The Rise of Neff
My name was Lauren Marie Lucien. Well, until I left home. Though I had tried when I was 7 to get my parents to call me Nephrose Lance Pattin, or Neff, but no such luck. My parents were not very compromising. That day my father had stared at me for a beat, laughed and distinctly told me to change into something appropriate. Evidently the jeans and t-shirt that had once been my brothers were not appropriate clothing for a girl. He really did have some Neanderthalic beliefs and practices that he forced on our family, especially my older brother, Artie, and I.
So I did what he told me to do, I changed into a pretty dress and made my way out to the kitchen to be with the rest of the girls that were over for my parents' barbecue. I planted myself at the table behind the giant bowl of potato salad and watched as my mother, her sister my favorite aunt, Aunt Tusu, my father's sister, Aunt Penne and Aunt T's 'friend', Uncle Bernie, short for Bernadette, danced around the kitchen prepping ingredients chatting wildly as the oldies station played in the backyard. Even then I loved my Aunt Tusu and Uncle Bernie, who had always been family, more than I did my own parents.
After that night, I managed to make it through the next few years flying under the radar. It was 8 years later that my life fell apart. I had been hiding Neff and his clothes until Momma and Daddy were gone. It was going pretty well, I thought until one afternoon. I had gotten home from school and stripped out of the mandatory girl garb and was getting comfortable in Neff's clothes when my father barged into my room.
"What the hell are you doing?" he screamed at me as I quit adjusting "my package".
My guilt and surprise showed all over my face. he was so mad he told me to stay in my room and not to come out until I was called. Just plain freaking out, I quickly removed my pants, package, bindings and shoved everything into the half empty duffle bag in the bottom of my closet. Then dressing in my father's favorite pink ruffled dress with matching shoes, I coiffed my hair, spritzed some perfume and applied a layer of lip gloss just to perch on the edge of my bed waiting for my punishment hoping that I wouldn't have to throw out Neff's clothes.
Hours passed and my legs were going numb. I had listened to my parent's whisperings and shufflings from their bedroom, but still nothing at my door. Not even from Artie. Finally a slight knock on my door and my parents entered.
"Louisa," my mother started, "Why do you want to wear boys' clothes?"
Straightening up, looking her in the eye, "Momma, I like them. I am comfortable in them and..." My confidence wavered, stopping my voice momentarily long enough for Daddy to cut in.
"Louisa, are you..." He cleared his throat, "Louisa, do you like boys?"
Staring at him blankly I decided that I wasn't going to lie anymore. Shaking my head, "No, Daddy. I do not like boys; outside of wanting to be one." There I had said it!
While internally celebrating my bravery, the outside was getting quite scary.
My mother had burst into tears and run from the room with her face buried in her hands, her sobs trailing behind her. Daddy on the other hand, had turned purple and was seething. When he finally did speak, he hissed through his teeth, "You like girls."
Not a question really. I was definitely a statement.
I steeled myself for his reaction, "Yes, Daddy. I find girls attractive. In the same way you do."
"You want to dress as a boy? Become a boy?"
Again, "Yes, Daddy."
"You're a lesbian." Another teeth grinding statement versus an inquiry.
Nodding smoothly, "Daddy, I am a trans male."
"A WHAT?!?" He wiped his handkerchief across his sweaty face. Breathing deep he tried again, "Is this for attention? Are you punishing your mother? Artie? Me?"
Standing up, I strode to him and set my hand on his arm. "Daddy, who I am, is not to punish anyone. If anything it’s a celebration of me and my ability to live in a time of freedom to choose and love as my heart and body see fit."
He seemed to deflate, but he quickly recovered blowing up to near twice his usual size. He swatted my hand off his arm and turned his brimstone filled eyes on me.
His next words sliced through my soul, "Then Louisa, you're dead to us until you change your ways;” Stepping back, "your mother, Artie and myself." Wiping away my hand as if it were something vile, "You have 3 hours to collect what you want to keep and get the hell out of my house or I'll have the police here to remove you."
"But, Daddy," I called through the door in complete shock. "Where will I go?" I begged.
He stopped, throwing over his shoulder, "Not my problem. So long as you choose to live like trash you can live in the gutter. You're not welcome in my house until you decide to be who you are supposed to be. Time is wasting." With that he was gone.
I had stood staring stupidly at the space he had just occupied. When I had come to my senses, sort of, I did the only thing I could think to do. I knew once my father made the law, there was no use trying to get anyone else to have my back. all I could do was face that at 15 years old I was on my own. I had looked at the clock...t-minus 2 hours 47 minutes and counting.
Resolved to the situation I slammed the bedroom door, ripped out of "Daddy's favorite dress", shredding every piece I could get to tear. When the dress was nothing but scrap, I grabbed Neff's duffle bag from the closet and released Neff from his prison never to be locked away again.
Dressed for my new life I spent the next two and a half hours digging all of Neff's things out of their hiding places. Once Neff's things were all packed I grabbed one more thing...Louisa's journal. You see her journal not only held all of her and Neff's feelings, but it also held the almost $1000 I had saved from working part time at Max's Grill in town this past year and Uncle Bernie's belt buckle. I'm not sure why Uncle Bernie had left it to me, but maybe she knew who I was before I did. Honestly, it wasn't what I had wanted but at least it was something to remember him by.
Reminiscing over the buckle there was a quiet noise near my door, turning I called out, "I still have 10 minutes." Ripping the door open, no one was there just an envelope. I didn't have time to peruse the envelope so I just threw it in my bag and turned to have one more look around at the little girl room that I would more than likely never see again.
Shouldering my bag I caught my reflection in the mirror over the vanity. looking very much the part of a boy except for the long, auburn ponytail wagging from side to side as I stared back at myself.
Reaching into the vanity drawer I pulled out the craft scissors kept there, grabbing Louisa's ponytail with my other hand and chopped the nefarious length off directly above the rubber band.
After the lump of hair was free, I dropped both on the vanity and ran my hands through Neff's new shortened 'do. Looking at myself in the mirror, I couldn't help but smile at Neff's new hot guy look staring back at me. "You got this, Neff." hiking the strap up, "Let's give them something to be sorry about." I walked out of my parents' house with no plan, no options and no clue, but I held my head high.
Looking back, I can't remember the fear I felt being 15 with no home, no family and no idea. I do remember finally being free and that was the most important thing at that time.
That first night, I slept huddled behind the cardboard dumpster at Max's. Good thing it was spring or I could have frozen to death. the next morning not sure of what to do I decided to use my employer discount one more time.
Max's was owned by a youngish man named Trevor. He had bought the place almost 2 years ago and hadn't changed anything. The place still ran, and smelled,, the way it had since holly jolly Maxseen Noctre had opened the dive over 35 years ago.
I flung my stuff into the farthest booth and went to the counter to place my last order ever in this little town that had been my life.
"Morning, Lou!" Trevor smiled, "Nice 'do, dude!" What are you doing here so early? Do you work today?" Trevor had always treated me decently. he was also the only one that had known about my trans concerns and he couldn't have cared less. As long as I did my work and kept to my word,m we were square.
I had run my hand through my hair self consciously, "Um no. I'm just hungry."
Trevor had cocked his eyebrow and looked at me for a second, "Okay," grabbed his apron from the peg. "What can I get you?"
I exhaled, relieved that he hadn't pressed further. "The usual, please."
"You got it! One grilled onion chicken burger with everything and a family size appetizer sampler, coming right up." From inside the kitchen, he called out, "Get your drink. This will be right out."
I got my drink, sat back down in the booth with my things and pulled out the large sealed envelope that had been snuck under my door. Mother's tight script on the outside had been concise and backhanded. Much like mother...
"This will help if you decide that we're not worth much as your family. ♥, M"
A HEART?!? She had sealed it with a heart! Are you kidding me? Crazy damn woman.
I opened the envelope to receive yet another backhand. The envelope had my birth certificate, social security card, my passport, a picture of Artie, a picture of Mother and Father, a disposable cell phone and a cashier's check from CDCU in Roxanne made out to me for $16,500. I was staring dumbfoundedly at the check when Trevor set my food on the table.
"You good, kid?"
"Um," putting everything back in the envelope, "Yes. Thank you, Trevor. I looks great." I made sure everything was tucked in my bag securely before I dug into my food.
As I finished my food, Trevor returned with a cup of coffee and sat across from me in the booth.
"So, you're leaving, huh?" He asked sipping from his coffee cup.
"Don't have much of a choice." I snapped, wiping my mouth.
He nodded, drinking from his mug again. "I can see that."
I waited for what felt like years, but he never said another word.
"Where you hoping to go?" another sip.
I shrugged, "I could use an Uber."
"Okay. Let me lock up and a-Uber-ing we will go." he had disappeared and reappeared before I had wrapped my brain around what had just happened. "Let's go, Lou." He was already holding the door.
I had gathered my stuff and was tucked in his Prius before he asked, "Where to, Lou?"
I felt scared, elated, confused and pissed all at the same time. "Oh, uh, um, Roxanne. the CDCU on 9th and Blasings."
"Okay." He had put the car in gear and we were on our way, no questions asked.
"Yes?" He asked as he navigated the bustling traffic of the morning commuters.
"Can you call me..." I choked afraid to say the name out loud.
"Sure," he giggled, "what's your number, Lou?"
"No, um..." I cleared my throat, "can you please call me Neff and not Lou or any form of my parent's choice in names for me?"
He peeked at me out of the corner of his eye, "Neff, huh?"
I nodded, unable to say anything through my dry lips.
"I can do that." He nodded, changing lanes. "Neff, as we make our way to Roxanne there is something you need to know.