Shifting

“How is the shifting?” Carol asked. She asked softly, carefully, as if afraid she might set me off. I hadn’t realized I’d been that temperamental. I guess I could be forgiven for that, but it still hurt to have my best friend act scared of me.

“Harder every day, still,” I said. I looked down at my hand. Female, today, my usual choice for Saturday. I had been considering getting my nails done. I don’t usually bother, since it doesn’t last through the next shift. “It seems degenerative. I’m not sure how much longer it will be until…”

“There must be something you can do, right? I mean -”

“Like what?” I snapped. I immediately bit my tongue and took a breath and a long sip of tea. Damn, I really was on edge. There was an extended silence before I spoke again. “It’s not like they make doctors for this sort of thing. I’m the only one that can do this, at least as best I can tell. Modern medicine is handy for a lot of things, but unique cases are not exactly its strong suit.”

“I know,” Carol said. She laid her hand on top of mine. “I just… I see how much this hurting you. It’s such a part of who you are. It has been for as long as I’ve known you.”

“For my whole adult life,” I said. “I don’t know what I’d do if I… if I had to pick one, you know?”

“Are you really sure you’re the only one? Have you ever tried looking around, maybe? There could be a whole hidden community… I mean, you kept it secret for twenty years, right?”

I turned away and looked at the stream of people walking by the cafe. Maybe she was right. Any one of them could be like me. How could I tell? The idea sent a shiver through me. I wasn’t sure if it was fear or anticipation.

“Only three people on this Earth know,” I said. “About me, I mean. I don’t know how I would even start.”

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