Halcyon Days (The Perks Of Being A Paragon)
My Better Half
Rodney Yanket entered the small brownstone apartment he reluctantly called ‘home,’ carrying a cardboard delivery package. After locking the door behind him and setting the package down on the kitchen table, he made his way to the bathroom, clicking up on the light switch. Click down. Click up. Down. Up. Finally, the light blinked on. He stared into the cabinet mirror. Same intensely beautiful, feminine face he’s always had. This time, though, it was marked by a deep purple bruise over his left eye. Another great day at school. He turned on the faucet and washed his face. If he was lucky, which he never was, he probably wouldn’t get sick from the disgusting tap water this side of town.
Shutting off the faucet, he stepped back into the living room and checked on the package. For an extra fee you could get a fancy custom box instead of the same junk they pack microwaves in. Yeah, right. I’ll pay for that when I can pay for decent shipping. Meaning never. He sighed. Anyway, it’s finally here. Mom shouldn’t be home for a while. His hands shook as he opened the package, tearing off the tape and pulling up on the box flaps. Inside was his treasure: A simple white dress. It was the cheapest in the entire catalog, and it still cost him a month’s worth of savings. But to him, it was exquisite. He picked up the box and walked to his room.
I’ll hide this for now. Probably toss the box when I take out the trash. He took the dress out of the box and laid it gently on his bed. Then, he shifted a few items to make room in his closet before pushing the box inside. He looked at his floor-length mirror, his favorite item in his room. It was in the place most kids would have put a TV or an Xbox. His mother thought it was an odd request for a birthday gift. “Wouldn’t you like a video game thingy instead?” Still, she was always caring and loving. She bought it for him by working overtime for a week. That’s why she can’t see this. That’s why she can’t know. She’s the best mom ever, but even she would be ashamed of him.
Nervously, he stripped off his school clothes. He examined himself in the mirror. His body was completely smooth, almost hairless, and he could easily pass for a girl. He’d always been beautiful. Everyone said so. Even his bullies, though in their case they claimed it made him look like a “fag.” Never mind. No need to think about that now. He took the dress off the bed. As a boy, he typically wouldn’t even know where to begin. But he used his library pass to research ‘How to wear a dress’ on their computer. When no one was around of course.
He slipped the dress on. Okay, Moment of Truth. He turned to face the mirror. When he saw himself reflected there, all his cares seemed to fade away. All the pain and misery. His father leaving him and his mother with nothing, their abject poverty, the beatings he faced at school. He was beautiful, and no one could say otherwise. Yes, we are. He froze. Those were not his thoughts. You are me, and I am you. I love you so much. He didn’t know how to reply. He didn’t even know whom he would be replying to! He felt like he was in a daze. Then, his worst fear was realized. “Rodney?” He turned, and saw his mother standing outside his bedroom.
No. This can’t be happening. Not today, not after he finally felt that one moment of happiness. He could already see the confusion in her eyes. She’ll hate me! She’ll think I’m a freak. A pervert. A ‘fag.’ Just like everyone else does. Just let me die. She stepped forward. He backed away, tears in his eyes. “Mom, I’m so sorry…” But he didn’t see a look of confusion anymore. Instead, it was a look of understanding. Of love. She embraced him, and he broke down crying.
“Rodney, I don’t know much about this kind of thing. But you don’t have to be afraid.” He wasn’t afraid anymore, but he was still somewhat embarrassed. More than that, though, he was grateful for her understanding. “So are you, ah, transgender or…? Not that you have to answer, dear.” He had heard of that, and read about it, but he was never quite sure. He did love being a boy, and that’s what he wanted most of the time. Sometimes though, he felt like it might be fun to act like a girl for a day.
“I’m not sure, Mom. It’s different I think. I like being a boy, and I don’t want to change that permanently or anything. It’s more that I have another person inside me. A girl. I’m not sure if she is me, or I’m her. If we’re two people, or one. I’m sorry it’s so confusing.” She smiled again, warmly. “Whatever you decide, I’ll support you. I love you, Rodney.” Tears again. “As for this…” she placed her hand near his eye, examining the bruise. “I’ve talked to your teachers. I’ve talked to your counselor. The principal. They’re cowards. We’ll get through this. I’m saving as much as I can. We can move to a better place, and you’ll make real friends. Trust me.” This time, the tears were hers. They didn’t have much money, or much of anything, but he truly felt blessed.
The next morning, Rodney resigned himself and prepared for school. Yesterday was rough, but at least he knew his mom would support him. That voice in his head was the real problem. He was sure he heard it. Loud and clear. The beautiful voice of a young girl. His mother had already gone for work, but she left a note on the kitchen table: “Stay strong.”
“Hey Yanker! We didn’t get a chance to finish yesterday!” It was The Three Assholes, as he called them. He ignored their taunts and kept walking towards class. “You deaf, retard?” “I think he’s asking for it.” “I want his mom to ask for it. Ha!” At that last remark, he finally had enough. He turned, red rage in his eyes. “Did you just grow a spine, Yanker? ’Cause I mentioned your hot little mommy?” That’s it. Rodney swung right at him, all his strength centered into his fist… and hit nothing but air. He knew what was coming next. His vision exploded, and he saw stars. Impact in his stomach. He doubled over. I don’t care if I get hurt. I don’t even care if I die. I won’t let them talk about her like that. I won’t let them.
Neither will I, my darling. That voice again. I am here. Right here. I have been watching, waiting. I have been with you your whole life. Finally, I. You. We. Awaken. He felt his soul split in two. The only way he could describe it. When his vision returned, he laid eyes on the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. The Three Assholes turned to face her. “What the fuck?” One moment, she was completely still. The next she was a blur of motion. Rodney had been lucky enough to catch a few Kung Fu movies before they had to sell the TV. It was a lot like that. She was faster than he thought possible. When she was done, all three of them lay writhing on the floor. She smiled at him.
“Hello, my darling. I’m so glad to meet you.” He should have had questions. Should have thought it was strange for a girl who looks just like him to pop out of his body. It’s weird, right? He didn’t care. He embraced her, and she responded in kind.
“I’m your Other Self, my darling.”
“No, you’re more than that. You’re My Better Half.”