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The Cage of Follies

Suzanne avoided the Great Scot for a week, evading her officemates and the fascinating lure of its Campbell-plaid sign by bringing her own lunch and walking the long way around to her parking building. Only the impending doom of Thanksgiving impelled her thoughtlessly through those doors, albeit at 7 am the day before T-day, desperately seeking easy caffeine to revive her after a late night of pre-cooking.

She was enormously relieved and crushingly disappointed that Simon was not on duty at that appalling hour. She ordered her coffee (with two shots of espresso) from a plain-faced, brown-haired girl and peered around.

"Looking for someone, ma'am?" the girl asked as she made the coffee.

"Not really --" Suzanne's gaze dropped to the girl's name tag "-- Lizzie. Oh, could you put some milk in that, please? I'm sorry I forgot to ask."

"Of course, ma'am," Lizzie said, smiling. As she handed the hot cup in its protective cardboard sleeve over to Suzanne, she said, "Have a nice day, and a good Thanksgiving."

Suzanne was walking away when the girl added, "And tell Ira to have a nice Thanksgiving too, please."

Suzanne whirled around, but saw Lizzie vanishing into the back room.

Feeling very odd indeed (had she ever met the girl before? how did she know Ira? how did the girl know that she knew Ira?), she made her way to her office. She sat down in her uncomfortable desk chair and stared at her blank computer screen for a while before remembering to drink her coffee.

She set her hands on the keyboard and found herself hitting the Internet search engine rather than bringing up her project schedules. After a few false starts, she found a good combination of terms and settled in to read some blogs and FAQs.

A couple of hours slipped by, until she finally shook herself free and did some work, distracted and mechanical.

"You coming to lunch?" Sheila asked over the top of the cube wall.

"Not today, I think," Suzanne said.

"You okay?" her coworker whispered.

Suzanne looked up. "Yeah. Just tired. And I guess I'm feeling a little swamped."

Sheila smiled. "All right, kid. See you later. Eat something, all right?"

Suzanne nodded, then listened to the group drifting out. She opened the search engine window again and typed in something.

Five minutes later, she knew Simon's birth name. She had, of course, known whose child he... she?... was from that moment in the shelter when the back control room opened.

She thought she'd needed to know. But now that she knew, she felt kind of... dirty. Unkind. Invasive. Not a person that she liked.

Her fingers closed the search window before she really thought about it. And then she went back to working, because she really was swamped.

Around 4 pm, she called Vita Neville-Scott and asked her out for drinks that night. Vita said, "Uh-oh, trouble in paradise?"

"What do you mean?" Suzanne said.

"You only call me when you need someone to talk to these days," Vita said. "Don't worry, I wouldn't miss this for the world. Same place, same time. I'll see you."

Same place, same time, same drinks, same waiter even.

Vita was wearing a black pantsuit with a pearlescent rayon blouse under it, a modest amount of frothy lace at the collar and sleeves. Suzanne felt frumpy again, even though she was wearing her second-best black pantsuit with a pastel-pink shell under it. Perhaps, Suzanne thought, she felt frumpy because she was.

Simon hadn't thought so, a tiny voice said. She shoved it down.

Vita was halfway into her vodka Collins when she said, "All right, Mysterious Suzy. Spill. What's up with love's young dream?"

Suzanne might have rolled her eyes any other time, but now she just sighed. "It... it went really badly, Vita."

"Badly... how?" Vita said, setting her drink down and folding her hands expectantly. "Tell Dr. Vita."

Suzanne's mouth twisted and she set her eyes firmly in the depths of her Singapore Sling. "I... he was a ... she."

There was a moment of silence, and then Vita whooped with laughter.

Suzanne felt herself blushing brick-red and looked around to see half the other diners and drinkers staring at their table. "Vita!" she hissed.

Vita brought herself under control and dabbed gently at the corners of her mascara'd eyes with her napkin. "I'm sorry, Suzy Q, but Jesus, have you really been out of circulation so long you couldn't tell?"

Suzanne scowled at her friend. "It wasn't like there were tits or anything," she said, voice still low and angry. "And the goatee was pretty convincing too."

"Oh, Christ," Vita said with deep disgust, tossing back her drink. "One of them."

"What do you mean, 'them'?" Suzanne said, not trusting herself to take another drink herself.

"You know," Vita said. "Fruits who can't stand not having boobs. Dykes who need a dick to feel whole. I can't believe anyone lets them butcher themselves like that."

Suzanne felt sick, thinking back to the blogs and articles she'd read earlier in the day, the passionate descriptions of wrong bodies and self-loathing that she couldn't understand, but pitied. "Some people just don't feel like they're born in the right bodies," she said carefully.

"Oh, that's so much bullshit," Vita said, signaling for another drink. "The body you're in is the body you're in. Anything else is just attention-whoring."

"Simon's not an attention whore," Suzanne said.

"Maybe she's an exception to the rule," Vita said, waving Suzanne's objection away.

"He," Suzanne said with some heat.

"Honey, you're the one that called her a she," Vita said, smiling up at the waiter who provided her with more alcohol.

"I didn't mean..."

"Of course you did," Vita said, leaning across and patting Suzanne's hand. "She misled you and lied to you and... Jesus, when did you find out? When the clothes came off?" Vita's voice dropped. "Was she... 'packing'? You know, with a fake one?"

Suzanne pulled her hand away sharply, back straightening as she tried to put even more distance between herself and this woman she'd known for years. "No. No! H-- Simon stopped everything before... anything... happened. And told me." She felt, unaccountably, like she was about to cry. "He was a complete gentleman about everything."

"I bet," Vita said, rolling her eyes.

Suzanne stood up, bumping the table, spilling both their drinks. "I have to go," she said. She pulled a twenty from her purse with shaking fingers and threw it on the table, then snatched up her coat and hurried away.

"Suzy!" Vita called after her, voice full of surprise.

When Suzanne reached the street, she began to run. When the stitch started in her side, she was in the parking garage, and she gasped her way to her car, letting herself in with difficulty and collapsing inside. She leaned her head back against the headrest. She wasn't crying. She hadn't cried. Her eyes felt like she had, though.

The drive home felt longer than normal, and she did it in silence, not listening to the radio stations. She was half afraid of hearing one of the songs she'd started associating with Simon, more afraid of hearing a song that made her think of Mitch, or even the good days with Josh.

The house was quiet when she let herself in, and smelled richly still of the cooking she'd done the night before and of the turkey roasting in the oven, per her instructions. Suzanne heard a page turn in the living room, and assumed it was the companion for the evening. "How was everything tonight?" she asked as she hung up her coat.

"Just fine, dahhhling," a throaty voice twanged from the living room. She heard the person get up, heard the striking of high heels on the floor, and turned to find herself face-to-face with the companion.

At least six feet tall, dressed in a spectacular strapless lavender taffeta gown that reached the sparkling four-inch-high purple pumps on one side and was ruched up to the hip on the other, with plum-color lipstick bounded by a thick black line and metallic purple eyeshadow from drawn-on eyebrows to false eyelashes, the companion had topped the ensemble with a Carmen Miranda-style headdress that boasted an enormous array of fruit. She... he?... smiled, the smile playing up the vivid rouge on her/his brown cheeks. "Ira's gone to bed early," s/he purred, "and Josh is as usual. You're home early."

Suzanne was too astonished by this apparition to answer immediately. She blinked and nodded and finally found her voice enough to say, "Yes. Thank you. Are you... do you have a show to go to?" She couldn't help noticing the grapes that were dangling over one of the person's eyes.

The companion smiled more broadly. "Perhaps I do. Are you all right?"

Suzanne nodded wordlessly.

"Then I'll get along, honey." The companion strode to the door and smiled back over his/her shoulder. "You take it easy now. Happy Thanksgiving."

Suzanne stared at the door that had closed after... her... for a long time. She wondered if she should have invited her to come for dinner tomorrow. And then wondered, helplessly, if Simon had anywhere to go.

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Date: 2010-04-18 05:02 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
"The body you're in is the body you're in. Anything else is just attention-whoring."

Vita is lucky to be cissexual.

What a cunt.

Re: *snrk*

Date: 2012-01-27 07:11 pm (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
*siigh* Alas, indeed. I'm glad Suzanne felt rightly uncomfortable with that attitude, though. Shows that she has potential as a human being.

Re: *snrk*

Date: 2012-01-28 04:58 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
One's perspective changes when one knows someone, y'know? I suspect that out of that context, she probably would have just gone along with Vita's opinions.

Re: *snrk*

Date: 2012-01-28 11:53 pm (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
I think you're probably right. After all, she did balk at the concept when she *first* realised that Simon was trans. It's just that her preconceptions didn't scan with her knowledge of the actual person, not to mention that she actually went and did her research.

I mean, *I* said some really busted shit when I first got introduced to non-gendered pronouns (and this was even though I identified as genderfluid!), without really thinking about it. Now that I know better I cringe at the crap I said to people--the exact crap that makes *me* feel like shit when I'm on the receiving end of it.

Re: *snrk*

Date: 2012-02-26 07:20 am (UTC)
sepdet: Samhain worshipping the veggies. Oooommm. (Okay, yes, catnip was involved.) (Default)
From: [personal profile] sepdet
A very believable portrayal of so many people, yes.

And ouch. On the one hand, I've had these awful conversations where a friend I thought I knew and trusted turned out to have a terrible prejudice / blind spot.

And on the other hand, I'm always terrified I'm the Vita.


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