Pandora’s Locks

Patches finally disrupted the silence.  “Wow.  Something I said or something you thought over the last few months must have convinced the patches that you’re still worthy.  And to put the icing on the cake, apparently they let you keep the ink, too.  I’m impressed.”

A grin traced its way across my face.  This is exciting.  Who knows what kind of interactions I can find.  And I’ll be the first person the experience and detail them all.

Patches’ face folded into a grumpy frown.  “Don’t be so happy.  You didn’t come off completely scot-free.  You’re going to have to live with that arm for the rest of your life.  And that’s one hell of a burden to bear for being considered worthy of this kind of power.”

That’s right, I’ll have to live with this forever.  My arm will never be the same again.  

“You know, I’ve had to live with something like that, too.  Remember my pink hair?  Maybe it’s time to tell you how that came to be.”  Patches sat down on the edge of the bed, prepared to recount her final tale.

“I was born into royalty.  To a king who had everything he ever wanted, I was his prized possession.  Pandora, the adorable little blonde girl who had given him all his greatest gifts.  I was beautiful, smart, sweet, and even had shown some magical aptitude at a young age.  My father made sure I had everything I had ever wanted, whether it be books, toys, sweets, or teachers.

“But there was one thing that he couldn’t give me.  I was his precious, fragile little masterpiece.  Of course he couldn’t let me leave the castle.  I could get hurt.  And so, after craving adventure for so many years, I ran off in the night with the hope that no one would find me.

“I ran until I could run no more in the direction of the nearest large city, hoping that I could maybe blend in with the street rats and learn my way around the darker parts of city life.  Unfortunately, that ten-year-old girl didn’t understand what was actually needed for adventure, especially travel.  I hadn’t packed any more than a day’s worth of food and water, and I collapsed after two days, exhausted and starving.

“I was tired, hungry, and alone, fearing any person that passed by me would turn me into the king’s guard or worse, kill or ransom me.  But instead of some search party or band of thieves, the first person that passed was an old man covered with an old patched cloak and carrying a grizzled and twisted staff.  He offered me food, water, and a place to stay as long as I didn’t tell anyone of his existence, and I gladly accepted.

“Once we reached his small hovel deep within the wood, he took off his cloak and revealed his true self to me.  Every bit of his skin was covered in patches that let off a bright blue glow.  My mouth dropped open, and his folded into a cheery smile in return. ‘Remember, no telling.’

“I told him how I had run away and wanted to go into hiding, too, and in return for helping out whenever I could, he agreed to share his home with me.  Over the next couple days he told me what the patches were all about.  Of course, with the small penchant for magic that I had already accrued at this point, I just needed to learn how to use the patches, too, and of course, he agreed to allow me to apprentice under him.  And so we started training.  I received my first patch on my eleventh birthday.  Light because the glow matched my golden blonde hair.

“I was taught just like every patch mage before me.  After the first patch, I received my Tailor’s Touch patch and learned the tenets.  It wasn’t long, though, before I had several patches covering a decent portion of my arms and chest.  I had a true knack for the magic, and my master never hesitated to push me further.

“But even with all the patches, I was always weary that someone would find me and force me to return to my former life.  It wasn’t long before my father called off the search for me, but every year on my birthday a new poster would be released asking for my safe return.  And after not too many visits to the local village, a couple of the villagers began to catch on to me.  Of course, I couldn’t have that, so I hatched a plan.  I would change my appearance so that no one would recognize me.  I couldn’t trust that my patches could keep me free forever, so I had to.  How else would I be able to go unnoticed by those around me?

“And so one day I went off on my own a little distance into the wood so I could inadvertently violate the fourth tenet on my own without my master knowing.  In case something went wrong, I started with the hair.  I had chosen a deep red color, not unlike Fianna’s, to hide my bright blonde curls.  I cast the spell, felt the warmth of magic in my hair, then opened my eyes.

“Instead of the deep auburn I was expecting, I was greeted by a disgusting brownish-green color not unlike sewage.  Of course, I was horrified.  I ran crying back to my master, who immediately knew what I had done.  He didn’t punish me; he knew the awful color was enough punishment.  Instead, he explained what I had done wrong and that I should have trusted that the patches would keep me safe.  Then we went to work trying to at least change the color back.  It never did turn back to a proper hair color, and in the end, the only acceptable color we were able to produce was a bright pink.  And so that’s what I’ve been stuck with ever since.  Luckily, the pink grew on me rather fast, which is why all my spells are tinged with pink.”  Patches’s face folded into a warm smile.  “Sort of a calling card of mine.”

Patches stood up, straightened her smock, and shot me a look of excitement.  “So, now that story time is over and you’ve heard about the hair, are you ready for your next lesson?”

Huh

What I saw was a simple frost ward.  It let off a blue hue and a little bit of a chill.  That couldn’t be what they were gasping about, is it?  I looked at Patches quizzically, noticed where she was actually looking, and followed her gaze back.

My right shoulder was glowing a brilliant pink in the exact tracings of the rune.  Huh, I thought.  That’s interesting.  My gaze wandered a little further down my arm, and I could see what they were actually gasping about.

The stitching of the patch was lit in bright pinks and blues, too.  I could trace with my eyes the exact threads that made up the intricate fireball displayed brightly on my charred and empty arm.  Apparently the patch was just as good as it was before, too.  That was a real surprise.

Well, if the patch is still good, let’s see if the magic ink is.  No harm in testing for knowledge’s sake.  I focused on the still blue-black ink inside what was left of the sigil and willed power into the frost ward.  What happened next surprised everyone in the room, including me.

The ink began glowing in bright pinks, reds, and blues to match the sigil itself.  A deep chill began to permeate the room, then with a freezing blast of wind, every fire in Patches’ hovel blew out.  Everyone stood silent, their mouths a little agape.  Even Dahlia stopped sobbing and looked up from the corner in awe.

Huh.  I guess it worked.”

Damage Control

“Let’s have a look-see at that arm of yours.  It’s been a few days since I changed the bandages, and it’ll be good for it to give it a bit of fresh air.”  Patches gently unraveled the bandage covering most of my right shoulder and upper arm, being careful to not apply too much pressure.  The area was still incredibly sensitive and occasionally sharp needle-like stings would course through it.

I wasn’t ready to see what was underneath the gauze.  My arm was a black, hollow shell of its former self.  The magic had definitely eaten its way through the muscle, leaving nothing but skin and bone.  The flexibility of the arm was still there, but there was no way I was holding anything with this arm ever again.

And then the smell hit me.  The skin reeked of brimstone and burnt flesh.  I held back my urge to vomit, but my eyes still began streaming tears down my face from the pungency.  Through the look of disgust on Patches’ face, I could see the hint of a smile peek through. “Heh, if you think that’s bad, it was much worse a few weeks ago.”

Patches started poking at a particularly black section of my arm, about where the fireball patch used to be.  “Eugh.  There’s still a few stitches of magic in there, but it’s definitely shot.  At some point we’ll have to give you a new patch to replace this one.  It’s a shame; that patch was so pretty, too.”

Patches’ face furrowed into a look of curiosity.  She was thinking about something interesting.  “Hmmmm… Have you tried activating any of the sigils on this arm yet?”

The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind.  The one I was trying to color in was a simple frost ward.  Might as well give it a try.  I focused, concentrated on the sigil, and tried activating it.  Both Patches and the apprentices let out an audible gasp.  Something must have happened, so I opened my eyes.

Confronting the Biggest Fear

Along the path of my transition, I’ve confronted a number of fears.  I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m transgender and have fully accepted it.  I’ve come out to family, friends, and coworkers.  I’ve taken the step to begin hormone therapy.  I’ve begun presenting female full-time in every aspect of my life.  And with every one, I have borne the burdens that they bring with little issue.  I’m still accepted by my peers and immediate family, and I feel better than I ever have.  But there is one fear that I have been trying to avoid since I started this journey, and I was hoping I would never have to meet it.  But with my sister’s wedding just around the corner, I’m going to have to face it once and for all and deal with the consequences whatever they may be.

At this point, there is no way that I can avoid coming out to my grandmother.

If I’m going to the wedding, I can’t reasonably expect my grandparents just to disregard the fact that I’ll be presenting female.  And I don’t want the ensuing confrontation to happen at my sister’s wedding.  That’s just disrespectful and hurtful.  It’s her day, and I’m going to do everything within my ability to keep from ruining it.

And so, I’m going to need to deal with it before then.  I know it will be painful and full of yelling and disowning, but it will be better for it to happen beforehand.  I think the best I can reasonably expect is to be ignored for the rest of her life, which shouldn’t be that hard, but I could end up with lots of fire and brimstone on my doorstep instead.  I’m really hoping it doesn’t come to that.

And for any family out there, I’m going to need support for this.  Whatever you can provide will help immensely.

The Great Hormonal Adventure: Month 9

Hey all!  I’m freshly back from a vacation on the west coast, and I think it’s time for another update on my transition progress.

So, to start with, here’s a recent picture.

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I’ve gotten my hair dyed black and my ears pierced since the last time I  shared a picture.  I love having black hair and earrings.  Best decisions I’ve made in a while.

On the transition side, things are still going pretty good.  Blood test this week came back fine,   My skin continues to become fairer and fairer.  The curves are getting even better pronounced.  I’m filling out my bras better every week.  I’m really starting to look the part.

The next two weeks are going to be stressful, though.  I’ve got psychiatrist, therapist, and endo appointments all within the first week of August, and I need to get a new driver’s license before my birthday on the 9th.  On the bright side, I’ve already got all I should need to change my gender marker.  Hopefully it won’t be difficult to actually get it done.

Fianna

“Alphonse and Essex may have been self-absorbed, and Belladonna and Christopher may have been too greedy for their own good, but none were as bad as that evil, lying, feisty little bitch Fianna.”  An ugly scowl threaded its way across Patches’ face.  “You might remember her, she had just started apprenticing with me when you first stepped foot in my shop.  By the gods, that girl really knew how to spin lies and stab backs to get what she wanted.”

I vaguely remembered Fianna.  Flaming red hair that reminded me of unspun wool, freckles completely covering every visible patch of skin, a smirk on her face that made her look like she knew way more than she led onto.  She was nice enough, but never seemed to go visibly out of her way for anyone.  It wasn’t long before she had disappeared.  I never really thought much about it other than a couple offhanded comments Patches had made through the years about her trade.

“Oh come off it, Patches,”  the crimson-haired girl in the front retorted.  She still bore that smirk, but she looked more harried and frayed than she did a decade ago.  “It isn’t like I did anything worse than Mr. Tailor Tats here or any of these other oafs I’m stuck here with.  I saw something I wanted, and I went for it.  It’s human nature, isn’t it?”

A whisper and the sounds of quiet sobbing wafted from the back corner.  “Sorry…”

Patches gave her a look back that oozed with contempt.  “You actively sought to defy the prime tenet from the minute you stepped over my threshold.  The others may have been stupid or misguided, but they don’t deserve to be compared to you.  You’re in a class of terrible all your own.  And look, now you’ve gone and upset Dahlia again.”  For the first time in a few days, Patches’ eyes again sparkled with pink-hued tears.  She let out an exasperated sigh and quickly wiped them away.

“So, Fianna’s story.  She came to me about ten years ago looking to learn the tailor’s trade, or so she said.  In reality, she just wanted to get on my good side so she could become my next apprentice.  She wanted to learn the ways of the patch mage for her own well-being.  She’d done her research and learned that the patch mage’s ability was unfettered and wanted all that power for herself.  Of course, she kept it hidden to me until it came time to put on her first patch.

“She fought the first patch for a solid week, and eventually through the force of her own will, she quieted it, though it was always doing little things during training to try to undermine her goal.  A slip of the needle here, a flutter in control there.  What I mistook as clumsiness and weakness in confidence was actually the patch trying to reject her to no avail.”

Fianna smiled.  “Well, I did really want to be a patch mage.  There was no denying that.  My intentions may have not been true, but my desire was.”

Patches rolled her eyes.  “Anyway, Tailor’s Touch didn’t let her slide.  It saw through her lies and trickery and laid it all bare on the loom.  I was surprised at the time, but looking back, I can’t say I don’t smile whenever I think about what happened to her.”  Patches’ mouth creased upwards.  “I may have said she went insane, but that isn’t exactly the truth.

“What really happened was my needle was ripped from my control by her patches and allowed to be her judge, jury, and executioner.  I knew what was happening the instant it started, and once it was done, her true intentions had become clear, the words detailing her crimes stitched in the bolt next to her.  The needles then unstitched her heart from her chest, unraveled it, and restitched it into my own Tailor’s Touch patch.”  Patches gestured to a small heart-shaped mark on the piece of cloth over her hand. “Right here.

“And until she atones for her sins against the tenets, her heart will remain stitched into my patch and anchor her soul to this world.  Over the years she’s tried to get away, but can’t ever overcome her own ego.  A fitting end for such a self-centered devil.

“And that’s how I lost my last apprentice to the prime tenet.”

Essex the Unbeliever

It was a few days before Patches came back with another story.  During that time, she seemed more rumpled than usual, her eyes carrying bags sewn with years of sadness, her typical hunch a little more draped.  But today she woke up a bit more refreshed and ready to spin her next tale.

“I guess I should tell you about the next apprentice.  Essex was a little shit from the day he fell out of the womb.”

“HEY!” interjected one of the apprentices.  His body was covered in stitches, but there were no patches.

Patches retorted.  “Oh, shut up.  You’re such a spoiled little brat.”  She turned back, her focus on me again.

“Anyway, Essex was a bit full of himself.  His parents doted on him way more than he deserved.  Of course, went to the best school of magic in the world.  Surprisingly, actually excelled in all his classes.  Never had a negative word said about him to his face.  Not sure why he came to me.  Must have been pining for that negative attention or something.

“Well, it didn’t take long for him to learn the trade.  He was actually really good at it and caught on rather quickly.  I was actually a bit surprised.  I never thought I’d see another apprentice who would rival Belladonna and Christopher, but some how this stuck-up little pain in my side had done just that.”  Patches’ upper lip creased.  “And he was actually starting to grow on me a bit.

“Not much longer after receiving his tenth patch, though, Essex got a bit too confident.  Decided he could do without the patches.  ‘If the magic was coming from inside, then why was the cloth even necessary?  The thread is just holding me back.’  His whining went on and on, double-edged needle this, constraining patches that.  I kept reminding him that the fourth tenet is there for a reason.  But no, he just would not listen to me.

“And so, Essex decided to rip off his patches.  From what I could tell the morning after, he went from newest to oldest patches.  Apparently he figured out how to overcome the stress of overloading the patches because I didn’t see a single sign of weakening on the body, though a few of the stitch marks looked like they were bleeding pretty badly.”

“Well of course!” piped up the apprentice.  “It wasn’t like the patches were doing anything anyway.”

Patches let out a hassled sigh.  “Ugh.  Still believes he had all that power.  Anyway, where was I?  Oh, yeah.  He had gotten down to the Tailor’s Touch patch before he expired.  He unraveled the stitching, and with it unraveled his life.  I found him the next morning, his spirit standing next to his body, apparently believing unstitching the patches made him all-powerful instead of just dead.  He still denies that the patches hold any power to this day.

“And that’s how I lost my fifth apprentice to the fourth tenet.”

Will My Family Ever Learn?

It’s been 3 months since I started presenting female full-time, 10 months since I came out publicly as transgender, 11 months since I came out to my dad, 1 year and 4 months since I came out to my mom, and a year and a half since I came out to my oldest sister.  So much has changed in that time.  I’ve gone from being a depressed, lonely guy with nothing to hope or live for to a much more content, self-assured girl with all the opportunities in life to look forward to.  I’ve been accepted by friends, coworkers, random people on the internet, and doctors.

and during all this time, not one person in my family has used the correct pronouns or name.

With my sister’s wedding coming up in a couple months, it’s nearing a point where my status is going to slap my family in the face if they don’t accept me for me.  If I go, I will be showing up in a dress, like it or not.  And if my sister isn’t okay with that, well, to hell with her.  My family can live without me at that point.  It’ll hurt, but it’ll be one less source of anxiety and depression hovering over me.

I’d just once like to hear my parents acknowledge my proper gender.  Even though I’m prepared to drop my family from my life if shit hits the fan, it’ll still be hard.  I’ve always had a strong sense of loyalty to my family, through both thick and thin.  And not seeing that level of loyalty from the parents that have continually told me they love me no matter what is just heartbreaking.

I’ve got other LGBT friends with similar stories.  Their parents don’t accept them for who they are, so they have to cut the family off.  Because in the end, it’s easier to live life without a family than to live it with toxic relationships.  I’m just hoping it doesn’t come to that.