“Arden! Arden King!” A man with bouncing curly hair skipped some steps down to the street to catch up with a person; who, from an outside point of view, seemed like they were trying to get away from someone, or something. They didn’t turn around and quickly crossed the street and went down an alleyway. The man who tried to get Arden's attention was stuck on the other side of the street, outside of the library they were both let out of, the light had changed and traffic trapped him.
Arden King was listening to the Stay In Bed curated playlist on Spotify. It was midday and it just started to rain, when their phone rang.
“Arden, It’s your mother.”
Arden smiled, “All smartphones have caller ID mom, I saw it was you.”
“I need to know if you’re coming home for Thanksgiving next week. Uncle Mark convinced everyone to give him a redemption year for making the turkey,” Arden's mother ignored the ID fact, as she always addressed her children with “[insert one of four children's names], it’s your mother.”
“Mmm because the second degree burns from the fried turkey fiasco weren’t traumatizing enough for everyone?” Arden asked.
“Apparently not, let me know by this weekend if you’re coming. I’ll make sure one of your brothers doesn’t claim your bed,” and with that, Arden’s mother hung up.
Arden went back to their music, moving their shoulders to the slow retro-soul that was weaved into the playlist. A block away from 14th street they sat on a bench, not paying attention to the wet that collected. Eugene, Oregon was pretty all year round. But Arden’s favorite time of the year was when the leaves had fully turned colors and it rained consistently. They were from Northeastern California, the small town of Alturas, the original home of the Achumawi. Their own ancestral roots were directly to the west, the Tolowa.
Arden has faint memories of the ocean, wind, and sand. Around when Arden turned four the King family moved to Alturas, where their father worked at the US fire dispatch, and mother worked at the local elementary school. Now Arden paid respect to the Kalapuya people, the land they had been on the last three years while they attended the University of Oregon.
And although they had many ties to different parts of the Pacific Northwest, Arden hadn’t felt grounded to any place in particular. They just found themselves drifting most of the time. Wafting from city to city, building to building, major to major. Listening to other people's advice and opinions, eventually landing on the decision that maybe made the most sense to them. Arden was thinking about their tendency of being easily swayed by other people, or not feeling particularly tied to anything when a hand rested on their shoulder.
“Oh Clover,” Arden looked up admiringly, “what brings you to my bench so early?”
Clover, also ignoring the wet, sat down, “I was released from hell early tonight.”
“I thought Sizzle Pie couldn’t get enough of you?”
“I may have charmed Brandon into oblivion tonight, hence why I can join you. But we’ll both get sick if we keep this up.”
The two roommates joined arms and headed towards their apartment. Clover told Arden just how charming she was to her boss, who unadmittling had a crush on her; moreover, this crush creeped Clover out. Brandon wasn’t old but he was a good ten years older than Clover, and the rest of the college-aged women working at the pizza place. They were able to use his inappropriate feelings to their advantage at times.
Clover and Arden were making Penne Alla Vodka in their tiny kitchen as the rain continued to come down, taking turns updating each other about their day: which classes had they skipped, slept through, or ruffled some feathers in. Arden randomly signed up for an intro to Library Science, which explains why they were exiting out of Eugene Public library today.
“And how are the library tours going? And...Noah?” Clover glanced over at Arden as she minced garlic.
Arden’s stance visibly shifted as they heard the questions. “Libraries are surprisingly not all the same. It’s been kind of fun going to different ones around the county and seeing how they operate things. As for Noah, I didn’t really talk to him today.” Clover didn’t quite accept the lack of depth Arden provided for her second question and pressed, “You know I think he is trying to make up…”
“I don’t care what he’s trying to do,” Arden interrupted.
Clover nodded and moved on to shredding parmesan cheese.
The four-and-a-half-hour drive back to Alturas alternated between feeling fast or painfully slow. This time it was the latter. This drive being the first time Arden would be back with their whole family, but now an out non-binary person. They told most of their intermediate family individually and expected everyone else to find out by word of mouth.
Their dad had the hardest time accepting Arden’s new identity and still reverted back to calling them “daddy’s little girl” at times. Bill and Jen didn’t stop trying to have a baby until they had a girl and were ecstatic when Arden was born, their last try to fill a room with dolls, and pink, and bows. When Arden reached age five they refused to wear dresses anymore and ignored any present that resembled a barbie. Bill and Jen thought this was a phase and the fact they had three older brothers. But it wasn’t because Arden didn’t like pink that made them feel different from her brothers, parents, or the other kids at school. They knew that the gender binary didn’t fit how they felt, and they didn’t like trying to be “girl” because that’s how everyone else categorized them their whole life.
Lost in thought Arden unexpectedly pulled up to their childhood home, worrying about their aunts and uncles and what their reaction would be, seemed to speed up the second half of the drive.
Arden grabbed their duffel bag from the back seat and made their way into the house. Thanksgiving was tomorrow and Arden made up an excuse as to why they had to leave so late on the Wednesday before the holiday. Arden saw their home lit up warmly and heard soft music playing as they paused for a breath, there wasn’t much more for them to do but to walk inside.
A chorus of childhood nicknames rushed through the house. Bill, Arden’s oldest brother (named after their dad) grabbed the duffel bag, Remmi wrapped an arm around Arden’s shoulders, and Clay held Arden’s left hand. Arden had always felt nothing but love from their older siblings.
“Yeah, why do we even still celebrate this so-called ~holiday~?” Remmi asked. The conversation reverted back to the previous topic after bombarding Arden with the catching-up questions.
“Nothin wrong eating turkey on a specific Thursday in November, we don’t really need to call it Thanksgiving,” Clay added, while still holding Arden’s hand. Clay’s obvious love language was physical touch. The three older brothers had stayed pretty close to home after going away for college, Arden was the one sibling he didn’t get to see as often.
“I’ve no problem with ignoring this holiday altogether, it’s your DAD’s side of the family that would mind,” Jen said while swirling a glass of red wine from her recliner.
A collective groan came from all the King children.
“It’s like...I love Uncle Mark and everyone...but it feels like they don’t even remember we're Native.” Arden said as they finally pried Clay’s hand away to pour a glass of wine for themself. The others nodded in agreement.
"Well, at the end of the day they are our family," Bill said, the known peacekeeper of the family.
The next day the King family were gathered around the large dining table for the feast, all feeling slightly uncomfortable. Bill, the dad, had one too many glasses of wine while helping his brother Mark prepare the turkey and had started misgendering Arden.
"I'll just leave then if my own father can't respect me." Arden's brothers looked up as they made their way to the door, they hadn't bothered to unpack last night, anticipating something like this happening.
The drive back to Eugene was fast. Arden was furious at her dad, mom, and brothers. For being misgendered in the first place and not having their family stick up for them. But more so disappointed that they couldn't stick up for themself in front of them either.
As Arden made their way into their apartment they heard Clover laughing with another voice that seemed familiar. They knocked on Clover's door and peeped their head in when they saw Noah in bed with Clover.
"What the hell is this??" Arden was shocked but couldn't turn away. The betrayal in their voice almost masked the pain.
"Arden, you're back already? Um this isn't, it's not..." Clover sputtered as threw on a hoodie.
"No. It is exactly as it looks," Noah talks over Clover. Smug in bed next to Arden's best friend. "I purposely slept with Clover in order to get in between you too. Because, Arden, if you won't give me a shot then why not slept with your best friend."
(The ending is rushed, I forgot what time the story was due :( )