S/He Feels Grand
Mandy Ho, Grade 8
She smooths her hands down the length of her lace skirt, combs her fingers through the soft down of brown hair cropped short to her head. The makeup, crudely applied because of her inexperience, transforms her.
She feels satisfied. Relieved.
Julian smiles and her reflection in the mirror imitates her. The corners of her lipstick covered lips quirk, a blood slathered colour unachievable without cosmetics.
Cosmetics are only meant for girls.
She feels grand.
He buttons up the sleek white shirt to his neck, cards his fingers through his gelled brown hair cropped short to his head. The tie, crudely tied because of his inexperience, transforms him.
He feels sharp. Otherworldly.
Julian smiles and his reflection in the mirror imitates him. The corners of his chapstick covered lips curve, a tame glazed colour unachievable with cosmetics.
Cosmetics are not meant for boys.
He feels grand.
Julian trails downstairs with a song flitting around in her mind, painted nails playing with the hem of her blouse. She can’t wait to show her little brother the volleyball technique that she’s discovered recently, when a sight stops her by the foot of the stairs.
Her mother, clothes meticulously iron-pressed and suitcase by her side. Eyes wide at the sight of her daughter.
“What’s happened to you?” The words are soaked in unadulterated horror.
“What did you do to my son?” The woman demands at an intensity too loud for Julian. She can hear the movement in her little brother’s room falter. The man standing in front of her mother turns to glance at her, stance melting at the sight of her.
“Julian,” he says in a voice reserved for announcements of a divorce. “Go back to your room, please.”
Julian turns, already trying to forget the indelible furrow between her mother’s eyebrows. She doesn’t ever want to see it again.
“No, answer me! Who is that girl? What have you done with my son?” The breath is stolen from her throat. Her eyes squeeze shut.
“I’m your daughter!” She bursts out. The wrong thing to do, it seems, for the look on her mother’s face sweeps the rug from under her. Julian wants to flee from that serrated gaze.
“I didn’t give birth to a girl.” The woman spits with disgust. “I should have taken the kids! Look what you’ve done with my son! I’m taking them with me, I’m going to make sure they’re raised right-“
“You never understood!” Julian interrupts desperately, blood singing in her veins. “You never tried. Why did you never even try to understand that-“
“Stop that nonsense, you’re still going on about that-“
“Sometimes I identify as a boy-“
“Shut it, right now, I swear-“
“And other times as a girl!”
The woman’s mouth snaps shut, a furious look in her eyes.
“I’m gender fluid, and right now I’m your daughter. If you can’t accept that, don’t ever come back.”
The door slams.
Julian smiles. She feels grand.
Later, he feels grand.