Tracey knocked on the door. It was longer than usual before Mrs Stevenson answered, and Tracey could tell at once that she had been crying.
"I have your groceries,"
Tracey said, and made her way inside without asking for permission. She had a hard time defining why she disliked Elaine and preferred Billie. His Evilness that Dwelt in Fire knew that Billie was bat**** insane. Tracey had taken her share of scratches and bruises from the other woman, while Elaine had been nothing but polite.
Yeah, that was it. Billie was a fighter. She wouldn't have sat around crying. Whatever it was that had upset Elaine, if it had happened to Billie, she would have come up with some ridiculous and violent plan for dealing with it.
As Tracey unpacked the groceries, she saw the high-end tea, and realized that there was more to it than that. Elaine was upper class. Old money.
So basically, I'm a bigot. It's not her fault she was born rich.
Tracey sighed, and instead of heading out the door after she finished, she turned to the other woman. "Would you like to talk about it? I'm a good listener?"
Elaine shook her head. "No thank you."
Tracey barked a laugh. "Pock that. I'm a crap listener. But... well..."
she sits down on Elaine's sofa. "I know this will sound crazy, but I kind of know what you're going through."
Elaine stiffened. "I highly doubt that."
"Your body isn't your own. You can't trust it. You want desperately to be something different than what you are, and you'll do anything to hold onto your identity. Sound familiar?"
Tracey saw the moment when Elaine started actually listening to her. "Maybe."
"I was born in the wrong body - a male body. I spent most of my life trying to reconcile what I knew I was inside with what I saw in the mirror. There wasn't another person inside me, like there is you, but I had a secret identity. On the outside, I was a big, bad, butch Marine, trying to be as masculine as possible to keep people from suspecting the truth. And on the inside, I was a woman. I was born in a world where there were no gender bender potions, and even medical treatments for transsexuals were controversial."
"And then you got sucked into the Nexus?"
Elaine asked. It happened to a lot of people, after all.
"Eventually. Not at first. First I was dishonourably discharged for homosexuality. Of course, I wasn't gay. I was a woman attracted to men, but since my body was male, they treated it as homosexuality and I was kicked out. I ended up on the streets. Drugs. Prostitution. Sound familiar?"
Elaine said faintly.
"I was jumped outside a club and beaten. I blacked out and woke up here. For all I know, this is the afterlife. Hell for some, heaven for others. I can't even put into words how I felt when I learned that gender bender potions existed and really worked. I'd have traded my soul for one, but they were being treated here as practical jokes. The merchant I bought mine from sold them in twos, on the assumption you'd drink one for a wild night and reverse it in the morning." Tracey shook her head, with a soft chuckle. "My second one got poured down the drain, of course."
"There isn't a potion I can use,"
Elaine pointed out.
"No, there isn't. But you can't keep fighting your secret identity. It doesn't work."
"I know it's the right thing to do. It's just..."
"You hate her,"
Elaine didn't answer, but they both knew it was true.
"I hated Private First Class Matthew Smith."
Tracey said. "Hated him with a passion. But after I became Tracey Elton for good, and stopped being afraid of turning into him, I realized that I had really loved being a Marine. So here I am."
"So I will make my peace with 'Billie', and discover I have things to learn from her after all. Pardon me, but that seems a little too neatly packaged to represent reality."
Tracey conceded. "Maybe I'm just trying to make it easier for you to do what you already know you have to do."
"Or maybe you just like Billie better than me."
Tracey looked flustered. "I never said that."
"You didn't have to. It wasn't hard to figure out where your sympathies lay."
Elaine said. "As hard as I thought it was for me, it was worse for her. The wonder is that more of you aren't secretly taking her side."
"That would be due to all the bruised ribs and broken noses she handed out,"
Tracey said. "It didn't exactly endear people to her."
"Guess I'm a glutton for punishment."
Tracey said with a grin. "Billie and I have that in common."
About an hour after Tracey left, Elaine opened the notebook that she'd requested with her shopping order.
We've known each other for years, but never spoken...