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Urban Fantasy Transgender

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

It was the last day of our summer break, and it was expected that the world would end.


“Today is the day, but I don’t know when...“ Anna said, her hand shielding her eyes against the bright, midday sun sparkling off the blue ocean waves. Me and my cousins, Anna and Miguel had been on the beach, playing cards on towels on our last morning, maybe ever.

 A solar eclipse had been forecasted for sometime that afternoon. A rumor had spread widely that this year, in the complete darkness of the total eclipse, natural disasters would engulf the world. And Anna couldn’t wait. 

Every Summer the three sisters drove with their kids to Santa Cruz, from up and down California to visit their mother, the beach, and to squeeze out the last drops of summer before school started up.

But this year was different, even though the family tried to ignore it. My family worshiped tradition, a religion itself, and had certain sacraments we followed. We always stayed at the same rental house, and ate at the same restaurants even though we complained every summer about the soggy bread at the Hoagie shop. But Anna wanted to change everything, refusing to build the sandcastle, or bunk-in with us, requiring her own room this year.

“Well, ” I said, pretty sure the world wouldn't end, eclipse or not, “until then, why don’t we play soccer?” I nodded toward the boys across the beach.


When the boys had walked up, and they were her age mostly, 15 or 16, Anna took one look at them, the ball they held, before she arched her back, stretching her long glistening legs out in front of them. “Heck no. cuando sale el sol por el oeste.” Anna’s deep voice flowed like the murmur of the waves hitting the shore.

Miguel and I both grinned, ‘when the sun rises in the west,’ our Abuela’s favorite expression.


But how could we refuse a pick up soccer game? Miguel and I, both 11, wanted the chance to show our soccer skills, perfected on hours of playing the video game FIFA on the Xbox.

Would everything have been different, the world still the same if we had said no and stayed on our towels? I’ll never know.


“You play like a girl” The boy yelled, as my leg swung, missing the ball entirely, sand flying. I burned inside at the vicious insult to me, small for my age. The pick-up game was not going well. The FIFA skills, we learned, were not transferable to the beach. A boy called Danny, blonde and tall, did whatever he wanted, pushing us around and scoring at will.


I looked over to Miguel, pleading with Anna. Desperate, both hands flew in dramatic gestures, eyes wide. Anna kept shaking her head. Not playing, she just stood in the sand, eyes glued to Danny’s fluid, shirtless movements. 


 She stood still, her long, thin muscular legs in jean shorts, arms akimbo in a Santa Cruz Lifeguard t-shirt which she had cut down and modified, like she had always done, every summer, each article of clothing sewn with patches, logos and now, chopped to show her tight belly. Then, finally she nodded. Miguel and I performed a quick fist bump. Anna was the best athlete I knew, and she would show these boys. Anna glanced over to me and I ran down the sand toward the goal, using my greatest skill, to be a distraction.


Miguel got the soccer ball, passed to Anna, and she took off. Moving along the sand, the ball danced at her feet like a yoyo, her long black hair flew behind her as she dodged the other players, then ran right at Danny. He smiled as he moved toward her, his eyes narrow, a shark smelling blood in the water. She took a quick touch with her foot, running as if free from gravity, then kicked the ball in the air before she launched impossibly around him, her lithe body diving, rubbing past him, she caught up to the ball and with the lightest touch of her bare instep pushed the ball over the line between the two bags defining the reality of the soccer goal. 


She turned to wink at Danny, while Miguel and I swarmed her, joyful screams into the salt filled air.

“Damn, I've never seen a girl play like that.” A boy said.

Danny squinted at Anna, his head back and his arms folded. “I’ve never seen -a girl like that...”


There were many changes that summer. Even though the family tried to keep traditions the same after the divorce, my father had left, so everything felt wrong. And then, when Antonio came this year as Anna, with long hair and breasts, our world flipped over.


My Aunt Juanita had explained many times over the phone to her mother, our Abuela, that Antonio was no longer, and Anna had become who she was meant to be. But to see that familiar face, in eye makeup and long hair felt different. Abuela would have no part of this new member of her family.

“No, M’hijo, no quiero entender. Cuando sale el sol por el oeste.” Abuela just shook her head at this incomprehensible change.


This new Antonio, now Anna, somehow fit inside herself better in women's clothes, many of them she made herself, her fashion ideas let loose into elaborate, form fitting designs.  Looser, more easy going, she still could do anything, everything, better than Miguel and I, from riding her boogie board, to the hula hoop contest we still did, although we were all too old.

Always with the most magical stories, we used to create elaborate plays with Antonio, with pirates and kings, princes, and princesses, in our hideout in a hidden cave of broken cement piers at the corner of the beach.

 But these traditions, Anna flung aside too. She preferred to go off on her own, on shopping trips she said, to the jewelry store, or to the second hand thrift stores. 


My mom took Abuela’s side. She wouldn’t call her by her name, still using Antonio, though Anna wouldn’t answer to it. “Antonio, this is just a phase.”

Tucked in a corner of the back patio, they thought they were alone. But family arguments were a tradition too, and Miguel and I eased down the stairs, crouching near to listen.


“Dress like a boy this weekend, M’hijo. Miguel needs a man in his life, now that his dad left.” Her hand waved at Anna’s outfit, her eyes sideways. “They look up to you, and you’re a bad influence.”

Mom spoke with her sharp voice, slicing deep as if Anna was an infectious disease, a blight on her family she had to cut out before it spread.

“Tia, its not a fucking phase, this is who I am. I need to be myself.” Anna stood on the patio, with shadows stretching out, darkening around her, as if it was night, and not just past noon. Birds flew overhead, leaving the beach, their reality confused by the dimming light. The eclipse had begun.


Anna’s arms wrapped around herself tight, narrow hips jutting out from the baggy shorts like furniture under a sheet. “What is ‘boy’, what is ‘girl’? 

I've been acting like a boy my whole life, but that was just covering up who I really am. This is me! These stupid rules, what to wear, how to act, as if written in stone. By who? Not me, not you.” Anna flung her hair back, her long manicured fingers wiped the tears off her face as she waited for a response from my Mom. At the extended silence, Anna left, down the stairs and out the back gate.


Our family still didn't understand, not seeing this new version of Anna. Miguel and I scrambled out the front door to follow, her lean shape walking fast toward the beach. The sun was gone, darkness fell around us, the ‘totality’ had arrived. The change Anna had been waiting for had happened. Was it enough?



We followed her through the Boardwalk, around clusters of people huddled around solar viewer boxes, or wearing oversized eclipse sunglasses down on the beach away from the streetlights.


Anna met up with someone, a tall boy, though it was too dark to see who. They stood tight together holding hands, and then the boy leaned in close. Anna pushed him away, slapping his face before turning, walking away to get lost in the crowd. 


Miguel looked at me and I nodded back. We knew where she was headed. We walked into the broken cement blocks past the pier. Our cave, striped from the streetlights filtering through from above, provided shelter from the crowds on the beach, and the prying eyes of the aunts and Abuela.

 This corner of the beach collected trash and debris, what was once a beer can, squashed into thin metal moved slowly back and forth as the tide pushed the water around. I shivered as a cold wind blew in from the ocean. Anna didn’t even look up when we entered.


“I had hoped this was it, this world would end and start over.” Anna said. “The Mayans made a prediction.” She threw a rock into the foamy water.

“Didn't we see that movie together?” Miguel said. “It wasn’t any good.”


“I want the world to end.” Anna sat on the sand, hugging her long legs tight against her. I couldn’t see her face.

“What?” I asked, hoping for another story.

“We need to start over.” Her deep voice vibrated off the stone blocks, coming from all around me. “This culture’s broken, people are forced into boxes to behave certain ways. Like the women stay home to cook, while the men go to the bars and drink."


Talking about cooking made me wonder what my mom and my aunts were making for dinner. I couldn’t remember my Dad ever cooking anything except boiled hot dogs.


“In some parts of Mexico,” Anna continued, her voice low, “there’s a third gender, the Muxe. Men who dress as women, and live like that, without being harassed. Allowing their true nature to come out.”

I looked over to Miguel, but he had turned away, his body as still as the rocks around him.


“Are you Muxe?” I whispered.


“No.” Anna frowned at her legs. “I‘m a woman, just born wrong.”


I thought about the girls and boys in my 4th grade class, and how different we all were. Zach, a foot taller and obsessed with the 49er football team, had less in common with me than most of the girls, who I traded drawings with at lunch recess. I had always looked up to Antonio, now Anna, like a hero, only wanting to be with her, to have her see me.

Miguel stiffened, and then stood up, his small shoulders flexed, elbows out. Anna and I stood up too, as the boys from the soccer game peaked around the corner of the cement block, squinting into the darkness.


His light hair glowed a sickly white. “Anna, here you are, why’d you run away?” Danny’s eyes glittered, sparkling electric blue.


“Get out!” Miguel shouted. “This is our hideout.”


“Hideout? What are you some kind of weird pirates?” Danny said, and all the boys laughed.

They walked in. Miguel tried to step in front, but one of the boys threw him against a cement block, hard. Fear locked my limbs, I sat paralyzed while my stomach knotted up.

Anna’s eyes never left Danny. “Don’t hurt my cousin, or-” She said.


“-Or what?” Danny’s head tilted to the side. “You’re just another dumb girl-”


Anna leapt toward Danny, fingernails reaching, stretching toward his face in a blur of uncoiled anger. The other boys grabbed Anna, holding her as she buzzed and kicked out.


 Danny wiped blood off his face, three long red scratches streaked down his cheek.


“What are you going to do, you coward!” Anna screamed, her voice cracking. I could see tears on her face, the mascara running like black shadows.


Danny’s eyes narrowed, his head tilted, a sneer cracked his face. He swung fast, slapping Anna across the cheek. She dove sideways, but the boy had her shirt, ripping it in half, and the pink bra tore open, small bean bags fell out, defining her reality as they escaped to the sand.


Danny’s face twisted in disgust, while the other boys let go in shock.

 “You’re a boy!” His fist leapt out, at Anna, and I screamed, a high pitch siren, echoing in the cement walls. The shock of seeing Anna hit released me. I had sat back too long, letting Anna fight alone when I could help.


I leapt forward into the larger boy, pushing Danny down into the scummy water, small fists flailing into him.


“Get him!” Danny yelled, and then I bolted out onto the dark beach, yells and curses following me. They gave up quickly, but I kept going, pounding out my fear and anger on the sand. Why does everyone hate Anna? I circled back through the crowds on the Boardwalk, the sky lighting back up as the sun slowly moved across the sky.


  I found my family back at the house, huddled around Anna, my mom and aunts touching her, brushing her hair with their fingers, wiping her tears. Abuela’s eyes stayed on Anna, while Anna sat still, her arms folded stiff, elbows sharp.


Abuela moved to Anna and whispered in her ear. Anna’s shoulders released into big sobs, and she squeezed Abuela tight, not letting go.


The eclipse ended, the sun filling the day with light like a new morning, coloring in the lines that had just been pale gray. Facing to the west, we all watched as the sky brightened, starting over again into a new reality. I grabbed Anna’s hand and squeezed it as we both stared at the dawn of a new day.


January 11, 2024 18:18

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20 comments

Michelle Oliver
07:13 Jan 13, 2024

A very difficult topic for many people to write about. Gender identity is a complex issue with a myriad of social, emotional and personal implications for individuals and families. You approached this very gently and with sensitivity. I think telling through the eyes of a child was a good choice. The narrator lacks prejudice and displays natural curiosity without judgement. The metaphor of the eclipse works well. Thanks for sharing

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Marty B
04:44 Jan 14, 2024

Thanks! Gender is a challenging topic as there is a lot of people who have strong opinions.

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Belladona Vulpa
07:36 Feb 11, 2024

Wonderful story telling and great choice a child's perspective. It's true, elders often tend to cling onto traditions without necessarily knowing why, the familiar feels safe to them. However, change is indeed part of life and has many forms, and that's okay. The process of socialisation of a child as it becomes a teenager and then an adult, is quite interesting because they notice problems the adults take for granted. They question the status quo and this is normal to happen. My Spanish is a bit rusty, but in the title you say "Ror el...

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Marty B
05:07 Feb 12, 2024

"I'm glad her family accepted her eventually." I agree! This story had to have an optimistic ending, too hard to write otherwise! Thank for catching the Spanish typo, by the time I saw it in the title it was too late to change. :(

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Michał Przywara
22:01 Jan 17, 2024

An enjoyable story, and like Michelle Oliver said, using a child's POV was a great idea. For the narrator, the broader topic is unknown and uninteresting. All he knows is that Anna's the cool older cousin he wants to spend his time with, and since he knows Anna on a deeply personal level, he can't fathom why others reject her. “worshiped tradition, a religion itself” - too true. We're wired to stick to the safe stuff we know, and there's evolutionary advantages to it, but it can also lead us astray like what happened with the family here. ...

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Marty B
22:37 Jan 17, 2024

'The wisdom of children' to identify what is important and what isnt. Family and tradition is a generally a good path to follow, but not always. thanks!

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Susy G
21:11 Jan 17, 2024

This has some really interesting themes and I enjoyed the metaphor of an eclipse representing a fresh starts and new beginnings. The characters felt well rounded and fleshed out. Well done!

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Marty B
22:37 Jan 17, 2024

'The characters felt well rounded and fleshed out.' Great words of praise from a great writer- thank you!

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Jack Kimball
17:37 Jan 17, 2024

Hey Mary, A story that can't be told enough. "Why does everyone hate Anna?" indeed. For the life of me, I can't figure out why people are mean to each other everywhere I go, starting so often as early as elementary school.

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Marty B
18:53 Jan 17, 2024

That question comes up for me a lot too, where did common courtesy go? My latest theory is we are all too sheltered in our lives, everything is too easy in our modern internet connected world. Especially that we can choose to interact with -only- those who agree with us. And so we forget that life is hard, and when a challenging situation comes up, or someone disagrees with us, we lose our minds! Kindness is a lost art. Thanks, for your kind comments!

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Carrie Regelin
16:16 Jan 17, 2024

Tears at the oil change waiting room.. wow, great work.

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Marty B
17:00 Jan 17, 2024

Thank you for the good words! Hope the oil change went smooth ;) Thanks

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Alexis Araneta
06:28 Jan 17, 2024

Oh my ! What a beautiful way to discuss gender identity. The analogy with an eclipse is just perfect. I think it's not really Anna changing things than everyone else refusing what the real status quo is (that Anna is...well, Anna).

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Marty B
17:02 Jan 17, 2024

Yes, you are right on it, Anna is the bright sun that most of her family refuses to see. Thanks!

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22:06 Jan 15, 2024

Marty this was such an emotional story, and you told it very well. I loved one of your early lines — “My family worshiped tradition, a religion itself, and had certain sacraments we followed. We always stayed at the same rental house, and ate at the same restaurants even though we complained every summer about the soggy bread at the Hoagie shop. But Anna wanted to change everything, refusing to build the sandcastle, or bunk-in with us, requiring her own room this year.“ This reveal so much about the family and their dynamic. They want the fa...

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Marty B
04:27 Jan 16, 2024

I appreciate you pulling those lines out, as you say, the family doesn't want to face change, of any sort. Thanks!

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17:41 Jan 15, 2024

You did a great job with a difficult topic to cover. Really felt for Anna. Loved everything about this it really drew me in. Never heard of Muxe so thank you for educating me!

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Marty B
18:58 Jan 15, 2024

I appreciate your comments. Reedsy is educational! Thanks!

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Trudy Jas
20:40 Jan 11, 2024

Hey Marty, Great story. Gender Identification is still a difficult subject, especially for those close to the individual. Blocking out one identity (like an eclipse) to see another that has been hidden is not easy. Thanks for sharing.

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Marty B
18:18 Jan 12, 2024

Im glad the analogy came through of the eclipse, and hiding an identity. Finally Anna's family saw her light shine! Thanks!

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