CH. 24: Open Secrets

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Rachel was about to throw caution to the wind and tell the hunky guy her name when the hunky guy's hunkier friend gave Rachel "The Look."

"Dude," the hunkier guy said to his friend, the both of them separated from Rachel by the Pete's Saloon mahogany bar. He bug-eyed at Rachel and nodded to him and muttered low, "That's a guy."

    Dysphoria hit Rachel like a bucket of ice water. Her joints locked up. Her jaw clenched. A wave of numbness crept over her body, a body that suddenly did not feel like her own, and it descended into her fingertips and toes.

"Gross, dude!" the considerably less hunky guy said to his friend and stormed off toward the exit of Pete's Saloon.

She exhaled hard through her nose and gripped the bar in cold fists. The sudden stress and tension, bodily, below the level of consciousness, rose and consumed her. She wanted to bolt from the bar and just, just, she didn't know what. She was about to do whatever that was when she noticed the "hunkier" guy still at the bar.

"I'm sorry," he said to her. "That wasn't cool, what Todd said."

Rachel shook her head, still unsure if this guy was going to punch her, and ecked out, "No."

"I just didn't want him making a mistake, you know. Thinking you were a... You know. No offense."

The lava rock of anxiety in Rachel's stomach broke open and liquid magma poured out. She felt like she was gonna vomit, but would not give these assholes the satisfaction.

"There are plenty of other bars in Sunshine Beach," Rachel said. "Where you won't have to worry about, 'you know.'"

"Right," the guy said and, after knocking on the bar a few times out of awkwardness, walked away and left the Saloon.

Rachel looked down at her hands, the broken pinky and ring finger on her left hand throbbed from how hard she grabbed the bar. Neither hand shook. She wished they would if only to dissipate some of the awfulness she felt. On top of everything, she felt stupid. Therapy. Estrogen. Surgery. Support. Had she dared to think she was cool with everything? Had she been that naïve? But, no, she reminded herself. Cool with yourself? Yes. Cool with thinking some guy is going to find out you're trans and try to hurt you? Never.

She reached under the bar and pulled out a bottle of Selfridge's Own. She'd never tell Mac, but she generally preferred it to the Wyatt Brand. Just liked whiskey of rum. And the sense of compassion it elicited in her made her hate insecure dickheads a little less. She poured a shot and downed it and shivered. She was about to get to work when the Wyatt delivery person showed up, late by thirty minutes. She was about to say something about it but, oh my, sweet Jesus...

"Mac?" Rachel said to her friend, dressed in a blue full body maintenance uniform.

"I know, shut up," Mac said and pushed a hand truck stacked with Wyatt Brand through the front door.

"What're you doing? Wait. No. The delivery comes in through the back. Just hold up. Set it down."

Mac did so with a glassy rattle, took off her blue gimme cap and wiped her forehead on her oversized sleeve. "This. Suit. Is. So fucking hot! And it's like five sizes too big. Get me a drink, would you?"

Rachel watched her plod over to the bar, clop-clop-clopping in heavy boots she obviously didn't own. Rachel turned to the liquor bottles behind the bar and pulled down a bottle of Wyatt Brand rum. She saw Mac see it in the reflection in the mirror behind the bar and put it right back.

"Beer, please," Mac said with a sour puss. "I've been hauling that shit around all day. Case after case. And Fisher is no Goddamn help. 'I drive, you load,' which is some bullshit. The guy is like six two. And he- What is it?"

Rachel was looking down at her shoes and didn't even realize it. All of a sudden, she felt very small. Exposed. "Nothing. Some guys were hassling me. 'That chick's a dude, dude. Standard."

Mac slammed the wolf hand on the bar. Its teeth glowed. "Where?"

"I don't need you to do anything. It, happens..."

"Whatever. Bunch of assholes. You're a total hottie."

Rachel looked at her friend. Supportive. Sympathetic. Angry. But, she didn't quite get it. "I'm grateful I can pass, really I am, but it's not about that. I mean, you're hot. Does that solve all your problems? I just want to be who I am and be safe. Like anybody."

Mac nodded, cut the glow on the wolf hand and put that hand on Rachel's. "I don't know what to say to make you feel better."

Rachel nodded. "That's OK. It's just life."

There was a blasting honk from outside and the two women shuddered. A brief silence proceeded several more blasts.

"This fucking guy," Mac said. "Listen, I'm gonna unload this hooch and finish my route and wash the fucking stink of molasses off of me and I'm coming back at the end of your shift. We'll do whatever you wanna do. Cool?"

Another blatting honk.

"Yeah, cool," Rachel said. "I'm off at 10. That's when it gets jumping around here, but Doug, the manager, he's taking pity on me, cause of the car accident."

"Yeah, about that-"

"You don't have to apologize again. You and me, we stand by each other."

Mac smiled, blew Rachel a kiss, then stepped back, pulled her hand truck free from the rum cases and rolled it out the door without bothering to stock the liquor in the back. But, Rachel couldn't be mad. After all, she'd done much worse to Mac.

A subjectively long moment of silence passed. Then, out of the corner of her eye, she saw a man standing at the bar that hadn't been there while Mac was in the bar. Probably one of those douche bags from earlier. Well, if he thought some half assed apology was gonna save him from the verbal onslaught Rachel was preparing, he had another thing coming. A girl must remain vigilant at all times, a trans woman more so, but, maybe it was having Mac back in her life, with her "fuck the consequences" M.O. or maybe it was enough being enough, but Rachel decided that she was done being afraid of what a man could do to her.

"Listen, asshole," Rachel said, turning to face him and the words died in her mouth.

"Hello. Rachel," the man said.

Not knowing what to do or what to say, Rachel simply fell back on the social convention of returning a greeting with a greeting.

"Hello," she said, "Gregg."

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