Cynthia Gordon Kaye earned her MFA from San Francisco State University where she taught undergraduate creative writing courses and was the recipient of an Edward B. Kaufmann College of Liberal & Creative Arts Scholarship. Her fiction has been shortlisted for the Craft Flash Fiction and Epiphany Breakout 8 Contests and longlisted for A Public Space Writing Fellowship and The Masters Review Anthology. She lives and writes in California.
It’s a boy, the doctor says, just look at that huge scrotum.
Another boy, she says, still panting. She looks at him, the another boy, and smiles. He looks exactly like the older boy had looked.
Didn’t we do this once before? she asks her husband.
But her husband is already cradling the another boy, cooing at him. She delivers the afterbirth, then gets stitched up.
Both boys grow up. Now they look different, the older boy wide-faced and thick-haired like his uncle on her side, the another boy pink-complexioned and wiry like his dad. The older boy loves sports, first to play, later to report on. The another boy loves writing, music, art. He also loves sports, first to play, then to talk about with the older boy and dad.
But not really, he doesn’t really love sports. He loves connecting with dad and the older boy. He connects with her on just about everything else—poetry, cooking, Gilmore Girls.
She once jokingly says to her husband, he’s the daughter I never had.
Later, digging through his backpack for the car keys he never remembers to return to the hook near the garage door
—she wishes, oh how she wishes he’d remembered
—she finds a dress.
A short black dress, crumpled at the bottom of the backpack. Long-sleeved, boatneck collar, some crappy polyester-rayon blend.
A dress, she thinks.
She takes the dress and walks into the family room where the another boy is doing his calculus homework, Jeopardy blasting on the TV. She holds up the dress to him, and her question is Jeopardy-like, an answer in the form of a question.
What is I found this dress in your backpack?
And then she looks at her another boy.
Really looks at her another boy.
Seeing all together what before she’d been seeing only piecemeal.
Seeing hair grown down to the middle of his back, fingernails long, each painted navy blue with a white stripe flourish down the middle. Seeing mascara, eyeliner, a smudge of light green eyeshadow at each corner.
Seeing her another boy.
And her another boy says, yes, that’s mine. That’s my dress. I was deciding how to tell you. Now you know.
What is now I know what? she asks Jeopardy-style.
Now you know I’m not just another boy, he says. Inside, I’m the daughter you never had. I’m a she, too.
She-one feels sick to her stomach. Like morning sickness at night.
Then she-one thinks, it’s okay, not wrong, not wicked.
Okay, she-one says to she-two.
But she-one doesn’t really understand.
She-one thinks—a phase, an experiment, they all try fluidity at this age.
The thoughts rappel down her throat, stab her innards with razor edges. They musketeer her stomach wall, her kidneys, her heart.
We’re no phase, they shout as they draw blood.
She-one fights them all off. En garde, she-one silently screams.
She-one is a surprisingly solid swashbuckler.
But it makes no difference.
She-one leaves the dress next to she-two, her daughter, on the couch, next to the open calculus book. She-two watches her.
She-one’s afraid to speak, will say something wrong. So she-one stretches out her arm, gently squeezes she-two’s shoulder, leaves the room without saying anything. She-one goes to her bedroom, lies down.
Despite the bedroom’s heat, she-one shivers, gets in bed under all the blankets. Slowly she-one settles, warms. Drifting into sleep, she-one thinks Jeopardy-style, what is teaching she-two how to shop for clothing made from better fabrics?