For the city that hosts the congress of nations, Deqla looks surprisingly uncrowded to the eye. The streets are all relatively wide, letting in plenty of sunlight and allowing sufficient of room for bicyclists and pedestrians to coexist with public transport and delivery trucks, while only a handful of buildings cap out over ten stories tall. It was a city that was designed by people who knew what the future would look like, and had plenty of budget to make whatever was needed to further Aramaia's status on the world stage to visiting diplomats and dignitaries happen. Further away from the congress and the local universities, the work is rather less extravagantly maintained, but even the side streets are well lit and relatively clean to help keep crime statistics down. What they don't have is a lot of people in them on early weekday afternoons, which makes the fact that her appearance is completely unobserved a bit less unusual.
"Yeah, I kind of know the feeling. I had a friend who got into a religious disagreement with her family; they basically disowned her over it, threw her onto the street with none of her documents, and it was a scramble to get her housing and groceries. She moved across the country to a friend of a friend's house, stayed for a while, friend of a friend gets antsy because the landlord is breathing down her neck... She bounced between a few places' couches before she got her ID together, drew government assistance and found a stable apartment situation. Last I heard she was putting herself through university. Brave woman."
"Well, here's hoping you can manage the same thing. It's kind of hard to imagine what kind of a religious disagreement could end up like that though."
"Ah. That would be a cultural thing. Probably take too long to explain. The meat of the matter was that she thought she was a girl and her family strenuously disagreed. I don't know if that happens around here and it was a pretty delicate topic at home, so I'm sorry if I'm giving offence at all, I don't know how gender's handled locally..."
"Do you mean like, their parents thought they were a boy and then were scared of allowing her to start making changes at all? Or that she was changing things about her appearance and lifestyle faster than they were comfortable with? I'm not going to be frightened off by that, though, and especially not if it's just talking about change, though I guess now that you mention it if you plan to totally change over to being a boy overnight please try and let me know ahead of time so it's not a surprise?"
"They didn't understand why she wanted to be a girl, and got angry when she was firm about it. They had wanted a son. She bought some dresses; her family searched her room, found them, and disposed of them. It escalated from there as the family kept destroying any of her possessions they deemed "too feminine". I bought her a plush fish once; her parents threw it out. The paranoia from her family got to the point that they took the door to her bedroom off its hinges. It became untenable for her, so she left. Her family basically said "And don't come back!" in response."
She shakes her head. "And no, I have no plans to turn into a boy anytime soon. I'm quite comfortable as a girl."
"Oh, that sounds awful. I can't imagine anything that would make me take away your door or anything; I mean I guess I'd do something if you were hurting people but not that, having your privacy is important."
"We were very proud of her for finally making the decision to leave. It's hard to strike out without much of a safety net. Enough people came through, though, that it all worked out in the end. That's part of how I gained my crisis reflexes, through helping her."
She smiles. "So yeah, we appreciate the kind of work people like you put in."
That will get her a beaming smile then.
"I've never moved to another country before, so are there any questions that you have about Aramaia that Karen or I didn't think to tell you, or should I give you some space - possibly with a book or the television - so you can decompress before I get started on prepping dinner?"
Lindsey smiles back
"I think some space to decompress would be really helpful right now. I don't know what to ask right now, to be honest, and I think some time to settle down will help me find my questions."
"In that case, I'll be in my room getting some homework done if you need me."
"Alright, thank you very much."
Then Sophie will head into her room and close her door; a slight increase in light coming through the cracks suggests she turned on a lamp or something equivalent.
And she will take her borrowed clothes into her guest room and lay them out on the bed.
She turns on the light, closes the door firmly behind her, and takes a heavy seat on the bed.
I'm not okay.
I don't think any of us are okay. We're stuck in a foreign world with almost nothing, our degree probably doesn't exist, there's a magic hammer in our purse and a piece of alien technology this world has never seen before, we're just generally fucked.
That's not what she was asking for, Liv.
Very gently, Liv gives Lindsey a hug in mindspace.
She nestles in.
It's not as good as a physical hug, but it helps.
I've got you. You've been so brave presenting for all of us with Sophie. I know it's hard for you to manage these things but it's been really helpful to all of us. Right, Liath?
I could not have done that, Lindsey. Not in a way that would make us seem friendly and approachable. You were, well, you. And that made everything so much easier.
I think I need to cry a little.
Not just yet, please. I'll help you put away your new clothes and then you can curl up and rest. Okay?
Liath gets the body up, picks up the borrowed clothes, and goes over to the room's closet, where she hangs them up.
There, she says. That's better.
She walks back to the bed, and gets under the covers, moving carefully and precisely. She settles in with her head against the pillow.
The body's all yours.