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Requiem of the Hummingbird, Chapter 13

 Here's chapter 13!

Title: Requiem of the Hummingbird
Chapter #: 13
Rating: R/M
Genre: Romance, Drama, Shounen-ai/Yaoi

CHAPTER 13: Takaya

Anri's POV

Awwww! I'm upset! I was supposed to be in school today. I was planning to tell Chisame and Misora about Saharu's little friend get-together day next week and ask them to come. I was also planning to talk to Saharu a bit more about it and arrange some things. If it involves being invited to a friend's house, I absolutely HAVE to know their home address or else I won't know where it is! And I have to ALWAYS know if they have something else planned on certain days at certain times and all that stuff or else everything will get all messed up. I'm usually horrible at inviting people over my house because of the following reasons.

1. More than 80% of them have NO idea where I live, even if I give them my home address.
2. None of them can drive.
3. More than half of them are practically always busy.
4. I'm never able to have a set in stone date and time for them to come.
5. I'm absolutely horrible at planning.

It's true. All of those things I listed are true. Anyway, I was supposed to be in school to tell my friends about this! But nooooo! I had to go to the dentist this morning! I have to go every six months, along with having doctor's appointments every six months too. The good thing about it is that I'm cavity free! I guess it's because I brush a lot. I don't floss because I don't like the way floss feels on my teeth and gums. Sometimes it even makes them bleed! I don't like it when I bleed in my mouth. Blood tastes icky. Well, I didn't miss ALL of school. All I missed were 1st period, homeroom, 2nd, and 3rd periods. The drive from my house to my dentist is about 13 miles so it takes a while to get from there to school, but I usually like the drive. I manage to get to my 4/5th period class, which is study hall, but I decide to go to Kajiura-sensei's office and see her. I haven't seen her in a long while.

"Hello Anri!" She exclaims with a smile as I come in, hug Mr. Moose, and sit on the chair.

"Hi," I reply softly.

"How's it going?"

"Fine. What's up with you?"

"Well, my oldest daughter won the science fair at her school this week! She presented the solar system!"

"That's great. Aoi-chan, right? The partially blind one?"

"That's the one!"

Kajiura-sensei's told me about her adopted daughters once. She doesn't have any biological children and she's divorced too. Aoi is the one who's partially blind. Kae is the one with neurological problems and is linguistically challenged. Yukiko is the only normal one. I never met them all, but Kajiura-sensei always says they're such nice children so I don't mind. I wouldn't mind meeting them someday. I guess they're the reason Kajiura-sensei is a social worker.

"By the way...one of the teachers said that you stood up to bullies yesterday. Is that true?" She asks.

I feel a little nervous telling her about it, but I do it anyway.

"Y-Yes. It's true. My friend was in trouble! Nobody else was doing anything about it! I couldn't just stand there and let them hurt my new friend! I know it was dangerous, but I had to do something!" I explained.

"That was very brave of you. And yes, it can be dangerous to stand up to someone bigger than yourself. It's a good thing it didn't turn into a fight. That would've put you in a tight spot. But I don't recommend doing it again," She replied.

"That's right. I didn't want to fight them. A teacher confronted them and I used that opportunity to escape with Takaya-kun!" I told her.

"Good. By the way, how's school been going? Do you like it so far?" She says.

"It's half and half. I don't like having Ogawa in my homeroom and science class. He's always picking on me and has been on my tail since 4th grade. I wish he'd leave me alone. But I love the new friends I made here, like you, Chisame, Misora, Takaya, and Sojiro!" I told her.

"That's wonderful, dear. Nice to hear you're making new friends!" She replied.

"I didn't think they'd like me, but I guess I was wrong."

"What's your favorite class so far?"

"Gym. It's the only class where nothing bad happens and where I get to be with my friends. Goto-sensei's nice. But I hate math! I passed my first math test, but I failed my most recent one! Even though I studied so hard, I still didn't pass! I'm stupid!"

"Now now, don't say you're stupid. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Your weakness is math. I used to be horrible at math when I was in high school. It was especially hard since we didn't have calculators back in my day!"

"I bet it was pretty hard."

"Oh, you bet! But the important thing is that we all make mistakes because we're human. It's normal to make mistakes, but we can always correct them and make up for them!"

To be perfectly honest, I don't think something like that is true at all. Even though I smile at her comment, I can't help but feel a little irked when she said it. I don't show it though. I make mistakes all the time, and even though I try to make up for them and do better, I always end up making worse mistakes than the previous ones! I mess up all the time! I get good grades in school (except for math. Ugh) and I try and study really hard, but I often feel that nothing I do will ever get me anywhere in life...or that nothing I do is ever worth it.

She and I talk throughout the rest of the period until the bell rings for my lunch time. Since this school is so big, there are four lunch periods at different times instead of one. I have 6th period lunch. At first I sat by myself until I found out that Chisame and Tokio have the same lunch period as me, so when I ran into them I invited them to my table and since then they've stayed with me. I always bring my own lunch to school. I never buy lunch. Some of the cafeteria food is a bit icky, and they usually never have anything I like. My lunch always consists of a bottle of iced tea, gushers, peanut butter bread, cookies, chocolate pudding, and a Kosaka fruit bar. I always eat them in that order too. I always drink my iced tea first because if I eat stuff before I drink it, then it'll taste funny. I never liked the taste of it whenever I eat something right before it. The only things I don't like about the lunch period are that it gets pretty loud sometimes and the fact that my childhood enemy, Ogawa Kouji, also has the same lunch period as me. Thankfully he sits at the far end of the big room so I'm perfectly content being with Chisame and Tokio. I also told Chisame about the get-together that Saharu is holding and asked if she wants to come, but she can't. She said she has 2-hour long physical therapy classes on Wednesdays and Fridays. She felt pretty sad about it. Tokio said he can't come too because his aunt and cousin are staying with him for the week. I feel a little sad, but I've only told two people so far. Who knows? I don't know the exact date yet, so maybe I'll tell her again once I get to talk to Saharu later in the day.

The rest of my school day went fine until English class. I had to go to the bathroom and since my English class is really close to the lunch room, it's pretty convenient since the lunch room, my English class, and the bathroom I'm heading to are in the same corridor, the 100 corridor. The hallway's nice and quiet, but as I'm about to approach the bathroom, I see a girl and two boys talking LOUDLY amongst each other. This girl didn't seem very nice as she talked about someone in a rather maligned manner. I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but I just happened to be passing by, so I couldn't help it. I did manage to catch what she said though since I have hypersensitive hearing.

"So we were in culinary class, and I opened his shirt, and...he has boobs. He's a girl."

"So...he's, like, a tranny?"

"Whoa! Are you serious!? A tranny!?"

"Yeah! How sick is that?"

"Like, totally!"

"That chick needs therapy, big time! I've seen freaks like them on TV!"

Oh no. She opened someone's shirt and saw a chest? And saw that "he" is a girl? Is she talking about Takaya-kun!? He's my transgender friend! Could she have discovered his secret!? If she did...then no wonder he nearly got socketed by Yamasaki and Ishikawa in the bathroom yesterday afternoon! She must have told, I just know it! But I don't say anything as I pass by because if I did, I'd end up drawing unwanted attention to myself, and I don't want that to happen. I've done that A LOT in my school life (albeit unintentionally). After I finish my private business, I try to get through the rest of the school day.

But then science class came around.

Saharu, Tokio, and I were in a group working on our assignment (which is a worksheet, not a lab) until Saharu suddenly spoke up.

"Hey Anri-kun! I totally forgot to mention! Earlier today, I saw your friend Natsume-kun," She said in a clear but quiet voice.

"Takaya-kun?" I asked, confused.

"Yeah! But only he wasn't Takaya. You said his real name was Takako, right? Well, today he really was Takako! I saw him dressed as a girl! He didn't look too happy about it either," She explained.

That left me confused. Takaya? Dressing as a girl? That's very unlike him!

"Really? He told me he'd never dress up as a girl even if someone paid him a million bucks!" I told her.

"Maybe something happened that caused him to de-transition? Who knows," Saharu said.

Even though we manage to finish our assignment in time, what she said is starting to worry me. I wonder why Takaya is dressing up as a girl? I know he would never do that, but what if maybe someone who knows his secret is threatening to blackmail him? I saw on a show once that a transgender person threatened to get beaten up with a baseball bat and hung from a tree and dragged in the snow by an evil gang if he didn't dress as a girl like he (Well, biologically she) should be. Or maybe his family wants him to de-transition so they can be normal?

Those thoughts permeated my mind and left me perturbed, even after I got to the beach with Sojiro shortly after school. But I did remember to ask Saharu about the get-together. She said it'll be next Friday at her house, and we can stay there from 1:30 to 5:30 PM. She doesn't mind if I invite anyone. Next Friday we have no school because it's a teacher's convention day. But even so, my worries about Takaya are still bothering me. I decide to tell Sojiro about it.

"Wow. Come to think of it, I saw him dressed as a girl in 11th period today! I tried to ask him about it, but he kept quiet," He said with sympathetic eyes.

"Do you think maybe someone's threatening him? Or if his family wants him to be normal?" I asked softly.

"To be honest, I don't know..." He said quietly. I felt a little crestfallen. I really hope Takaya-kun's okay.

"Oh! Sojiro! Here's the exchange diary," I tell him as I hand him our exchange diary. He takes it in his hand and puts it in his bag.

"Thanks, kiddo! By the way...do you want to hang out after school tomorrow?" He asked.

"How come? We're hanging out right now!" I reply.

"Yes, that's true, but grandmother has some things to do with her friends tomorrow and I'll be home alone. I'll have nothing to do! I'll be bored and all by my lonesome!" He explains with a smile.

I ruminate a little bit. I do remember Mom saying that she has to go to therapy (for her anger management) and that she's been invited to a friend's party tomorrow. I have my own house key (with a little puppy keychain), so I'm able to get inside on my own (though sometimes I have trouble taking the key out of the hole). Maybe that'll work?

"Sure! I'd love to!" I tell him.

"Great! I was thinking we'd take a little stroll in the park. I want to take some pictures and absorb nature a little bit," Sojiro said with a bright smile. Then I remember something important.

"Oh! Sojiro! My friend Saharu-chan is having a little friend get-together at her house next Friday since we have no school that day. I was wondering if maybe...you would like to come with me?" I asked him. Right when I told him, his broad, diamond-cut face immediately lit up with joy.

"You serious? Wow! Of course! I'd love to come!" He's smiling so brightly, it's like he's a newly blossoming sunflower. I couldn't help but hug him upon seeing him and hearing him like that. Right when I hug him, I feel all warm and fluttery inside. I feel like I have butterflies in my stomach. I can smell his hair. It smells nice again. I wonder if he always washes his hair every day? I know most boys don't like to take baths and be all squeaky clean. I always take a bath every single day. I like being nice and clean. But even so, I seem to love being with Sojiro like this even more. Surrounded by the sea air, hearing the soft waves crashing down, and feeling Sojiro's sunflowery warmth. It all just makes me smile with joy.

So the school day for Friday, June 16th, 2010 came and went by without incident. But I did remember to tell Chisame and Misora about the get-together being next Friday since we have no school and they agreed to come. Chisame looked pretty happy, but she said she has physical therapy from 4:00 to 6:00 PM so we have to get her home by 3:30 PM. She was relieved. Misora agreed too, but she has to keep her inhaler with her at all times. She even has a back-up in case the other one doesn't work anymore. Takaya wasn't in gym class today (or school at all for that matter) so I wasn't able to ask him if he wanted to come. I hope he's okay.

But now, Sojiro and I are quietly walking in the park. I can see little purple crocuses, white narcissi, and even a big bush of pale pink, purple, and blue hydrangeas. Sojiro's been taking lots of pictures while I looked at them. He even snuck a few pictures of me while I wasn't looking. I normally don't like having my picture taken, but he's only taking pictures so he can get inspiration for poems or stories so I don't really mind. Plus he doesn't tell me to smile or do something I don't want to while taking my picture. That I like the most. What I like best about this is that the park's nice and halcyon and quiet today. No noisy people, no crying babies, no screaming children, no motorcycles passing by loudly, no yappy dogs, nothing. It's nice and peaceful, and I just love it. Sojiro and I even saw a red cardinal in a tree. Sojiro managed to take some pictures of it with his yellow camera before it flew away. After a short but fun walk, he and I sit on a bench and take a break.

"We should do stuff like this more often!" I exclaim while stretching out my arms and legs a bit.

"I agree," He said.

"Oh! Sojiro...do you have any friends of your own? Besides me?" I ask.

"Well, only a few. There's Kuwabara Hotaka. He's part of the school's basketball team. He has spiky red hair and he's nice, but he can be a bit obtuse and reckless at times. There's Suwano Kyoko, a girl. She's a sophomore and yet she's a well-known member of the student council. She has long blonde hair and is very pretty. Lots of guys like her, but she doesn't seem to be the boy type. Oh! And then there's--" He explains clearly so I can understand him, but he suddenly gets quiet. Why?

Because I see something, or someone, inside the gazebo.

The gazebo's not far from the bench so I can easily see if someone's inside. I think he noticed me staring at it. I'm trying to see who's inside the gazebo. I stand up a bit and silently walk closer so I can get a better look. I stare and stare...until I get a clear picture. The person inside is young and has short curling brown hair, hazel green eyes, and freckles.

I know those hazel green eyes and freckles anywhere!

"Takaya-kun?" I whisper quietly so he can't hear me.

Sojiro comes up to me but he doesn't say anything. I decide to walk in a different direction so I can find the entrance and go inside to talk with him. But the more I look, the more I notice that he's actually wearing girl's clothes! He's even styled his hair like a girl's! But he doesn't look very happy. In fact, his expression looks rather abject and dejected. Once Sojiro and I quietly found the entrance, we were about to approach him until I see what he's doing.

He's sitting in the gazebo.

He's holding a lighter.

He's using it to set a hair clip on fire.

He's about to press it on his wrist.

He's trying to hurt himself!

I see two other burn marks on his wrist! But right as I was about to stop him, Sojiro beat me to it. He jumped into the gazebo as quick as a
ferocious lion attacking its prey, yelled out, "Hey! Natsume!" confiscated the burnt hair clip, and successfully stopped Takaya from hurting himself. The lighter got turned off so nothing else was set on fire, thank goodness.

"What in the world are you doing, Natsume!?" He yelped. I came inside shortly after.

"Shi-Shibuki! And...Anri! What are you doing here?" He asked, sounding like he's in shock, which he is.

"We were gonna ask you that! And...I don't mean to be rude or anything but...why are you dressed as a girl? You said you want to be a boy, don't you?" I told him softly so I wouldn't scare him.

Sojiro clutched his burnt wrist tightly so he wouldn't attempt to hurt himself again. But Takaya's expression went from shocked to totally dejected. He got off of the gazebo chair, fell flat on his knees, and began crying wildly. I could see the huge globs of tears trailing from his eyes and falling down his cheeks like waterfalls. His fists were in front of his eyes, trying to hide them but I could see clearly that he's falling apart. Seeing him like that made me die a little inside. Both Sojiro and I kneeled down to him and tried to mollify him.

"I-I-I-I do!! I really really do!! I do want to live as a boy! Not a girl! But...I don't think I can do this anymore!! Everything that's been happening to my family is all my fault! My mom left, my sister hates my guts, my brother's reputation is in jeopardy...everything is my fault!! My family's suffered endless pain and misery because all I want to do is live as a boy! I...I don't think I can live anymore! I...I really am a...faggot!!" Takaya wept and wailed somberly yet passionately.

But that last thing he said...got me so mad that I literally karate chopped him on the head, clutched his shoulders, and looked him in the eyes.

"Don't EVER say that!! Don't ever say that evil word! You're not that evil F word! Not to me! You'll never be the F word to me! No way!" I yelled angrily.

"But...everyone else...they all want me to live as a girl..." He murmurs quietly.

"You don't have to listen to them! You're your own person! You do what YOU want to do! You're not their slave! If you want to be a boy, then be a boy! I don't mind!" I edict proudly.

"I second that notion," Sojiro exclaims.

Takaya stopped wailing loudly, but I can still see the tears coming out and he's whimpering a little.

"Anri...why do you care about me? Why do you care about what happens to me?" He asked softly.

I give him the simplest answer I could give him.

"BECAUSE WE'RE FRIENDS!!! And friends always help each other in times of crisis!!" I yell. Sojiro covers his ears a bit. Yeah, I know, I admit that even I'm loud. Lots of people tell me that (some politely, some bluntly, some rudely). But this time I WANT to be loud because I want to help Takaya. And apparently I just rendered him speechless. But then I switch to my nice voice and help him up.

"Come on. Let's sit and talk about this," I crooned softly as I helped him up and sat him back on the gazebo chair along with Sojiro who also helped me. Takaya wipes his eyes a bit and I stand in front of him, partly because I think he might run away and partly because I want to look tough, erect, and dignified. I want to look like the kind of person Takaya would want to rely on.

"So...what can't you handle anymore?" I ask him. I try to be clear so he can understand me.

"...Being Takaya. If I return to being Takako, then everything will be easier for everyone else. Nobody I love has to suffer because of me, and they can be happy. I want to be happy too, but...I've taken away a lot of important things from my family. I want them to be happy too! I've already caused them enough pain. I'm willing to change and remain Takako forever so everyone else can be happy, even if it never does in the long run. If I'm Takako, then things are easier, right? I'll be her so that everyone else can be happy," He explained.

"But you're not her!" I reply.

"I HAVE to be her! For my family, my friends, for everyone else!" He cried out.

"You don't have to change! I...I don't want you to change! In fact, I think everyone else has to change!!" I edict loudly, and it seems I successfully rendered Takaya speechless.

"But...wouldn't it make you sad if I was a boy, not a girl? Everyone else hates me for wanting to be a boy!" He exclaimed.

"No! The you I first met on the first day of school is you as a boy. And you'll always be Natsume Takaya the boy to me! It's what YOU want, isn't it? It's YOUR choice to make, not anyone else's! You're your own person! You do whatever you want! I'm not going to force you to de-transition because it's not MY choice, it's YOURS! You've always told me that dressing like a girl makes you feel sick inside. It'd make me sad to see someone feel sick inside. And besides, you don't have to do what others tell you to do just because they think it's strange! You do what YOU think will make YOU happy!" I tell him.

"But...I want my family to be happy too. I've caused them too much pain already!" He said.

"I'm sure you do. But in a way, I'm sure that your family wishes for your happiness too! It takes time for people to accept things that are different, but they do! Of course there'd be a lot of bumps and potholes in the road, but all the effort it takes to walk it will be worth it! It probably won't happen in a millisecond, maybe it'll even take many years, but it'll happen! I know it! And besides, I'm not friends with you JUST because you're transgender! You're a nice person! You like anime, manga, video games, and a lot of the stuff I like! I didn't have many friends back in middle school who liked those things. You make me happy just for being you! Sojiro here doesn't mind either! Just being with you, Chisame, Misora, Sojiro, and all my other friends makes me happier than anything in the world! I don't get opportunities like that often! I'm sure you don't either, but...you get the idea. Nobody has the right to stop you for wanting to be who you are and to just be who you are!"

It seems I rendered him speechless yet again. But about a minute later, he looks up at me with a smile but he still has a dejected face.

"Can I really...live as a boy? Can I really live as what I want to be and not hurt anyone?" He asked softly.

"Of course! You surely don't hurt me! Absolutely not! You'll always be Takaya-kun my friend!" I reply loudly again.

"I second that," Sojiro exclaims. Takaya smiles a bit again, but I see him eyeing the turned off lighter and burnt hair clip. I'm not finished with him just yet.

"Oh! Another thing!"

"What?"

I knelt in front of him, but my hands on his cheeks...and stretched them.

I pull his plump, freckled cheeks out and stretch them. Hard. I'm so intent on doing this that I unknowingly trap him against the gazebo wall. Sojiro stands up so he got out of the way. Takaya doesn't fall out, but right now he's flailing and wiggling around. Sojiro's so shocked by this that he actually starts laughing!

"Whuh!? Hey! Anwii!! Geht offa meh! Whut are yuh doin'!?" Takaya yells as I pinch his cheeks more. But after a minute I let him go. Now his cheeks are all pink and poofy.

"What was that for!?" He yelped.

"That's what you get for hurting yourself!...and for doing it without thinking about how other people would feel about it!!" I edict LOUDLY, clearly, and passionately. Takaya rubbed his eyes a bit. Sojiro's still trying to calm himself down after a good laugh.

"That sure is a nice way to punish someone!" He exclaimed, giggling.

"Sorry. I did it often when I was young. It's how I let my anger out," He said.

"You shouldn't do that, Natsume. It's not right," Sojiro says. I stand before Takaya and cross my arms, trying to look like a strict person. I wonder if I'm being like Miss Minchin from A Little Princess right now?

"Natsume Takaya-san! Burning yourself is NOT a nice and healthy way to release anger! How impudent you are! If you ever attempt to do it again, I'll have you face the wrath of my cheek pinchers!" I exclaim like any super-duper strict person should. But then, both Sojiro and Takaya suddenly start laughing!

"Bwahaha! Anri...you sound like my 5th grade science teacher!" Takaya laughed wholeheartedly. I got a bit irked.

"You dare to not take me seriously!? Feel my wraaaath!!" I exclaim as I jump on him and attempt to pinch his cheeks again. Before we know it, we're on the floor giggling and laughing like holler monkeys. Sojiro's the only one laughing while standing up.

"Alright alright! I think that's enough sophmoric and comedic suicidal humor for today!" Sojiro says as he breaks us up and helps us up too. Now it seems Takaya's all better. Sojiro took care of Takaya's wound a bit and wrapped it up with a bandage so it won't get infected.

About a few minutes later, we both leave the park and say goodbye to Takaya. I say goodbye to Sojiro and I manage to walk back to my house unscathed. Mom wasn't home when I arrived so I made good timing.

But that wasn't gonna be the last time I saw Takaya (for the weekend). In fact, he ran into ME this time!

It was around 4:56 PM and I was sitting in my room playing my Pokemon game while Mom was busy making dinner. I didn't know it, but someone had knocked on the door right then.

"I'll get it!" Mom exclaimed as she ran to answer the door. I got bored so I had just saved my game and turned it off and was about to move on to something else until Mom called for me.

"Anri! Your friend is here!" She exclaimed.

As far as I know, Saharu is the only friend I know who comes over my house, so I expected it to be her. But when I got to the door, I was consumed by nothing but absolute surprise.

"T-T-T-T-Takaya-kun!?"

There he was, standing at the front door and dressed in totally different raiment than I'd seen him before. Now he's wearing a light grey short-sleeved shirt with black and blue stripes along with a light brown vest, blue jeans, black and dark green sneakers, and his signature black fleecey hat. On his back is a small dark blue backpack. I wonder what's inside?

"Hey. Ummm...I-I don't mean to startle you or anything. I know it's kinda sudden, but..." He was just about to finish his sentence until Mom got him inside.

"Oh, no! It's quite alright! Please, come in! I'm making dinner right now, so if you want to stay for dinner, you can!" Mom said with a smile as she invited him in.

"Sure. Thanks," He replied softly, then Mom scurried back into the kitchen again. Takaya and I sat on the big couch together. But I was very confused.

"Um...how did you get my home address?" I asked curiously and innocently.

"Aoyagi told me," He replied. I do remember giving Chisame my home address, so of course he'd go to my friends for information on me.

"So...why are you here?" I asked again.

"My sister was arguing with my brother. I didn't want to deal with it. All I did was change my clothes. I felt like seeing you again, since you're one of the few who truly accept me for who I am," He replied softly.

An awkward silence appeared between us until Takaya spoke again.

"I'm ready. To tell you."

"Tell me what?"

"My story? My reason for wanting to be a boy."

And so, Takaya poured out his tale.

"I started noticing that something didn't feel right with me when I was around four or five years old. I did know that I hated wearing girly clothes and dresses or having long hair or playing with dolls. But then I turned 10. I saw a documentary on TV once. It was about domestic abuse. Y'know, husbands beating their wives for no good reason? Well, the guy on there was a total whackjob. He wouldn't let his wife do anything other than stay home, clean, cook meals, and take care of the kids because he thinks that that's all wives are good for. That's what it was like in the 50's and the 60's the narrator said. He wouldn't let her go to work or see her friends or get a job or anything. And if she did something he didn't like, he'd beat her up. HARD. I realized right then that I didn't want to be a girl because I didn't want to be weak. I decided I would one day become a boy. A strong boy. A kind boy. Someone who women can rely on and confide their secrets to when they're sad or angry. Someone who would save women from bad people. I know times have changed, and I know I don't have to be a boy in order to be a kind person or to have a good marriage, but stupid, heartless, women-beating guys are still around even now. I don't want to be one of them. My resolve is as hard as stone, and I intend to keep it that way."

Wow. Takaya wants to be a boy because he was influenced so heavily by a documentary about domestic abuse and bad marriages. How admirable. He pretty much said what I wanted to say when it comes to being a boy in order to be a kind person or to have a good marriage. I know I won't be getting married in the future.

"So...after I made my resolve, I decided to tell dad, aniki, and Nana about it. I said to them "I finally know now! I'm not happy with being a girl! When I grow up, I want to be a boy!" Of course, I tried to be as calm and clear about it as possible. I know for a fact that aniki was pretty freaked out about it. Nana too. Dad just stayed calm and we both talked about it a bit. He told me that my wish to become a boy makes me a transgender. He explained it all to me. I was surprised he knew about it. I never thought he did. Aniki came around and accepted my decision later on. But Nana, my little sister...she told Mom about it. I did too, but she beat me to it. That was when I suffered the most hellish and painful days of my life. Mom and I were alone one day. Dad, aniki, and Nana were gone. I was just minding my own business when Mom suddenly came into my room and looked down right at me with bloodshot, hateful eyes. She began yelling and screaming, saying lots of bad things I don't even want to think about repeating. That's how I learned about the F word. From her. That's when she began abusing me. She did all sorts of things to me. She'd put hot sauce in my mouth, strip me and make me take cold showers, duct tape me to a wall, beat me with a rattlesnake whip, call me lots of horrid names, keep me out of school, everything. It was just awful. I kept thinking things like "Is this what it's like to be transgender? Is this what I get for wanting to be a boy? Why? What did I do wrong!?" and she kept saying that I brought all this suffering on myself because I chose to be an F word. I know you don't like hearing it, Anri, so I'll say F word instead. At one point I even overheard her telling Nana what a noisome, horrible, repulsive beast I am and influencing her to hate me and view me as inhuman instead of love me and acknowledge me as her brother. That's why my sister's the way she is. She loved everything Mom taught her, so she clutched onto her beliefs big time. Mom was basically her world. Mom even made Nana watch me get abused and tell her to laugh at me for being who I am. It lasted for about a week and a half. At one point, she was halfway through drowning me in the bath tub when aniki and Dad heard me screaming. They had come home early from a basketball game that got canceled. Dad sure got mad. So did Mom too. They argued for a loooong time. Then Mom just up and left, but not before screaming "I don't want to be in a house full of faggots!!" at the top of her lungs. You should've seen how hard Nana cried...and how shocked I was when I realized that me being transgender would bring me a life of cruelty and intolerance. Nana was so ticked off by Mom leaving that she literally told EVERYONE in elementary and middle school about me being an FTM. People kept bullying me and harassing me nonstop. Teachers didn't even do anything about it. There was one person who tried to help me, but he got fired. So basically I've suffered because of my wish to be a boy. That's all there is to it."

Oh my God. Takaya's telling me this appalling, horrible, terrible, cruel, and heartbreaking tale of woe. He's been through worse hardship and cruelty that I've been through! I can't believe I'm friends with such a strong and admirable person like him! I'm looking up at him with admiration, but I can see that my eyes are blurring. I can already feel the big globs of tears pouring out of my eyes and streaming down my cheeks. I don't even notice when Mom shouts "Dinner will be ready in 10 minutes, boys!" or when Takaya suddenly sees me sobbing.

"Oh lord! A-Are you alright!?" He yelps. But then I glomp him and wail.

"Waaaaaaaahhh!! Takaya-kuuuuuuun!!" I wail into his shirt as I cling to him and hug him. I feel him wrap his warm arms around me, but then I look up at him and stare deep into his eyes with my tear-ridden ones.

"You've been through such horrible things! What that woman did to you was wrong! Appallingly wrong! Repulsively wrong! Inexcruciatingly wrong!! You've been through more hardship than even Anne or Nello or Remi or Cedric or Marco or Romeo or Pollyanna or the March family all combined!!" I exclaimed while blurting out the names of the main characters from Anne of Green Gables, Dog of Flanders, Nobody's Boy, Little Lord Fauntleroy, 3000 Leagues In Search of Mother, Romeo's Blue Skies, Pollyanna, and Little Women. I'm sure he has absolutely no idea what I'm talking about, considering how shocked he looks right now.

"Wha-wha-what are you talking about?" He asked, but I wasn't finished yet.

"Don't worry, Takaya-kun! I know exactly how you feel when it comes to being discriminated against for who you are and what you want to be! That tears it! From this day forward, we'll be best friends until the day we die! We'll always be friends no matter what! And I'm not saying this out of pity or self-sacrifice either! I know people don't like to be pitied, and I'm sure you probably don't either, but...I just can't help it! I've never been friends with someone who's been through so much, but that's just all the more reason to be friends with them!" I explain while wailing again. Even though I bury my face into his shirt again, I could feel him smiling at me and his arms wrapped around me. After a short while, I'm perfectly mollified and I rub my tear-stained face.

"Sorry if I was a bit overdramatic," I told him.

"I know. You're a sweet boy. I'm glad I met you, and...again, thanks for saving me from Yamasaki and Ishikawa," He replied softly.

"Ummm...actually...to tell you the truth, I've always wanted to stand up to bullies and save a friend. But I've never been able to since I'm usually always the one being bullied and picked on by bad people. I'm sure you can see why by now. I'm small and scrawny and shy and stupid and weak and over-cautous and, worst of all, autistic!" I told him again.

"That's not true. You were awesome back there. Anyone who stands up to Yamasaki like that is the bravest kid in the whole school. You'd have a fan club in no time!" He said with a smile.

"Oh, no! I could never have a fan club! That's absolutely impossible!" I told him. We were about to talk more until Mom came to get us.

"Boys! Dinner's ready," She said. I'm happy because Mom made a nice hot thing of chicken stuff for us! It's full of noodles and broccoli and carrots and chicken. Everything that I love. But before we leave, Takaya tells me something.
 
"Hey Anri.  Remember when we first met, and you gave me your rice ball?"
 
"Yeah?"
 
"See, I wasn't in pain because I didn't have breakfast. I did have it, actually. It was really because I was having my period. Y'know, that thing that all girls get?"
 
"Ohh! I see!"
 
"Sorry I lied to ya."
 
"It's okay. I can understand why you did. But you didn't mean any harm, and that's fine!'
 
Takaya and I sit at the table with Mom.

"I didn't introduce you two properly! Mom, this is Natsume Takaya, my transgender friend from school! Takaya-kun, this is my mom, Muranaka Akemi-san! He's in my gym class, Mom!" I explained. Mom smiled as she took a bite of a noodle.

"So you're Anri's friend, huh? He's told me a lot about you and the other kids," Mom says to him with a smile. Takaya blushed a little when he heard it. As he took a few bites of his dinner, he regained his composure and looked at Mom with a strange expression.

"Ummm...Muranaka-san? I...I know this is a bit strange of me asking this since we just met and all, and I know you'll feel kinda iffy about this, but...would you mind if I...spent the night here?" He asked.

Both me and Mom are shocked.

"O-Oh! I-I'm sorry! I didn't mean to...well...uhh...see, my brother and my sister got in this big fight and I don't want to be caught in the middle, so I came here. Muranaka-san...you really have a wonderful son. He's helped me so much. He's been so kind to me ever since I met him on the first day of school. You've raised him so well. Oh! Ummm...I know that I'm not TOTALLY a guy just yet, and I know that sounds kinda lewd and such, but...I-I have no one else to turn to at times like this. So...uhh..."

Mom is pretty much shocked at Takaya asking to spend the night even though they just met, but what surprised me was at Takaya even being able to have the mettle to ask something like that! To be honest, for a minute I was afraid Mom was going to start yelling and screaming. But surprisingly enough, she didn't. In fact, she smiled!

"Well! This certainly is a surprise. But since you'r Anri's friend...and that you say he's been very kind to you, I certainly don't see why not."

Now me and Takaya are surprised, me being the most shocked! Mom's actually allowing this!?

"But you may have to sleep here in the living room though. Sorry," Mom said again.

"That's perfectly fine! Thanks a lot, ma'am!" Takaya exclaimed as he smiled brightly.

After dinner, I showed Takaya around the house. I showed him my room, the bathroom, Mom's room, and the basement. And we had just happened to go down into the basement to find a good DVD to watch.

"This is my DVD collection. I have a lot of anime DVDs and boxsets, but you probably don't know about any of these titles at all," I told him, but I didn't realize that he was actually staring at one DVD set in particular.

He's staring at my Little Lord Fauntleroy anime DVD set.

Then he gasped loudly, grabbed it, and held it in his hands.

"Wh-Wh-Wh-Where in the world did you get this!?" Takaya yelped as he stared at my DVD set with bright, shocked, hazel green eyes.

"That? Oh! My dad got that for me. I don't know where he got it from, but he pre-ordered it before--" I explained, but then I got cut off.

"I...I've been looking for this anime!" He exclaimed as he hugged my DVD set and smiled big and wide, filled with joy. This is the happiest I've seen him.

"I didn't know you liked this anime!" I exclaimed.

"I used to watch it when I was 9! I've been looking for it but I could never find it at a good price!" He said. Then an idea came to me.

"I know! How about we watch a little bit of it together?"

"You serious?"

"Yeah!"

"Sure! Let's do it right now!"

So Takaya and I did a lot of things that day. We watched an anime, read some manga, played games (I even battled against him. I won!), talked about various things, etc. Soon, the day came and went, and at around noon, Takaya left the house. I hope he had a good time.

Takaya's POV

I'm glad I'm friends with Anri.

He's one of the few who truly understands me and accepts me for who I am and what I want to be. Sure he's not transgender, but I don't care. He's nice and sweet and accepting. That's all that matters to me.

I remember arriving home at around 12:20 PM when I left Anri's house. I notice that aniki's car isn't there along with Nana's bike. I wonder if they've gone somewhere? Just as I get inside my house...

"Takaya!!"

I suddenly feel this huge mass flop onto me. It's my dad.

"Takaya! Where in the world have you been!? I've been so worried about you!!" He yelps, crying while squeezing (and suffocating) me. After a bit, he lets me go so I can explain.

"I spent the night at a friend's house. Aniki and Nana were arguing and...I didn't want to be caught in the middle," I told him. He smiled a bit.

"Alright then. I'm just happy that you're alright. Oh! I have big news! Remember that special thing I told you a little about a few days ago? Well, I've finally saved enough money for it!" Dad exclaims with a bright smile.

"Wow! That's great!" I reply. But then I feel a little disheartened. Does Dad see me as a boy or a girl? I've decided to ask him.

"Dad...can I ask you something?"

"Yes? What is it?"

"When you look at me...what do you see? A boy or a girl?"

An awkward silence falls between us. Dad stares at me while ruminating and being pensive about the question I just asked him. After about a few minutes, he smiles at me.

The answer I received left me frozen with shock.

"A boy. I see my son in front of me. You're my son, after all!"

I'm so shocked by his answer that I can't help but not believe it at first.

"B-But...aren't you angry? That I want to be a girl instead of a boy? Nana...she has a point, Dad! I ruined the family's chances at a good and normal life because of what I want to be! Don't you wish I was a girl? Isn't that what you told me when you brought Yuina-san over here?" I asked.

The answer he gave shocked me again.

"No. I'm not angry that you wish to live as a boy instead of a girl. In fact, I'm happy. I'm happy because you're doing what makes you happy, and that alone makes me happy. Sure, I don't exactly want to say goodbye to my daughter Takako, but it's your choice to make, not mine. As a parent, I'm obliged to put my children's happiness before my own. For you, Daichi, and Nana. I want you all to be happy. And I'm happy just by being your father. Don't ever say that you ruined the family's happiness. It's not your fault. I've told you that over a dozen times! You sure haven't ruined my life. You're my son and I love you very much. I love Daichi and Nana too. I've accepted you and your decision from the very beginning, and if it's what you want, then I don't have the right to stop you as long as it makes you happy. And another thing...I did not say ANYTHING about wanting you to de-transition for my sake!"

"But you came to my room and was going to tell me--"

"I was going to ask you to help me prepare dinner! Not de-transition! But you interrupted me and thought I was."

"Yes, that's true...but I was afraid. Afraid that if she saw me and found out, she might leave you and think you're gross and repulsive."

"Come now! I've actually already told her about you beforehand!"

"WHAT!? You did!?"

"And she's perfectly fine with it. In fact, she has a good friend who runs a support group for transgender people in Chiba. It's rather far, but we can drive there on weeks when you have breaks and stuff. My point is...I would never be selfish enough to force you to de-transition for anything. I know very well you don't like being a girl."

"But I de-transitioned by my own choice. I wanted you to be happy."

"Yes, and I appreciate your good intentions. But I want YOU to be happy too! You didn't have to de-transition for me and Yuina. I like you as you are right now, Takaya. You're my son, and I've accepted you as such since the very beginning. Oh! Speaking of which..that special thing I told you about. It's actually for YOU!"

"What's that special thing got to do with me? And what is it anyhow?"

"I've finally scraped up enough money to get an appointment...for you to get your first testosterone injection!"

Oh my God. Did he just say he's saved up for me to get a testosterone injection!? He's worked really hard and saved all his hard earned money for ME!? Me, the kid who ruined the Natsume family's chances at happiness and who's constantly called a fag by his sister on a 100% regular basis!? ME!? All of a sudden, I feel my heart start throbbing. Not with sadness, but with joy. Father really DOES accept me and understand me! He doesn't care about what I did to him!

"You're really doing this for me, Dad?"

"Yep! And once you're old enough, we can save up for a total sex change operation!"

A huge waterfall of tears exploded from my eyes and I succumb to the urge to jump on him and hug him.

"DAD!!" I wail as I embrace him and cry. He rubs my back gently and smiles at me, even though I don't see him smiling. I know he is.

"It's alright, my boy. Everything's alright. God is in heaven, and all is right with the world," Dad says as he tries to mollify me. I calm myself down and look up at him, looking confused.

"I didn't know you were a Christian!" I exclaimed.

"Naw! I ain't overly religious. That's a line from one of my favorite books. Anne of Green Gables! You've probably never heard of it," He said, smiling sweetly at me.

"Actually...I have. From my friend. The one I stayed with last night," I replied.

"Is that so! That friend of yours must be a real nice little one," He says with a big smile on his face.

"Yes. He really is. I can invite him over here if you want," I tell him.

"Sure! I'd love to meet him! But now onto another subject...forgive me if I'm being a bit rude here, but if there's one thing I want to get fixed up, it's Nana's attiude toward you," He said with a smile at first, then crossed his arms and grimaced a bit.

"I'm just not happy with the way she's been treatin' you all these years! Throwin' all those insults at you and tellin' everyone she knows about you in a bad way...it's unacceptable! Now don't get me wrong, I love my daughter very much. I just don't love the treatment she's given you. I'm practically at my wit's end. I want to convince her that you're still part of this family and that there's nothing wrong with being transgender or homosexual or disabled or any of those! I want to teach her that we do not discriminate in this house. But at the same time, I don't want to force her either. Lecturing her and yelling at her about it certainly doesn't work. I've learned that from experience. But I'm sure I'll find some way to convince her somehow. She's at that delicate age where she'll begin understanding that the world is much more complex and different than she thinks," He explains.

"She's pretty much adopted Mom's philosophies."

"I hate admitting this, but you have a point. Also, Takaya...I know this sounds a little strange, but even though I absolutely loathed the way your mother treated you, I'm not angry that I married her."

"What? Why not?"

"Because if I didn't marry her, then I wouldn't have such a wonderful son like you! Daichi and Nana too, even though Nana needs to learn some life lessons sometime in the future. Life is a very strange thing, but that's what makes the world all the more interesting, doesn't it?"

I can't help but smile at his last sentence. He's right. Life IS strange.

"Alrighty then! Enough of all this woe. I'm callin' for a pizza for dinner tonight!" Dad exclaims with a joyous smile as he sits down on the couch and watches TV while I run to my room and flop onto my bed. Esteban follows suit and rubs his fluffy face against my cheek.

I'm so happy. I'm feeling so joyous and warm and refreshed. Dad doesn't hate me at all. He never hated me. He never blamed me for causing him and the family so much suffering. Maybe he's like Anri. He DOES accept me after all. I can't help but close my eyes and drift off to sleep for just a few minutes, then I suddenly decide to read Wandering Son again.
 
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