Boone was a town Kaylee knew all too well. Nestled up in the Appalachian Mountains, it was one of those towns that hung out of the fence between big and small. It was certainly bigger than Todd, the little community ten miles away where she grew up. When she was little, they had to drive into Boone every day to do just about anything. Todd was nothing but houses and farmland. Out there you either found a way into town or found ways to entertain yourself. She spent her alone time back then dreaming about living in the big city as a girl, both of which seemed impossible at the time. Kaylee always said she’d take the smell of car exhaust over cow shit any day.
The mountains were normally a few degrees cooler than where she lived, and the incoming clouds made it feel even cooler. She’d come in shorts and a tank top, and even though it was still warm outside, she found herself wishing she’d at least worn jeans. She and Roxy were standing together on the side of the road in a small patch of grass. Behind them stood a three story brick building with tall windows and a two row parking lot.
Inside this tiny office building was the office of Bob Felk, the local house representative to the General Assembly in Raleigh. It was late Sunday afternoon, meaning the representative certainly wasn’t there. Still, a sizable protest had formed out in front of the building. Kaylee estimated at least 50 people lining the side of the road. They held up signs calling for support of transgender rights and for Felk to not be so backwards thinking. After last night, it did her good to be around so many supportive people.
But that didn’t keep her from thinking about it.
“So, you gonna talk to me about it or just keep staring off into space?” Roxy asked. She was in a pink t-shirt and acid-wash jeans, holding up a sign reading, ‘WE NEED TO PEE SO YOU CAN PISS OFF’. The people all around them were chanting, “trans rights now!”, let by Risha who stood with Lauren several feet away.
“Sorry,” Kaylee said.
“I just know you wanna get it off your chest so go on,” Roxy continued. “I’m all ears.”
Kaylee had explained things to Risha on the ride up. And while Risha was fine to confide in, Roxy could connect with her on a deeper level with this stuff. “How much do you know already?”
“That it involves what’s-his-face…”
“Brandon, thank you. That it involves Brandon and it’s not good. I take it he finally found out.”
“I told him.”
“Well, I’m glad he didn’t hurt you or anything.” A blue Ford truck rolled by and the protesters waved their signs.
“He actually seemed really cool with it until…well…”
Roxy raised an eyebrow and cocked her head to the side. “Lord Jesus, girl. Were you about to fuck him?”
Kaylee sheepishly nodded.
“You just met him!”
“So, you know nothing about him! I know you’re bummed right now, but you made the whole thing as dangerous as possible!”
Kaylee took a step back and raised her hands. “I wasn’t going to be stupid about it. I had a condom for him.” She knew that wasn’t what Roxy was talking about, but it was the only defense she had.
“You can’t fuck a guy you only met like three days ago.”
“Women do it all the time.”
Roxy let one hand fall away from her sign. It swung at her side. “Cis women do it all the time, honey. Cis women get to fuck mysterious strangers because said stranger doesn’t need to be briefed on what genitalia is going to be involved; their likely assumption is already correct.”
Kaylee was feeling a little attacked. “This is a pretty prudish stance coming from a cam girl.”
“I don’t fuck the people watching me, Kaylee,” she retorted. “There are many miles between us, sometimes oceans. Plus, they come to me looking for a girl with a cock. Everyone who watches me is either into that shit or lying to themselves.”
Kaylee hung her head and sighed. Roxy put a hand on her shoulder.
“I don’t mean to be harsh. I just don’t want your cis-passing looks to blind you from reality. You’re still trans. You still need to take precautions just like the rest of us.”
“I at least told him from the other side of a locked door in case he freaked out.”
“Not a bad idea,” Roxy admitted. “I might have to suggest that to friends in the future.”
Kaylee rocked back and forth on her feet. More cars drove by, some of them honked horns and cheered out their windows. One guy slowed down and yelled “faggots!” out the window before speeding off. “He was shocked, but it seemed like he was fine with it. He even started hitting on me again.” She looked down and let out a long exhale. “Then he got a look at me with my jeans off and…” Kaylee leaned in whispered. “He couldn’t get hard.”
“It’s not funny!” Kaylee insisted.
“I’m sorry,” Roxy said, trying in vain to stop smiling. “I know it’s not funny. It’s just…nature’s lie detector strikes again.”
“Well, it’s not so humorous when, ‘I find you attractive’ is the lie being exposed.”
“Now, that’s just a blatant lie,” Roxy insisted. “If he was eager to fuck you right up to the big reveal, your hotness had nothing to do with it.”
Kaylee smiled. “Thank you.”
“Don’t sweat it, hon,” Roxy said as she held up her sign again. “Besides, he doesn’t know what he turned away. Girl dick is the holy grail of sex.”
“It’s the damn truth! Girls with cocks are the thing men want but won’t say they want. If it weren’t true, I’d be out of a job.”
Kaylee was smiling now, and she had Roxy to thank for it. “You’re the best.”
“So, are you good now?” Roxy asked. “Think you can maybe get your head in the game and join us in this demonstration?”
“I still think we’re going to be fine,” Kaylee insisted. “It’s one rep overreacting to something in the news. Not like we haven’t seen that come and go a million times.”
Another car went by. Roxy waved her sign up in the air as it passed. “I hope you’re right, hon. I really do. I just…don’t wanna go through that HB2 shit again. It was way harder on me than it was you.”
“Roxy! Kaylee!” Risha shouted. She and Lauren were hastily moving through the crowd. Lauren had her iPhone in her hand. Noticing the panic in their faces, Roxy and Kaylee moved to meet them halfway. Kaylee recognized the sign Risha gave to Lauren; it was the sign for ‘show’, followed by a point to them.
“What’s up?” Roxy asked.
“What do you want her to show us?” Kaylee asked.
Lauren handed her phone to Kaylee. It had her Twitter feed pulled up. On screen was a Tweet from Donald Green, another state representative. “I fully stand behind Representative Felk. This nonsense has gone on too long,” Kaylee read aloud. “I’m cosponsoring his bill to end this sick social experiment once and for all.”
“Piece of shit,” Roxy said through gritted teeth.
Lauren signed to Risha, who nodded along. “Lauren said she’s already seen two other Republican reps post the same thing. This shit’s picking up speed.”
“Do we even know what’s in the bill yet?” Kaylee asked. She’d been trying to ignore her growing worry over the situation, but the dominoes were falling too fast to ignore now. “Is there a text made public?”
Risha shook her head. “That’s the really fucked up thing. These people be backing him up without knowing what he doing. They all like, he fucking up the trans people, so cool by me!” She was getting more angry with each word. Kaylee could see her hands shaking.
“The guy in Taylorsville wasn’t trans!” Kaylee exclaimed. She wanted to sound as angry as Risha did, but her emotions were more focused on fear. “He wasn’t even dressed like a woman! This has nothing to do with us!”
“But they’re more than eager to make it about us,” Roxy replied.
A roaring engine drowned out the conversation. All eyes turned to the road as an old Chevy pickup on tires easily four feet tall came rolling down the road. It had a cherry-red color scheme, a cracked windshield, and a Confederate flag plate on the front; a fitting accessory to the giant flag flying from a pole affixed to the bed. The passenger window was down and Kaylee saw a recognizable face lean out. Her stomach dropped as the skinny man with buzzed brown hair cupped his hands over his mouth.
“Goddamn faggots, go home!” the man shouted in with a thick, southern accent. A plume of black smoke billowed from the tail pipe as they sped on with a loud roar.
“Asshole!” Risha shouted, though they wouldn’t have heard her over the exhaust humming if she were right next to the truck.
Kaylee could feel her face getting hot as she watched the truck. The flag in the bed flapped wildly in the air as the truck turned the corner and pulled into a shopping center 2 blocks down the road.
“Kaylee, you okay?” Roxy asked.
Kaylee didn’t answer, instead storming off down the sidewalk towards the shopping center.
“Whoa, whoa girl!” Risha said as she gave chace. “Where you going?”
“To have a little chat with him.”
“Honey, leave it alone,” Risha pleaded. “It ain’t worth getting killed over.”
“That guy’s not going to kill me.”
“How are you so sure?” Roxy asked as she caught up.
Kaylee stopped and spun around. The shock and confusion on their faces told her just how angry she looked. “Because, he’s my worthless brother.”
She didn’t have a hard time finding the truck when she got to the parking lot. If the flag and big tires hadn’t given it away, the blaring country music would have led her right to it. Her brother was standing next to the driver side. Another guy was with him, a large man with no hair and a long, thin beard. He wore dirty overalls and a green, flannel button-up. Her brother was in a white t-shirt covered in mud stains that complimented the ones on his jeans. They both wore cowboy boots. He recognized her long before she arrived.
“Well, fuck me! If it isn’t my gay-ass brother!” He stretched his arms out as though looking for a hug, but the smile on his face was born of mockery, not family love.
“Still a white trash piece of shit, aren’t you, Dustin?” she said sternly.
“You say that girl’s ya brother?” the other guy asked in confusion.
“Shit, Mike, that ain’t no woman. Not a real one, no how.”
“Could’a fooled me,” he said softly, not really to anyone.
Kaylee stopped a good ten feet away. Not wanting to let anger make her stupid, she kept herself well out of arm’s reach of either of them. Most of her memories with Dustin involved her getting injured in some way, and she’d learned not to get too close. “Still yelling out the window at people like a highschool boy? Aren’t you ever going to grow up?” Risha, Roxy, and Lauren caught up and stood at her side.
“These ya faggot friends here to back you up?” Dustin asked with a wave of his finger.
“They boys too?” Mike asked with what seemed like genuine curiosity.
“That one for sure,” he replied, pointing at Roxy. “Don’t know ‘bout the other blonde and the colored.”
“Aren’t you classy?” Risha asked with palpable sarcasm. She was great in tense situations. Kaylee knew she wanted to pop her brother in the jaw for that comment, but she had too much self control. Kaylee was surprised it didn’t turn out worse than it did. Dustin rarely used the N word around black people, but used it liberally in their absence. She was surprised he hadn’t said it now.
Dustin spread his arms with in a display of dominance. He turned his head and spat a stream of tobacco juice on the pavement. “So, you come over here to teach me a lesson or something?” he asked with a laugh. “You couldn’t beat me when you were a boy so you sure as shit ain’t gonna now.”
Kaylee hadn’t stormed down the road with any endgame in mind. She was protesting in front of the office of a lawmaker who wasn’t even there. She was watching as more lawmakers backed him up from the safety of their Twitter accounts. Dustin was at least a face in front of her to sound off on. As she contemplated her next move, Risha put a hand on her shoulder.
“Come on, honey,” Risha said, “just let it go.”
She didn’t want to. She wanted to keep yelling, to scream, to throw a punch. But she knew she shouldn’t. With a final glare at her brother, she turned and walked away with her friends.
“I’ll tell mom her middle boy says hi!” Dustin yelled with a laugh, obviously using awkward phrasing to throw in a male-identifier.
“Well, you still live with her, so I assume that won’t be hard,” she replied without turning around.
“Is your whole family like that?” Roxy asked.
“Everyone else ranges from worse to not much better,” Kaylee answered. She could hear Dustin and Chris laughing behind them, but they were too far away to hear any words exchanged. It was probably for the best that she couldn’t. “Can we please go back home?” she asked. “This town is nothing but bad memories for me.”
“No problem,” Risha answered. “We’ll get something to eat along the way.”