as when at some point her jacket sleeve went up and revealed some fresh cuts. I pointed it out and tried asking her what's happening, but she brushed it off like it was nothing.

Fortunately, Josh doesn't notice. "That's good. Doesn't she usually get Cs and Ds?" I stare at him oddly. He puts his hands up in defense. "I hear your Mom complaining about them all the times I've been to your house."

Almost as soon as he's finished his sentence, the morning bell rings. In no time, the students in the courtyard start moving to their classes. Josh raises a fist and I bump it. We go to our 1st period, now with me thinking about nothing but wonder if I've finished the questions for the novel my English class is currently reading.

_______

Even though Josh had given me a range, I was still surprised when he and I went to his house and find his parents sitting on the tall stools by the island, making idle chatter to Mandy. Mandy herself is in the middle of rolling cookie dough into balls.

She looks up and sees Josh and I. "Hey guys," she greets. "They're not for you," she adds to Josh, who was reaching for a cookie fresh out of the oven. In return Josh growls at her.

Josh's dad, Steve I think, sees me and puts down the newspaper he was glancing at previously. He folds his hands and stares at me. "So, I hear from what little Mandy's told us that you're no longer living with either of your parents," he states.

Even though it wasn't a question, I nod anyway and respond, "Yeah. Long story."

Steve looks at his watch and back to me. "I have time," he says. "I'd like to know why they would let you live here."

He doesn't sound like he doesn't want me here. And I've known him for a long time, so I decide to do what he wants. I start from when I was 5 and pranced around in dresses (great, now I have the names of Rudolph's friends listed in my head) to when Mom found the pumps. I think the only thing Steve's taken interest in the whole time was my wild hand gestures, something that I do when I have to tell a long story.

While I'm taking a breath after I've finished the story, Steve looks thoughtful. Finally he speaks up. "Everyone's entitled to their opinion, but even this seems a little too far," he says. When I look confused as to who he's talking about, he adds, "How your parents reacted to you being into girl things."

"Oh."

The oven beeps, and Mandy puts the dough ball-filled sheet in the oven. She sets the timer and starts on the next batch. Josh finally steals 2 cookies, handing one to me. Day, Josh's mom, sighs. "Someday, when Mandy causes some injury to you, all I'll be doing is saying, 'You deserved it.'"

Josh snorts. "Gee, thanks for the support Mom," he says. Day sneers, Josh sneers back, and they smile amusingly at each other. Witnessing the scene gets me wondering when the last time I was able to joke like that around my own Mom.

"Do you think your Dad will take you?" Steve asks me.

"Doubt it. He's as transphobic as Mom, but not as dramatic about it."

"Hmph. What about relatives? Do you have any around here? Assuming you want to stay here at Fife."

When I explain how all my relatives are out of state, Steve's frown etches deeper. I answer several more questions he asks me, with Day occasionally heckling one of her kids. I'm unsure as to why Steve's curious about my living condition, but I don't question.

Finally Josh interrupts. "I think Miya's done being interrogated," he says. "She has some homework she needs to do."

Muttering a "Thank God", I take the way out and grab my backpack. I head up to Mandy's room for some peace and quiet. I settle down on her bed and unzip my backpack. Taking out the easy assignments first, I dive into it, working on each question and such.

About a half-hour later, I finish the easy portion and work on the harder one. Not even a third way through, I see a very crumpled up piece of paper. Curious, I pick it up to examine it. I start feeling dread when I see a puny sentence, Most people see me as Matthew.

Who the hell starts a paragraph like that? I ask myself, throwing the paper in the trashcan. I get the assignment out of my head and start working on the next one. I may have to finish it, but that's not going to happen tonight.



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