"Are you coming tonight?" Sarah asks.
The voice message plays in my mind. Should I go tonight? Probably not.
I really don't want to go to Sarah's Christmas party. Everyone will be there. Family, friends, neighbours, random people she met on the street- they'll all be there tonight.
"Which is why you should go!" Sadie groans, cutting my rant off.
"No, it's why I shouldn't go."
I'm right, of course.
"Wrong, it's why you should. It's a great way for you to come out."
"Come out??" I say incredulous, "Sadie, are you out of your mind?"
"You've been avoiding Sarah for years! Don't you think it's time to tell her?"
Right. Tell her that I'm a girl. Telling my sister that her brother is dead.
"And what on earth am I going to say to her? 'Hey Sarah! I know you don't think you know me, but I'm your sister! Brandon no longer exists!' It sounds stupid just saying it out loud to you!"
"That's because I'm not Sarah," Sadie says, rolling her eyes. "And it's not only her, you and your parents haven't spoken in three years!"
My heart sinks. They kicked me out at seventeen when they caught me in bed with a boy. I told them we weren't even doing anything wrong, we were just chilling.
Sarah was there for the occurrence too. She was home for summer break, and after that, she gave me a room in her apartment. She believed me.
"For a reason, Sadie."
Sadie sighs. "What else can I say to make you go?"
"Nothing," I mutter, "my mind's made up."
I feel horrible for skipping the Christmas party again. For the fourth time this year.
"Not even when I say that they've got three years worth of presents for you?" Sadie says desperately.
I scoff. My parents wouldn't get a present for their daughter they kicked out three years ago.
"Why can't I just meet Sarah some other time?"
"Because that's what you always say."
That's true. I always make plans and cancel them last minute.
"But it's different this time, I'm trans!"
Sadie looks ready to slap me. "For the love of God!"
"God didn't help me when I was on the streets!"
"I'll go with you then," Sadie says, putting on a fake smile. It looks painful. "If it doesn't work out, we'll come home."
"Fine," I say, only because Sadie is terrifying when she's mad and I can't have her ripping up my closet.
"Great!" Sadie says, hopping out of the covers. "Get ready, we leave in five."
"This is the worst idea you've ever had."
I glare at the house I used to call home.
The fairy lights hang around the porch and I can see the silhouettes of the people inside. They clump together like weeds, drinking and laughing.
"C'mon, it's not the worst idea I've ever had. Remember when I put three thousand wasps in that bastard's locker?"
"It wasn't her locker," I remind Sadie. "It was mine."
"Yes, yes. See, my point is, everything will be fine compared to when three thousand bees chased you down the hallway."
"Where'd you even manage to get so many?"
"I found a beehive growing in the walls of my room. Thought it'd be a good idea to get back at that bastard."
"Lucky it went according to plan."
"Sarcasm isn't your tone- look out, Sarah's coming."
"Okay, great!" I hiss. "I'm leaving."
"Not so fa- hey! Sarah! How are you?"
Sadie beams and hugs my sister. "Shall I take the present up?"
"No, I will," Sarah says, smiling. "Oh! You brought a guest!"
I smile weakly. She doesn't even recognize me.
"Hi," I say awkwardly. "I should go. Have fun Sadie!"
Behind Sarah, Sadie points the middle finger at me.
"No, stay, please. You can't be alone at Christmas!"
Deaf to my protests, Sarah drags me inside. Sadie follows suit, and gives me a little smirk.
"Look!" I exclaim, pointing both my middle fingers up. "I have two!"
"You're such an asshole," Sadie says, before marching off towards the kitchen.
"So," Sarah says, turning to me. "What's your name?"
She really doesn't recognize me then. It stings a little, but maybe it's for the better.
"Grace," I say, returning Sarah's smile.
The doorbell rings, and I see my mother heading towards the door.
"No, I'll get it," Sarah says, rushing to the entrance.
"Sarah, honey, you've been getting all the guests. Maybe you should rest a little bit."
"I insist," she says, hand on the doorknob.
I see my childhood friends standing in the doorway, all smiling and wishing Sarah a happy Christmas.
Maybe it's my imagination, but for a second I saw Sarah's smile falter and fade.
As the guests settle in, Sarah turns back to me.
"So, where are you from?"
"Here, actually," I say. "Born and raised."
Sarah raises her eyebrows. "You look a little familiar."
My heart races. I don't know what to say to her, so I just shake my head.
"Maybe you've seen me here and there, it's a pretty small town."
"True, I must've seen you at the coffeehouse at times," she says, and I sigh in relief.
"You know, I expected my brother to turn up," Sarah says, her eyes watering up.
"I'm really sorry," I say, not knowing how to tell her that her brother is here, but isn't really a boy anymore.
"It's alright. I mean, I do get it. My parents judged him way to quickly. They don't want Brandon here, but I still do."
"They don't want him here?" I say, a little too quickly.
"No, I don't think they do. Three years doesn't really change much about how they think. Although I wish it did."
"Brandon will never be welcome here," my father says, appearing out of nowhere.
"Sarah, I thought we talked about this," my mother says, frowning. "He's filth, he'll always be filth."
"How could you?" Sarah cries, tears spilling down her face. "To your own child? At Christmas no less?"
"He's no a child of mine," my mother says, my father nodding.
Sarah bursts into tears and runs out. My mother makes an action to follow her, but my father puts a hand on her shoulder and says, "she'll have to learn that fags will not be allowed in this household."
I turn myself away from the conversation, sickened. I rush out to the back to find Sarah.
"Sarah!" I call out.
I look around for another five minutes before I realize where she is.
We had a treehouse. We used to play in it all the time. It was concealed with leaves, and we used it as our hideout. Not even our parents knew it was there, let alone guests and strangers.
The lightbulb flickers on and Sarah looks at me in shock.
"How did you find me?"
I feel my eyes start to sting and wetness on my cheeks. I watch as she comes to the realization that I've been dreading.