An effeminate silhouette shadowed against the wall, while a hand tugged three pieces of toilet paper off the roll. It was a dark figure watching itself with critical scrutiny, as advanced male gynecomastia and a series of therapies continued to feminize her body. The drugs were doing what nature would not.
It had waited for her. It had been used. And now it was ignored, eclipsed by his focalisation in her mind.
Maybe it was the insecticides and pesticides her mother had worked with before her postpartum depression and subsequent career change. That was what Stacy faulted for being trapped in masculine flesh. She had read Rachel Carson's Silent Spring in ninth grade, and it had stuck with her. Though the book said nothing about an increased prevalence of children being born with a sexual exigence incongruous to their anatomy, it opened up a myriad of possibilities. And the environmental destruction humanity had committed was the most sufficient thing Stacy could find to blame.
It lay within reach, hollow and moist. It was the reason the door was locked.
Her mother, however, blamed the lack of a consistent male role model in Stacy's life. And for that, she could only blame her own affair, years ago. In looking at the bigger picture, she felt her promiscuity was at fault. It was a guilt that consumed Stacy's mother. It ached within her. It knotted her stomach and tightened her throat. The crying began even before her offspring had begun to steal her birth control pills for the estrogen, the ethinyl estradiol, son becoming daughter.
She had assumed a modus operandi of rich and consistent denial.
Stacy coped with this by getting out of the house as much as possible, working a part-time job and doing her homework at the library. And whenever she was home, she kept her face buried in a book or computer monitor. And this enraged her mother, as the emotional distance between them valleyed and crumbled into an abyss. The distanced spanned wider with every working: with every secreted pay cheque, every delivery of flowers, every black market purchase, every empty bottle of gin, every injection of estradiol valerate to pierce her veins, and every secret boyfriend to kiss her mother's lips.
Stacy could not remember the last time she did not feel so scared. She wiped the last trace of waste from her behind with a calm, eager smile and the knowledge that when she returned to her keyboard and webcam, he would be waiting for her.
And now she had a fresh emotional connection. It thrilled her. She repeated to herself the last compliment he had made, about her "refreshing, selcouth beauty". Stacy did not know what 'selcouth' meant exactly, but it was an exotic word and carried a poetry he would not deny her.
Stacy rose to her feet, and flushed. Then she pulled her jeans up, over the itchy bristling of her thick leg hair. She zipped up, and slid the button through, and looked down at her clothed loins, wondering if they constituted a bulge. And they did, more than ever, because of him.
There was something terribly unwanted in her veins: testosterone. Stacy wanted a way to cut her wrists so that only the testosterone would bleed out. She wanted the power to break it down, with enzymes and cholesterol, to replace it with estrogen. She wanted a magical solution. The science was wearing her down.
She sighed. It was a heavy, reluctant sound full of difficult potential.
While the water ran over her soapy hands, Stacy looked at herself in the mirror. Her make-up needed no adjusting, it was understated and worn thin as it should be. And yet, she glared in resentment. It was her cheekbones, too prominent for her self-esteem. She reckoned the stress of recent times had worn away too much baby fat from the edges of her cheek. And she did not like it. She did not like herself.
It sat on the counter, forgotten. Empty. Pushed in. Unlabeled. Its needle gleaming with the last clear drop.
She dried her hands on a towel, and left the bathroom. From the edge of the hall, a man's chuckling laughter drifted up the stairs. Stacy sneered at her own inability to remember his name.
The comfort of her room was welcome to her.
She sat down at her desk, and slipped her headphone buds into her ears with a placid grin spanning her lips.
"Excellent timing, Stacy. I just got back a minute ago," he told her.
In that instant, she was profoundly mad at herself for being compelled to have looked so hard into the mirror, when it had cost her time with him. However, she did not let it show.
"You look sad," she observed. "Is there anything I can do to cheer you up?"
"I don't know," he said solemnly. "They left. My sister and my friend. Gone, without a word."
"Yeah, I just get lonely sometimes. I mean, I was going to let them be, but I don't like knowing that I'm along in the house," he admitted. "I know that sounds childish. But it's how I feel."
"No, it doesn't," Stacy assured him, though she did not yet understand why he felt that way. And in wondering, her fingers played idly with the beads of a necklace around her neck. The larger beads, of which there were five, spelled her name.
To Landers, they seemed like candy, perhaps by proximity to her neck. And something in that tickled his sweet tooth. Something spontaneous rose up in him, at an unseen pace. "Do you want to get some ice cream?"
Stacy smiled. "I'd love to. What time of day? I've got most of tomorrow free."
"Tonight," said Landers. "Ever been to the Coldstone Creamery in the Tim Horton's near school? It's really good."
"No, I haven't," said Stacy. "That sounds like something I'd like to try! And my mother only buys decaf."
Landers rolled his eyes in an amused manner, making Stacy feel as if he caught every connotation she felt in the word mother. "I've got some coupons from Christmas lying around. And I never go there on my own, so I might as well use 'em! I mean, I'd feel like a glutton if I went for ice cream alone."
Stacy bit her lower lip, suddenly aware of precisely how wet her mouth had become, "The last thing you look like to me is a glutton, Landers." She leaned closer to the camera and spoke quieter, "For food, anyways."
He guffawed, barely breaking his shy demeanour. "For what, then?"
"Hmm..." Stacy put on an exaggeratedly thoughtful look. And then it broke, when she thought of something witty to say. Yet, she never got the chance to say it.
"For the kindness and affection of a pretty girl," Landers answered his own question.
Stacy flushed, so flattered by his words and intonation that she forgot what she was going to suggest. A different sigh escaped her then, one full of satisfaction.
"I can make it there in seven minutes on my bike," estimated Landers. "You?"
"I live pretty close to the school," said Stacy. "Nine-thirty?"
"Sure," said Landers. "I'll see you there then."
With a carefully restrained smile, Stacy waved goodbye. "Sure thing, champ."
Seconds later, Landers logged off Skype.
Champ? she questioned herself. However, she was quick to shed the worry, and turn towards her closet and the comfort of a change of outfit.