inhisshadow: (attitude)
When she was born, they named her Chelsea, because it sounded feminine and upscale, elegant. Four years earlier they'd had Sam, who was everything a boy should be, sturdy and friendly and dependable, interested in vehicles and dinosaurs, and devoted to his new baby sister. With a girl, their family was complete. They put her in dresses and pink and bows.

By the time she was two, they gave in to more durable clothes, since everything Chelsea wore was quick to be muddied or torn. She was an active child, as interested in her brother's toy cars as her own stuffed animals.

In the first grade, Chelsea came home with a note from the teacher that she was insisting on being called 'Chester' and refused to respond to her own name. This was the same year she refused to wear anything pink ever again.

The other girls made fun of her, for reasons she couldn't even fathom, so Chelsea tried to play with the boys. They were interested in the same things, but some of them refused to play with her just because she was a girl. She had a doll, named Jessica at her mother's suggestion (Chelsea called her Jessie), and she dragged her around by the arm when she went out to play. One day she saw a group of boys gathered, throwing a pair of shoes tied by the laces at a tree. Chelsea zoomed over on her roller skates, Jessie dangled by one arm, and tried to insinuate herself into their game, but one of the bigger boys grabbed the doll from her and held it out of reach. "You gonna cry? Oh no, what's gonna happen to dolly? She's gonna learn to fly!"

All the boys laughed as he flung the doll upwards at the tree. It struck branches, bounced, and tumbled back to earth. Chelsea stood agape for a moment, then darted in, faster on her skates, to pick the doll up off the ground. The boys continued to laugh at her. Flushed with embarrassment, she looked at the doll in her hands. She didn't hate Jessie, but she carried her around because her mother always told her to take Jessie out with her to play. At night sometimes, she left the doll face-down on the bedroom floor so it wouldn't stare at her. Chelsea wound up with all her might, and let the doll fly. Jessie sailed through the air, hit a branch, paused, dropped to the next, and hung there stuck fast high out of reach in the tree.

Something soared inside her, opened up like the feeling of flying she imagined the doll might have felt. Jessie rounded on the bigger boy, yelling, "You dweeb! You didn't even do it right!" Glowing with triumph, she added the most vindictive comeback she could think of. "You throw like a girl!"

The boys roared with laughter. They were laughing with her. One thumped her shoulder lightly, a boy in her own grade she'd raced at school a few times. The bigger boy who first stole her doll looked sheepish and uneasy, but joined in the laughter too.

She was one of them.

When she blithely told her mother her doll was up a tree, she was horrified. Chelsea just shrugged, and when questioned said some boys had done it, but it was okay. She'd found new friends, and hadn't missed Jessie at all. Instead she'd spent the afternoon, and many to come, racing the other boys with roller skates and on foot, and learned to spit. When the teacher called for Chelsea, she answered, but on the playground she was one of the boys, and that made it all okay.
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Chaz Walters

January 2015

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