Shift 4: Not a Boy

If I were a boy, this would be so much easier. Nobody would look at me twice. I could sleep without checking I hadn’t been followed. I could go anywhere.

And I wouldn’t wake up with cramps.


It took a while for my period to come. I guess all the stress of everything. But when it came, it came heavy and felt like it was ripping me in two.

When I had bad periods before, Gran would always bring me a hot water bottle, tuck me in, leave some ginger tea on the night stand, and then, lying with the warmth on my abdomen, I’d listen to her playing Chopin nocturnes. Soon all the tightness eased away. Sometimes, I’d get out of bed and do something. Sometimes, I’d stay tucked in and read all day, while she played, taking breaks to bring me snacks.


It’s not like that now.

Of course, I didn’t have the stuff I needed for it. I found the secret key to the employees’ lounge that Deon kept under a rock for me, and rifling through the medicine cabinets in their bathroom, I found some “sanitary napkins.” By then it was too late, and my underpants and pajama bottoms were messed up.

On top of that, the sink in the public bathroom was busted. I got the other secret key from under the other rock and opened the work shed. I could only find the big monkey wrench, but it did the job.


If I were a boy, I wouldn’t have to be on my own like this.

Uncle Scott didn’t touch boys. He didn’t tell them they were worthless pieces of… He didn’t tell them they were wrong, stupid, fat, ugly, bony, too muscular, too skinny, put on a dress, shut up, get over here, and shut up.


If I were a boy, I’d be living with Uncle Scott.

If I were a boy, I’d kill him, for what he’d do to me if I were a girl.


And I am a girl. And he did it.


Deon called my name.

“You’re up bright and early! We haven’t even opened the buildings yet!”


It didn’t take Deon any time at all to see I was upset.

When he asked what was wrong, I just told him my period.

“Ah,” he said, “that’s rough. You got what I need?”

When I told him I did, he just shook his head and thought for a moment.

Then he pulled out his wallet and handed me a guest pass to his spa.

“It’s not far,” he said. “You can walk there in half an hour. And if you want to wait until I get off, I’ll drive you.”

He told me they had showers, steam rooms, and laundry facilities.

“They’ve even got a free bin of clothes from the Lost and Found for the stuff that’s been there over six months. Pick out something new for yourself!”

When I got there, I discovered they had free Wi-Fi, too.

After my shower, while my clothes were in the wash, I googled myself again. Middle school track record in the 880 was all that came up, once again.

I spent some time looking through the facebook pages of kids I’d gone to middle school with. They were in high school now. It felt really neat to look into their world.


They were still living normal lives.

I found one of my old friend’s blogs. She writes fanfic for Disney Princess movies. Her most current story was about Pocahontas. I could tell she’d based the character on me, in some ways, like she was a fast runner, dressed like a boy, acted tough, knew a lot about plants, and had a real tender side that got hurt easily.

I wonder if I’ll ever see her again.


I got tired reading, really tired, all of a sudden.

I took a nap, right there in the spa, while my clothes spun in the dryer.


In my sleep, I could hear the music playing on the sound system. It was the adagio from Beethoven’s first sonata. My gran played that, too.

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