Happy Holiday Season! or Happy Winter! Here is a free story about love and hope. Enjoy!
For Love of Leelah
I saw her standing in the falling snow. An orange spotlight surrounded her from the streetlamp lighting her short raven hair with sunset radiance. It was one of those breathtakingly cold nights that filled the snow with ice crystals making it glitter as it floated down all around her. I cupped the hot chocolate in my hands comfortable in the coffee house, my feet tucked underneath me next to a fake fire. All the sounds of the baristas making noisy cappuccino and guests chattering away filled my head with the sort of hum that you could disappear into. If any single noise was separate it would have infiltrated my mind like a drippy faucet at night, but all together the cacophony cancelled itself out. I just watched this woman with skin almost as pale as the snow dressed in an ensemble of ill-fitting mismatched parts under a man’s coat thinking she must be cold.
Part of me wanted to go out there and offer her a cup of coffee or tea or whatever she liked to drink just so I could get close to her bathed in snowy glitter, but it seemed a shame to interrupt her. She smiled in the cold, her bare hands open to catch the flakes, eyes cast at the beauty around her. She was all the loveliest things about a woman as she stood there unaware of being noticed. This was what attracted me to my own sex. It wasn’t hips and curves, though those were nice, or the even the baser forms of intimacy, again—nice. It was this spirit that reached out to envelop you, capture your heart with two hands and never let go. It was the essence of a woman confident in her own agency, this joy at life when observed from afar. I’d fallen for many non-traditional women over the years because their spirit cried out to me.
This snow beauty held me captivated.
I turned my head to the voice and saw a man dressed in suit and woolen dress coat looking down at me. He stomped rubber covered dress shoes to remove the slush collected in the entry way and wiggled the bare fingers around his briefcase. He was definitely not from Wisconsin. I turned my head to glance out the window, but caught only the brief hint of a blue winter coat retreating into the dark snowy night.
“Blue,” I whispered to myself and turned my attention back to the man in front of me. “You must be Mr. Everett,” I said leaning forward to shake his hand. Mr. Everett from Shoom Press, here to take my books and take me out of the squalor of northern Wisconsin. While I was happy to take his money, and I really didn’t think the cows would miss me, I wasn’t quite ready leave the forest. Hard bound books in brick and mortar stores though. Quite the allure to a silly little fantasy writer like myself.
The meeting took two hours and three cups of hot chocolate. I left, bundled up from head to toe with a stack of legal papers and much to think about. It was definitely a kick in the pants to my career and could lead to things like best seller lists, but was it worth it to leave the company that valued me as an individual? The company that literally handed me everything on a silver platter? They might be small, but their energy was amazing. Shoom didn’t give me options like only taking the one book, they wanted all them now and in the future, so working with both wasn’t going to happen.
The glittery snow crunched under my feet as I trudged along. I was only 3 blocks from home. It wasn’t worth it to pray the car would start in the cold. Walking served me fine. It was beautiful out. Snow glinting in the pools of orange lamplight with the type of dead silent blackness between that quickly became horror writer fodder. I could dream a thousand stories on a night like this, but only one found me. The snow beauty.
In my mind she was an escaped princess hiding from a cruel and strict upbringing, wishing only for freedom. One night she found a gap in her security, put on the first clothes she could find and made a run for it. Kept inside all her life the miracle of snow was entirely new. Seen only from her window high in a tower, the kind found on the very old Victorian homes, the cold reality of it was an enchantment; standing for the first time alone in her life with snippets of lace catching the light and dancing all around her. It was something out of a fairy tale.
The cars, near silent in the new snow, moved past with low rubbery squeak as tire sought traction. If you listened close you could hear the same sound building snow men. It wasn’t terribly late and the traffic moderately high. Everyone rushing home before the roads got too bad. I almost missed the soft sound as it blended in with the winter night orchestra in pianissimo. Even in a small town in the dark cold it was never completely safe to be alone. As soon as it registered I turned my head.
There she was, huddled into a blue coat, knees and all, in a corner out of the wind between an old mechanic’s garage and the dumpster next to it. My snow beauty shivered with tears freezing on her face she tried to hide, choking back low sobs in a pool of decrepit light from an old bulb.
“Honey, are you all right?” I asked taking a step towards her. She startled but didn’t move. I looked into the liquid dark of her eyes and carefully crossed the distance between us. Her makeup was running pooled under her eyes, ink stained tears making trails on her skin. She was like a magnet to me pulling my soul in with both hands. I hunched down before her fighting my urge to reach out and touch her.
“Are you okay?” I repeated. She turned her head away for a brief moment breaking our eye contact. The light illuminated the gap in the unzipped coat she clutched together in her hands. Something wet and koolaid pink reeking of alcohol glued her white sweater to her skin. It was one of those tight, short sleeved, fuzzy numbers you wore in the summer, practically see through between the fine threads of fuzz.
“What happened?” I tried again.
She turned her head to meet my eyes again and asked in a soft voice, “Why?” The tears broke through seemingly held back by this one word. “Why?” she sobbed. “I don’t understand why.”
“Hey,” I reached out finally and wiped her cheek with my gloved thumb making a dark smudge on ivory skin. I could feel the cold through the leather on my hand. “You’re freezing.”
She only shrugged.
“Do you have a place to go?”
“I don’t know.” One would expect her to look away, ashamed at that admission, but she held my eyes nearly as transfixed as me. Her pain was so clear it became part of me.
“Come on, let’s get you out of the cold.” I reached for her hands and she let me pull her to her feet. She was taller than me, in a good way. Skinny as a rail. Her pink cowgirl boots were obviously too small and probably did nothing to keep her toes warm. The fishnet stockings over purple leggings probably didn’t do much for heat either. I caught the glimpse of a short jean skirt or shorts somewhere under the coat. I linked her arm with mine and pulled her around the corner.
“Where are you taking me?” she asked nervously looking wild eyed at all her surroundings. Smart girl. Good thing I wasn’t kidnapping her.
“There’s a bar around the corner.”
“I just came from a bar. It didn’t go so well.” I could almost hear her swallow.
“This one’s different. Not many people know it’s here.”
“Different how?” she asked eying me.
“You’ll see,” I laughed. “Don’t worry. The people may be a little flamboyant but they’re nice.”
“Ooooh, I see,” she said sounding like she clearly didn’t.
I pulled open a graffiti’d metal door on a windowless brick building. They could have spent some time on making the place presentable but sometimes it was easier to just blend in and be ignored. In a small town this place was safety. No one cared if you liked girls, boys, or both. You were free to be your brand of freak and celebrated for it. No big city club could come close to the culture of a small town gay bar, even in the years of supposed freedom.
The interior was panorama in rainbow; stripes leading out from a glittery stage making sections of color. Everyone but the club owner complained on the eye sore, but it was much a part of this place as the people. It was the running joke but still loved. I smirked to myself every time I walked in the door. The snow beauty gasped and looked mildly horrified. I had to laugh.
“Oh!” she said surprised hearing my voice and looked down at her shoes.
“It’s all right. Gen has no concept of understatement,” I laughed.
“Good lawd, Sabina,” A statuesque woman stood dressed in Cher costume circa 1973 behind the bar. At least today she was a woman. I always admired her ability to blend seamlessly into either gender, though her diva costumes were a little over the top. “What did you drag in here this time?” I just raised my eyebrows and stared at her deadpan. “I know I know, I’m murdered in one of your books. What’s the poison tonight?”
I looked at my companion and for the first time thought to wonder how old she was. “How old are you?” I asked her.
“Twenty one,” she said a little too confidently, thrusting her shoulders back and chin high in the air. I looked at her mildly, not arguing with her but waiting patiently for her to correct herself.
“Nineteen,” she said dropping her shoulders with a small smile.
“Couple of hot chocolates,” I told Sunny.
“Want me to Irish them up?” she asked.
“No, but you can throw a shot of coffee in mine.” Watching her get to work I pulled the twenty one year old wannabe into the blue section. It was a little easier on the eyes if you looked into the purple from there.
“Take your jacket off,” I told her. Winter clothes could insulate out the cold but also the warmth. If you wanted to warm up from the outside up here you took your coat and gloves off so the heat could reach you.
“I really don’t want to,” she said holding the blue fabric even closer.
“It’s okay. I already saw it. You’ll dry off faster if you take the coat off.”
She nodded to herself but didn’t take off the amour.
“Wanna talk about it?” I asked.
“Some people are total twunts.”
“Twunts?” I laughed loudly. “Oh that is a great word. Mind if I use that sometime?”
She looked at me confused but smiling.
“I’m a writer. New words or expressions are like candy.”
“Oh. Well…go ahead,” she said.
“You’re right, you know.”
“I am?” I smiled as I saw her eyes squint in confusion again. Gods, she was cute.
“About twunts. The world is full of them. I frequently murder them.”
“What?” she shifted away from me, every muscle tight, poised to move.
“In my books,” I laughed. “In my books!”
“Oh.” She relaxed. “I’m starting to feel like the conversation is in some kind of code and I didn’t get the key.”
“I’m sorry,” I smiled. “Bad habit. I’m always lost in my stories.”
“So you murder people in your books?”
“Only the bad ones.”
“Oh good. I’d hate to think you murder the good ones. But then you can have them come back as ghosts.”
“And then they become bad?” I raised my eyebrows. “I can vanquish them and eviscerate their ghostly ectoplasm in a glory of fire!” I declared dramatically. My companion burst into fits of giggles. It was a deeper sound than I expected but full of life and heart. It utterly transformed her soul.
“I was thinking save the day, but go ahead, that’s a lot more interesting.”
“What do you write?” she asked leaning forward, her hands on the table forgetting to hold her coat closed. Just a little closer and I could have stolen a glance down her top. I smiled to myself but decided to be a lady. I’d save leering for when and if she leered back.
“Fantasy mostly, but I’ve been told I could make a market for romance or horror from the same books.”
“Ah, so a mix then.”
“I suppose. I never really thought about genre. There’s a story in my head; I just put it on paper. Sometimes it’s as if all these people are real in some alternate dimension and begging me to tell their story. Writing for me is organic. I don’t plot much—though I really should—I barely even outline. I see a scene in my head, write it down, and the rest flows like water.” I paused thinking to myself. “Or like smoke in some cases… Yes. Definitely smoke.” I get lost in thought process like that sometimes and I must have been gone for a minute or two marinating that new way of expressing what is in my head. I looked up and she was leaning towards me, hand holding her head up, wisps of short curls teasing her fingers.
“Where did you go?” she asked with a smile. Her voice was wistful instead of teasing and I got the impression she was actually curious. Be still my beating heart, a person interesting in the inner workings of my mind and not just the stories I created. At that moment that was the sexiest thing in the world. I think I actually shifted my legs and leaned towards her.
“I’m obsessed,” I admitted. “Or a little compulsive. I could spend hours in my own head just dreaming.”
“And what were you dreaming?” This girl was Sabina candy. Young, almost young enough to make me feel like Mrs. Robinson with the words jailbait echoing in my head, but I just couldn’t keep a distance. The snow beauty captured my heart from the moment I saw her.
“About you,” I smiled.
“Me?” she grinned.
“I wondered where you came from, what kind of life you lead.”
“And what did you come up with?”
“Hmmm,” I leaned back in my chair thinking. Cher for the evening visited our table with the steaming mugs of chocolate. Gen spared no expense on food. It might be five dollar hot chocolate but you could bet your ass it was made with imported chocolate, real cream, and blended to a confection not unlike liquid mousse. It was nectar of the gods. “Thanks, Sunny.”
I watched while the snow beauty took her first drink. The look of surprise and wonder on her face as the liquid gold hit her tongue. Sunny never brought it too hot or cold to drink. It was always perfect the moment she put it down.
“Oh my god,” she said while I smiled at her. “That’s amazing!”
She took another gulp and put it down leaning into me again. “Go on. You were about to tell me what you decided my life should be.”
“Something terribly dramatic and fairy tale-esque.”
“I like fairy tales.”
“You were hidden away from everyone by an evil step…aunt?”
“Okay,” she laughed.
“Well step-mother has been overdone.” She giggled that low raspy twitter that was enchanting in the way Gen’s hot chocolate was. A little dark, a little sinful, but so pleasant you can’t let it go.
“Keep going, keep going!”
“You were hidden away by your evil step-aunt who failed utterly to see you as a person. She didn’t see your spirit…or was jealous of it. She kept you inside all the time and only let you out as something to parade around. You always had to put on an act so no one would know you were really made of magic. One night, very dark and cold, you escaped. Your aunt was going out and your keepers were busy elsewhere bored with their jobs. You took your chance and ran from your room high in a tower stealing out the back door where you fled through the snow to your future.”
She looked at me with wide eyes, the deep sadness I saw before pushing out from her core. It enveloped every cell, every nuance of expression and gesture, until all you could see was this sadness. It breathed on its own like a demon riding her back. As I held her gaze a single tear slid down her cheek. I didn’t even think. I just reached out and brushed it away spreading her running makeup even more.
For a moment, for a single shining moment, we breathed the same air and shared the same existence. I don’t know if that was some sort of magic spell she wove on me or if it was fate, but I started to believe in love at first sight. I felt for her in that moment the way I would feel about someone after years of toil, pain, and survival together. It was insane. And I didn’t care.
Someone walked past and bumped my chair. The moment was gone, slipping through my fingers like smoke on the wind.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “That was a little close to home.”
“You mean I was close?”
“Oh I’m the one that’s sorry. I didn’t mean to dredge things up.”
“It’s okay,” she shook her head and leaned back. “People are twunts.” I only nodded agreement and sipped my hot chocolate. “My family doesn’t see me,” she said after a time. “They only see what they think they should see and when I try to tell them they’re wrong, they flip out. It’s like they care more for how the world sees them than the fact they’re killing my soul. I always have to pretend and I never get far out of the house.”
“Aren’t you a grown up?”
“A grown up with no place to go and no job,” she snorted. “It’s live with them or be on the street. Nights like tonight I think it’s better to be on the street. So I walked out. I’m sure they’ve locked the door on me by now. I just wanted to be me. I wanted to meet people, girls—even boys—I just wanted to be seen as who I am for once. It was all going so well. Laughter, flirting, playing pool. I don’t know what went wrong. I must have said something wrong or used the wrong bathroom…” she trailed off thinking hard.
Wrong bathroom. That’s when I understood. She was trans. I’m not that dense really. It was just she was so completely woman in all the right ways it never occurred to me she would have the wrong parts. Personally, it didn’t bother me or put me off. She was a woman. I could never look at her, even in man’s clothes and ever see anything different, and gods she was beautiful, and smart. All this did was tie together all those strange little details. I was only mildly shocked. I’d met many trans before and sometimes you could tell and sometimes not.
“Anyway,” she went on, “some dude got upset and next thing I know I’m wearing the drink he ordered for me. I still don’t understand why? I’m still the same person he was talking to. Nothing changed about me. Then his friends are laughing at me and he starts pushing me around and threatening me until I left. I don’t understand what happened. I’m just a person…aren’t I?”
“He’s a Neanderthal twunt,” I put my mug down hard. “Did you get a name? I’d like to go have a talk with him about how to treat a lady.” What was wrong with people? What was so frightening about a person born in the wrong body, or hell a person who liked the same sex even, that sent grown men into raving fits? What are they scared of? That they might be attractive? Or that they might be gay—gasp!—because they found the person on the inside attractive? Fuck heads like that make life miserable for everyone, even the straight folks. They give humanity a bad name.
This amazing, gorgeous woman was just abused for being a…woman! All my protective instincts screamed at me. If she actually had a name I would have marched down to the only other bar in six blocks and done I don’t know what, but it would be bit more permanent and painful than a literary killing. I wasn’t just angry for her. I was angry for myself and every time some misogynist pig decided my orientation was his business and a threat to his masculinity. Every time a straight woman decided if I was nice to her I must want her body. Every church that put me out, every business I couldn’t bring a date, and every goddamned parent who thought I was a bad influence. I can legally marry who I want, but I still have to decide everyday whom I can be out to and whom I have to watch out for. Every stranger on the street who sees me walking hand in hand with a woman, I have to choose if they are a threat.
It wasn’t fair.
It would never be fair, and I’d long given up on the idea of it ever changing.
“I never caught his name,” she shook her head and looked down. I could feel the shame mingling with her pain coming off of her in waves.
I caught her chin with my fingers. “He’s a cocksucking twunt and probably a closet case. He’s nothing. He’s less than nothing. You’re too beautiful for a nothing like him anyway.”
She turned her face in hand and kissed my fingers. The gesture was so simple and soft but articulated better than any words could hope to dream.
“Thank you,” she said softly.
The bar started to fill up as the evening got later. Gen, dressed in a blindingly shiny green suit like something out of a drag show, strutted among the tables and dance floor. You could see the pride beaming on his young, light brown face. He was something a celebrity among the local LGBTQ community. At 25 he was the first to get legally married in the area, had become a public figure speaking out for several charities, and ran a safe house for teens of all orientations running from abuse. The man was a community organizer and looked fabulous doing it, as he frequently told us. He was probably one of my biggest fans, but never did make the connection between himself and one of characters that managed to show up in almost every book. He was my easter egg, tying all my worlds together.
The snow beauty’s eyes followed him around the room obviously recognizing him. I saw her visibly relax as if Gen was her own guardian angel and realizing she really was safe here. Gen went the stage to welcome everyone and introduced the first of local garage bands for the night with his usual flare. Her attention didn’t come back to me until after the first song started and Gen disappeared into his office. The band sported all proudly butch lesbians doing a fairly decent female pronoun cover of I can be your hero.
“Do you want to dance?” I asked her.
She stared at me almost shocked before she finally answered. “Um…yeah, sure.”
She started to get to up but I made it to my feet first and made a show of helping her out of her chair. She smiled almost shyly but let me lead her to the dance floor and put my arms around her in such a way as to lead the dance. There was a look of wonder on her face, the lights glinting off the soft sparkle of her mascara still spread over her cheeks. She soaked the attention up and I lavished her with it. I enjoyed treating my women like ladies, giving them the respect and honor so often missing in this world. I was the one that opened car doors and bought drinks.
“You never did tell me your name,” I said when both her hands slowly found their way to my shoulders and under the button down sweater I wore over a tank top, her fingers soft on my flesh.
“Leelah,” she said quietly. “Call me Leelah.”
“Wasn’t that that poor girl in Ohio?”
She only nodded.
“Did your parents name you that?” I asked intrigued.
“I didn’t want her forgotten,” she said by way of answer.
“A lovely name, for a lovely woman,” I said trying to dip her. It was a little awkward because she was taller than me and I wasn’t that strong. Giggling she saved herself from a fall even my ass hit the floor. She pulled me up and ran back to the table with a silly grin dropping off her coat and kicking off the too small boots. When the light shined on her right I could see the outline of a black bra. I shook my head thinking I was going to have to give her some lessons in undergarments at some point. Maybe once I had them off of her… Slow down Sabina! It’s only a first date.
“Okay my turn,” she said coming back to me holding her arms open. “This time I lead.”
“Okay,” I laughed and walked into her space.
“Just don’t step on my toes,” she warned with a laugh.
“I’ll try. I wouldn’t want to stomp on perfect toes.”
She made a little noise of contentment and restrained passion and pulled me flush with her body. She guided my hands to her shoulders and wrapped her own around my back, one hand lowering suspiciously close to my ass. I almost wished she would have gone for it.
“Follow me,” she said, a twinkle in her eye. I looked to her feet and she lifted my chin in a near perfect mimic of when I had done the same to her. “Not down there. My eyes are up here, madam.”
“Sabina,” I corrected her.
“Sabina,” she said slowly, tasting every syllable, and pulled me along the dance floor holding my gaze. She was light on her feet and guided me effortlessly in complicated, meandering swirls. We moved in and out of the other couples as if we were alone on the dance floor. The music changed and we didn’t even notice the fast beat. We just kept dancing in a lover’s embrace, spinning and spinning along the edges. It felt like a dream. She leaned me back in a real dip. I let my head fall back, my black, white tipped hair, spilling on the floor. She brought me back up and laid my head on her shoulder perfectly content. We spun a few more times before she slowed down to simple rock, and the band took up a cover of She’s Like the wind.
“Mmm, I love this song,” I said. The soprano on stage changing the key and making the notes more lyrical than the original artist. “Where did you learn to dance like that?”
“My mom made me learn.”
“Money well spent.”
“Hey, I uh…need to use the bathroom. Want to sit this one out?”
“Sure.” I stepped back from her and took her hand when she escorted me back to the table. “I’ll be waiting,” I grinned watching her go. I saw her hesitate just a moment, looking back at me, before she walked into the ladies room.
Definitely Sabina candy. This girl was going to drive me to distraction…in all the right ways.
After a few minutes I wondered if should have followed her in there, made sure she was okay. Just as I would have stood up, she hurried out of the bathroom with a determined look on her face. She was fresh faced, all the make up having been washed off, but instead of the smile I wanted to see she was nervous and started putting her boots back on quickly.
“Leelah…?” I questioned.
“Do you want to get out of here?” she asked.
I started to answer, but a couple of women slammed out of the bathroom and stormed to our table. One was big, and dressed to the nines with leather lace up boots, tight jeans, and silk shirt. The other was short and thin but mega butch in a man’s plaid flannel shirt with the sleeves torn off and a chain from her belted baggy jeans to what I assumed was her wallet in her pocket.
“So is this what you’re bringing here now?” the butch lady demanded.
“What? A lady?” I countered mildly.
“That thing was in our bathroom!”
“What thing? Your dick?”
“I won’t have it threatening my woman!”
“Well gee, you better leave your dick at home then.”
“I should say the same to you. I didn’t know this is what you were into.”
“Into what?” I stood up getting between her and Leelah. “Look around. We’re all freaks here. You try taking your date to straight bar and see what happens. Grow the fuck up! What are you scared she’s going to steal your girl?”
“You disgust me,” the woman snarled getting in my face.
“Yeah you too. Get the fuck away from us, the stench of your ignorance is dumbing the whole place down.”
“I’m talking to Gen about this,” she threatened with a finger in my face. Then she took her girlfriend’s hand and stormed off to the bar.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, go ahead,” I muttered at their backs. “Twunts,” I said to Leelah gesturing behind me with my thumb. She looked miserable shrugging into her coat, all huddled into herself. “Let’s take off,” I said to her taking money out of my wallet to leave on the table for the drinks.
Leelah only nodded.
“I know a place where the drinks are free and company is pleasant.”
She looked up at me, surprised again. “You’re not walking away from me?” she asked.
“Of course not. I was inviting you home,” I smiled.
“Oh,” she said and thought for a moment. “Oh!” she exclaimed sitting up straighter. I extended my hand to help her up and she took it.
“Yes,” she said softly.
“It’s only a few blocks away.” I wrapped my arm around her waist and guided her out to the street.
It was a quiet, quick walk home, both of us eager to get out of the cold. We were greeted at the door by the ugliest cat known to man. He was a chimera cat, but not in a pretty way. The front half was short hair grey, while the back was tiger stripe long and fluffy. He had a squished face making him always seem angry or sad, one blue eye and one green eye, and black paws. Leelah actually jumped a little when she saw him.
“Meow,” he intoned.
“This is Nietzsche,” I said picking him up. He was a fabulous cat, full of personality.
“Nietzche?” she asked reaching out to tentatively pet his head.
“Well if god made you this mixed up wouldn’t you be depressed?”
She snorted in response.
I let Nietzche go and he ran off in search of lingering bits of catnip from his toys. He may be ugly but he was also the most spoiled cat in the world.
“Make yourself at home. I’ll be right back,” I told her while I ran into the bedroom. I pulled out an old t-shirt, several sizes too big, thinking too big was better than too small. I came back out and Leelah was wandering around, fingering nick nacks and reading paragraphs written on coffee or potato chip stained paper. A homemaker I was not, but I kept my piles to one corner…mostly. She had taken off her boots and coat. Nietzche had already decided she might give him treats if he was nice to her. She glanced up at me and smiled before going back to her casual perusal.
“Sabina, why are you being so nice to me?”
“Is there a reason I shouldn’t be?”
She only grimaced, still not looking up. “I was thinking I don’t want to move too fast…I mean I’m not ready—.”
“Oh honey, no,” I interrupted her and crossed the room in two strides to take her hands, t-shirt crumpled in one of mine. “I mean, well, yes. You’re gorgeous and…and kind. But that’s not why I asked you here. Nothing’s going to happen unless you want it to.”
“Okay,” she said letting out a breath and dropped her tense shoulders.
“Here,” I held out the shirt. “It’s not much, but it’s clean and dry. Why don’t you go change.”
“Thank you,” she said and I steered her to the bathroom.
Door closed I ran around the room, fixing pillows, hiding clothes that should have made it to the hamper, picking up random shoes and plates. It was so obvious I hadn’t planned on bringing anyone home today. Wow, I thought organizing the stack of plates to be washed in the kitchen, I’m a slob.
“I think it’s a little big,” Leelah said from the doorway startling me. I laughed when I looked at her. The shirt neck left one smooth shoulder free revealing a black bra strap. The hem hung down almost long enough to cover her skirt. Somehow it was more feminine and attractive than all her clap trap girly finery.
“I like it,” I grinned.
“Really?” she looked down at herself.
“Nothing sexier than a woman at rest.”
She crossed the floor, backing me up against the counter, her hands firmly on either side of me. “You keep complementing me and I’m going to start believing it,” she said, her head bowed close to my face.
“You take my breath away,” I said looking up into her eyes. She closed the inches between us and kissed me with all the nervous restrained passion and sweetness of a first kiss. I let her lips linger on me soaking up the innocence in that simple touch. She went to pull away and pulled her back letting the kiss deepen. It wasn’t long before I found myself bent over backwards on the counter, her hands hesitantly roaming. It was so clear this was her first time with a woman, but even that was endearing to me.
When she finally backed up for breath I took her hand and pulled her to the living room. She let me push her down on the couch and stared in awe when I pulled my shirt off. I wasn’t thin, or particularly well shaped. The look on her face made me feel like the most beautiful woman in the world. I straddled her lap and kissed her forehead, then her eyes, then her cheeks, her nose making her giggle, her chin, her ears, before finally alighting on her mouth.
Her hands clutched at my skin hard enough to leave marks and I let her mouth find its way to my neck. I clutched her body to me desperately wanting her to touch me here, there…anywhere! I reached for a breast knowing nothing was there but wanting to love what was there anyway. She stopped me, her face terrified.
“It’s okay,” I told her. “You don’t want me to touch you, I won’t touch you. You tell me what you want.” I leaned back on the couch sliding off her lap, my arms above my head.
“I want to kiss you,” she said.
“Then kiss me.”
Her mouth made a tentative trail from my throat to my breasts. I felt my bra being peeled off gently. I let her explore, mouth and fingers carefully taking in every inch of my exposed flesh, the tips of hair tingling as it brushed along her path. There was no time in this space, just two bodies, two souls, enjoying sensation. I would have let her do anything she wanted to me and never pushed for what she didn’t.
After a time she laid her head between my breasts and started to cry. I crossed my arms so I was holding her shoulders.
“It’s just been such a horrible day, with horrible people and yet I find myself laying here with you.”
“Oh sweetheart,” I breathed. “You’re safe here. Let it out.”
“I wish there was more time,” she said softly.
“There’s as much time as you want.”
“Maybe,” she sighed.
She cried herself to sleep on my naked skin, my fingers tracing patterns in her hair. I probably should have gotten up, but I didn’t want to wake her. I didn’t know everything that had happened, but what little I did know told me her day was beyond miserable. How did human expect to survive when they could destroy a soul so easily? I would never understand. So much of human behavior I would never understand. This was a person, a woman, a soul, who needed love to survive just like the rest of us and yet the world found itself utter incapable of providing it. I wanted to protect her. Hold her in my arms forever and never let another bad word or harmful action near her again.
It wasn’t long before her even breath lulled me to sleep.
I woke cold, the night still dark, dawn hours yet away. Nietzche jumped on me looking to snuggle in the same place Leelah occupied before. I jumped when claws caught me.
“Nietzche! Humans don’t have fur!”
“Ugh. Silly cat. Where did Leelah go?”
Nietzche ran off to find something else to pounce on.
“Leelah?” I called standing up and looking around. I was cold so I put my shirt back on not bothering with a bra. I checked the bathroom and bedroom. “Leelah? Where did you go?” There was no trace of her, as if she had been a fleeting nymph in a dream. I found a note taped my fridge. I kept forgetting to by magnets.
“Oh my god!” I grabbed the note and threw my coat on running out my door. “No no no no, Leelah, no…” I muttered not even sure where to go first. I read it again and again searching for clues.
I wish I had more time. I wish we had more time. You are amazing, but life for me holds no more joy. Everywhere I go people are going to hate me, and if I’m with you, they’ll hate you too. I can’t bring you down. Thank you for tonight. You fulfilled my dreams. It was nice to be loved before I die. I’ll hold on to that in the last moments.
“Where would you go, Leelah?” I regretted not talking to her more before other pleasures. I regretted not pushing when she cried on me. I had no idea what places were important to her or why or where she would go. It was still dark. She couldn’t have gone far. I retraced our steps not knowing what else to do. At the very least I might catch her on the way home. It was a total shot in the dark, but it was all I could think of.
I ran. I probably should have walked in case she was hidden in some corner somewhere, but my feet wouldn’t slow. I had to find her before she did this. I couldn’t let her go. My gut just screamed at me and in my panic I went where it guided not even thinking.
It was only a few blocks, but there I saw her, standing under the same decrepit yellow light barely lighting her face beyond an abstract of black and white. A gun was held to her head and I thought for a brief second I was too late before logic told me wouldn’t be standing.
“Leelah!” I cried breathlessly.
Startled, she dropped the gun to her side and turned around to stare at me.
“Leelah, don’t do this,” I pleaded, my tears freezing in the falling snow.
“Sabina, I don’t want you to see this.”
“Don’t do this,” I said taking a step to her.
“No!” she screamed and pointed the gun at me. “Don’t come any closer.”
“I have to!”
“Why? Just tell me why.” I tried another step.
“Stop! You don’t understand.”
“No, I don’t. Make me understand. Please, Leelah. Please.”
“You’re too good. I don’t want you to remember what I am, just remember the dream.”
“What dream?” I took two more steps ignoring her shaking hand and the gun.
“This!” she grabbed at the borrowed shirt, tears streaming down her face.
“I don’t understand!” I came close enough for her to touch me with the gun.
“I’m a man! There! Now you can hate me with the rest.” She brought the gun to her head.
“No!” I screamed.
“This body is god’s joke on me. I hate you god!” she screamed at the sky. “Send me to hell! It’s better than earth.”
“You’re not a man, Leelah. You’re not.”
“I am! Do I need to show you my dick?”
I put myself right up against her so she’d have to shoot me if she shot herself. I took her face in my hands and kissed her. “You’re not,” I told her. “Don’t you get it? I know you’re trans. I knew all along.”
“What?” her hand faltered.
“I don’t care! I don’t care if you have breasts or a penis or even horns for god’s sake! I just want you! I just want you. Please, baby, give me the gun,” I cried not letting go of her face. “Give it to me.”
“I don’t want to hurt you,” she said feebly.
“Then don’t shoot. You’ll get me too. Give me the gun.”
“Why did you come?” she asked.
"Because I want you. You! Parts mean nothing. Put down the gun and come home with me. Please.”
“It’s so hard,” she said, gun hand limp at her side.
“It is. Oh, baby, it is so so hard, but I’m won’t let you go through this alone.”
“You can’t save me forever.”
“No, but when I can’t you can save me, and you can’t I can save you.”
I heard a click and braced for impact, terrified, staring into her eyes. Then the gun dropped harmlessly to the ground and both her arms were around me.
“Let’s go home,” I said to her.
“Take me to your castle far away from my evil step-aunt,” she smiled shakily through tears.
“Yes, with Nietzche to guard us.”
“Do philosopher’s make good guards?”
“I don’t know,” I smiled and kissed her. I dropped to the ground picking up the gun and dumping it in a trash bin. Let the junkyard find it and call the cops.
“Come on, princess,” I said guiding her down sidewalk towards home.
I didn’t kid myself. It would be a long hard road before she would be safe and happy. Medical procedures needed to be done, and lots and lots of counseling. But for this one night, she was safe and loved and maybe tomorrow she’d wake with hope.
Hope held us together and years later at our wedding, our vows were said in front of a castle with my poor ugly cat in an even uglier knights costume that he clawed to pieces before the end of the day.
All anyone needs an ounce of hope and a smidgen of love.
Susan is a writer and artist by day, a child and pet wrangler by night, and occasional crazy person on the weekends. She walks the path of a Siedr and strives to grow day by day.