So I was rambling through twitter as I do most days, and somebody made a post talking about how much they would love to have a queer write-in involving cuddles and pillow forts. On the one hand it made me happy, it’s a lovely thought, and something I’d totally love. On the other, it was sad, since very few queer folk have that sort of local support network to facilitate that sort of thing.
Anyway, I thought it might be super awesome if a bunch of bookish queers wrote their personal bookish fantasies (as long as they are safe for work) and we could maybe put a book together or something. Or not, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.
Long story short, I wrote a short story of a bookish fantasy, to see what people think. Keep in mind it’s a first draft, and also that I am a terrible, terrible author. So here is my first draft (unedited and probably littered with errata) of what I’m temporarily calling SHE.
She had first meets Dalia at work, they click immediately, their shared love of artisanal teas and books providing many an opportunity for conversation. She is Buddhist, Dalia is Muslim, sharing their faith becomes something to bond over. Dalia is non-binary, femme aligned, the only other trans person She has ever met.
Dalia is open about their identity. She hides it, stealth. But She shares with Dalia. She tells Dalia of Her isolation, Her lack of queer friends. Dalia invites Her to a reading group at their house, it seems rude to refuse. Bring an e-reader, says Dalia. She wonders why.
Wednesday shift comes and goes, anxiety building. She hasn’t visited someone’s house since school. She heads home to prepare herself, body and soul. She picks and outfit, skinny jeans, pink converse high tops, a sweater with a beagle on it. Seven cups of coffee to fight the building nerves.
Anxiety takes over, She isn’t going. It’s too much. Her roommate intervenes. You were excited, you have to go. Text me if you need to. She is pushed out of the door, She is happy for the assist.
She takes the bus, number 7, a 20 minute ride to Dalia’s house. She hovers down the road a ways, building the courage. She paces, fighting herself. Courage wins out, She knocks on the door.
Dalia greets Her warmly, a quick hug and a kiss on each cheek. Dalia leads Her through the kitchen, to a room at the back of the house. The others are in here, Dalia says.
The room is dimly lit, scented candles dotted around the room, lavender and winter berries. A machine in the corner projects coloured bubbles, swirling and blending in the ceiling. Soft music plays in the background. Jiang Xiao-Qing’s Breathing Spaces, so Dalia says. The room feels calm; She is anything but.
There are armchairs, bean bags and a 3 seater sofa. Bookshelves line one wall, packed with books, worn out paperbacks and leather bound hardbacks. A large Kandinsky print hangs on another wall, flanked by a smaller Van Gogh and a signed photograph of a popular children’s author.
Dalia introduces the other readers:
Taylor, a blonde haired trans guy sits in one corner on a large bean bag. He is on the chubby side with a handsome face. He sits holding hands with his partner, Troy.
Troy is agender and uses they/them pronouns. He wears a beautifully crocheted kippah, which She admires.. Troy notices and smiles. A gift from my sister, they say.
Kira is gender fluid, presenting female today,
her red skater dress fits like a glove, her fishnet stockings appeal. She uses xi/xyr pronouns.
Raj is a trans man, his dark eyes sparkle in
the candle light. She thinks he is brave to wear a skirt. The colour suits him.
Ivy sits on one end of the sofa, she is pretty, but seems uncomfortable. She says very little, buries herself in her reading.
She is useless with names, but good with faces. They seem friendly, but she still worries.
She is welcomed to the group enthusiastically, verbally, but nobody moves. They look up from their e-readers and smile politely, each introducing themselves in turn.
Dalia offers Her drink, hot chocolate or herbal tea. She takes a hot chocolate, milky with whipped cream. It is delicious. She stirs the cream into Her drink and inhales it’s scent. Cinnamon! The steam fogs Her glasses.
She takes a seat cautiously in a corner, hiding Herself away due to nerves. She pulls Her hood up over Her head, sips Her drink and looks around the room. The others seem comfortable, engrossed in their reading. Their faces lit up by their screens and the sporadic light of candles. She takes Her e-reader from Her satchel. The nearest girl, Ivy – whose name she has shamefully forgotten already – comments how she loves the case. She thanks her, She found it on online. She returns the compliment, I like your dress. Ivy dismisses the comment playfully. She can think of nothing to say so they each return to reading.
The room is cold. It’s winter and the house is old and drafty. She shivers a little. Raj, who sits nearby, asks Kira to pass over a blanket, which xe does. Raj offers Her the blanket. She accepts with a smile. She apologises, his name is forgotten. He reminds Her and She thanks him again. He offers to fetch Her another drink, but She turns it down, She doesn’t wish to impose. They both return to their books.
Sporadic giggling is heard from across the room, ending in a spectacular laugh. Everyone turns to Kira, awaiting an explanation. Kira reads a brief extract for the book xe is reading. They all laugh heartily. Even She laughs although She is reserved about it. Kira insists xe’ll switch books, xe doesn’t want to disturb. The others don’t hold xyr to this, but xe does it anyway.
The readers engross themselves in their books, periodically getting up to use the toilet or refresh their drinks. She gets a text from Her roommate. How is it? She excuses herself to the bathroom. She texts back. It’s a little weird. Weird but nice. Cosy. Have you spoken to anyone? Sort of. What are you doing now?. I’m in the bathroom. Stop texting me and get back in there!
She flushes for appearances sake and leaves the bathroom. She runs into the Dalia, hovering in the kitchen. Dalia asks Her to help out for a moment. Dalia takes a chocolate cake from the fridge, plates and forks from the cupboards. Dalia asks Her to carry it through. Dalia announces to the group that there is cake for those who want it. She assures everyone that it’s gluten free and vegan so everyone can enjoy it. Kira and Raj cheer.
The cake is placed on a side table, and everyone except Taylor takes a slice. The cake is good. Really good. Light and moist and sweet. They eat with smiles on their faces. Kira asks what everyone is reading. The conversation is animated.. Everyone sharing and revelling in their shared passion for literature. She says nothing, just listens to the conversation for a while.
Soon, She is asked what She is reading. She nervously responds, a little embarrassed, a romance novel. Ivy beams, she loves, loves, loves the author. The others ask good questions, but remind Her that She needn’t answer if She feels uncomfortable. Their considerate nature helps her feel calmer. Her confidence builds a little and the discussion continues. She has forgotten all the names but uses the opportunity to learn them anew.
They each have another slice of cake. Troy persuades Taylor to try it – he says it’s pretty good, despite being gluten free and vegan.
Another drinks round is made – camomile teas all round – and everyone settles back into their books. They read for some time, whispered conversations picking up here and there. It becomes clear that the Taylor and Troy are reading the same book. She wants to know more and plucks up the courage to ask them about it. The boys are happy to talk and invite Her to pull up a bean bag, which she does.
They sit, wrapped in blankets quietly talking about the book. As it transpires, She has read something by the author, or maybe She knew her through twitter. The three agree they should try reading another book by the same author together at the next meetup. She is amazed – She absent mindedly agreed to come back. It felt good. Comforting. The offer is extended to the rest of the group. Raj says he will consider it. The others already have lists of things to get through so they won’t if they don’t mind, which of course they don’t.
The Boys return to their reading and She makes a note on Her phone to buy the book when She gets home. She returns to Her seat on the sofa. Dalia sits down between Her and Ivy. Dalia says this is the first time Ivy has been around other people while presenting female. Ivy says she was incredibly nervous about it all, but the others have been super nice. Dalia gets up and says she’ll leave them to it. Ivy moves over to sit next to Her.
She recalls how hard it was for Her when She started questioning and they talk quietly about that. It makes Her feel good and Ivy seems happy. Ivy asks if it would be OK to text Her some time and ask Her some questions. She is nervous, but is happy to be asked. They swap numbers and return to their reading. Each leaning into each other a little, their arms resting against each other. She feels Ivy’s head leaning gently against Her. It makes Her happy.
An hour or so later, a bell starts to chime, signalling the scheduled end to the group. Everyone begins to pack up, the lights go on, the candles are snuffed out and the room is tidied. Everyone helps and the cleaning is finished quickly.
Before everyone leaves, Kira mentions the group chat She is welcome to join. She readily agrees. Raj and Troy offer to add Her as a friend on social media. They hope to see Her next time.
The group shuffle out in clumps. On the way out, Ivy asks if She would be comfortable with a hug. She agrees, and they hug. She is small and smells good. Ivy asks if She will be back next time, and She nods enthusiastically. Ivy wraps her scarf around her head and walks away waving.
She is left with Dalia, who asks how She felt. It was fun, I didn’t know what to expect, but it was really nice. She smiles, glad She made the effort
She leaves feeling good. The whole week She has a warm glow. She joins the group chat, and they laugh about books and queer stuff and silly shows. She texts constantly with Ivy, who is starting to present female in public. They meet during the week for coffee in a bookshop. They share a brief kiss as they part. They will meet again next Wednesday. She lies in Her bed, warmth and happiness swirling through Her body.
Wednesday can’t come fast enough.