Nothing had changed since the funeral. Aunt Judith’s room was still the same; except she was no longer using it, of course. Kate’s mom was still drinking a bottle of wine before bed every night. This was a habit she picked up when Aunt Judith got sick nearly two years ago.
Kate still spent her evenings locked away in her bedroom—listening to loud music and wishing she could be anywhere else. Not much different than any other 17-year-old girl. Though, Kate wasn’t like any other 17-year-old girl in that she didn’t become a girl until she turned 16—at least as outward appearances go.
Her parents sent her to therapy in the beggining. They hoped she was going through a phase and would grow out of it. But after a year of the therapist trying to convince her that she was just confused, Kate stopped going. Her father took it the hardest, which culminated in one final argument.
“I just don’t understand it, Kyle. I thought you wanted to play college ball one day?”
“That’s what you want, dad.” Kate’s nails dug into her palms as she balled her fists. “And it’s Kate. Please.”
“So that’s it? You want to throw away your future just like that?” Kate’s father struggled to keep eye contact as he spoke. “For what? To play dress up?” He spoke as if the thought made him physically ill.
Tears threatened but Kate kept it together as best she could. “It’s not dress up,” she said so softly that her father had to lean in closer to hear. “It’s who I am, dad.” With that, an unbroken tear rolled down her left cheek and hung onto the tip of her chin.
That was the last real conversation Kate had with her father. With aunt Judith’s illness taking up most of Kate’s mom’s time, the stress on her parents’ marriage had become too much for her father to handle. So one night he went out for beer and never came back. A shitty thing to do, but Kate and her mother were more relieved than anything when they found the note he’d left.
I'm sorry, but I can't live with people who don't respect my opinions any-
more. I tried and I tried to make things right, but nobody wanted to
listen. I left a chunk of my savings in our joint account so you won't
struggle. I hope you don't piss it all away down the neck of a bottle or on
those ridiculous treatments for—
Kate never read beyond that part of the letter. As far as she was concerned, her father no longer existed. A bad dream she’d finally woken up from. She did see him briefly at Aunt Judith’s funeral. He was hovering around the back of the church during the ceremony. He must have ducked out before it was over, though, because he was gone before the procession to the cemetary started.
The large Victorian house was a lonely place with Kate and her mother being the only residents. Kate spent most of her time in her room and her mother floated about like a wraith—pretending things were fine as she withered away like the grape skins discarded at a winery.
Strangely enough, Kate had never been happier. While her mother lived in denial and her father was absent, there was nobody to tell Kate that she was something she wasn’t. For the first time in her life she was free to live the way she felt inside. If only her family were able to accept her the way she was. If only the past and the present could merge into one—becoming the best combination of a loving family and the freedom of expression she had now. Unfortunately, the freedom she had now didn’t matter much as there was nobody to express it to. After all, what’s the point of being free to be yourself when you’re all alone? Then again, isn’t that still better than living a lie?
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