Six Months Before Impact Day
Sabrina sat down opposite Veronica, fidgeting nervously. For her part, Veronica pretended not to notice, something Sabrina was extremely grateful for. She’d been working up the courage to have this conversation for weeks, maybe longer.
There was nobody she trusted more than Veronica. Veronica was her best friend, her moral support, her confidant. Despite that, she was terrified. What if it came out wrong? What if Veronica was disgusted, or worse, what if she just dismissed it?
What if she refused to accept it?
Sabrina shook the doubts out of her head. Veronica was a good person, and nothing would change their friendship. She was even sure, pretty sure, that Veronica had been dropping hints, like she already knew, and wanted to make sure Sabrina could feel comfortable talking about it.
The café owner approached them, an exceedingly attractive woman who seemed to go out of her way to look frazzled and disorganised. She tucked a strand of auburn hair behind her ear as she smiled at the two girls.
“What can I get for you?”
“A mocha for me,” Veronica said, not missing a beat. “Thanks, Wendy.”
“Just a hot chocolate,” Sabrina said shyly, conscious of the way her voice sounded. Wendy just kept smiling, nodding cheerfully.
“Won’t be long.”
Sabrina watched Wendy leave, observing the strange way that Wendy gave the impression of being clumsy whilst maintaining an enviable grace.
“So that’s why you always insist on coming here,” Veronica said, a teasing note in her voice.
“You have a crush on Wendy,” she said, grinning. Sabrina blushed.
“I do not,” she replied, flustered.
“So you don’t think she’s attractive?”
“Everyone thinks she’s attractive,” Sabrina said, trying to dodge the question. “She’s like, a real life version of the nerdy girl who gets a makeover and is suddenly the prettiest girl in school, except it was obvious all along how pretty she was because the actress was so pretty anyway and I’m really not helping my case here, am I?”
“Not one bit, but I’m enjoying it immensely,” Veronica said, grinning.
“She’s not my type,” Sabrina insisted. “And probably too old for me. Anyway, it’s super inappropriate to flirt with people whose job it is to be nice to you.”
“Fine, fine, you don’t have a crush on Wendy,” Veronica conceded. “You just think she’s attractive and you get flustered whenever she talks to you.”
“Hot chocolate?” Wendy said, placing it gently on the table in front of Sabrina, who made a tiny squeaking noise and shrank into her chair. Veronica laughed.
Once Wendy had placed down Veronica’s coffee and left again, Sabrina sat up straight, and glared at Veronica as fiercely as she could. Veronica only laughed harder.
Over Veronica’s shoulder, Sabrina caught someone staring. For a moment, she thought they were staring at her, but quickly realised it was Veronica, not her.
They seemed young, a kid of maybe ten or twelve, with deep purple eyes and long, lilac hair. She had soft white skin and a satisfied smile that seemed out of place on her young face.
Veronica followed Sabrina’s gaze, but the girl had already vanished. Confused, she turned back to Sabrina.
“You’re spacing out there, buddy. Something the matter?”
“No, it’s nothing,” Sabrina said, completely forgetting about the girl. “Well, I mean, there is…” She took a deep breath. “There’s something I need to tell you.”
“Oh! Well, sure, what’s up?”
Sabrina looked across the table at her best friend, feeling panic and peace wage war in her stomach. She’d rehearsed her next lines countless times, and she still wasn’t sure what to say.
There were so many ways she could begin. I’m a girl. I’m trans. I’m not the person you think I am. Hey, you know how I’ve never been any good at being a boy? For a long time, something in my life has felt wrong…
No matter what she said, it sounded wrong in her head. It was such a big thing, so important, yet so mundane at the same time. After all, nothing was really changing. Her name, her pronouns, maybe one day, the way that she looked. Nothing important, not to the friendship.
Veronica smiled at her, the sort of smile that’s mean to reassure you that everything’s okay. Sabrina smiled back.
“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking,” she said, and once she started, it was easy to keep going. “About who I am, and what I want. What makes me happy. And I realised something. My whole life, people have been expecting me to be someone I’m not. Someone I can never be. And I’ve tried, Veronica. I tried so hard to be that person, for so long.”
Another pause, another deep breath. Veronica didn’t say anything, didn’t stop smiling.
“There’s a lot that doesn’t feel right. The way that I look, it doesn’t match up with the way that I feel. The way people look at me, talk to me, if feels like they think I’m somebody else. The name that they use, it doesn’t feel like mine. It feels like an anchor, or a noose.”
Still no reaction from Veronica.
“You’re the first person I’ve talked to about this. The first person I’ve trusted. I mean, I’ve talked to people online, people with more experience, people who’ve been here before, but not like this. This is different, and I knew I had to tell you first. You’re my best friend, and I need you to know that I’m…”
She choked up, unable to say the last words, the most important words. Veronica hadn’t moved, hadn’t stopped smiling. She had no reason to be afraid, no reason to stop, but…
“It’s okay,” Veronica said. “You’re my best friend too, and I’m here for you, no matter what. I promise.”
“I… I think I’m a girl, Veronica,” Sabrina said, then immediately shook her head emphatically. “No, scratch that. I know I’m a girl.”
Veronica didn’t let the silence drag on. She reached across the table, taking Sabrina’s hand and squeezing it.
“Makes perfect sense to me,” she said warmly. “I do have one question for you, though.”
“What do I call you?” Veronica asked. Sabrina let out a breath she hadn’t realised she’d been holding.
“Sabrina,” she said.
“I’m already changing it in my phone,” Veronica said. “And if you need any backup, telling anybody else, I will happily be there for you. In your own time, of course.”
“I wanna tell Ash,” Sabrina said. “I don’t know how she’ll take it, but she’s like family. And I could really use your help on that one.”
“Aw, you know she loves you,” Veronica reassured her. “But of course, I’ll help you however I can. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised, though. She’s a smart kid.”
They both looked up as the café entrance chime rang. Three teenagers walked in, and Sabrina recognised two of them, though she couldn’t recall their names. Friends of Charlies, maybe.
Wendy intercepted them, making it look like she was just casually walking past them on her way to another table. They zeroed in on her.
“You’re Wendy, right?” a boy with fair skin, short blonde hair and quick grey eyes asked. Sabrina couldn’t see Wendy’s facial expression, but she noticed the woman’s body language tense up.
“That’s me,” she said, with flawless charm and warmth.
“We need your help,” the boy said, looking around conspiratorially. Sabrina very quickly stared down at her mug, hoping he wouldn’t notice her attention.
“You need help from a barista?” Wendy asked, cocking her head.
“We’re looking for a different sort of help,” one of the girls added, beautiful and athletic with striking green eyes and soft Eurasian features.
The other girl, a sullen looking Latina girl, had distanced herself from the other two, but watched them carefully.
“Well, I only have the one kind available,” Wendy said patiently.
The boy drew an envelope out of his pocket, handing it to her.
“You might change your mind when you see this,” he said.
“What’s this?” Wendy asked, not taking it from him.
“Open it, and find out.”
“Okay…” She took the envelope, and extracted the letter deftly. If her body language was tense before, she was practically shaking with anger as she read it. “Ah. Oh, that clever little…”
“So?” the closer of the two girls asked.
“Back room,” Wendy replied sharply.
The four of them shuffled off together, and Sabrina and Veronica looked at each other. Veronica shrugged, and Sabrina nodded in a sort of vague agreement.
They paid their bill, and left the café. Veronica linked her arm through Sabrina’s, and the two of them began to walk, with no particular destination in mind.
Ahead of them, a young girl caught Sabrina’s eye. She was sitting atop a streetlamp, swinging her legs idly, her lilac hair fluttering gently in a breeze Sabrina couldn’t feel.
She stopped in her tracks, staring up at the girl. Veronica looked up at the same spot, but the girl was gone.
“What’s up?” Veronica asked. “You see something?”
“Huh? No,” Sabrina said. “Not sure why I stopped, sorry.”
“All good. Probably just your brain remembering something important, then forgetting it again. Happens to me all the time.”
“You’re probably right,” Sabrina said, smiling comfortably.