Like the azure sky, like the silver moon, like the small, glimmering stars; everyone has a place in this universe. Everyone can feel welcome, even if it is in some small way. But me...I'm not part of this world. I don't feel right here. My mother used to say to me, when I was little, that every person on this earth was like a little comet; apart from each other, yet drifting in the same sky. But I don't feel like I’m even there; though I have a family- though I have friends- I don't feel right, and I don’t feel like I am who I say to be.
Jacqueline stared at the ceiling of her bedroom. She had been avoiding her family for days now, not wanting to see her older sister or younger brothers. She just felt…off; it wasn't school, or grades, or anything related to the outside world. It was a strange feeling, perhaps a sign of growth? No, it wasn’t. Anyone else would look at her and say, “a bad day- we all have those once in a while.” But it wasn’t just that; it was deeper- stronger- more involved than any other thought or feeling was. Jacqueline had been ignoring it for months- ever since she had started seventh grade, it had been there with flashing lights like a shower of shooting stars. Unlike any other, this small comet was one that had lasted and grown over time, burning a fiery streak through her atmosphere.
She stood up, walking over to the large, circular mirror that she had hung above her desk. Jacqueline looked at the spiral, vine- like designs framing the glass, coated with silver paint, and at the tiny name inscribed on one of the leaves in the corner, saying that it had belonged to her grandmother. When she finally, reluctantly looked at herself, her hand automatically went to her long, chocolate brown hair. She ran her fingers through the locks, staring numbly at her reflection. Dropping her hand and lifting the other one, she wiped the layer of shiny, pink gloss off of her lips, glancing at the rosy stain it left on the sleeve of her white sweatshirt. Lip gloss…long, wavy tresses…it didn’t feel right to her. It almost felt… like she was pretending to be someone who she wasn’t.
"Jackie?" said a soft voice. She turned around and stared at her sister, glancing at the blonde hair tied back in a ponytail. She met the blue eyes that portrayed worry, quickly looking away. "Are you okay? You've been in here for a while."
For a moment, Jacqueline felt like lying. One side of her wanted to say, "I was drawing. You wouldn't believe how long anime hair takes." But the other side disagreed; the other side remembered how much she trusted Kendra, and how much she wanted to get the truth that she had been hiding off of her chest and into the real world.
Kendra was someone who was never prejudice or wounding. She could listen to people for hours on end, helping them sort out the tangled mess of thoughts and emotions that they called their lives. She would be a great therapist after she finished her school; everyone knew that. She was trusting, calm, and always compassionate to those who needed a shoulder to cry on.
But the question: was Jacqueline ready?
Telling Kendra could impact the rest of her life; was she ready for that? Was she ready to face the single, overwhelming asteroid of a thought that had come blazing into her head over the past few months? Was she ready to disclose a truth that she had kept hidden away from everyone, including herself?
"I'm...not." she admitted quietly, sitting back down on her bed, hugging her flower- patterned pillow. Her chest tightened as her sister looked at her, anxious about what she would say, what she would think. "It's not school." she said before Kendra could open her mouth to speak. "It's not Leilani, or Maya, or Aeryn." Jacqueline looked down at her hands. "I just...don't feel right. Like who I am outside doesn't match who I am inside."
Kendra nodded slowly, gazing at her younger sister and taking her hand, eyes full of reassurance as if she understood. "Do you want to tell mom and dad, or should I?"
A few days later, Jacqueline found herself looking into a mirror at the barber shop, wearing clothes not designed for girls, but made for boys. She didn't shed a single tear as her hair was cut short; on the contrary, she felt happier than she had in weeks. She gave Kendra a small smile as her older sister held up her phone for a picture as she stood up from the chair.
"How does it look?" Kendra asked, showing her the picture as they walked out.
"Perfect." she responded, hazel eyes bright with contentment and satisfaction.
Jaden waved as one of his best friends, Maya, ran up to him. She didn’t seem cautious, or nervous, or even sad that he had changed from his previous self.
“Nice hair.” She said, giving something in between a smile and a smirk, offering her hand for a high five. Despite the transformation and everything that had happened in the past few days, Maya seemed like her regular self.
Just like “the ancient times,” or what they called the previous months that she had come over to their house, the two of them sat on the deck and drank ice- cold, raspberry lemonade. They watched their little brothers play in the backyard, laughing as they joked and conversed.
Maya didn’t seem different, which was a reason that Jaden regarded her as such a great friend. In this universe with things constantly changing, he was glad that there was at least one person who hadn’t altered their behavior or thoughts.
In this world, in this sky, his star had finally started to glow among the others. His family had been accepting, and Maya had been happy that he had become who he really was. Maybe, just maybe, things would be fine again in this world- in this universe, in which he had finally found his place.