Caleb stared after Mitchell even once he’d disappeared into the throng of milling students. And not afraid to be…what? Caleb shivered. Afraid to be. End of. Maybe some people who knew to look could decipher his secret. He glanced down his body. There was nothing girly or remotely tranny about what he had on. Leather pants, tight and almost-knee-high biker boots. No. It was all boy.
And he felt like he was wearing someone else’s skin to cover up his own.
He slid both hands heavily down his front. He had an almost overwhelming urge to peel it all off. He turned and hurried towards the bathroom, and inside, glared at himself in the mirror. The navy spikes of his hair flopped to one side after his sleepless night, and his face looked naked without eyeliner or mascara. He had a stash of everything he needed to make himself presentable in Levi’s dorm room, but he’d felt so exposed this morning, feeling Levi watch him dress. He hadn’t been able to bring himself to sit at the tiny desk and make himself up. He didn’t want to let the uncertainty between them fester, but if neither of them broke open the Pandora’s box of silence, nothing bad could come out. He didn’t want to know what would come out, so he’d opted for flight instead.
He needed to get home—to get changed, or at least undressed—and for a little while remember what it was like in his own skin. He had time, would have the house to himself before his uncle got home.
“To play dress-up,” he muttered. There wasn’t ever going to be a day when what he was would be okay with the rest of the world. Best that he hide. Best that he ignore whether anyone even thought they knew the truth. Best that he didn’t think about Mitchell, about his fashion designs.
About how much he wanted it.
The house, when he arrived, was as deserted as he’d expected.
“Uncle Jase?” he called anyway. He knocked on his uncle’s bedroom door, checked the workshop in the garage, and poked his head down to the laundry area in the basement. No uncle.
Dashing up to his room, he closed and locked the door, shucked out of the tight pants and tossed Levi’s shirt into the laundry pile. A quick shower washed off the discomfort and the feeling like he’d been walking around all day inside a peeling, ragged layer of fake.
He had half an hour. It wouldn’t be enough to do it all up right, but it was something.
He started with his favourite lace undergarments. These ones felt best, with their odd dual sensation of silkiness and a bit of rough. He’d always wondered if the really expensive ones would have more of the silk and less of the rough. He couldn’t afford to find out, though, so he settled for department-store three-to-a-package bargain. Better than nothing.
The skirt he chose was more girly than anything he’d ever wear in public. Chiffon and flippy, it twirled out when he spun and the deep, shimmering purple colour looked good against his skin. He needed something simple on top, that hint of the unexpected, just a cropped football net jersey that left his belly bare and did little to hide the rest of his pale chest or pink, tight nipples. Here he had the advantage. Girls got themselves arrested showing that much. He smiled at his reflection. He wouldn’t get arrested. Might get his ass kicked into next Tuesday, but not arrested.
That was what was so great about living in a free country. That constant squeeze between the rock of ridicule and the hard place of intolerance.
Caleb jumped and whirled to glare at the door handle as it wiggled.
“Caleb? Son? You in there?” Even the reasonable tone of his uncle’s bass voice didn’t offset the wicked flash of heat or slow the way his heart thundered.
“Uh…yeah…Uncle…” Caleb grabbed up his bathrobe from the bed and whipped the plush material around his shoulders. “Here. Just…doing homework.”