Crystal's StorySite



by Kim EM


I knew it was time to get ready for the funeral. I sat in the den, staring blankly at the television, not seeing whatever was on. My best friend was dead, and I knew what I needed to do. The odds were good that I'd soon be joining her.

It all started several days before, at school, right after lunch, when I heard shouting coming from near the locker rooms. I went running, and discovered a crowd outside the door to the guy's locker room. I asked someone what was going on and was told, "Mark Flynn's in there beating the crap out of Johnny West."

I pushed my way through the crowd, and burst into the locker room. John was on the floor between two rows of lockers, curled into a tight ball, crying, and Mark was kicking him hard in the ribs, cussing up a storm. He stopped for a moment as he saw someone entering, then turned as he realized it was me. "Oh, look, the other half of the Dirty Pair is here. Want to fill in for him?"

Back at Halloween, as a gag, John and I had come to school dressed as Kei and Yuri, the main characters of our favorite anime, "Dirty Pair". We'd thought it was a great joke, on a couple of levels, dressing in the shorts and halter tops of two of anime's sexiest females, but it seems we did too good a job. Ever since, the jock squad had been on our collective asses, calling us 'fags' and worse, and always referring to us as the 'Dirty Pair'.

I barreled full-tilt into Mark, and he went over backwards into the concrete block wall. His head made the sound I'd imagine a melon would make if dropped from a high balcony. As he dropped to the floor, I bent over John, who was still curled into a ball. As I touched his shoulder he flinched and drew himself tighter. I spoke softly. "Johnny, it's me. You can come out now; it's all over."

He uncurled himself and gasped, clutching his side in agony. I gasped too upon seeing his face. Blood streamed from a cut over one eye, the eye itself red and almost swollen shut. Both cheeks were bruised, and it looked like a piece had been torn out of his right ear.

He shakily tried getting up, then collapsed back to the floor. "I think – I think I broke a rib."

"Don't move, I'll get you some help." I started for the door, but before I reached it someone else rushed in. It was the principal, Mr. Tenzer, looking angry. I backed away as he strode past. He reached the end of the row, looked in, wheeled, and barked at me, "What did you do to him?"

"Nothing. Mark had him down and was kicking in his ribcage. I think he's got a couple of broken ribs..."

"Not him," he sneered, the disdain in his voice palpable. "What did you do to Mark?" He crossed to where Mark lay and stood, looking down angrily.

"He was trying to kill John. I charged him and he went into the wall. That's all."

Mr. Tenzer looked skeptical. "You attacked and injured our star halfback. When the police come..."

"When the police come, they're going to take your 'star halfback' for a long visit to jail."

"They're going to take you to jail, you and your... friend. He caught you two in here, didn't he, and you attacked and tried to kill him."

I was disgusted, and it probably showed on my face. He stepped back, almost stumbling over Mark, then he continued. "You're going to try and weasel out of this, I know your type, but you two have been a thorn in my side for too long, and this time you're going to pay for it."

The door burst open again, and two people entered: Mr. Calloway, the Assistant Principal, and Mrs. Hanson, the school nurse. She looked down, saw John lying there, bleeding, and immediately bent over him. Principal Tenzer ordered, "Forget him; find out what they did to Mark."

She glanced up, then went back to her work. The principal started cussing under his breath, and Mr. Calloway pulled him aside and talked to him in low, urgent tones. I just stood there, not sure what to do. I knew leaving wasn't an option, and couldn't think what to do aside from staying out of the way. Finally I retreated to the next row of lockers and sat on the bench, thinking hard. I kind of spaced out, the locker room retreating into unreality as I realized this was likely to tear things wide open.

After a while I realized someone was in front of me, trying to draw my attention. Mr. Calloway was speaking, and it took me a few seconds to register his words. "Ken? Are you okay?"

I nodded, dully, and he took my hand and helped me to my feet. "Come on with me," he said, leading me towards the door. I pulled back a bit, unwilling to look at the place where Johnny and Mark lay. Mr. Calloway noticed and said, "They're gone, don't worry." He led me out the door into the hall, past the stunned hangers-on, towards the offices. When we reached our destination, instead of going into his office, we turned and entered Principal Tenzer's office. Inside sat a glowering principal and two other adults, somber in their dark suits. Mr. Calloway led me to an empty chair, then retreated to a corner to watch the proceedings.

Mr. Tenzer nodded in my direction and addressed the others, biting off his words. "This is Kenneth Wallis, the – the boy who did it." One of the men shot a speculative look at the principal, while the other spoke to me.

"Kenneth – do you like Ken?" I nodded, and he continued, "Ken, we're from the police. I'm Lieutenant Gilroy, and this," he nodded towards the younger man, "is Sergeant Takananda. We wanted to ask you a few questions about what happened this afternoon." He settled into his chair, opening a small spiral-bound notebook and waving a pen. "Suppose you tell us, in your own words, what happened."

I started walking through the events, with the detectives stopping me from time to time to ask questions. I had to explain the "Dirty Pair" references, drawing a scowl from the principal and a sickly grin from the sergeant. Mr. Tenzer tried breaking in a few times, but was stopped by Lieutenant Gilroy, who seemed about out of patience with the principal. I wondered what had gone on before my arrival, but figured I'd find out soon enough. When I finished, the lieutenant leaned forward and spoke, one eye on Mr. Tenzer. "Ken, your principal has told us a somewhat different story. He says…"

Mr. Tenzer couldn't hold it in, he gloatingly said, "You've told a pack of lies and I told him what really happened."

"What really happened? I don't… what?" I looked blankly from the principal to the policemen, to Mister Calloway.

Sergeant Takananda looked up and said, "Perhaps we should speak with Mister Wallis privately?"

The lieutenant nodded and asked Mister Tenzer and Mister Calloway for privacy. The principal objected, but was again quietly counseled by Mr. Calloway, and they both retreated, resentful noises coming from the principal. As the door snicked shut behind them, Lieutenant Gilroy said, "Sorry about that. I thought it would be useful to have the two of you here together."

I shook my head. "He doesn't – we don't get along very well."

"I can see that," he said dryly. "Care to tell me about it?"

"I'm not sure there's much to tell," I began. "He's pretty much always considered me sort of, well, unmanly, and after last Halloween, he's really been down on me."

Gilroy raised an eyebrow and asked, "Anything to that?"

"What, am I, um, am I what he thinks?" I thought fast, but nothing came to mind.

"Yeah," Mr. Gilroy started, just before Sergeant Takananda broke in.

"Look, kid – Ken," he corrected himself, "it really doesn't matter whether you are or not. Hell, I'm gay; I'm not going to think any less of you, and I'm pretty certain it's not going to shock my partner if you are, but we have to know what's going on."

I stared at the carpet for a few moments; thinking hard, and then sighed inwardly and looked up. "It's – I'm not gay; at least I don't think so. I'm, uh, it's a bit hard to explain." They waited patiently, the lieutenant with that one raised eyebrow frozen in place. How did he do that? "It's. It's. I'm transsexual. I mean, I should have been born a girl. I mean…" I stumbled to a halt, my face reddening and my knuckles white.

"It's okay," Takananda said gently. "I think we understand." His partner nodded, the eyebrow now returned to normal.

Lieutenant Gilroy turned and said, "We need to confer for a moment. If you could wait here, Ken, we'll be right back."

As they rose and turned for the door, I finally asked, "Before you go?"


"How's Johnny? He looked pretty bad when I stopped Mark."

The two of them shot a glance, and Lieutenant Gilroy slowly said, "He's in pretty tough shape. The last I heard, he was on his way to Saint Anthony's. I'll check while we're out."


They left me alone with my thoughts. Why had I told them the truth? Nobody knew this, nobody except John, and I'd just told two complete strangers my darkest secret.


It took longer than I'd expected. About twenty minutes later the door opened and the two policemen quietly entered. They sat opposite me, and waited silently for a moment. I looked a question at them, and finally Lieutenant Gilroy spoke. "Ken, I think we know what we need to. I can't speak for the state's attorney, but I don't expect any charges to be filed against you. What Mark Flynn did appears to have been in clear violation of this state's hate crimes legislation, and your actions were well within the guidelines for self-defense. It's a shame how that turned out, but between the stories from you and your principal, as well as the signs our forensics people picked up, you don't appear to have done anything wrong."

I should have been relieved, but something in the way he'd said that struck me as odd. "Shame how it turned out?"

"Mark Flynn suffered a skull fracture from his impact with the wall. He's comatose and at this point it's unclear whether he's going to recover."

My mouth went dry. "Gods. And Johnny?"

"John West is in serious but stable condition at Saint Anthony's. He'll be off his feet for a while, but he is expected to make a full recovery."

Everything was a bit of a blur from that point. I remember the principal coming in and screaming at me, my parents arriving and talking with both the principal and the police, and then taking me home, but not of the specifics. The next I can clearly remember was waking the next morning, and stumbling downstairs to the kitchen.

I sat heavily in my usual seat, head in hands, remembering painfully the events of the previous day, at least those up to where things got fuzzy. My parents sat, stopped in mid-breakfast, watching me. Finally my mom spoke. "Honey, are you all right?"

"I think so, Mom. Everything yesterday got to be a bit much, but I'm okay now."

They looked a bit relieved, though they both still looked pretty grave. Dad started to speak, then stopped himself, looked around, then started again. "The police, yesterday, they told us all about what happened, but not why it happened. Your principal, he told us in great detail…"

"Obscene detail," Mom broke in.

"…obscene detail, about his views on what happened and why."

I held his gaze and said, "I can imagine. He's had it in for me for a while, and this gives him what he considers a perfect excuse."

"Apparently so," Dad sighed. "He's suspended you indefinitely, pending an expulsion hearing."

Mom quietly asked, "From what he said – Honey, is there something we should know about?"

I sat silent, thinking and wondering how ugly this was going to get. Mom and Dad expectantly waited, as my thought processes ran in circles, speeding up to less and less effect. I suppose the bare fact that I needed to think about it, and for that long, confirmed to them that there was something, whether or not it matched what Mr. Tenzer had said.

Before I could figure what to say, the phone rang and Mom, being the closest, answered. "Hello? … Yes. … Could you call back later? We're in the middle of… Oh." Her face paled, and she handed me the receiver.

Please forgive me for not recounting the conversation in detail. It was agony then, and the memory is no better. It was Mister Calloway, the assistant principal. Principal Tenzer had called John's father and told him that John was gay, had been caught having sex in the locker room, and was responsible for what happened to Mark. Mr. West went to the hospital and confronted his son, who denied all the principal's assertions. Things got heated, and Mister West stormed out. Shortly thereafter, Johnny had gotten access to a scalpel (somehow!) and cut his own throat.

I never did get to answer Mom's question, which was just as well, given my state of mind at the time.

That brings me to this afternoon, and the funeral.

Arriving at the funeral home with my parents, I got a dirty look from Mr. West, but he didn't make any attempt to stop me from taking a seat. There was a fair crowd, but nothing like what I'd have otherwise expected. Given that Johnny wasn't all that popular in school, I hadn't expected a huge turnout from the students, and given the circumstances of his death, very few of his classmates showed up. Most of the people were relatives and adults from the community. I wasn't very happy to see that Principal Tenzer was not only attending but warmly received by Mister West and seated near the front. I felt a bit better to see both Mister Calloway and Sergeant Takananda, both seated towards the rear of the chapel.

The casket was closed, with a small picture of John propped on the lid. As the services started, Mrs. West sat, staring blankly at the casket, while Mr. West glowered, first at the casket and then, turning, at the attendees.

There was no priest, just the funeral director leading the service and introducing the few persons invited to speak. I grimly sat and grieved. I knew why John had done what he had. I couldn't agree with his actions, but I knew he wasn't strong, and the accusations and lack of support from his father had pushed him over the edge. How a father could be so intolerant and unfeeling, even after – but no. After all, I hadn't told my parents, for fear of their reaction.

As I sat, I waited. I hadn't been briefed on the funeral plans, but I knew, was morally certain, that somewhere along the way the accusations would be raised. I dreaded the moment, because I knew what it was going to cost me. Soon enough, it came. The director introduced Principal Tenzer, who rose and strode confidently to the podium.

"Good afternoon," he began. "This is a very sad occasion, marking the death of a student; an excellent scholar but an extremely troubled young man. I knew Johnny West from the time he entered our school, and he never fit in with the other students…"

As I listened to this, I was aghast. How could his own father allow something like this at John's funeral? This wasn't a eulogy or memorial speech, but a thinly veiled attempt to smear my best friend, to treat him as 'different'.

"John West was different, someone whose immoral lifestyle not only cost him his life, but has destroyed the life of another student, a promising young athlete, the starting halfback of our regional-champion football team, poor Mark Flynn…"

That was enough.

I rose from my seat, and strode angrily to the front. Murmurs came from the crowd, and a low growl from Mr. West. Principal Tenzer turned to face me as I approached, pointing his finger at me, he forcefully said, "And this 'freak', he's the one who tried to kill Mark, the person whose illicit actions with John West led to this tragic end!"

My voice quivering with rage, I responded. "There was nothing, absolutely nothing "illicit" going on. Your pet thug managed to trap John alone and tried beating the shit out of him. Nobody came to John's aid but me. And why did this all happen? It happened because you've spewed your hatred for so long you had John and I marked as 'designated victims'. And why? Because…"

"Because…" Mr. Tenzer broke in, "the two of you are freaks and perverts. Neither of you belonged in my school, around the decent and normal students."

"And you're a moron and bigot. Even if John and I were gay, what business of yours is it? You act like some stereotyped yahoo southerner of a century ago, not a public school official in the twenty-first century."

"What about your Halloween stunt? The two of you dressed as girls, in those tight shorts and halter tops?" He was nearly frothing at the mouth. Certainly overreaction, I suspected he had issues of his own, to be so wrought about all this.

"What of it. First of all, they were costumes. And second off, why should you care no matter how we were dressed?"

He almost screamed, "No! The way you two looked, it was more than a costume! You looked like real girls!"

"And if so? As it happens, both of us liked how we looked in costume. And yes, it was an excuse for the two of us to dress up. You've been so fixed on the idea that we were gay that you overlooked the most obvious possibility; that John and I are both transgendered." There was a collective gasp from the audience. I saw the stricken looks on my parent's faces, but the die was cast now. "And yes, John was, and I am."

He asked, almost gleefully, "You admit it?"

"Admit it? Of course. I'm transgendered. So was John. SO FUCKING WHAT? We kept it secret to avoid embarrassment. Of course I cared what people thought of me."

He advanced on me, about to make a point, but I shouted him down. "Sit down and shut up! You and the people who believe like you are the problems. Who was John hurting? Who was injured? Only himself, in the end, and that was all because of your interference! I've had it with you, and people like you. I don't particularly care any more what you or they think. From now on I'm going to be me, and if you don't like that, it's your problem, not mine. I just wish John had the strength to…" My voice broke, and I stalked out of the funeral chapel, my rage and grief having finally overcome me.

It wasn't a very dignified exit, I suppose, and left the service in a shambles, but his parents and the rest had to hear it, to keep Johnny from being slandered at his own funeral.

My parents were shattered, and it's taken a lot of time and counseling for them to come to understand. In the end, though, I did what I had to, and I'm now much happier as "Kei" than I ever was as "Ken."




© 2004 by Kim EM. All Rights Reserved. These documents (including, without limitation, all articles, text, images, logos, and compilation design) may be printed for personal use only. No portion of these documents may be stored electronically, distributed electronically, or otherwise made available without the express written consent of StorySite and the copyright holder.