“Are you sure we made the right choice?” Mark questions as he lifts his oar out of the lake, rotates forward, and submerges it again.
I snarl at Mark upset he would dare question me after all we’ve been through together. “I don’t know, Mark, you tell me. What do you think?”
“I’m not sure. Well, you got what you desired, but being beautiful isn’t everything. I mean, is that what this was all about? How do you feel?”
“Mark, you know what this was about. My transition was never about beauty. It had everything to do with how we felt inside our entire lives. The true me is out, more so than ever before in my life. There’s nothing that can destroy the happiness we deserve, not Mom, not Dad, and certainly not you! It’s a shame you’ve forgotten what we’ve been through. After years of taking hormones and all those lonely nights crying- to arrive here in this place and receive such a wonderful blessing. The long, difficult journey is over,” I reply as tears gush from my eyes. The pain in his heart is obvious and I sense writhing pain coursing through his veins.
“I remember the foolish dreams I had when I was younger. The nightmares and fear something was wrong with me. Assured by many, including our parents, that there was something wrong with me. I’m you from that horrible time period. The you one hundred pounds ago before all this started, still unsure of what I will do or what I could do. I see you and can’t believe I could look like this one day if I choose. What if there isn’t a magic potion for me? It seems to come easy for you,” he replies as he places the oar up on the boat for a break.
I do the same and welcome the time away from rowing this damn boat. We’re making headway towards the other side of the lake. I wish for similar progress in our discussion but we reached an impasse. I tear off my coat and place it in my lap. The sweaty rowing and the difference in weather has changed for the better. This weather reminds me of an early autumn day in the northeast. Perhaps today will be a remarkable day.
The vessel drifts towards the opposite side of the lake as I gaze at ripples on the surface, made from my oar, as they move away from the boat until the lake calms. I draw a deep breath and return to the conversation.
“We were always beautiful. We just had to believe it. You need to believe it.”
“I don’t think that way. I’m like an overweight slob without any hope. Just some bearded guy who wished he’d be a woman someday, what an ass I’ve been. I’m so ugly.”
“I understand, but you are beautiful, Mark,” I encourage.
“It’s easy for you to say, Raquel… I mean look at you!” He grunts.
“Would you have drank that potion if you had the chance?” I ask.
Mark smirks and lifts his chin towards the sky. “In a flash! I hate you, girl.”
We explode into hilarity and the echoes of laughter, bounce around the air for a moment and stretch out for miles. I grip my oar with restored energy and courage. I thrust it into the water and row faster than I had the entire length of the lake. Mark displays that competitive spirt we share and does the same. It’s incredible what laughter can do. The small row boat treads the water as if it has a motor.
As we border the bank, I hear rumbling noises that sound like a pack of wolves. It was a deep resonant tone. Whatever it was, it sounded vicious!
“What now?” Mark says.
“What’s that racket?” I question not expecting a response.
“I don’t know but I’m not stopping. Whatever it is, it must deal with us!” Mark insists.
A snarl calls out again only this time it’s in multiples. I presume that our laughter has alerted these animals to our presence.
“You mean whatever they are will have to deal with us,” I say, acting like a complete smartass, but also confirming heard the same thing.
“You noticed that too, I guess,” quivers Mark. He clutches his paddle and draws it up towards his torso.
“Um-yeah, I don’t know if that will help, Mark.”
I glance towards the shore and see nothing but green meadows and azure skies. Hills cover the landscape, and some are taller than the eye can see. Orange, crimson, blue, golden, and lavender flowers smear the hill tops. It’s like I’m trapped in an exquisite painting. On the lowest hill, furthest from the shore, more than a few black specks appear.
From this distance it’s difficult to figure out what I’m seeing. As we draw nearer, I realize the black dots have long furry legs, similar to ostriches. They roar in harmony and pace back and forth around the cliffs. Perhaps they’re hostile or even worse hungry. As the hissing and snarling continues, even more black spots with more legs emerge. Perhaps they cry out to each other. Well, there’s only two of us, they can just cut that crap out right now.
Within moments the curious animals smother the top of the hills pacing faster than before. The lovely flowers on top of the hill disappear into a sea of black as these creatures keep multiplying. I’m sure we’re in serious trouble and I my hands tremble.
We reach the shore and neither Mark nor I plan on moving. The black spots charge towards us and I gawk at Mark and say, “I’m not getting out of this boat, under any circumstances.”
“This is the worst,” Mark whispers.
We become surrounded with howling and hisses from mysterious creatures. That’s when I notice the black spots drift off the hill and go soaring. These bastards have wings?
“No, that’s the worst!” I reply as we brace ourselves.
“Are you sure nothing can destroy your happiness?” Mark grins and I’m not impressed by his poorly timed sarcasm.
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