I found a place to sit towards the back of the store. It wasn't a bad store. It just wasn't my style with all the bright colors, skirts, tank tops, and bracelets everywhere. Candace and Allison took turns trying things on. I had no opinion about my sister in a belted, blue skirt. Although I could imagine dad glowering and arguing how short it was. Allison tried on longer things with swirling patterns. She sat beside me when it was Candace's turn and asked, "You sure this is okay? I don't want to be a bother."
I assured her it was fine. I almost let out a comment about it being a preview of what I'd be wearing eventually anyway. But I held back that thought. Hold it back a little longer.
She held her traced hands in her lap and brushed back her layered hair. Without prompting, she said, "I was…in a really bad place when it happened. In my head, I mean. I felt like it was the end. That nothing mattered anymore."
I gave her a sympathetic look as she sighed to herself and continued, "But…everyone has been wonderful. Family will be family but that's life. It goes on."
I asked, leaning towards her, "Your family hasn't been supportive?"
She gave a quick smile to herself. "Supportive? At least they haven't tossed me out and regurgitated countless things from TV. But if I told them I was pregnant, it would've been better." Without thinking on it too much, I put a hand on her shoulder (got a bit of her influence) and said, "You have support. My sister thinks of you like a sibling and my family knows what it's like. I know my dad would let you stay with my sis if you need to get away."
Looking into her glossy, dusty-red eyes, I gave her a quick hug. She immediately wrapped her arms around me and clung tightly. No tears but her eyes blinked a lot as she said, "Candace is right. You're a cool…brother." Her eyes flicked down at the last word.
Smiling for her as she released me, I checked my hand. Whatever contact influence vanished to show a hairless, girlishly-sized arm with a color tone like Allison's "anime" one. I held my arms together to compare. My own influence wasn't enough yet to really affect the other hand. An anime girl's arm beside a normal guy's arm. A hand the same in all but drawing style to Allison's right beside me.
Candace came out and showed off a necklace while wearing sunglasses. Allison clapped but without enthusiasm. Giving a sour expression, Candace plopped down next to the two of us and admitted, "This is a sucky cheer-up attempt. Now I've got my friend and my brother down in the dumps."
Allison waved her hands with a colorful blur and assured Candace she was fine. I displayed my hand for Candace, who eyed it and offered, "At least you're not avant-garde..."
It was the wholesale term for everyone who had the worst sort of artistic conversions, the kind where they were lucky if they had a symmetrical body and a face at the end. Those typically only happened at the beginning of all this but they still happened from time to time. She was right though. It could be much worse. But that still wasn't much of a pick-me-up. Allison clenched her white bands of teeth in her slight jaw and showed a smile, with the offer, "Maybe we could try another store? My parents would totally freak if I came home wearing some of this stuff anyway."
Candace kicked at the floor but nodded, putting forth a few examples. Most of them were places with a men's section. I appreciated that. I knew Candace could've spent all her time in this particular store, just trying things on.
Then, her eyes widened and she noted one in particular, a new store. I was fine with it and Allison was curious to see it. It was a short walk. First, Candace told me, she wanted to try on something else. As she walked over to the changing room, I noticed she took out her phone and was calling. Suspicious but I'd ask her later.
The new store Candace decided on was the sort I'd never spent much time in. It was winding and smelled of lilac with tons of colors. The so-called "gender-neutral" department was well…clearly intended for the swoop-haired movie billboard sort of men all over their advertising. I stared at one a moment before finding a place to sit. As with every day before in my life, the ad image did nothing for me. That was comforting, even though gender-conversion didn't always go together with orientation-conversion (although they tended to go together more often than not). Actually, it got worse if I thought about it, so I stopped there.
After stretching out on the seat, I rechecked myself. A smidge past the elbow. If only our mall had an Animated Lifestyle store. But those only showed up at the big malls and in richer neighborhoods, not that conversion cherry-picked those with more money. It especially irked me that they had people to talk to without an appointment if you were going through a conversion. And they had all sorts of informational materials. We'd gone to a few when mom would do art showings and dad was negotiating some publishing contract. Candace loved them.
But none here. I leaned my head back until Candace and Allison found where I was camped out. I fussed with some shirts within reach with a half-smile. They went on.
I took out my phone. It had an old, free copy of Tetris but it only gave me a one minute demo. I played a few times with my 'boy' hand and then with the new one. There was a difference but it seemed surprisingly subtle for the difference between my arms. That was something that had been studied too. In the majority of conversion cases, the mind-body connection wasn't strained.
Sure, my sister looked into the mirror a lot for a few weeks and felt her face but she didn’t have depression or severe anxiety. Mom actually felt good about her reflection and became, as we accused her, a little narcissistic with the mirror. Dad did get moody but mom definitely helped him through it. However, none of them changed their sex.
Among those who no longer felt like their face matched their self-image, it was found they had similar issues before but that lessened afterward. Conversion helped psychological issues. That was a bit of a bombshell study at the time when almost all the talk was how to stop and undo what was happening.
So, what did that say about me? How was the change helping me by, at the very least, giving me a girly arm? I let out a long breath. I knew myself. I honestly did not want to be a girl. Not in the least. I was fine with being myself, Kenny Brown. So why did I feel such nervousness?
I clenched my lips and pondered. What if I didn't even know that I wanted to be a girl, somewhere deep down in my subconscious or something? I had no idea what to think about that. Watching the art creep along my arm was more comprehensible than figuring that everything I thought I knew about myself was wrong.
I covered my face and took a breath. I tried to focus on what I could tell for sure. I was afraid of this. Big surprise. Who wouldn't be afraid of a complete transformation? And then my friends at school and school itself. Becoming converted was big, shocking news when it was first going around. Like having an exchange student from some other planet. Some people would stare bitterly and others would smile. But the attention, especially after it got a bit of a 'hipness' boost from celebrities, was constant. As it happened to more and more people and you saw groups of animated people hanging out together in clubs and families in converted support groups, it just became a part of life.
But gender conversions, those were still news. The pervy guys got outed as hiding their real feelings. The flamboyantly obvious ones were met with knowing nods. Everyone converted, for better or for worse, had the deepest parts of themselves exposed for all the world to see. For Candace, that wasn't a big deal. She just became more herself. Obvious.
For mom, she wanted to feel younger, feel different, and more colorful. She often admitted to crazy experiments with her hair during her art school years. Dad admitted he didn't like being seen as such a macho guy.
And those who didn't like it, maybe like one article I read once suggested, perhaps they just hadn't come to terms with the kind of people they really were.
Either way, I would know soon enough.
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Bio: I'm MajorKerina and I love to collaborate creatively with a group of friends to make tales where people have their genders, identities, and very realities questioned, contorted, and turned upside-down. I like slice-of-life with a spicing of the supernatural, strange, or surreal. Reality with a scent of the impossible. You can find me on DeviantArt, Twitter, ScribbleHub, and other places.