The Au Pair
Ken closed and locked the door of the airplane toilet.
For the first time in his young life, Ken was completely free. He had broken free of society and its arbitrary laws. It was exhilarating and terrifying and he closed his eyes and breathed in deep to savor the moment. Letting his mind wander, he could imagine his body outside, floating alongside the plane - watching the English countryside slip away over the horizon. "Let it go," he thought, "I don't care to ever see it again." He looked ahead across the blissfully smooth sea. He felt suspended.
Ken let his breath out slowly and opened his eyes to the reflection in the mirror. The image was impossible for him to interpret objectively. He had worked so hard, like an artist laboriously touching up his masterpiece. Had he lost the concept of the whole in the details? But no, the image before him, once he could tear his eyes away from the imperfections, was undeniably female, even beautiful after a fashion. It was this feminine image which was responsible for a deep subconscious confusion. He had been moving down a dead-end, and now, in the process of changing direction, he found himself lost - uncertain and confused about his new identity. The WC was now occupied, but by whom?
Ken reached into his handbag and pulled out a passport. Holding it up he compared it to the image in the mirror. The likeness was very close - a week of study and experimentation, correcting details, shading, highlighting, and now even a harsh fluorescent light could not reveal his true identity. Intellectually, he knew that no one would question the passport holder - he had passed the test twice already. But the most difficult test was ahead of him, and, if he allowed himself to dwell on it, he had to admit that he was terrified.
Ken looked at the passport again. It was not his. Paradoxically, it was both his means of escape and his link to his past for it properly belonged to his younger sister, Kathy. As brother and sister, they looked strikingly similar - until puberty they had often been mistaken for one another. All that was required was a few subtle adjustments using makeup, a new style for his long hair, blonde highlights, earrings, and the transformation was complete.
His face was naturally narrow making his eyes look large and expressive. As a man, people would say that he was gaunt and awkward, with spindly arms, sallow cheeks, and thin legs that made him look taller than he really was. Upon further study, one might notice that Ken was uncomfortable in public, with tentative and uncertain body movements that made him timid and awkward.
But this gaunt and spindly frame turned out to be the perfect template for creating a svelte female form. Padding and cinching could be used to emphasize feminine curves, but, except for the bosom, none was really necessary. When completely dressed, not a trace of the typical, cylindrical male torso could be found. It was only recently that he had taken up hormone therapy, which, at this point, only added a subtle emphasis to his curves.
Beyond padding, Ken possessed an additional secret for creating the perfect body. It was his special discovery, and it was simple. Starvation.
It had started as a form of rebellion. Every pang of hunger he felt, every meal that he skipped, every time he forced himself to vomit was a badge of honor, a token of resistance against his inflexible, blind, unfeeling parents. Couldn't they see how unhappy he was? Didn't they care? His mother might occasionally remark, "you should eat more, you're positively wasting away," but these sentiments were spoken with an abstract air, not out of true concern. If it had been otherwise, why did she never take the time to ask how he was feeling? Ken knew that he was an embarrassment to his family. The only time he had ventured to express his true feelings had been brutally rebuffed.
"What are you doing, Ken?" Ken's mom was standing in the doorway to his room. His parents had come home unexpectedly early from their shopping trip.
"Mum!" Ken dropped the lipstick he was holding - his lips (the color was too red, he now realized) were painted on only one side - giving him a crazed and clownish look. Worse, he was wearing a flower-print house dress. "Ummm ... I was just playing..."
"Is this what you do while I'm at work all day? Is this how you use your free time?"
"No! I mean ... Well, sometimes yes, but..."
She cut him off. "Get out of that ridiculous costume, right this minute! I will not have my son acting like some painted pervert in my own home!"
"What's all the fuss?"
"Dad..." Ken wilted. He let his hands drop to his side and felt his eyes well up with tears of anguish.
"Why are you wearing that ridiculous outfit? Kenneth Charles William Shore! Answer me!"
"I..." Ken hesitated to tell the truth, but in the end could think of nothing else to say. "I like wearing girl's clothes," he said, lamely.
The shocked expression on his father's face was followed quickly by a verbal explosion. "Why, you bloody ungrateful ... Bugger! Is this what you want? Bring shame on your family? Ruin my career? You want to embarrass and disgrace us?"
"No! I just..."
"Sometimes, I just want to be someone else," Ken whimpered.
"That's crap! Fucking crap!! Over my dead body! You are my only son, that's who you are, and that's who you will be, whether you like it or not!" Ken's father took two large steps forward and roughly grasped Ken by the shoulders, physically pulling him up off the chair and shaking him violently. "You are going to act like a proper man if I have to beat it into you!!"
Ken had never seen his father this angry before, and it was the first time he had ever heard him swear. Ken's mother stood at the door, scared, helpless, and confused.
"You like wearing women's clothing? Where do you keep them?" He threw Ken roughly to the floor causing Ken's head to bang against the corner of his desk. Ken lay on the floor, hands clutched to his head, rocking and crying with pain and humiliation.
"Are they in here?" Ken's father grasped the handles to the top drawer of the dresser and tore the drawer out with a dreadful wrench. As he tossed it to the ground, the drawer broke into pieces and underwear scattered everywhere revealing Ken's secret stash of lingerie hidden underneath. "My God, this is disgusting!! Throw this away!" Picking up the panties and slips like they were toxic, he thrust them at his wife.
Blood from the cut on his the head was now seeping out from around Ken's fingers. Seeing this, Ken's mother dropped the lingerie and rushed over to Ken. "Henry!" She shouted at her husband.
Ken's father opened up the next drawer and dumped its contents on the bed. A second dress, the only other one which Ken owned, was revealed. "HENRY!" She screamed.
"YES??" He turned to stare at her, eyes wild.
"Look what you've done to your son! Get out of here this instant!"
"NO! It serves the bastard right!" Ken's father took the dress and in a violent spasm managed to rip it cleanly in two.
Ken's mother stood up and slapped him hard across the face with the back of her hand.
Stunned, but still trembling with anger, Ken's father looked at the two halves of the torn dress in his hands and then looked over to Ken, who was now sobbing hysterically as blood ran down his face and dripped onto the floor.
"Clean this up, and destroy these ... these ... disgusting things, all of them! Or I swear..." shaking, Ken's father never finished the threat, but stormed out of the room, down the stairs, and out the front door with a slam that rattled the windows.
Humiliated and terrified, Ken complied with the order, filling up a garbage bag with all of his special clothes, makeup, and magazines. He gave the bag to his mother, who, without looking at the contents or saying a word, took it to the local incinerator. Ken could feel a part of him burning into ashes and floating away. Not another word was ever spoken of the incident.
That same evening, after a tense family dinner ("What's going on? Why's everyone so quiet?" Ken's sister Kathy had asked, in her normal, annoyingly inquisitive fashion), Ken staggered into the bathroom and threw up his entire meal, the stress and anguish being too much. This launched another wave of sobbing and self pity, and it was then, with his cheek against the comfortingly cool ceramic of the toilet rim, that he hatched his plan: he would starve himself to death. It wasn't enough to just commit suicide, he was going to do it in such a way as to cause maximum suffering. Only then would his parents understand what they had done to him.
But after a month of trying, Ken realized that he lacked the willpower, and so he gave up. In the process he had purged himself dozens of times, and it was then that he made a strange discovery: it felt good to vomit.
He had gotten used to the rank smell, he was able to do it cleanly and quickly, and afterwards a feeling of relief would wash over him and calm his anxiety. And so, vomiting became something he did because it made him feel good, not only from the act itself, but also how it provided him a measure of control over his own body. "Does this mean I'm anorexic?" he wondered. He didn't know for sure. He wasn't a woman, after all, and weren't they the only ones who had eating disorders? But one thing was for certain, he loved the new shape of his body.
And so, back in the airplane, Ken carefully arranged his skirt so that it wouldn't get soiled and knelt down on the floor of the airplane lavatory. Holding his long hair out of the way, he placed a finger at the back of his throat and quickly and efficiently threw up his in-flight lunch. After he was done, Ken leaned against the wall for a second with his eyes closed, his life on the brink.