“Brother… relax. I’m just a girl.”
“What are you talking about?” I snarled. “You got wounds all over your body. Why haven’t you told someone?”
She looked away shyly. “How could I tell anyone I got beat up by a guy?”
I was confused by her words for a moment, but once I managed to calm down for a moment, I realized that she was right. This world, it’d be like a girl beating up a guy. This kind of thing happened, but most people treated it like a joke. They would call the guy a wimp and laugh while he suffered abuse. Some people would say that it was impossible for a girl to beat up a guy.
It was immediately clear that my sister was too embarrassed by what was happening to say anything. Her sisters, as they were now, would definitely not be the understanding type. My fist clenched as I thought about this fact. In the old world, this would have been resolved instantly. Someone would have noticed, and my sisters would have defended her. Police would have been called. That man would never hurt another girl.
Yet, in this world, I could already hear Mom laughing it off and saying that he probably likes her. Girls get beat up; she can take it. It’s not important. It doesn’t matter.
This world wasn’t any better than my previous world. It was different, and there were things to enjoy, but there were just as many things that caused me to feel anger. They didn’t even make sense in the context. Men were still stronger than women. At least in my world, most people acknowledged this. Although, I seemed to recall a rising movement that was trying to deny what many called facts. Women were in no way disadvantaged to men in sports, they’d claim.
This world had rectified that issue in sports by flipping the narrative. Men were too strong and clumsy to participate in sports designed for women. When they participated, there were more injuries. Thus, it was preferable to watch female sports and to focus on women.
How did they rectify this though? In their minds, men just didn’t hurt women. They were too delicate and disinclined. They didn’t have the aggression women had. Even though they were stronger, they wouldn’t even try to fight a woman. It truly caused me to feel anger again. Bethany watched me worriedly as these emotions danced across my face.
“Please… brother, you have to keep this a secret! Please… don’t tell anyone!” I looked her expression over carefully.
She had reached out and grabbed my hands, something old Bethany wouldn’t have done in a million years. She had a look of desperation and fear on her face. It was clear she feared being called out for being harassed by a guy more than the guy himself. This was a once in a lifetime request a little sister was giving her brother. If I let her down here, she would likely never trust me again, no matter what world we lived in.
“I won’t say anything… to anyone. I promise,” I spoke slowly, watching the relief flood over her face.
I had to keep those words too. If I turned around and went behind her back, it would be even worse than had I made no agreement in the first place. She depended on me to keep this a secret.
That was fine, though. I didn’t have any intention of going to an adult about this. They wouldn’t do anything anyway. My sisters, my mother, the school… they would all look the other way or laugh it off as meaningless. There was only one saving grace about this all. I was a guy too! Girl on girl violence was its own thing in my old world, so that meant if I went after this guy, no one could blame me.
I wanted to grill her for details, but after making such a promise, she would grow very suspicious if I started asking strange questions. Therefore, I could only bid farewell and sneak back into my own room. Fortunately, I wasn’t caught, and mom and London were still talking. I eventually heard the front door close as London left to go back to her apartment. An hour later, there was another knock on my door.
At this point, I had just been looking around my room for every last bit of memorabilia. I was trying to get a grip on how this new life was different from my old life. Although there were a lot of superficial things that were different, it looked like, deep down, I was essentially the same person. Even the other me liked video games, although he hid them. He had a pocket pussy, although it was hidden far better than my own. His clothing looked like most clothing I would have picked, although the brands were fancier and the fits were different, seeming to be tight around my butt and loose around the calves. I had a feeling that was more because of this world than any personal choices of my other-self.
“Who is it?” I asked after making sure everything had made it back into my drawer.
Mother walked in. I had never seen her dress so, well… little. She was wearing shorts much like those on Bethany. Actually, it was worse, because she had a shapely behind, and where it rid up, I could see the hint of pubic hair. Her shirt was just a tank top with loose straps on it. I never imagined that Bethany got her style of dressing around the house from mom, as mom never allowed herself to be seen in such a state. She always wore long nightgowns that covered everything.
“Noah…” she said, stepping into my room. “I’m sorry I freaked out so bad earlier. It’s just, you’re the only boy I have, and after your father left us… I just get protective sometimes.”
“It’s fine, Mom…” I said, trying to sound as polite as possible.
She came over to me and suddenly hugged me. “You’re a good boy. I’m sorry.”
My head was pressed into her chest, of which half of it was cleavage. It was a strange feeling, and I didn’t even know how to react.
“Mom? Why did Dad leave us?” I asked, my question slightly muffled by her chest.
In the past, Mom’s answer had always been short. She’d say something like, “he was a bastard”, usually followed by “you better not end up like him!” I had a feeling that perhaps, given the changes, maybe her answer would be different. It would be a real chance for me to learn something. I barely remembered the man, having been two when he left us.
Mom pulled back, but she kept her hands on my shoulders as she looked at me, a sudden pained look on her face. She finally let out a long, drawn-out sigh before nodding to herself.
“Since you’re my son, you deserve to know the truth.” Mom suddenly grew very serious. “I have never told your sisters this. It’s actually a source of great shame.”
“But… you’re going to tell me?”
Mom bit her lip and then nodded. “It’s because I want you to understand. I think you can learn something from this. Since you’ve recently started showing an interest in girls… don’t deny it, I’ve seen you be curious, I just want you to know.”
Mom looked at me and then winced. “This… isn’t the kind of thing I can tell you easily. I feel like you’ll definitely look at your Mom differently.”
I reached out and touched mom gently. “Mom, please, I don’t want to end up like Dad. Just tell me what happened.”
“Your dad… he wasn’t the problem…” she said bitterly.
“He walked out on us!” I said indignantly. “He left m- he left us!”
Mom winced at those words. “He had his reasons…”
“What reasons? Why would dad leave?”
Mom looked like she was about to cry, but after another long breath, she looked me straight in the eyes. “The truth is… a long time ago… I had an affair.”
“What?” I nearly stood up, but mom’s hands tightened on my arms, keeping me sitting.
“I… cheated on your father. A lot. That’s why… when he found out… he couldn’t take it and left.”
I felt dizzy for a second, and I might have fallen back onto the bed if mom wasn’t holding me. The words coming out her mouth, they didn’t connect at first. They didn’t match the mother I had always known, nor even the woman in front of me.
What did this mean? Is this because she was like a man in this world? Would that mean, previously, it was actually my dad who cheated? I wanted to believe this. I wanted to blame him instead. Yet, somewhere deep down, I knew it wasn’t true. This was the reality in both worlds. Thirteen years ago, right before the birth of my sister Bethany, my dad left the house.
He found out my mother had been having a long-running affair. Possibly multiple affairs. Suddenly, he didn’t even know if his children were really his own children. Were my sisters really my sisters? Who was, who wasn’t? My breathing was quick, and my heart was throbbing in my chest. I felt like I was going to pass out. Mom did have tears in her eyes now. She was shaking, fearful of my reaction. I wanted to comfort her, but I was frozen.
Even if I could move, I knew I couldn’t say the words of comfort she wanted. I was too shocked, too angry, too confused. Instead, I could only stare blankly at her as I tried to process what she had said.
Dad left because he felt like his whole life was a lie. The kids he thought were his might not be and finding out the truth would be far too painful. Therefore, he ran away. In the old world, that made him a deadbeat dad. Despite being the one who cheated, my mom resented him for abandoning the children and her. She felt that even if he left her, he at least should have continued to support the kids.
In this world, dad was somehow freed from fault in her mind. It was her poor actions that drove the man away.
“I don’t know…” Mom responded, “For London, I know who the father is. Same for Mackenzie, Dawn, and you… definitely are his. As for the twins and Bethany… including your father, there are three possible fathers.”
“Two other men?”
Mom shook and looked away shamefully. “That was a decade ago. I was… very bad back then. That’s why… I wanted to tell you my story. You need to understand that women are… women are scum!”
“You can’t trust us. A woman will sleep with you, and then not call you back. She’ll brag about how good you were and then slander your name. I don’t want you to end up like your father. I don’t want you to end up with someone like me,” she said bitterly. “That’s why I’ve come clean. You can learn from your pathetic mother.”
She wasn’t meeting my eyes anymore, and I could see a lot of pain and regret there.
“What about since Dad left?”
“I’ve dated, once or twice… but few men are interested in a middle-aged woman with six kids. They want to have kids of their own and start families, something I won’t do. Since your father left though, I haven’t been with another man. It was… too painful.”
“D-did you love father?”
She slowly shook her head. “I don’t know. Maybe? In the beginning, it was so exciting. It always feels exciting in the beginning, even for the guy. After it wore off and we started having kids, I just started to feel trapped. I started to meet guys off the internet, and you don’t want to hear about that.”
“Mom… Bethany, Kristy, Kelsey…”
“I will tell them when I feel they are old enough.” She sighed. “Men mature faster than women, which is why I decided you’re ready. London knows, of course. I plan to tell Dawn eventually. I just want to wait until she’s done with high school. She’s got exams to study for right now.”
“Right…” I said in response, not entirely sure how I felt about it all.
“Well!” She slapped her knees and stood back up. “I said what I came to say. Um… please keep it just between you and me, okay, kiddo?”
“Yeah…” I said, my voice not having a lot of energy.
“Ah… and, I called you off of school tomorrow. You’re not grounded, but you need to get some rest, okay? London said you need bedrest and she’ll come tomorrow to check on you and make sure you’re getting it. I’ll be at work, so you’ll have to be on your own until the afternoon. Do you need pizza money or something?”
“No… I’ll just eat what we have.”
Mom was a bit too nice to me. It was clear that telling me everything had caused her a great deal of stress. This was a secret she had kept with her for over a decade. Now that she had finally told someone, she was definitely messed up. My mother from before would have definitely never told me, perhaps even taking it to her grave rather than admit her shame. She turned to the door and started to walk out.
I jumped up and then wrapped my arms around her. She made a noise of surprise as I hugged her from behind. By pure chance, my hands ended up on her chest, one grabbing each breast. I wanted to pull back, but it was a bit too late. I remained with my head pressed against her back for a moment as we stood there.
“You took care of my sisters and me. No matter what, you’re my mother, and you stuck around. Father should never have abandoned us. I love you.”
Just because I understood why dad left, didn’t mean I forgave him. As for mom, she had birthed me, raised me, and cared for me. She wasn’t always the best mother, but she was my mother.
“Damn… you’re making your old woman cry,” she said, trying to be tough while wiping the tears from her eyes. “I love you too, kiddo.”
I finally let go, and mom walked out the door. When it closed behind her, I sat back down on the bed. Although I thought about mom for some time, my thoughts eventually drifted back to Bethany and the bruises all over her body. Bethany was my sister. It didn’t matter if it was half or full. I had to take care of her. Since I was free tomorrow, it was time I did some surveillance. Since dad wasn’t there for my sisters, I would have to be the man of the house.