Warning: Implied abuse. Please don’t read this if you think it could be triggering in any way!
Note: Steph identifies as non-binary and uses they/them/their pronouns.
Steph’s the star swimmer at Woodrow High. That’s great and all, but it means the two of us get a lot of unasked for attention. It all started when we met that first day of swim practice– after practice, if you want to be specific. That was before anyone knew that they were a star.
Mam doesn’t get off work until late, Mama can’t drive (legally), and since it was the first day at a new school I hadn’t made any friends yet that could give me rides. I was just wandering around school (since, you know, it’s the first day and all so we don’t have homework) when I heard sobbing. I glanced around, looking for whoever was responsible for the situation. Mama says it’s a good thing that I care so much, but a bad thing that I care so much about seeking vengeance instead of justice. That was when I was four years old, so I was kinda confused until Mam explained it differently– I’m more focused on beating up the bad guy than comforting the damsel in distress. Or dame. Or… damestress? Anyway, there wasn’t anyone around, so I could really do was wait for the person in there to come out. Then maybe I could try to fix things through them. I must’ve looked really defensive since I saw some of the other kids in my grade scutter past. I think there might’ve been some juniors and seniors in their ranks as well.
“Are you okay?” I asked as soon as they crept out. They nodded, but all I saw was the bruises and tear-stained cheeks. I knew better. And I knew those lively stains on pale canvas hadn’t been there in first period freshman English. “You have a ride home?” They shake their head no, and I practically drag them to the main entrance. Turns out I kept Mam waiting for fifteen minutes. Whoops. She was only mad in the instant before she saw Steph. She was convinced that I had played the hero. I was too.
School was dumb. They said that Steph had to swim on the boys’ team since they were on T. Steph’s brother was also a swimmer.
Steph ended up at the apartment more and more often as swim season progressed, until our living room was practically their bedroom. Mama was worried– not that Steph was there, but that I stayed up every night while Steph slept. She always asked what dragon was coming to steal Steph away that I was waiting for. I shook my head. The dragon was already here. It manifested in every nightmare; salivated on Steph’s skin, producing the black-and-blue blooms that never went away; roared until they were shaking with tearless sobs. Like a newborn.
I always gave up my room when Steph needed to change or something. And I always refrained from entering until they had exited. Until the day that Steph called out to me, asking for ibuprofen, Neosporin, anything. I didn’t bring either.
Today the dragon breathed fire. Steph, who had always been willing to help out in the kitchen, now wanted nothing to do with the room and instead ate every meal in the room they slept in. Mam would usually scold me for taking food out of the kitchen, but she said nothing when I joined Steph. The kitchen was too empty without them. No, wait, it was because they needed me. Well that made it obvious. I confess: I had fallen hopelessly in love. The one thing I had vowed I wouldn’t do, since the wildflower rumors started spreading, and I caught whiff that the scent was love.
We walk side-by-side through the darkness surrounding their home. But I’m not the brave knight– I’ve always been scared: of the dark, of broken promises, of Mam or Mama scolding me. I’m scared of being seen as anything but the knight, because that was the role that had been thrust upon me. For the first time, I could look Steph in the eye and say that yes, we had the same fear. That should’ve led to a big sappy romance scene, but this isn’t a soap opera. Not even close. There’s no carefully outlined script, no culminating episode where everyone who’s supposed to make up makes up and everyone who’s supposed to get together gets together. There’s just us.
To whomever reads this: I’m sorry I couldn’t finish the story.
Author’s Note: This story was written for the May 2017 edition of the short story challenge on The Sims Forums for the “for fun” category. This month’s theme was “I’m sorry”, and this phrase had to be used somewhere in the story. A quick note– T is an abbreviation for testosterone, a hormone usually associated with people assigned male at birth (meaning when they were born, male was put on their birth certificate for sex). There’s a variety of reasons why someone might be prescribed testosterone, but the one presented here is to help a transgender person– Steph– feel more comfortable in their body, since it helps develop more “masculine” characteristics and can revert some “feminine” ones.