The following is a short story from my upcoming psychological thriller anthology, “Hallucinatory Tribulation.” The full book will be published on October 30th, 2019 ©️ All Rights Reserved. I will be posting one full short every Saturday until the book is published. Please comment with your thoughts or share if you enjoy the story. (You can also read on Wattpad.)
It was the fifth time that day he had spoken the same lie and it was barely even two o’clock. The man had taken a late lunch in order to spend time with his family before seeing them off for their trip. His daughter had won the county’s spelling bee and therefore had been invited to compete at the state level which was a six hour drive from where they lived. The plan was to leave the day prior and spend the night rather than be exhausted the day of the event.
“I wish you could go with us,” the little girl of ten years smiled at her dad.
“I know,” he sighed, taking the last step off the stairs and setting the suitcase down at the door, “But I have too much to get caught up on. Don’t worry,” he turned to the child, “You’ll do great.”
“Of course she will,” her mother agreed, softly caressing the girl’s hair, “Are you sure you’re alright, dear? You seem preoccupied.”
“It’s just work on my mind,” her husband altered his usual fib, “You two go on before it gets too late.”
“Alright,” she continued to smile, turning to look down at her daughter, “Go on and take your bag to the car. I’ll be there in just a sec.”
The girl swiftly obeyed, but not before sprinting over to her father and stealing a hug whilst sticking one of her favorite bows in his hair. It was a tradition they had observed since she could talk. She’d wear one of the bows in the set and he’d hold onto the other, the pair connecting the two while they were separated. The man readily reciprocated the embrace until his gaze caught on his wife…then his motions became rigid and awkward, prompting him to quickly rise and send the child on her way. Once the front door had closed gently behind, the woman approached her husband, pecking him on his cheek though her touch held no warmth.
“I’m proud of you for resisting these urges of yours,” she offered a supportive yet weak smile.
He gave an equally small grin and nodded, wishing her well on the trip while keeping with his reserved and proper demeanor. Stepping outside, he watched as the two loaded into the vehicle, his daughter hanging out of the window and waving excitedly as her mom pulled out of the drive and carried on down the road.
He stood there, eyes fixed on the sedan until it had turned the final edge of the block, putting it out of his view. His gaze lingered on the spot a moment before scanning the rest of the neighborhood. There was a lady from a few houses down on her typical jog before work, someone across the street was mowing the lawn, and the thrilled laughter of a group of kids could be heard in the distance. It was a normal day. Everything was normal. He could be normal too…
With a heavy breath, the man twisted around and returned indoors. He should probably head back to work. Fill out all those papers and sort them into their appropriate files. So tedious and yet necessary. A lot of things about life were that way, weren’t they? Little things you really didn’t want to do, but knew you had to to keep things running smoothly? Casual conversation about topics you had no care for in order to make it all look the way it was supposed to…wearing the right clothes, acting the right way… Just keep everyone around you happy, give them what they want. Maybe eventually it would make you happy too.
Clomping up the stairs, he decided he would return to the office. He could use any sort of distraction he could get to keep him from these…urges, as his wife so lovingly put it. He remembered the day they met, the day he’d found out he was a father. They were the happiest of his life, moments he wouldn’t trade for anything. But he wondered…
Was being who he was actually turning his back on his family like she said?
Part of him had always known this was who he was. Something in the deepest, most forbidden realms of his soul, he knew this was his true identity, what he wanted to be. Somewhere along the line, his conscious had become aware of it. He had been afraid to acknowledge it at first, but in the end, he had no choice. These interests, these desires, would not stop nagging at him, tugging at his brain and at his heart.
And he gave in.
It felt so perfect. Liberating. It was as if everything was suddenly right and he understood exactly who he was meant to be. No more questions. No more wondering why he felt incomplete, despite having an excellent career, an amazing home, a precious daughter, and a beautiful wife…
A beautiful wife.
He had been frightened to tell her of course, but he didn’t want to keep anything from her. They had always shared everything, been there through all types of struggle. Besides, why wouldn’t she understand? Why wouldn’t she support him? The woman he had loved in sickness and in health, who he had known for years and years. He loved her so much. That had never changed and it never would. And she loved him too…didn’t she?
Of course she did. She would have never stayed with him if she didn’t. She’d been there when he’d lost his scholarship and had to work in various fast food chains because one by one they’d all let him go, either for tiring on the job as he tried to work multiple shifts at different stores to afford to finish college, or because his position had been rendered obsolete due to technological improvements. She had been with him during bankruptcy, miscarriage, his parents’ death, and a car crash that nearly claimed his life. So this…this…indiscretion, this disgusting urge must truly be evil if she pushed him away for it like this.
So he listened to her. He forced the thoughts back, he denied the wishes, he ignored the pain, and he hid the tears. He wouldn’t lose the most important things in the world, his wife and daughter, for something he had lived without for so long, and lived happily too…mostly. Not when she hated this previously hidden part of him that had lurked within. Surely it had only shown itself to create another hurdle for them to get through, another test of their love and commitment.
The man took a seat on the mattress in the little girl’s room and let his eyes wander over the toys neatly stowed away on their shelves and in their boxes. He smiled fondly thinking about the little one. It was for them, if nothing else, that he would refrain from his impulses. He could never hurt his daughter. He wouldn’t. He refused.
“You can’t do this. Think of your daughter! She needs her father around,” he remembered his wife crying.
He had never wanted to keep secrets from her so once he realized what was going on inside him, he had told her the truth. At first she thought he was joking…playing some sort of twisted game. Then he proved it to her with the most sincere confession he could, showing himself in his truest form.
And she couldn’t even look at him. A deviant…a freak, she had called the man she claimed to love. He had asked, had begged to know why it was so wrong, why it changed their relationship. It had hurt, more than any physical wound could have. Her reaction was so powerful that he too, broke and sobbed, but that seemed to do nothing but anger her further. She had stormed off, leaving him in a confused pit of despair.
If she couldn’t accept the discovery he had made about himself, then there was nobody else who could. He was absolutely alone. Sure, he went through the motions, did what he always had, but underneath it all, everything had changed. No matter how hard he tried, nothing between him and the people he loved would revert. Even around strangers, friends, and coworkers, he constantly felt different, like at any moment, he would be shown for the hideous criminal he was. He thought it would pass yet every day, it got worse until it was at this point where he was a shell of the person he once was.
His wife praised him for staying strong, but she was a liar. In every instance, at every turn, she saw the beast he had revealed to her. He had fallen from her grace and would never return. But he had to keep going…he wouldn’t let this take his little girl away too. At least his baby didn’t know. He had to keep it that way. Losing her would be beyond unbearable.
The man had made it to his own room, staring absentmindedly into the closet. It was right there, the thing that would fill this void…the simple item that would make him feel complete and happy with who he was… Why did he have to sacrifice his family in order to have it? To do it? Why couldn’t he have both? He wasn’t really hurting anyone, was he? He had never laid his hand on his wife or daughter…and it made him feel at peace.
He reached a hand out.
It felt so natural…
“I KNEW IT!” the screeching voice came from the doorway.
The husband jerked around to lay sight on the woman who had somehow managed to journey through the house silently while he was lost in contemplation. Staggering in his spot, his eyes glanced down to see he had actually picked up his forbidden fruit. Looking back up to his wife, his lips quivered as he pointed the tip in his hand toward her.
“I-” he stuttered, afraid of what she would do, who she would tell now that she knew he had slipped.
How did he stop it now?
The woman took an angry pace forward, well aware that he could never physically harm her. Fear and panic overtaking the man, he dropped his desire and backpedaled nervously, falling against the wall. However, his wife did not stop. Jolting forward, she leaned down and quickly retrieved what he had lost.
“You fucking BASTARD!” she screamed, lifting the piece above his head and throwing it down forcefully upon him, “You little bitch! What’s wrong with you? Where did the man I love go?!?”
She continued to hit him over and over, refusing to utilize the item’s true purpose and instead resorting to a more brutal use. Even as she beat him until he crumbled to the floor, cowering in the corner with tears and blood soaking his face, he simply let her. He’d never raise a fist or even his voice at her, not at his worst and not at hers either. He loved her…he loved her so fucking much…
With each blow, he cried louder and louder. There was no point in quieting himself. Not anymore. It was over now. No turning back. She knew it too. As his sobs turned into a wail, her screams turned into cries. Finally, she stopped the attack. She had silenced the beast that threatened to unravel her world, unleashing havoc and destruction to those around him, most importantly herself and her little girl.
Stepping cautiously away from his crushed form, she shook her head. It was enough. Tragic how it ended, but the man she had created a life with, who she had lived for, had been long gone. She dropped the heel from her hand, seeing that his weak eyes slowly followed the shoe as it thudded to the ground. She remembered when he had told her, how he had shown her a picture of himself wearing one of her larger dresses and a pair of high heeled boots that he must have acquired on his own. He looked so proud in the photo. How could he? She had not married a twink, a sissy.
Why had he kept this from her for so long? How come he hadn’t told her before she fell in love? This sort of thing was fine for other people to do, she didn’t care that people changed genders. But to pretend? To trick her into this life only to throw it away? It was just cruel. She didn’t believe that such self-discoveries came to a person in their forties. Wasn’t that what teenage years were for? Nobody realized such core details about their personality so far along in life…did they?
Chest heaving in anger and effort, her gaze caught on the tiny bow still in his hair. She should have kept the girl from unintentionally encouraging him like that. Stomping forward, she ripped the clip out, crumpling it in her hand before shoving it into the tiny pocket on her dress.
“Don’t be here when we get back,” she breathed, removing herself from his side and taking paces to the doorway.
“I love you,” he whispered, “I’m so sorry. Please forgive me.”
The woman dropped her jaw, hesitating to speak, but finally deciding not to as she strolled out, her boots clicking down the hall and the stairs, making her way out the car where she showed a steeled expression to her daughter. She couldn’t know.
Upstairs, the woman trapped in male skin rubbed her sleeve against her face, staining it red with salt. Without the courage to stand again, she slowly inched across the floor, hands creeping toward the red leather heel that had caused her so much agony. Carefully picking it up, the strength of her cries renewed and she found herself curled up on the carpet, hugging the shoe and deciding that she would indeed trade the clothing for something more befitting a man. There was no wait time on shotguns. Honoring the wishes of the woman she had loved through the guise of a man, she wouldn’t be there when they came back…
~Sahreth ‘Baphy’ Bowden