Lyssa is ready to move on with her new life where she can be truly herself. She’s been trying new things, and a watercolor class sounds like fun. But when she gets there, no one wants to sit next to her. All the women treat her like an outcast, and Lyssa begins to doubt whether she was really ready for this step after all. But then Cindy sits down beside her, and the women form a quick friendship.
Cindy has always considered herself to be straight, but that line is quickly blurring as she and Lyssa spend more time together. She doesn’t care that Lyssa is trans, or that her own family is less than pleased with her dating a woman. The people who matter most to her are happy for her, and for these two women, making each other happy is more than enough.
I hadn't been ready to go out in public as me. Not yet. Not by a long shot. But I'd pushed myself to do it anyway. I'd bought a new dress. I was wearing cute boots. No heel, of course. I didn't want to be really tall. Just some nice boots that went up to my knees. I'd had to order my calf size online, but they fit which was amazing. I'd never had knee-high boots growing up and now I could get them in every color if I wanted to. Which part of me really did.
My hair was down to my shoulders. It had been a struggle growing it, but now it looked decent. At least I thought so. And I'd picked up some nice inserts to fill out my bra, which was also new. But all the clothes and the lipstick and even the anti-frizz goop that I'd put into my hair couldn't make me feel like I was the same as the women coming in the art class with me.
I'd been looking forward to this class in basic beginner watercolors for weeks. Painting was something I wasn't good at. The class was a place to go out and meet other people and have a good time for a bit. There was even wine. I didn't drink much, but it was there all the same.
In class though, my confidence was starting to crumble. Each sideways glance, every little whisper, each new person who saw the empty seat next to me but decided to squeeze in somewhere else instead... I felt like an outsider, even in this cluster of people who were mostly strangers anyway. A few people had come with their friends. One person brought their daughter. But for the most part, everyone had come in alone. Just like me.
I had smiled at them. I didn't expect people to flock to me, but I didn't think that I would feel quite so alien either. I didn't figure on being gawked at this much, even in small town Arkansas.
I was pretty much ready to grab my bag and leave when a woman with a big, noisy purse and dirty jeans sat down next to me.
"Hey, is this seat taken?" she asked.
I shook my head. "No, it's not." My voice was too quiet. I was never so soft spoken. I was still stuck between going and staying, but class was about to start and this woman was at least willing to share breathing space with me, so maybe it wouldn't be all bad. "Hi. I'm Lyssa." My name was getting easier to say. It should be. I’d practiced saying it out loud hundreds of times by now.
She stuck out her hand and smiled at me. "I'm Cindy."
We shook hands. I made sure to be gentle. Every stereotypical feminine thing was rushing through my head. Be delicate. Smile but don't show teeth. Don't laugh too loudly. Sit up. Keep my knees together. Cross my ankles.
It was all just too much.
"Oh, good. They have donuts for us. I'm going to go get some. Would you like me to bring you back any?"
I was momentarily distracted from my panic. "I like donuts."
"Me too. I'll be right back."
Cindy didn't seem to be troubled by what it meant to be a woman by traditional standards as she shuffled noisily up to the buffet table and started piling her plate high with various donuts.
She came back to our table and took one of the powdered sugar ones for herself. I chose a custard-filled. "Do you come to these art classes often?" I asked her between mouthfuls.
Cindy shook her head and licked her fingers clean as she finished off the first donut and reached for another. Everyone else had taken one donut, if they'd taken any. But I didn't mind. I appreciated that she wasn't worried about what other people thought as she ate as many as she wanted.
"I had some extra time today and the class still had some spots open," Cindy answered. "How about you? Have you tried watercolors before?"
I laughed softly. "Not at all. But...it looked like fun."
The scheduled social time ended, and the artist leading the class handed out materials. We each got a few sheets of watercolor paper, along with a handful of brushes and a palette of watercolors. We were making loose wildflowers, which I hadn't understood the meaning of until she explained that it was just flowers without definite edges and details.
I wasn't bad at it. But I wasn't exactly good either. I wasn't any worse than Cindy, though. She was laughing at herself and working through her mistakes. I tried to take her lead and not stay so focused on my imperfections either.
Her soft laughter and the momentarily touches she gave me as our legs bumped together, as accidental as they were, were distracting. But they made the class a lot more enjoyable than it would have been if I had stayed by myself.
"This was fun," she said as the class finished up. "I'm glad I came."
"Me too." I gathered my things, but I wasn't ready to go back to my quiet apartment and be alone again yet. "Would you like to get some coffee or tea or something? There's a little cafe across the street."
Cindy took out her phone, then frowned. "I would, really, but I've got to go pick up my son. How about another time?"
She looked like she was probably early thirties so her kid was probably kindergarten at most and, I assumed, that she was still very much with his dad. Not that Cindy had given me any indication that she might be interested in a date, but I wasn't willing to discount anything at this point.