I put down the eye liner and studied my reflection in the mirror. Too much mascara? Grandma always told me I had the prettiest eyes. Smiling, I pulled my hair into a loose braid. Where was my lucky pebble? Oh there. Now I was ready.
My parents were in the kitchen. I peeked at them, searching for the slightest trace of anger, that flicker of grief. But all I saw was two middle-aged people, with rather kind faces. Worried about their daughter, hoping she’ll be fine.
“Avery, honey,” my mom began, “I know this is scary, but we’re with you. Every step of the way.”
“Yes, kiddo. Your mom and I will be in that waiting room the whole time. Dr. Matheson is the best. He’s even published a pape-”
“Brian, don’t stress her out. Not on the day of the procedure,”.
“Karen, I’m just giving her
“Shush, now. Let her
breathe for a second.”
Dad rolled his eyes, behind mom’s back. I smiled, terrified inside, but still thankful for the banter.
“Did you take your pills, honey?”
I’d been on those “pills” for 15 months now. They’d helped some but weren’t enough. Every morning in the wonky bathroom mirror, I’d stared at those lumps on my body, willing them away. When Dr. Matheson brought up the surgery 2 months ago, I’d looked at my parents, eyes blazing with fearful hope. Dad had a hundred questions. For once, mom hadn’t interrupted.
Here we were 9 weeks later, in the kitchen, on a cold October morning, while Dad downed his second mug (Hospital coffee is the worst, Karen, everyone knows that!). Mom was looking fondly at a family picture above the fireplace.
“Was this in 2009 Brian?”
“Huh? Oh, that? 2010, when we went upstate to see Grandma for Christmas.”
I walked up and stood next to mom. It was a nice photograph. Mom had that ridiculous Christmas Sweater on and Dad appeared a second away from bursting into laughter. And between them a little boy who looked so much like me. I reached out and traced his face. Those beautiful eyes, that square chin showing the earliest signs of stubble.
“Will you miss him terribly, mom?” My throat felt tight.
“Of course! He was my firstborn. But I hope he’s happy now. It’s been a long time coming,”.
Dad looked away, blinking furiously as I hugged mom. We put on our jackets, (Brian,you need a new coat!) and I looked back one last time. The faded scuffs on the walls, the cozy breakfast nook. Grandma’s voice (You’ll be fine, Avery darling).
Nothing would be the same anymore. After the surgery today the boy in the picture would cease to live. For someone who’d existed as him for 19 years, I was entirely indifferent to the news of his death.
Because I would finally be reborn as the woman I was always meant to be.