“Just walk across the street, head bowed, and look serious,” I said, watching Reb through the viewfinder. Snow fell heavily, but there was no wind; the camera and I were protected by an umbrella held over my head by Stan, my assistant.
I got it in one take, Stan said goodnight and left with the umbrella, and Reb and I went to a nearby all-night diner to warm up. They knew us here; we often filmed in the neighborhood. They brought cups of steaming hot coffee to our booth, then left us alone.
“One more shot, and we’re finished?” Reb removed his gloves and wrapped his hands around the cup to warm them.
I nodded. “I’ll edit it this weekend, get it up Monday, as usual.”
Reb Yunger was a YouTube phenomenon with almost five million subscribers. He starred in five-minute videos based on the imaginary life of a homeless kid. His smoky voice and soulful eyes had caught the imagination of viewers, who looked forward to every installment with near manic anticipation. He had fans the world over.
After two years though, this was the last one. The grand finale would blow everyone away, and I had mixed feelings about it.
“You’re sure you want to do this?” I asked for maybe the hundredth time. “Your life will change.”
“It needs to.” He blew on the coffee and sipped, making a face. “Bitter tonight.” Raising his voice, he called to the waitress, “How long has this been sitting around, Beth?”
“Forever, sweet cheeks,” she sassed. “I wouldn’t let anyone else have it. Told them you’d be in, and that’s how you liked it.”
Reb laughed and added cream and sugar, then became serious again. “We’re doing it, Marc. No more discussion. I’ve been looking forward to this day a long time.”
The videos had started as a lark. I’d wanted experience filming and editing, and Reb wanted to explore who he was, so we came up with a loose storyline and had some fun. But after the first year, it started feeling like a job, though the money was better than we’d have made just about anywhere else.
“I need to end it. I’m finally ready to move on.”
I pressed my lips together and stared out the window. Snow was piling up on the sidewalk. “Let’s finish it then and go home. I’m tired.”
We’d arranged with Beth to do the last scene in the men’s room. The diner was nearly empty, given the hour and weather; we wouldn’t be disturbed.
Reb put his gloves back on, and I directed him to walk to the restrooms. He looked natural on camera; tall and thin, he moved with an easy grace that always made my mouth water.
The camera followed him inside the men’s room, and then I stopped recording long enough to set up inside. The room wasn’t very large; I backed as deeply into one corner as I could. Reb stood in front of the sink, looking at himself in the mirror. The closed stall behind him was an innocuous enough background, and the graffiti scrawled on the door added some necessary grit.
I turned the camera back on and made minor adjustments to account for the more intimate space. “Go,” I whispered.
Reb took off his gloves and laid them on the sink. He removed his hat and stuck it in a pocket, then tossed the coat over the stall door.
He paused, and I saw his hands shake. He was scared. I bit my lip to keep from saying anything.
He took hold of the hem of his black T-shirt and pulled it off over his head. I was very familiar with the breast binder he wore, but it would be new to his audience. He’d never once appeared topless in a video. They’d seen him from the back, sure, but that was all.
Reb filled the frame. There were tears in his eyes. I swallowed hard, wishing I could have made this easier on him.
He removed the binder with trembling fingers. Reb’s breasts were small and had pink nipples. I liked them, but he couldn’t wait to get them removed.
He unzipped his jeans and shoved them down to his ankles. The boxers soon followed. He stood in front of the mirror, naked to the world. Turning to the camera, he held out his arms.
“I was born a girl.” Tears slipped down his cheeks. “But I’m a boy.” He crossed his arms, covering his breasts. He shivered. Our eyes met. “Now what?”
I turned off the camera and lowered it. “We make your dream come true.”
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Genre: contemporary YA
Word count: 773