It was my birthday. My friends carried me down to the beach on their shoulders, laughing and making snarky remarks about my advancing age, which was now twenty. We were all naked; why wear clothes when there were no females around?
They didn’t stop when they hit the water but carried me straight in, sloshing through the tiny whitecaps until they were balls-deep before tossing me in the air. I held my breath at the last second–tough to do, considering how hard I was snorting with merriment–hit hard, submerged, came up sputtering.
Jimmy, my bofriend, shouted “Happy birthday!,” and everyone pounded me on the back before going off to other interests and duties.
I couldn’t help it. Still standing in the ocean up to my knees, I turned to stare at the mainland, which was ten miles away.
Jimmy noticed. “Don’t look,” he said gently.
“But don’t you ever miss it?”
He made an ugly sound. “Miss the name calling and beatings? Miss having ‘sinner’ carved into my skin with a rusty knife?” He still carried the scar of that on his back. “Hell no, I don’t miss it. You’re lucky you avoided the worst of it. By the time you were registered, the violence had calmed down some.”
“Ah, you’re not that much older than me.”
“Ten years, and believe me, that’s a lifetime.” He kicked at a pretty shell on the sand. “I’m glad they shipped me here. I wouldn’t go back for anything.”
Whether he would or wouldn’t made no difference. The law was the law. None of us could go back.
He got me in a mock headlock. “Time for cake, baby,” he said, smiling.
“Are there presents, too?” I asked, grinning back.
“Of course. What’s a birthday without them?”
“I’ll be along soon,” I said. “I want to swim for five minutes. Okay?”
“Sure. You can do whatever you like today. That’s the rule.” He hugged me tightly, kissed my forehead, and left me alone.
I went back to the ocean, but instead of swimming, I treaded water and gazed again at the mainland. Somewhere over there were my mother and sister. I had no idea where Dad was. They’d all been at my sixteenth birthday, though, which had been celebrated at the church. Pretty much everything had been done at the church, and I supposed it hadn’t changed.
In one of the private rooms off the kitchen downstairs, I’d blown out candles while they sang to me. I remembered the terror I’d felt, knowing I would be leaving them within the week. I’d felt that fear every day of my life. Genetic typing at birth hid nothing. We’d always known I wouldn’t be able to stay, but they’d loved me every day I was there.
Jimmy was waiting. I turned away from my past and went to join him.
Genre: SF AU
Word count: 475
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