Secrets and Surrender

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Thanks to LizHaze for beta reads and suggestions.


Going to a new school for my last year of high school pretty much sucked. It was all the tribulation of switching schools, which was never great at the best of time, plus the knowledge that any friends or acquaintances I might happen to make would all be going off in different directions at the end of the year anyway.

Admittedly, it wasn’t all bad. Not what I’d call good either, but not as terrible as it could possibly have been. Within a few months I’d somehow insinuated myself into a circle of people who at least tolerated my presence, and maybe occasionally enjoyed it. Toward the end of the year, a couple of them were practically friends. Not close friends, not like I used to have, but enough to keep loneliness at bay.

There was also a girl. Not a girl in the sense of being someone I really liked, or who was into me, or indeed who was even aware I existed. She was more an ‘across the room’ kind of crush. A ‘we shared one class and worked together on an assignment that one time’ kind of relationship. I wouldn’t put money on her even remembering my name.

For my part, her name was one of the few things I knew. Kylie. I wasn’t even sure about her last name.

There were a few small things other than that. I thought she was cute. Superficial of me, maybe, but it was true. I liked her outfits that always looked slightly more complicated than necessary for day to day life, and the way she did her makeup to echo that. She seemed to read a lot when not in class, and I even recognized a few of her books.

Also, maybe the main thing in a weird way, she seemed to be even lonelier than me. Which might not have been fair to either of us. I didn’t know her well enough to judge, and I was technically doing alright as far as having people to hang out with at school. It made for an imaginary bond between us in my head, regardless of what the truth was. Two people who didn’t quite belong.

I watched Kylie from afar when I caught sight of her sometimes, not yet having made up my mind to do anything more than that. Apparently I wasn’t quite as subtle about it as I thought. People in the group started to notice. Little jokes got made about it. I assumed it was playful teasing because I was crushing on a girl. Slowly, I began to suspect it was something else.

I dared to bring it up one day at lunch. The group at our table was only about half the size it sometimes was, which made it a bit easier.

My question brought a brief silence, and I almost thought I’d fucked up even broaching the subject, but I still had no idea why.

“Has no one told you yet?” Jess asked. She was across the table from me and looked at me rather intently as though searching for clues that I was making a joke of my own.

“Told me what?” I asked.

“I really don’t think Carter knows,” Ben smirked from the end of the table. Probably one of the people I was least happy to be having the conversation with. He always smiled the widest at any little joke about Kylie. He made my lack of understanding that much worse. “He still stares.”

“Well can someone please tell the poor boy?” Jess asked.

“Why don’t you?” Andrea retorted. “S’not like you don’t know as well as any of us.”

Jess sighed. “I just… it’s not my place.”

“As much yours as anybody’s.”

The bickering went on a bit. Rob, sitting beside me, nudged me with his elbow. I raised an eyebrow at him, tuning out the other voices.

“She’s outside,” he said. “I saw her. Maybe just go talk to her, hm?”

He had such a mixture of earnestness and amusement on his face that I honestly couldn’t figure out what the right answer was.

“You think?” I asked carefully.

“Why not? What’s the worst that could happen?”

“Until I figure out what you all keep going on about, I honestly don’t know.”

“It’s… probably not as bad as you think. Well, depending on how you feel about certain things, I guess.”

I rolled my eyes. “Way to not clear anything up at all.”

“Just saying. Worst case, you probably get teased some.”

“And that’s already happening.” I stood up, my mind momentarily settled. “Might as well find out why, I guess.”

“That’s the spirit!”

I had to wander a bit to find Kylie. She was sitting on an old picnic table outside, perched on the top with her shoes on one of the benches. She was hunched over with a book in her hands, reading in the warm, late spring sun. She’d picked a spot with no one else in the immediate vicinity, which only made me more self-conscious about deliberately approaching her. I knew she saw me coming, but she didn’t react even when I was right next to her.

“Uh, hey,” I said.


“I’m, uh, Carter. We have history together? We–“

“I know. I remember.”

There was no venom in her terse words, but neither was there any warmth. There wasn’t really anything.

I cleared my throat uncomfortably. “Can I sit?”



She looked at me, finally. “You’re new, right?”

“This year, yeah.”

“Thought so. Don’t remember you from before that.”

“Is xslot that a problem?”

“Have people told you about me?”

I sighed heavily. “I know there’s something, ’cause people won’t shut up about it, but damned if I know what.”

“So you’re curious,” Kylie said, with a tone of some finality about it.

“Kinda. But, like, if you don’t want to tell me, that’s fine. No one else does either, so I’m kinda used to it.”

“Isn’t that what you came over for?”

“Partly.” I shifted uncomfortably. “Partly I also just wanted to.”

“Wanted to what?”

“Introduce myself. Talk. I don’t know. Something.” I kicked at the ground miserably. “I almost kinda made some friends, sort of, but that’s not really what they are. Not like what I used to have.”

“So you’re lonely?”


“And you think I am too?”

“Aren’t you?”

“Sure. Who isn’t, underneath it all?” Kylie inserted a bookmark and laid her book aside, taking a moment to study me properly. “I’m not a good choice if you want to make friends.”

“You’re not?”

“It’ll just make everyone else pick on you. You don’t need that.”

“Everyone? But–“

“Ok, ok. Not everyone. Enough of them, though.”

I thought of Ben’s smug grin. “I can see that.” I shrugged. “But they already pick on me for it, so whatever.”

Kylie arched an eyebrow. “Over me? Why?”

I looked away, anywhere but her for a moment, then bit the bullet. “‘Cause I think you’re cute, I think.”

She stared a moment, then broke out giggling.

“Yeah,” I said, face getting warmer. “Kinda like that.”

“Sorry, it’s not really funny.” Kylie let out another little giggle. “But honestly, you transfer to this school, and I’m the one you crush on? Some god has it in for you.”

“You know I don’t know what that means, right?”

“I do.” Kylie patted the table top beside her. “Stay if you want. I think you’re right, it’s not going to get much worse for you.”

“But you’re not going to tell me why, are you?”


“Thought not.”

I grumbled a little as I sat down, but I was honestly feeling ok about things so far. I was still apprehensive about what Kylie’s goddamn irritating secret was, but that was background noise.

Kylie sat up straighter, unfurling herself somewhat. She fiddled with the strings on her light hoodie, which drew my attention to the choker she seemed to always wear, and which was now visible as her hair fell partly out of the way.

“I know it’s annoying,” she said, “but I don’t often meet someone who doesn’t know. Not here, anyway. Other places, I’m not quite so famous. It’s nice.”

“You know I’m still gonna wonder.”

“Of course. But you don’t know. So that’s something.”

“I guess.”

There was a momentary silence, then Kylie tossed her hair over her shoulder and gave me another appraising look. I wasn’t sure what she expected to find.

“So, you moved here last year?” she asked.

“Last summer, yeah.”

“Do that a lot?”

“No. Just the once. Parents couldn’t wait another year and make things easier for me, I guess.”

Kylie snorted. “Yeah. I get that. It’s all about them sometimes.”

“No kidding.”

I felt like I’d at least been accepted into Kylie’s circle of solitude, though the reason for its existence still eluded me. We talked a while longer, not about much of any substance, but just talked. It was nice. Different from so many other conversations where it half felt like a constant audition to keep being allowed to hang around. Not that it was really that bad, but I didn’t feel comfortable and relaxed too often with other people either. With Kylie, knowing she was the only one listening, I felt like there were possibilities of working up to some true casual chatting at some point.

I returned to my regular group just before lunch ended. Ben had that shit-eating grin that I’d been dreading, and there was a decided mix of curiousity and amusement from most of the rest.

“Got a date?” Ben asked.

“Goddammit, Ben,” Andrea said. “Shut the hell up.”

“Just asking. You never know.”

“Did she at least tell you?” Andrea asked, ignoring Ben’s further attempts at antagonizing.

I sighed. “No. Not yet.”

“Well… at least she will eventually, right?” Andrea said, talking more to herself than me. She didn’t seem to want to tell me the secret, but at least in her case it wasn’t because she thought it was funny, so that was something.

“I mean, probably,” Rob agreed. “Not really our place.”

“No. Of course not,” I said. “Everyone knows but me, but not really anyone’s place.”

“We only know ’cause we were around for it. It’s, like… it’s complicated.”

“Complicated,” Andrea echoed.

“Of course it is,” I muttered.


But I had to admit, in hindsight, they weren’t wrong. It was complicated. I’d hung out with Kylie at lunch all week, eventually not even bothering a token visit with my group first. They just made me feel awkward anyway.

Friday lunch period found me walking up to what I’d already started thinking of as ‘our’ xslot Giriş picnic table, finding Kylie there as usual, but being mildly surprised to see she had a cigarette between her fingers. She put it to her lips as I approached as though daring me to say something.

I sat next to her for a moment before speaking. “I didn’t know you smoked.”

“I usually don’t. It helps, sometimes. Not sure if it’s the crap in these things, or if it just makes me feel better to rebel in a stupid and pointless way.”

“Yeah, I, uh, don’t know that one either.” I scratched my head and looked around. “You don’t get in trouble for smoking out here?”

“I don’t do it often. And I’m careful.”


Kylie took another puff, then carefully ground out the end while preserving the remainder. “Just need it sometimes.”

“That’s not the big secret, is it?”

She snorted. “Not hardly.”

“Good. Would have been a let down.”

“Wouldn’t it just.” Kylie leaned back on her arms, staring up at the clouds. “No. There’s more to it than that.”

“Such as?” I prompted.

“Well, interestingly, it might be a good day to tell you.”

“It is?”

“Don’t look so surprised. It makes sense to get it out of the way. If you’re going to be weird about it, better to find out now than after I get attached.”

“Oh. Uh, I guess?”

“Plus my morning sucked, so if this goes badly then the whole thing’s a wash already.”

“It might go well,” I suggested.

“Maybe. Hopefully.”

I waited. Kylie didn’t say anything. I shrugged and lay back, getting comfortable on the table top and trying not to look too anticipatory.

“I’m ready if you want to,” I said. “But you don’t–“

“I grew up as a boy.”

“… what?”

“I’m trans.”

The momentary silence after her brief couple of words hung disproportionately heavy, but I needed that time to process.


“Oh good, or oh bad?”

“Just… oh. I didn’t see that one coming.”


“No. I kept dreaming up, like, you burnt down your last school. Or murdered a teacher and got away with it. Or sold drugs on the side. Or had naked photos of you floating around. Or–“

“That’s enough, thanks.”

“Sorry. Just… I mean, the way people were talking, I thought it was something bad, you know?”

“Depends on who you talk to. To some, it is.”

“Oh. Yeah. I guess, huh?” I sat back up, needing some feedback from her facial expression. She was keeping it altogether too neutral to help much. “Surely not everyone’s a dick about it?”

A faint smile graced her lips. “No, not everyone. Not by a long shot, really. But enough.” She groaned and rubbed her face. “Enough to be a pain. And so few of the rest know what the hell to do with me.”

“Yeah, that kinda tracks.”

“I mean, I get it. It’s hard to forget who I was. Or who they thought I was. But I’m so over this shit. Can’t wait to get out of here, go somewhere nobody knows me.”

“That’s, uh, not all it’s cracked up to be.”

Kylie gave me a sideways glance, then smiled ruefully. “Yeah, I guess you got the opposite problem, huh? In a sense.”

“In a sense, yes. Goddamn I miss people who actually knew me. And liked me.”

“I would imagine.”

Another silence. I was still thinking, processing.

“So, uh, thanks for telling me, anyway,” I said.

“So you can stop being so curious?”

“That too. I meant, like, ’cause–“

“Yeah, no, I know what you meant. Thanks for not being a dick about it. So far.”

“Doing my best.”


Kylie and I started sitting together in history, our shared class. We got some looks when it became obvious it was a deliberate choice, but nothing much more than that. I hadn’t been quite sure what kind of reaction I’d get, but I was fine with whatever. It’s not like anyone’s opinion carried much weight with me.

I had trouble picturing her as ever being boy-shaped, which was kind of the point, I supposed. I didn’t have the reference of her past life the way most everyone else did, and I think it worked well that way for both of us.

Our picnic table outside had become our default lunchtime spot, weather permitting. I was so much happier hanging with her than trying to fit in with my circle of people who tolerated me. All the more so with the smirks Ben kept giving me, the questions Jess sometimes asked, thinking she was being subtle even when she wasn’t, and just the general awkwardness. Mostly everyone dropped the subject as soon as it was no longer a novelty, but I knew it was still lurking there somewhere. I could only imagine how Kylie handled it, having to deal with it all the time whether she wanted to or not.

She was in a particularly intense mood one lunch. She’d beaten me to our spot, as happened more often than not. She was also working a cigarette like she needed to get through the whole pack before next period. This was only about the third or fourth I’d ever seen her with, making her unlikely to be a habitual chain-smoker, and leading me to believe something was wrong.


She barely glanced at me. xslot Güncel Giriş “Hey.”

“Something up?”

“No. Yeah. Kinda. No, it’s stupid.”

“Kinda seems like it isn’t.”

Kylie stabbed out the last of her cigarette on the table top. “Somebody called me Lee.”

“As in… not short for Kylie?”

“No. As in my old nickname. For Liam. I halfway thought I wouldn’t mind when I picked Kylie, ’cause at least it still kinda works. Except they definitely aren’t using it that way, and it doesn’t bug me any less.”


“Stupid, right?”

“Not if it’s important to you.”

“I don’t want it to be.”

“That doesn’t always matter.”

“No. You’re right about that one.” Kylie fidgeted. “Shit, now I want another smoke.”

“One didn’t cut it?”

She turned to me with a massive roll of her eyes. “It never ‘cuts it.’ It just helps.”

“Sorry.” I shrugged. “I’m pretty useless with some of this stuff.”

“No, it’s fine. I’m cranky and anxious and snappy.” Kylie rubbed her face. “And the end of the year just won’t get its ass in gear and get here.”

“Almost,” I said.

“Almost. It’s been almost for forever now.”

“Doesn’t make it untrue.”

“No. Maybe not.”

She was still fidgety. She hadn’t yet reached for her pack, but it was coming. I felt like I should distract her somehow, but had no idea what to do. I wasn’t overly entertaining at the best of times.

“Crazy idea,” I said slowly.

“What’s that?”

“Wanna go do something?”

She frowned. “In what sense?”

“Any sense. What do you want to do right now?”


“Besides that.”

“Go home and curl up and wish for armageddon.”

“Besides that.”

“You can’t just keep vetoing me.”

“Watch me.”

“Fine. You suggest something and I’ll shoot it down. See how you like it.”

I shrugged. “Go grab food?”

Kylie made a face. “At the cafeteria? No thanks.”

“No, I mean. Somewhere. Anywhere. Preferably within walking distance. So not really anywhere.”

“Don’t have time. And not allowed.”


“What do you mean ‘so’?”

“Weren’t you just praying for the end of the world a moment ago?”

“Thinking about it. Hadn’t actually done any praying.”

“Why the hell you letting rules stop you then? Breaking a few has to be less bad than ending all life on the planet.”

“Arguably, sure.” Kylie’s lips twitched in the barest glimmer of a smile. “What about you? You don’t need to be getting in trouble.”

“Who gives a shit, really? I’m not crucial to goddamn anything that happens around here. Or anywhere.”

“Ooh, someone’s even more existential than I am. Interesting.”

“No, just… well, maybe. I dunno.”

Kylie stood up and grabbed her things. “You’ll have to tell me all about it.”


“No, now.”

“Where are we going?”

“You forget already? We’re off to break rules and be idiots. Or the other way around, maybe.”

“Be rules and break idiots?”

“Something like that.”

So we went off to be rules and break idiots.

It wasn’t all that exciting, really. We literally just walked toward the road, then kept walking. No one was watching or making sure we didn’t leave. We just left. There’d be hell to pay later, presumably, but in the moment it was a very casual thing.

Once out of immediate sight of the grounds, our pace slowed. We hadn’t been walking all that quickly anyway, now we practically dawdled.

“So,” Kylie said, “wanna tell me about this crisis of yours?”

I flushed. “I wouldn’t put it like that.”


“No. It’s not a crisis, existential or otherwise. It’s just… frustration? Anger? Maybe some loneliness?”

“Sounds crisis-ish.”

“Well… maybe.” I shrugged. “I miss people. People from my old school. My friends. My old house. Everything and everyone I knew. I’ve got basically none of them anymore. ‘Cept my parents, and I’m still quietly bitter and resentful that they put me through this.”

“But you woulda been leaving next year anyway, wouldn’t you?”

“Hey, don’t you bring logic into this. You asked.”

“I did ask. Sorry.”

“It’s fine. It’s just life, I guess. These things happen.” I sighed. “S’not easy, though.”

“No. I get that.”

We ended up at a local diner. It was busier than I wanted, but it was lunch time so anywhere we went would be. Somehow we still managed to snag a booth in corner with some relative privacy.

“I’m getting a milkshake,” Kylie said without even looking at other options.

“That’s it?”

“Yep. Who’s gonna stop me?”

“No one, I guess.” I was conditioned to feel like I couldn’t just have a milkshake for lunch, but for the life of me I couldn’t see a good reason not to. “I used to dip fries in mine when I was a kid.”

“Ooh, that sounds good. Wanna split a fries too then?”

I shrugged. “Sure. Why not?”

So we sat and dipped fries in milkshakes like kids while the lunch rush slowly trickled out.

“This is nice, you know,” Kylie said.


“Yeah. No one here knows me. Haven’t had a funny look since we walked in.”

“You still get funny looks all the time?”

“No. Not usually.” Kylie looked me in the eye. “But I can only imagine what kind of looks we’d get if kids from school were trying to figure out if we were on a date.”

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