“So the entire word thinks I’m dead?” Mike asked.
“Not the entire world. The entire world didn’t know you in the first place, so it wouldn’t really matter. But to your high school, and all of your friends and general public of La Jolla, yes –they think you died in the accident.” Dr. Rigby answered.
Mike threw up her hands in exasperation.
“Paris…” She sighed, turning towards the window.
“He doesn’t know either. But he’s doing ok. There were a lot of problems for the first month. He blamed himself for what happened, but he got over it and he’s moved on. He still comes to see us sometimes –mostly because he misses you, I think. Peter was never very good with company on his own so many times they’d just spend the time playing video games or reading Manga together.”
“How long has it been?”
“About seventeen months. You missed the end of the school year. It’s the beginning of summer vacation right now.”
“Why are you the one telling me all this? I don’t understand why they would keep this from me.”
“Because I asked them to. Mike… psychologically speaking, what you’re facing is unprecedented. I felt it best to not have those who love you the most tell you these things. I don’t want you to strain your relationships with them as you adjust to… --“
“This?” She asked, cupping her breasts.
“Well… yes. Mike, you may not know this, but the brain essentially is gender neutral. It’s an organ just like any other organ in the body. Your heart, lungs, kidneys –taken separately will all function exactly the same whether your body was a woman’s or a man’s. But the human body as a whole determines your gender. You will react like a woman in every way –whether you think of yourself that way or not.
That’s why I instructed them not to let your friends know. It doesn’t mean they can’t know. In fact I think the help of your friends is just as crucial as your family. They all form a part of your emotional support system. But I didn’t want you to choose to see them without understanding the risks. In the end it’s going to be your decision –but I wanted you to know what you’re in for. You won’t be able to feel the way you felt before.”
“Don’t you think that I know that?!” She exclaimed. “You all are treating me like I’m made of glass! I can’t go outside, I can’t see my friends! I have lost everything and everyone seems to want to keep me from moving on!”
She paused to wipe hot tears from her eyes. “You guys think I don’t realize what’s going on, but I do. I really do. I can’t go back. I’m not who I was and I can’t go back. I look at this place and nothing about it comforts me. It’s not my home… I just wanna go home… I want to see my friend and know he’s ok –even if he doesn’t know it’s me. I have to know. I have to see him.”
Dr. Rigby took off her glasses and rubbed the bridge of her nose. “He’s really important to you?”
She hugged herself and looked longingly out the window. “He was my first friend…”
Mike went silent for a moment, deep in thought. “I’m not as smart as my brothers. I mean, I’m smart and I get good grades, but I’m not a genius or anything. Peter doesn’t even have to study. He just looks at something once and he can remember it forever. Danny was ahead of everyone in sports and academics, right along with Jim and Marcus. They all have different interests, but they’re all the best at what they do. Even Mom and Dad. They never made a big deal about it, but I felt it inside and I struggled with it.
They praised me and they don’t treat me like I’m not good enough. I’ve never felt that from any of them, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t jealous or frustrated at myself. Teachers all had such high expectations of me and it felt unfair. They set the bar so high –I couldn’t get away from my family name. I always felt like I had something to prove until I met Paris.
He’s been my friend since the third grade. He was the first person that looked at me without comparing me to my brothers. We didn’t do anything special –just hang out and read comics, ride our bikes or go to the beach. He’s the only one who doesn’t look at me like I should be doing something great.”
“He’s the first one who made you feel like it was ok just to be yourself?”
“Yeah… You don’t know how much that means to me…”
“I can see your point, Mike. I hope you don’t think I’m trying to put you off seeing him again. I just don’t want you to get hurt emotionally because feelings between men are one thing, but the feelings between a man and a woman are another. Things are confusing enough at your age, but add to this the desires of a teenager and puberty and well… I trust you can see what I’m getting at.”
Mike nodded silently without turning from the window. “I’ve already decided that I’m not going to try to be a guy –there’s just no point. I just can’t look at myself and believe that anymore. It’s been two weeks now and I can’t even remember what my old voice sounded like. I’m just me and the me of today just happens to be a girl. But I can’t stay here like this anymore. Please let me go.”
Dr. Rigby looked down and smiled to herself. “Your mother was right when she said you’d be ok, I think. But I wanted to be sure before I let you go out into the world.”
Mike turned to her and her eyes lit up with the understanding that she was about to be released.
“It’s provisional, Mike. You still have your sessions with me for a while yet. I expect you to come and see me anytime if you have a problem. But just remember this –don’t tell him or anyone else if you’re not sure. It has nothing to do with your therapy but more to do with your safety. No one in the world knows who you are and as long as it stays that way, you can pretty much live a normal life. But if word gets out things will get ugly. The press at large can be cruel and they won’t care if all the attention hurts you. Remember that.”
Dr. Rigby got up to see Mike to the door. The girl could barely contain her excitement as she bounded across the room and hugged her fiercely. Ellenore held back at first, not wanted to become too attached, but Mike’s energy was infectious and she soon found herself hugging in return.
“I’ll do my best.” Mike replied.