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Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder
2:15. It was 2:15 in the morning. Adrian checked the clock again. Sighing, he threw himself back onto his pillows and stared up at the ceiling. His room was pitch black except for the small sliver of moonlight peeking through the curtains. The routine of either waking up in the middle of the night or staying up to odd hours was becoming normal to him.
Sitting up, he threw the covers off of himself and listened to the silence. The room was silent and the house was silent but his thoughts were deafening. Freak. Disgusting. Disappointment. If he didn’t know any better he’d believe that those were his names. It was almost better to have people mock him because at least then he knew that they cared. Like every other time the tears started, and as soon as they started Adrian wanted them to stop. Crying was a sign of weakness. He wasn’t even crying about the bullying; he could handle the bullying. It was everything else that was too much. The name. The body. The depression.
He rolled over and grabbed his headphones. If he was up, he might as well distract himself. The soft glow of his phone screen illuminated his face as he scrolled through his playlists. The blues section came up and he tapped it almost regrettably. The music wasn’t his favorite but it fit the mood. The voice of Buddy Guy poured out of his headphones. The familiar lyrics to Ain’t No Sunshine started playing. He slid out of bed and made his way to the window, so that he could move the curtains. The sky was a blanket of darkness with the moon stitched onto it. He related to the moon. The stars seemed close to it but in reality they were light years away. While there were people that seemed close to him in reality, they were the ones the farthest from him.
A glance at the clock told him that it was three in the morning. He needed to get to sleep if he was going to pretend to be okay later that day. Pulling his headphones out and putting his phone on his nightstand, he dropped onto his bed. He closed his eyes and tried to stop thinking about the day to come. An entire day dedicated to his cousin and fiance. Great.
The sunlight streamed through his window and hit him in the face. He grumbled something unintelligible and rolled onto his back. The clock read 8 o’clock and that meant he had no other choice but to get up. There would be no sleeping in until eleven or staying holed up in his room the entire day. The sound of his mother’s footsteps neared his door, and it was only a matter of seconds before the pounding on his door started.
“It’s time to wake up. Come on, so we can eat and head over to your aunt’s to get ready,” his mother bellowed. Ugh. Why couldn’t he just be left at home?
“I don’t even want to go,” he mumbled.
“What was that?”
“Nothing! I’m coming.”
Once in the kitchen his mother sat a plate of toast, scrambled eggs, and sausage in front of him. He didn’t feel like eating but knew that if he didn’t eat now he wouldn’t eat until dinner. The eggs didn’t have enough seasoning and the toast was hard, but he ate it. Putting his plate in the sink, he gave his mother a small smile before trying to retreat to his room without dealing with his dad. No such luck. He rounded the corner and slammed right into his dad. His dad smiled at him and went to pull him into a hug when Adrian stepped out of the way and told him that Mom wanted him. His dad’s eyes went wide, and he hurried into the kitchen. He was safely in his room, but that only meant that he now had to get dressed. At least he got to wear what he wanted to until he got to his aunt’s house. He pulled on his favorite pair of baggy cargo shorts, oversized sweatshirt, and beat up Chuck Taylor’s. The next few hours were going to be Hell!
The familiar, white house came into view and Adrian’s stomach dropped. In a mere matter of minutes he was going to have to start pretending to be someone he wasn’t once again. He tried to convince himself that it was okay, but he really wasn’t. A tall, blonde woman opened the door as his dad rang the doorbell. Aunt Thrisa smiled at them and beckoned them inside.
“John, the guys are in the den. They are supposed to be getting ready, but you know how Randy is,” Aunt Thrisa said. “Helen, I’ll take Elise with me to get ready. Jenny has your dress in her room.”
Elise. He couldn’t stand that name. It made him want to throw up. Elise was the name of a little girl that he had never truly been. His breathing picked up a little as his aunt smiled at him and grabbed his arm to pull him into her room. Adrian was still stuck on being called Elise that he almost forgot why he was even here until he saw the dress. A light grey dress with a slight dip in the back. A pair of short, black heels sat in front of it.
“You can change in here. I’ll go change in the bathroom and when I’m done, I’ll do your hair,” Thrisa said before leaving the room.
Adrian walked over to the dress laid out on the bed, and lightly ran his finger over the material. It was a beautiful dress that wasn’t made for him. Reluctantly, he yanked his hoodie and shorts off and pulled the dress on. Turning to the mirror he saw a sight that disgusted him: his reflection. The urge to claw off his skin hit him like a ton of bricks. His dysphoria was elevated at the fact that he could see the outline of his curves. The soft knock at the door told him that his aunt was ready to do his hair. He walked over and opened the door. She had a curling iron and a bunch of hair products. She directed him to the chair in front of the mirror and he was once again faced with his reflection.
“You look beautiful, Elise,” Thrisa said.
“I don’t want to look beautiful,” Adrian said.
“But you’re gorgeous. I would have killed to look like you when I was your age. Maybe when you see yourself with your hair and makeup done you’ll feel beautiful.”
“Ugh, you don’t get it. Just do my hair so we can get this day over with.”
Once Thrisa was done she smiled at him in the mirror and squeezed his shoulder before leaving him in the room alone again. The teen just sat in front of the mirror staring at himself. It wasn’t like he expected something different. He knew that his family didn’t know about his gender identity, but he was silently praying that they would let him wear a suit. The dress dipped a little in the front, so he tried to pull it up a little to no avail. The sounds of the rest of his family getting ready filled the air. He could hear his younger cousins running around and the adults trying to get them dressed.
Holding a breath he opened the door and walked down the hallway to the den where he knew the men were probably at. Most of the guys were engrossed by whatever game was on the tv. Standing in the doorway, he observed all of his male relatives. The short hair. The new suits. The tall builds. They were everything that he wasn’t and everything he wanted to be.