*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.*
The moment I laid eyes on Taylor, I just knew we would be friends. She wasn’t overly pretty or frilly in the way she dressed, and in my experience, pretty girls ran together in unofficial packs that us plainer girls were not invited to. Much like certain species on the African plains, I imagine. Lions with lions, antelope with antelope, naturally drawn to each other by similarities in behaviour, appearance, and diet.
Anyway, there I was, watching just such a group form between two of the girls on my left. The only other girl present besides the choir leader and my sister, was Taylor. She stood next to me on my right, so we naturally fell into conversation. She was around my age, (13) but a little less developed than I was, which, naturally made me feel as though I had some prior claim on adulthood, meaning I was a little more important. She definitely seemed a little un-decided in certain aspects of her life. She was sporting a short, boy-cut hairdo, and wearing gender-neutral clothes. Even her name was sort of nondescript. (I’ve never been a huge fan of names that made their owner’s gender unclear. It’s the reason I have trust issues.)
During the first break of the day it was meal time. We had all brought a bag lunch, so we scattered around the facility to partake. The boys on one side, and the girls on the other, Taylor and I next to each other. The only thing to really talk about at that age was who liked whom. “Josie likes Adam, but I like Ryan.” Just as our break time was coming to a close, the choir leader joked around in my direction, “well somebody likes Taylor.” Trying to play cool, I pretended like I knew who she was referring to, but I was slightly confused as to why she had directed this comment to me. I grew up homeschooled, so I spent most of my time in a general state of social confusion.
Back in the music room, we assumed the same places we had before. Pretty girl squad on my left, me, then Taylor, my sister and the leader. At one point, Taylor manifested a small toy out of her pocket and began tinkering with it. We launched a secret game of trying to snatch it from one another without the leader discovering our activity. Just as another short break was called, Taylor commandeered the figurine, so it was my turn to get it back. We went back to the kitchen area for a drink, and Taylor sat on a wooden chair with her legs folded Indian style. Freeing up her hands to uncap a water bottle, she put the toy on the chair, protected by the Indian-style fort made of legs. I saw my chance. I reached into the human Venus fly-trap, fully expecting her to snap her knees closed around my hand. I was alert and prepared for anything…
Except what I found. Instead of a small plastic action figure, my fingers had clasped around something…. else. Something else entirely.
As we filed back to our places, I avoided eye contact with Taylor. It was around this time that my sister began comparing the number of boys to the number of girls. Looking at Taylor, she lamented “if only you were a boy, then we’d have even numbers.”
Taylor looked up, with the most innocent indignance I’ve ever seen. “I AM a boy.” Eyebrows high, desperately hoping to be believed. It was repeated. “I am a boy!”
My sister, finding herself in the same “try to be cool” situation I had stumbled through earlier, sheepishly dismissed the issue, “oh I know.”
She hadn’t known. And neither had I. Until I got a handful of the proof.