Friday, April 15, 2016

Liberty #58: Riley & Tyler, Part 1

August
“He didn’t keep a clean house,” Jean muttered as she, Linda and Tyler went into the townhouse once occupied by Jean’s son, Codie. Movie and superhero posters adorned the walls, a massive video game setup dominated one of the walls of the front room. The kitchen was nearly bare and the bedroom had an entertainment center set up with a massive TV, several DVD players, stereo and speakers along with a bed and couch. “What are we supposed to do with all of this garbage?” Jean asked.

“We sell it, Mom,” Linda said.

Tyler opened the door to the other bedroom to reveal more than three dozen comic book longboxes and bookshelves full of graphic novels, trade paperbacks and statues. “Holy crap,” Tyler exclaimed.

Jean and Linda followed him into the room. “Oh, Goddamn it,” Jean said. “How do we sell these?”

“I’ll take them,” Tyler said.

“We don’t have room for them, Tyler,” Linda replied. “Look at all of this. There must be 40 or so boxes and four bookcases.”

“I’m just going to call that comic book store downtown and see if they will give me a thousand dollars for the boxes,” Jean said.

“Grandma, there is no way that all of these comics are just worth a thousand dollars,” he pulled a lid off a box and grabbed a random comic. “This is Fantastic Four number 45. It’s got to be worth about a hundred bucks.” He showed the comic to his mom and grandma. The Fantastic Four were prominently on the cover with four other costumed people sneaking up behind them, the caption ‘Among us hide…the Inhumans’ ominously hovered between the two groups of superpowered beings.

“These comics are why Codie killed himself. He spent more time with them than with people,” Jean said.

Tyler sighed with an annoyed tone. “Mom, please?”

“If it’s okay with your grandma then it’s fine with me,” Linda gave in.

“Fine. Take them,” Jean waved her hand. “We’ll hold a garage sale for all this other crap.”




Tyler moved the boxes of comics and shelves of graphic novels into his bedroom, which displaced much of his room. He spent the next two weeks before school started reading his new comic collection by just pulling a comic out at random.

When school started, he decided to take graphic novels or trade paperbacks to read during downtime. The first one he took was Batman: The Killing Joke. When he arrived in his Earth Space Science class for third hour, he sat down at one of the lab tables and pulled it out and started reading.

Riley Saxberg came into the room, walking past Tyler and sitting down one row behind and one row over from him. Riley stood up and glanced at the graphic novel. “The Killing Joke?”

Tyler turned to look at Riley, her short, brown, curly hair with a white, lace bow in her hair. Riley had a round boyish face but feminine features in the lips and eyes. Riley’s hair was short, only down to the start of her neck. Tyler eyed the small breasts and the round stomach through the black shirt Riley was wearing. The shirt had some band Tyler had never heard of—Thousand Foot Krutch.

“Yeah,” Tyler nodded.

“I own that one. Have you read Arkham Asylum?” Riley asked.

“Not yet. I just got a bunch of books from my uncle so I am slowly getting through them,” Tyler said.

“Cool,” Riley sat back down.

The classroom had filled up and one seat was left behind Tyler and to the left of Riley. Jarret came in and groaned. “I got to sit next to the shemale?”

“Shut up,” Riley rolled her eyes.

Jarret sat down. “I don’t know why someone would want to quit being a man. I mean, we’re awesome!” Jarret exclaimed and a couple of male students agreed loudly.

“You’re really proving how awesome you are right now,” Riley turned to Jarret.

“Whatever,” Jarret shrugged and laughed with the other guys while pointing at Riley.

The school bell rang indicating the end of passing period. The teacher stood up from his desk, walked over to the door and closed it. “Welcome back. I hope you all had a good summer. This is third hour Earth Space Science just to confirm that you are in the right class.”

Tyler closed his book and slipped it into his notebook. He looked back at Riley who was sitting with her head on her hand and doodling in a notebook. Tyler then turned back to the teacher.




Riley Saxberg and her family moved here last spring but Riley and her sister Hannah finished out the school year at their old schools. Riley had wandered around town for most of the summer where she met Sydney who would end up becoming her best friend.

“If Jarret called you a shemale then you need to tell someone,” Sydney said as they went through the lunch line.

“Mr. Hartman was right there and didn’t seem to care. Besides, this school won’t even let me
use the girls restroom so all Jarret would get is probably a good talking to. Give it a month or so and I’ll stop being an oddity,” Riley said.

Riley and Sydney walked by the table Tyler and his friend Jackson were at. Tyler looked up at Riley and watched her walk by. “Do you know anything about that new girl Riley?” Tyler asked.

“She’s in three of my classes but I don’t know anything about her. Rumor has it that she’s really a he,” Jackson said.

“Yeah,” Tyler sighed. “Jarret called her a shemale in Earth Space Science and she basically admitted it. I don’t know. She tried to talk to me about the comic I was reading and I was kind of jerky toward her.”

“People are probably mean to her all the time. She’s probably used to it,” Jackson shoved a giant spoonful of mashed potatoes into his mouth. “They need to give us more food for lunch,” he complained.

Over at the table where Riley and Sydney sat, Riley had just finished the breaded chicken sandwich. “Do you know Tyler Bray?”

“Pretty well. We’re not friends or anything but we’ve grown up together. He’s nice. Kind of quiet and can be weird sometimes. He used to try too hard to get people to like him and laugh. I don’t really see that anymore,” Sydney explained. “Why?”

“I don’t know,” Riley shrugged. Riley looked around the lunchroom and into the commons area. “I thought Hannah had second lunch as well. I wonder where she is.”




In one of the restroom stalls in the girl’s locker room in the basement of the school, Hannah had her arms resting on Matt’s shoulders as she sat on his lap and had sex. When they were finished, they readjusted their clothes, flushed the condom down the toilet and started making out. “I told you that no one would come down here,” Hannah smiled deviously.

“It was a good idea,” Matt said and they kissed again.

“I noticed during freshman gym that when everyone is at gym, no one comes down so we’d have the place all to ourselves.”

Hannah had the same hair as Riley only hers went down past her shoulders and was in a ponytail. Hannah also had her dad’s features of wide eyes, small mouth and sturdy chin. She was also a couple inches shorter and her breasts a little bigger. Matt had floppy dark hair that covered his ears and forehead. He was tall and lanky with short, curly hairs above his lip and poking out from his chin. Matt looked at his watch. “We should head upstairs and eat some lunch. We have ten minutes left.” They walked through the locker room and went back upstairs holding hands. “Is it true that your sister used to be a guy?” Matt asked as they walked into the cafeteria and going to get their trays.

“My brother is a guy who thinks he’s a girl. No amount of drugs or surgery is going to change that,” Hannah said angrily as they went through the lunch line.




The next day, Riley was already in Earth Space Science when Tyler came in. “Hey, Riley,” Tyler approached her. “I thought you might like to read these,” he handed her three graphic novels, all very similar in style and artwork. They were titled Superman’s Metropolis, Batman: Nosferatu and Wonder Woman: The Blue Amazon. “The Superman one is first. They’re based on the German Expressionist films of the 1920s. The story and art are both amazing.”

“Thanks,” Riley smiled at him as she took the books.

He smiled back.




September
“No,” Tyler slammed his hand down on the lunch table. A couple of students from other tables turned to look at him. “There is no way it’s a good story.”

“When you are actually able to read them all together, it’s a decent story. Yes, it gets confusing and it’s clear they were just stretching it out but I liked it,” Riley shrugged.

“What the hell are you two talking about?” Jackson asked.

“The Spider-Man Clone Saga,” Tyler replied.

“All those words make sense but I don’t know what that is,” Jackson said.

Tyler and Riley had started hanging out more and spending time at Tyler’s house reading and talking. They would talk about their favorite characters, titles, stories, and artists. Riley had read comic books in her late childhood from six to nine so she knew more about them than Tyler thought. Their arguments over who was actually the best could last hours.

“Get a room you two,” Jackson finally said one day a couple weeks ago. “I honestly thought I would make it through my school years without being part of a childish ‘will they, won’t they’ scenario and you two are ruining that.”

“Are you still coming to dinner tonight?” Riley asked.

“If I’m still invited. I wouldn’t miss it,” Tyler smiled.

“And I’ve already apologized for my dad, right?”

“Numerous time, yes,” Tyler nodded.

“I’m sorry. He’s just not as open-minded as my mom is. My sister is the same way. She refuses to acknowledge me as her sister or use female pronouns.”

“I know. You’ve told me,” Tyler said. “It’s just dinner. It’s not like I’m going to say anything controversial and from what you’ve told me, no matter what your dad thinks of you, he’s not one to ask things like ‘you know she has a penis, right?’ and ‘are you queer?’”

Riley laughed. “True. Although Hannah may ask you those questions,” Riley warned.

“Well, I got my answers ready just in case. ‘Yes’ and ‘no.’”




After school, Hannah and Matt were laying on the hood of his car at Spring Lake Park passing a joint between them while Ashli and her boyfriend were in the backseat having sex. “Are you coming to Nick Darnell’s bonfire tonight?” Matt asked.

“No. My brother invited a friend over so we have to eat together like a family. I’d rather have a snake crawl inside my butt.”

“I could make that happen,” Matt rolled on top of Hannah and they started making out. They stopped when the back door opened and Ashli and her boyfriend got out. Ashli adjusted her clothes as her boyfriend—no one could remember his name—snapped off the condom and threw it into the lake. “Ew! Don’t throw your used birth control in the lake,” Hannah said, she eyed what’s-his-name’s penis as he tucked into his jeans. Matt’s was bigger but he was two years older.

“Some poor female fish is going to have his mutated babies now,” Ashli giggled.

“Come on, I need to get home,” Hannah sighed.

“Okay. If you change your mind about the bonfire let me know,” Matt said as he slid off of Hannah and the hood.

At dinner, the Saxberg family sat around the table with Tyler sitting next to Riley and across from Hannah. They were having beef tips with mashed potatoes and bread and a side of green beans with bacon and ham pieces stirred in.

“So who are your parents?” Renee, Riley’s mom, asked.

“My mom is Linda Bray. You probably don’t know her,” Tyler answered.

“Can’t say that I do,” Renee shook her head. “How did you and Riley meet?”

“At school, Mom, where else?” Hannah answered rudely.

“In Earth Space Science class specifically,” Tyler said. “We sit kind of catty-cornered from each other.”

“That’s nice. I’m glad Riley is making friends. I wasn’t sure how she would handle the move. This high school is significantly smaller than her last one,” Renee said. “We moved here during spring break at her old school but this school was still in session. She met one friend…”

“Sydney,” Riley interrupted.

“Yes, Sydney. She met Sydney this summer so I’m glad she’s met another friend at school.”

“I’m glad we’re friends, too. We have a lot in common,” Tyler smiled at Riley.

“Yeah, like having a dick,” Hannah said under her breath.

Tyler glared at Hannah but didn’t react. Hannah had been noticeably silent during dinner as had Riley’s dad Brent. Tyler probably would’ve been nervous but he liked being with Riley and her mom’s friendliness overrode Hannah and Mr. Saxberg’s surliness.

After dinner, Riley and Tyler went up to her room. Riley’s room was pretty messy with clothes in random piles on the floor. Tyler was drawn to Riley’s stereo system which included a record player. He began flipping through the records propped up next to it.

“Sorry, I probably should have cleaned,” Riley said as she picked up some shirts, socks and a sports bra. She threw the clothes into an overflowing laundry basket in the closet.

“It’s fine,” Tyler shrugged off. “Nice record collection.”

“They’re my parents,” Riley said. “They let me have them when I got this stereo. And there’s just some music that needs pops and static to sound good.”

“I’ve been meaning to tell you that you look very beautiful today,” Tyler said casually while still looking at the records.

Riley blushed. She was wearing a brown top with a white dress. The dress had a brown stripe at the bottom. Her hair also had volume and was accented with a white headband that had brown accents on it. “Thank you,” she said softly.

“You look good in a dress. I like girls in a dress—it’s unique. These days they’re in jeans or shorts or sweats or yoga pants. You rarely see dresses.”

“It was a special occasion so I thought I’d dress up,” Riley sat down on the bed.

Tyler moved a few feet away from the stereo to Riley’s desk where there were stacks of drawing paper, all with something drawn on them. “What are these?” he picked up the stack and began looking through them.

“You don’t need to look through those,” Riley got up and tried to grab the papers from Tyler.

“Wait a minute, these are very good,” they weren’t fleshed out, mostly sketches done in an almost Japanese style. “Of course I can’t even draw a squiggly line so a baby could be a better drawer than me.”

“They’re just doodles,” Riley said quietly.

“I’ve been thinking of creating my own comic book character. Would you like to draw it?”

“Uh, sure,” she shrugged.

“I’m really just thinking out loud. With all the comics I’ve been reading I’ve been thinking about starting my own or a big graphic novel. My mom thinks I’m getting a little obsessive.”

“I can see that,” Riley said. “You do talk about them an awful lot. But I don’t mind it. What did you talk about before comics?”

“I honestly can’t remember. Now, back to my comic book. I was thinking of trying to combine the best things from each popular superhero and combining them,” Tyler continued talking as Riley stood and listened.




October
Hannah, Matt and Ashli sat on the bleachers but they really weren’t paying attention to the football game. It was chilly so Hannah was bundled up in an oversized hoodie she had taken from Matt a couple weeks ago. She also snuggled close to Matt, his arm around her. “What are we doing here?” Hannah asked as she shivered and got closer to Matt.

“I don’t know. There was nothing else to do. I hate cold weather because you can’t really do anything.”

The opposing team scored and the opposing crowd cheered despite being significantly smaller. Someone near Matt and Hannah screamed really loud then turned toward them. “Yeah! Your school sucks,” he screamed. “We’re kicking your asses.”

“We don’t care. It’s just a game,” Matt said.

“You’re gonna lose,” the guy yelled.

“We don’t care,” Hannah yelled back. “We don’t have a dog in this fight.”

“We don’t even know what’s going on,” Ashli said.

“Go Bulldogs!” Matt shouted as he stood up. “Go Bulldogs!” He continued chanting which riled up the other students and fans on the bleachers. He began applauding and Hannah and Ashli followed his lead and soon the other students did too. Matt, Hannah and Ashli continued screaming and chanting until it was clear that the Bulldogs were going to win 27 to 10.

“Who’s gonna lose now?” Hannah sneered at the guy who started it. “Yeah, Bulldogs,” she screamed in his face.

“You should control your woman,” the guy scoffed at Matt. “It’s only a game.”

“You started it, ass,” Matt said and used his foot to kick the guy off the bleachers. He landed with a thud on the hard ground.

“That was so cool,” Ashli laughed.

“That was so hot,” Hannah kissed Matt.

“He’s getting up,” Ashli pointed.

“We should go,” Matt said and grabbed Hannah’s hand. “Come on.”

The three of them ran down the bleachers and to the parking lot. They got in Matt’s car and they locked the doors. They didn’t see the guy chasing after them. “What got into us? We cheered for
a sports team,” Hannah said.




Tyler and Riley were both laying on the floor of Riley’s bedroom. Tyler was writing in a spiral notebook with a pencil while Riley was drawing in a sketchbook. Tyler had changed his mind about doing a comic book and moved to writing a whole book. He got the idea from George Lowther’s 1942 book The Adventures of Superman.

The Adventures of Superman was the first Superman publication in that media. It provided the first detailed origin for Superman, spent more time showing Clark growing up on a farm and gave his parents’ names—Eben and Sarah Kent. In the book were six paintings depicting a scene from the book by Superman co-creator Joe Shuster. Each chapter heading also had a small Superman sketch also by Shuster.

The character they had created was named Savior but neither of them liked that name. In fact, the more they wrote and drew the character, the less they liked him but changing the name later on seemed easier than rewriting and redrawing everything.

“Are you going to the Halloween Dance?” Riley asked as she added shading to Savior’s legs in the sketch book. The dance was in a week and a half and was the second dance of the school year after Homecoming.

“Probably not. I don’t go to dances if I have no one to go with.”

“What about going with Jackson?”

“I just don’t think he’s into me in that way,” Tyler joked but not looking up from his notebook. “He probably has to work,” Tyler said, noting Jackson’s recent employment with a local fast food restaurant.

“You could ask out Sydney,” Riley said.

Tyler laughed. “Sydney doesn’t like me that much. She only tolerates me because we’re such
good friends.”

“No,” Riley commented, not believing that her two best friends didn’t get along. “Really?”

“The only thing we have in common is you. Sydney and I grew up together but we never really got along.”

“I never even noticed,” Riley said. “Is there another girl you could ask out? It’s just one dance and you’ll both be in costume.”

“Not really,” Tyler shook his head.

“Have you ever had a girlfriend?”

“I had one for most of my sophomore year,” Tyler began. “Her name was Courtney and she was kind of a bitch.”

“A lot of reasons. She was mean and hateful. I’m pretty sure she cheated on me several times and she wanted me to stop being friends with Jackson.”

“Why?”

“Well, we were joking about Courtney and Jackson said that she stuffed her bra with Jell-O and she overheard him.”

“Jell-O? Really?”

“It wasn’t helped when I joked that it could be true since she had such saggy breasts,” Tyler said, he turned slightly red as he told Riley.

“You are terrible,” Riley said but she was chuckling.

“To be fair, she did tell me that I had a small penis,” Tyler laughed.

Riley was laughing too. “Do you?” she asked and then blushed brightly when she realized what she had said. “What happened to Courtney?”

“She broke up with me at the spring dance and moved away during the summer,” Tyler said and went back to writing. “And I think it’s a decent size,” he shrugged.

Riley looked at him then snorted laughed. “So was Courtney the first girl you…?”

“Yeah but it’s not something I talk about and I’m sure she never talks about me,” Tyler said as he continued writing. “What about you? You have any exes or anything?”

“No and I will probably never date anyone during high school just because of the stigma dating me may cause,” Riley said.

“That’s too bad,” Tyler said. “Have you ever been on a date?”

“At my old school, I asked out this guy and he agreed. I think he only did it because he was a really nice guy and didn’t want to say no,” Riley said. “We had been friends and going out that one time kind of hurt our friendship.”

Without warning, Tyler leaned over and kissed Riley on the lips. His eyes were closed and his puckered lips were planted firmly on her unmoving ones. Her eyes widened with confusion then began to close. Riley’s lips started kissing back and she soon scooted closer to Tyler and placed her hand on his cheek. When they parted, they stared at each other for several seconds until Tyler spoke. “Do you want to go to the Halloween Dance with me?”

Riley smiled. “Yes.”

“Great. Maybe we can come up with a theme costume or something,” Tyler smiled back and went back to writing, his smile getting bigger and still feeling Riley’s lips on his.




November
“You don’t have to watch me do this,” Hannah said to Matt as she sat on the toilet and peed on the pregnancy test. When she was finished, she put the test on the sink counter, wiped and stood up, pulling up her pants. “Five minutes.”

Hannah washed her hands and picked up the test and they walked into Matt’s bedroom. “Aren’t there ones that are instant?” he asked.

“We don’t have the money to spend on those,” Hannah sighed as she put the test on the dresser. “What are we going to do if it’s positive?”

Matt shrugged.

“Do you love me?” she asked.

He shrugged. “Yeah. As much as you can love someone you’ve only been with for five months,” he said.

“Do you see us together after Christmas?”

“Yeah…”

“What about after May? Or the summer? A year from now?”

“What are you getting at, Hannah? Do you not see us together?”

“No…I don’t know. I love you—I care for you but I don’t see us…together,” she moved her arms back and forth between them. “Do you get what I’m saying?”

“What are we going to do? We may be having a baby.”

“You don’t seem like the type of guy who’ll stick around,” Hannah said.

“Then why are you with me? Why’d you let me sleep with you?”

“You’re fun. You were something to do.”

“Oh, that’s nice.”

“Don’t tell me that you actually saw us falling in love and being together all through high school.”

“I know that I’m not the best guy in the world but I give every relationship a chance. I’m treating you very good.”

“Yeah, you treated me good when you got me drunk or high. You treated me good when you took my virginity. You treated me good when you made me try cocaine for the first time.”

“I didn’t make you do anything you didn’t want to do,” Matt yelled.

“You also didn’t try to stop me,” Hannah said.

Matt threw his hands in the air. “I’m not your babysitter, Hannah. When you started hanging out with me, you wanted to be treated as one of my friends. Now that you are in trouble, you want to blame everyone but yourself. I’ll take partial blame for this but you didn’t seem too pressured to find a condom either,” Matt explained.

By the time he finished, Hannah was sobbing then collapsed onto Matt and hugged him tight. He hugged her back and rested his chin on her head as she cried into his hoodie.

“Look, I know I don’t seem like a guy who would stay but I would and I would love you and our child no matter what,” Matt said quietly.

Hannah pulled away, still sniffling and wiped her eyes and nose with her hands. “Has it been five minutes yet?”

“I think it’s been close enough,” Matt smiled and reached for the pregnancy test. “What does two plus signs mean?” he said, looking at it.

“Pregnant,” Hannah’s leg was trembling.

“I know. It’s a plus and a minus,” he showed her the test that had a pale blue plus and minus sign on it.

“Oh, thank God,” Hannah squealed and ran over to Matt. He dropped the test as they started making out. Hannah began undoing Matt’s pants and forcibly removed his hoodie and the shirt underneath. By the time she pushed away from Matt and laid down on his bed, she was naked.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Matt asked as he got naked.

“Yes. I’m frazzled and I need something to calm down.”

Matt got on top of Hannah and they continued making out. Matt reached over to the night stand drawer and pulled out a condom.




Riley looked so beautiful to Tyler tonight. Riley’s hair was styled and she was wearing just a little makeup. She had a thin gold chain around her neck and the dress she wore was a pinkish-peach with a white belt around the waist to break up the color. White lacy accents adorned the collar.

“You look amazing,” Tyler croaked out as he took Riley’s hands. They kissed quickly, Riley’s dad, who was sitting on the couch, grunted disapprovingly. “Are you ready to go?”

“I just need to grab the jacket that goes with this,” Riley smiled and ran back upstairs.

“Where are you going tonight?” Renee asked.

“Dinner somewhere, a play at the local theater and some live music at Jazz,” Tyler said.

“Jazz? Isn’t that a bar?” Brent asked gruffly.

“They serve alcohol but it’s mostly a music venue,” Tyler said.

Brent grunted again.

Riley came downstairs with a white jacket over her dress. “Ready,” she collided with Tyler and they hugged.

“You kids have fun,” Renee said as Tyler and Riley headed out the door.

“We will, Mom. Bye, Dad,” Riley said.

At the restaurant, Tyler kept looking at Riley from her hair to her eyes to her mouth to the bare skin between the gold necklace and dress and her breasts. “You really look beautiful, Riley,” Tyler said.

“You’ve said,” Riley chuckled. “Thank you.”

“How come you don’t wear more dresses or skirts to school?”

“I would like to because I’m more comfortable in them but I also don’t want to cause anyone’s brain to explode,” Riley explained.

“Did you wear girls’ clothes at your old school?”

“All the time but they were used to me and had known me since Kindergarten. As far as they
were concerned, I’d been a girl since third grade,” Riley said.

“Was third grade when you realized that you were really a girl?”

Riley chuckled. “No, it was way before that—almost right after birth. Third grade was when I wanted to start being treated like a girl. My Mom was very supportive because she could see that I was happier but my Dad didn’t like it. I always thought it was because he didn’t want to lose his son but he doesn’t even use any pronouns when talking to or about me. At least Hannah still uses male pronouns,” Riley explained. “I wish I knew why he’s so distant to me. I figure he just considers me a disappointment,” Riley shrugged and faked a chuckle.

Tyler took her hand. “You are not a disappointment.”

“I know I’m not but it’s been eight years.”

“I wish I could make all of this better for you but you have it better than a lot of other kids in your situation. I Googled ‘transgender teens’ and some of the stories I read were horrifying and depressing,” Tyler said. “Also, I think I’m on an FBI watchlist now.”

Riley laughed.




December
“What should I get Tyler for Christmas?” Riley asked Sydney as she looked through clothes on a rack at Kohl’s.

“Oral,” Sydney said.

Riley gave Sydney a look. “We’ve barely been dating for a month. Besides, why would I get him the same thing I got him for Thanksgiving?”

Sydney became wide-eyed and smiled. “What? You…?” she made a loose fist with her hand, put it up to her mouth and gently shook it as she pushed her cheek out with her tongue. “So it’s pretty serious with Tyler then?”

“I think so. I’ve fallen for him and he seems to have fallen for me. This is cute,” she pulled a shirt out and held it against her. Sydney nodded. “I haven’t dated much or at all but unlike every other guy who has been interested in me, he’s not obsessed with my…” she hesitated finishing her sentence in the middle of the store.

“Penis?” Sydney said for her.

“Yes,” Riley said annoyed. “He also isn’t questioning his sexuality and he’s asking questions and learning and listening to me.”

“Do you think she’ll like this?” Tyler asked, showing Jackson a low-cut white shirt with a pink Superman symbol and ‘Supergirl’ on the left side written from bottom to top.

“I don’t know. She’s not my girlfriend,” Jackson said. “She doesn’t have a Superman shirt already?”

“She doesn’t. And I don’t want to get her something Superman but Supergirl,” Tyler explained. Tyler had bought Riley a pair of Superman briefs a couple weeks ago. They were bright blue with a red sunburst on them and ‘Superman’ written from the leg over the crotch. Riley really liked them but they were really tight on her. When she modeled them for Tyler, they both noticed her bulge but neither tried to bring attention to it.

“You really like her,” Jackson said, noting Tyler’s distant look and dumb smile.

“Should I get her this?” Tyler asked again.

“I don’t know. Maybe you should get her something from the heart. Or jewelry.”

“Jewelry? I don’t know. That might be saying too much,” Tyler put the shirt back on the rack.

“I’ve been meaning to ask,” Jackson began, “have you come out to your mom?”

“Come out? Why?”

“Because you are dating someone with a…penis,” Jackson said, whispering loudly on ‘penis.’

“I’m not gay. Riley’s a girl.”

“But when you…” he started to tap the ends of his pointer fingers together but changed his mind, “and they…intertwine, isn’t that gay?”

“Intertwine? Look, we haven’t had sex yet but we’ll figure it out. It doesn’t concern you,” Tyler explained.

“Sorry. I’ve never been in this situation before.”

“You? Neither have I,” Tyler argued.

They walked around the girls’ clothes section for a bit in silence. “Are you sure?” Jackson asked. “Because Courtney really acted like the man in your relationship.”

“Do you think he’d like a watch?” Riley asked Sydney as she eyed the watches in the jewelry case.

“Has he ever worn a watch?”

“I don’t know but he doesn’t carry a phone with him so maybe he needs some kind of timekeeping device,” Riley smiled. “Yeah, I think I’ll get him a watch.”

“And what will your kids get him? A necktie?”

“Are you saying that watches are boring?”

“No, I mean look at this one with its highly accurate second hand and gear handcrafted in…” Sydney to fake snore and rested her head on the glass case with her eyes closed.

“All right, I get it but if we can’t figure out something else, I’m getting him a watch.”




Hannah didn’t like hanging out at Ashli’s but Ashli wasn’t allowed to hang out at her house. Ashli lived in a trailer that changed its degree of dilapidation every time she saw it. It was December but there were still flies inexplicably buzzing around the covered patio they had built over the spring and summer. Hannah knocked on the door and a voice from inside said “come in.”

Hannah pushed the door open and stepped in. A wave of heat hit her. She could hear the
furnace running and it had to be eighty degrees in the trailer. Ashli came in from the living room in her underwear—a black bra and black panties. “Hey, Ash,” Hannah said as she took off her coat. “How’s it going?”

“It’s fine. You chose a good time to come over. Everybody is gone for once.” Usually there was no less than six people in this trailer at one time. Hannah was loving the silence and the lack of screaming babies and toddlers. “Do you want to get high?”

“Sure. Why is it so hot in here?”

“Nick always keeps the heat at 78 and being a small space, it’s like being in hell,” Ashli said. “Feel free to shed some clothing if it’s too much.”

“I think I’ll be fine,” Hannah said but could feel the moisture welling up in her armpits.

They went into Ashli’s room and closed the door. Ashli slid a chain lock to keep people from walking in if they came home. Ashli pulled a box off of a shelf and sat it on her bed. Inside were three baggies of marijuana, two small ceramic pipes, a couple of lighters, rolling papers and a vibrator.

“Three bags? Not smoking as much?” Hannah asked.

“Oh, no. Smoking more if anything. I was running out all of the time so I made a deal with Nick that he’d give me a bag whenever I’d blow him,” Ashli explained.

“Ugh,” Hannah said, disgusted. Hannah didn’t like Nick. Hannah knew that Nick had molested most, if not all, of Ashli’s sisters and nieces and cousins because Ashli told her. Ashli also revealed that Nick had had sex with her on a couple of occasions. It bothered her more that everyone in Ashli’s family knew this happened but never did anything about it. “Why don’t you turn him into the police?”

“It’s our family business, we don’t need to get anyone involved. We’re not police people anyway. They always harass us.”

“Probably because you keep doing things that are illegal,” Hannah admitted but laughed and smiled when she spoke.

“Shut up,” Ashli mumbled.

Hannah and Ashli packed some marijuana into the pipes and grabbed a lighter. After a few minutes, each girl was relaxed and a soft haze roiled in the bedroom. Ashli reached over and turned on her stereo and some music began to play. Hannah was laying on Ashli’s bed, her shirt pulled up and she was messing with her belly button.

“How’s your sister-brother doing?” Ashli asked, sitting up from the floor and resting her head on the bed.

“He’s fine.”

“Him and that other guy are still together, right?”

“Yeah. I little over a month. I caught them making out the other day. I hate to admit but they do seem to make each other happy.”

“I don’t have a problem with gay people,” Ashli said. “I figure that if I get to do something that makes me happy then I can’t deny the ability of someone else to do it.”

“I don’t know,” Hannah shook her head. “I want Riley to be happy but I wish she would’ve waited until after school to make her transition.”

Several seconds passed before Ashli laughed, “You referred to Riley as a ‘she,’” she pointed out.

Hannah chuckled. “Damn, I did. This shit must be good,” she laughed gutturally.




January
The smell of pizza rolls, popcorn and queso flowed through the kitchen and front room of the Saxberg house. Riley, Tyler, Jackson and Sydney were all getting ready to sit down and watch a couple of scary movies. Tyler and Riley commandeered the couch but as soon as Riley sat down, she stood back up. “Would anyone mind if I invited Hannah and Ashli to join us?” Everyone shook their head and Riley headed upstairs to Hannah’s room. She knocked a couple times on the door and opened it. Hannah and Ashli were sitting on the bed, a box between them, each holding a joint.

Hannah huffed angrily. “Are you going to tell Mom and Dad?” she asked.

“Do you want to come downstairs and watch a couple of scary movies with us? We can share our junk food if you share your weed,” Riley smiled.

Hannah smiled back. “Are you serious? Since when do you smoke?”

“About once or twice a year since eighth grade,” Riley responded. “You don’t mind sharing, do you Ashli?”

“No.”

Ashli took her box and the three girls went downstairs. “Hannah and Ashli are joining us and Ashli has a little something to share,” Riley said.

As everyone began rolling their own joints, Hannah asked “What are we watching?”

“First it’s Jeepers Creepers, one of my favorite horror movies from the early 2000s reboot of the horror genre and then we’re going to watch The Blair Witch Project, the precursor to all the crappy found-footage horror movies we see now,” Tyler said.

The only lights on was the light from the kitchen and the two lamps in the front room as Jeepers Creepers started playing. Tyler and Riley were on the couch, Riley in Tyler’s arms between his legs, sharing a joint.

As the first movie played, everybody got more comfortable around each other and on the furniture. After Jeepers Creepers, there was a snack, bathroom and weed break before starting The Blair Witch Project. Tyler and Riley laid down on the couch under a blanket, Tyler’s arm hugging Riley and their fingers interlocked. By the time the characters in the movie entered their tenth minute of being lost in the woods, Riley had rolled over and they were covered by the blanket, making out.

“Mmm, I love you,” Tyler whispered as they parted lips.

Riley snuggled in against Tyler. “I love you, too. I’ve wanted to tell you but I wanted to wait for you to say it. I was thinking I would never have a high school love,” Riley said. “Hey, how quiet can you be while I jerk you off?” she smiled and pressed her hand against his crotch.

“I was thinking we could go to your room and celebrate right,” Tyler said and kissed Riley.

“People will know what we’re doing. I want our first time to be special…and just us.”

“I get that. I just don’t think anyone will care. Everyone in this room has had sex,” Tyler said.

“Except me,” Riley reminded. “My little sister is here. I need to set a good example for her.”

“She’s probably had more sex than anyone here,” Tyler pointed out. “I’m sorry. I’m not trying to push you into it. Laying here and being close to you is perfect,” Tyler hugged Riley harder and the two started kissing again.




About half an hour after The Blair Witch Project ended, everyone began parting ways and gathering at the door putting on their coats and shoes. Jackson gave Sydney a ride home and Tyler was hanging around, hoping Riley would ask him to stay.

“I should get going,” Ashli said. “It’s a long walk in this cold.”

“You’re walking? Do you want a ride?” Tyler asked.

“I would love one,” Ashli laughed.

“Okay, I will drop Ashli off at her place,” Tyler looked at Riley, trying to communicate with her to invite him back “then I will go home.”

“See you tomorrow,” Riley kissed Tyler and they hugged. “I love you.”

“I love you, too. Let’s go, Ashli.”

As Tyler and Ashli left, Ashli started talking to him. “You wanted Riley to ask you to stay, didn’t you?”

“So it was obvious to you,” Tyler sighed.

“You want to have sex with her.”

“A little bit, yes.”

“What would you have sex with?” Ashli asked off-handedly.

“I’m sure we’d figure it out,” Tyler said. It only took a couple of minutes to arrive at Ashli’s trailer. “Here you are.”

“Thanks. Do you want to come inside?”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. We could smoke some more, talk about life, get naked,” Ashli smiled.

“What? We just got done talking about my girlfriend who I love,” Tyler tried treating this as some sort of joke.

“You need a real woman with real working parts. Nobody has to know,” Ashli bit her bottom lip.

“Please get out of my car,” Tyler said.

“Okay but you’re missing out,” Ashli opened the door and slid out of the car. She shut the door and walked up to the trailer porch, “Hannah will be glad to know that he’s faithful.”

Back at the Saxberg house, Matt had started throwing small rocks at Hannah’s bedroom window. Riley was debating whether or not to call Tyler and ask him to come back. She was looking out the window and saw Matt in the backyard then heard Hannah run downstairs to let him in. Riley could hear them talking for a few minutes then heard the soft sounds of them making love. Riley listened to them for a bit before turning on some music and falling asleep.




Continued Next Month...

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