"This story touches on many important and hard topics but it didn’t feel overstuffed. Nina Rossing did an amazing job"
Published: October 31st, 2017
Fifteen-year-old Mick Mullins has a great life: his parents are sweet, his sister is tolerable, and his friendships are solid. But as summer descends on Queens, he prepares to turn his carefree existence upside down by disclosing a secret he has kept long enough. It’s time to work up the courage to reveal that he is not a boy, but a girl—and that her name is Michelle. Having always been the perfect, good boy, Michelle is terrified that the complicated truth will disappoint, hurt, or push away the people closest to her. She can’t continue hiding for much longer, though, because her body is turning into that of a man’s, and she is desperate to stop the development—desperate enough to consider self-medicating with hormones.
Most of all, Michelle fears that Grandpa, who is in a nursing home after a near fatal stroke, won’t survive the shock if he finds out that his favorite grandchild, and the only boy, is a girl. If she kills her beloved Grandpa by leaving Mick behind, she isn’t sure embracing her real identity will be worth the loss.
I spot a cute guy, third one today, by the newsstand. Flicking through the mop of dark, shiny curls with his left hand, he picks a wallet off an old lady with his right one. The mauve purse is small enough to be swallowed by his paws but not large enough to contain a fortune. My grandma had a similar one for her keys and pocket change, only hers was silky black with Asian embroidery. These days, my sister keeps it like a treasure under her pillow. In this guy’s hands, that purse will end up discarded in a trash can.
I follow Thieving Curly down to the subway. I stand close enough on the platform to notice he has a bit of fuzz on his cheeks that partly hides the trail of small red zits on the left side of his face. Despite the facial hair, he comes off as young and sweet. Maybe younger than me, even. The innocence must be part of his trick. If you look like someone’s best and most trustworthy friend, no one will think badly of you. His jeans have factory-made rips, and the red plaid woodcutter’s shirt sports supposedly sun-bleached and worn patches on the elbows. His unassuming outfit is perfect for blending in, perfect for hiding petty crimes against poor old ladies.
Hopping on to the same train, I don’t lose track of Curly as I squeeze past a girl with the kind of hair I wish I had: deep auburn, wavy, and smelling of coconut. Her bangs are retro short, cut high up on her forehead. Large freckles stand in perfect contrast to her thin, nearly invisible red lips and the clear blue eyes. If I looked like her, then maybe Curly, or all the other cute guys, would look at me. Curly could sweep his eyes over me, and appreciation would reveal itself in a twitch of his eyes, a shift in his legs, how he’d put his hands in his pockets and throw me a smile.
I shake off the rosy dream, the stupid but tempting narrative that belongs in one of the romance novels littering my sister’s bedroom, and I sit down next to him. Peering at him from the corner of my eye, I open my backpack and take out my crumpled notepad. I catch him looking at it as I gaze out the window, ignoring my own reflection. It’s me, but never me staring back. Not really.
Quickly, I wrestle a pen out of my pocket and scribble a message on the bottom half of the lined page. After ripping it out, I shove it onto Curly’s lap, and the quick movement startles him enough to make him grab the paper. Let’s hope he’s not illiterate. The message should look clear enough for the thieving little shit. As he reads, his teeth grind like he’s sharpening them.
That old lady, she’s my neighbor. Her son is in jail. She goes to see him once every month. You stole her money so now she can’t go. I suggest you leave the purse on your seat and get off at the next stop. The decent thing, you know?
The train slows, the whirring hum turning into a screech as we approach the next stop. He bounces his knee, up and down, up and down, with my note crumpling in his hand. As soon as the doors glide open, he scoots off his seat and dives out of the train. On the seat, the mauve purse lies, looking pristine and undamaged. His body heat spreads inside my hand as I close my fingers over it and slip it into my backpack.
When the doors shut, he turns to look in my direction. I flip him off and wink at him. Unless he’s slow, my added smirk must tell him he’s been had. Serves him right. Hook, line, and sinker, he bought my piece of crap. I’m good. A regular cop in the making. One day, maybe I’ll be the one to arrest him.
I like him for falling for my trick, but the pickpocketing came so easy to him that he’ll likely pick someone else’s pocket by the time he reaches the daylight again.
I don’t see his reaction to my con. My train is already off to its next stop. I have his loot in my backpack, and I have his curls on my mind.
About the author:
Nina Rossing lives in Norway, where the winters are long and the summers short. Despite the brilliant nature surrounding her, she spends more time in front of her computer, or with a book in her hands, than in the great outdoors (though you may find her out on her mountain bike if the weather is good). She works as a high school teacher, which in her opinion is probably the best job in the world.
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