My parents had came home late, obviously tipsy and in a rather loving mood so I woke Kenzie long enough to drag her to my room. The following day was fairly standard up until the end of class.
“So… I don’t want to make you feel bad but now that everything has calmed down, would you mind if we spend some time apart? I’m feeling a bit smothered to be honest. Like I was dealing with it because you were in a crisis, but it’s over.”
“Yeah, sure. It’s cool. I understand; you need time for yourself and your other friends.”
“Glad we’re on the same wavelength.” She gave me a kiss before going inside of the car.
“I’ll figure out something to do. But I’m glad you put up with me and my drama.”
“That’s what a girlfriend is for.”
I took out my phone and checked my contacts. All I had were most of the other young guardians, Kickback and my parents, the extent of my social network. I picked Chuan, he was the closest I had to a friend, even if we’d argued not long ago.
Hey, do you want to hang out tonight?<
>Y nt? u hav smthng in mind?
My dad had always pushed me into making full sentences with punctuation when we were texting, seeing Chuan text like that slightly irked me for some reason.
Kenzie just wants some time apart. That’s normal, right?<
> Yh. n/w Stan can stand me 24/7 yk?
>Ill think of smthng fo us. Cya at HQ.
With that I put my phone away.
“Got plans?” Kenzie asked.
“Yeah, I just texted Chuan.”
“Glad to see you two are becoming friends.”
We arrived at the Headquarter and went through the usual routine, training, shower and everything, although I didn’t help Victoria brush, which she hopefully didn’t mind.
Chuan was already in the lounge, dressed and squatting the couch. Kenzie, Stan and Travis weren’t there while Jessie was working at one of the desk. When he saw me, he got up and picked his coat from the top of the couch, putting it on. We started walking and talked, I just followed his lead.
“Hey Chuan, did you have a good evening last night?”
“Stan took me to my favorite restaurant and we spent the night together. It was pure NC-17 rated magic.” He seemed almost bragful about it.
“Oh my god, please no mental images. I really don’t want to think about you and Stan. Ugh...” I shuddered and he laughed.
“Yeah, I’m repulsed by boys and my imagination just hates me.”
“Oh well. What about you, how was your Valentine’s?”
“It was great, Kenzie and I got to this nice italian place thanks to Travis’ gift.”
“Wait, Travis’ gift?”
“Yeah, he paid for it and got us a reservation. I know, he’s kind of grumpy and antisocial but he’s not a bad guy.”
“Yeah, it’s not that. I’m just surprised that Travis had you and Kenzie go out together.”
“Let’s just say that it was with him that Kenzie… popped the cherry, scored the first home run, landed the first martian probe on venus? I’m running out of euphemism...”
“I get it. When did that happen?”
“A while ago but they were together during the holiday season.”
There was silence for a few minutes as we just walked and my head went into overdrive, thinking about what Travis’ gift meant and his relationship with Kenzie…
“So, where are we going?”
“My place, it’s not far and I like walking. I figured since I spent an evening at yours I can return the favor.”
As he had said, Chuan’s place was relatively close by. It was a simple one and a half story bungalow with pale yellow paneling and a small veranda. The door was unlocked and we went in.
The inside of the house smelled great, it had a thick spicy, earthy scent to it that came from the incense burning on a small shrine by the entrance that held a buddha and what I presumed were offerings in bowls.
“Please remove your shoes and put them in the rack.” Chuan said, doing the same before removing his socks and stuffing them in his pocket. “Socks are optional.”
We went into the living room and I stopped to examine the place, it was fairly standard, the most notable part was that there was a large mural full of printed out photographs, some of which showed who I presumed were Chuan’s parents decades ago with small children.
“Who are they?”
“They’re our siblings.”
“You have older siblings?”
“Mali and I are just the youngest, our parents had three children in their twenties but they’re all grown up and live out of the house, we actually have a nephew who is older than I am, Mali and I were a late life ‘happy little accident’ as our parents say.”
We went into the kitchen and Mali was there, wearing a private school’s uniform and huge headphones blasting music as she prepared something muttering the lyrics to her song incomprehensibly.
“Hey Mali.” He said, going to his sister and giving her a hug.
“Hey, you’re here early.” She said, removing her headphones
“Stan had a thing today. What are you making?”
“Som tam and kai yang with rice.” She said. Which meant nothing to me at the time.
“Great. You mind making some extra? Just don’t put seafood in there, Paige is here and allergic.”
She looked around and saw me. We exchanged greetings.
“Sure, I can do that.”
He kissed his sister on the cheek and turned my way. “My room is this way.” he said, leading us to a room plastered with band posters to the point the wall was almost completely hidden. He put some music on the sound system and sat down in a large bean bag chair in front of his TV while I politely sat on the edge of his bed.
“Alright, what do you want to do?”
“I don’t know… I’m not really used to hanging out with friends.”
“Well, what do you like to do? Beyond cooking and smooching with Kenzie. Do you like video games?”
“I’ve never really played them, my computer is crap and my parents never bought a console, all we had was my dad’s old Xbox from when he was a teen. But if you want to play, I’m game.”
He gave me a controller and put a cooperative shooter game, setting it on the easiest difficulty and we mindlessly vaporized aliens for a while, talking about random things, Chuan nudging me into giving his favorite bands a chance.
“Can I ask you for some advise, romantic advice?” I asked while the game was loading the next map.
“Should I tell Kenzie that I know about her and Travis’ relationship?”
“That’s really for you do decide, but if you’re having difficulty dealing with your thoughts and feelings, don’t let it aggravate, talk it out with her. If you want to have a healthy relationship, you have to communicate.”
“That makes senses. Thanks.”
“Can I ask something?”
“Sure, I guess.”
“Is Kenzie your first partner?”
“She is… I only ever come out to two other people before her, one is my therapist, the other was a girl I liked who played the fire and brimstone card…”
“Yeah, it wasn’t pleasant… What about you, is Stan your first?”
“No, I had a boyfriend before I joined the guardians, that was about two years ago. I liked him and we were together for four months when he asked me if I wanted to have sex… This was obviously before I transitioned and the thought of having sex while being seen as a girl just disgusted me. Rather than tell him how I felt, I dumped him and I triggered not long after, I didn’t have a big interest in the guardians until I saw a video of Singularity girl talking about the Guardians helping her transition, that was when I knew I needed to join, because I wasn’t happy as I was...”
“Do you ever think about what would have happened if you told him how you felt?”
“Sometimes, but I don’t think I could have handled rejection back then. I might have asked if he liked boys and he said he was straight…”
There was an awkward silence for a moment. The game had finished loading but we didn’t play.
“You know, you’d look good with red hair.” He said, ending the silence and switching to a less serious topic.
“I never really thought about it.” I said, entertaining his derailing.
He got up and opened a cabinet, taking out a small pot with a brush. “Are you game for it?”
“Any other day I’d probably say no, but I need to focus on something meaningless.” We went to the bathroom and he painted my hair using tin foil to protect my clothes, it was a subtle and fairly dark red that looked almost natural.
Dinner was served not long after and we ate, Chuan’s mother had come home, she seemed nice, she was somewhere around late fifties or early sixties with brown dyed hair, she mostly spoke Thai with her children, with bits of English intended for me, her accent was thicker than her children but she was well spoken. Dinner turned out to be a papaya salad, spiced grilled chicken with sticky rice and by the taste of it Mali was a great cook.
Once dinner was over, she drove me home, wishing me a good night and inviting me to come again.
“Hey mom.” I said coming in, seeing her at her usual spot in the kitchen, reading one of those thick boring slice-of-life bricks she liked.
“Good evening Paige.” She said, before turning my way. “Did you dye your hair?”
“Yeah, my friend Chuan convinced me to.”
“Well, I think it looks nice and discreet.”
“Outside doing some shopping. He’ll be back later.”
My dad came sometime later and we spent the rest of the evening together, watching things and recapping all the new developments in my life. Father-daughter time was a welcome change of pace from being alone with my intrusive thoughts.
I went to bed when he did and checked my messages, seeing one Kenzie had left me.
> Going to bed early. Love you.
The message warmed my heart.
I love you more.<